INTERVIEW: Matt Heafy & Paolo Greoletto – Trivium

If you were to draw the trajectories of TRIVIUM‘s career there would be many branches and departures showing where the band changed things up from record to record, but the most impressive part of that mental diagram would be that it would always show them growing and moving forward no matter where the smaller paths lead. Whilst other bands from their generation have waxed and waned over time, TRIVIUM has always remained steadfast and even reached new heights with their previous record Silence In The Snow. However, all those paths now conjoin to and collectively lead to a new pinnacle for the band. We met up with singer and guitarist Matt Heafy and bassist Paolo Gregoletto in London to talk about this new opus, The Sin And The Sentence.

So this might be a coincidence but Silence In The Snow and The Sin And The Sentence are both alliterative titles and both have very minimalist album artwork, is that intentional is that a new thing for every TRIVIUM album?

Paolo: We initially thought the album cover was gonna be photography based and we were gonna have a lot more going on, and then we had John Paul Douglas who’s been doing a lot of stuff for us since Vengeance Falls shoot a bunch of stuff photography-wise and do a bunch of art setups. Matt‘s wife who’s been doing all of the inlays and book setups since Vengeance Falls, we had her working on some art, she did some of the symbols. That was random, I don’t think that was ever the plan.

Matt: The record was originally called The Revanchist too.

Paolo: We were kinda in flux with these ideas and titles and when we saw the symbol for The Sin And The Sentence that was the moment that changed the title, changed the book cover, everything. There’s no coincidence with the title being that same sort of vibe as Silence In The Snow or that it was supposed to be minimalist it just felt right for the song. Up until maybe two weeks before we turned it into the label we went from The Revanchist is the title, to self-titled, to The Sin And The Sentence and it felt right and it felt like the first song on the record and the first song to be released.

I initially thought it might have been to hint at similarities between the two albums because it feels like you had the Silence In The Snow platform and then built upon it, not just with new stuff but with previous work. My initial thought was it’s like Silence In The Snow but with Shogun in there.

Matt: For us, we weren’t trying to continue on with anything or revisit anything but what we were trying to do was make the exact kind of music we wanna hear as fans of metal and fans of music and as us as people outside of TRIVIUM. What ended up happening with this record is it’s the combination of all the best things we’ve done across the seven, in our opinion. That wasn’t what we were trying to do but what we did instead was look back to our favourite records, favourite things, favourite experiences we’ve had, and it all seemed to come back to In Waves, Ascendency, Shogun. We didn’t want to go back and revisit anything but what we did want to do was recreate the situations for what those may have been. What those all came back to was us in a room together as a band. Before having a producer and before having any outside influence or opinion of label or management or thinking to try and write for anyone, but what we did was try and write for ourselves and make sure the music was 99% ready to go before we ever set foot in a studio.

I remember you saying in interviews that one of the problems with recording The Crusade was that you were never in the same room together and on all of your other albums you seemed much more prepared for it. So is that how it went for this album?

Matt: Well with Vengeance Falls and Silence In The Snow it was agreed upon band and producer because the producer wanted to try it, both times to make us malleable. Where we wouldn’t come into the studio fully committed to things but we’d finish the songs together in the studio. Which is something that works for a lot of bands and maybe most bands do it that way but we know now that our best way is to do it amongst ourselves first before ever having anyone touch it and then go into the studio prepared.

Speaking of producers, you had Josh Wilbur produce The Sin and the Sentence, and he was the mixer on Silence In The Snow, was there anything he did on the last album that made you want him a more hands-on role for this one?

Paolo: When it went out to the mix for the last record it was there for like 4 days and I got to spend a little time with him and pick his brain on stuff he was into not only musically but recording wise and production wise, how he worked with LAMB OF GOD and GOJIRA, how he came up under Amy Wallace and learned a lot of stuff about mixing. Just cause of his general attitude I was like ‘I think everyone is gonna really like this dude and I think this can be the right guy to work with on the next record’. I think it was very important that the guy we got in the production role was someone who was gonna be understanding of how we were going to do the next record and how we wanted to do the next record with a positive vibe in the studio and was going to understand the type of music we are. I don’t know if Josh knows all the types of music that makeup what TRIVIUM is but I feel like he understands the sonics of metal, I feel like he gets what fast drumming and screaming can do on a record and how they can work. When we came in it just felt comfortable, like, here’s a guy that just understands us, we don’t have to explain something as small as ‘well this is how we think a guitar tone should sound on our record’. It was like right away, we walk in the studio and it feels like being at home when we see you’re gonna use and you know everyone is on the same wavelength and I felt really strongly about it when we were doing the mix and I’m really stoked because he really came through for us on this one.

This was your first time recording with Alex Bent right?

Matt: Yeah, this was our first record with Alex. We know that historically we’ve had a couple of drummer changes here and there, I think anytime anyone hears this record there’s no question as to ‘why is Alex playing with you’. ‘Cause he’s so freaking good. Alex really inspired us when we came in the room, the first time we ever played with him we had him learn material off all seven records. We said ‘Nail this stuff’ we gave him simple things, difficult things, everything in between because we’re a band that has it all, and that’s what’s been difficult historically for drummers in this band. Some guys are super tech, some guys are very groovy and sometimes one can’t do the other, but Alex was able to fill everything in between. When we were seeing how capable Alex was off everything and he had the same general metal influence as us but also loved extreme metal like we do, and sometimes he would go to extreme metal by default, as we like to do as well, we were able to make this record a lot more intense so we felt inspired by his energy to go more intense, to go heavier and darker than we ever have. It was really cool to be inspired by someone yet at the same time feel like he’s always been there the whole time.

I think you can hear the whole extreme metal side straight away because your love of black metal is much more tangible on this record.

Matt: Yeah, It’s finally apparent on this album!

One thing I must imagine irks TRIVIUM is that whenever you release new music there are always people commenting on whether or not there’s screaming happening. Some people’s opinions live and die on whether or not there’s those vocals or not. It’s definitely not just TRIVIUM, it happens with AVENGED SEVENFOLD and BRING ME THE HORIZON. Does that get tiresome for you?

Matt: You can’t focus too much on comments, they’re there and people should have the freedom to say what they wanna say but the bands that harp on those things or become obsessed by that…

Paolo: and you can’t write to that! I kinda feel like with this record and with the screaming, we actually had songs that had more screaming that we changed before we went into the studio because it didn’t feel right and a big thing for us was always about finding what the balance of the screaming and singing was, and what it should be. I feel like when we got to Shogun we really found that, we didn’t have to rely on it to get us through a verse to get us to the big anthemic chorus. We could build songs melodically and we could bring the screaming in for the heaviness and dynamics. When we were bringing them back this time it was the same discussion of we’re not gonna go and make a left turn and we’re not gonna be so extreme that people are just like ‘what the hell are these guys doing, they’ve lost the plot again’, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t such a jarring change from Silence. Even though this record is way more intense but I want people who are just discovering us on Until The World Goes Cold to come in and feel like ‘okay this is what I got into on the last record but this is something new, this is exciting’ and the screaming, it sounds musical because we put it in there when it needed to be. The same way we are with fast double bass. I feel like at this point in metal history every single thing, every trope, every cliche has been done 1000 times by different bands, so what we have to do is say ‘how do we mix those things, how do you change it up?’ Screaming or singing, how do you make that something new for someone, how do you make it something fresh? That’s always like a constant battle for us in the writing, figuring out what that is. Even from song to song like Heart From Your Hate and Endless Night have zero screaming and it would have been easy to put on there but it wouldn’t have been what the song needed. And a song like Thrown Into The Fire was like ‘should we have singing on this part? We were like ‘No! This has to be screaming!’, it will only fit that. It feels more natural because of it and I’m never too worried about the comments because we have to do what feels right in our heart and people know that we’re always doing what’s right in our mind and you can’t please everyone so… People that are scared that there’s no screaming I think you’re going to have a nice surprise!

Lyrically where do TRIVIUM on this album? Because The Sin And The Sentence seemed to be about religion but not as heavy-handed as a lot of metal songs are about religion, but maybe I’m misinterpreting that.

Paolo: The song for me was using witch hunts as a metaphor of online culture, modern day culture of the way we conduct witch hunts today. We aren’t looking for witches in the sense of the religious or superstitious way but it’s people who say the wrong thing at the wrong time and their lives change because everyone attacks them and then they move on to the next person that did the wrong thing. In the wake of all that is these people’s lives who sometimes have been changed for the worst over something so small as a poorly worded joke. I guess The Sin And The Sentence that line came from listening to the demo over and over, knowing that that’s what the song was gonna be about and meaning to sum that all up. The sin being this small thing that you’ve offended the mob and the sentence being the justice bring down and does the sin equal the sentence in that case? It’s one of those things where you can only give so much detail in a song, it’s not like a novel, you can’t flesh out the entire thing. It’s cool because I kinda knew what I was writing about but I knew the words would be open to interpretation and people could take it in different ways and different meanings.

The Heart From Your Hate sounds like a struggle between two people who have come to a stalemate, neither of them giving up their position, one of them just walking away. Is that accurate?

Paolo: I definitely think that it paints a picture of a conversation between two people at a stalemate and The Heart From Your Hate meaning… you know what is such a deeply rooted thing and I get further and further into people as that hate and prejudice sits there and sinks further into people and we had the idea of the song and what it was about. I think the Heart From Your Hate meaning to rip it out like to be able to kill hate as if it were a person and I thought that was an interesting play on words. Like you said it’s like two people having that conversation and not being able to figure out how to get to that next point.

I’ve recently been reading about TRIVIUM’s first show in the UK and you talking about how important for you guys, how much you were taken back by them, I was wondering since Silence In The Snow found you an even bigger audience have you had any more moments like that?

Matt: We were doing interviews for the 10th anniversary of Ascendancy back home and I think I kinda forgot that we did that, I forgot that we were TRIVIUM! I forgot we did Ascendancy! Things were going along we were going and doing tours and maybe it was more me than the other guys but I felt like I was kind of on autopilot, and when I started realising that all these great things that have happened and an interviewer was talking about young bands that have been inspired by TRIVIUM to pick up instruments. Some of these really good bands that we’re all fans of, it made us excited to make new music. What we’ve been finding lately is that we just brought out BURY TOMORROW for a couple of shows and we’re all big fans of those guys and we found out that they were front row for our show at Portsmouth at the Roadrage tour! Then WHILE SHE SLEEPS is a band we all like a lot, we found out those guys were at Rock City in Nottingham in 2006 watching us. And Austin Dickinson from AS LIONS and Griffin Dickinson from SHVPES, they were at our Astoria show in 2005 or 2006. I don’t know how big or little of a part that we were with some of these bands being inspired, picking up instruments and join bands but the fact that there’s these generations of new bands that we love that maybe at one point were slightly inspired by us that’s a huge thing for us, that’s one of the biggest things we could ever hope for.

You needed to stop and realise how far you’ve come to see that.

Matt: Yeah, it’s crazy! That’s one of the reasons why for me when I came out of this autopilot thing I was like ‘This next record has to be the greatest TRIVIUM record we’ve ever made or there’s no point anymore’ and thankfully we’ve made the greatest record of our career.

I think you’ve done it.

Matt: Thank you, very much.

It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you both.

Paolo: Thank you!

Matt: Thanks, man!

The Sin And The Sentence is set for release on October 20th via Roadrunner Records.

Like TRIVIUM on Facebook.