An Interview With Trivium’s Matt Heafy: “Blowing my voice out and thinking my career was over is one of the best things that ever happened to me”

Matt Heafy Trivium Promo Photo 2017

Trivium, and their main man Matt Heafy need little introduction. The Florida metallers who make their home away from home here in the UK are just about to get started with their latest UK tour. We were able to catch up with Matt at his home in Florida as Trivium were making their final preparations to discuss a huge range of topics from the band’s fifteen years so far…

Rock Sins: Hi Matt.
Matt Heafy: Hey how ya doin? Thanks for chatting to me today.
RS: No problem at all, by the way, I should say happy birthday for last week!
Matt: Thank you so much man, I’m getting old I guess! Well not that old, but I feel like I’m 100 with my body *laughs*.

First of all, you’re in the middle of getting ready to come over to join us in the UK in a few days’ time, how are the preparations coming and are there any surprises in store for us that aren’t secret and that you’re allowed to talk about?

Matt: It’s going great, we’ve just finished the final day of rehearsals here in Florida. We like to rehearse quite a bit before we head out, so what we’ll do is rehearse, have a couple of days with the family and then we head out and we actually have another rehearsal day when we get to Dublin. It’s going great, I guess the original big surprise is that we have a new drummer, again, but the beans were spilled on that one. So we’ve got Alex Bent playing drums for us who has played with Battlecross, Decrepid Birth, Testament, Archaic, a whole lotta bands. He’s an amazing drummer. We’re playing stuff off all seven records, a lot of Ascendancy stuff because as we all know the UK loves Ascendancy, so yeah there’ll be a lot of Ascendancy stuff, it should be a lot of fun.

Obviously you’ve just addressed the drummer situation, with what has happened with Trivium having a series of drummers since Travis left, has that been a big frustration for you and Corey and Paolo or do you see it as things having naturally taken their course over the last few years?

Matt: It is definitely not fun having to teacher a drummer how to play songs off of all seven records every couple of years *laughs*. It’s not something we do for fun and it’s definitely not something we like to do. It’s always been out of necessity. I know that’s hard for people to understand sometimes, when fans hear a record and they love that record and then they see the drummer live and then they grow to be attached to them that’s great. We love every drummer we’ve ever had and we wish all of them well but every single time we’ve made a change it’s been an absolute necessity of change.
People need to remember that if we kept things the way they were at any given point then the band may or may not be around anymore so it’s really important for people to know that we’re always striving to have the best for our fans and for us, so sometimes a change is needed. It’s not something you want to know, you never want to do it, even with the first time when we parted ways with Travis that was an absolute necessity. So when we make a change hopefully everyone can have a better path of their own. Corey, Paolo and myself have stayed together in Trivium and even back with Travis, we said to him we wish him well and that hopefully he could build his own legacy from that point. With that first change, it was a case of make the change and survive as Trivium or don’t make the change and we probably wouldn’t exist anymore.

I guess as well having hit the 15 year point of the band, and you and Corey and Paolo have stayed together as the “core unit”, when you’ve been together for so long and then an outsider comes in, it can’t always be easy for them to try and gel with the three of you?

Matt: The three of us are super easy going guys. I know that’s probably contrary to belief with the fact we’ve had rotating drummers *laughs* but we’re three normal dudes, we’ve always got along personality wise with everyone we’ve had. It’s just sometimes with the playing, things need to be changed because of the chemistry needs to happen that way and I think if it was a case of me and a constant rotating door of three other musicians then maybe there’d be more speculation, but the fact it’s been me, Corey and Paolo we’ve been around together for so long and we’ve kept that line up, I think that shows something. That is a really big slot to fill for whoever comes in. Right now things with Alex are amazing and I hope they stay amazing but you can never really tell what’s going to happen. I love the joke that every time we’ve had a new drummer switch I’ll allude a lot to Spinal Tap and people don’t really notice the Spinal Tap references. Like a couple of weeks ago I posted a list of every Spinal Tap drummer that they ever had and said this is a list of all the ex-drummers that Trivium ever had and they believed it! People were saying you guys are a modern day Spinal Tap *laughs*

RS: I did notice that and see that it had gone over quite a few people’s heads, which I thought was quite funny
Matt: *laughs* Yeah, like I said I wish nothing but the absolute best for all the drummers we’ve had. I know some people were rubbed a little the wrong way by the fact I used the term session drummer about our last three drummers but it’s a true statement. I also feel like the term session drummer is a massive compliment, here is a musician who’s been able to transcend the reach of all musicians, of anyone that plays an instrument and is able to be hired into something. Anyone who plays with us, the opportunity that has been given to each of the people who have played drums with us has been the world, I guess you could say the destiny of that drummer is in their own hands and you can say the same with Alex. His future in this band is entirely in his own hands, so I hope he can live up to that.

Fingers crossed for sure. As you’ve already partly alluded to, Trivium’s relationship with the UK is very well documented so it seems quite fitting that the last of the run for Silence In The Snow is going to be here, that’s something you also did with In Waves as well, so the UK gets to be appreciated one more time.

you know sometimes I think we’re more of a British band than other British bands are British bands

Matt: Absolutely, you know sometimes I think we’re more of a British band than other British bands are British bands *laughs* I think we’re there more than some British bands are. We got our entire worldwide start thanks to the UK as people already know. I mean the first time we ever played it was Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton, it was the very first show and we were meant to be the first of three bands to go on that night and we were all backstage talking to each other saying “like man I bet no-one knows who we are and no-one is going to care” and then we heard this weird sound and we were like “what is that sound?!” and it was the crowd chanting Trivium so it was a case of “oh, I guess they do know who we are”. So we went out and had an absolutely incredible show and we were like “hey we’ll sign your tickets or whatever you have over at the merch stand as soon as we’re done” and I felt kinda bad because the crowd basically left and went to the merch area to hang out with us while the next two bands played. I think that was an indicator of great things to come in the UK and our relationship over there. It’s been an amazing ride to be able to grow as a band in the UK and I’m looking forward to being over there again very soon in a few days.

RS: I remember that tour very well, I think I saw the London date of it and if I remember rightly didn’t the promoters catch on pretty quickly and put you on last every night by the fourth or fifth show?
Matt: *laughs* Yeah they did, which was pretty cool. It was one of those stories, I remember hearing the story of Slipknot from Ozzfest and that happening with them and a couple other bands and I sometimes forget that happened to us too so it was a nice experience, we love being there.

You’ve already said this is the last run for Silence In The Snow and then plans are afoot for getting together to work on the next album. Have you got any pre-conceived plans around any themes or ideas or will it just be that you and the others will sit down and see what happens?

Matt: Plans are pretty loose right now, there’s nothing concrete. We definitely have some riffs kicking around but nothing overly substantial yet. We’re really focused on putting all of our energy into this next tour and as soon as tour is done we’ll have a proper holiday and then start working on new material.
RS: Fair enough, do you think in an ideal world you’ll have it all done and dusted by the end of 2017 or do you think it’ll roll into next year?
Matt: It’s really hard to say, I don’t think we’ll know until this next run is over and then we’ll decompress a little bit and then pick up our instruments again. So there’s no telling, whatever comes next, with or without concrete plans, I want to give it the due time it deserves.

Speaking of giving things the due time needed, the deluxe release of Ember To Inferno (Ab Initio) was released just before Christmas which was roughly fifteen years on from the first release of the album. Why did you decide now was the time to go back and dig into the vaults of the early days of Trivium?

Matt: We wanted to find a time that wouldn’t conflict with anything else, quite a bit of time after Silence In The Snow and not interfering with whatever a future record would be. I inherited the rights back to Ember To Inferno about two years ago, maybe it was at the ten year point that I got it back from Lifeforce. Ever since Ember To Inferno first came out I think it’s release was kinda cursed. The first time around it wasn’t really available in any stores on release date which was pretty heart-breaking. When it had a proper distribution afterwards, that was around the same time Ascendancy came out so it was eclipsed by Ascendancy and Ember never really had a proper release or was never given a proper spotlight. So, finally, when we realised this was the perfect timing to start my own label for the Ember To Inferno release we went with that. We finally found the right time, it wasn’t going to block any tours or new releases or anything like that. The name Ab Initio literally means in Latin “from the beginning” and the idea of from the beginning is literally taking everything from the beginning of Trivium right up until just before Ascendancy as one collective piece so people can see where the band came from in the beginning and where the band was right up until before Ascendancy.

I think as a band you are very aware of your past and the up’s and down’s that have happened along the way. This sort of time about ten years ago you were being, by certain elements of the (UK) press, bunched with Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold and being hailed as the top three metal bands of your generation or this generation’s GnR, Metallica and Iron Maiden amongst various other terms that were being bandied around. All three bands have done well for themselves but you’ve all had greater and lesser periods of success at different points, do you think having those labels attached to you by the press at different times was ultimately counterproductive for you at certain times.

A lot of bands freaked out when they saw a band of 18, 19 year olds saying they were going to be the biggest band in the world.

Matt: That’s a good question. I know for us the first time people started seeing us in magazines and on covers they were seeing some pretty bold statements namely by me, and it wasn’t ego, it wasn’t cockiness, it was confidence. By the time I was 18, 19 Ascendancy was already out and we were touring, I’d already been in the band since I was twelve years old. So I’d already put in seven years of playing in the band, seven years of making records and playing shows, and the thing with Trivium is we’ve always put in the work, both individually and as a group we’ve always put in so much practice and working at our craft that when it is time to go out and perform that we would be able to live up to the hype.

I think the thing that was counterproductive was maybe for other bands. A lot of bands freaked out when they saw a band of 18, 19 year olds saying they were going to be the biggest band in the world. So that certainly rubbed some bands the wrong way but I don’t mind that it did that to other bands because it showed that there was a band who was confident and believed in ourselves and wasn’t afraid to state our goals. I’m still to this day, I’m not afraid to state our goals, I want to be in a band that can make a serious dent in music. We’re not content with the size we are at, there’s a lot more work to go but we’re going to put in that work. We’re still young, I’ve just had my birthday like we were chatting about earlier, I’ve just turned 31, we’ve got all the time in the world. Some bands who were bigger when Ascendancy was coming out, I think they were my age now at the point where I guess they first broke out. We have a head start and we’re ready to keep working.

It’s funny you say you think you rubbed certain bands up the wrong way; I remember around the time you’d first become big in the UK going to an In Flames show in London, and I know In Flames are a band you’ve toured with many times since so if there was an issue back then I imagine it’s not anymore but…

Matt: Ooo I remember this story *laughs*
RS: I remember Anders (Friden, In Flames frontman) being on stage at the show and getting on the mic and saying “Why am I Looking at a sea of Trivium shirts instead of In Flames shirts” or words to that effect.
Matt: Yeah I remember hearing that story. I also remember when we were in the US on Sounds Of The Underground, and we both bumped into each other and he didn’t know I was a fan of the band and that I basically wouldn’t exist without In Flames, so we basically didn’t see eye to eye at that point. Some years later we were in a pub and we started bringing up the old stories and ever since then we’ve been really great pals. So those have been some of the tougher moments, when I found out that bands I loved weren’t too into it. It was good for me to be able to experience something like that and still want to do what I do. I very much remember that exactly, it was one of those times where I went “awww shit I’ve rubbed one of my favourite bands the wrong way”. But that happened and now the two of us are really great friends and we can joke about that stuff now, so I’m glad it happened.

You’ve been with Roadrunner (at least in the UK and Europe) for the bulk of your career (the start with Lifeforce aside) and that seems to have worked out very well for you. Do you think the traditional label approach is something that still fits for Trivium or do you think you’d consider going the DIY route?

Matt: Luckily what’s been fun with Ab Initio is that that’s exactly what we did, it was a new school DIY indie label home owned by us as an attempt at what Trivium can do. It’s still under Cooking Vinyl’s distribution but it’s my own imprint Kiichi Chaos and 5B records which is my imprint, just for Trivium I’m not going to try to grow it outside that. Our Roadrunner team has been awesome ever since the beginning, we’re still seeing things we’ve never had before, we had a Top 10 radio single on Album seven, and we’ve had top 10 singles in the UK as well on previous albums. So new ground keeps breaking and new great things keep happening and I think a lot of it is down to the team we have. We have an amazing team at 5B and we have an amazing management team at 5B and a great team at Roadrunner. The people at Roadrunner are the same people I’ve been working with since we were all 18 years old, I’d love to keep that team together and I’m very happy we still have that team right now.

Awesome stuff. Changing tack slightly, one of my favourite recent songs of yours is Blind Leading The Blind; It seems with all the stuff going on in the world on both sides of the Atlantic, it seems (depending on your political persuasion) that that song is a highly appropriate song for all the things going on right now, it feels like you were slightly predicting the future when you wrote that one.

Matt: Absolutely. You know even if you go back to Ascendancy and read the lyrics to Declaration, I re-posted the lyrics to Declaration on social media and some people thought it was something I’d just written. I still notice things I’ve written in lyrics from songs in 2004. We’ve always had a message of acceptance of all walks of life in the band even in our most intense moments and they’ve been there. So a big thing for us is to make the lyrics as important as the music and the (live show) visuals as important as the other things. I’m really pleased that people are looking into lyrics and see things that go beyond escapism. I think right now there are a lot of bands out there making music to sell music and I think it’s soulless and heartless and it doesn’t say anything. Overall we’ve been the ones to say something and my favourite bands have always been the ones with something to say, or something more than just playing notes and disconnecting from what’s happening. I don’t want to be all intense with you but I think it’s important to have those moments of intensity then have those moments of truth so that way people can look at themselves and the wider world around them and be inspired to do something.
RS: I think you’re absolutely right and it is a really important thing and I think with Donald Trump getting elected it is something that younger people seem to be paying more attention to and that can only be a good thing.
Matt: I think people always need to be very active in being educated as to what’s happening in the world and it is important to think there is a whole world out there not just our city or our state or even our country, our continent, it goes beyond that. Of all the years I’ve been travelling the world, I used to think things were so different but you realise that we’re more similar around the planet than I could have ever imagined as a kid. Everywhere I go, yes I see things are slightly different but you see that people basically want the same things, to love and to be able to love and to be respected and to be able to live the way they want to live. That’s something that is very important to me.

RS: Just two or three more questions if that’s OK.
Matt: Yeah of course!

Back when you guys were here in 2014, you did the co-headline tour with Killswitch Engage, and the London show at the time was filmed for a possible Live DVD, is that something that’s ever likely to surface or is that something that’s been confined to the history books?
Matt: Ahhh man, I did say that didn’t I *laughs*, you have quotes, I’ll never run from it, I’ll never deny it *laughs*. Yes I did say that and yes that was the plan but the plan became derailed. So we will do it someday but I guess that’s not the one unfortunately because that was a really good show! It was a great show so I wish that could’ve been the case but there were too many circumstances that have made that not be the one.
RS: That’s fair enough, although as you say it was very cool seeing you guys play Shogun with a fake blizzard coming down from the ceiling.
Matt: Yeah that was pretty awesome.

Speaking of other things that are in the works or on the back burner, is there any update on Mrityu (Matt’s black metal side project)?
Matt: That’s another thing that’s just a matter of time. Ihsahn (from Emperor) is a very busy guy and I’m really busy so we still talk about it, we still have ideas for it, there are some songs written, there are concepts “ready to go” as in so much that they are ready to be recorded. It’s just a matter of finding that time, that non-existent time for the two of us can’t seem to find. So it will happen, I just don’t know when.

Last time we spoke was just before the Killswitch tour in 2014 that we discussed earlier and that was just before you had one of your bigger vocal blow outs. I know that you’ve been incredibly regimented about looking after your voice since then and do you feel that the changes you’ve made have got you to where you need to be and to be able to carry on now without those kinds of “hiccups” occurring?

Matt: Absolutely man. Blowing my voice out and thinking my career was over is one of the best things that ever happened to me because it made me have to re-train and re-learn and re-build my singing and screaming. Nowadays when I’m off tour it’s five days a week and anywhere from 2-4 hours a day of singing and screaming. So I try to keep that stamina up and to make sure everything is working correctly and when you’re singing and screaming correctly and it sounds great you shouldn’t have strain, it shouldn’t hurt and it shouldn’t be difficult and you shouldn’t have to think about. I train so much that when I go out on tour now it’s just muscle memory and a matter of enjoying the show and not worrying about technique or hurting myself. Thanks to my teacher Ron Anderson and thanks to Matt from Avenged Sevenfold for getting me in touch with Ron Anderson I can sing or scream any of our songs across all seven records and it sounds better than the originals did and it’s easier than it ever was to do. So I’m happy all that happened.

One last question which is a slightly open ended question which some people hate and some people enjoy so we’ll see how you take it: Would you be able to pick three songs from across all seven records that you are most proud of?
Matt: For sure. I guess the question is lyrically or musically, so I’ll take three that encompass both. In Waves, Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr……Shogun. Those three.
RS: Fantastic, I can definitely see why you would choose all three of those for different reasons. That’s great, I will now let you get on with your Friday evening and look forward to seeing you again on stage in London in a couple of weeks.
Matt: No problem man, great talking to you.

Trivium’s UK tour (with Sikth and Shvpes in support) begins tomorrow, 11th of February in Dublin. The full schedule can be found below:

Trivium w/ Sikth & Shvpes UK Tour February 2017

11th – Dublin, Ireland – The Academy
12th – Belfast – The Limelight (SOLD OUT)
14th – Birmingham – The Institute
15th – Manchester – Academy
16th – Glasgow – Barrowlands
17th – London – Camden Town Roundhouse
18th – Nottingham – Rock City

Very limited tickets remain for certain shows – anyone who still needs tickets is advised to check with the venue box offices. Trivium’s most recent studio album Silence In The Snow is out now on Roadrunner Records and the deluxe re-issue of Ember To Inferno (Ab Initio) is also out now through Cooking Vinyl and Kiichi Chaos.


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