Jimmy Sullivan: Waiting For The Reverend

Waiting For The Reverend

New York City is wreaking its vengeance on Avenged Sevenfold — or at least their drummer. Somewhere in this vast city, an insanely creative metal rhythm master known as The Reverend is wandering, recovering from a wretchedly excessive night of hedonism on the tab of their big new record company, Warner Bros.

It must have been one hell of a party, you think to yourself as you wait with increasing impatience in Studio G at the famed New York City recording studio Soundtrack for The Reverend to appear. It’s now an hour past the original rendezvous time, and although the rest of his bandmates have made it in for their respective photo shoots and interviews, The Reverend is utterly AWOL.

Something obviously went down at the end of evening, because now — for reasons you will never know — not only was The Reverend thrown out of the band’s hotel, but apparently there wasn’t another one on the entire island of Manhattan that would accept him. As a result, this 23-year old Huntington Beach, Californian is, you have been told, trying to make his way from hastily procured digs somewhere in Brooklyn. He will definitely be here. Just hang out a little longer.

YOU ARE A BUSY PERSON and you are getting annoyed, but your time hasn’t been entirely wasted. In order to avoid leaks of Avenged Sevenfold’s new CD, City Of Evil, Warner Bros. has invited you and a few other journalists to listen to the tracks in the studio where they are being assembled by mixing genius Andy Wallace, and you have to admit these songs are fascinating. They are an intense synthesis of metal, progressive, and orchestral influences. They are insanely over the top, yet mathematically precise and logical. Some of them are nine minutes long, and each one has incredible drumming, with lighting fast moves, mind-blowing combos, and a few tasteful grooves.

This tardy Reverend does not suck, you decide, but you have 18 other things to get to today and the 60-plus minute delay has already brought your schedule to its knees. You’ll just have to line up a phoner, you tell the publicist as you pack up your laptop and head disgustedly for the door. You reach for the knob, but never touch it, because it has swung open as if by some dark magic and there in the entryway, at long last, stands The Reverend.

The Reverend does not look like the other members of Avenged Sevenfold, who, with their multiple piercings, tattoos, and ultra-ugly clothes look like they were designed to star in a video game about a metal band. Instead, The Reverend has a regular haircut and regular clothes, although there is a strong, brooding aura that surrounds his tall frame. He wants nothing more than to hide behind his dark bomber sunglasses. Unfortunately, his bassist grabs them off his face the second he enters the studio so he can wear them for his photo shoot.

EXPOSED, The Reverend has nowhere left to hide, and now he must talk to you in the bright light of Soundtrack’s big client lounge. He looks like he’d rather be back in bed, but he came all this way, and realizes that he as may as well answer your questions. You’re interested in how he started playing drums in the first place, so you ask how it happened.

The Reverend looks at you, tries to decide if you are just another in a long line of dolt music writers, summons up every last ounce of his strength, and speaks. “I was always messing around, banging on everything when I was younger,” he says slowly, attempting to remember. “I can play guitar and piano and sing, but drums just clicked for me always. I’m always listening to drums in music.”

You ask him who his drumming influences were early on, and you can feel him perk up ever so slightly. “When I started, I was into Dave Lombardo and Vinnie Paul, transcribing all their stuff,” he recalls. “A few years later I really got into Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Virgil Donati. I love those drummers, because I’m always trying to figure out what they’re doing. I still love all the metal drummers, they taught me how to play.

“I was always playing metal. I was influenced by those drummers most because they tend to be a little bit experimental — the metal drummers are always flashier or more experimental than other drummers. I latched onto that. My style is really coming into my own in this band. I spend most of my time thinking about these songs and playing them live every day.”

Developing new approaches to drums is very serious business for The Reverend, and it’s something he delivers with a passion on City Of Evil. “You can do rhythmic stuff on drums that you can’t do on any other instrument. You can do stuff on your hands and feet that you can play faster than on any other instrument,” he points out. “I get my moments on this CD. There’s drum breaks and solo fills, and actually there’s a drum solo on the album. It’s so fun. I sit in my room on a practice kit and try to come up with stuff that’s way different. I’m not bragging or anything, but I can play 60 minutes super-fast. I always regret that I didn’t put more fast fills on the album, because my band always tells me, ’Stick with creative stuff. It hits you harder when you hear something that’s weird.’ It’s fun to come up with stuff you’ve never played before, just sitting and thinking about it really helps, writing it in your head, figuring out how to do a break.”

The Reverend tells you his forum with Avenged Sevenfold got started a few years ago at Huntington High School back in Huntington Beach, where the singer M. Shadows began putting the group together. “We’d always been in punk rock and weird experimental bands. We decided to start a metal band and get back to what we had been listening to in fifth grade. It just started out as friends trying to write some metal rock music, and we’re still practicing in the same garage. I think now we’ll go back and learn to play these new songs live, because we haven’t done that yet. We’ve been writing them for half a year.”

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