Jimmy Sullivan: His Last Cover Story
Passport To Popularity
Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis once declared that one thing he learned as a rock musician is that if there was anything to spend money on, it was travel. Now a veteran of globe-spanning tours, The Rev says he anticipates the U.S. tour that will follow the new album’s release around October — and the end-of-summer jaunt to Asia preceding it.
“I love it; I live for it,” he says. “I’ve never been able to stay in one place and I just like the excitement of getting out there and playing live and the whole lifestyle that comes along with it. I like to party when the time to party is right, as do we all, I believe. Being in new countries every week is just awesome when you take in the foreign culture. When we go to other countries, we always make sure we have a couple days in between shows and get to see the places we want to see. It’s perfect — you’re on vacation and you’re working, too. I’m obsessed with seeing as much of the world as possible.”
But touring is as much work as it is play. The Rev’s sleeve-length collage of tattoos hide the brute behind the beauty, and he makes no concessions when it comes to preparing himself before a show, warming his hands for “five minutes on, two minutes off,” and doing stretches to “get the blood flowing. The first few shows are always tough — I’ve been playing balls-out with my hands for 16 years,” he says. “But it’s better to play, chill out all day and let the muscles rest, and then go all-out the next day.”
But as meticulous as he is while composing, or playing, or even discussing the finer points of music theory, The Rev continues to try to play down his reputation as a party-hard rocker in the vein of Axl Rose or Sebastian Bach — despite having gone out for a night on the town with the pair in Prague. “Some things get blown up about us; there’s always hype out there,” he says. “We’re pretty much relaxed and doing business all day and then we get to unwind after the show at night. At this point, we’re mainly focused on our art and going out there and connecting with as many people as possible because that’s the truly rewarding thing of it. We’ve had our wild spells in the past, and they’ve been publicized and stuff, and we do like to have fun whenever we can, but mostly music is the focus these days.”
As traditional hard rock continues to slide down the charts — along with other styles, of course — Avenged Sevenfold is gathering its energy around the “long tail” concept, a term coined in 2004 by Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson that suggests focusing less on sales volume and more on career longevity. As Avenged Sevenfold nears the release date of their new album, The Rev says the band recognizes that its ever-expanding core audience is still the fuel that ignites their particular brand of fire.
“All CD sales are going downhill, so it’s not like rock has the problem,” he says. “Metal and rock bands like us are actually on the uphill because we don’t rely as much on CD sales or radio play for the longevity in our career. The type of music we play, we have fans that are lifers, just like I’m a lifer for my favorite bands. It’s always been like an underground pulse. There’s just something about the type of music. We just want to get to the people that want to be a part of that core audience. We want to make a life out of it, you know?”
It’s those “lifers” who keep the band grounded and its vision focused, The Rev says. “I’m just proud and I’m touched when I see someone with a new Avenged Sevenfold tat, and now I always make sure I check them out if they’re sportin’ one. It makes you feel like you’re involved in a huge meaningful thing. That’s meaningful if you put someone else’s ink on your body. It’s more meaningful than listening to a pop song on the radio.”
Part of that meaning is the band’s image. According to The Rev, the way the band dresses and the way he and his bandmates refer to each other is a true manifestation of their personalities — not an act. The ink is real, and the piercings are legit; through the interview, he refers to his bandmates interchangeably by their stage and given names. “It’s honest,” he says, “and that honesty is the thing that you do have in common with a fan.
“One of the major aspects of it is the spectacle on stage, the pictures that you see of us, the musicianship, and everything that goes into the songs and the music that we play,” he says. “It’s all very real and none of it is contrived in any way, shape, or form, and I think a lot of our fans can see that and feel it. When I see that in other artists, it’s much more attractive to me, and I want to follow it and be a part of it.”
Being a part of it is what keeps the Avenged Sevenfold bus rolling — never was that sentiment more evident to The Rev than when he reviewed footage from the band’s last world tour, a months-long jaunt documented in the recent release of its first live DVD, All Excess. But the band also recognizes the path it has already traveled and hasn’t had any Some Kind Of Monster moments yet, he says.
“Those clips make me and all of us just feel great about the journey that we’ve taken to get to this point,” he says. “The fans that have come along with it. Just going from playing a backroom of a bar to a show for 80,000 people — that’s a wild ride that will continue. Like most bands, we’re a family, so family before band. If we broke up tomorrow, we’d still be friends.”