TRIVIUM frontman Matt Heafy was interviewed on the April 8-10 edition of Full Metal Jackie’s nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the Podbean widget below. A few excerpts follow.
Full Metal Jackie: What do you think is the most unanticipated thing that comes with creative growth and maturity?
Matt: “When you’re really young and you first walk into it, it’s probably negativity. That’s something that I can see that even band guys that are older than us still have not figured out how to deal with. Anytime you do anything in life that’s in a public forum, there’s always gonna be people, and I’m paraphrasing a quote my grandfather said to me. He said, ‘A third of the world is gonna love you, a third of the world is gonna hate you, and a third of the world is not gonna give a shit.’ And that’s kind of what you’re gonna walk into, no matter what. If you ever have something that you’re putting out to people to be judged or to be appreciated or to be purchased, or whatever it may be, you’re always gonna have critics. And I think a lot of guys just are not ready for that and can’t handle that well. I definitely did not handle that well at first when we first came out. When we made [2005’s] ‘Ascendancy’, we didn’t have fans. We were like, ‘All right. We’re making the music we wanna make and everyone should love it. And then I started seeing people hated it and hated the band. And I was, like, ‘All right. Let’s see what else I can make. Let’s see if I can make things that they will like.’ And that’s why when I went into [the writing process] for [2006’s] ‘The Crusade’, I tried to write music that the people that didn’t like ‘Ascendancy’ would like. And that’s silly. When you start a band, you’re making the music that you wanna hear as a fan and that’s the way you need to stick to it. So that’s probably the biggest thing that I didn’t really anticipate. But, I mean, we’ve been facing that since… really, since I joined the band, and I joined the band when I was 12. And so instantly you kind of start seeing people being negative about it — whether it’s jealousy or genuine; they just don’t like it and they can’t be quiet about it. But that’s something that I think a lot of band guys still can’t handle, but they need to realize that’s part of it. And that’s just the way it is.”
Full Metal Jackie: You touched on “Ascendancy” there. I wanted to talk about that record. It’s been a while. What do you think has changed most about your creative spontaneity since the days of making “Ascendancy”?
Matt: “I think nowadays we’ve come full circle and we’ve come back to where we were at on the ‘Ascendancy’ days. ‘Cause when we were writing ‘Ascendancy’, I remember it was just the four of us playing in a room making the kind of music we wanted to hear; we didn’t really think too much about it. We didn’t demo it. We didn’t have laptops. We didn’t even really track on eight tracks or anything; we just played in a room and we would play guitar parts on top of other guitar parts and just vibe with it and see whatever we liked. And now, when it comes time for writing for the next one, for record eight and the way we did [2015’s] ‘Silence In The Snow’ quite a bit, it was the same thing. It’s ‘let’s play the music that we’re gonna record. Let’s not sit separately and all record full-production demos alone on our laptops away from the band, but let’s actually play this thing as a band. When we did ‘The Crusade’, and I know I bring it up in kind of scrutiny sometimes, but it still is a record that I love. It was just made in a really weird time. It was made in a time when our band wasn’t really getting along, and there was a lot of ups and downs with our career going on. But the way that record was made, we had to write the whole thing on tour. We came home after a grueling tour cycle and had, like, two weeks off, and then went straight in the studio and straight back out tour. And that’s definitely not the right way to do a record; you need to give a record its proper due time. With every album, we’ve tried it a little bit differently, but I definitely think that nowadays it’s more so the way we used to do it with ‘Ascendancy’, and just not thinking of, ‘Are people are gonna like this or dislike this? Let’s just make what we wanna hear.’ And I think it becomes very contrived when you’re trying to write something to please something, or to please someone, or to prove something to someone. But when you make just what you wanna hear, that takes you back to the basics of where you were when you first started off with the band.”
Full Metal Jackie: Your new drummer Paul Wandtke is a Berklee College Of Music student who is recommended by Mike Mangini from DREAM THEATER. How does the caliber of your bandmates affect your own musicianship?
Matt: “It’s massive. And anyone that came to see us on this last run with Paul can definitely see that for the first time in our careers, everything we’re playing sounds like the record. And I’m not putting that as a fault upon any of the previous drummers, but I’m putting that as a fault of the previous three lineups. The four of us, at each point in time when we had to make a drummer change, because our band wasn’t able to either perform well or create good music or really be functional as a unit anymore… So, thankfully, with someone like Paul who comes to the table with a full set of a musical pedigree, it allows us to play anything. And we’re playing music from records two through seven right now. I finally retrained myself how to scream again, so everything is exactly as it was. When we play stuff off ‘Ascendancy’, it sounds like ‘Ascendancy’. When we play stuff off ‘Silence’, it sounds like ‘Silence’. And I think that’s really great that we’re able to do that now, that with the four of us, we can play anything we’ve ever put out before with no issue. It’s great. When we were looking for drummer four… A lot of people joke SPINAL TAP, and it’s funny, when we first announced Mat [Madiro], I posted a picture of one of the SPINAL TAP drummers and said, ‘This is our new drummer,’ and I had the guy’s name, but people didn’t get the joke. When we were looking for drummer four, we knew we had to find someone right. We couldn’t just find someone that was in front of us, ‘cause the last two had been the drum techs of the previous. It was something we had to do on a moment’s notice, and something had to be done right away and we really couldn’t look or train someone. But this time we looked at between five and ten guys, and I remember when we were looking through some of them, it was Paolo’s [Gregoletto, bass] idea. He said, ‘Hey, Matt, why don’t you ask John Petrucci [DREAM THEATER guitarist]?’ And I was, like, ‘That’s a great idea.’ I get along with John. We had a great time [touring] with DREAM THEATER. I e-mailed John. John didn’t have anybody, but he CC’d Mike, and within, like… I think it was, like, ten or fifteen minutes, Mike‘s, like, ‘Here’s your guy. Check him out.’ And it was that simple. Paul’s first show with us was Knotfest in Mexico to, like, thirty thousand people, and we had him play a drum solo on his first show ever with us, and he killed it. So we did the absolute trial by fire, and he did great. He’s an amazing drummer. He’s what we’ve always been missing. We’ve been missing someone who can keep up with us musically and creatively and someone who already has stage presence. So he comes to the table completely prepared; it’s as if he’s been with us the whole time.”
Full Metal Jackie: You recently had a surgery to repair a deviated septum. How has that made singing different?
Matt: “It’s made singing truly easier. I had always heard that it makes it easier. Because the way the head works is all the features of your skull act as resonation. Like if you look at a horn, if you look at a trumpet or a saxophone, all the openings and everything that’s happening with that instrument help create the sounds. It’s the same thing with your skull and the same thing with the anatomy of your head. And with me, I broke my nose as a kid in karate really early on. And it wasn’t a cool story either; it wasn’t like I was sparring in a tournament or anything. We were doing wheelbarrow races, and the person that they paired me up with was super, super strong, and they weren’t aware of how strong they were. So they took off, and my face primed against the carpet and we kind of rolled like a ball and I hit the wall at the end. And I guess I broke it then. I didn’t really know that until my 20s. I was having vocal issues and a doctor in California [said], ‘Oh, when did you break your nose?’ I was, like, ‘What the heck are you talking about, when did I break my nose? I don’t know. Is my nose broken?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s sideways.’ So that’s when I found out it was that. And the surgery, it wasn’t too bad. The thing that sucked the most was the intubation tube that they have in your throat when you’re under; that really rips your throat apart a little bit. And right before they put me under, I remember they said, ‘Ah, there’s like a one-percent chance you might not be able to sing after this. Is that okay?’ And I was, like, ‘You’re gonna tell me this now?’ But luckily, there were no issues. There’s a lot more space in my skull now. My nose is straight. I had to wear a ridiculous-looking face mask for two months because I wanted to get back into jiu-jitsu after. So I gave it, like, a week, just watched for a while and then started training again. But I wore this crazy-looking shield thing for two months and protected my nose. And things are going great. It truly has gotten easier, but I think it’s also functioned as well as… When I’m off the road, I practice seven days a week vocally individually, and then when we rehearse as a band, that’s an extra hour or hour and a half. So one to three hours a day, I make sure I sing. And it’s all from the stuff I learned from [vocal coach] Ron Anderson. And thanks to Ron, I’ve become a better singer and been able to scream again. It was my old screaming that originally destroyed my voice; it made us have to cancel the tour after playing Rock On The Range, and that was pretty rough for me — to have to send all our crew home and our band home without pay for the rest of the tour. And now the screaming is back, it’s easier than ever, and it sounds the same as it used to. It’s just a completely different technique, and I’m very happy about that.”
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