THE PRANKSTER

Johnny Christ hasn’t just be­come a vi­tal part of the Avenged writ­ing ma­chine – he’s also the band’s res­i­dent goof­ball

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Avenged Sevenfold - WORDS: JOE DALY • PIC­TURE: TRAVIS SHINN

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

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