On December 28. Here something about Jimmy's death. That's very long to read and very very sad:
On December 28, 2009, the members of the band Avenged Sevenfold found out about Jimmy "The REV" Sullivans death several hours prior to the rest of the world. The thing that is most important for any one to understand about Jimmy's loss is not that Jimmy was simply the drummer for Avenged Sevenfold. He was not just their friend either he was their brother. Most of the band had known him almost all of their lives and he definitely played a major roll in their lives as well. For them at that moment not only did time stop their world stopped too. The band and music in general didn't even exist to them anymore. It's importance lost entirely to the mind numbling pain they now were enduring. We can only imagine the depths of their shock and grief. "When something like that happens, you can't think straight. You stop caring about music, you stop caring about all that. It wasn't just like loosing a band member; it was like loosing a brother, it was like loosing a best friend, and like loosing your fucking spouse, and like loosing your dream; all that in the same moment. Just really the most absolute definition of devastation." -Zacky Vengeance-
Avenged Sevenfold's waking nightmare began actually the night previous. The bands close friend and merchandise dealer, Matt Berry, whom had gotten married on Christmas Day and was now enjoying his reception with family and friends from past and present. It of course was a celebratory event. The reception was held at a park not to far from M. Shadows house as I understand it. As time and the night passed someone brought a couple of kegs to the event. Someone mentioned taking them to M. Shadows house as was customary it appears but he had to decline because he had a 6 a.m golf date the next day and had to drive a couple of hours away from his home. He knew driving that distance with a hangover wasn't what he should do. The rest of the guys really wasn't into hanging out either that night. So after everything was discussed M. Shadows decided it was time to leave as did the rest of the guys with the exception of The REV who loved to party and was thoroughly enjoying himself which was nothing unusual for him to do. The last the guys saw of him he was happily enjoying himself with friends. "Jimmy was having a great time, playing piano, singing, like people are sitting there and just watching him, and he's getting crazy, big beard and just playing with five drinks around him 'cause that's how he rolled. And, like, six hours later he's dead.--M. Shadows--
Prior to Jimmy's death the band had been working on their fifth album. To begin with they had decided they would write a concept album based on the problems with the world and how it effect todays teens. Jimmy had tackled the album with extreme excitement. "Jimmy was writing more on this record than he had ever written. His mind was just flowing. He had all these ideas.He was just on fire." -Zacky Vengeance-
According to M. Shadows by mid December the album and demos were complete with the exception of the lyrics which weren't finished yet. The guys planned on going into the studio to start the recording process following the holidays. "Jimmy completed the most amazing music, finished the fucking record, and he left so many amazing lyrics saying goodbye to the world." -Synyster Gates-
In retrospect, the band members have a feeling Jimmy on some kind of congnitive level knew his time was limited. Maybe not a conscious knowledge of it but somethings stand out in his actions prior to his death that gives the guys pause. For instance, just three days prior to his death Jimmy gave M. Shadows the demo for "Death' which later become "Fiction". When he handed it to him he told him he thought he had put all he had left in him into that song. His unrelenting drive for this album also stands out to them as being a little beyond the norm. He obviously had a gift for the world that he wanted finished and shared. But even prior to that date Zacky Vengeance was having a cocktail party around his birthday at his home. He said Jimmy didn't even drink anything that night an almost unheard of thing for him to do. It appears Jimmy knew Zacky wanted him to slow down on his drinking and maybe as a sort of gift to him stayed sober for him that particular night, however that's not his only possible gift that night. Just a few seconds after Jimmy left Zacks that night Jimmy called back to tell Zack he had left his jacket hanging in his house. It was raining so Zack asked him to turn around and come back and get it. Instead Jimmy told him naw man and when Zack told him he would bring it to him tomorrow he again refused. "It's like he knew, cause I always loved that jacket and he knew that I always loved it. And there his favorite jacket is sitting on my coat rack right now. I haven't touched it." -Zacky Vengeance-
As far as predicting his lifes end it appears Jimmy had done it even further in advance than anyone could have imagined. According to Synyster Gates Jimmy had communicated to Syns dad when Jimmy was only 15 yrs old that he would be in a famous rock band and he would die before he was 30. "Yeah he fucking planned it all, that crazy fuck, Knew he was gonna be gone before 30. He told my dad that he was fucking out. Jimmy told him I know two things. I'm gonna be in a famous rock band and I'm gonna die before I'm 30. He told my dad that at 15." -Synyster Gates-
Obviously, Jimmy had hopes and plans for the future just like we all do. Excellent proof of that is according to Zacky, Jimmy had literally just a week prior to his passing undergone LASIK surgery. He was greatly enjoying looking at the world for the first time with his own beautiful blue eyes. "Jimmy was so excited because he had just had LASIK surgery. He could finally see instead of having to wear contacts or glasses. And it was weird seeing him without glasses, all bright-eyed and stoked that he could see." -M. Shadows-
Now that Jimmy could see with his new eyes according to M. Shadows Jimmy even gave him a somewhat awkward but amusing compliment just the same. "He came to me, like, "You know, Matt. I haven't seen you in quite a few years." And then he said. "You're a really good-looking guy." I'm like Dude are you fucking kidding me?"
According to an early interview (One of the first interviews after the band broke their silence) M. Shadows commented that at about 1 pm the next day he was just finishing his golf game when he received the news from Valary (His wife) about Jimmy's death. He went on to explain how he was crying, talking to Jimmy's mom Barbara whom was also crying, while he was trying to get home. He said he literally cried the entire 2 hour trip home and when he finally arrived home there was probably 75 people there and he understandably wasn't up for company.
Also, going by what M. Shadows has said it appears that early on he started feeling guilty about not just bringing the kegs over to his house and partying. When the band did the July Kerrang interview (6 months after Jimmy's passing) this is what M. Shadows had to say about his feelings. "If the keg had come to my house Jimmy wouldn't have been elsewhere doing whatever he was doing. He'd have been with me and all of our friends and we'd have been able to help him if anything happened. But I was like I'm to tired and then no-one wanted to hang out, and he went off on his own did his own thing without any of our close freinds and then...what happened. It was just insane to me...insane." -M. Shadows-
Although I can't find any references in any publication or taped interviews on how Synyster Gates or Zacky Vengeance found out about Jimmy's passing I do know M. Shadows called Johnny Christ that afternoon to break the news. Johnny expressed how he was in shock in the all A7X Revolver edition. He said he grabbed his shit and headed over to M. Shadows house as fast as he could go. This was the beginning of the guys coming together and staying together for at least 2 straight weeks. "I grabbed my shit and just headed over to his house and that was the first day of all of us coming together and crying on each other's shoulders. For two, maybe three straight weeks, it was just very surreal. We didn't want to leave the house and we didn't want to leave each other. We were inconsoleable." -Johnny Christ-
This is what Synyster Gates had to say bout those very dark early days: "For fucking days we camped out in each others houses. We basically gutted the living rooms and camped out literally brought mattresses down and just camped out with, like 20 or 30 people. Some people who weren't staying the night came in the morning and hung out for the afternoon. Jimmy's family came over and shit."-Synyster Gates-
Interestingly, it was Jimmy whom helped the guys to lift the crushing weight of sorrow off them just enough to catch their breath again and begin the healing process. "Somebody--I don't remember who--we were sitting around a table, and somebody had the balls to tell a Jimmy story. One of the thousands upon thousands. We all kind of laughed a little bit. -Johnny Christ-
"After his death, nobody told the same story twice and nobody stopped telling funny stories of this guy for days. the fucking stories just never ended. The healing process was just so expedited because everybody just fucking laughed the whole time. We would never want to ever show anybody that time, because when we were together we were just guiltily laughing the whole time, celebrating his life." -Synyster Gates-
On New Years Eve the guys were really having a hard time seeing people celebrating the New Year. After all they were only 3 days out from Jimmy's loss. M. Shadows discribes how he came to realize the need for the band to at least finish the album for Jimmy. "So we go outside and it's the first blue moon we had in 10 years and it looked like an eye looking down on us and I was like, Fuck man, Dude, We need to finish the record for Jimmy, and everyone's like, Dude, we don't want to talk about it and I was like Dude we have to finish the record. Come on. We have to." -M. Shadows-
"As we started to talk about it, we started to realize that we have a full record and a lot of these songs--I mean, Jimmy's had a part in every song, and a lot of the songs are 100 percent his. He probably wrote about 60% of this record himself." -Johnny Christ-
"We just talked and were like, "Do you want to finish this record?" We had been hanging out with Jimmy's family and they were like, "Please you just have to put this out." We were getting all of this feedback from everybody and putting it into perspective. If it was one of us would we want the others to carry on?" And the answer was "Fuck yes." -Synyster Gates-
I think once we could think straight and once we could realize, This album's written, Jimmy wrote every fucking day--more than he's ever written because he wanted people to hear this. And Jimmy's not playing on the album but he wouldn't care--he wanted people to hear what he had written, the music that he'd written. The actual perfoming, he couldn't give a shit about that his entire life. He just wanted people to hear him as an artist. He left us a gift, he left the whole fucking world with a gift, and it was basically up to us to show the world what were made of." -Zacky Vengeance-
After the decision was made to complete the album in Jimmy's honor and to further his legacy, the guys adopted the matra baby steps which basically meant one day at a time and one decision at a time. Nothing rushed. At this point, their only focus was the album every other aspect was pushed back as far as touring and even at that time if the band would continue after the album was complete.
Jimmy's family gave the guys a huge push in finishing the album as well. They totally endorsed its completion. They wanted everyone to hear what their son and brother had created for the world. It was Jimmy's sister Katie who suggested the guys get all of Jimmy's favorite drummers to play on the album. But the guys knew how much of a musical genious Jimmy was on the drums and that not all of his favorite drummers could attempt his style and technique. They really wanted whoever did the recording to duplicate Jimmy's sound as close as humanly possible. Since Mike Portnoy of then Dream Theatre had sent his condolences to Jimmy's family as well as to the guys he was the first person they thought of. Jimmy's style is as close to Mikes as any other drummer that they could think of. Mike had been someone who Jimmy had looked up to since he was a kid and Mike had largely influenced Jimmy's style.
So the guys set up a secret meeting with Mike at NAMM. They kept it secret simply to keep the rumor mill from turning. They all went to dinner together, had a discussion about the album, gave him some demo's, and the next day he called M. Shadows all excited about doing the album. "He called me the next day flipping on the demos. He's like "Dude, this is going to be unbelievable." -M. Shadows-
"I think having his idol play on his stead....I mean, hopefully, he's up there seeing Mike portnoy's approach to his music. I think that would just be an incredible gift for him." -Synyster Gates-
"Mike was very humble to work with. He was very awesome. He basically came up and said. "This is your guys album. This is Jimmy's record. I'll play it. I'm your puppet." He's a huge hero in our book." -Johnny Christ-
"This album is not, like, the new Avenged Sevenfold without Jimmy. It feels like he played on it. Drumming-wise, Jimmy had written all the drum parts. And Portnoy did a really good job of channeling what Jimmy was doing. So this feels like our last record with Jimmy, even though he didn't have to do any of the hard work in the studio." -Zacky Vengeance-
Several weeks prior to Jimmy's passing the band had decided on a producer. They had talked to many different ones and they for one reason or another just didn't fit. When they met the "Hip Hop" producer, Mike Elizondo, they were impressed. He knew more about metal than the metal producers did. They were impressed with his muscianship, knowledge about tones, and he could play pretty much any instrument. He was a song writer all be it writing with more of a country flair but even better he was a fan of the band. He greatly appealed to them because he was out of the box so to speak just like Avenged Sevenfold had always been. The band had been working with him about 8 weeks prior to Jimmy's passing and by then he felt like family to them so it made it a little easier going into the studio to do the record with him because he had an understanding of the gravity and pain of Jimmy's loss. On a somewhat comical note, Mike Elizondo waited until the record was complete to tell A7X that this was his first full length record he had ever done. Prior to doing "Nightmare" he had only produced singles. "The Hip Hop producer knew more about metal and about like old school thrash and like old Megadeth records and tearing apart Metallica records and Iron Maiden records and us than these Rock producers did. So to us it was like this guys out side of the box which is what our bands always done anyways. We felt like he could really give us a focus on this album." -M. Shadows- Fuse TV Interview August 2010
When Winston Churchill was asked would history be kind to him he said; "It will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." The day before Jimmy's death he quoted that very famous line. Now his friends/bandmates were determined to make that happen for Jimmy through the album he was so proudly writing before his death. While Jimmy had written by Johnny Christ' estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the music and quite a bit of the lyrics there was still alot of writing to do especially now that the band had changed the theme of the album to reflect Jimmy. They had written "Nightmare" and "Danger line" before his death so they kept them because Jimmy really liked "Nightmare".
Synyster with a little help from M. Shadows wrote "So Far Away" which is something he started when his grandfather died. Syn says he actually has a recording of him and Jimmy singing the chorus at 3 am totally drunk one morning.
"Fiction" was originally called "Death" by Jimmy, and was started by Jimmy and Syn (Syn wrote the piano part and Jimmy wrote some of the lyrics and melody), as a Pinkly Smooth song that they never finished. M. Shadows had to finish the lyrics which would be perfectly fine with Jimmy because he often had the band finish his songs after he had written the skeleton for them. "I always felt comfortable stepping all over his stuff, 'cause that's what he wanted. He'd take me aside all the time, like, "Oh, I've got all these ideas, but I just can't....You guys Avenged Sevenfoldify it." So I felt comfortable doing that." -M. Shadows-
The chorus on the song "Fiction" is Jimmy's actual vocals recorded as a demo scratch.
"When fiction came to fruition in the studio as a duet between Jimmy and M. Shadows we were more than thirilled. It's a very special and magical moment on the record." -Synyster Gates-
"I mean like when does that ever happen in history? A guy dies, pretty much pedicts his death in a song, and says goodbye in the song, and the song gets released with his vocal on it and sings a lyric that's supposed to be a demo scratch." -M. Shadows-
The days preceeding Jimmy's death he did alot of screaming and his voice was scratchy because of it. He had also been nursing a pretty bad hangover most of the time but this particular day for some reason his voice was good and came out as you hear it on the version of "Fiction" recorded on the album. "But that one day, it was really fucking cool. Just the way he sings it is so eerie and not monotone but just not phonetic. It's just kind of mumbly and really droney. It's pretty fucking cool. So definitely when we revisited it, it was like, this guys a fucking nutcase. I can't believe we have this and we gotta keep it." -Synyster Gates-
For a further breakdown of the meaning behind other songs on "Nightmare" as well as how they may relate to Jimmy click here.
M. Shadows says when they decided to go through and complete the remains of the album Jimmy had left behind he wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more. He just didn't feel there were enough words to express how much Jimmy meant to them and the level of pain his loss had caused them all. He also said he would literally take himself back to the day he found out and sit and look at pictures of Jimmy to help in his writing process. "I just wanted it to be perfect. Nothing seemed to satisfy what I wanted to get across. You just can't find enough words. You don't want to sound chiche." -M. Shadows-
Going into the studiio wasn't any easier. "The recording process was the hardest thing the band had ever done. We still felt numb, traumatized, fragile, overwhelmed. There were tears and breakdowns and outbursts of anger, at times each of us wondered whether we could get through the process." -Zacky Vengeance-
They chose not to film or allow filming of their experiences in the studio because they really felt strongly that they wanted and needed their privacy. They knew their every move was being looked at in fine detail. If they felt like laughing they could feel at ease doing so and if they wanted to cry they had that freedom. "When we were making the album we didn't want any photographs documenting the recording. We didn't want fans to see us happy, we didn't want fans to see us sad, we didn't want anybody to be able to judge us when we had to do something that we needed to do to carry on a legacy. It was too much shit for us to deal with , but we finished the mother fucker for him. We did it for you, Jimmy." -Synyster Gates-
The band really didn't want to have their promotion photo's done because it depicted them as just the 4 of them now and that was very painful to see and it basically made it official they were now a quartet. They really didn't originally want to even have a music video done for "Nightmare". But Larry Jacobson/managment had other ideas. He contacted Wayne Isham and explained the situation. Wayne had done other video's with A7X most notably would probably be the "Seize the Day" video. The guys felt at ease with Wayne and considered him a member of the A7X family.
"We never wanted to make a video: The director, Wayne Isham, talked us into it. He was a good friend of Jimmy's and ours and he came up with the concept. It was strange when he made the pitch as Jacob's ladder was probably Jimmy's favorite film." -M. Shadows-
"We weren't too into the idea of doing a video. It was one of those tough days where we were like, "Well , we're officially a four-member band on tape. It's on record now...."-Synyster Gates-
Wayne contacted M. Shadows in Mexico while M. Shadows and the rest of the guys were down there attending Synyster Gates marriage to Michelle. Wayne pitched his idea to him over the phone. His idea being to make a Jacob's Ladderesque video. Which basically consist of a mental hospital and its horrors. When Wayne mentioned Jacob's Ladder to M. Shadows he realized it was the perfect idea since that was probably Jimmy's favorite movie of all time. After conversating with the rest of the band they decided to move ahead with the idea and filmed the video in Los Angeles at the Linda Vista hospital which had been abandoned for many years and is considered to have paranormal activity in it by paranormal researchers. They decided to add references to Jimmy all the way through the video. "I didn't want people to think we were just doing a music video and carrying on as normal. I wanted to remind everyone that we're still going through the hardest fucking time of our lives and to do that we threw the drum set in their faces, this is fucking real. Jimmy's not with us, we're not just moving on, it's not business as usual. It's very real reality. I saw people in tears when it hit them, because it's so creepy. And then, Oh Shit! There's Jimmy's drums...." -ZackyV.-
With the album complete and ready to go the guys came to realize how much they needed to get out there on the road and present this album to the fans. They wanted more than anything for all the fans to hear Jimmy's work. So a tour schedule was created with the first few dates kind of looked at as a test to see if they really could handle being up there without Jimmy. The band had been asked to headline the inaugural Uproar Festival and they agreed to it because they were friends of the band. The lineup also was with other bands they considered friends which they felt helped them to feel more at ease. But first the guys had to take that giant leap out on the stage again. They took it in Montreal Canada July 25, 2010 just 2 days before the album was to be released. With the strongest love and well wishing vibes that any fanbase can offer a band whether they were present at the concert or not, Avenged Sevenfold along with Mike Portnoy preformed that night to a welcoming crowd. As a fanbase there was a collective sigh of relief and grief all at the same time. For the band there was nerves and just the "lets get this over with" type feelings. Originally M. Shadows had this to say about the prospect of touring in the May 22, 2010 Kerrang:
"I really don't know what I'm going to do at this point. It's really up in the air as to whether I'm even going to be able to walk onstage at this point. We've got a few shows booked and I'm really hoping that over the next few months, I can overcome what I think it's going to be like on stage. Right now it doesn't seem like a very pleasant thing. But we decided as a band that we're going to tour this record because we want to give people a chance to learn abput it and to understand a little of Jimmy through it. We're purely touring on that mindset, we're not thinking, "Oh, we've got a new record so we should tour." I'm clearly not emotionally ready for that, We're a long way from going out there and saying "Let's go dominate." Because right now that just doesn't seem important to us. I couldn't do it right now if I had a show tomorrow. I'd cancel it. By July, we'll do some rehearsals that will hopefully mean we'll feel ready to step on the stage. I think if we didn't do that, this would just get worse and worse. So we're going to force ourselves to do some things we hope might help."
And in hindsight he had this to say in the October 2010 Hammer:
"20,000 People in Montreal. It was very nerve-wracking for all of us. What happened was that when "Nightmare" started it was so loud from the kids that we all felt a lot better. They all knew it was our first show back, there were signs. there were kids chanting "Rev" So it was like, OK. It made us feel better because they weren't expecting greatness, they had context for that first show back, let's just get this over with. And it was emotional and it was rough. you have all these nerves and you're thinking about all these things on the first night, you know. What are we doing?"
The subway hand stand:
M. Shadows told this story on Octane Radio during one of the bands first interviews at the beginning of the promotion of their new album "Nightmare". He chose this one because he was in New York during the interview and the story occured in New York as well.
One of the first times the band was in New York M. Shadows, Val and Jimmy decided to take a ride on the subway because they don't have subways in Huntington Beach, California where they grew up. They wanted to experience riding on one just to see what it was all about. Pretty much as soon as they got on the subway car Jimmy said he wanted to do a hand stand. M. Shadows told him not to because there was to many people on there and he would hit somebody. Jimmy insisted he would do it quickly and nothing would happen it would all be okay. They kind of argued back and forth about it a couple of times but Jimmy's mind was made up. Well there happened to be a dude riding the subway with them who was loaded down with grocery bags. When Jimmy proceeded to do his hand stand he hit the dude with the groceries ending up with a bag of groceries hooked to his foot. So here was Jimmy in the middle of the subway car standing oh his hands with a grocery bag hanging from the bottom of his shoe. The rest of the groceries flew all around. M. Shadows and Val began picking up groceries helping the dude get them all back appologizing profusely.
The Superman Punch:
M. Shadows told this one on another interview.
While the guys were overseas in couple of years ago there was this dude who seemed to have issues with M. Shadows. He followed him into the bathroom giving him shit. M. Shadows told him to get out of his face and he headed out back of the bar where Val and Jimmy were. The dude followed him out back and started running his mouth to Val and being rude to her. Well Jimmy obviously had enough because he literally flew over top of Val and hit the dude in the face with a superman punch. The cops showed up and chased Jimmy for a long time around in circles before they finally caught him and he was arrested.
All Choked up:
On stage recently M. Shadows shared this little tidbit. He said there was only one time he could remember Jimmy to miss a beat in a song. He said this one time all the sudden Jimmy quit playing and when he looked around to see what was up Jimmy was passed out cold on his kit. It seems the guy who controlled the smoke machine had gotten a little over zealous with its thickness and Jimmy had passed out because he couldn't breath.
The Homeless Guy:
M. Shadows again shared this story.
In October of 2009 M. Shadows friends gave him a bachelor party at the Palms in Vegas. Jimmy brought the stripper pole. He also went and got $3000 worth of one dollar bills to give to the strippers. During this time Jimmy had his long hair and full beard he also wore the same blue swim trunks the entire weekend. The strippers were under the impression Jimmy was some random homeless dude. In one of Jimmy's wilder moments he took all the dollars he had given to the strippers and ran down stairs to gamble.
The Death of a Pigeon in Amsterdam:
M. Shadows told this story on stage in Amsterdam 2010.
While the band was touring with Metallica in 2006 and having a really tough time opening for them (we're talking 60,000 Metallica fans standing cross armed not reacting to them at all during their entire set) the guys chose to go blow off steam in Amsterdam. Well around 7 a.m. Jimmy kills a pigeon by smacking it out of the air. He had told the birds who seemed to be without fear of humans that they shouldn't trust humans before this occured. Suddenly bike cops show up and mace the shit out of him. He takes off running and he gets away for a few seconds by wriggling out of his jacket but they do eventually catch him and throw him in jail. About 12 hours later he called the guys to come get him. He was yelling to them about wanting pizza and shrooms. So when they get back to the hotel they all had an awesome time watching Jimmy eat pizza and trip out on shrooms.
About 2 days later at the Rockin Ring Rockin Park concert Jimmy had to stop for a minute because he hadn't showered after the macing and when he got hot it ran off his skin into his eyes blinding him temporarily.
Dude! Get away from my drums:
The following was told by Jason Berry, who was Jimmy's drum tech and long time friend, on the making of the "Nightmare" video. In the video, Jason explained that when the band would get ready to play sometimes Jimmy was no were to be seen. He explained that alot of times Jimmy would just be wondering around the venue exploring and maybe a little lost so in order to get his attention and his return to where he was supposed to be in order to play M. Shadows would get behind Jimmy's drums and do a riff until he showed up. When Jimmy would show up he would be all nervous and anxious pacing and standing over M. Shadows until he got up and away from his kit.
Don't Ever Hang With That Kid:
This story was told by M. Shadows in Lowell, Mass. January 22, 2011.
"Met that motherfucker when he was twelve and he was getting yelled at by a teacher while he was up a tree and my mom looked at me and said; "Don't ever ever hang with that kid." So naturally...(laughs) He eventually won my parents over and they were devastated as well as us and all our fans when he passed away."
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