Sustainability, environmentalism, quantum mechanics, string theory – these aren’t typically topics associated with hard rock and metal. At least, not heavy metal.
But for Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows, those were the kinds of things that were on his mind when the band was writing its latest album, “The Stage.” While the album is centered around ideas like artificial intelligence and aliens, it’s inspiration was rooted in the frontman’s interest in science, astronomy, and technology.
“I started picking up some books,” explains Shadows, whose band headlines Carolina Rebellion Sunday before hitting the road with Metallica. “One thing leads to another and you’re down this rabbit hole of quantum mechanics, AI, and space, inching closer to the answers to the largest questions we have as human beings.”
“Reading, podcasts – it seeped into the music,” he says. “It made sense to write a record about it.”
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Shadows’ interests not only informed his lyrics, but helped give the music direction as well.
“Some things sound like they’re in outer space, or futuristic, or out of this world,” he says of riffs and chord progressions the band played around with to create the right vibe. “When we were writing a song like ‘Exist,’ we were trying to imagine the soundtrack to watching the Big Bang from afar. I don’t know what it is about music. Certain modulations just make you feel certain things, create inflections, speak to people.”
The band even recruited the help from rock star of the science world, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who wrote and performed a monologue for the epic closing track.
“He understood what we’re doing and that it’s a way to educate a different audience,” says Shadows. “Not enough people in our generation pay attention to it.”
His studies coincided with becoming a dad.
“As they get older, I think one of the most important things for me is teaching them (by) looking at the telescope a few times a week and learning about conservation and global warming,” says Shadows from his home in Huntington Beach, where he’s getting ready to take his 4 1/2-year-old son to race RC cars, while his 2 1/2-year-old naps. “They’re already recycling and talking about space. When I was growing up, I wasn’t aware of it. They know we drive a car with electricity. It all plays into it.”
Shadows also tries to stay on top of technology where the band is concerned, trying innovative forms of marketing, fan involvement, stage production and ways of selling music that few rock bands employ.
“It’s hard to stay relevant,” he says.
He realized watching Guns N’ Roses’ much-anticipated reunion set at Coachella last year how different today’s generation of fans is.
“(GnR is) playing songs that are part of my childhood and it’s dead on the barricade,” says Shadows, who can’t recall seeing one rock T-shirt at Coachella this year.
“There’s no doubt to where music is going. The one thing I’ve seen with rock music in particular is they’ve been reluctant to change. If you go see a hip-hop show or a Coachella or Lollapalooza, artists are doing new and inventive things. It’s a disadvantage to rock if you don’t have artists pushing the boundaries or partaking in new ways to promote music.”
The lineup includes performances by: A Perfect Circle, Mastodon, Soundgarden, Def Leppard, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, the Offspring, the Cult, Pierce the Veil, Opeth, Volbeat, Coheed & Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Eagles of Death Metal, the Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach, Dillenger Escape Plan, Seether, Three Days Grace, In This Moment, Chevelle, Alter Bridge, Tesla, In Flames, Sum 41, Machine Gun Kelly, Radkey, Kyng, Fozzy, Gojira, Every Time I Die, and several others.
When: Music begins at 11:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Rock City Campgrounds, 7301 Bruton Smith Blvd., Concord.
Tickets: Weekend pass $219; two-day pass $170.50; single-day tickets $119.50. Camping passes are $175-$275 for a tent and $300-$350 for RVs.