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Synyster Gates
& Zacky Vengeance

Avenged Sevenfold

"The first time I ever picked up a guitar it was empowering, it was almost like a magical sword, pulling it from the stone and looking at it....at that moment my life was completely changed forever." Ernie Ball artists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance of Avenged Sevenfold discuss their beginnings with guitar, their love of playing, and their relationship with Ernie Ball.

Transcript

Synyster Gates:
My father was a studio musician. Played for a lot of people like Frank Zappa and a lot of R&B bands and stuff, and was always kind of gone doing that. When he was home, he was practicing. So, I always saw it and I always wanted to do what he did. He's always showing me different things and giving me insight into different bands and different players, and introduced me to almost all of my favorite bands from Led Zeppelin, The Beatles. Even gave me my first Pantera cd.

Synyster Gates:
That is when I knew what style of music I really wanted to do. I needed to know what the hell Dime was doing, and so I spent my formative years working on that.

Zacky Vengeance:
When I was younger and probably a little bit more impressionable than I am now, I was surrounded with all sorts of friends growing up that would show up to school wearing certain band shirts or dying their hair different colors, or riding skateboards. That's really what I gravitated towards. Kind of the rebellious crowd. They would bring this music to me that was fast, that was aggressive, that was just totally created to piss off my parents. I just absolutely loved it. I could not get enough of it.

Synyster Gates:
You go to school and you see people wearing different shirts and riding skateboards, or a lot of surfing for me. Music is a soundtrack to that lifestyle, always.

Zacky Vengeance:
The first time I ever picked up a guitar, it was empowering. It was almost like magical sword pulling it from the stone, or something looking at it. My parents took me to a guitar shop. I picked up a cream colored Squier Strat that was strung right-handed and played it upside down, plugged it in, turned the distortion on full blast, didn't know what I was doing. At that moment, my life was completely changed forever.

Zacky Vengeance:
I was always attracted to the energy of live shows. Some of my favorite guitar playing is literally when people would pick up their guitars and smash them because it's just awesome. It's just there's something incredible. There's just raw emotion. There's an energy. There's certain guitar players that just can't be replicated. You talk about Dimebag from Pantera or Slash, what they do is it's magical. With that said, to get to the level that we've have enjoyed as a band, to be able to tour around the world and play concerts of our own and write albums, you don't necessarily get there by running around, smashing your guitar. You have to delve into songs and song writing. Syn has helped me with that. You know, different styles of guitar. I've learned a lot because of him. Then, hopefully I like to think that I showed him some of the fast muting and the energy stuff.

Synyster Gates:
The energy, yeah.

Zacky Vengeance:
Together we just kind of smush it all together and see what works.

Synyster Gates:
You can come together with an interesting chord, or a chord progression and it's like, "Well that sounds cool. What the fuck are you going to do with it?" That takes energy and a vibe. When I came into this band, there was already a record that was written, and it was very riff based. I'd never really approached music like that. So, to be able to sit there and write energy, which is what to me a riff is, it's all about the energy you're trying to convey or the energy that you're feeling at that time. We're a really good combination of people because we all have different things that we contribute that make us pretty whole from the vision of where you want a record to go, to the vision of what you want a song to sound like, to the technical ability of how to get there sometimes.

Zacky Vengeance:
I absolutely remember when I decided upon playing Ernie Ball strings. It was right then and there, at the guitar store up in Seattle when I picked up my first guitar ever. They said, "What kind of strings should we put on it?" I just look at the brightest color package and I said, "That one." I didn't know what to pick.

Synyster Gates:
I did the same thing. That's genius.

Zacky Vengeance:
Yeah, it caught my eye and to be honest, I never looked back.

Synyster Gates:
I didn't even know what it was. I was in a guitar store looking for guitars and I just saw a cool little thing, little logo that just was the coolest thing I'd seen in the whole fucking store. I asked what it is, and they said, "Those are guitar strings." I'm like, "What do you mean?" "Well you have to change the strings on your guitar."

Zacky Vengeance:
I've been literally playing Ernie Ball since the beginning. So, at some point I'm certain we got a box of free strings, and I was so thrilled at that point because we probably really, really needed them. There is really no, like an official moment when we signed the board or anything. It was kind of like, these are the strings that we use and they've gotten us through small gigs of beating up our guitars and beating up the strings. They've gotten us through hundreds of Warped Tour dates and dust and sand and mosh pits and swinging the guitar around my body like a maniac. Now, they're just comfort, knowing that when the tech throws on a new set of slinkies, you're getting through the show. You don't have anything to worry about. They're going to sound great, they're going to stay in tune. They're certainly not breaking. It's really the last thing that you have to worry about on stage, which is awesome.

Synyster Gates:
You guys were the first people to give us free strings, and then when you just try other things, whether you're in the studio or people have different stuff, then you quickly realize what separates the men from the boys. The constant innovation that Ernie Ball continues to do, that's what keeps us a part of this great family. You know? You don't need free stuff at a certain point anymore. When you're a kid, your band's starting to get a little bit bigger, you still don't have any money and the free stuff's great. Now it's all about quality, and what you want to use and what you trust.

Zacky Vengeance:
It's kind of a whirlwind when you're writing an album and you're fighting battles and you get excited about certain ideas and it's like the best day ever. Then, you get super bummed out and you feel discouraged at times. I feel like that's kind of what we do with every album. It's hard. You want to do something great, you know? You want it to come from the heart and you have a want and a desire to make the best music that you can and to tell a story, or really capture where you're at in a certain place in your life, but you have to do that with five other people that have five other stories, and five other places that they're at in their life. You have to bring it all together and try and create something that's going to relate to your fans.

Synyster Gates:
You want to do things differently, but you don't want to do things disingenuously. You really want to speak from the heart and from the soul. It takes a bunch of people and red tape to get through sometimes. The majority always fucking rules, and some days that breaks your heart and some days those are fucking great victories.

Zacky Vengeance:
Syn will always write guitar parts that are way too hard for me to play. I'll try my very best to learn how to play them, and I usually can. For that, it makes me a better guitar player. I nit-pick everything that he does in the studio because that's kind of my job in the band to do. It makes for a good dynamic.

Synyster Gates:
Everything down from the lyrics, to the production, solos, to the writing, it's all democratic. At the end of the day, you know, when you're all done with the grind, which it is always an incredible grind for us to write records, I think it makes it that much more special to hear the final product and to go tour it. When you're in front of your fans again, you don't feel like you're up there shying away from these songs that you're playing. You're just up there excited to share that with them.

Zacky Vengeance:
Being at a point where we have the ability to influence a younger generation of up and coming guitarist, musicians, music lovers, just to have fans is still a weird concept because it doesn't feel like that long ago that we were struggling so hard to have one fan. That turned into five fans. It really did. We literally played concerts in front of one person. I don't even know how we did that, but we gave it our all. We played our hearts out.

Synyster Gates:
One of the most solid foundations besides the necessity being the mother of invention, is that contrarian thought is the father of invention. That's if somebody's doing it that way, try to do something the opposite and see just to see what happens. A lot of times you'll find that doing something the polar opposite of something that you really, really enjoy doing brings about something innovative and unique. So, you do that with music, you do that with life, you'll stop following and grow towards more of that leader of the pack type that I think is what you want. You certainly want that in the artist that you're growing up listening to and your favorite artist. You like that there's nobody else like that. So, be nothing like anything else.

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