's new album, In Waves
, brings together elements of music, artwork, videos and live work to create what singer Matt Heafy
calls "An interconnected whole
." Though there are unifying themes, this is not a concept album but one held together by the band's love of metal music and contemporary art. The twin guitars of Heafy and Corey Beaulieu
drive the new record but there is less attention paid to the six-string and more detail put into the song. On everything from the title track to the brutal strains of "Dusk Dismantled
," the first single and "Built To Fall
," a mesmerizing riff supporting a big melodic chorus, the songs have a sense of presence about them they're big and open and not covered with a frenzy of guitars.
Currently on the road for the Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
, they will leave the festival for two days in August to play at the Wacken Festival
on the 5th and then the next day open as Special Guest for Iron Maiden's show at the O2 Arena in London. Heafy said Trivium will be the "Most metal band in the world
" for that weekend who can argue?
UG: For In Waves, you said you wanted to return to a more organic and less busy sound like what was heard on Ascendancy. Is that an accurate statement?
We have been hearing the comparisons to the Ascendancy thing. I might have accidentally said it a long time ago before the record started coming up. Definitely with this record it wasn't a, Hey, let's go to the Ascendancy-style Trivium or Hey, let's try to do anything we've done. I think what people are relating to and remembering is that it was this record, just like Ember and Ascendancy, we made them without thinking of what anybody is going to think of the record. We didn't plan out, Hey, let's make something like this or that with Ember or Ascendancy because we didn't have any fans yet. When it time to write Crusade we were obviously making something that was intentionally very, very different from Ascendancy and Shogun was the same way. So with In Waves we went back to a feeling of, You know what? Let's just make the music we want to hear and make it look like we want to make it look. Let's not apologize for anything. It was exactly what we wanted to say and what we wanted to do.
You had been working with Jason Suecof on Ember, Ascendancy, and Crusade. What was it about Jason that worked so well with those records?
I had known Jason since I was about 15 years old or so. We had a good relationship. We were also in a band together called Capharnaum. It was like a technical death metal band. Also one of my favorite guitar players of all time was in the band, Daniel Mongrain who is in Martyr, a Canadian band. So we had a good rapport together from working on Embers to Inferno and the demo we did with Capharnaum. I think we were just very creatively collaborative. He was almost like our secret fifth member. He really knew our vibe and knew how to pull the best stuff out of the band. It was just a really good relationship. Around the time of Crusade, when we started that record, we were completely hashed out of ideas of what to do with each other. We just kind of went for it. We do stand by the record. I know a lot of people in the Trivium fan world really love The Crusade, and we do love that record. There were so many different emotions attached to that record. It was a really dark time for our band. We were on the verge of practically breaking up over that CD. I think it's good that we were still able to pull out a record that encapsulated everything that we were at that time. Jason is an amazing producer when we were all able to work together healthily, but after The Crusade it was time to move on. I feel like Jason and Trivium had both benefited from each other and there wasn't any more room to be creative.
Then you moved on to working with Nick Raskulinecz for the Shogun record. What was it about Nick that you thought he would be able to bring something new to the band?
When we met Nick we were big fans of everything he had ever done. We knew that it would be a really interesting record. We wanted to record somewhere different. We wanted to record in Nashville, Tennessee, out of our comfort zone with a producer that had worked with a lot of rock bands. He worked with a lot of metal bands, but not ones specifically like us. It was one of those things where we just wanted to try something completely different.
Now you're working with Colin Richardson. Was it because he had worked with Machine Head previously?
Colin had mixed two of our records: he mixed The Crusade and he mixed Shogun. Andy Sneap had mixed Ascendancy. We had always been big fans of Colin's production sound because of all the stuff he had produced and mixed. The stuff had sounded really incredible. When it came time to talk to Colin about the record, he had always wanted to produce a record of ours and we've always wanted to have him produce. I'm not exactly sure why it never happened, but it just never happened. This time we have the opportunity to have Colin produce it, Ginge Ford co-produce it, and Carl Bown as the engineer. We had the three of them work with us. I really feel like the seven of us all got along really well. We had the same sense of humor and the same work ethic. We were all working toward the same goal. When we saw Colin before this record started I told Colin, Everyone knows that you have some of the best sounding metal albums ever. Colin, this needs to be the best-sounding Colin Richardson album you have ever made. He said, That sounds good to me. Let's do it. It was a really, really fun time to be able to have one of our heroes, as far as recording, engineering, and mastering and mixing and all this stuff goes. Colin Richardson delivered that. We spent so much time on this record. We spent about five days just getting the drum tones. We spent about five days just getting the drum tones. It was a really intense process for this record.
You talk about getting drum sounds. This is the first full-length record with Nick Augusto. What is it that Nick brings that was different from what Travis Smith did with the band?
Nick comes from a technical death metal/grindcore background. When you're talking about drummers like that, you know they do anything technically. They can live up to anything that a technical drumming thing would require. Knowing that we were free to create anything we wanted to make and he would be able to deliver it flawlessly which he can that opened a whole other type of freedom that we've never had before. The thing was that it wasn't just Travis that made it not work out. It was the relationship between the four of us. It wasn't just him and one of us. It was all four of us in a room together and we weren't able to create anymore. So that's why we had to make the change or the band was going to die off basically. The change was a lot healthier, and Nick was completely up for the vision of the record. The visuals, as far as this record goes, were just as important as the music to me. That's why we had five visual artists on this record. When we explain the lengthy thing that was going on behind this record, Nick was completely up for it. That was something that was a complete necessity. We needed to have all of us on board for everything that was going to happen for this record or else it wouldn't have been possible. He brings a new kind of freedom to the band. I'm not saying we didn't have freedom with Travis, but we didn't have freedom with the old lineup. It was all four of us that was making that happen.
Can you talk about the writing and recording sessions for In Waves? What is the process like?
"I really feel very confident in our band. We can play our instruments really well and we don't need backing tracks or Pro Tools live or autotune live or any of that shit."
About three years before the actual recording process, we had the idea for this record. We didn't care what the technicality level was. We didn't care what the brutality was. We didn't care about anything other than the songwriting. We were completely open for two notes on one guitar string or two words. They were things that were completely minimal and simple and it was all about the song on this record. Being all about the song, at times we would go all over the board. Three years before we had the idea, two years we started working on the music, and then a year before the recording process started we were working on the visuals. As far as the studio went, we did eight months of preproduction demoing as a band. We went into the studio ourselves. We did that without Colin with Paolo recording everything. Before that we were working on individual demos for two years. When we worked with Colin, he wanted a week. We told him we were ready. He came out for a couple days and said, All right, let's go in the studio. In the studio, we laid the scratch guitars first. Then the drums on top of that. Then the rhythm guitars and bass guitars on top of that. Then the vocals, solos, and overdubs on top of that. Paolo was in the studio just as much as the production team was. He was there right when they got there and was there when they left. Me, I like to hop in and out. I like to still be able to keep somewhat of an outside ear. I like to be there during the recording, hop in at the end of the day and see how everything is, and then leave. I want to keep my ears fresh, but we need someone who is there the whole time. So I do all the rhythm guitars.
You do the rhythm guitars on every record?
Yeah, on every record I do all the rhythms; I do the vocals on all the records. We've had some backup vocals by Corey and Paolo before, but on this record and all our full lengths I do all the vocals and rhythm guitars. Corey does all the melody guitars, all the melody rhythm guitar parts that are on top of everything. There are just as many melody parts to our rhythm parts on this record. For the solos on this record, I think it's split 50/50. It may be 60/40, him, as far as the solos go. That's what we do. So I do all the vocals and all the rhythms, and Corey pretty much does most of the leads and all the melodies.
Were you trying to seek out new guitar tones?
When it comes down to the textural experimentation stuff, that's my thing. That's something we got to do a lot of on this record. It was mainly on the intro and the outro. On our intro, that's me I don't play piano and I'm not very good but I play the piano part on that. We flipped over a bunch of kick drums and made drum mallets out of drumsticks, Starbucks glasses, and duct tape. We made them like battle drums. On our interlude I don't know if you've heard that song. It's on our special edition. I play a didgeridoo. We played a fire extinguisher with a screwdriver. There were a lot of crazy guitar noises. At the end of A Skyline's Severance, that's me hitting my wedding ring against the top of my guitar. So there was a lot of fun, improvisational experimentation on this record. Let's try this thing. Tones, that was the thing working with Colin. We knew we were going to have the best guitar tones. It just took a freaking long time. We tried 20 or 25 different heads, 20 different cabs, tones of guitars and pedals. That's why it took five days. He doesn't want to record a single note for the record until we had the guitar tones, until we had the drum tones. It was a really, really intense process.
Did you have a default rhythm setup?
We knew it would probably be some breed of the 5150 head into a Marshall or Mesa cab. We knew that. We knew there would be overdrive. What it ended up being after trying everything, it ended up being Elvis Baskette's rig. He's one of the owners of Paint It Black Studios. He is a producer, engineer, and songwriting. He's an amazing dude. He helped record a couple of vocals on this record. It ended up being a block letters 5150. Our guitar tone was left and right, two guitars inside. We used that block letter 5150, that one side. On the left guitar, for example, we would use one cab that made part of the sound and then another cab to make another part of the sound. My Gibson Les Paul custom had EMG 185s was going into a Maxon OD-808 pedal and the 5150 block letters and then that would go into an oversized recto cab with a 421 and a 58 mic on one side. The other side was the oversized Mesa cab with a 421and 58. That would make one side of the guitars, and we would do that for both sides.
You went back to the six-string on this record. Are there any seven-strings at all on this record?
There are no seven-strings on this record at all. We went completely back to six-strings. Although we're tuned higher than Shogun is, but it's a dropped D flat. It's a half-step below, but we've actually dropped everything now down a half-step. That was the original intended tuning of Ascendancy. We were going to do dropped D flat. For some reason it just wasn't quite in tune. I don't know why, but it just didn't work. So for this record we're finally at the intended tuning we're supposed to be at.
Can you talk about some of the guitar players that you listen to? I understand you're an Yngwie and Petrucci fan. On the rhythmic side, I've heard James Hetfield.
The people that got me into itobviously James Hetfield and Metallica. The Black album was the very first metal album I ever heard. So it was him that got me into it. In Flames played a huge role in my rhythm guitar playing in the fact they were able to do rhythm guitar parts so methodically. The Jester Race and Whoracle were two of the most influential records ever made as far as rhythm guitar playing. Machine Head's Burning Red, that was the first Machine Head record I ever heard. Machine Head was the first metal band I ever saw as a kid, so they were very influential to me as well. Everyone knows the classic favorites like Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. Those are the classic favorites, but we do jump all over the place. The Beatles were a huge inspiration to me. Depeche Mode, Queen. I also jump all over the place. While we were doing the vocals for this record, I was listening heavily to Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire, Rammstein, Brazilian Bossa Nova, and jazz. I jump all over the place. A lot of classical music. Nowadays it's hard to say what I'm listening to because I jump all over the place. Today I was cleaning the bus listening to Ratatat, which is kind of like indie, electronic, instrumental music. I'm all over the place. I allow myself to be influenced by every single style and every single thing going on.
What about some of the classic guys? Did Blackmore, Hendrix, or Van Halen interest you?
Yeah, definitely. I do love those guys, but I was a big fan of the guys that were influenced by them because that was more of my generation. Nowadays my solo style in my leads is a lot more of the blues style, old school heavy metal soloing. A lot of people would refer to UFO or Randy Rhoads or something. The people that I got into was like Michael Amott from Arch Enemy. He's one of my all-time lead guitar players, as is Chris Amott, his brother, who is also in Arch Enemy. Like I mentioned before, In Flames' Bjorn is one of my favorite lead guitar players. He plays more melodic stuff and does some bluesy things here and there. I definitely know where it came from, that's the big thing with me. Those guys are my favorites. I got into them first and then I backtracked into what they were into. I'm really into everything, like every style of music and every single thing that I can possibly absorb. I try to be a sponge when it comes to music and influences.
When you look at a song like Built To Fall there is a lot of ambience and there's a really melodic chorus. Do you think melody is a bad word for some metal bands? It seems like technique takes a front seat to many things these days. Does that make sense?
Oh, yeah. Definitely. That was something we were totally on the opposite of. We wanted it to be about simplicity and to be about melodic rhythm. A big thing with our band since our first record, we've always had these big, sing-songy choruses. That's a thing we've always embraced. There needs to be some sort of hook to a song. That's what makes a song a song versus it being a technical exercise. There are some dudes who are killer, killer shredders and they can still make songs. Yngwie, there is Rising Force. There are so many things that are still songs in that technicality. Whereas nowadays there are all these killer shredder guitar players, but there is nothing you can walk away remembering. I'm not saying all of them, but there are quite a few of them. I need a song there. One of my solos in Watch the World Burn is the simplest solo essentially I've ever done. I pulled a Kurt Cobain. I just followed the vocals. That's something I had never done. But of everyone in the room, that was their favorite solo.
For a song like All These Yesterdays, do you have to literally find your voice when you approach a quieter song like that?
"About three years before the actual recording process, we had the idea for this record."
That song was a turning point for the record. That was probably the hardest song we did. We got everything done and we were getting close to the zero hour, where there was almost no time to finish the vocals. That always happens to me. I always get screwed on the record and I always have vocals put last. We started recording the vocals and we finished about four songs, all the songs that were 100 percent singing. Then it was time to get onto All These Yesterdays. I remember when we started off Yesterdays, I recorded the original version of the song, which had a different style of vocals. It wasn't quite there. So I thought, We need to redo this. So we did about 10 takes of that song. We did everything. I went back in there and picked up the acoustic and thought, All right, if I don't have to play that rhythm guitar, then I can sing anything. So then I started singing a different melody and came up with that thing with the falsetto. Everybody was really stoked. We did 35 takes of the first seconds of the verse, and that was the end of the day. I came back and said, How was it? They played it back for me and I could hear autotune all over the place. I don't want to be one of those singers with the fake autotune. I like to be able to practice what I preach as far as what's going to be on the record. I said, You know what? This isn't cutting it. They were like, Honestly, Matt, we should save vocals for two months later. There's no time to do this. I had a minor breakdown. It's all on our documentary. So we called it a day and we went back to the guitar solos. We told the label, Hey, we needed to finish this up in two months. They said, No, you have to finish this right now. If you don't finish this right now, this record is not coming up. I go, Fuck. So we realized we had to do the vocals, but what was awesome was Robb from Machine Head heard I was having a hard time and he gave me a call. He talked me to about an hour and gave me all his vocals secrets, like what he does before he records vocals on a record. It saved my life. I went back in, and we just said, Let's do the scream vocals. I went in and recorded Chaos Reigns the day after and those were some of the most brutal screaming tracks we've ever done. Then we had to get the singing done, too. So we went back to the screaming. That's when I came back with All These Yesterdays, and I think it was the third or fourth take and it was done.
So you usually always do the scream vocals first?
Normally I like to do all the singing. I like to the super clean first and then bust that all out, and then come into the screaming. This time it was just all over the place with everything.
With a song like Leaving This World Behind. There are some cool acoustic guitars in there.
That's actually the middle of Dusk Dismantled pulled out because I love that part. So we pulled that out and I had this whole poem/song thing that I wrote years ago that didn't work. So I thought, Well, I've got these words I want to yell over a special mic in the middle of the room. I started yelling these words. It's two different songs. One part is from this one song that never happened, and Leaving this world behind is a line I had for another song that didn't work. They both created this other new thing that put a really nice bookend to the end of our record. On the record there's an intro, an interlude, and an outro. There's also two more songs in the special edition that you haven't heard yet. One is like 50/50 sing/scream and the other one is all singing.
Are there synths at the beginning of Capsizing The Sea?
Those are all real instruments; everything. There was a piano that I played, a bunch of guitar tracks. We tuned one guitar lower than the bass and gave it this old 70's fuzz pedal. There were those war drum kick drum things I mentioned. There was some marching snare stuff that Nick and our co-producer did. There was some stick stuff that Nick did. I think that's everything that's on there. On the interlude I mentioned, there is a cardboard tube, the fire extinguisher. There's this percussion snare box thing that we played and there is an eight-vocal-part Middle Eastern chant thing going on at the same time as well. It's really cool.
Does the instrumental stuff feed a different part of you than the vocal songs?
Yeah, I've always talked about and joked about getting into films or at least film scoring or doing movie soundtracks or being in movies. A big thing with this record was that the visuals were in-depth and so demanding. I'm not sure if you've seen our In Waves video, but basically with this whole record we're not doing anything the way it used to be. Our videos have no performance in them whatsoever. We're about to shoot part two when we get home from Mayhem. This is going to be a multipart thing. It's going to be a pretty long story. We want to do everything creatively. This record is not just a soundtrack to a movie. It's the whole movie when you have the physical packaging with it as well because everything is so complete visually. The big thing with this record is we're leaving everything open for interpretation. There's nothing that we're coming up with and saying what anything means or supposed to mean. It's whatever anyone wants it to be.
Have you been performing the new songs on the road?
Yes, for the first week of Mayhem we changed our set every single day to find out what set we wanted to do. So we played so far In Waves, Inception in the End, and Dusk Dismantled. Now on the Mayhem sets we're just playing In Waves and Dusk Dismantled. Tonight we have an off show with In Flames, I think we'll just be playing In Waves, Dusk Dismantled, and Inception tonight. Built To Fall is going to be Trivium's first push to U.S., North America, and actually worldwide radio ever. So Built To Fall should be serviced to radio within a month or two. We're really freaking stoked. I know a lot of kids are like, Ah, Trivium wants to go to radio. What's that all about? The nice thing for us is that we didn't sit there and write radio singles. We wrote songs that just happened to work naturally on the radio. Everybody has to hear a band for the first time, and that's just a whole new outlet for kids who would have never ever heard of our band before. They now can through us being on a different outlet or a different media outlet like radio.
Are there places or genres that your fans might not allow you to go? Would you ever be able to do a country ballad?
[Heafy laughs] I think a big thing with us that we showed early on a record like The Crusade or on Ascendancy, we were saying, Yeah, we're 17 and 18, and we're going to be the next Metallica. We do bold things. We say bold things. With this record, yeah, I cut my hair. I donated it to Locks of Love. I cut my hair and I may have these gigantic-ass Roy Orbison glasses. We do things differently. Yeah, we're a metal band, but we go outside of the boundaries of what metal can be. We like to bring in outside influences. We just do what we feel like we want to do. I just did an acoustic version of Built To Fall for this Parisian press outlet on the rooftop of a hotel on our press tour of Paris. At first our record label was like, We don't want you to do that. When we got to Paris my publicist in Paris said, If you do this, it will get out to a lot of people who hear it for the first time. Then they'll check out the real song and the real record. I said, Sounds good to me. I've never done that. I've never done a random solo acoustic version of a new Trivium song off In Waves. I was like, Fuck it. Let's do it. We just like to go with it. The country thing? That probably won't happen.
The song Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr has become a Trivium classic and is performed often. Can you sense that any of the new songs will have that sustainability? Perhaps Built To Fall?
"We didn't care about anything other than the songwriting."
In Waves isn't out yet. They hold the songs so well. When we played In Waves live for the first time in Birmingham UK. We decided to book like a small, 200 person show and make it disgusting, sweaty, and punk rock and rough around the edges. We had been opening with Capsizing and In Waves. As soon as that song came on, everyone already knew all the words. If we play Inception in the End or Black or a song that no one has ever heard before, they're kind of standing and chilling and hanging out. With this record more so than any other record, it's easier to sing along to and it's catchier. The first time you hear these songs, you're going to get hooked a lot quicker than our old ones. In the simplistic route musically, I also decided to go the simplistic route lyrically. Before I've had really ambitious lyrics that drew from mythology or history. I might use metaphors or grammatically different words, but with this record the simpler-style lyrics and the simpler-style grammar actually allow the translations to be a lot broader. So the interpretations that I've been seeing from people, what they feel like the songs mean, are actually a lot more vast than they would have been, I feel, if the words would have been more technical or more concisely drawn from something. It's all about minimalism, simplicity, and allowing people to make what they want to make out of this one.
You're playing with Iron Maiden on August 6 at the O2 Arena in London.
Yeah, what's awesome and this is a bold statement, old-school Trivium style that weekend we will officially be the most metal band in the world because we are going to be on Mayhem summer metal festival playing with Megadeth, Machine Head, and in Flames, and then we jump off to do Wacken Open Air with Judas Priest, which is an 80,000-plus person sold-out show to directly support Judas Priest. The next night we fly to open up for Iron Maiden in Wembley to directly support. Within the same three days, we'll be playing with Megadeth, In Flames, Machine Head, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden.
That's got to feel very satisfying to be at that level and play with your heroes.
It's nuts, man. Without all those bands, we wouldn't be around. That Iron Maiden and Judas Priest thing, those dates would not happen if those bands didn't sign a waiver as an okay for it. We booked the show in London because we were over there for the Wacken Open Air Festival. We were about to play a 500 or 1,000-person show, and we found out that Iron Maiden was playing the same night. Our manager called up their management and said, Hey, Trivium would love to play in that show. What do you guys think? They said yes. We did six weeks with them before, and they were totally up for it. It's nice to know that our favorite bands think we're all right. We just got to play with Testament. They're one of our favorite bands. I got to meet Chuck Billy. I said, Dude, I hate to do this. If you guys weren't around, I would not be here right now. He was like, Man, I dig your new stuff. It was fucking awesome to hear. Our heroes think we're all right, which is nice.
Do you need to have all systems firing for those types of shows?
We definitely step it up. I really feel very confident in our band. We're a great live band. We can play our instruments really well and we don't need backing tracks or Pro Tools live or autotune live or any of that shit. I think a lot of bands need it. I'm not completely against it for bands that use it for samples or sounds or clicks, but we can practice what we preach. We can play what's on our record. We'll bring it.
I really appreciate your time.
Thanks, man. We always use your site.
Interview by Steven Rosen