Hi Matt, let’s start with your latest record. Last year your latest effort ‘Silence In The Snow’ was released. How did the album do with both critics and fans?
Our seventh record was met with very high acclaim and regard worldwide, both from Trivium fans and new Trivium fans alike. Early on, Trivium set the precedent that every album we release would never be the same as a previous album - we love the idea of going outside of our comfort zone; pushing the very envelope of what we see the band can be. Interestingly, ‘Silence In The Snow’ is the album that finally solidified us in the USA; before that, we did regard the States as one of our “smaller territories” - now, it’s the opposite.
The album sold 17.000 copies in the first week after release, which was not a bad start these days. But do you ever wonder what sales could have been like if you had been around in the good old days when popular metal bands easily sold hundreds of thousands, even millions of albums? I mean, when looking at Spotify your most popular tunes have millions of plays. It would have been great if those where actually sold copies, right?
To try to live in the idea of nostalgia of a previous era and place in time for anything - especially the music world - is something we never do. Times were so different back then; there were fewer bands, fewer platforms to get music, and lesser opportunities for bands. I look at it as a major fault for bands who try to just fight the way things are now and try to romanticize another time where they “could be doing better.” I love the fact that the music industry is something that is constantly evolving and melding; yes - our record sales aren’t staggering, but our ticket sales are staggering. We can play anywhere in the planet nowadays; we can instantly get the word out of any news on our own - instantaneously. I would definitely take the current days over the past.
Now we all know those days are gone and will not return, so it is getting pretty hard for recording artists to build a steady career. How does a band like Trivium deals with decreasing actual sales while still striving for a long-lasting career in the music industry? I mean, playing in a band is great and all, but back home bills still have to paid…
You need to have the inexplicable factor that brings people to your shows, that gets people to buy your merchandise, and constantly support what you do. I see too many bands on both ends of the spectrum complaining. I have been noticing an influx of extremely well off bands complaining about “how difficult it is to tour and to be in a band”. If it’s too much for them, they need to step aside and let the next wave of bands who want it more and appreciate it more to take over. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m seeing bands who haven’t put in the work wanting the everything from the world merely for being “in a band”. Those bands need to work their asses off and make the best damn music they can, while performing like their lives depend on it nightly before expecting a true connection.
After the release of ‘Silence In The Snow’ Trivium went on a couple of tours, of which the last one, an American tour with the guys from Sabaton just ended. How did these tours go? Where they as successful as you hoped they would be?
The end of the final USA run with Sabaton was truly one of the best USA tours we’ve ever had. As I previously mentioned, we feel that the USA has finally truly recognized Trivium as a band within this last album; we see the support from the old school and the new comers; it really is something amazing. Sabaton has been one of our favourite bands for years, so to be able to finally tour with them was an absolute honour. Ever since ‘Silence In The Snow’ the song was released, we started seeing Sabaton shirts popping up in our crowds; whether the USA, Europe, Asia - we started seeing their name popping up more and more. We considered that a sign, and knew we had to tour with them someday. We’re thankful it finally happened.
In the past decade-plus Trivium worked its way up from a relatively small band that played small clubs to supporting the major metal bands and extensive headline treks. You’ve done a lot and seen it all, but how does such a career affect you as a person? We all go through personal growth as the years pass by, but living the rock n’ roll lifestyle for quite some time must have left some marks (or scars) that people outside the music industry never would suffer, right?
The idea of the “rock n roll” lifestyle, as well as the idea of “the glory days of the music industry” are two romantic fictions that we disregard. Those who exist today attempting to live the cliché and tired “rock n roll” lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll are some of the worst performers I have seen. It’s about being an incredible performer first - above everything else. It is a bands’ job to be the best they can be on stage and on album first. After that, if they are able to keep up that quality and energy of being something exciting and invigorating for their fans, they can then figure out the bounds for what they can and want to do on the outside of it when on tour or in-studio. I lived that life of excess quite briefly, and quickly learned that if I were to be on my game, and be the best I could be at all times for those who support me and help me exist - a life that burned the candle at all ends wasn’t worth it. I’ve been in this band longer in my life than I haven’t been. I have been in this band since I was twelve, so it’s all I’ve ever known. The good and bad have shaped me into the person I am today.
Considering all the pros and cons of being a recording and touring artist, are you still happy that you’ve chosen this path instead of going for a ‘normal’ life?
Absolutely. I get to do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. When I was twelve, I said that I wanted to be in the kind of band that can play shows everywhere in the world, playing exactly the kind of music I wanted to play. That isn’t a bad life choice when it works out half-decently.
The reason for asking all this is of course the fact that Trivium’s debut album ‘Ember To Inferno’, released back in 2003 on Lifeforce Records, will be re-released soon. You joined the band at a very young age (if I am not very mistaken at the age of twelve), and three years later already you recorded your first album and went on international tours. What do you remember from the recording sessions back then?
Life was simpler back then: we had no fans, we didn’t have day jobs - all we had to do was play our instrument, and play as a band. Going into the studio back then, and still now to this day - we never feel any sort of looming pressure or anxiety to perform. This feeling of confidence can typically only be gained from constant hours and years of preparation. I joined Trivium when I was twelve years old, and from that moment, I dedicated myself to constant individual and group practice. As far as the tracking of ‘Ember…’ goes, it was relatively quick. We tracked, mixed, and mastered the entire album in about two weeks. Everything seemed to move quickly back then: we recorded the ‘Blue’ album, quickly were signed to Lifeforce, released ‘Ember…’, then were signed to Roadrunner, then released ‘Ascendancy’. This all happened roughly in the span of two years or so.
Debut albums usually never come out the way a band really wanted, but always have that certain charm. It is my experience that young bands that record a debut always sound hungry and spontaneous, qualities that are hard to maintain through the years. In hindsight, how do you look back at ‘Ember To Inferno’, and what would you would have done differently if given the chance to go back and record it again?
It’s been a very fun experience for me to be able to go back and re-listen and re-visit everything that is included in the ‘Ab Initio’ box set; to preview the vinyl’s of these early recordings, and go back through all the credits and lyrics. Having said that, there is nothing I would change on any of these recordings. The intention with this release is to truly transport the listener back to that exact moment in time of each of the included releases. I wanted to be able to bring the listener back to 2001, 2003, 2004 - to hear exactly how we were and how we did things back then. These were the years that set the blueprint for what Trivium would become, and I am so happy the world can finally hear our origins story.
Nowadays some bands actually do go back into the studio and re-record their old stuff with modern day technology. What do you think of that, and would you ever consider this for Trivium?
I’ve purchased several of my favourite bands’ re-mixes, re-masters, and re-recordings; and honestly - it’s never quite right for me. I always think back to missing something from the original, and that’s why I decided to completely preserve the integrity of the original recordings in all their perfections and imperfections. One of the releases I thought of when putting together ‘Ab Initio’ is ‘Star Wars’. All I ever want to is see the original 4, 5, and 6. Not the after-thought additions of a new version merely plopping extra junk on top of a masterpiece. People need to stop shying away from the human-qualities in their art; over-perfection and too much afterthought is the death of spontaneity.
The reason ‘Silence In The Snow’ is re-released again is allegedly because the original is out of print. I guess there is a lot of demand then from new fans to get it without paying ridiculous prices on eBay and such?
For ‘Ember To Inferno’ you mean? Yes. ‘Ember’ has been completely non-existent from the shelves and officially on the internet since it’s contract expired a few years back. The ‘Blue Album’ has been seen going on eBay for hundreds of dollars; the ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow’ albums have actually never been in print ever before. I wanted to release something special for the diehard Trivium fan.
What I personally find most appealing about this re-release is that it comes in various shapes and sizes that fits every type of consumer. Let’s see what we have here:
- Ember To Inferno — Standard CD.
- Ember To Inferno — Standard Vinyl LP, which is the original album in a 2LP gatefold on orange/black marble vinyl.
- Ember To Inferno: Ab Initio — Deluxe CD, which is the original album with new artwork, plus 13 bonus tracks and expanded booklet in a digipak. The 13 bonus tracks are the band's early demos — "Ruber" (a.k.a. the Red Demo), "Caeruleus" (a.k.a. the Blue Demo) and "Flavus" (a.k.a. the Yellow Demo).
- Ember to Inferno: Ab Initio" — Deluxe 5LP Box, which is five colored LPs in a special box including the original album in a 2LP gatefold on orange/black marble vinyl, the expanded booklet, a poster, a stencil, and 13 bonus tracks over three LPs. The 13 bonus tracks are the band's early demos — "Ruber" (a.k.a. the Red Demo) on transparent red vinyl, "Caeruleus" (a.k.a. the Blue Demo) on transparent blue vinyl, and "Flavus" (a.k.a. the Yellow Demo) on transparent yellow vinyl.
I thinks it’s safe to say that this is a real treat for all Trivium aficionados, no matter if they are into CD or the vinyl format. Though I must say those vinyl thingies are looking awesome. Now you guys easily could have settled for just putting out the original CD again and be done with it, but instead you obviously chose to go for the big thing. Care to explain why?
I have always considered everything that goes into a release as important as the music. I always want the visuals to be an aspect that is given as much care as the auditory experience. With the ‘Ab Initio’ versions, I thought “what would I want as a fan of a band?” And the result was simple: a completely preserved re-release of an original, and a very special box set that includes the entire original story of Trivium from the beginning until the moments before Ascendancy.
Being the devil’s advocate I couldn’t help notice of course that in the list above (as copied from the Trivium website) no digital formats are included. A quick look at Spotify also learned that the original ‘Ember To Inferno’ isn’t listed there. So the obvious question is: will the ‘Ember To Inferno’ re-release also become available as digital download and/or stream, or will it be kept restricted to physical material?
All editions will also be on all formats of digital release.
You’ll be on tour in Europe in February and March next year together with supports Sikth and Shvpes. Are you looking forward to visiting the old continent again?
Absolutely! We’ve been playing a lot of material off of Ember for years; and especially with this re-issue coming out, we’ve been circulating quite a few pieces off of Ember. Now, I can’t say if we’ll ever play anything off “Red” or the pieces off of “Blue” that aren’t also on Ember… but we’ll see.
Will the setlist contain some extra songs from ‘Ember To Inferno’, or is this tour just the next one in support for ‘Silence In The Snow’?
Yes it will. On our last USA tour, we were rotating between ‘Pillars’ and ‘Requiem’. On previous tours, we’ve played pretty much all material off of ‘Ember’ except for ‘Falling To Grey’ and ‘If I Could Collapse The Masses’. I think besides those two, we’ve played everything on tour.
Despite the fact that your fans probably will be quite pleased with the re-release ‘Ember To Inferno’ I can imagine that they are already craving for a new Trivium album. Now between your last three albums there was always a gap of two years, so logic dictates that 2017 will bring us a brand new Trivium record. So are you already in writing and recording mood?
There are currently no plans for a new album. The only plans are to deliver a crushing European tour set, then to go on a well-deserved break.
And now for something completely different: Different sources on Internet are telling that you are working with Ihsahn on a black metal project called Mrityu, inspired by early Norwegian black like Emperor, Darkthrone and Dimmu Borgir used to play. What is your fascination with this kind of music?
Ever since I was 15/16, I have been a devout fan of black metal. Obviously, Trivium isn’t very blatantly inspired by black metal sonically. I can say however, the ethos of black Mmetal resides in a lot of our logic. Black metal was the rebellion - the answer - to the same-ness seen in metal. Now when a rebellion becomes content to “stay the same,” it can develop something that needs that same rebellion reapplied to itself. With genre-defiers like Emperor, you saw a band of the scene breaking the rules of what is “supposed to be”. Emperor was a band who never released the same album twice, and that is absolutely something that inspired our invigoration to challenge ourselves and our listeners with each release. The initial intent with my “Black Metal project” was to make something under an alias; to never allow anyone to know it’s “Matt Heafy from Trivium” in a black metal band. After befriending Ihsahn, and getting heavily into his solo works, I realized that I needed to rethink and reimagine everything about this “project.” After much mentorship directly and indirectly from Ihsahn and many others who I look up to in the “new” black metal scene, my ideas of tradition molded into something that breaks any form of tradition and is its own thing. Mrityu is rooted in the idea of black metal, but it’s limitless in what it can be. There is no telling on when, but Mrityu will happen eventually.
Alright, that’s about it for this time. Thanks a lot for your answers Matt, and if you to add something or just want to say hello to our readers, the space below is yours…..
Thank you so much to everyone who supports Trivium. We would not exist without you. Please keep spreading the word of Trivium, and we will work to bring you the best albums and shows we are capable of. Trivium is for everyone; all are welcome to be with us. See you soon.