We're always talking and plotting and discussing what we can do to give our fans the best possible experience and leave everyone going home with having an amazing time and a memory that will last a lifetime.
I worked a lot on our album cover, and I didn't just want to post it on our website one day and move on. We wound up breaking it into 18 pieces and hiding them on fan sites all over the Internet and then posting clues, so fans could put together the puzzle.
There are so many people involved in making an album, and naturally, all you want to do is show it to your friends and family. You just can't do any of that because all it takes is one morsel of information on the Internet. Within seconds, it's around the whole world.
We like to be in touch with our fans, but we're also very private. 'Cause, to us, it's not about Zacky or M. Shadows or Synyster Gates. It's about Avenged Sevenfold; it's more important than any one of us.
I think there's a whole group of kids out there that don't relate to the glitz and glamour of hanging out in clubs and partying all the time. So I think some people are just more real than that, and I think our fans are those kind of kids that need something to relate to, and I think we're the band to do it.
I think everyone's trying to come up together and bring up other bands along the way, and we've always been really blessed to have bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden take us under their wing and say nice things about us.
After 'City of Evil,' the world was still kind of apprehensive about Avenged Sevenfold. They didn't know if we were a serious band or just some kids trying to play really ambitious music with crazy guitar parts that would be here one minute and gone the next.
In terms of content and instrumentation, I feel we have been extremely ambitious on every one of our albums going back to high school. We were the first screaming hardcore band to put a big ballad on our record.
Once you can get a fan to listen to an album a handful of times and really have a lot of substance for them to grasp, then you're looking at having a fan that really appreciates what you do for life and can appreciate coming to see it live.
Iron Maiden and Metallica are bigger now than they ever were. They're playing stadiums across the entire planet. Even though it seems like their heyday was back when MTV and the radio played their songs all the time, the truth is that they've gotten bigger now because they play all the time, and people know they're going to get a great show.
When we were trying to come up with a concept for our music video for 'The Stage' we basically run through a lot of different ideas, and ultimately, I sat and studied the lyrics that Matt had written - and they really resonated with me.
We wanted to write songs that we really like that incorporate everything. It seems a lot of bands want to stick with one thing. We didn't want to be scared to do anything that we wanted to do. We didn't want anything to hold us back. We wanted no boundaries.
I think the most important thing to putting on a good show is to always mix things up. Sometimes we wear makeup; other times we don't. The point is, you'll never get the same Avenged show twice. I think it's really important to be theatrical. I mean, look at Iron Maiden!
We're very historically tried and true when it comes to our albums. We pick the best songs; we get rid of the songs we feel don't fit on the album, and we don't work on remixing or remastering albums.
Everything an artist does is scary, but we do it anyway. If someone tries to steer you off-course, push them outta the way and get back on course. Never giving up - that's what I truly believe all the greatest bands have done.
I've had the chance to watch Metallica's James Hetfield from the side of the stage night after night, listening to his monitors, and his playing is so perfect. Slash is an amazing lead guitarist, but when you listen to his rhythm playing, you can hear how he pulls everything together with such a great feel, which is the most important thing.
Basically, everything I've learned on guitar, I've learned from listening to my favorite albums. I never had any formal training. My teachers were Dimebag Darrell and Slash and the guys in Rancid and Slayer.
I remember what it felt like when I was young, and I looked up to someone, and they would pay me just an ounce of attention. And some of the bands I listened to when I was young probably never even sold any albums, but it didn't matter to me. If I'd go up and say, 'Great show,' it would be amazing that they even would acknowledge me.
The first review our band ever got - when I was 17 years old and we had just released our first EP, and this tiny little magazine wrote a review on it, and for that month, we were the best album of the month, and we were also the worst album of the month. We won best and worst album of the month in the same magazine.
We really wanted to create an album that had no boundary or limit to it. There's nothing to say that we couldn't release a song that belongs on 'The Stage' 20 years into our career. We want it to be an album that constantly grows with what we want to do, and that's what we did.
A lot of people have ideas and opinions on what Avenged Sevenfold should be or what we should do, and I think our No. 1 rule is to always make sure we never listen to any of that and to always do what we believe.
We're not the kind of people to just take a break and say everything's going good, you know, let's rest on our laurels, act like rock stars - we take it very seriously, and we certainly aren't just celebrating and doing a victory lap.
I absolutely remember when I decided upon playing Ernie Ball strings, and 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?' And I just looked at the brightest color package and said, 'That one!'