Interview with Trivium's Matt Heafy 2012
HMV Institute, Birmingham, UK
Wednesday 17th October is a typical autumn day in most respects; windy, overcast and cold.
Yet, we still manage to find ourselves in the garden outside of Birmingham’s HMV Institute, shivering in the company of Triviums, Matt Heafy.
In a couple of hours Trivium will take to the stage along with support from the likes of; As I Lay Dying, Caliban and Upon a Burning Body, to wow yet another city on their current European tour. But first, as Matt’s personal mix of metal seeps from the venue, we huddle deeper into our coats to chat with the bands polite, yet easy going front man.
Primal Noise: First of all we’d like to talk a little about IN WAVES. How did it come about and what were your expectations with this album?
MATT: The big thing for us with, In Waves, was to make the kind of music we wanted to hear as metal fans; we weren’t thinking of writing for something. With EMBER and ASCENDANCY we made just the music that we wanted to hear. With THE CRUSADE we made the kind of music that was still Trivium, but we felt that maybe non ASCENDANCY fans could appreciate; that was the big thing withTHE CRUSADE. SHOGUN was a conscious effort of ‘let’s make something that’s very progressive for us’. With IN WAVES it was none of that… It was, let’s make what we want to hear, back to the basics… I’m trying to think of the most eloquent way to say we were just pleasing ourselves (laughs), but that’s the only way I can say it, so yeah.
Primal Noise: Everyone has their own musical influences, who are yours?
Matt: Well obviously there’s the core; Metallica, Megadeath, Pantera, Slayer, Testament, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest… I also go heavily into things like Queen, the Beatles and Depeche mode. The biggest thing for me in my entire life was the whole Gothenburg scene, the Swedish bands! As you can hear Opeth is playing right now (music playing in the background) this is my house mix, it’s bands like Opeth, At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity. Also the black metal scene is really big for me. Obviously you can’t really hear black metal in Trivium, but black metal has always had a very special place in my heart. But Gothenburg bands, In Flames, I wouldn’t even be sitting here without In Flames, the albums The Jester Race and Whoracle, I wouldn’t even be here.
Primal Noise: I love Colony…
Matt: Actually, I’m just about to do a charity show at Peter and Bjorns Restaurant in Gothenburg at 2112 for children’s cancer in Sweden, so I’ll be playing an all acoustic solo set there… I’ll be actually doing an In Flames acoustic cover, I haven’t told everyone from the band yet, it’s a little surprise.
Primal Noise: Wow, that’ll be awesome to see!
Primal Noise: We know you’ve toured with a lot of bands, but if you could tour with any band, alive or dead, who would it be?
Matt: Well we’ve toured with a lot of favourites already, but if I could tour with anyone alive or dead then, I mean, Queen with Freddie Mercury or Death with Chuck Schuldiner, those are not possible so they’d be my favourites.
Primal Noise: Speaking of touring, do you have a favourite country to play?
Matt: JAPAN! Japan is my favourite place in the world, it has the best food, the best people... You can leave your laptop on the subway and go back the next day and it’ll still be there. There is great food everywhere, everywhere is amazing, people are super nice, super respectful. Although South America has some of the most rabid metal fans I’ve ever seen in my entire life! We’ve just come back from touring there, we played Buenos Aires, and they sang every single guitar solo! In between songs they wouldn’t just chant 'Trivium' or be quiet or just clap, they would sing us their football chants with Trivium in place of their football team name! It’s hard to come back from that! That was really good.The thing that I love about England is they were the first country to ever recognise us as a real band. The US didn’t even show us love until, I guess, maybe, a year or two ago. I mean, they showed us some love, but not like the way the UK did. It’s the only place where we have a couple of Gold records.
Primal Noise: It’s funny because a lot of bands have said that the UK was a hard place to break…
Matt: It was our only and first one, and then from Britain happening, it stemmed off, with everything else. And then now Germany is one of our biggest places in the world, and South America, we’re doing really well in South America and Mexico and Japan and Australia so it’s all thanks to England spreading it out.
Primal Noise: When did you first start playing guitar? Who was your guitar hero or inspiration?
Matt: My dad always had guitars around; he would always would play as a hobby player. I picked it up around eleven because I was into pop-punk, because everyone in central Florida was into pop-punk or Ska, there was nothing else. So, I tried out for a pop-punk band, my try out song was Dammit by Blink 182. I didn’t make it into the band!
Anyway, someone leant me the black album when I was almost 12, that was the first metal album I’d heard, and I thought ‘I wanna do that when I grow up’ so I spent time getting good at playing guitar, trying to emulate them, I tried out for Trivium when I was twelve and have been here ever since then.
Primal Noise: Are there any guitarists you admire now?
Matt: Oh tons! I mean, John Petrucci I’ve always said is one of the most well rounded, most incredible guitar players in the world, because not only is he a great lead player, rhythm player, song writer, but he also knows theory and music, he knows how to set up his gear, he knows all that in depth stuff, whereas I don’t know notes. I don’t. I wish it was something that I knew, I need to learn it! Encourage me! You should tell me “Yeah, You need to learn this!”
There are so many amazing guitar players, Bjorn from In Flames, the way he incorporates melody. Ihsahn from Emperor has been incredibly influential guitar player, on me. So yeah, there’s a lot!
As for Japanese artists, rather than guitar players, it’s the shamisen players… Shamisen on top of jazz. That’s really cool! I need to get their names. I only have the albums in Kanji so I’m not really sure what their names are, but I was in a restaurant in Japan once and I heard this shamisen playing over jazz and I had the restaurant owner tell me what it was and I went out and bought it the next day. I should probably get the name of that!
Primal Noise: What was your dream guitar, and do you own one now?
I… well, my dad’s dream before he had a son, was to have a son that played a Les Paul Custom, and then he bought me one was I was eleven and a half, twelve and I still have that guitar now. I used it to record In Waves.
Primal Noise: Ahhh that was always my dream guitar, but…
Matt: Well I’ll be releasing a more affordable version of the les paul custom when my signature Epiphone comes out in January. The same one I play live, and it’s a Les Paul Custom, but I wanted to make one that everyone can afford because Les Paul Customs are waaaay too expensive. I can’t afford one of those fuckers!
Primal Noise: Earlier this year you toured with Asking Alexandria, I See Stars, Motionless in White and the Amity Affliction; We understand Dir en grey were due to join you there but unfortunately had to pull out... That’s an interesting mix of bands, how did that go?
Matt: It was great! We played in front of, like 65% of people there every single night, who had never even heard of our band name; these were kids that were there for the other four bands on the bill, that knew every song of all these other bands, but us, we were their first exposure to our kind of metal. It was really good for us! In waves has been long for us, we’ve been on tour since the middle of last year. In North America alone we’ve supported Asking Alexandria, In Flames, Dream Theater and Five Finger Death Punch; four polar opposite bands. So our whole thing was tackling everything we could in North America. In the end we walked away with a lot of new fans. Every night I think from minimum to maximum we’d get 90 to 100% of the crowd into it every single night. But there’d be a lot of kids there that, they’re not ready for us yet. They’re, maybe too young for our sort of band? Even though we’ve seen eight year olds in Trivium shirts that are amazingly metal, but I mean, in the US… they have to be ready for it. Maybe we’ll be the gateway for a lot of those people, who’ll come around in a year or so when they’re out of… what they’re into. But a lot of the bands, I mean we met Upon A Burning Body on that tour, and we brought them over here. And Asking Alexandria were great people. We found that they were all Trivium fans which, I was blown away by. It was really cool. It’s cool for me to meet bands that like our band. When we first came all the other bands were like, who the hell is this young band full of assholes. Nowadays things are going a little better.
I was super bummed when Dir en grey had to pull out because I love those guys. I love the band, I love their videos, I love seeing them live. I keep in touch with a couple of the guys sometimes.
Primal Noise: Do you have any plans to tour with them in the future?
Matt:There are no plans… I would love to play with them and Maximum the Hormone. Have you heard of Maximum the Hormone?
Primal Noise: Yeah, they played in the UK just last year… they’re really good!
Matt: Yeah, they are one of my favourites! Dir en grey and Maximum the Hormone are so good! Both of those bands. So hopefully one day… Dir en grey are amazing! An amazing band!
Primal Noise: What were you guys doing before Trivium and if the band hadn’t been successful what do you think you’d be doing now?
Matt: I never even had a job before Trivium
Primal Noise: Of course, you said you were like, twelve when you joined?
Matt: Yeah, but the other guys, Paolo cooked hamburgers at Jacks Hamburger shack in Fort Lauderdale, Corey was a sandwich artist at Subway, Nick I think, had a bunch of jobs… Nowadays though, if for some reason Trivium couldn’t continue, I’d definitely go into food. I have a food blog www.kiichichaos.com, I’m very passionately in love with food. Yeah, I’m super in love with food and love cooking. I cook all the time when I’m at home, nowadays I’d do that. Back then, I don’t know what I would have been, I probably would have gone to business school or done business stuff or whatever that is (laughs).
Primal Noise: Have your family always been supportive? Obviously your dad, you said, always had guitars and stuff…
Matt: Always! Yeah my dad always co-managed, then stepped away from the band, from when I was twelve until about 2007. So they’ve been incredibly involved and my mom’s always been super involved… I was able to re-meet my ojiichan and obaachan (Grandpa and Grandma) through touring in Japan, on our first Japanese tour; I hadn’t seen them since I was 1. I was born in Japan in Iwakuni, on a marine corp military base. My mom’s from Hiroshima...
If you go to Japan you have to go to Shibuya to see the new school Japan, that’s like where they went in ‘Lost in Translation’! It’s like super traditional, tiny little hole in the wall restaurants that are all amazing, big LED screens of animatronic Pikachu’s and shit, everywhere… And then, also, Kyoto’s amazing! You have to go to the shrines. It’s amazing!
Primal Noise: What are your biggest fears in life?
Matt: It was bugs, but now, since being such a food adventurer, I eat bugs now, so…!
Primal Noise: Ohhhhhh nooooo….
Matt: yeah so it’s not bugs! I guess the same as anyone else… untimely death of myself or a loved one if you wanna get real serious about it, but… yeah. I can’t really think of any.
I don’t really have any to say any more, I mean I’ve broken so many bones. I’ve broken this thumb, this pinky, my back’s been fucked up… to make a long story short, and I don’t wanna even say the city because I don’t want to give this gang any credit, but there was this tour where we got jumped by like, 10 kids. I got socked in my face, and my jaw almost busted, and we were on a tour so I still had to play. Well, I could still play and sing so… I guess I’ll always be able to play and sing regardless, so we’ll just see what happens.
Primal Noise: Okay, If you were to have a random career change and were starring in a movie, what character would you want to play?
Matt: Well, a lot of people say that I look a lot like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I’d like to play any of his roles whether it’s 500 days of Summer or…
Primal Noise and Matt: Dark Knight Rises!
Matt: Yeah! I mean he’s an awesome dude, because before it was just like, “Oh Matt, you look like that kid from 3rd Rock from the sun,” but now he’s in these bad ass movies…
I guess if I were to do a movie, I would love to be in a David Lynch film, a Lars von Trier film, a Christopher Nolan film, something along those lines. Other Career choices though, it’d definitely be a chef.
Primal Noise: Okay, favourite movie, game and book?
Matt: ah, can I say a couple or just one?
Primal Noise: no as many as you’d like.
Matt: Ok, not in any particular order but the ones that are the most significant that occur to me, Anti Christ by Lars von Trier, Lost Highway by David Lynch, Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan, Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, Old Boy by Chan-wook Park, the South Park movie, just because I love South Park so much… Probably some nineties comedies too, like the first Ace Ventura and the first Austin Powers to make it good and well rounded, from serious, depressing to happy.
Game… Obviously the Final Fantasy series, if I have to pick a favourite probably 7, 6, and 4 would be my favourites. I also love the Call Of Duty, Modern Warfare games!
Book… I’m currently on Lord of the Rings and really enjoying it, but probably my favourite book, if graphic novels are considered as well, is Preacher by Garth Ennis, I think it’s the greatest story I’ve ever read!
Primal Noise: 3 Albums you could not live without?
Matt: Okay I’ll do the unexpected because I always do the same ones, In Flames – The Jester Race, Emperor – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, and the LSO London Symphony Orchestra version of Mozart: Requiem.
Primal Noise: Alright, our last question, If you were sent to prison, who would you want as your cell mate and why?
Matt: I guess this’ll only make sense to the people that have seen it but… Wentworth Miller
Primal Noise: Prison Break!!!
Matt: (laughs) Yeah! He’d get me out!
Primal Noise: No girls then?
Matt: AH, you can say girls!?! Nah, Wentworth Miller so I can get out (laughs) I don’t want to get stuck.