Thu, 02 Oct 2008 08:21:04
Things aren't always what they seem—especially in North Carolina. "We're in Asheville, which is a really fucking cool city," exclaims Trivium frontman Matt Heafy. Really? "I've never been here before, but everything is organic and Farmer's Market-based. There's all local produce, which is something I've got a little bit of back home in Orlando, but not as much as this. It's really cool. I never would've thought that. I thought it was going to be a really 'Southern' town. However, when I walked out of the bus, it was super earthy, nice and modern." You can't always judge a book by its cover, and that's the case with Trivium. They may have been young when they first dropped Ascendancy upon the metal masses, but they've gained infinite wisdom since then. Trivium has more than a few surprises up their collective sleeve on their latest offer, Shogun. The fearsome foursome has kicked everything up a notch, and they've gotten far more epic, heavy and thrashy. They shatter any preconceived notions of what the band is about, and they've created an album that's simultaneously brutal and beautiful. Vocalist and guitarist Matt Heafy discussed the creation of Shogun and much more with ARTISTdirect in this exclusive interview.
Shogun feels like a really natural evolution from The Crusade. Would you say that's the case?
I'd say, "Thank you very much!" We feel this record is a summation of everything we've ever done with the key ingredients of Trivium. The four of us are the key ingredients that take us to that next level of sound. Instead of just being that next level of sound, it's that and everything beforehand. So it's the past, present and future.
Kicking off with "Kirsute Gomen" is so epic. It makes the record flow like a symphony with the buildup of acoustic guitars.
We've always been big fans of everything. Not comparing it to—but I think metal is the closest relative to what ancient and classical music were. The classical pieces were always about very epic things—whether it was in mythology terms or really grandiose storytelling, I think that metal in general is one of the things that stands out. We've always been big fans of stuff like that, where you can get storytelling and imagery in your head just from hearing a title or a couple of names. I think it's the same thing with this album.
It seems like there's a mythos around this album for you.
Yeah, they're definitely is.
Did you approach the record with one concept in mind?
For this record, there is a general concept, per se, but it's not really a concept album in the true sense of that term. It draws from mythology, history and religious iconography not as a re-telling, but as a tool to further the lyrics of the album—like to have stories within the stories. They're like allusions to other things.
The album has a Japanese aesthetic, but the stories themselves draw more from Greek and Roman mythology. You pull in from different cultures.
Exactly, I think that's the whole idea behind this album. It pulls in so many different things. Everything that is original in the world took from different things to make it something new. So I feel that with the music, lyrics and everything that's going on in this album, we've drawn from so many different things—not just music, but cultures, mythologies and histories. The album pulls it all into one to make its own unique entity.
This is definitely Trivium's loftiest album because you're trying out so many different things.
It was a total blast. With this record, we went into it with the mindset that we didn't care what we were about to make as long as we absolutely loved it. Whether we went for softer, heavier or whatever, I think this album has defined Trivium's sound more than any other record we've ever done. This record's the world for us. With The Crusade, we went into it wanting to make an album that was the opposite of the previous album, Ascendancy. With this one, it was like, "We're just going to write from the heart, and whatever comes out is going to be ours." From all of the years of touring, shows and albums, this music is the end result of that.
You're telling stories on songs like "Into the Mouth of Hell We March," and you're giving the listeners something to come back to.
There are a whole bunch of little things that people can pick up on the more they listen to the album. There's stuff tucked away in the lyrics and in the songs themselves that I know our fans are going to have a lot of fun with. I know some fans have discovered a couple of the similarities between two of the tracks. There are all sorts of really cool things in there. I've always been a fan of when you can find stuff like that, whether it's in movies, games or T.V.—those little hints to keep people interested. There is a lot of stuff like that on this album.
While you were making this record, were there any particular movies or books that inspired you?
I'm sure there were, but it's really hard to pick out exactly what. The title, "Into the Mouth of Hell We March," I'm sure someone's going to figure it out, but it is a line from one of my favorite newer movies. Somebody will find that, I'm sure [Laughs]. "Becoming the Dragon" is actually a title I got from a book called Geek Love, which is about a family of circus freaks and all the stuff that goes along with that. The book had a chapter called "Becoming the Dragon." I took it in a different way. It was more about the Japanese mythology. I remember when I read it. There are some things that we borrow from things and some that we pull out originally. The book was recommended to me by the artist Paul Romano.
What was the movie?
Oh, I'm going to leave that up to the fans to figure out. I like to leave little mystery. When people find out, they'll be like, "Ah, I should've known."
What's the story behind "Of Prometheus and the Crucifix?"
The title of the song involves two strands: one from Greek mythology and one from Judeo-Christian imagery and storytelling. Thematically, I'll give a general answer for all the lyrics of the entire album. With every album we have ever done as Trivium, we've been extremely clear-cut in terms of exactly what every single song is about. With this record, some of the songs have multiple meanings. Some are singular. Some of them were even written stream-of-conscious, so the meanings of the songs are still being revealed even to me, which is really interesting. With this record, there is no right or wrong answer to what any of these songs are about or any of the ways they can be interpreted by the listener or our fans. So that is my long answer to what Prometheus and all of the songs are about. It does have a multi-meaning literal allusion with the song title.
You're building more of a mystique with this album.
Totally. Before it was very defined. We were like, "This is about this. That is about that, etc."
Would you say you've gotten more "progressive" on this album?
Yeah, thank you! We're also one of the few bands that has grown up in the public eye in recent times. We were still learning about what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do it and how we wanted to get our message across. Nowadays, it's more about our creation, so this can evoke all sorts of different stories inside people's heads when they read the lyrics.
“We're not a band that's exclusive to anything. We're just four regular guys making music for the rest of the world.”
You've made an album that connects from start to finish.
Exactly, with this record, when we posted the first song online, within 10 of hours some of our fans had already completely transcribed the song on guitar and figured out how to play the song exactly how we play it. Our fans are tabbing the songs out on their own. It's that creativity inspiring more creativity. People aren't just listening to the music. They're like, "Wow, I want to do this now. I want to actually write my own song like this. I want to learn the technique from it and create myself." It's amazing to meet our fans and hear them tell us, "I wasn't into metal before, but now I absolutely love you and I'm getting into all of your favorite bands." The old school metal fans are like, "I got into you guys because you're influenced by who I love." It's great to see all the different generations that get into our band. The whole ethos of the band is just we are not a band for any specific one person or one group. If you want to have a good time, come to our shows and listen to our albums. We're not a band that's exclusive to anything. We're just four regular guys making music for the rest of the world. That's it. It's nothing outside of that. It's just about people being brought together by the love of music.
You've been able to tour with a whole diverse spate of artists as well.
We're metal kids who want to be in a metal band. We're making metal for the world, and it's nothing besides that. We're not in a movement with other bands or in a scene. We're doing our own thing. That's it. We've done shows with Alicia Keys and My Chemical Romance. It's all over the board—everything from death and black metal bands to gigantic pop bands. I don't know how that works, but I guess it does [Laughs].
You've mentioned before that you have a big Beatles influence, and that comes through on Shogun because, at the end of the day, it's about the songwriting.
Exactly! While we were writing this record, The Beatles were one of the only bands that I was listening to the whole time. It's not about how fast you can play, it's about the song first, and then you can embellish later. Playing 20 notes per second doesn't mean anything; it's about connecting with people who want to listen to your band.
What's next for Trivium?
We've already been talking about the next record, and we're writing stuff, which is crazy because this one isn't even out yet. We've been talking about the direction thematically, and we've been thinking about titles and music. When we did this record, it opened up our eyes to a whole new light of what this band is becoming. I think with this new record it'll be even better. We've already come up with some really cool ideas, and I think the next record will be pretty slamming.