Trivium’s Matty Heafy Wants More Metal Bands at American Festivals
Trivium's Matt Heafy was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. First, he discussed the activity on his Twitch account where he's been live streaming his daily practice regimen and covering songs at the request of bidding followers. The conversation then shifted to his work ethic, Trivium's writing process, current trends in heavy music, bringing bands he likes on tour as well as the lack of heavy metal bands on American festival lineups. Check out the chat below.
Matt, you covering unlikely songs on social media seems to have become a thing.
Yeah, so I started Twitch streaming seriously this January and I have always played video games. I am not like a pro-level gamer, so I am slowly getting better at games. My audience is definitely like trivia fans and music fans coming to a new platform that they've never been on, so I started streaming my daily practice Monday through Friday. I stream about 5-7 hours a day Monday through Friday and then 2-4 hours of that is singing and screaming practice. So before I would tell people on Twitch [that] I wanted to start streaming more, but I don’t have time.
I have practice four hours a day and they're like, "Why don’t you stream that?" I started streaming that and the audience got pretty big. I made a new thing called "Kiichi Karaoke" and people can follow the channel for free or they can subscribe. Subscribing is in three levels [with] all different price points. Tier one, which is basically anyone with Amazon Prime, gets a free subscription to my page. So you get a free subscription and then I get $2.50 from those subscriptions.
So subscribers are able to participate in "Kiichi Karaoke." Bits are this Twitch monetary system, so [subscribers] start at 100 bits which is $1.00. 100 bits [gets you] whatever song you want me to play. So people will kind of bid like an auction style. They won’t actually give me this but we will have a five minute period where the highest bit bid wins. So, the stuff I have been circulating on YouTube is the winning stuff that we do live. We do it live and then we make it into a YouTube video so it can be immortalized. So yeah, some of the most fun stuff has been the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.
This year is all about touring and supporting the new album, The Sin and The Sentence. What's the most important thing when you're preparing to be away from home for long periods of time?
Make sure you are fully rehearsed! I had a voice blow out in 2014 [and] I completely changed my life for singing. I practice 2-4 hours a day five days a week, no matter what. I got home from tour Monday night and I was back singing and practicing streaming my practices on Wednesday, so it is a constant thing.
In a way I use to think of [singing] as a stamina thing. You have to keep your instrument prepared at all times. I have to practice like it is a show every single day and that is what keeps me in shape.
I have even been able to sing through sets where I am horribly sick. Thankfully, knock on wood, I haven’t been sick in a while either. It is about being fully rehearsed. Everyone in my band is just as compulsive when it comes to practicing as an individual and practicing as a band. So that is fantastic that we're all always about being at the top of our form at all times.
Planning and preparations seem to be major components of your latest album. What will kickstart the process of developing ideas for the next one?
A big thing that we learned on The Crusade — The Crusade was a time where we said, "All right, we have writing time now [so] let’s write during this 'writing time' [and] this is what we're going to write and this is when we go in the studio." We realized that is not for us. We realized what is for us is making the songs when we feel good, when we feel inspired and when they come up randomly. Working on it as a band and seeing that vision as the four of us before we bring anyone else in.
We have done a couple records where we have allowed producers to come in and we really respected their methods and wanted to try their methods but the best way to do it is the way we do it and have it more of that old-school way [with] four people in a room.
We're seeing more and more of a trend now in rock and metal. The two trends are either: a songwriter or team of songwriters writing a bands music, they give the band the music, they play the music. Or, it is the band [members] writing the material on their laptops, writing the material in Apple Logic and Pro Tools and then they go into the studio and read off sheet music or the computer. Both ways, I feel, takes away the spirit of what a band is.
And what a band is, especially in rock and metal, it should be about the four-five-six-seven-eight guys, however many guys are in that band in a room together, making that music. That's what a band is - that's how a band makes music. It shouldn't be made by committee and it shouldn't be made by copy and pasting riffs in a computer.
The way that we did it on [The Sin and The Sentence] was, bringing it back to the way we used to do it on Ascendency — the four of us in our practice place, making the music. We have a couple of riffs here and there or a majority of riffs maybe prepared beforehand, but then when we bring them in together it can drastically changed or be deleted. Or we can allow the song to take shape organically.
Matt, you were literally a kid when Trivium started. How did growing up in a metal band and shape the values and beliefs of the adult you are today?
It was great. I feel like it was a little bit about being in the band, but it was also the disciplines that my parents [instilled in me]: my dad is a Marine and my mom is Japanese [and] I consider those two cultures to be very regimented and very disciplined and practiced and I feel like maybe as a kid I didn't recognize that's where it was coming from but I absolutely have that. When I'm home I keep a pretty perfect schedule now and I'm not talking just about Twitch, but Twitch has become a big part of my life whereas my life is being kind of display on it hasn't really changed but it made these practices even more regimented which is great.
So like 9AM until 11AM is my first stream and my second stream is 3PM until 7PM. Nine until 11, the first thing is my one hour warm up. The same one I do on tour, I do at home. It's 30 minutes of head voice exercises, guitar, vocals, the same time, 20 minutes of head voice, Trivium stuff that I have the subscribers pick and then 10 minutes head voice. Head voice is what everyone calls falsetto. Falsetto isn't really head voice until it's super airy and light and sung light, but that King Diamond, Adam Levine, Rob Halford, that high pitch Bee Gees kind of thing, that's head voice because the sound is resonating their head so it's like, that the thing I really learned a lot from Ron. You'll see Matt [Shadows] from Avenged [Sevenfold] talk about that a lot too.
There's 50 minutes of that, 10 minutes of mixed voice which is the power of the chest to the body to the head, and then at 3PM there's when I do a set or I do at least an hour or two hours of old Trivium music if this is [before] a show. So, I think I've always kind of had this. I've always had this discipline even when I first joined the band. My first experience of music was, I was 11 years old, I was really into pop, punk, and ska - I tried out for a band, they didn't let me in because I wasn't good. That was a bum out, so what I did after that was I got into Metallica, said this is the kind of music I want to play, and I spent however much amount of time it took to get as good as what I was hearing. And I think I was inadvertently learning what hard work was and I've always done that. Since being 12 years old I've been in Trivium.
It was my first band, [my] first job and it's all I've ever known so I'm really happy I do have this regimentation. I don't feel like everyone needs it, but I know I do and I am a slow learner. I know the amount of time it takes me to put into something to get good at it and that's why when I knew I had to relearn to sing. I was aware of the fact that I had to put in an absurd amount of time and I still have to keep up that certain amount of time because I still have more years of incorrect technique versus correct technique, so I just need to offset those hours and it sounds exhausting but I am actually more relaxed the more intensive the schedule or the more things that I'm doing.
So the more you've got going on, the more chill you are.
Yes, which is crazy. For my daily practice, I'm streaming and talking to chat while I'm playing guitar and singing and for a while there I was also watching jiu jitsu at the time time, so it's mega ADD, and the game that I'm obsessed with, Fortnight, as everyone knows is the biggest game in the world. I think the reason why I like the game so much is everything going on. It's a hundred-person, free for all, battle royale where you have an elimination, you have to kill your opponents, but at the same time you also have to build, you also have to collect things, and there are also challenges.
So, whatever has a lot of stuff in it, my mind is so busy that the more that I'm engaging myself with, the less I have to sit there and think about things. That's why I like Brazilian jiu jitsu so much because it's all your limbs, it's your entire body, it's your entire body having to work against someone else's entire body, and I think that's just what puts my mind at ease, throwing as much stuff at it as possible.
Lately, you've become a spokesman about the state of metal, both the quality of the music and the overall scene itself. What's the strongest thing about metal right now?
I think the fact that it's so unique now and it's unique in the way that there are people doing traditional things, there are amazing bands, look at a band like Power Trip. They're playing things that sound like early Sepultura, Slayer, Cro-Mags, old hardcore, old metal, old thrash and it's bringing everyone together. We had them on our European tour and metal has loved them, rock has loved them, people who are more into mainstream rock and metal really appreciate it, underground death metal kids really loved it, and I love to see that.
Yeah, I have seen some people mention how metal's not doing well right now, but I think that's insane because the last several years of me even piecing together my top records of the year, it's been so long, I can't even make it into a proper list, there are just so many great records. And, what we're making sure we're doing, we're not one of the biggest metal bands by any means, we still have a lot of room to go, we still have a lot of work to do, but at our level of these we're able to bring out bands we believe in.
So, instead of bringing out bands that we feel fit a quota of something, or are recommended to us because they can pull in X amount of something that is unrelated to our band. We bring out, and we love, like Europe tour we just did, it was Trivium, Code Orange, Power Trip and Venom Prison. We loved those three bands, we loved the few records, we bought them out. The North American one before that — Arch Enemy was one of our all-time favorite bands, Fit For An Autopsy who is my current favorite band in the world and While She Sleeps who I think is one of the best British metal bands.
It's about supporting the bands and not just saying that we love the scene and talking about the good records but actually bringing these bands out. There are a lot of - there are bigger metal and rock bands than us that do like new stuff, they're aware of it, they are bringing these bands out and the only way we're going to make - set up future generations of legitimate bands who write their own music who are saying something and playing something different than kind of what's happened with pop.
Pop is a different thing but we have seen things in rock and metal where they're utilizing the techniques of what pop music is. Like I mentioned earlier about songwriters and writing to fit a genre or quota and instead of doing that, bands should be making what they want to make. They should be making the kind of music they love and they believe in and stand behind. If a band like us can bring out new things and bring out new bands that people can be exposed to, hopefully, these bands can grow and headline and then do the same thing - bring out newer and younger bands and keep the cycle of heavy music going. I think that's the way to do it. If you want to see some of the records I've been into lately, check my Spotify profile. I have a playlist of 2018 top records and 2017's top records. It's a massive list of just fantastic records.
Trivium has been around for such a long time and you've done so many different types of tours and festivals, and you've talked about all the different type of bands that you've brought out on the road. How do you feel about where things are today as opposed to when you guys were just getting started in terms of the metal scene and the business itself.
The thing about metal is it's always been around. Since its inception, Sabbath or Zeppelin or whoever started it, it's been around. It's never gone away. Sub-genres and subcultures have come and gone but what's great is that metal itself is... look at Iron Maiden, [they're] bigger and better than they've ever been. Metallica too. I feel like both bands have just made some of the greatest records they've ever made. I think it's in a great place and I think it's about cultivating it, supporting it. Just like I said in the last question, to make sure that the bands that want to lead the charge for real music, for heavy music, for metal and rock - they need to keep bringing out good bands on tour.
These bands that are able to fill the 5-10k a night should be bringing out great bands that they believe in that they think their fans can be turned onto. Maybe not just the bands that get every tour because they get every tour because they do well on the radio or something. I feel like it's a matter of support and recognizing the community and growing it from there. I love the fact that this is the biggest Slayer tour they've ever had. They had something like 30,000 people in Chicago. Slayer is an extreme metal band. It's metal as hell and they are one of the greatest metal bands of all time. For them to be doing those kinds of numbers, having a band like Behemoth who I think is one of the best metal bands in the world, and then a band like Lamb of God on there - it's such a fantastic thing.
I'm so happy to see that. In the States, we finally do have great festivals with great turnouts. That's something we always used to talk about years ago where when Ozzfest and Mayhem [Fest] went away, we'd always say that Europe has these amazing festivals and America needs to catch up. Now, these festivals need to start bringing in these metal bands. There's plenty of rock, rock is well represented. But I think they need to bring in more metal bands and balance it out. Look at the lineups of Wacken!
I was just going to say, do you ever look at some of these lineups for these European festivals and you're like, "Oh my god!"
Yep. And that's what America needs. It's not that we don't want it, they don't know about it. I feel like our big festivals here, we've got the people in the doors, they're there. The audiences are well taken care of, they're happy, show them some good bands. I'm not saying the bands on them aren't good but these bands get enough shows. The bands that you see on the festivals in America, not naming them by name, everyone knows who I'm talking about, they get all the tours - all the festivals - all the everything. It's time that metal bands get the recognition they deserve.
I feel like a band like Behemoth should be headlining the second stage at Rock on the Range. I feel like we should have - bring Kreator over here for some of those festivals. Power Trip is on it, which is awesome, Code Orange is on it which is awesome. But that's not enough. There need to be way more metal bands put on these big festivals. We've got the good festivals, make a metal day. I think that these festivals can push a little heavier and go a little heavier. I feel like these other bands that are on it do well anyway. They don't need these festivals. Where I feel like the metal and hardcore bands that are doing well now do need these festivals. I think they should be given the slots.
Grab your copy of 'The Sin and The Sentence' at Amazon or iTunes and follow Trivium on Facebook to stay up to date with everything they're doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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