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M. Shadows of hard rock band Avenged Sevenfold talks about 'The Stage' and its first ever Grammy nomination

Avenged Sevenfold, from left: Zacky Vengeance, Brooks Wackerman, M. Shadows, Synyster Gates and Johnny Chris (Jeff Forney)
Avenged Sevenfold, from left: Zacky Vengeance, Brooks Wackerman, M. Shadows, Synyster Gates and Johnny Chris (Jeff Forney)

Nonbelievers may guffaw, but perhaps Avenged Sevenfold wasn’t fated to possess a Grammy until the Huntington Beach band issued its seventh album — therefore avenging past oversights.  

The hard-rock quintet, which was birthed in 1999, has been grinding riffs and gathering fans through albums including “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet,” “City of Evil,” “Nightmare” and “Hail to the King.” But only with its 2016 album “The Stage” did the band draw the attention of Recording Academy voters.

Maybe it was the album’s conceptual underpinnings, which address current-day issues involving progress, religion, technology and the very question of life itself. Or maybe it’s an acknowledgement that Avenged Sevenfold, nearly two decades into its career, is just hitting its stride.

The band is nominated in the rock song category for the title track from “The Stage.”

Singer and Avenged Sevenfold co-founder Matt Sanders, who performs as M. Shadows, spoke to The Times after he learned of the Grammy nod. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

It was surprising to learn that Avenged Sevenfold had never earned a nomination. Congratulations.

Yeah, you know, every year the nominations have come out, and we’ve had some pretty big records, and every year we’ve never gotten anything. So we kind of wrote it off as, ‘We’re probably never going to get one, and that’s the way it is.’ So it was a nice surprise.

“The Stage” is a concept album. Can you talk about its underlying story? 

I call it a “conceptual album” because there’s not really a story there like Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” or the Who’s “Tommy.” The record really goes to the human experience — one foot based in scientific things that we’re dealing with now, like artificial intelligence and space exploration and where we’re going as a human race — some of the big questions that are going to have to be answered. On the last track we had Neil deGrasse Tyson do a monologue that he’d written for it. 

How did you introduce “The Stage” to your fans?

We were getting extremely bored with the bread-crumb release strategy — put out one song, then two songs. The way streaming is now, once the record comes out people have been listening to four or five songs and the whole record’s out there and there are opinions out there. And when you’re dealing with a conceptual record like this, we really wanted people to hear the whole thing.

So one day we dropped the video for “The Stage,” which is the song that’s nominated, and then two weeks later, just out of the blue, we played a show on top of Capitol Records and the record came out.  

But it was a tough sell for the rock fans. They didn’t really know what to think of it, and we don’t really have the social media presence of a Beyonce, with 90 million followers. But the tour did extremely well and now we’ve got a Grammy nod for it. So you take the good with the bad. We’re really happy about it — today. 

Does the nomination feel like a validation?

It’s coming at a good time for us. I think when we were younger, all these things were, like — we don’t care about the awards, we were just kind of out there.

And I think some perspective on our career and perspective on how these things work, we’re just really grateful at this point in our lives to be able to get the nod and show up. and it’s rock song, so it’s a televised award and we’re really grateful for that.

And to be in there with Foo Fighters and Metallica and all those bands, we’re just excited. We’re going against some Goliaths, but it’s not about the win. We’re just really happy to be recognized. 

 

 

 

 

 

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