US metal band Avenged Sevenfold on their Belfast debut and Irish roots

US rockers Avenged Sevenfold return to Ireland next week for their first ever show in Belfast. David Roy quizzed guitar man Zacky Vengeance about A7X's Irish roots, 2016's concept album The Stage and their plans for the band's imminent 20th anniversary

Avenged Sevenfold [with guitarist Zacky Vengeance, second from left] make their Belfast debut next week

HI ZACKY, are you looking forward to coming back to Europe next week? Avenged Sevenfold have got lots of big festival dates lined up, including Download. Are you ready?

I'm absolutely looking forward to seeing our fans in Europe. I would be lying to say I wasn’t also looking forward to sightseeing on days off and revisiting the cultures all around the continent!

It’s a blessing to have come as far as we have. I still remember when we were playing in front of barely anyone in Europe.

You’ve been regular visitors to Ireland over the years but this is your first visit to Belfast. From listening to [2013 single] Hail To The King, it seems like you’ll probably be excited to play at the SSE Arena just around the corner from where much of Game of Thrones is filmed. Are you fans?

I am a huge fan. It has never actually crossed my mind but now that is on my list of things to see if I can! Ireland is really a beautiful place.

Do any of the band have Irish roots?

Yes, our late drummer and friend Jimmy Sullivan [AKA 'The Rev', who died in 2009] was Irish. He was very proud of that fact and even tatted a huge 'O' on his back to commemorate his family name of O'Sullivan.

Matt [M. Shadows, vocals] is also part Irish and has always been proud of that. Gates [Synyster Gates, guitar] and myself are Irish at heart and Brooks [Wackerman, drums] is 100 per cent Oaxaca Mexican, I believe.

In July you’ll be back in the States for your End of The World shows with rap/rock supergroup Prophets of Rage. Have you played with them before and are you fans of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cyprus Hill?

We have not played with them before but we are huge RATM fans. I grew up constantly in the midst of Cypress Hill and Public Enemy records to it is an absolute honor to share the stage with these musical pioneers.

It’s been two years now since you released your concept album The Stage. It was probably your most ambitious record, yet you released it with almost no promotion. Why did you decide to put it out 'under the radar' and how do you feel about the record two years on? It definitely seems like a landmark/springboard for the band in musical terms.

We needed to do something to shake up the rock world. Get people talking and not bore our fans with the traditional roll-out. It was a huge risk and was met with scepticism and criticism – but two years later we have been playing some of our biggest ever shows and proved that putting your fans first is always the best course of action.

Former Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman joining just before you made that record seemed kind of like the planets aligning for you. Has he re-invigorated the band in terms of your playing and songwriting?

Absolutely, Brooks is fantastic on and off stage. He comes from legendary punk rock status with the ability to cross over to any style. That is something we founded our band off of, and being able to incorporate those styles has been really important for us.

The band did a great acoustic performance for the Grammy Museum back in 2017. Did you enjoy it and is there any chance you might do an actual tour in that ‘unplugged’ format at some point? The cover of the Stones' As Tears Go By was particularly good.

Thank-you very much. It was a lot of fun to be able to play sitting down for once! I love giving our fans different experiences and challenging ourselves while we are at it.

I don’t know if we would ever tour like that because we like to run around and blow things up too much – always down to incorporate some of that into our set though.

Have you started thinking about/working on the next album yet and, if so, what direction are things headed in?

We are definitely getting the wheels turning with regard to finding a direction and using what life has presented us since the last album as inspiration.

There are no definitive plans yet though because we want to focus on making this summer of concerts our main priority for the fans.

Next year will mark 20 years of Avenged Sevenfold, do you have any plans to celebrate? If you could go back to 1999 for a day, what advice would you give to the younger versions of yourselves?

I can’t believe how the time has passed. I would like to do something special with our fans, maybe poke some fun at ourselves for turning into old men.

If I could go back, I wouldn’t change much except offer this advice: "Some day, you will have a son who will see pictures of you wearing that.

"Choose wisely!"

:: Avenged Sevenfold, Wednesday June 6, SSE Arena, Belfast. Tickets on sale now via Ticketmaster outlets.

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