Exclusive Interview: Matt Heafy of Trivium and David Draiman of Device
Thu, 26 Sep 2013 14:36:48
When it came time to record their latest album, Vengeance Falls, Trivium enlisted the help of a friend and colleague instead of a typical "producer". The Florida metal titans turned to Disturbed and Device frontman David Draiman for production duties. Draiman had been entranced by In Waves and made it be known. They kept talking about it, and when the moment came to do Vengeance Falls, it made for metal's most perfect storm in the studio. Now, with Draiman behind the board, Trivium make their defining statement to date. Not only is it the best Trivium offering yet, it's one of the year's best.
So, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino sat down for an exclusive interview with David Draiman of Disturbed and Device and Matt Heafy of Trivium to go deep inside Vengeance Falls.
Stay tuned to ARTISTdirect.com because on Monday September 30 Trivium will be premiering "No Way to Heal" exclusively here!
When did you feel Vengeance Falls was complete?
Matt Heafy: It's amazing in the studio because when you start tracking everything and hearing it separately it doesn't quite make sense until a point. The way David likes to do a record is through staggering the instruments in a manner that's a lot more intuitive than any other method we've done in the past. We'd normally do all of the drums, all of the guitars, all of the bass, and all of the vocals. This time around, we were literally able to hear what a final product of the song would be like instantaneously when pre-production was done. We completed pre-production. We tracked about half of the album's drums, and then we started rhythm guitars immediately, which is something we'd never really heard of before. We started rhythm guitars. We did a couple of bass guitars. We were doing the vocals for "Vengeance Falls" sometime along the first week of actually tracking. We were able to hear an almost completely done song. That was the moment when I got to hear what this thing was actually going to be. We all looked at each other like, "We've got a monster on our hands". Initially, this record was called Wake instead of Vengeance Falls, but David was like, "Sometimes you've got to let the music speak for itself". I think Vengeance Falls is the synopsis of this record. That song helped name the record and drive the theme of the record. In the end, it became the vision of it.
David Draiman: Well put [Laughs]. The one thing I'll add to that is from the producer's chair it's different. At the end of the pre-production period, I already knew we had accomplished the mission. As far as tracking it was concerned, I had no compunctions or worries whatsoever about these guys being able to knock tracking these things out of the park. I know that we wanted to go for certain aspects of tonality, attitude, and so on and so forth. Once we had the song structures and arrangements finalized and we could identify the hooks already, I was excited. I knew what the game plan would be. We were already prioritizing groupings of songs in terms of what we were placing where in terms of where our heavy hitters were. We actually made sure we didn't get bogged down the way Matt described as far as splitting up the tracking goes. We didn't want to reach a brick wall in terms of any one instrument or even the vocal. Pre-production was very rigorous, and at the end, I already a huge grin on my face. Even though these guys weren't going to be able to see the full picture until, as Matt said, they heard a complete song, the hairs on the back of my neck were already standing up.
How did that recording approach work?
David Draiman: We wanted to split groupings of songs up. We'd do all the drums for five or six songs in a row. We split the drum sessions into two separate sessions. Part of the reason was we were using a buddy of mine's drum room across the street for some of it [Laughs]. When you split up the plan of attack, you're always keeping things fresh. You're not beating the hell out of yourself on one song until it's done. You can always switch around. You have options. If you get burnt out something, you can switch to something else. If you hit a wall vocally and need a day to recover, I can switch to unfinished bass tracks or lead guitar tracks that still needed to be done for the original song. It leaves you with a lot more options and a lot less pressure on any one musician in the band. It's far more efficient to me.
Matt Heafy: Once we cut the record in half, we always knew "Vengeance Falls" was the first record we wanted to hear completed as a gut reaction. As far as vocals, how did we go David? David Draiman: "Vengeance Falls" was one of the first three we hit vocally. I definitely didn't want you to hit that very first. I started you on something else. I wanted you to get more comfortable with how we were approaching things for you. With each grouping of songs, we had to identify, forgive my French here, our motherfuckers [Laughs]. In the body of work, we'd separate our files like, "Here are album tracks and here are motherfuckers". We would try to make sure there's a fairly balanced of motherfuckers in each batch, keeping things exciting. We knew which were our money tracks, and we spread them out evenly.
What did you both want to accomplish going into this?
Matt Heafy: Going into this record, the initial goal was to write the absolute best songs we possibly could. We didn't go into it thinking, "We need to be technical, we need to be brutal, or anything like that". It was about making the best possible music. Looking at it in retrospect, I feel it does encompass Trivium fans have loved over the years through our first five records. Then, it expands upon those tools with the new music. It's a great summary of everything we've done, taking the listener to another place at the same time. I think it's really awesome it does. Maybe Ascendancy and Ember to Inferno were similar, but The Crusade was the exact opposite. Shogun was technical. In Waves was simple. This one has everything which I really appreciate.
David Draiman: I love working with other musicians. I love the fact these guys had already as gone as far as they had gone with In Waves. That's part of the reason that drew me to working with them. I already knew how ridiculously talented these guys were. I saw the potential for them to become something they were meant to metamorphose into—this festival-owning dominant metal band. The band that could take it from the theaters they were very much comfortable in and take it to arenas…I wanted to see these guys take what they had done and become the Metallica of this generation and truly be the band I feel Trivium deserves to be. I think their level of musicianship and the quality of their songwriting and the anthemic nature of these songs beckons that. Somebody had to go ahead and take hold of the gauntlet here, and I think they did. The whole rest of the rock and metal world will be knocked on its ass by this record. From the way they've been performing it live, I've been checking out the YouTube clips Matt, and I'm very proud of you guys. You're just killing these new tunes. The crowd reactions are huge, and that makes me more excited than anything else.
Matt Heafy: Last night, they were singing the opening to "Strife"—pretty much at every show. When we played Italy a month ago, the entire crowd was singing every guitar part to the new songs.
David Draiman: Badass!
Matt Heafy: Singing has become easier than ever thanks to everything you taught me.
David Draiman: Great! That's another thing. All of the guys learned a lot. In general, in terms of how to further strengthen each individual song and take what we learned in pre-production and rehearsal and internalize it, they've done it. When we were done with our pre-production sessions, I was giving them a song we'd go over in pre-pro and nitpick the shit out of and they'd do everything on their own and streamline and strengthen it. I'd come back in two or three hours and do most of what I suggested them to do. They've learned a lot of what I had to teach them. In terms of infusing more groove and some of the space into their rhythmic syncopation, they wanted that. It was obvious to me they should embrace it, and they owned the shit out of it. As far as vocals are concerned, Matt has become Matt to me. He's finalized his true style and voice. He's harnessed his power. It's really nice to see. It's like he's able to spread his wings.
Matt Heafy: I had a great teacher.
David Draiman: All good man!
What did David bring out of you Matt?
Matt Heafy: We've never had a producer who was also a singer in a touring metal band before. That was a huge thing for us. So many stars aligned before we worked with David that we knew he was the guy. The facts he had known who are band was, and he's an amazing singer in a metal band who also works in production were amazing. When we went into the studio, David was able to completely in depth with every instrument whether it was bass, rhythm guitars, or vocals. Lyrics were a huge thing for me. I've had producers before who would say, "Oh, this doesn't rhyme". Never before have I had a producer say, "What does this song mean to you?" I remember the very first time he asked that I said, "Well, I leave every song up to the interpretation of the listener". He was like, "No, but what does it mean to you?" That was great because, if from there I didn't have a direct answer, he'd be like, "Maybe you should think about rewriting some of these parts?" I've never been more proud of lyrics than I am on this record. We delved into these lyrics more than ever before to figure out what I'm trying to say. The vocal coaching was huge for me too. I've had vocal coaching from a couple of different teachers, but it didn't make sense to me coming from someone who wasn't in a band and didn't know how to translate it into metal. When it came from David, whether it was proper standing, breath technique, or other etiquette, it worked. Taking care of my voice is something I learned from David in 2011 on the Australian tour with Disturbed. He told me about cut-off times, when to stop eating or when to stop laying down when you're playing a show. I carried those things to this day as well as breath control and proper technique like where to push from and where not to push from. Those are things people can see I'm using every day on our shows.
David Draiman: You're killing it!
Are you excited for Vengeance Falls on October 15? Should Trivium and David Draiman collaborate again?
Pre-Order the album on iTunes!
Pre-Order The Album at Trivium's Official Store here!
See Trivium on tour with DevilDriver, After the Burial, and
LEG 1 – September & October
09/27 – New York, N.Y. – Best Buy Theater
09/28 – Boston, Mass. – House Of Blues
09/29 – New Haven, Conn. – Toad’s Place
09/30 – Philadelphia, Pa. – Theatre Of Living Arts
10/02 – Charlotte, N.C. – Fillmore
10/03 – Cleveland, Ohio – House Of Blues
10/04 – Pittsburgh, Pa. – Stage AE
10/05 – Detroit, Mich. – Harpos
10/07 – Charlotte, N.C. – The Fillmore
10/08 – Atlanta, Ga. – Masquerade
10/10 – Oklahoma City, Okla. – Diamond Ballroom
10/11 – Wichita, Kansas – The Cotillion
10/12 – Denver, Colo. – Summit Music Hall
10/13 – Albuquerque, N.M. – Sunshine Theater
10/15 – San Francisco, Calif. – Regency
10/16 – Los Angeles, Calif. – House Of Blues
10/17 – San Diego, Calif. – Soma
LEG 2 - November
5 Seattle, WA Showbox at the Market
6 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
7 Reno, NV Knitting Factory
8 Salt Lake City, UT In the Venue
9 Grand Junction, CO Mesa Theatre & Clu
b 11 Lawrence, KS Granada
12 Des Moines, IA Wooly's
13 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre
15 Louisville, KY Expo Five
16 Sauget, IL Pops
18 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
19 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
21 Pensacola, FL Vinyl Music Hall
22 Jacksonville, FL Freebird Live
23 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Culture Room
24 Orlando, FL House of Blues
26 Nashville, TN Exit/In
27 Asheville, NC The Orange Peel
29 Clifton Park, NY Upstate Concert Hall
1 Norfolk, VA The Norva
4 Buffalo, NY The Town Ballroom
5 Grand Rapids, MI The Intersection
6 Ft. Wayne, IN Pierre's
7 Milwaukee, WI The Rave
8 Chicago, IL House of Blues
10 Dallas, TX House of Blues
11 San Antonio, TX White Rabbit
13 Phoenix, AZ Marquee Theater
14 San Diego, CA Soma