TRIVIUM’S MATT HEAFY AND COREY BEAULIEU: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
It’s been kind of a roller coaster ride for Trivium, hasn’t it? Their debut LP, Ember to Inferno, caught the attention of Roadrunner Records’ legendary A&R man Monte Connor. Roadrunner subsequently released the band’s sophomore album Ascendancy to nearly-unanimous raves from critics and fans alike. Trivium, it seemed, were the future of metal incarnate.
Then came The Crusade. The album introduced some radically different sounds into the band’s repertoire, and seemed to divide their fan base.
So it’s little wonder that Trivium’s dynamic duo, Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu, feel that the band’s latest offering, Shogun (out September 30 on Roadrunner), is the band’s “make or break album.” But they’re insanely excited about the record, and with good reason – following the interview, Heafy personally commandeered a conference room in Roadrunner’s Manhattan offices so he could give the MetalSucks Masterminds a taste of what Shogun has to offer. What we heard that day was technical, heavy, and catchy all at once, a true hybrid of everything that made the band’s previous albums worth your time. Love ’em or hate ’em, Shogun pretty much guarantees Trivium will remain atop the modern metal heap for some time to come.
And so, in the middle of a discussion about God Forbid guitarist/MetalSucks blogger Dallas Coyle, Axl and Vince roll tape on the interview…
Matt Heafy: You should probably ask how I can kick [Dallas’] ass in Halo. We used to play Halo back in ’04 on the first tour we ever did together, and I would always be on top with a bunch of shit. He would go “Fuck this man!”
Yeah, that one really worked out. He called us and he’s like “Hey it’s Dallas from God Forbid. I was reading your interview with my brother, and I like your site and I want to do a blog.” And we’re like “Okay,” and chatted with him, and we’re thinking “Like, okay, this would be cool if it ever like actually happened.”
Because you know how it is, like guys are on tour you know and they don’t have time to do shit. But like 15 minutes later he sent us that “Hilary Clinton is a Nigger” blog. And every week he does that.
Corey Beaulieu: Dallas was on our first tour when The End of Heartache record came out and he’s like cranking it in the van and he’s like “Man, they killed this!” [Laughs]
So let’s talk about Trivium.
MH: All right.
So you guys have a new album coming out…
MH: Did you guys check it out at all?
No, they haven’t let us hear it yet. Why don’t you start by telling us about it since we have you guys here?
MH: It’s probably… easily everyone in the band is really excited about it. We feel like the record’s… all our records are kind of like stepping stones to this album. We really kind of found our niche and our sound, incorporating all the key elements that we’ve had on past records, and kind of really making it all fit into one Trivium sound. Also there’s the next evolutionary step of different new things added to what we do. So it’s a really good, I guess, definitive, for now, until we make another record, Trivium album that really kind of incorporates everything we’ve done in the past and new stuff as well. So there’s a little bit of everything past, present and future on it. People who only like Ascendancy fucking love this record. People who only like The Crusade also love it. Some people who didn’t like any of our records fucking loved it. [Laughs]
It’s really cool, the reaction to it has been really good. We put a lot of work into it, and we really took our time and feel like we’ve done the best album we’ve done so far. We’re really excited, you know, I think today is the first day it’s getting mixed. So it’s not finished yet, so that’s probably why they haven’t [let you hear anything yet], because it’s not done. So it’s getting mixed today or starting to get mixed today, so we’re excited that we’re getting that done because it was supposed to have been done last month, but it got delayed so it’s nice to get that done and get it out to people here because we’ve played it to some people and they really enjoyed it. So we want to get it out to let all our fans hear it and not just industry or people close to the band. So it’s really exciting to get the ball rolling and get back out touring and rock this shit up.
So what are some of the elements that you’ve tried to put into this album? Was there conscious goal ahead of time or do you sort of wing it?
MH: With The Crusade we went into it straight being like, “Our goal is to have an album the exact opposite of Ascendancy,” because Ascendancy had a lot of good praise, some mixed praise… whatever it was, due to the success of Ascendancy, we wanted The Crusade to be the exact opposite. So anything that happened on Ascendancy, we didn’t want to happen on The Crusade. In the Trivium musical spectrum, [we wanted] to really diversify ourselves, and it was a goal that I think we completely achieved. So it showed that we don’t just do this kind of stuff, we can do that kind of stuff, too, and everything in between. So with this record we came into it [with the attitude] that we didn’t care what we’re about to do and what was about to happen. And when it came to specifics, it was kind of… it was so natural that whatever happened, we were going to use it and stand behind it. I think that’s how some of the magical shit came about. It was just a random amalgamation of Trivium shit, you know?
CB: One of the biggest difference people notice compared to the last record is that the music is a lot more intricate and there’s a lot more stuff going on. I guess not really teched out as far as individual playing all the time, but just like the way the music is kind of layered and it’s pretty complex. There’s just a lot more going on than the last record. It has more guitar harmonies and stuff like that. So there’s a lot more stuff going on and the guitars kind of bond together, and there’s also different parts where we’re playing completely separate riffs over each other. So there’s a lot more of that stuff going on. The last record was kind of straight forward. There really wasn’t harmonization on the guitar parts. It’s just simplistic kind of rock.
There’s also screaming again, but not done the way we did it before. So it’s kind of like taking some elements… kind of like playing styles or techniques or whatever we’ve done before and reintroducing it into our sound again, but incorporating it in a different kind of fashion than we did before. The way that we used the screaming is completely different from how we used it before, so it just really fit the music really well. We try to do it with different vocals and stuff and the screaming just kind of totally added the intensity back to certain parts. We just used it where it was called for, so it’s not overkill like the other records were. It’s not just fucking screaming nonstop for the whole song. It’s kind of fun again to have some of those things that we used to do a lot, but to reintroduce them in a kind of mature way.
MH: It’s cool because vocally, it’s got everything from the lowest talking pitch I’ve ever done, like as low as Till [Lindemann] from Rammstein, to this high ass alto shit I did for a Maiden cover, and everything in between. I even tried to do real death metal vocal on this b-side. So I found that I could really do death metal shit. But that shit fucking hurts man. [Laughs]
CB: It was just a blast, a real experiment in trying anything. Like, what’s that expression? “The sky’s the limit.” [Laughs]
MH: Yeah, we didn’t have any limitations. If it fucking sounded cool and we thought it fit the part, then we were like, “Just do it.” That’s why there’s such a vast spectrum of different kind of stuff. Just whatever we thought or felt really sounded cool.
CB: Fast, heavy, tremolo picking, or really teched-out stuff… the simple stuff is simpler and the complex stuff is more complex and the melodies are more melodic. So whatever word you can pick out, it’s more something “er” or “y.”
Now usually you guys work with Jason Suecof as your producer, but this time you worked with Nick Raskulinecz. How did that decision come about?
MH: With Jason… Jason kind of got his start with Trivium and Trivium got their start with Jason. You know, we had both done things before, but that’s really where both Audiohammer and Trivium got their start in the world. And you know, including Trivium and non-Trivium things, like the death metal band that Jason and I did together, I think I’ve worked with Jason on like 15 different recording sessions. So it’s time to try something new for the both of us, so that both Trivium and Jason can expand in new ways. So we decided to work with Nick Raskulinecz because we’re huge fans of his stuff. You know, stuff he did with Foo Fighters and Rush… I absolutely love In Your Honor, the Foo Fighters album he produced. It has such raw power and melody and this great feeling about it.
So we reached out to him and he was definitely into it. So we flew him out to some shows and hung out with him. And the first time we met him, we clicked instantly. And he just has this amazing, positive, energetic vibe. We were in the studio and he was like air guitaring or air drumming and singing along and headbanging to shit with us. So it was so cool and it just made for this great creative environment, and he really challenged us in the studio. There were times when he made us play a single song like 20 times in a row or a vocals section like 30 fucking times just to make sure it was right, because we really did this record in an old school way. Because with metal nowadays, people track it, send it to someone else, then they re-trigger the drums, they re-amp the guitars, they auto-tune the vocals, they copy and paste everything. With this one, we didn’t want it to be that way. We wanted to really do the tones ourselves, really play the music ourselves and have it come out natural. Nick came from the old school way of… he used to record on tape and cut the tape with razor blades and piece it together instead of having ProTools where it would do all the work for him. It was a great way to use ProTools purely just for tracking more efficiently, but we did everything else more naturally, which was really cool.
And it would be fun if more people started going that way because this artificial way of just making everything so perfect, music doesn’t sound like people [created it] anymore. I mean if you look at pop music, it sounds like fucking robots on these hip hop songs and shit. It’s like all coded… and you can do that in metal too, this auto-tune shit. It’s fun to hear and it’s good to hear a voice reaching for the note, people fucking up a little bit or fingers lifting off the strings. Like on “Stairway to Heaven,” you can hear Jimmy Page’s fingers sliding all over the strings and shit, and it’s cool to hear that stuff and not have it sound like andriods played it. It’s all about bringing this real energy to the album that’s just been, I think, gone from metal for a little while.
Was that challenging, you know, rather than having to copy one verse and then just paste it 3 times?
MH: Definitely, definitely. It took more time, but it made us better players. Nick’s main thing he would say to us all the time, we would have just finished a solo take and be like, “Oh man, that was long,” and he was like, “Good, do it again.” [Laughs] It was pretty brutal man, my fingers were bloody and shit at the end of solos and my voice was shot as shit, but we did a show after that and we played better than ever.
Was it scary working with a different producer, not know what it was going to be like?
MH: Yeah it was at first, but afterwards it was great. To be in that studio… we’ve always recorded at Jason’s house, it was like a studio he built and it really kicks ass… But to be able to be in a real studio… the drum room was like 3,000 square feet just for the fucking drums to be sitting in there. So it was really cool to have the space and a studio staff, and they do Willie Nelson and Wynonna Judd albums there, we met Miley Cyrus there… [Laughs] We met Lynyrd Skynyrd there and shit. So it’s just like it’s so cool to see and meet so many people and stuff. It’s like a whole different world. Nashville is built on music. Everyone there is a musician or songwriter or producer or a performer, and it’s… I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s the whole economy there. It’s really cool.
At this point in Trivium’s career, is it any easier than when you guys started out or do you still feel like you kind of have to struggle?
MH: Things are easier for sure from when we started. Like when we started off it was fucking hard as shit, like touring in a van, not sleeping, not eating, and not showering and playing in front of 25 people that hated you, barely making gas money. I can’t imagine how bad it is touring now with gas money. We were only making like 50 bucks a night for our first couple of years touring. But, yes, to be able to be in a real studio with runners and a catering staff, I guess that seems a little exorbitant and shit but, I don’t know, it’s just what that studio was. All we had to think about was giving our best performance. And we worked fifteen hours a day for eight weeks. So it’s still hard, but it’s a little easier than it was.
What about worrying about listener reaction? When Ascendancy came out, there wasn’t a lot of anticipation for it. There weren’t a lot of people who had interest. Now that you guys are one of the big bands out there today, everybody is anticipating the new album…
CB: I think with the last record there was more of an actual anticipation, I guess, because we already had a record and then everyone kind of wanted to hear what the next record was. And we made the complete opposite record, so now since we’ve had the last two records sound completely different, no one really knows what the new record is going to sound like.
So with this record, we kind of kept everything a secret and didn’t let anyone know the title for the longest time or hear the songs or whatever. We were kind of really secretive about it and kind of created this buzz without even doing anything. Our fans didn’t know what was going on. Everyone nowadays can know the fucking name of the album before they even record the damn thing. So we kind of wanted to keep some kind of mystery and excitement behind it, because you didn’t know what anything was. So I think that kind of helps get and keep people’s curiosity levels up.
Now with people, not everyone, but like a select amount of people getting a chance to hear some tracks or something like that… the response has been pretty overwhelming. Everyone who has heard it has totally dug it. Roadrunner has been fucking stoked on it and they all are like, “Dude, this is the best record you guys have done” and stuff. So it’s, you know, the response and reactions after people have heard it, we’re pretty psyched and pretty happy. Everyone’s really taken to it. So now we’re really excited to see what our fans think. Now we really want them to hear it. It’s really fun to hear what the fans think, and if they love it then it’s going to be even better.
MH: This album is like the make or break record. The last one had a lot of anticipation, I guess, but that one didn’t have quite so much pressure. I think this one is the make or break record. So if we weren’t coming into it prepared we’d be like “Oh fuck, you know this could be it. This could be the one.” I think people who like Ascendancy are really curious to see what this one is going to sound like, since we just did two records that are very different, and now I think three records that are very different from each other, although Ascendancy and Ember are kind of comparable. It’s going to be cool because we wrote on and off for about a year, demoed for 6 months out of that year… I mean there was so much going into the songwriting process this time. We went from 27 songs in garage band form down to like 20 tracks, like really good demos – demos that sound almost as good as a record, and then we whittled that down to 15, rewrote those songs and had Nick do new demos with us. So each song had been demoed like five different times to kind of “grow” the song. We were so prepared this time. The [actual] record, the tracking part was a piece of cake.
How do you guys temper fan reaction? Do you take it personally or seriously when fans say “Your new record sucks” or “Trivium guys are sellouts” or whatever?
MH: I think that stuff is always going to happen no matter what profession you’re in. I think a lot of bands get really bogged down or worked up about that kind of stuff, but I think you realize that that’s just a part of the life. You know, I think that when bands start writing to what certain people say. like “Oh you guys should play this stuff” or “You shouldn’t sound like this band” or “You should play this or that.” I think when you start doing that and getting away from the core of whatever the band believes in, the original idea behind your band back when you had no fans… when you start getting away from that, that’s the real definition of “selling out.” To try to make people happy… the way that bands did it right the first time was to make the music from the heart, for the band and that’s it. I think that’s the best way to do it. That’s the way we’ve been doing it. And with people who are like “Oh I love Ascendancy not The Crusade” or “I love The Crusade and not Ascendancy,” when you hear stuff like that… Look, we’re still playing stuff at the shows from every record, you still own that record, you still listen to that CD [that you love] and not that one [that you hate], so it’s cool. And our die hard fans, it’s like if they don’t feel something as much, they won’t be like “I don’t like it.” They’re more like “Yeah I really love this.” [Laughs]
So, you know, we talk to our fans the same way we talk to our friends, so it never hurt our feelings if they say “I think you should have done this.” We’ll take and listen to constructive criticism, but still always do what we believe in.
CB: It’s also good like back home in Florida, a lot of our friends, especially the big group of people that Travis and myself hang out with, they’ve been supporting the band and coming out to the shows since the first shows we ever did. So they’ve kind of followed the band since we first started, and they always come out to all the shows, and one of our friends got The Crusade guy [from the album cover] tattooed on his side. And no matter what party we go to at someone’s house, there’s always at least two people wearing a fucking Trivium shirt. That’s like their whole wardrobe that our friends have. They’ve even got, like, Trivium slacks.
So we had the new record and we went over there and just put it on the iPod player and played it for them. We were like, “Hey we got some new stuff, want to hear it?” And their reactions were just like “Oh my God, this is it.” They loved it. They are like actual friends, but they’re also big fans of the band as well, so we gauged their reactions. So it was kind of cool to get a small test reaction or a small group of people that you value their opinions. So everyone that I played it for was just like, “Wow.” That was great. Hearing that, you’re like “Alright, cool.” Now it’s like, let’s get it out to a lot more people and hopefully that kind of small reaction is the kind of reaction that everyone else has. So I guess everyone is anticipating hearing it, and we’re anticipating getting it out so people can hear it. So we’re really excited to finally get something out for people to hear… it’s about time someone else hears it.
So any plans for tours or anything like that?
MH: Yeah! We’re finishing up this press tour, then we’ll do a first video for our first single a couple of weeks from now. Then we’ll go to Japan and Australia for a couple of festival shows, a couple of secret shows. Then we’ll do another press tour in the U.K. and a couple of days in France. Then we’ll start a full co-headlining tour with All That Remains. We finish that and then we’re going to go co-headline with Slayer in the U.K. and then we’ll do some off-dates around the rest of Europe. We’re going to go to Russia for the first time. We’ll play some off-dates and go back to base in the U.K. In the U.K. we’re going to play some arenas and stuff and some really small places.
We actually saw you guys in the U.K. once, at Download.
CB: The one with Metallica?
Yeah. You guys are big here, but over there… You guys are like The Beatles over there
MH: [Laughs] Yeah, we’re trying to bring some of that over here.
CB: Next year we’re doing the Unholy Alliance tour in the States as well. The lineup is really… it’s a little bit different than the one in Europe. So we’re going to be busy.
MH: It’ll be fun to play with Slayer. We’ve wanted to play with a bigger band, and now we finally get to play with Slayer.
Do you have any reservations about, you know, being support for Slayer? Their openers usually have a hard time…
CB: Yeah, we’ve heard those stories, but Maiden crowds are fucking just as tough. We heard so many horror stories of bands playing with them, and then we had a fucking dream tour when we played with Maiden.
MH: Yeah. Some other bands we know that have played with Maiden were like, “Dude, it sucked.” But we had such a fucking blast. There were some shows it felt like it was our show… and then we were like, “Fuck, we get to watch Maiden now!”
CB: Yeah, they were telling us, “You guys have had the best reaction of any opening act ever for a Maiden crowd.” They were telling us horror stories about people throwing fucking money and shit, like coins at them. By the end of the band’s set, they fucking collected like fucking $60 in fucking change off the stage. So it’s like, we heard the horror stories, but we’re like “This isn’t too bad.” Maybe it’s different for other bands, but for some reason, it just worked for us. We even played with Maiden in Jersey last month as a one off and even…
MH: We’ve heard Jersey horror stories for Maiden opening bands.
CB: That show was awesome, it was great. We had a good time, so I guess something that we do just kind of works for the old bands and stuff. So we’ve always heard stuff about opening for Slayer, but we’ve heard it all before about Maiden. We just go into it, fucking slam people in the face and kick their ass, and come out fucking intense, trying to win people over and show people what we’re all about and get people into it. We weren’t fucking all intimidated by some fucking douchebag in the crowd who wants to think he’s cool by fucking yelling at you. it’s like, [sarcastic] “Wow, yelling at me is going to make me stop playing,” y’know? It’s like, “Whatever.” It’s not a big deal; it’s not our first rodeo. It’s not like we haven’t had someone flip us off before. We don’t really get offended. When people are getting into it, and then a couple of people maybe flip me off, it just fires me up even more. We end up playing better. So it’s funny to see someone get so fucking irritated just from music. We’re having a great time and that person is like “Oh my God!”
MH: It’s weird. It’s like, we’re in a band, we’re not changing lives, we’re just playing music. It’s rock n’ roll and they’re getting all worked up. We’re going to have a good time.
But I’d rather have some kind of fire where you get the reactions “Man I fucking love this,” or “I fucking hate this.” It’s much better than “Meh, they’re okay. I’ll get another beer. I’ll be back.”
-AR & VN
Visit Trivium on MySpace. Shogun hits stores on September 30 on Roadrunner Records.