Matt Heafy passes on his recipe for how to make good Trivium, as well as letting spill that he likes Lady Gaga, John Mayer and Kelly Clarkson.
Having recently been in the country as part of the Soundwave tour, Trivium are a band always welcome on our shores. Whether it be their epic harmonised guitar parts, the speed with which they play or the intensity of their live show, the band has some secret ingredient for making Aussies go bonkers. You need travel no further than Big Day Out to observe the sheer mass of the bands fans, all wearing their adoration emblazoned on their chests in the form of one of the bands’ many metal/psychedelic t-shirts.
With a new drummer on board, a new album in the works and a new song on the God Of War III soundtrack (seriously, why weren’t’ they on the first two?), the band are busier than a Tasmanian boy at a family reunion. However all this hub bub didn’t stop guitarist/frontman Matt Heafy from putting some time aside to talk to little old me about what the band has gone through in the quest to refine their sound as well as explaining why he sites The Beatles as one of his favourite bands and influences, not to mention some other more questionable fancies outside the world of metal.
Music Feeds: Well I wanted to ask you about any new direction the band might be taking since Travis (Smith, drummer) left and you’ve been working with Nick (Augusto)?
Matt Heafy: I think that ‘Shattering The Skies Above’ is a good indication of where we’re going. Obviously the full potential hasn’t been fully realised, but Shattering, I think, is one of the best songs we’ve written in a long time, and it’s really taking our band in the direction we need to be going.
Every record we’ve done has been very different, but it has sounded like Trivium. We’ve always had ingredients strewn across each record that are very us but there are also things that aren’t very us. Everyone may disagree about what they like the best, which album is their favourite or whatever, but now with the addition of Nick we know what our sound is and we know where we need to be going and we know exactly what we want to do, which is something we didn’t always have.
MF: So you’re more focused? Are you churning out songs like crazy?
MH: Yeah we’ve never written songs in the midst of rehearsing for tours, and with Nick, we’ve written songs that already top ‘Shattering The Skies Above’, and we’ve got two new songs that are already ready to go, but we have to hold off on till we do the next record. But that’s something that was unheard of for the band, taking breaks within practice to jam new songs (laughs). The fire for our band was sort off dying off a little bit, and I’m not saying that was a component of any one specific person, it was more just the chemistry between the four of us, you know, before we got Nick, the band was kind of disintegrating a bit and when the change was made we saw that we had that original fire back, the fire we hadn’t seen in years.
But yeah, with the addition of Nick it feels like we’re a new band again, it’s feels like we’re a new local band and we’re just playing the cool clubs on the weekend that we want to go play, and that’s something I haven’t felt since we started Trivium when I was twelve.
MF: What about any exciting new tunings? You guys have always like to mess around with tunings a bit here and there, why is that and can we expect anything drastically different on the next album?
MH: That’s one of those things where we’re just reaching to see what is us and now we’re coming back to drop d again, back to the Ascendancy and majority of Ember tuning because we know that is us. So the next record will be back to drop d, maybe some e standard songs maybe not, but drop d is definitely a big thing that we are.
MF: Now you’ve mentioned ‘Shattering The Skies Above’ a few times, which is the song you wrote for The God of War III soundtrack, are you guys fans of the series?
MH: Oh yeah, I mean it’s a truly amazing series. The song wasn’t written necessarily from the themes of the game, you know it’s not about Kratos or whatever, it was more like we were approached with it and were so excited and so inspired by the idea, and so inspired by the game and being able to write a new song with a new band member that we wrote something that I think coincides perfectly with the game.
MF: Good match up between games and music though, I mean Trivium and God of War go together pretty well.
MH: Oh definitely, like I hate it when games will put like a shitty rap song in a game. I mean there was this Eminem song, not talking shit about Eminem or anything, but there was this Eminem song in Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 2, and I was just like come on man, have us do it, or at least something like NIN or Rammstein, not fucking rap or hip hop or whatever it is.
MF: Hey at least it wasn’t Lady Gaga…
MH: That would’ve killed that game for me, I mean I do like Gaga, but you gotta match the stuff up correctly
MF: Yeah Gaga is more Dance Dance Revolution
MH: Or Garageband Hero (laughs).
MF: I heard you guys just arrived from touring Indonesia and The Philippines…
MH: Yeah it’s been a really really brutal flight schedule we’ve had. We flew from Florida to L.A, L.A to Taipei, Taipei to Jakarta, I think it was a 40+ hour travel day. Did one show in Indonesia, did another huge set of flights to get to Manila, a huge set of flights to get to New Zealand, huge set of flights to get to Australia. So yeah I think we’ve flown twelve times in the last fifteen or sixteen days. I don’t think human bodies are meant to be that high in the sky with all the pressurisation that frequently, I think my brain is slowly expanding and is about to explode.
MF: Aside from all the flying how was the tour?
MH: Indonesia was ridiculous, there were like 3000 + people there, we’d never been there before in our whole lives, and Manila had like over 2,600 people as well, so we’re already bigger in those two Asian countries than in any major capital city in the US, which is pretty funny (laughs).
MF: The crowds are insane over there aren’t they?
MH: Yeah they were fucking nuts. Our hotel had like armoured guards, and it was like the nicest hotel we’d ever been in before, it was really fun, it was like an insane vacation where we got to play.
MF: Speaking of touring how did Soundwave go?
MH: Not to toot our own horn here, but I feel like we kind of destroyed it in a very good way. It was fucking amazing. You know everyone knows the UK as Trivium’s biggest territory, but after these shows I kinda feel like Australia and New Zealand are starting to creep up on them for a bit of a fight there and I’m very interested to see who’s going to take the helm.
MF: I was reading in one of the bios that you’re very influenced by The Beatles, which I found as a bit of a surprise. How did The Beatles set you on the path to Trivium?
MH: With my music nowadays it’s like The Beatles, Queen and Depeche Mode. I think that I’ve been into every style you can be into in life, which is great because I feel like I can back up certain things I say about certain bands, but all of it stems from the Beatles in my opinion. I think The Beatles did the traditional contemporary song structures better than anyone and they wrote the absolute best songs, songs which stood the test of time.
I mean with music for me I don’t care what style it is, as long as there are good songs I’ll be into it. Like I think John Mayer’s Continuum album is amazing, I think Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway CD is great. It’s not like we’re one of those metal bands who are like, if it’s not metal it must die, only true metal will live, that’s a fun attitude and all, but I had it when I was sixteen you know. But I definitely do love heavy music, but my thing right now is that heavy music is all about the breakdown, it’s just about the ridiculous silly solo, but really it’s all about songs, bands need to be writing songs, no matter what style it is. I’m not saying you have to write a three minute pop song, you know if you write a twenty minute prog metal song that’s awesome, as long as it’s about the song.
MF: Talking about song-writing, I wanted to ask you about what it was like when you first joined the band and had to replace the singer, was that your first time singing or writing lyrics?
MH: It was the first time for everything for me; I joined the band at twelve. There was the original singer, Brad for a little bit, he was kinda, I don’t remember whether he was asked to leave or he just left, but that was within a few months of the band forming, so we only had two or three originals. Anyway we couldn’t find anyone to replace him, so it was actually Travis who said ok you’re going to sing. So I did it but I was terrible, so I started screaming because I couldn’t sing at all. So I had to scream vocals for a couple of years, did some demos and then when we did Ember I wanted to add some singing because that was the time when I was getting into bands that did the flip flop sing scream you know. Nowadays I feel like I’ve really gotten that down, I know what screaming works for me and what singing works with me.
MF: That’s really good, I mean with The Crusade where you lost all the screaming and then when you brought it back with Shogun it seems like you’ve found your balance by experimenting.
MH: Yeah, we have. I mean, some bands find their sound right away, like you look at the self-titled Slipknot album, they have their formula down right away. I feel like we had to struggle for our formula on Ember, I think we had it on Ascendancy, we tried something drastically different on Crusade, which has it’s good and bad sides, and Shogun was sort of a continuation of us expanding and trying more things. But I think that now we’re on our new record that we’re writing we know more what we need and more what is us.
For instance I know that that sing-scream thing that sort of Hetfieldey/Flynn voice that I used to do a lot, doesn’t work with my throat, it messes my throat up, I can’t do it. The best things for me are my normal scream and my clean singing, and I know my range a lot better now, like for example with the higher harmonies I’m gonna give them to Paulo (Gregoletto, bass), cos he has got a much higher range than me. So we’re learning more and more what is us, what are the components of us.