INTERVIEW: Trivium’s Matt Heafy

Trivium

Trivium’s 2003 debut Ember To Inferno is a landmark release that led to the band’s signing to Roadrunner Records and the worldwide success that followed. Out of print for several years, the band and 5B Artist Management have partnered with Cooking Vinyl to re-release the album, along with a deluxe edition titled Ember To Inferno: Ab Initium that includes 13 additional demos that have never been previously available. It’s a hugely important release for Trivium fans, filling in some gaps in the story of how they became one of the hardest-working and most self-reinventing metal bands in the world. I caught up with voclalist/guitarist Matt Heafy to chat about it.

What would the Matt Heafy of today have told the Matt Heafy of 2003 about what to expect from a career in music? 

If I could look back and talk to myself now I would say ‘be prepared. There’s going to be a lot of good, bad and ugly. You will have good things happen and you will have bad things happen, but all those things will bring you to who you are today.’

How did you grapple with the attention being so young?

Back on Ember, we didn’t have fans at that point. When that record came out, with the distribution deal it had, you couldn’t really find that record anywhere. So we were excited to get signed but when we went to our local record stores, we couldn’t find Ember. When the release first came out it was kind of cursed from the beginning. That label eventually did get their distribution sorted out, but by the time it was sorted, Ascendency was coming out. Ascendency completely eclipsed the release of Ember. And when Ascendency first came out we still didn’t have fans yet. I remember going on tour doing Ozzfest and having people not knowing who we were. The first time we went somewhere new and had fans who were waiting for us was the UK. That was the first time we really experienced ‘Oh wow, people are into our band!’ But in the Ember days, from the beginning up until the Ascendency days, we’d play a couple of local shows in Orlando once in a while, maybe play a dive bar and get five or seven people.

One of the most revealing things I’ve heard in an interview is when Metallica came to Australia in 2013 and an interviewer on the radio asked James Hetfield ‘Did you imagine in 1983 that in 30 years’ time you’d be headlining arenas in Australia?’ and James’s answer was something like ‘Yes, of course. You have to have goals like that and believe they’re going to happen.’

For Trivium the goal from the very beginning has always been to be one of the biggest metal bands in the world. To be the kind of band that makes an impact on the music scene. It’s something that takes a lot of time and it’s always been the goal. When we first came out, when people first started hearing about Trivium and reading about us in magazines, we were known as that band with the cocky ambitions of world domination. People were taken aback by that because we were 18, 19 years old and they weren’t used to people talking like that at that age, but people have got to understand that I’d already been in the band for six or seven years at that point. I’d already been living with that goal of wanting to be a massive band. It’s been that same way since day one.

Take me back to the demo days.

193530-l-hiWith the Ember reissue it has the Red, Blue and Yellow demos. At the time of Red, that was our first time recording in a decent bedroom-converted local studio. When we went to do the Blue album with Jason Seucof, that was the first time recording in something a little bigger. It was Jason’s garage converted into a little studio. And for us that was the biggest thing we’d ever been in in our entire lives. We did Blue, Yellow, Ember, Ascendency, The Crusade, I did Roadrunner United and Capharnaum, this technical death metal band I have with Jason, and it’s really like a DIY home-made studio. Jason pulled off some amazing things. So by the time we were doing the Blue album it was familiar with us to be with Jason.

At what point did you feel that you guys found your voice as a band?

That’s a good question. From the beginning we always made the kinds of music we wanted to hear as fans of metal. We made the kind of music that we felt was either missing or that we specifically wanted to hear at that point in time, and I don’t recall exactly when we were thinking ‘Oh we’ve really hit our stride now,’ but I can say that looking back now and listening to everything very intensely, I used to love Ember as being a record that was similar to Ascendency, in the same style. But looking back now, it really isn’t. It’s so different from Ascendency. Yes, there is screaming and singing but musically it’s approached very differently. And what’s so cool is it truly is seven records of Trivium that are very different to each other. Some have a little more in common with each other than others but I feel like Ember falls into that category as well. It’s great to see the scale and breadth that the band has, with so much different material that can still fit together. Like today we can play a song like ‘Until The World Goes Cold’ and go immediately into ‘Pillars of Serpents’ and it makes sense. That’s a really great thing and it’s not a contrived feeling.

You guys are in a category that I would put an artist like Devin Townsend in too, which is that you have fans who trust you with their ears, y’know? Whatever you do, they’ll find their personal way to connect with it and they don’t necessarily want it to be the same thing all the time. You’ll always get the people who latch onto one album and want you to make it over and over but they’re probably not the ones with Trivium tattoos. 

Exactly. And one of the cheeky things we always say about us not making the same record every time is, there are enough bands that do that, where it’s pretty much the same record every time. We would never be content to do that. And if you even look at Red to Blue, they’re very different to each other. Blue to Yellow, very different.

How have your gear preferences changed over the years since doing Ember?

I know the Blue album, we recorded with something weird. What was that gold BOSS rack preamp thing?

The GX-700! 

Yeah! I think we used that into an Alesis PA power amp or something really bizarre. I think that was the sound of the Blue album. I could be wrong. With Ember I want to say it was maybe some version of a Peavey 5150 or a XXX head. If I think of all the record it’s always been some form of a 5150 I, II or III into something with V30s or something similar. It’s always been that with an overdrive in front, whether it’s been Ibanez or Maxon or MXR. It’s always worked for us.

It’s so interesting that when Eddie and James Brown designed the 5150, the genres it went on to be used in didn’t exist yet but it’s such a perfect amp for really extreme metal. 

It’s crazy! Y’know, there’s actually a scene in Full House where Jesse and the Rippers were trying out new guitar players and there was a 5150 there. And there was a 5150 onstage with Jesse and the Rippers in a lot of scenes! But every record we’ve done has been some version of a 5150 head. I think with Ascendency, Sneap used maybe a Mesa Dual Rectifier for the leads.

Ember To Inferno is out now.

INTERVIEW: DragonForce’s Herman Li & Sam Totman

The mighty DragonForce have always brought the epic energy, triumphant power-metal riffage, anthemic choruses and intense shred to their work, but what makes their new album Maximum Overload stand out a little from the rest of their catalog is their willingness to step outside of their established sound just far enough to keep it fresh. Vocalist Marc Hudson has well and truly settled in now (he joined prior to the recording of previous album The Power Within, and Trivium’s Matt Heafy contributes his vocal power to three tracks as well. And for the first time DragonForce have worked with an outside producer, Jens Bogren, who has also produced, mixed or mastered the likes of Soilwork, Symphony X, Pain of Salvation, James LaBrie, Devin Townsend. Throw it all together and you have Dragonforce’s biggest-sounding album yet. Read More …

Win A Matthew K. Heafy Epiphone Les Paul!

P_HeafyPressPRESS RELEASE: Epiphone kicks off 2014 with an exciting January giveaway featuring the Limited-Edition Matthew K. Heafy Epiphone Les Paul Custom 6-string (enter at Epiphone.com). Designed in close collaboration with Matt Heafy, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the band Trivium, the limited-edition Les Paul Custom reflects Heafy’s distinctive approach to guitar which has earned Heafy and Trivium millions of fans around the world. Heafy’s Les Paul Custom is one of the most popular and successful Epiphone Signature models to date. “The first run of Matt’s Les Paul Custom completely sold out – fans can’t get enough of it,” said Epiphone President, Jim Rosenberg. “Matt Heafy is one of the most enthusiastic artists I’ve worked with; he loves his fans and he loves his guitars. We look forward to working with Matt again in the future.” Read More …

INTERVIEW: Trivium’s Matt Heafy & Corey Beaulieu

We all know Trivium can play. They’ve been able to shred with the best of them ever since their first album, 2003’s Ember To Inferno, while and 2008’s Shogun veered close to progressive metal more than once, with its complex single note lines and ferocious 7-string riffage. But new album In Waves (Roadrunner) finds these Floridians exploring more restrained territory – to a point. The riffs are more direct, the tones are huge, and the songwriting is tight and purposeful. Guitarists Corey Beaulieu and Matt Heafy refined their approach without losing their edge or power, a rare feat in a world were ‘stripped back songwriting’ is usually taken to mean ‘wimpy.’ There’s still plenty of precision in the latest evolution of the Trivium sound, and there’s more than enough aggression to satisfy fans of the band’s early hardcore days, but In Waves stands out as the best sounding and most repeat-listenable Trivium album to date. I spoke with Heafy and Beaulieu about what went into the project, and what ultimately came out.

You started working on this album quite a while ago. Is that how you always work?

COREY BEAULIEU Mostly on every record, while we’re touring for the previous record, we stockpile ideas. Once we get off tour we have a lot of stuff we can start digging into and putting together. We use the tour to write and put together ideas so that when we start on the next record we’re a bit ahead. We’ve already got stuff we’ve been working on over time and that has been allowed to develop. Some of the songs go back pretty far back in the Shogun touring cycle.

What was your guitar approach on this album?

BEAULIEU It was about focusing on the songs, and writing songs that are straight to the point. It wasn’t all about technical stuff or trying to riff out a lot or show off. It was just making sure everything in the song was what needed to be there and nothing more. Taking a songwriter’s approach and not trying to be a flashy guitar player. It’s all about making the song and the riff the best it can be. It’s a lot simpler technically. We took that approach for the playing stuff, and the solos were whatever was needed for the song, whether it was a crazy solo or something more melodic. The songs dictated the lead stuff.

MATT HEAFY We were thinking about telling [producer] Colin Richardson, “We want a combination of this, this and that…” but I’m pretty sure we held all of our comments until we saw him in person. The guitar process was long. Normally, every record we’ve ever done, you get a BS scratch guitar tone and send it off to be mixed later, but Colin’s whole thing is he doesn’t want to record a second of music until he has a tone that will be the final tone of the record. I think we spent about five days on the guitar tone.

Read More …

MUSIKMESSE 2009: Trivium’s Matt Heafy back with Gibson

After a highly publicised relationship with Dean fizzled out a few months ago, Trivium’s Matt Heafy has officially returned to Gibson.

Matt’s been playing his Gibsons live since the split with Dean, but nothing official had been said until a Gibson signing session was announced for Musikmesse.

Here’s a little video of Matt presenting guitars to winners of a Gibson contest at Musikmesse.

Trivium Australian tour dates:

13 May 2009 Into The Mouth Of Hell We Tour Brisbane, The Tivoli
14 May 2009 Into The Mouth Of Hell We Tour Sydney, UNSW Roundhouse
15 May 2009 Into The Mouth Of Hell We Tour Melbourne, Palace Theatre
17 May 2009 Into The Mouth Of Hell We Tour Adelaide, HQ
19 May 2009 Into The Mouth Of Hell We Tour Perth, Capitol