Bassist Johnny Christ Explains Avenged Sevenfold's "Nightmare"
Band Photo: Avenged Sevenfold (?)
Avenged Sevenfold recently hit a milestone in their career, landing at #1 on the Billboard top 200 chart with the band's fifth studio-album "Nightmare." After the passing of drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan, Avenged Sevenfold tapped Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater fame to handle the drum recording duties on the album and fill in for touring duties.
Just prior to the recent release of the music video for the title track on the new album, Bassist Johnny Christ spoke with Metalunderground about the new album and the band's future. Commenting on the death of The Rev and how it influenced the album, Johnny stated "...when he passed it kind of took the record to a darker place than it already was. It’s definitely a heavier album than the previous ones. We had already planned on that, but obviously all of us are trying to make this more of a tribute to Jimmy. There are a lot of people out there who have lost somebody and we want to let them know they aren’t alone." He also went on to discuss how Mike Portnoy approached the drumming on the album and the distinctive artwork on "Nightmare."
xFiruath: The deaths in the music world recently have hit particularly close to home for Avenged Sevenfold with the passing of James “The Rev” Sullivan. How is the band doing after that loss?
Johnny: He’s my brother. Jimmy’s passing was a devastation to the rock world and even more so to us because we grew up together. His passing was more devastating to us as people than it was to us as a band. That guy was always there and the first one to get us together to hang out. Having him not here still doesn’t feel real.
xFiruath: Tell me about your own history in music. When did you get started and decide you wanted to be in a rock band?
Johnny: I’ve always been into music as long as I can remember. My parents have told me stories about me dancing around and singing to any kind of music on the radio. I think I first realized that I wanted to pursue music as a career around the sixth grade.
xFiruath: What does the new album “Nightmare” deal with and what can fans expect to hear this time around?
Johnny: This was written 100% with Jimmy. We started about a year ago and took about nine months to write. We were about a week away before his death and when he passed it kind of took the record to a darker place than it already was. It’s definitely a heavier album than the previous ones. We had already planned on that, but obviously all of us are trying to make this more of a tribute to Jimmy. There are a lot of people out there who have lost somebody and we want to let them know they aren’t alone. We wanted to pay a tribute to his legacy.
xFiruath: Where did you record this album?
Johnny: We recorded the drums in L.A. and then we moved to our home studio.
xFiruath: Who did you work with for the cover artwork on “Nightmare?”
Johnny: Zacky Vengeance works with a different artist every time. The concept was to make people feel uneasy as we are uneasy right now. It’s to kind of give a glimpse of what’s on the record. It’s a dark record and it’s going to make you feel a little darker.
xFiruath: Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater came in to record the drums for the album. When he was recording was it a situation where he was trying to emulate Jimmy’s style or was he free to do his own thing?
Johnny: When we first lost him the band was in the background of our thoughts. As time went on we realized we needed to make this record. We went through some drummers but Mike Portnoy definitely had a similar style because Jimmy grew up admiring his work for years. Mike came back with a humble “Yes,” saying he’d do whatever we wanted him to do to make the record. We had some demo tracks that were already laid down and he listened to those and worked with those to get the idea of what we were looking for. We gave him a few different options and then went with the ones we liked best. When it was done Jimmy would have been proud.
xFiruath: Mike will be hitting the road with you guys for upcoming tour dates, but what’s going to happen with the drummer situation after that?
Johnny: We have no idea at this point. Right now the only reason why we are touring is because we need to tour and to let people hear this record.
xFiruath: Where did you guys record the new video for “Nightmare?”
Johnny: We recorded that in L.A. We weren’t going to do a video at all, but we wanted to pay a tribute. We had worked with director Wayne Isham before and we trusted him and he came through for us with a theme from Jacob’s Ladder. There are things throughout the song and video that show and represent Jimmy. We strapped M. Shadows to a gurney and shove him around and had a bunch of people playing with blood. It’s pretty visually intriguing.
xFiruath: There were five teasers released for the video so far. Will there be any others or is it finally time for the full video?
Johnny: You’ll just have to wait and see. The teasers will come as they come and the video will be out soon.
xFiruath: Do you have any particular tour memory that sticks out in your head you’d like to share?
Johnny: At this point it runs together. It’s all great in its own way. I remember having a blast with Bullet For My Valentine. We had a tour in Australia that was a lot of fun a few summers back. The fans were really receptive to both bands and they were excited to see us both. There was never a bad night for anyone because there wasn’t anyone who was just a fan one band. We had a couple days off there where we went to the beach and the bars and everything.
xFiruath: What’s in your musical rotation lately?
Johnny: I started listening to the new Deftones record. That first track is the single that got me to pick up the records. I think it’s a great record.
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