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Interview conducted August 29 2017
Interview published October 24 2017

"It needed to feel like a progression from the last record and bringing the intensity back in didn't sacrifice the melody in the songwriting."

The Florida metallers Trivium put their new record The Sin And The Sentence out on October 20th and singer/guitarist Matt Heafy and bassist Paolo Gregoletto visited Stockholm for some promotion.

"We'll always be normal people who just happen to play an instrument."

Tobbe: Your last record, Silence In The Snow [2015], didn't include any growls or harsh vocals at all, but the new record does, so why did that style of singing fit the songs this time?

Paolo: Well, it was partially because we were able to bring it back because Matt was able to get them back into the live sets after relearning the new technique. Just kind of felt like it's such a part of our sound. It's such an incredible tool to have that. Not many bands can have great screaming and great singing in a song and can choose to leave them out when they want. We went in and we were just like "We're gonna make sure we throw everything at this record. We're gonna use whatever we need, whether it's the screaming or singing. We gotta make these songs as good as they can be.".

And it was just nice to have it back. It felt like returning to home, you know. It's a place where we're very comfortable being in. When fans heard some of the screams on The Sin And The Sentence, I was stoked, you know, 'cause people were happy they were back, but, you know, they didn't dominate the entire song. So we were able to kind of continue the growth from the last record, but bring something back with us.

Tobbe: Did you discuss this early on in the songwriting process?

Matt: Well, with us, when we were making this record we said we wanna make the kind of music that we feel is missing from metal in general. Something that we would wanna hear as fans of metal, outside of Trivium. So we made the record we wanna hear and we also didn't think "Are people gonna like this part of it? Do we have to write for this kind of person?"; it's just "Let's make the kind of music that we wanna hear as fans of music.". And what we realize, what we love the most in Trivium, what our fans love the most in Trivium, is when we have everything, and The Sin And The Sentence has the broadest spectrum of everything we've ever had and everything in between.

One of the key ingredients of Trivium is the screaming and when I wasn't able to psychically do it 'cause I was rebuilding my voice, we had to rely completely on everything else we had, building up that other aspect of our sound. But now that it's up to a point where we can bring it back we can have everything in our band and it seems like that's what people want.

Tobbe: But I think it worked quite well on the last record.

Matt: Yeah, yeah. That's the beauty of Trivium. It's that we don't settle into one specific sound and that all 7 records are very different before The Sin And The Sentence and Sentence has elements of everything before and I feel like you can find elements of records 1 through 7 in… (Paolo:) I think we broke through on the last record with our melodic sensibility. And we didn't wanna lose that with this record. We didn't wanna feel like a 180 turn. It needed to feel like a progression from the last record and bringing the intensity back in didn't sacrifice the melody in the songwriting.

Like making a song like Until The World Goes Cold was such a big, big jump for us in terms of just people finding out about Trivium. So we were mindful, like, you know "It has to feel like progress. It can't feel like a return to, like, some older time.". We have to feel like a band that's making relevant music and still breaking new ground with, you know, what we do.

Tobbe: During many of the choruses you have a loud and clear lead guitar to bring some extra harmony there and was that something you were really looking for?

Matt: I think that's always been a signature element of Trivium, like even since, maybe not on Ember [To Inferno, 2003] because we were a 3-piece, but ever since Ascendancy [2005] we've always had, like, that guitar melody happening on top of the chord progression, on top of the vocal thing. So it's like it's back to having everything and we seem to love having everything in our music and I think our fans seem to reflect that with us as well.

Tobbe: In which way do you guys try to, like, diversify or vary the songs to not revisit the same song over and over again?

Paolo: I think it's just because every song has a different beginning. They'll start with different guys in the band. When we get them into the rehearsal and we play them, you know, we're always trying to find new angles for a song. We try not to do what's expected of a metal band; not to follow the typical tropes and the things that have to be done. We've always kind of tried to go against the grain in a way.

What's funny is: a lot of times I think with people it's like "You can't wear your own band shirt!". You know, like really bizarre rules of being in a band and it's like "You know, we're gonna do what we're gonna do.". And that's how we go into each song and when we've made one song and we're happy with it, we don't want the next song to be like that. We don't wanna just follow the formula. It's always about breaking new ground. It takes a lot of work, because by the end of writing, like 11 songs that don't all feel and sound the same, you should be completely drained.

At the end of, you know, even just song 6 on the first round of pre-production, it just felt like zapped. You know, mentally. But it's a good feeling, because you know you put as much as you could into each song and making it unique.

Tobbe: You mentioned growth earlier. So how important is growth for Trivium?

Matt: It's everything and it's everything we've always done. I mean, we've always strived to be the best individuals we can in the band and also to be the best band possible to all. Individually always keep our instrument practiced and be great singers and guitar players. And with this record, I mean, you're speaking of growth, when we went in to make this record, we said "This 8th record needs to be the best record we've ever made, or there's no point in basically going on anymore.". And that's an incredibly daunting thing to put on yourself and that's incredibly important to put those sorts of rules on yourself. So that way you can always be working to be better and to work yourself to be a better musician.

Tobbe: But could the struggle to develop musically all the time even jeopardize the end result, because you're trying to, like, find new ways instead of bringing out the best songs possible, if you know what I mean?

Matt: No, I mean, it's more so the latter of what you say: We are always working to make the best songs possible. (Paolo:) You can't be a better songwriter without trying to write songs, like: there is no amount of music you could write in a lifetime that would ever be enough. You know, you're always gonna learn something, even when you mess up. When you don't write something that's good you learn why it wasn't good.

I mean, we're getting up to the point where we have, like, 80 or 90 songs at this point, total, and, you know, we should be getting to that point where, like, we understand a lot of the tricks, a lot of the things that make songs work and why they work like that and why our style works and how it works. It just feels good to be able to be, like, in control of all those skills. It's not just writing riffs and throwing it at the wall and hoping one of them works. It's kind of like dominating your craft and knowing how to do it and putting all the pieces together.

Tobbe: And getting back a little bit to the vocals. You mentioned that, like, the fans love this, that you revisit the style of harsh vocals. So you do listen to what the fans say on social media and stuff?

Matt: I mean, we hear it, but, like I said in the beginning, we never allow it to dictate what we do. Like, it sounds selfish, but it is correct. It's like: a band makes its most honest music when they're making the music that they wanna hear as a band. 'Cause that takes you back to the original mentality of first being a band, 'cause when you're first in a band you don't have fans, so you don't know what to make for anything and any time we've tried to make something for a subsect of people, it hasn't worked, and with The Crusade I think we were trying to make different songs that would work with different fans or with different sounds of music.

But with this record, and with most of the records we make, it's always "Let's make what we wanna hear and not think 'Is anyone gonna like this?' or 'Is anyone not gonna like this?'" and then once we're happy with what we have, then we can see how people react to it. And there'll always be people who love things you do, hate things you do, and everything in between, but as long as we're making the music that we genuinely feel and love and feel that it should be coming from us, I feel that's how to be Trivium.

Tobbe: You haven't worked with the same producer for the last 6 records pretty much and do you never get satisfied with what you've done before when you enter the process for a new record?

Paolo: I think when you're making a record you're trying to look for someone that's gonna fit the vibe of what you're trying to create. Finding Josh [Wilbur], you know, was kind of just by chance because we weren't planning on him mixing the last record and then at the very last minute we were able to get him to mix the record and I was able to go out there and meet him and experience his work ethic, just how he was as a person, and it felt immediately like "I think this might be the guy to work with on the next record.". It's really having a sense of, like, what you wanna make.

You know, I don't like going into albums unprepared. I like to know, like, exactly where everything is gonna be, like I like to knowing the notes that Matt was gonna sing on a part and knowing that we all liked it. And it's sort of just kind of like we're all like quality control freaks, you know, and when we don't have that level of preparation I don't feel like we get the results we want and we aren't as satisfied, because we know we could have put it through a lot more work. And with Josh; he really respected that we wanted to work alone for a little bit. We wanted to bring the songs together and present him, like, finished songs.

Like, as far as we could take them and then allow him to come in and be like the guy that is the outside opinion, looking over all the material and be like "All right. This is killer! This is great! I get where you guys are coming from. Let's make a couple tweaks here, couple of tweaks there and let me take your style, your playing, to the next level.". With every project he works with, he seems to be able to fit into, like, how that band works, and that's an important skill, as important as, like, knowing how to mic a drum set. You know, you gotta read the bandmembers. And he came in, he understood how we do our thing and he just let us thrive and got the best out of us. I mean, I think the music will speak for itself.

(Matt:) There was a time where we used the same guy all the time [Jason Suecof]. I mean, The blue demo, that got us signed for Ember, that did Ascendancy, that did Crusade, Roadrunner United and Capharnaum is the same producer. So it's the same guy for 6 records. Yeah, after that we started realizing that with a band that likes to drastically change things and explore what else we can do sonically we like to change the team up. And we do the same with the visuals. But I mean, this time we had the same guy do everything for Silence to doing The Sin And The Sentence, but ended up having another artist as well. My wife Ashley ended up doing a lot of the visual art, that is this record, that is the cover.

(Paolo:) I think there's just like a thing, it's like: there's never a final say of, like, how things are gonna be. Even the title of the record, like up until the last minute it kept switching around until we just decided, until it felt right. I can only tell you what we're probably doing next week, for sure, like: when we get there, when it feels right. I hope everything is always, you know, very consistent and solid, but we always make choices that are right for the moment and with this record Josh was the guy and I would be surprised if we didn't work with him again 'cause he was so awesome, you know. But you never know where the future takes the band and we just kind of like let things go where they need to go and that seems to have worked best for us.

[The guys were on a tough schedule today and Paolo had to leave the room for another interview at this point.]

Tobbe: 8 albums already in 14 years. That's quite a lot if you look at today's standards and will you eventually slow down a little bit with releasing albums this frequently?

Matt: I think with the way things are going people need new content. I mean, even if I think to myself, like: I'm really into video games and my favorite games are constantly releasing new characters, or new levels, or new things to happen; I think that's important to have that. I don't know if it still is the era of where a band releases a record and tours on that record for 3 or 4 years. I think it's more so now where people are ready to keep moving with new things and every time we release a record we pretty much start working on the next record.

Tobbe: Do Trivium have to wait until dinosaurs like Iron Maiden and Metallica put their band to rest before you can really become a big band?

Matt: I mean, becoming, I quote "Big band" is up to so many factors. You know, you can never really plan for that. You can definitely set that as a goal, and I've always had that as a goal for Trivium, but I'm a realist, you know; I hope it can happen; if it doesn't happen, at least I've put everything into it to make this happen. But it's not to do it like our heroes. I think when we were younger we wanted to do it like our heroes; now we wanna do it in our own way, and go our own way and our own path. I guess we'll all have to see what happens, you know, when the legends slow down. That's a weird thought, but it definitely can happen. It has to happen eventually at some time or another, so it's up to see who can withstand the test of time.

Tobbe: It's quite different now, from when those bands first started out. You know, some of the older musicians seem to long back to the old days when musicians were, like, obscure and you didn't know so much about them. So how do you look at this? Would you prefer being, like, more surrounded by mystery than the way it actually is today?

Matt: That's a good point. I think it's important to evolve with the times. But there are ways, 'cause, I mean, we were able to record this entire record, do music videos, documentary, everything, and no one knew. Like: no one knew we did this record 'til we decided to show people we did this record. So, still it's possible.

And I think that it's important to have that balance. There are certain things that I love about the evolving future and there are certain things I don't love about the evolving future, but I think no matter where we are in time, there's always gonna be that balance and counterbalance, like: I'm into video games streaming and that's obviously very much embracing now and the future and to see where video games go. I do like being able to be plugged in with fans.

I mean, I do wonder sometimes what it'd be like to have more of that mystery shrouding and stuff, but it is cool to be able to have that aspect, but we can always content control it, like: I can decide whether or not to show and share what I'm doing, with our fans, and I feel that they appreciate that we're just normal people who happen to play instruments in bands.

And that's something that we always remind ourselves of and remind our fans of and I think that the fact that they have that easy direct connection through social media or different mediums or through my Twitch page or my YouTube page shows that we are just normal people, 'cause we are. We'll always be normal people who just happen to play an instrument.

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