By Lee Zimmerman
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Zakk and Alex, however, are unrepentant lovers of European pubs and that 18-plus standby the world over, strip clubs. "This is how it works," Alex says. "Me and Zakk are pretty close in the band, and our singer and drummer are pretty close. So we're always more, like, wacky; we're always down to go out, hang out, and party. They're a little more serious, a little more chill."
"And we're gonna go party or go to a castle or something," Zakk says.
But back in the United States, the band's underaged status has been a deal breaker for a tour sponsor once, famously, during the 2007 Ozzfest. That year, tickets were free and no bands were paid, instead making travel money through selling merchandise; tour operations proceeded thanks to sponsor money. Black Tide was booked to play the entire tour, on the subsidiary stage, which was sponsored by Jägermeister. Somehow, the company didn't take note of the band's age until the tour was under way, and Black Tide was suddenly bumped to the first act on the main stage. While this would seem like an upgrade, Ozzfest audiences at the main stage proved notoriously demanding and unwilling to sit through unfamiliar acts.
"When we played that second stage a couple of times, we got a lot more exposure," Zakk says. "It gets packed as hell. But when people get to the main stage, they're only there to see their favorite acts."
"I think Ozzfest, the actual show itself, didn't gain us any new fans," Gabriel says. "The fact that we got kicked off got us more publicity and new fans."
"It looked really good, from the outside looking in," Zakk says. "But in reality, we weren't selling merch. We sold maybe five T-shirts the whole time. Nobody knew who we were."
Then there was the hazing from other bands, an inevitable part of being a touring newbie, which reached its peak the last day of the tour.
"There were midgets and dildos," Zakk says.
"Sorry, little people."
"There was like a whole freak show on the tour, and the whole freak show was just on our stage during one song," Gabriel adds.
"They were whipping towels at us. The road crew set it up," Zakk says. "The bassists for Ozzie and Static-X and stuff were sitting onstage playing poker. Lamb of God's guitar tech was onstage in a mask playing the cowbell incredibly off-time."
There are even junior groupies on the road, according to Raul. "There are a ton of girls trying to meet the guys and get involved with them all the time. The other guys get the choice of saying, 'That one is good,' and they hang around with a lot of girls. Gabriel isn't like that, even though he's the frontman, and don't tell the other guys I said this: He's the cutest one!"
But at the end of the day, Gabriel paints a tamer picture of backstage at big-ticket metal shows than the average concertgoer might expect, one of relatively quiet dinners with Lamb of God and of Gabriel being serenaded by Avenged Sevenfold for his 15th birthday. And, above all, of trying to keep a level head amid the circus.
"It's not easy for him to be on the road for months at his age," Raul says. "I'm his father, but I also became his friend. He talks to me a lot when he's sad, you know? That's the way we handle the situation."
On a recent Friday, New Times' photo shoot coincides with Black Tide's last day in town. Yet again, the boys are headed out, this time for the national, multi-act, metal-centric Mayhem Tour. (The band shares a manager with headlining act Slipknot.) They've barely had a day to decompress from the Whiskey-a-Go-Go debacle and the rest of a small national run that included a main-stage appearance at Ohio's Rock on the Range festival.
It's early afternoon and they're flagging a little, but they still maintain the rapid-fire back-and-forth of sarcastic, longtime spouses.
New Times: Zakk, Gabriel... lot of biblical names in the band, huh, guys?
Zakk: Yeah, there are a lot of Steves in the Bible.
New Times: When are you guys leaving?
Steven: Too soon.
New Times: How long are you going to be gone?
Alex: About a month.
Steven: Too long!
Zakk: Shut up! It'll be fun. You'll get to go to Germany.
Steven: What's in Germany?
New Times: OK, let's do a shot with a lot of personality...
Zakk: What's personality?
Steven: We have no personality; it's all lies.
Alex: Sorry, it's 2 p.m., and it's really early for us.
Afterward, they lighten up a little, explaining they're a little jarred about the prospect of another long haul. Before the mini jaunt across the States, they've had their longest break at home in the past year: a good three weeks.
"One thing I've realized, since this was the first time I've had a big break, is that leaving is so much harder," Alex says. "Because we always miss our friends and family anyways, but when you're home for, like, four days, you still haven't gotten supercomfortable. You get home, you're there for a few days, see your friends as fast as you can, and then leave again. But with a huge break, you really have time to hang out all the time, and it's like, Fuck, I just got really comfortable being home and seeing all my friends again."
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