Johnny Christ hasn’t just become a vital part of the Avenged writing machine – he’s also the band’s resident goofball
During a stop on A7X’s recent European tour, observant fans might have noticed some unanticipated chaos onstage, when Synyster’s in-ear mic stopped working. Or so it seemed when the guitarist suddenly noticed that his vocals were coming across in piercing, high-pitched squeaks. His chest-stopping alarm quickly faded, however, when he looked across the stage and saw Johnny Christ laughing uncontrollably. “I had the sound guy put his vocal mic in his ears with a pitch shifter,” Johnny explains, “so it made him sound like a chipmunk to himself.” Still laughing as he describes the scene, Johnny says, “He was the only one who heard it. Well, the band were the only ones who heard it – it wasn’t going out to the audience – but no one else knew what was going on so he just looked like a weirdo, laughing, then getting mad… It really couldn’t have been a better reaction.”
It was all in a day’s work for Avenged’s bassist and resident prankster – a role that Johnny has happily occupied for years. “If we were a family, I’d be the little brother. I grew up as their little brother, before we were even in a band. Brian [Syn] and Jimmy [The Rev] used to come over to my house when we were little because they were good friends with one of my older brothers. Naturally, one of my brothers would be picking on me and they’d chime in. That old thing. I’m the younger brother and I like to cause shit. I admit it. Ha ha ha! I’ve gotta! I’ve gotta get my digs in. I like to get under people’s skin sometimes, just to get a rise out of them. And I’ve been known to pull some pranks…”
With darkened shades, the hint of a scowl and often sporting a mohawk, Johnny cuts a bit of an edgy figure, but in person he’s friendly as hell, extremely polite and amusingly selfeffacing. Like the rest of the guys, he was born and raised in Huntington Beach, where he now lives with his wife and their one-year old son – not too far from his co-workers. “We’re a stone’s throw away from the rest of the guys,” he explains. “I walk to downtown Huntington Beach with Brian all the time. We meet up at Matt’s house, which is another 10-minute walk. We’re all a 10-minute walk from each other here in Huntington. You can’t really make this stuff up.”
As the band have expanded their vision to draw in more diverse influences, the guys have taken on new roles with each successive release. Hail To The King saw Johnny assume a more active role in the songwriting. “Hail… was the one where I started to become more a part of it. On the last record I was running Pro Tools the whole time while we were at Brian’s house, producing in a small way. Just guiding the songs and trying a few things.”
Today, any of the lads will tell you that one of the keys to longevity is offsetting an aggressive touring regimen with ample time off to decompress and recharge. Off the road, when he’s not in family mode, you’re likely to find Johnny riding some of Huntington Beach’s legendary waves – although he would be the first guy to tell you that he’s a long way from the
World Surf League. “I’m actually a horrible surfer but I enjoy it because it gets me up in the morning and out with a couple of buddies,” he says. “It feels good to get in the ocean and that salt water. That’s where I thrive and feel good. You actually get energised from it, which is something else I like about it.”
With a broad sonic palette that ranges from Rancid (he’s a massive fan) to jazz and classical (because it’s good for his son, he’s heard), he’s eager to begin the next songwriting phase and to see what sounds emerge from the process. “We all have very eclectic tastes and we like to pull from great music that came before us and from great songwriters and other sources of inspiration. I think we have always tried to challenge ourselves on every record. That’s what makes it fun.”
If the band were to suddenly end tomorrow, we wonder what he’d do with himself. “Oh, fuck, man. Good question. Music has been in my blood since I was very young. My dad’s a metalhead and my mom’s into pop and I love aspects of both. My earliest memories were going on roadtrips and really loving the music that was being played in my dad’s Astro van. So I couldn’t see going into too many other different avenues. It’s pretty much just music for me.” Maybe take a crack at professional surfing? “Ha ha! I don’t think that’s in my future,” he says.
“I could chase the Pro Surfing
Tour for a while and try to befriend some of the guys but I don’t think
I’d be in any kind of competition.” When reading celebrity profiles, writers often gush over how down to earth the subject seems, in a way that can feel contrived or inauthentic. But with Johnny, that’s exactly the case. He’s travelled the world, entertained millions of fans and counts the guys in Metallica among his buddies. Yet through surreal levels of success, the bassist, dad and friend maintains a balanced perspective about his fame. “I don’t really think about it too much. I live in the same place I’ve been since I was four. I’ve been around the same family and the same friends that I had in elementary school, and we still hang out every chance that we get. But sometimes you do have to pinch yourself and live in the moment and understand that you’ve been part of something that’s pretty special. At the same time, I try not to dwell on that and to stay as humble as I can with my friends and family.
And it’s easy for me because being the little brother, I’m easily humbled. Ha ha ha!”
“I’M THE YOUNGER BROTHER. I LIKE TO CAUSE SHIT” JOHNNY LIVES TO PLAY PRANKS ON HIS BANDMATES
Zacky and Synyster need to watch their backs when Johnny’s around