I remember first hearing a buzz about Trivium back in the mid-2000s. One of my buddies couldn’t stop talking about this new metal band that was “the next Metallica,” so, inevitably, my curiosity was up.
After listening to the band’s 2005 Roadrunner Records debut, Ascendancy, I could see why this was one of the most talked-about young metal bands on the scene. The record’s blend of Metallica-influenced thrash and modern metal-core was tight, precise, blistering.
I caught Trivium live for the first time at a Detroit venue in ’05. It was the Roadrunner Road Rage Tour with Trivium, 3 Inches of Blood, Still Remains and the Agony Scene. The best way to describe Trivium’s performance was that it was like being hit with a wall of sound filled with hurricane solos and thick rhythms, so powerful, it was impossible to ignore.
Trivium are out on the Trespass America Tour this summer, and I caught up with frontman and guitarist Matt Heafy a few hours before the tour’s San Antonio, Texas, stop. Heafy was extremely upbeat and energetic as we chatted about the tour, his thoughts on where metal music is headed and his upcoming signature Epiphone.
You’ve been playing guitar since you were a little tyke! Tell me about your first guitar.
I got a couple of start-up guitars at first. There are pictures of me when I was three or four months old in Japan with Steinberger guitars. [Laughs] But, my first real guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Custom, and it’s the same guitar that I used to track our new record and numerous other records.
You’re working on a signature Epiphone. How close are you to finishing the model?
Well, I have the newest prototype right here, and pretty soon, I’ll be getting the final prototype. I’ve been using the latest prototype live on the Trespass Tour. There’s a lot of excitement building online for it. I posted some photos in Instagram, and they’re gotten the most comments of any other photos.
What elements were important to you when putting together your signature Epiphone?
The big thing, for me, is that I need to be able to use it live. And I want the same guitar I play live and in the studio to be the same one you can buy in the store. Affordability was also big for me. We have a lot of young fans just starting off, and they can’t go in and afford the custom guitars. So, I wanted it to play as close to the classic, original Les Paul, and I want the people who buy it to be getting the exact same thing they see in videos and live on stage, verses a different metal or grade.
What makes Gibson and Epiphone guitars special?
With the biggest guitar companies, you see big pop and country bands using them, so a lot of those genres use Gibsons, but for me, I’ve tried every brand out there and kept coming back to my first real guitar: a Gibson Les Paul Custom. I remember it was my dad’s dream before he even had a son to have a son who was a Gibson Les Paul Custom player! Nothing else works. When we first came out, we weren’t being endorsed by any company, but I played Gibsons because it was all I knew. Then, I went to a different guitar company for a year, and I didn’t play the same and it didn’t look right on me.
Gibson guitars embody everything I want. Every time I try another band friend of mine’s guitar, I just can’t play on it as well. I always come back to Gibsons and Epiphones. It’s the kind of thing where the brand chooses the player! Guys like Zakk Wylde, Slash, Jimmy Page – the brand screams them.
You’re out on the Trespass America Tour this summer, which features Five Finger Death Punch, the return of Jesse Leach with Killswitch Engage, Pop Evil and others. How’s the tour going?
It’s great! This year has been a busy year for us. Eleven months out of 12, we’ve been on tour this year. We’ve been touring Europe playing for anywhere from 15,000 to 100,000 people per day! Later on this year, we’re going to tour South America, Europe and the U.K., so it’s been really busy.
What is it about Trespass and the groups on there that makes it a good fit for Trivium?
For us, being a strong live act and having our thing down right now, it’s been perfect. Killswitch Engage has their original singer back, and that’s an iconic reason to come to this tour. They’re one of my favorites of all time. Five Finger Death Punch are a really great, and they’re bringing out great metal bands. They’re a metal band that radio is really playing, so they could have gone with a bill of rock radio bands, but they really went with a great lineup of metal bands. We’re a live band. That’s what we’ve always done best, and that’s what we do, so it’s been great.
You’re currently touring with your latest album, In Waves. I read that you guys spent an extra long time working on it.
Yeah, we started writing the record before the record previous to it came out! It’s the same thing for our upcoming record. We’re already writing the new album. We’re always being creative and take advantage of that when it’s there, as opposed to waiting for writing time. So, for In Waves, we spent six to eight months writing songs and demoing. We recorded for two to three months, but all the prep work is what made it special.
What are your thoughts on the current state of metal music?
You know, being able to tour all around the world and seeing what’s going on is interesting. Metal was discovered by Black Sabbath, and it’s never gone away. Something that does go in and out are the splinter genres of metal. In the early 2000s, there was metal-core, and then death-core. What’s nice about metal is it’s always there. In the U.S. and U.K., I think metal is in an odd spot. It’s looked at as a genre of music and less as a lifestyle and lifelong commitment. It’s beyond music to us. It’s a lifestyle to us. When you look European vs. American festivals, there is nothing like a European metal fest over here. In Europe, you’ll have 100,000 people who are pure metal fans, and it’s paradise for someone into metal. Sometime, I hope that mentality starts making its way back in here.