Synyster Gates on Why Technical Skills Aren’t His Main Priority: “It’s Songwriting First and Then Connecting with Your Fan Base”


You can’t argue with the success that Avenged Sevenfold have had, nor with the influence they’ve had on a future generation, both in terms of their role keeping metal’s place in the mainstream warm and inspiring a new legion of guitar heroes with Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance’s flashy styles and technical chops. Despite practically living on the cover of Guitar World in the 2000s, in a new interview with 93XRadio, Gates says (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs) that interesting songwriting is far more important to him these days than continuing to improve his technical abilities.

“You’ve got to constantly evolve. If I’m trying to write ‘Bat Country’ again, or if I’m trying to write ‘Unholy Confessions’ again, I’ve failed before I’ve even started. That’s not the mindset. So you got to switch things up.

“And our catalog, I think, is proof of that. You have a song like ‘Unholy Confessions,’ you also have a song like ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ that’s a fan favorite, that has hardly any guitar in it; it’s just complete devotion to our brother’s unbelievable and unique imagination.”

“And that’s, to me, the most important thing. That’s probably our best song. And it’s very, very little guitar work. So to me, it’s songwriting first and then connecting with your fan base.”

Gates also discussed the fact that he used to consume a large amount of media for guitar players, constantly pushing himself to learn new sounds and techniques.

“Since then, I check in… It’s not like I can play all this stuff. I’m not saying I’m technically as good as so and so and so… But when I check in, I don’t see anything [where I think], ‘Oh, I’m missing out on this brand-new piece of technical wizardry.’ I’m not seeing that.

“It could change. But I’m really into tone and textures and songwriting and that’s where I’ve really spent most of my time studying greats like, like Kanye, The Beatles, Elton John, even old school [Dr.] Dre stuff that actually has guitars in there and communicates well to a guitar player because it’s fucking guitar.”

According to the Avenged guitarist, the full band is much more involved in the process of creating their records beyond just playing their instruments, so he simply doesn’t have the time to spend days learning an individual lick.

“We arrange everything as a band. We write everything as a band. And more so in this day and age than ever before. So everything from songwriting to harmonic evolutions and crazy deep harmony, while we’re singing lullabies over it to actually arranging 72-piece orchestras and different things like that ourselves writing every note for every single instrument, or every inflection for every single instrument.

“All that stuff is very, very important to me and to our band. And that’s what takes up a lot of my time now. It’s not actually going ‘Wow, that crazy two-handed tapping thing is something I got to fucking spend a year on.’”

As much as this writer would love if Avenged Sevenfold would make another album like Waking the Fallen or City of Evil again, Gates is right that the band have always pushed their sound forward.

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