Interview: Matt Heafy of Trivium
Hailing from central Florida, Trivium formed in 2000 and quickly built a buzz around Orlando's metal community with their blend of metalcore, thrash, and progressive metal. Frontman, Matt Heafy is easily one of the most driven, focused, and wildly talented musicians to ever spread his passion and sheer skill upon the metal domain. Not only does the guy have an amazing ability to shred, he’s an incredible songwriter as well, inflicting insane amounts of melody into his technically intricate, musician-humbling creations, underscoring a new breed of what those of us into labeling call metalcore. Since 1999, Heafy has led his band, Trivium, to become a sort of flag bearer for modern metal, combining elements of thrash, death, and even hints of black metal into one of the most sonically pleasing styles in contemporary heavy. Now, in 2017 and almost eight studio albums deep into their career, Trivium have come back roaring, literally, with The Sin And The Sentence, which combines a truckload of classic Trivium dynamics to create something fresh. We got to speak with Mr. Heafy himself, as we discussed what went into the making of the new album, his love for black metal, his favourite place to eat in Australia and much more.
How is it going right now for you guys with the anticipation and build up towards your new album The Sin And The Sentence?
It's going good, I'm glad the hurricane that we had here in Florida is done, that was definitely annoying but it's over now and we made it unscathed which is nice. Now we're just waiting for the album to drop and we're very excited for people to hear it.
That's nice to hear. Trivium are known for reinventing themselves with each album, what's the mood and the sound mostly like this time around?
Going in to The Sin And The Sentence we said to ourselves a couple of things. One of those things which was definitely the most daunting was, we said that record eight has to be the greatest thing we've ever made, or basically what's the point of carrying on? I'm not saying things weren't going good, they were going great. But we said to ourselves that if we're not making the best music possible then we're doing ourselves a disservice and we're doing our fans a disservice. Thankfully, we made in our opinion the greatest thing that we've released to date. The way we made this was, we decided we wanted to make the kind of record that we wanted to hear as metal fans. We didn't make anything thinking of what our fans are going to like or what our fans are going to dislike, we said let's just make what we want to make as metal fans, even outside of Trivium. We just wanted to imagine what kind of band we'd want to hear, and that's the kind of stuff we went for.
Was there a certain influence or theme that you had in mind when entering the recording studio?
Yeah, so with this recorded what we decided to do was we took a look back on our past history and asked ourselves. what are our favourite moments in Trivium? What are our favourite records? And it all kind of seemed to come back to each of us loving Ascendancy and In Waves and Shogun, and we didn't want to go back and recreate these, instead what we wanted to do was to go back and recreate the environment which we made these. When we made those three albums that I mentioned just now, we made the kind of music that we wanted to hear as fans of music and we also prepared so much, like to a level that we would probably say is maybe too much in a good way. Having the record like 99% fleshed out before we even sat down with the producer or even began setting up in the studio. Trivium is the kind of band where we benefit from over preparation, and I feel like we do better that way. We did try on two records, with Vengeance Falls and Silence In The Snow where we went into them with the producer wanting to be valuable and not being fully committed to everything so we could still shape the record if we need to and make sure we could change things on the fly. But while that works for a lot of other bands, it doesn't seem to work for us and we do best doing the over preparation, extreme regimentation kind of Trivium style and then we end up getting the results that we like the best.
Trivium are also responsible for being a gateway band for many people when it comes to modern metal, can you tell us how it feels to be at that level?
It's nuts! That definitely was something that was like a reawakening moment for me when around the time of the 10th anniversary for Ascendancy we started doing interviews about hitting that accolade of having that album be such a career defining moment for us. The interview was for a British press things and they were telling us how many British bands have actually been influenced by us, and we've since been able to meet a lot of these bands that actually have sighted us as an influence or a band they like. That's the biggest thing a guy in a band could ever ask for, to inspire someone to try and make music themselves. So when I started hearing about that, I sort of realised that we have influenced maybe a couple of bands which made me feel great and it did inspire me to try and make the best music that we could possibly make once again.
You, and do you still get the metalheads sometimes that refuse to accept Trivium and refuse to listen to different styles of metal? Or do you think that fans are becoming more accepting nowadays?
I mean, there will always be segregation and elitism in heavy music. I think it's important for people to come into heavy metal with an open mind, but I guess the cool thing about metal is that there are so many sub genres, sub factions, different cultures and lifestyles that have stemmed from music. That's something you don't really see in other genres of music like pop for example. You don't see many different sub genres of pop bands and people getting tattoos and committing to the lifestyle of these bands. I do love how metal has different sounds in different countries that you go to, you know when you think of the Scandinavian metal scene, Swedish bands don't sound like Norwegian bands or Norwegian bands don't sound like Finnish bands. All of these countries have their own sound which I think is such a cool thing. So I guess you kind of have to have both. I don't have that attitude of elitism in metal, I like to listen to everything in metal and I like to support the different genres whether it's metal on one side or metalcore on the other side. I think it's important to unify the different sides. But we do have things like black metal, which is a very obscure, elite, intense sub genre which has its own thing, I think that it's really special. It's important to have both of those balances I think.
Have you ever considered shocking fans with a more black metal style offering since that style of music has been a massive part of your life?
I am going to be doing a side project eventually. It's called Mrityu, I'm not sure if you're familiar with it. I've been mentioning it for a couple of years and what's really great is that I've been able to befriend Ihsahn from Emperor. I became friends with him around the time of the In Waves record and we've stayed in touch and have become pretty good friends ever since. So he's co-written a couple of songs and I've written a couple of songs also, we've had this thing going very slowly in the background of our lives. When we find time to make it happen it will happen someday, I just don't know when. He's in big demand and I'm in big demand as well, but it will happen. It's not going to be traditional black metal, but it definitely has evolved from black metal and the kind of black metal I love is the type that can completely reinvent the format. That's how black metal should be, it's been the rebellion to what everything else is and it keeps pushing the boundaries of what it can and should be and that's what I like the most about it. That's what we're going to try and do with Mrityu.
Sounds incredible, very much looking forward to hearing that. Back to the new album, did it feel good to be able to do some harsh vocals and screams on The Sin And The Sentence?
Yeah it was great! It was terrifying when I blew my voice out on Vengeance Falls and I wasn't sure if I'd ever scream or sing again. What we determined was that I'd been screaming incorrectly for most of my life and singing mostly incorrectly for most of my entire life, it just wore my voice down over the years. I had to relearn how to sing, and that's what I did on Silence In The Snow, we had to rebuild my voice. I was also training away to learn how to scream again, in a way that was safe and would sound the same, and that took a couple of years of training my vocals to getting them back to that stage again. So I do have that mechanism where I can sing and scream live and on tour all day long, but for the record itself on The Sin And The Sentence, I did approach it with that old school technique. Because when you do the record you have to give it your all and you can't be having a technique and sustainability in mind. Because when you're on tour you need to have sustainability so you can play every single day and not blow your voice out, but for the record you have to go for it. So when I went in to do vocals this time around I did it in the way that I thought at one stage I could never do again, and it sounds fantastic, and when it comes to live performances I do it with a different technique and it sounds the same.
You've obviously toured Australia quite a number of times now with Trivium. I know a lot of fans are eager to see you guys play here again. Do you have any plans to come back here for this album cycle?
We haven't had concrete plans, I know that of course we will be back there, we love it there and it's one of our favourite countries in the world to play and be in. So there's no solid plans just yet, but I'm definitely sure that we'll be back for this new album cycle.
Do you have any fond memories of Australia and your time here that you'd like to share?
Absolutely. Eating my face off, I think Australia has some of the best food in the world. I think that Melbourne is probably our favourite food city in the entire planet. Chin Chin is one of my favourite restaurants to go to in the entire world, I think they just opened one up in Sydney actually. Their chef Benjamin Cooper has become a very good friend of mine and a mentor to me for just not only cooking but general creativity. Every time we're in Australian and we visit Melbourne, we're there and eating amazing food. So the memories are primarily around food but I've also made some really good friends in the jiu-jitsu world, I train at Absolute MMA in Melbourne and I've met a really good friend of mine who is one of their main black belts there. So it's interesting that we do have all these great connections there in Australia, we've made some great friends through martial arts, music and food. It's a great place, and Australia has some of the best wine in the world and I think so of the best bands. The latest Parkway Drive record, Ire, I think was a really incredible record. It's genre defying and I feel like they really hit their stride with this record. The new Thy Art Is Murder album is amazing also, there's plenty of great things about Australia.
If you had the chance to create your very own supergroup of musicians with yourself as the frontman, who would you choose to have in the band?
Well, Niclas and Bjorn from In Flames have always been two of my most favourite guitar players as far as like song writers in metal goes. so definitely them. Drums, I would say Nicholas Barker, mainly from the Dimmu Borgir Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia days. Bass player I would have to go with Sean Malone from Cynic, one of the best bass players ever. Then myself on vocals and I guess if I had the option of a keyboard player I'd have Einar Solberg from Leprous. I saw him play keyboards for Emperor live and he's got an incredible voice, that guy is freaking unreal as a singer and a keyboard player.
Very cool lineup that's for sure. Well Matt, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today and we really hope to see Trivium back here soon for some shows. Do you have any words for your Aussie fans before you head off?
To all of our Aussie fans, please keep spreading the word of Trivium, we love being there. Without you guys and girls spreading the love for us and showing your non-Trivium friends who we are and non-metal friends who we are, and hopefully inspire them to come and see us at one our shows and perhaps even buy the new record. The more demand there is for us, the more we're going to keep coming back and Australia has always been so good to us, so we would love to be back there again as soon as possible.
The Sin And The Sentence is out October 20th via Roadrunner Records. Pre-order HERE.
Written by Steve Jenkins