Avenged Sevenfold frontman M Shadows has spoken out about what to expect when they headline Download festival this weekend for the second time – and why Bring Me The Horizon deserve to do so in the future.
Tomorrow night sees the metal veterans headline the main stage of Download 2018, before the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, BABYMETAL and many more storm Donington. Read our full interview with Shadows below as he discusses the honour of returning to the festival, their relationship with their fans, and whether or not politics has a place in music.
You’re headlining Download for the second time. What does it mean to be asked to do it again?
“I guess that means we didn’t mess up too bad on our first time! I’m happy about it. Every time we go back to the UK we have to prove ourselves again and I love that. The UK is a hub. It’s such a great thing for us. Last time we were in the UK we did the London pop-up store which was a total success, and then doing the O2 two nights in a row felt really good. We’re just really honoured to do it, especially with the line up that’s going to be there. Ozzy and Guns N’ Roses – you know it’s a really killer line up. I’m just excited to get out on Friday.”
Donington is considered the hallowed home of rock. Do you feel the weight of that legacy?
“Yeah definitely. We’re at the point now where we’ve done a lot of festivals multiple times, and none of them feel like Donington. To us it’s the biggest thing in our world of rock n’ roll. It’s like a completely different conversation for Download, and we don’t do that for any other show.”
Playing alongside the likes of GnR and Ozzy, do you feel like you’re approaching ‘rock legend’ status?
“Well, definitely not that level – but it feels like we’re still young. We’ve been very lucky to meet with most of those artists and hang out with them, whether it’s Slash or Ozzy. To rub elbows with them, that’s always been really fun cause those are the bands I grew up in my bedroom listening to on tapes and jumping up and down on the bed playing air guitar to. We by no means feel like we’re on their level or even equals with them, but it gives us some insight into their world. You do this for 10, 15 or more years and there’s the possibility to have your name even spoken in the same sentences as those bands. We definitely have a lot of work to go.”
It seems like it’s difficult for rock bands to step up to headline and it tends to be the same bands doing it for ten years on loop. What do you think it takes to break through to that level?
“I think it takes years and years of getting a dedicated fan base and touring for years and working your butt off. A lot of it comes down to luck; you need to be in the right place at the right time and have songs that work for a big audience rather than in a certain time frame. I think that is luck. There are a few bands now that are going to be able to step up soon, but we all do it in different ways. We kind of had one foot in when CDs still sold and MTV played music, so we had a few things around that helped us – but bands these days gotta do it a different way.”
Who else do you see stepping up to reach headline status soon?
“I think Bring Me The Horizon can do it. I think they’re a band that has a deep connection with the UK audience and I see it. We travel the world and we see how these bands are bigger in some places and smaller in others. I think Bring me the Horizon does it right in the UK and always play hard to whatever audience is in front of them. They’ve got the songs. Trivium and Bullet for my Valentine also just get higher and higher on the bill at Download.”
How do you plan on stepping up your game so you can do even better than last time?
“Obviously we have a new-ish record so we have a completely different stage set, and I think we brought it out to the UK before Metallica did so I have been telling people that it’s going to be that set up. You know, you’ve got to make it bigger and better and a longer set list to go out there and put yourself in the fan’s position and say ‘what would I want to see at the end of a long day to cap off Friday night?’ We’ll bring in all the bells and whistles that for the people that don’t really care about the music and just want to see a show.”
You have a very devoted type of fan, what do you think it is about what you do that inspires that in them?
“I really don’t know. There are a few things I could point to. One thing is we didn’t use social media a lot when it first started. I think that maybe created a bit of mystery around the members and what we were doing. We’ve always gone against the grain a bit and we would just do what we thought was right in our hearts. It was a bit of a step outside the box when everyone had polarising opinions about us every time we put out a new record. That makes the fan base because they get an opinion and then they defend it with all their heart. People are either with us or they’re against us, and it definitely solidifies the fan base. They’re like our true personal friends. It’s crazy in such a wonderful way.”
Does the world finally ‘understand’ Avenged Sevenfold, or do people still get the wrong idea?
“People have a certain idea about our political alliance, because when we were younger we were trying to do a backlash against the whole work law and what was going on at the time. I think that stuck with us for a long time, and it really shouldn’t have. We really try to stay out of politics because we don’t want to stick our heads out and say ‘hey by the way, that’s not us’.”
Do you think politics and music should just be kept as two separate things?
“No, I think that musicians should speak up on what they believe in because they’re a citizen of the world just like anybody else. I somebody who goes online and says how they hate the thing that you’re talking about. It’s just a different platform, so there’s no reason why intelligent people can’t listen to them and make their own opinion. The problem is a lot of people think that artists and musicians and athletes try to shove their opinions down other peoples’ throats, but they’re allowed to have their opinion.”
Will the current political situation inspire your next record?
“Absolutely. I wrote ‘The Stage’ about this stuff. We see so many false stats and false ideas that around and we see so many people who don’t believe in science, but are so caught in their ideals that they want to believe anything that furthers their political agenda. That’s why when we wrote ‘The Stage’, in reality it’s about science. It’s about where artificial intelligence is taking us, it’s about evolution and things that we’ve proven scientifically. The record is more of a backlash to all these false things that people are believing in. We don’t necessarily have to believe in things that are proven true just because we want them to be true.”
Avenged Sevenfold will headline Download 2018 alongside Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy Osbourne. Visit here for tickets and more information.