Rock may be dead, but metal shines eternal. A shadowed behemoth far removed from critical adoration, it thrives. Here artists and unsung iconoclasts nourish their teeming masses with thundering assaults of righteous noise. Through thick and thin, good times and lean it remains, as ever, an ambitiously broad-reaching and implacable force.
With new record Gravity, Bullet For My Valentine once again stride forth to champion this heavy cause. Delivered with a brutal simplicity, this fourth album could be no better suited for the task at hand. The group have been through some difficult years following 2015’s Venom, but their passion for music and desire to push themselves further remains unvanquished.
Gravity’s is a new sound. Gone is the technicality of past. Eyes fixed firmly on the future, it strikes clean with messages clear. Dark, discoloured and stripped-down to the barest minimum of its core, this is music primed for the purest of emotional impact.
But enough mythologising. When you get down to it, you could not meet a nicer nor more grounded gentleman than Matthew Tuck. As an artist willing to drive himself to his limits to get to where he wants to go. Yet, if there’s a cold element of ambition, it’s more than tempered by the special warmth that floods his voice when speaking about musical inspirations, his sons and — not least of all — the fans.
Life’s been rough. He’s taken knocks. His marriage didn’t end out to be happily ever after. The breakdown of this relationship still sits heavy upon his mind – but he’s keeping busy. Direct from his head to these here words, this is what he had to share.
MF: You’ve been playing heavy metal for 20 years now. Has your perception of the music changed?
Matt Tuck: I grew up listening to bands like Pantera, Machine Head and Metallica – stuff like that – in the mid ’90s. That’s when I found music and found heavy metal. You know, it’s somewhat stayed the same. But a lot has changed as well.
There have been a lot of creative bands that have pushed boundaries, genres, and everything like that. So we’ve just gone along with the ride and tried to stay true with what we get excited about, what we want to do, and how we want to write music.
20 years is a long time. Things have absolutely changed. But a lot has stayed the same as well. Metal is what it is.
MF: From these bands you’ve just mentioned — or elsewhere — was there a single inspiration that compelled you to pick up the guitar and sing?
MT: Yeah! Well for me it was mainly Metallica. I remember watching ‘Enter Sandman’. Seeing the music video. That had a massively profound effect on my life you know? It was like from that moment, “That’s what I want to do!”
I don’t know what it was that attracted me to it or why. But I just fell in love with the heaviness, the sound, the aggression, and the way the drums sounded. I did everything I could to buy myself a guitar.
And that’s how I learnt to play a guitar. I didn’t buy a book, I didn’t have a teacher – I wasn’t from a family who could afford a guitar tutor. I just bought I shitty little guitar and put Metallica albums on and learnt how to play by ear. It was always Metallica and then it evolved into bands like Slayer, Machine Head, Pantera and [Iron] Maiden. It just kind of started me on my musical journey really.
MF: Bullet is no slouch when it comes to success in the world of metal. Do you see yourself as being in league with any of these bands that influenced you? Twenty years is a long time to be around for any band. You’ve got staying power…
MT: Yeah, It’s good. Having the longevity we’ve had is incredible you know? That’s kind of the ultimate goal really as far as being in a band goes.
I think you first and foremost want to get a record deal and get an album out. That’s always ambition number one. But as soon as we got that opportunity we always wanted to be a band that went the distance.
It seems to be that, with our fanbase and our numbers, we do seem to be on that path and it’s great! This album especially is a far more modern contemporary-sounding metal record and it just seems like it’s going to open the doors for us to have another ten or fifteen years into the future now if we want it. We’re very lucky but we have worked our asses off to get achieve what we’ve achieved.
MF: Does rock need saving?
MT: I don’t think it needs saving. I think it has just become very obvious for decades now that our world is our world. The mainstream media and everyone else doesn’t really want to celebrate it, care about it, respect it or even talk about it you know? It’s one of those things that I’ve personally just come to terms with a long time ago and in a way that actually makes it better.
What we do is always about fanbases. It’s about loyalty, it’s about dedication. And we have that longevity which we’ve just touched upon. We can be around thirty years like the Maiden guys, like Metallica, Slayer – whatever you want. Many, many bands! They’re not just these flash-in-the-pan conveyer belt pop artists that have huge success for like ten seconds then they disappear forever and you never hear from them again.
So it actually benefits us not having that mainstream love because we do it as a family and we do it on our own. We stick by each other and you’re a fan for life once you’re in. It has positives, it has negatives but for me the positives definitely outweigh all the other mainstream bullshit which we’ve never relied upon! We don’t need it anyway so it’s fine.
MF: Let’s talk about Gravity! What has been happening for you and the rest of the band in the space between when you finished touring Venom and this new record?
MT: Well we finished touring December 9th I think it was. We did two nights at London’s Brixton Academy and that was it. Between then and the first of April we just took four months off. Just to kind of decompress. Get off the tour bus and the plan and have a little bit of downtime, which was lovely.
And then obviously get the phone call from management and the label going, “Heyyy! You thinking about writing any songs anytime soon?” So I was like, “Okay, we better get at it!” We just got into a studio and started writing some music. It was a simple as that really.
Personally, I’ve been through a bit of a rough time behind the scenes since about December 2015. The breakdown – my marriage obviously, it fell apart. I went through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster because of that and obviously trying to keep Bullet on the road at the same time. I’ve had all this stuff going on behind the scenes which is quite intense and personal for me. But I’ve managed to keep it all together.
I had a lot of fuel in the tank to write about. Didn’t know if I should go there really, but the more we wrote songs and the more it kind of kept coming out, the more powerful and stronger it became. I just kind of let it all hang out and it was obvious that it was the best thing to do for the band’s creative juices.
And that’s what people have got. You’ve got a very personal insight into my life, what I’ve been through, and how I’ve dealt with it. How I felt.
It just shows a – definitely a different side to me personally, lyrically. The music also represents that as well. We’ve tried to make things unique to everything that we’ve done in the past. The two things combine to make quite a formidable package realty.
MF: Venom was considered by many to be your heaviest record. How would you describe Gravity? It still sounds pretty bloody heavy if I can say!
MT: Yeah! It does! Everything is just executed in a far more simple way so it gives the context and the theme of the song it’s spotlight which it should need. The best thing about songwriting is the connection it has with the fans. Simplicity is a great way of doing that. It just gives the vocals and lyrical content the spotlight – which it always should be you know?
I think Venom in some ways was our heaviest record. It was definitely our most technical as far as our individual abilities go. We were trying to put it together and show of the band at its most intense.
But that was the perfect reason we decided not to do that on this one. We didn’t think we could improve on it really. If we tried it’d be pointless.
We’d done five albums of showing that off – being metal and heavy and aggressive and fast and bash, all that stuff that has made us what we are in the past. But it just didn’t feel like it was relevant anymore. To do that again just felt like we were copping out.
We weren’t being brave, we weren’t being creative. There was just no point in recreating stuff we’d done in the past. Our eyes are firmly located on the future so this is the way we decided to take it.
MF: Australia loved Venom. It tore up the charts here, all the way to number one. What are you expecting with this album and are there any plans of coming back?
MT: I don’t know what I’m expecting really. Obviously, we’ve kind of set the bar as high as it can go with Venom as far as that chart position goes. You know if we could get to number one again that would be just incredible for us.
Getting those moments is always something to celebrate. Especially being the type of band we are. To get that kind of spotlight for one week or two weeks or whatever it may be – even though it is quite short term – it does send waves around the world that we are here, we’re alive and kickin’, and there’s still a big family of metalheads that love this and support it. So it’s good, man.
And as far as coming back, we do have something planned. I can’t give exact dates or venues yet because it’s not announced but it’s this year. It’s 2018. So it’s not that long.
MF: So the new album is coming up and by the sounds of it there’s definitely going to be an intense period of touring that follows. What else is happening with you, the band and everything else you’re involved in as well?
MT: Well at the moment it’s all guns blazing doing a lot of talking. You’re number three this morning and I have another two after you. And I’ve got a list as long as my arm as well as emails to fill out. So a lot of press, a lot of promotion.
But it’s great! It shows that there is a lot of interest and a lot of love for this band. People want to talk about and it and get the hype going. After this we get on the road. We’ve actually done two American tours already this year and the album’s not even out!
So it’s busy times. We’ve got a lot more touring coming. I’ve got a lot of things going on! Other than that, I’ve got a job as a judge in a Young Guitarist of the Year award here in the UK.
It’s good there’s a lot of little interesting cool things going on behind the scenes. I’m punishing myself with things like that because time is very limited and I’m also a family man. I try to have as much downtime as possible for my boys.
But these things are really important for me and they’re really important for the band and they’re really important for the other people that are involved so it’s extremely intense. It’s hard work, but it’s incredible that we have this kind of schedule. It’s something most bands would love to have. It shows that the band is very relevant and that we’ve got busy couple of years to come by the look of it!
MF: Sounds great! I’m going to have to let you run but I’m looking forward to that announcement for when you guys will be coming out!
MT: Yeah man! It won’t be too long! Good talk and thanks for your support.
Bullet For My Valentine’s ‘Venom’ is out now & stay tuned for their big 2018 Australian tour announcement.