THERE ARE SOME SITUATIONS IN LIFE THAT ARE SO ABSURD, IF YOU DON’T LAUGH, YOU’LL END UP IN TEARS. ENTER: DONALD TRUMP…
Avenged Sevenfold’s thought-provoking, mind-bending seventh album didn’t start off in the manner you might expect. In its initial, um, stages, The Stage went through some rather unusual steps to get to its final product. While the record you hear today is full to the brim with over-the-top musicality and lyrics addressing topics as deep as artificial intelligence, space exploration and quantum mechanics, the five men from California who started chipping away at the follow-up to 2013’s Hail To The King had something very different on their minds while in the studio: an entirely unavoidable yellow-haired, orange-faced politician and his colleagues, dominating the mainstream media at the time.
And it was Sunny Disposition – the explosive, horn-filled third track on The Stage – that underwent the biggest shift in theme from its earliest phase, thanks in no small part to Donald Trump. Not that you’d guess that from a song that opens with the lyrics, ‘We’ve been through Hell / Sewn up our eyes / Found fuel in meds / Viewed through the narrow,’ and is ultimately based on artificial intelligence and the terrifying consequences of nuclear war.
“The working title for the track was GOP – Grand Old Party,” guitarist Synyster Gates chuckles to Kerrang!, casting his mind back to the beginnings of a song that the group often refer to as simply ‘Sunny D’. “Basically, it ran through the different themes of the Republican nominees. Their campaign was pretty funny and pretty childish and pretty adolescent. We based that song on different themes of the Republican nominees, so you had Lion Ted and Little Marco, and the chorus was Trump coming in – the big bully – and the horns going off form and stuff. We were in hysterics writing this fucking song – every time we heard it, we would have those three people fucking with each other in our minds, and it was just hilarious to us.”
“This was all you’d see on CNN,” frontman M. Shadows recalled on Chris Jericho’s Talk Is Jericho podcast. “We just couldn’t believe how much of a scene everything had turned out. And everyone’s taking it seriously, so we had this piece with the horns and we’re just like, ‘This is so ridiculous and silly!’”
Adding to the preposterous scenes the band were witnessing during election time, Avenged Sevenfold – as they’ve so often done throughout their career – took things one step further while working on ‘Grand Old Party’: they enlisted LA ska-punks Fishbone to play on the brass section. Because why not?
“We had written the part, and then Joe Barresi, who co-produced the record with us, said, ‘Man, why don’t I just call Fishbone and see if they’ll play on it?’ And we’re like, ‘Dude, we love Fishbone!’” M. Shadows enthused. “We made a cool blend where you’ve got the energy, punk-rock and off-the-cuff feel of Fishbone, but also keeping in line with the way the song was written.”
Despite Avenged Sevenfold’s light-hearted approach in the studio, the band knuckled down when the time came and ensured that Sunny Disposition didn’t end up being too ridiculous.
“I think we have a pretty good instinct when things feel a little goofy to us, but we love to put stuff on the record that makes us laugh,” Syn said. “So it’s a thin line… But that song, to some people it might be goofy, but to us it’s just fucking funny and has this energy to it, but it’s not goofy. But it definitely made us fucking laugh during the process.”
So, is it a ‘goofy’ song? Sort of, yes. But it’s also a highlight on an extraordinary record full of standout moments. Which isn’t so goofy at all, really.
“WE WERE IN HYSTERICS WRITING THIS SONG!” SYNYSTER GATES