AVENGED SEVENFOLD Bassist: MIKE PORTNOY 'Was A Ray Of Sunshine In An Otherwise Dark Time'

July 22, 2010

Amy Kelly of Ultimate-Guitar.com recently conducted an interview with AVENGED SEVENFOLD bassist Johnny Christ. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.

Ultimate-Guitar.com: I realize that you have been through quite a traumatic time over the past year, so I thank you for talking with us. Can you give readers some background on the songwriting process for "Nightmare"? How much did the album's musical path change following the tragic events of the past December?

Johnny: We had been writing for awhile. When Jimmy ["The Rev" Sullivan, drums] passed, the record was done. We had been working on it for nine months on just the writing process. It started pretty much after the last touring cycle. I would say eight or nine months went into writing this record. It started out being a concept record. Jimmy had been involved throughout. We had completely finished the writing process and we were ready to go into the studio. We were going to start the second week of January, I believe.

Ultimate-Guitar.com: Your fellow bandmates have described "Nightmare" as a much darker record in comparison to your past material. In the first stages of the writing process, did you have a goal to shape it as such?

Johnny: We definitely had made the decision that it was going to be a concept record. We wanted to have a dark concept record, sort of like "The Wall" or "Operation: Mindcrime". At the same time we wanted to incorporate some of what we had done in the past with the guitar work. We wanted to make it heavier in general. Throughout all of that, the songs that came out were musically already as dark as we wanted them to be. Then lyrically it took a different turn when Jimmy passed. The lyrics then became mostly — not 100 percent — but mostly to do with his death and his life.

Ultimate-Guitar.com: Did you at any time hesitate going forward with the record after Jimmy's passing? Or were automatically inspired to shape "Nightmare" as a tribute album of sorts?

Johnny: When I got the call, we all went over to [M.] Shadow's [vocals] house. It was the four of us, some of girlfriends and wives, and we were pretty much inconsolable. It wasn't anything to do with the band. It was more like, "What are we going to do without our brother in life?" Rather than it just being about the band, when we did start thinking about it, we were more like, "We can't do this without him." It would be very hard to replace him. After a couple of weeks, we realized that we should get this record out. Jimmy had written 60 percent of the record by himself. Everyone has their piece of the puzzle that ensures the song can come together. When he had been there for every aspect of the writing of the record, it makes it very much his record. We discussed about what to do with the band. He had demoed drums on an electric kit, but those wouldn't do him justice. Those were things he laid down in one track. Knowing how he was, he would have been very much a perfectionist. Then the idea came up to have Mike Portnoy [DREAM THEATER] come in. He had sent his condolences. He was pretty much the perfect fit, being one of Jimmy's heroes. He was very much an influence on his life. We asked him if he would do the record, and he said he would be honored. He was very cool about what we wanted. He'll never be Jimmy, but as long as we get the right guy, it would have been what he would have wanted. For the next weeks we worked on it very hard. I think we accomplished a lot on this record.

Ultimate-Guitar.com: Having a highly respected drummer like Mike Portnoy sign on to help is certainly a testament to Jimmy’s playing.

Johnny: We've been able to tour with some phenomenal drummers and bands that we've learned a lot from. Mike stepped up to it, learned all the parts. Mike was very respectful and made sure he approached it the way we needed him to. It was very cool because he was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark time.

Read the entire interview from Ultimate-Guitar.com.

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