Trivium: 'The More Songs You Write, The More Ideas You Get'

artist: trivium date: 11/08/2008 category: interviews
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Trivium: 'The More Songs You Write, The More Ideas You Get'
"Our bus broke down so I'm just trying to get my shit in order so I can move. But it's all good." Trivium guitarist Corey Beaulieu is having some automotive problems but he isn't perturbed. In fact, he kind of snickers after the comment is made. So, it's satisfying to see that success has not spoiled the maniacal metal musician. Ultimate-Guitar interviewed him back in 2006 for the release of the band's third album, The Crusade, and he was an affable and easygoing character who seemed well unaware of his own talents and the steadily growing popularity of his band. And now, with the release of Shogun at hand and another interminably long tour stretching out before him, UG has tracked him down once again. The new album brings together the elements of the first three - blinding riffs tacked on to vocals both screamed and sung; breakneck rhythm tracks; harmony guitar parts leaving vapor trails in their wake - and presents them in a far more cohesive and fully realized fashion. The songs are more carefully structured and the soloes more fully woven into the template of the arrangement as opposed to a million notes simply flying all over the track. In fact, that's where the conversation begins, talking about Shogun's place in the band's recorded development. UG: Is Shogun the culmination of the previous three albums? Is it the beginning of a new phase for Trivium? Corey Beaulieu: Well, every record we try and go and push ourselves and just write cool songs that we did as a band. And we mix some things up to make it fun and also to progress and stuff and to keep it interesting for ourselves. Every record is just like that moment in time and what we feel is the best thing for us to do musically as a band. All the other records were just steppingstones to the next level and every time we go do a new record, we've had more experience and we played together more and just keep striving to push ourselves. The new record is just the result of all our previous records and the whole build-up to it. So it's definitely got like a lot of elements that you can hear on those previous records but also this record's got the next steps of the evolution of our sound incorporated into it. So it doesn't sound like a copy of any other record, it's its own thing; but also people can hear some familiarity throughout from the previous records. I think people will be able to dig it a lot because they'll just be able to feel the different stuff from the Crusade or Ember or Ascendancy as well. When we had our first conversation, one of the points you really wanted to make was that the Crusade album was pointing the band in a more vocally melodic direction. You even said, Some people are gonna be mad that we don't scream anymore. You actually spoke at length how Trivium were moving away from the screaming thing into a more straight up vocal style. And here on the Shogun album, the screaming is back in full throttle. Can you explain that? We were writing the music and we always get the songs down musically before we do anything vocally. We had a couple tracks done and we went in and did like the demoes and stuff and we were trying to do some vocal stuff and we were doing some singing stuff pretty much starting off doing the vocals in the style of the Crusade stuff. There's a lot of riffs and parts on this record that are a lot darker and heavier than anything we've had before, so it definitely called for something very aggressive. And we tried a few different things and it really didn't have the aggression we were looking for. And then Travis just said, Try fucking screaming on it and see if that works. And we tried it and it sounded really good so we were like, Yeah, that's what the part needed; it needed that. So we just decided wherever there's a part on the record where the screaming is kinda called for, we'll do it. Instead of limiting ourselves to what we can do. So the screaming gives us another dynamic and another thing to work with creatively. And I think the way we kind of balanced it out is using the screaming is kind of like to accent a part or an aggressive part. Instead of just like the previous albums like Ascendancy or Ember which those records (were) great the way we did it but it's like the screaming was just like all the time pretty much. And then there'd be a sung chorus or a not-so-screamy part before. This way the screaming is used kind of like as a balance thing to go with the singing; the singing kind of style from the Crusade is predominantly the main vocal styling and then the screaming is just kind of like added to create some dynamics and really accent the part that it's on. And I think the balance really works out that the screaming is not too over the top all the time and some songs have a little bit and some songs have more. But it's just what worked. And definitely since we've had screaming before, it's definitely a part of our sound that people are familiar with and also a lot of people really dug about the band. And there are a lot of people that are stoked that it's back. The way we're doing it now makes it really fun for us 'cause it's not like total shredding your voice every night screaming constantly. I think it's a good balance and it's kind of cool to have it back in the way that we have it and stuff like that. So, we're pretty psyched about it and it just made the record more intense and heavier for having it in there.
"All the other records were just steppingstones to the next level."
You brought back the screaming but you didn't bring back your previous producer, Jason Suecof. Instead you brought in Nick Raskulinecz and Paul Fig. What was the reason for the change and what did Nick bring to Trivium that you thought may have been missing with Jason? This was a very important record for us and we wanted to get out of the box and work with somebody new and kind of refresh the recording process for ourselves and kind of change everything up a bit. And so we decided to go with somebody new; we didn't really have the time, we didn't know exactly who we wanted to work with but we knew we wanted to find someone new that was just a really good working partner for the record. And so a couple names were thrown around and someone brought up Nick and we went and checked out his stuff and at the time when we brought his name up, some of us knew it; some of us really weren't too sure and we had to go and check out some of the records he did. And then once we heard some of the records he did, it was, Oh, shit, he did that record! And we heard the record and it sounded really good and we were really interested in meeting him. We flew him out to a show, we were on the Black Crusade with Machine Head over in Europe, and then he came over to a London show and we got to meet him. And just his whole vibe and personality really fit with the four of us and we knew from first meeting him, we knew that was the guy we had to do the record with. And he was stoked about it; he liked the band and the new songs we sent him and he was really excited to work with us. We couldn't have picked a better guy to make the record with; we had a lot of fun and he was really awesome to work with. We're looking forward to doing another one with him in the future. You will? Hopefully; if he wants to do it. If he's not too busy with something else. Getting to the album, the opening track, Kirisute Gomen is meant to tie in with the Shogun concept? That song, even way back when we were doing pre-production, we knew that song was gonna be the opening track. Shogun was gonna end the record and Kirisute Gomen would be the opening song. All the way it builds up, we had the song the way it started; originally it was like just all the electric stuff. And then when we started working with Nick, he said something about a drum intro or somethin' that Travis was doing when we were actually playing the parts. So we kind of added and extended the drum part so it's just the drum intro and in the studio at the end, Matt and Nick worked on the acoustic intro which was part of another track. Yeah, it just kinda built up and kept adding different elements to the build-up to the song; and since we knew it was gonna be the opening track, we wanted to have some kind of acoustic kind of intro build-up to it. I think it really worked out and it's for all of us, the best opening track we've had on a record. And especially when we use it to open the show live, it really works out great. It's really aggressive and intense and gets people fired up at the beginning. The band has always help up Metallica as major influences. In talking about song structure like we have been here, did you actually listen to Metallica to dissect the way they wrote songs and arranged parts? Did you ever dive beneath the surface in that fashion in order to make songs more interesting harmonically? I think just the more songs you write, the more ideas you get or how to do things. And we try to think of cool ways to make a transition part work really well by using a chord progression or doing a scale kind of run or something like that. There's definitely a lot of ways to tie in riffs and also use other instruments in the band and not just guitar as a connecting point. And also just doing variations instead of always the same transition part you can have; you can mix it up. So, it's all about the more we play, the better we get at writing songs and the more ideas we get, we can incorporate more stuff and make the songs more intricate. Or just better songs with harmonic and melodies and stuff like that; it's just a long learning process of trying new things and experimenting and pushing yourself to write songs that are better than what you wrote before. In speaking of songs where you pushed yourself, the title song from the album sounds like it broke some boundaries. At first blush, if you think of a 12-minute song with multiple movements that incorporates electrics and acoustics, your first response is, This isn't going to be very interesting. And yet the song is seamless and those 12 minutes just fly by. Umm, it was closer to the beginning of writing songs (for the album). We went in and demoed like six or seven tunes that we had and I think that was one of 'em and pretty much the way we wrote it. That song was actually one of the easiest to write and put together than the other songs because it's just got more space and stuff. We broke the song up into like three sections: You kinda hear it like on the record where it's like the first half and the acoustic part and then the rest of the song. So, we did break it down to work on it in parts and really kind of finalize and take apart that one section and play it and then move on to the next. And then eventually play the whole thing from start to finish. Even with the song The Crusade, that was like one of the easier songs to put together just because it was all jamming and playing and stuff. There was no vocal melodies or anything like that. We got our method down pretty well and how everyone works and stuff. Working on a long song, we can get them down pretty fast and pretty efficient. Mostly everyone is pretty well aware of the song and the riff ideas before we go into jam on it because we always give each other little demo tapes and stuff of all the song ideas. So, we all pretty much know how to play the riffs and stuff before we go in so we just start jammin' on it and then it kinda comes together pretty fast. That song came out pretty fast and then throughout the whole demoing process and pre-production and even in the studio just kinda like messing around with different ideas and tinkering with little subtle things like putting piano parts on it underneath the chorus or just like hitting these big fuckin' low piano notes on chord hits. Just adding little things in there to kind of spice it up and give it some cool underlining tones to it that you don't necessarily hear but just accents a really cool guitar part or something like that. Who plays the solo on Shogun? Which one? There are like three on that song. During the acoustic section? Yeah, it's during the middle section; that's where all the acoustic guitars are and there's a semi-distorted lead part. Matt did that one. That's definitely one of the most out-of-the-box sections that we've had before that people are gonna be like, Wow! That's the first time I heard 'em do something like that. Where did this whole Shogun/Japanese warrior theme come from? Matt brought that up; one of the first times he went to Japan, and they talked about shoguns and everything like that and he just kinda kept it on the backburner as a possible song idea or some shit. Because it had cool imagery and a cool meaning to it, a very powerful, dominating type of thing. And heavy metal is very powerful, kick your ass kind of thing, so it definitely fit the whole metal music; and also the imagery is really cool because you can have some cool stuff going on with it. It was different than what you'd normally write metal songs about. We started writing songs and we just started to hear how the songs started to come out and how we felt about 'em and we just needed a title for the record that kind of summed up the vibe of the record in our eyes. And we brought that up and we thought it was really cool; it was different and we could use visual aspects with this record than we've done before. It's just a different way to go about it. The whole record is not all Japanese stuff but definitely the title is and we just kind of used that imagery (because) it catches peoples eyes because it's different than what anyone else does. And definitely there's people who have done like Japanese-themed stuff in their music but it came out kind of cheesy or some shit like that. We thought it was something really cool and it really fit the kind of warrior sprit kind of metal side kind of vibe and shit. And we've done some really cool artwork designs and everything like that.
"The new record is just the result of all our previous records and the whole build-up to it."
When we spoke last time, you had mentioned that Tread the Floods from the Crusade CD was a solo where your playing maybe reached a new level. Can you point to any song on this record where you tried out some new techniques or where your playing has been stretched? There's definitely some shit on there that I listen to, I'm like, How the fuck did I play that fast? There's like stuff, I really like the way the solo for Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis came out; I thought that was pretty whacked out and a lot of really fast arpeggio stuff and some really cool string skipping stuff. Insurrection has some really exciting, some really fast tapping stuff. There are so many songs, there are just like some runs in it that are kind of like, Holy shit, this is gonna be a bitch to play live! I didn't realize how fast it was when we did it in the studio. Shogun has some really good stuff; Into the Mouth of Hell I really like the solo on that. There's like something in every song that's really cool that I really like. The Calamity grows as one of the more melodic things I've done a solo with that came out really cool. This record, we had so much time and spent so much time on every little thing and wanted the solos to be absolutely perfect and really interesting within the song. And it's not just, Hey,' we're gonna shred and look cool but we actually wanted the solo to have some substance and kind of have like its own little song within a song that people can listen to. And go, Oh, that was a fuckin' sweet thing, right there. So we definitely both spent a lot more time writing soloes and putting them together so they're really interesting and adding harmonies and all that stuff that, on other records, people have known us to do. I think we're just better players and they're better soloes and stuff. I think this is really our best lead work. And even when soloes are back-to-back how they go in and out one into the other and even though they're from two different players, they really fit together and really kind of blend in. The transition into each one is really good. Some people don't even know that it's two different guitar players sometimes because the transition points sound like they were written exactly that way by like one person. It's really cool to listen; there's a lot of stuff, after multiple listens, you can grab hold and go, Ah, I didn't catch that the first time or something like that. There's a lot of really cool things going on. We were definitely riff-writing happy on this one. You've talked about some of the highlights on the album in terms of soloing when the parts are down on record. But where did the solo come from originally? When the record button is on, do you know exactly what the solo already is? Has every note been worked out or is there some improvisation that goes on? How do these insane soloes get put on tape? Some stuff Matt and I did, we did pre-production demoes just to get a basic idea of what the song was about. We'd hit record and just improve and just throw something down right on the spot; it doesn't even have to be anything that really great. It's just a place holder to let the record label or producer know, This is where the solo is at or some shit like that. And a lot of the stuff we did even on the early demoes, some of the stuff is still on the record. I know there's some shit on the record, just improv shit from the demoes that Matt kept, and there's some riffs, some solo little bits from different songs that I kept. Sometimes a carefree, just wing-it kind of thing just really worked out but it comes out really natural, really cool instead of forcing it. And then also there's a lot of stuff where you kind of let the tape roll and play and then you start weeding out sections of the solo that you don't like. You might start off with something really cool and then change it after or keep that and then keep building ideas up. So, it's all about what feels right for you when you're playing it or how it sounds. Some shit is maybe like one take and then you go back a month or two later and you're like, What the fuck? I don't even know how to play that. So, it's all different; some stuff is a lot of work and you've got to do it a million times to get it right; and some stuff is just like really quick and natural. It's like, That's it! We're keepin' that. Who ultimately has the final veto power of what goes on tape? Was it Nick or his assistant, Paul Fig? Are you the last word? When you get a solo down, everyone will come and listen to it; Nick or Matt will say, Cool. And usually you can tell on your own that if you do something really cool, it's usually up to the player. You just know; you don't need everyone's democratic approval to know that you did a cool solo (laughs). This is a kind of inside-out question where you need to step outside yourself for a second. The band now has four albums under their belt and has truly arrived at this very unique style. When you were recording Shogun, did you ever listen to a part and go, Oh, yeah, that's a real Trivium-ism. Meaning, that you recognized that there are certain stylistic elements of the band that have really risen to the surface. In other words, recognizing yourself in what you do. Umm, we don't really look at it that way; I know other people probably look at it that way. We're just music fans and if we write a riff and go, That's a fuckin' cool riff, then we use it. And then eventually once it's on the record, it becomes a Trivium. We just write riffs that we dig as music fans and write songs that we can enjoy listening to and enjoy playing. So, it's just whatever we write that people would go, Oh, that's definitely a Trivium riff or this or that, it's just us writing shit that we like and that we enjoy playing; that we think is cool and hopefully everyone else thinks is cool, too. And we definitely have our own way of writing and the way we do things naturally is what all four of us combined makes a Trivium song. Another question along those same lines is if you can hear Trivium's influence on other bands? Can you? I don't know; you know, there's definitely bands that share like common things like every band does. But there's no one that is directly trying to do exactly what we're doing. Maybe there is, maybe there's not, but we don't really pay a whole lotta attention to that. So, it's hard to say. There's definitely a lot of younger bands, maybe like in their early teens that are just getting started, that are not signed or anything but they're heavily influenced by us. So maybe in the next five to ten years, there'll be a lot of bands that are really influenced by what we've done in our career. I can't really say too much about it. Obviously you must have some pretty major influence to have your own signature guitar. That must be a remarkably gratifying goal to achieve. Yeah, it's really awesome. Dean, ever since Matt and I went there, they've always liked the band and they've been super supportive in getting us what we need. And being more of a personable company than any other company. With Dean, instead of talking to one guy who's got to talk to another guy who talks to another guy, I can call the owner of the company up directly and deal with him and stuff. I don't have to deal with the ladder of power crap that some other companies put you through. It's been really great; they've been really supportive of us and hooked us up with a lot of guitars. They wanted to do a signature guitar with us and it was really cool; it definitely is an accomplishment for someone to do that. We got to design the guitars from scratch and put all the little details of what you like about a guitar into one guitar. I'm a big V guy so instead of doing a normal V, I wanted to make a V that was different than anyone else's and I could call my own. Like, This is my fucking guitar and no one else has anything like this. What are the specifics that makes your Dean Signature V so singular to you? The body cutouts and stuff; it's not like a typical V. It's a V but it's got extra C-cutouts on the wings and stuff that gives it more of a sharper edge that no one else has. I did a little body change to it; it's different than any other V. It's really cool - I got my own fuckin' guitar. And then I got to pick all the stuff on it: What kind of wood? How much I want it to weigh? How thick is the neck? What kind of neck? I just went through all the little things and just made like my ultimate guitar for playing the way I play and it came out great. I've got my own signature pickup in it that Dean made that sounds really fuckin' cool.
"The way we do things naturally is what all four of us combined makes a Trivium song."
Can you describe what that tone is you look for? No, I just hear it when I hear it. The sound is very Trivium. It definitely caters to our style of music and the way we play. It's a very high output; some pickups are low-endy or some are very high, but the EQ spectrum has a good balance of both. It just really fits because playing live and stuff, you really need something to cut through the low end and be really clear but also have some body to it. The pickups combined with the quality of the guitar and then going through my rig, it's really clear live and you can hear the clarity in all the notes. It definitely helps my sound playing live be a lot more clear and understandable and fit in the mix better; it's definitely helped out a lot. And your amp rig must play a huge part in your sound as well. I've been endorsed by Peavey for a while; I went back to the home where I started off. In Trivium's early days, you were a Peavey player? Yeah; when I first joined the band, I started playing 5150 IIs and I guess the curiousity of being young and curious about what every other amp in the world sounded like, I just started trying other shit out. Now I know what I play now is my favorite and what works for me. I kind of switch back and forth between a couple different models just for shits and giggles and stuff; but there's not really a huge tone difference. I used the 6505, the 6505+, and on this current tour I'm using a Vintage 5150. Any of those three, I can get the tone that I'm looking for out of it; there's a little bit of an EQ difference on some of 'em, but it's easy to adjust to get that kind of tone that I know I use. Yeah, the Peavey stuff just wails; it's like the ultimate metal amp and combined with my Signature Dean guitar and a couple little toys here and there, it's a really badass setup that's definitely a metal rig (laughs). You're just a few minutes away from going on stage, right? Yeah; Boise, Idaho. Boise, Idaho, huh? What goes through your head right before doing a show? You're obviously calm enough to do this interview and talk about your new record and guitars and all that stuff. Do you get the jitters at all? Are you thinking, Man, I better nail that lick in Down From the Sky. Umm, an hour or two before a show, I start thinking, Shit, I gotta get ready to play! But I never get nervous and stuff. Some nights it depends on how you're feeling; some nights you're just total amped up and just like (in low, gravelly metal voice), Let's go fuckin' rock! And sometimes you gotta push yourself to get pumped up. But usually you just go in the dressing room and start playing guitar, stretch out, crank on some tunes, put on some fuckin' pump up jams, and just go out there and kick people's ass. It's all about getting pumped up and we always have a little pow wow before we play about makin' it fun. Just pumping everyone up in a fun way. Instead of going out there and trying to be all serious and if something goes wrong, getting all fuckin' pissed off and out of your zone. So, we just try to make it a fun thing and really bring the energy so the kids get really excited and you give 'em a full-on, kickass show. That's what we usually do: Just rock out in the dressing room, have a couple drinks or something to loosen up, and get all pumped and start yelling some crap at each other. And then just go out there and start wailin'. So, by this point in the tour, there is no hesitation in performing any of the songs from Shogun. That's all second nature by now? Yeah. We played the old stuff so many times that you don't even think about it. And with the new stuff, it's worked out great because we rehearsed the stuff and played it so much in the studio that transitioning from that to playing live was a piece of cake. Because a lot of the songs were created just jamming and playing together instead of writing them separately; a lot of songs were jammed out and writing riffs on the spot and bouncing back ideas between us. We kind of wrote it in a live oriented format and then once we started playing 'em live, the transition was so easy. The songs sound fuckin' heavier and more in-your-face live just because of what the live vibe is. There's nothing really done on the record that's really that hard to translate and do live. So, the songs sound great live and the people are really reacting to them. And a lot of songs we're playing, people have had a chance to listen to online. It's a lot of fun to play the new songs because the riffs and the parts in 'em, being a new song it's just a lot of fun. We were really pretty psyched about the new album; we felt we had accomplished something that we were striving to do. And we really wrote some songs we were super stoked on and proud of. It's so much fun to go out there and show people your new stuff that you're really excited about them hearing. Definitely the highlight of the set is playing the new songs and in the last couple of shows we just added in another new song since the whole record is up (online) for people to listen to. We played it (new song) once at a secret show in LA; we were just gonna do it for that one show and we had so much fun playing it and it was such a good live song, we decided to throw it in with the rest of the set. We've been playing four new tunes on this run: Kirisute Gomen, Into the Mouth of Hell We March, Down From the Sky, and Insurrection. Last question and an important one: The presidential debates are on television tonight. Who would be a bigger Trivium fan - John McCain or Barack Obama (Tons of laughs) I don't know. Some of the lyrics on the album are sort of peripherally significant - you talk about crawling out of the wreckage and certainly the country is doing that economically. And you talking about soldiers and warriors and we have our own Iraq and Afghanistan. So, by default, you're a musician/politician. I don't really follow any of that stuff but if I had to pick, I think McCain would be a bigger Trivium fan. Because he went to far and stuff and usually a lot of those soldiers crank metal and everything. So maybe back in the day, he'd be rockin' out to Trivium in a fuckin' tank blowin' shit up or something like that. This is our second interview for Ultimate-Guitarand I was really wondering if success was going to spoil Corey Beaulieu Hah hah hah. But I'm happy to report you seem like the same guy I spoke to about two years ago to the day probably. Right on, man. Well, thanks a lot for the second time around and hopefully a couple years from now, we'll have a third one. Every two years with you guys. It might be a little longer on this one because we have quite the hefty tour schedule for the next couple of years. So, it might be a little longer than two years (laughs). Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2008
More trivium interviews:
+ Matt Heafy: 'We Always Push to Change Not Only Formulas and Patterns of Ourselves, But of Music' Interviews 01/08/2014
+ Trivium: 'We're A Great Live Band' Interviews 08/05/2011
+ Trivium: 'We're Trying To Make Tight, Precise Songs That Sound Like Anthems' Hit The Lights 12/12/2009
+ Trivium: 'We Bring Back Style Of Music That Was Influential On Us' Interviews 10/31/2006
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