Heavy Metal band Trivium’s lead singer and guitarist Matt Heafy joined our Whitney Moore to talk about life in quarantine on the back of the band’s new album released on April 24th, What the Dead Men Say, from Roadrunner Records. Dropping Trivium’s ninth studio album coincided with plans to hit the road this summer with Megadeth, Lamb of God, and In Flames for the “The Metal Tour of the Year”, and those plans, like everyone’s right now, are uncertain.
But Heafy is known for his daily Twitch livestreams, hosting classes and discussions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and guitar playing live for fans, and that’s bound to continue to become even more a part of his life during lockdown.
Moore hosted the chat in a Trivium shirt, which made her miss concerts, of course, but at least she has the new album to keep her company.
Heafy said things are crazy right now, but with everyone stuck at home, with a wide range of things to look after at home, from work to family life, the band wanted to give fans “something”, whatever they need the album to be, whether their “therapist couch, punching bag, or shoulder to cry on”. What the Dead Men Say has already charted high all over the world, so they are glad they didn’t wait a day later to release it.
The world needs Metal more than ever, Moore laughed, and Heafy agreed. Heafy needs a haircut and a trim to his “Irish third” red beard, he laughed, since he’s Japanese American, but also Irish and German in descent.
Trivium are known for especially “fun” shows where they foster positivity, and Moore asked where that community and attitude comes from. Trivium has only been a “press band” for their first album or so, being “arrogant” or at least confident about that at the time. Other bands didn’t ally themselves easily with a band that hit the press so big, so they became “not a band’s band”, Heafy said.
Then, their next album came out, was hated by the press, and the press tried to “bury” them, so all through this process, their fans have been their main support, reminding them and supporting them when no one else did. Heafy started live streaming about three years ago and making the stream free so fans would have a place to be together 24/7.
Now the press cycle is picking up again for them, saying Trivium is “back” with their new album, but Heafy thinks that’s funny since they’ve never been “gone”.
Merch and promo people have always said that Trivium fans are the politest and nicest in the world, and he wonders if there’s some connection between the band’s attitude and the fans’, since that’s what they want to be, too, experiencing “catharsis” through music and being happy. It’s not about “burying” the badness in life, but “getting it out” for Trivium. Heafy gets asked why “he’s such a happy guy that plays such angry music”, and he doesn’t know, other than maybe he’s “getting it out” by playing music.
This album is a “departure” in that Trivium veers away pretty strongly from trying to please the press and gets back to the basics of what they want to play. What the Dead Men Say wasn’t created wondering if people were going to like it, Heafy said. On The Crusade, Vengeance Falls, and Silence in the Snow, Heafy feels that they consciously tried to please people.
They also tried to do the opposite kind of work from what they did on Ascendancy, since in their mind, that had been a perfect record. The Producers on Vengeance Falls and Silence in the Snow suggested that they not be too committed to structure as they worked, which was a good idea, and they also veered away from being too extreme, using less screaming on Silence in the Snow. All these guidelines were about staying in a “lane”, but later their approach has been dropping even these rules and doing the music Trivium just wants to do.
Trying to “reconcile” what the industry expects of you and what you expect of yourself is something Moore brought up, and Heafy said that the last two records have been very well received by fans after the band has gone it’s own way. They tend to get “cult” followings for certain albums, even with different countries having different favorites, but all that is Trivium, and encompassed by the essence of the band. They don’t overplan anymore. They don’t set writing times and deadlines, but “allow creativity to happen when it happens”. They never try to “force” anything and if it feels forced, they “stop now”.
Boththe 8th and 9th studio albums (The Sin and the Sentence and What the Dead Men Say) reflect the “best elements of everything before” them in Heafy’s mind.
No Streaming, No Life? Heafy is in deep with streaming. Three years ago, he picked up a webcam and had only a few people watching him at a time. 2 ½ years ago he was invited to the Twitch headquarters, and found the people there were big Trivium fans, who then loaned him streaming equipment. He was wishing he could stream more, but he found that he had little time with having to exercise his voice, which he blew out a few years ago, and do his Jiu-Jitsu training. His bandmate suggested he stream ALL THAT. And streaming his daily activities totally took off.
He teaches people how to use guitars, how to stream, and he helps out different musicians remotely in order to instruct them in how to set up streaming. Right now, he’s doing that a lot, as performers move online during quarantine, and he’s very happy to help further. Reach out! DM him on Twitter about it.
Heafy’s streaming is a two-way interaction, with host and chat, and it’s more than a show, since you get a community response right away. You don’t have to build a rig either, you can build up from basics and expand, Heafy encouraged. If you want to stream, just do it.
Asked if he’s going to create a crossover between his Twitch gaming interests and Twitch shows, Heafy said that people who run these things (gaming brands) have spoken to the band. He feels that Metal is appropriate to gaming, and to martial arts, and he wants “good music” to take over video games. They need more Metal! Why not Trivium??
Heafy’s been doing Jiu-Jitsu for seven years, too, and Moore who does Taekwando, agreed that Metal is the music for it. Every Jiu-Jitsu gym he goes to, they are playing top charting love songs while people are trying to “break each others’ arms”. It’s not right! Metal, please.
He IS working on one “top secret thing in the realm” of video games, and Trivium is working on one “top secret” thing, too, Heafy hinted.
His main game was Fortnite for a few years, then Overwatch. The music stuff is 75-90 percent of his streaming time, and the rest is gaming, if that’s your thing.
Today was extra tough for Heafy, he revealed, since he and his partner had to take their twin son and daughter to their 1 ½ year old medical appointments. This was tough, but made tougher since their kids seem unusually strong at 18 months. He’s not naturally strong himself, but he thinks his son Akira is. Mia, his daughter, has already taken down his son multiple times. They’ll start Jiu-Jitsu around age 5 or 6. Yep, he’s raising “super-soldiers”, as Moore observed.
Discussing Trivium’s music videos, which are often “consistent” in their design and themes, like “the Catastrophist” video released a couple weeks ago, Heafy said that Metal and Rock seem to have a visual well that’s dried up in terms of creativity for videos, but thankfully they met a director, Ryan Mackfall, a few years ago at one of their shows.
They gave Mackfall a batch of visual arts, music, and lyrics, and wanted to see what he would be able to come up with. Heafy’s wife is their art director and came up with amazing artists to work with them and they’ve just continued from there. Trivium really focus on all aspects of production, from music, to imagery, and more, and they need their own “style of visuals” in Heafy’s mind. The video for “In Waves” is so great because of that attention to detail. They want to keep approaching things differently than other people have in the past, and even than they have in the past.
Trivium are horror fans, but more “psychological horror” like Hereditary, Parasite, and The VVitch, which challenge the way you think. Their video for “The Catastrophist” is terrifying, someone told him, because it represents “how humanity is” and makes you question things.
There’s a time and place for happy music, but the significance of what Trivium does is “addressing dark things to learn from them, learn from mistakes, and get those feelings out”, Heafy said.
So, what’s the ideal situation for listening to the new album? Heafy’s favorite things are Jiu-Jitsu, food, and hanging with friends, so he thinks sitting in front of old-school speakers with the vinyl in an “old metal sense” would be best for What The Dead Men Say.
This is the first album release day for Trivium where he couldn’t go to the store and buy the first copy of a record at a shop. But it’s important to adapt now that you have to, Heafy advised. People say, “When we get back to normal”, but normal was already “strange” and the “next normal” is going to require even more adaptation, he added.
Moore pointed out that Tower Records is right on time for that adaptation where you can get the vinyl and bring it home, including the new album, and Heafy definitely agreed.
The big tour with Megadeth, Lamb of God, and In Flames was planned for June, and Heafy says the plan is that it’s still coming up, but “at worst, a tour that size will just get moved”, whereas small bands might have a hard time moving their tours. It’s better “to err on the side of caution”, and he hopes that if things get moved, it will happen in such a way to allow fans to really enjoy the show. The tour means a lot to Heafy since Megadeth is one of the bands that got him into metal and Lamb of God has been on his list since 2003 or 2004, so “it’s a killer line up” for him.
Asked if he collects records, Heafy said he has a “massive black metal collection” and he has a huge collection of classic rock records from his mother-in-law, like original Fleetwood Mac vinyls. His father-in-law has a Doctorate in classical music and loves country and folk, so he has all that music on hand, too.
Matt Heafy’s desert island records would be:
Depech Mode’s Violator
Queen’s A Night at the Opera
The Emperor Box Set, which is monstrous and huge.
Just Erased by In Flames
The Black Album by Metallica, which was first metal album he heard in his life.
Heafy confessed that he’s the guy in the band with way more bags than everyone else when traveling, since he brings two big cases on the tour all the time. They are stuffed full of protein powder, a gaming rig, a streaming rig, clothes, and more. He’s “high maintenance” but he takes care of it himself, at least. Carrying two different streaming rigs means he’s carrying a lot of stuff! But it’s worth it to stay in touch with fans.
Of course he’s a Doom fan, and would like to score it! They have someone scoring it right now, but if they “want to collab”, he’s in.
Actually, there was a time when he was doing scoring for small businesses around the country. When it’s for Trivium, the work takes longer, but he’s very fast working for other people, for some reason. He has the 8 string guitars ready to go!
Asked what Trivium wants to say to fans at this time, Heafy asked that fans buy the record “right now, stream the hell out of the record” on every platform. Hit up Twitch for Heafy’s free show and engage in connectivity with other fans.
But we couldn’t let him go without asking about Tower’s famous motto, Know Music, Know Life/No Music, No Life and what it might mean to him.
Heafy said that it means, “the literal definition of [him]”. Trivium is a band he joined when he was 12 years old. It’s all he’s ever known, and he gotten into everything else in his life because of Trivium. Everything he does, and has, whether food, family, or friends, all come from music. It’s the source of all that happens for him.