In one of the biggest interviews so far in Rock Sins’ almost five year history, Rock Sins was lucky enough to be able to catch up with Trivium’s frontman Matt Heafy while the band were in the UK with Killswitch Engage earlier in the year. Matt was kind enough to take twenty minutes or so out of his day to discuss the tour with Killswitch, looking after his voice, training on the road and the prospect of not seeing any Emperor gigs in 2014 among many other things….
*Editors note* – This interview with Matt Heafy took place prior to Trivium’s then drummer Nick Augusto leaving the band, as well as Matt’s very recent vocal blow out that has caused the postponement of some US shows. Matt is hoping to be back to full fitness for the European festival season, including Download 2014, where they’ll now be headlining the Second Stage, not the Red Bull Tent as they were at the time of this interview. *End editors note*
First of all can I say what an awesome show last night (at Brixton Academy was)!
Matt: Oh sure man thank you it was awesome. I was actually just talking about how fun a show it was. It was really fantastic!
Jamie: I think having only missed one of your London shows since you started coming here nine years ago, I can say that was easily one of the most enjoyable.
Matt: Thank you so much man. The production was so fun. You know we’ve never really had production like that before, we’ve never had CO2 or snow or other stuff like that in a club, so it’s really cool that we’ve finally been able to do what we always wanted to do.
Jamie: That’s very cool. I know Paolo put on social media that he managed to stand in the wrong place at the first show and get blasted by one of the CO2 cannons…
Matt: *laughs* Oh man that’s the funniest thing that’s happened all tour. One of the guys on the tour recorded the video and he’s slowed it down to super slow motion, I keep watching it over and over just seeing him getting blasted by it.
Jamie: Awesome. I take it for the rest of the tour you’ll all be quite careful about where you’re standing.
Matt: Yeah….but I did see Till from Rammstein in a video where he was like…humping the CO2 blasts, so I know it can’t be that bad.
Jamie: Haha fair enough.
As you say, you’ve never had production like this before on a tour and as you alluded to on stage yesterday you were discussing filming the show possibly for a DVD, are you filming the entire tour?
Matt: Actually I think just last night (in Brixton) that will be the DVD. It’s not 100% confirmed, but if that’s what all the band want, then I think it’ll just be the one show and we’re not going to twist anything. Any mistakes that happened, like the guitar patch thing that happened on ‘Gunshot with the lead, will be there. A lot of bands will do “a live DVD” and go in and fix any errors or re-record the audio, we’re not going to do that. Anything we did last night will be in the true form of the DVD.
Jamie: Brilliant. I think as you say, the truest form possible and I think that will please a lot of people.
Matt: Definitely, definitely, well we hope so!
To go off on a tangent somewhat, like yourself I have some Japanese background as I was born there, so I find the Japanese influence on your writing process, obviously for Shogun in particular, very interesting. Do you think that’s a source of inspiration you might focus on more again in the future?
Matt: Oh wow! Definitely – I can’t say the title of it yet but definitely for a Trivium song coming up on the next record and there may be some Japanese influence coming in on my side project Mrityu, whether musical or historical. I really like delving into that. All the tattoos I get are strictly Japanese, traditional pieces. That’s really cool though that you were born there as well.
Jamie: My parents were working there for four years and I was born in Tokyo in the middle of that but like yourself I left when I was very young. Unlike yourself though unfortunately I’ve not had the opportunity to go back.
Matt: Ah man, it is my favourite place in the world. Favourite culture, favourite food, favourite people. Whether it’s genetically imprinted on me to have some of the tendencies of Japanese people because of my Mom, I think I have quite a lot of the characteristics of what a lot of people would assume are Japanese characteristics. I think it helps me a lot in my life, especially in terms of organisation and discipline, things like that.
Speaking of discipline, I know some of your problems with your voice earlier in your career are quite well documented and since working with David Draiman you’ve taken on board some of his vocal regime to help with that and it sounds like that’s pretty intensive. Is it helping in terms of looking after your voice?
Matt: Definitely. I’ve always felt that I’ve taken better care of my voice than a lot of other band guys do. In the beginning I didn’t really but then I started taking better care, last tour I had a vocal blow out and we had to cancel a show due to my voice so since then I’ve been even more strict. No alcohol and no caffeine on tour at all, even on days off. Food cutoff four hours before a show and three hours before bed, antacid’s first thing in the morning and before bed at night, warming up before I speak in the morning, warming up before the show for a long time and cooling down after the show and watching the amount of talking.
Jamie: I can certainly appreciate that, I’ve been fortunate to speak to (Alter Bridge’s) Myles Kennedy about this and I know he goes through a very similar regime.
Matt: Yeah I know Myles is very strict. I’ve learnt a lot recently from David Draiman like the cutoff times and also Matt from Avenged takes impecable care of his voice so it’s cool to have that club of dudes that take care of their voices well. Some guys don’t have to, Dio for example wouldn’t warm up and could drink wine right before going on stage and would go out and sing incredibly, pitch perfect with no warm up whatsoever. It’s very rare but you do have some guys who don’t have to warm up at all and can be perfect. Then you have the other side of it, the guys who are the opposite to what myself, Myles, David, Matt do, they go out and party every night and abuse their bodies and sound like crap every night.
I know in addition to your voice you’re quite regimented with your fitness as well, with yoga and some of the other things you do, it can’t be that easy to maintain that when you’re travelling to a different city or even a different country every day, is it tough to find time to fit in as much of that as you would like?
Matt: Yeah it can be tricky especially when you have intensive days, like yesterday for example we had two to three hours of press per band member, plus two meet and greets where there was a lot of people to see so obviously on days like that it’s impossible to do any kind of fitness. Yoga I did for about two to three years, and I also did weights before and after that but nowadays I’m more into martial arts. I train in Brazillian jujitsu which I can do on the road, we’re actually able to train somewhere between two to four / five times a week. We actually travel with a 10 foot by 10 foot training mat, multiple keys and theres five of us who do that and we also do mui tai kickboxing as well. When I’m home it’s like six days a week of Brazillian Jujitsu.
Jamie: That’s quite cool that there’s a whole group of you together on the road doing it, for motivation as well as for the practicalities.
Matt: I know it’s awesome. There’s me, our tour manager, our lighting guy, our drum tech and Nick wants to start as well. So far I’ve given Nick two lessons. So I’m teaching four of our guys and it’s really really fun to be able to have that on the road.
Next year will bring the tenth anniversary of a certain very well known album, have you had any discussions about whether there will be an Ascendancy anniversary tour or anything like that?
Matt: It’s come up a couple of times in the last couple of days. The first thing we’re doing is when we’re at Download we’re playing the same set as the first time we played in 2005, and it’s the same stage we were supposed to play the first time around. We were supposed to play the small stage and then got upgraded to the main stage. So this time we wanted to play the stage we were originally meant to play which was the small tent stage, and play the set that we played on the main stage.
Jamie: Ahh ok, I know that you guys had requested to play the small stage but that makes sense as to why. There are quite a lot of worried people thinking they won’t all be able to fit in the tent to see you.
Matt: Yeah that’s what we wanted to do. Whenever we talk to our fans about stuff like this people always seem to prefer the intimate shows. So since we’ve been moving up in the world and increasing production and increasing the size of what we’ve been doing, we thought that’s probably the closest way to replicate a tiny little club show but on a big scale and at a festival.
Jamie: Fair enough, and that’s the only show of that nature you’re doing? So at the other festivals you’re doing such as Hellfest you’re doing a quote unquote normal show?
Matt: Yeah, at all the other festivals we’re doing shows with our full production but at Download we’re just gonna bring our tiny little Ascendancy back drop we used back in 2005, play the exact set from 2005 and try to create that club show vibe but at a festival.
Jamie: Fantastic, I shall do my best to get in there to see that.
Matt: Awesome, yeah, you really need to! *laughs*
Again linking back to things that are not necessarily easy to do on the road, eating healthily and well isn’t always easy or if you do so it can be quite expensive, since you’ve been in the UK have you had anything nice or noteworthy to put onto your food blog?
Matt: Yeah I just did an update like five minutes ago *laughs*. We’ve been at a restaurant in Newcastle called the forth hotel and they do traditional British pub grub done really well. I don’t wanna say modern, I’m not sure what the terminology is here but in the States we’d say “new American”. That’s where things are done with a British or European influence and style but done sustainably, locally, the way things used to be done.
So yeah, we had sausage & mash or rather bangers & mash and fish & chips, the most iconically British things you can have, but done with locally sourced ingredients. In Manchester we went to Curry Mile and had some Afghan food, we had Indian the day before, tomorrow there’s a place called The Butterfly and The Pig in Glasgow which is one of my favourite places and they do really good Haggis in there. I can’t do it as much because I have to cut myself off so early with the four hours before show so I try to get the big meal in really really early.
Jamie: Makes sense, and you guys have been here enough times down the years now to have established a few favourite local haunts.
Matt: Yeah, definitely, that seems like the way to do it if you can find a couple of good spots.
Just a couple more questions if that’s OK; I know you’ve discussed your side project (Mrityu) and I was wondering if there is any more of a definitive timetable for that? I know the Trivium schedule for the first half of 2014 is pretty crazy.
Matt: Yeah it’s nuts! We’re obviously in Europe right now, then we go to Australia for Soundwave Fest, after Soundwave we go to South Africa for Ram Fest, after that we’ve got a North American support tour with Volbeat all across America, after that I believe it’s the European Summer festivals, then the American Summer festivals and then an American Summer tour! Excuse me for a second I’m just walking past the line for the show *in background – what’s up guys?!* It’s just insane. I think I’ve heard after the American Summer tour as well we might have a month or two where we might jump in the studio and record some music, whether that’s just a few songs or what I’m not sure but we currently have about four or five tracks being worked so we figure we may as well record them while we’re feeling good.
How much you enjoy Emperor is well documented and the fact that there is going to be a couple of Emperor shows dotted around this year are you likely to be able to get to any of them?
Matt: What stinks for me is that every time we’re playing the same festival we’re on the opposite day. So at Hellfest we’re playing the day before and Wacken we’re playing different festivals on the same day. Any chance I woulda had is blown which sucks!!
Jamie: Noooo, that really sucks.
Matt: Yeah!! I keep in touch with Ihsahn too and I was like “so yeah I’m gonna miss every single one” and his response was “…..that sucks”.
Jamie: I guess the only answer is try and persuade him to do more.
Matt: Yeah….I really hope they do more man. Maybe I’ll have to wait for the next record anniversary, the “Anthems” (Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk) anniversary.
One last question; As Trivium have been coming to the UK for nearly a decade now and with the Download special anniversary show coming up in the Summer, is there anything apart from that first Download performance that you’d pick out as your favourite Trivium moment from your time in coming to the UK?
Matt: Man…..this is the only country where we’ve gotten a couple of gold records and a couple of silver records, I remember getting those on stage…
Jamie: I actually saw you get the Ascendancy one when you were on stage at the Astoria in London.
Matt: That’s really awesome. This is the country that started it all off with that Download appearance, we’ve gotten awards and rewards and..the interesting thing with this country too is we’ve had ups and downs as well. It’s pretty amazing that we’ve been able to go up from nothing, down, then go back up, then down again and now it seems things are going better and higher than they’ve ever been. It’s really interesting to be able to have that with a country because sometimes bands will never have that chance again. I’m not calling The Crusade a failure by any means, I mean it went silver here and it was a huge album in so many countries but generally the press didn’t really care for that record so the fact we were able to go up then down then slowly build our way back to where we are now is pretty amazing.
Jamie: When The Crusade came out you guys were headlining the Hammersmith Apollo which for a band that hadn’t been around for that long at that point was a pretty enormous deal and then as you say things went down a bit from there.
Matt: Yeah it was up, down, and now hopefully things are “back to normal” now *laughs*.
As mentioned, all being well Trivium will headline the Zippo Encore Second Stage on the final night of the 2014 Download Festival at Donington Park on the 15th of June. Tickets for the day and the weekend are still available from the official festival website www.downloadfestival.co.uk. Matt Heafy can also be followed on Twitter at @matthewkheafy. Further updates on Matt Heafy and Trivium in general will be available here at Rock Sins whenever we have any news to report.