Trivium have been crafting edgy, unapologetically heavy music for two decades, and now, frontman Matt Heafy and company are finally getting their due from the Recording Academy with their first-ever Grammy nomination.
The band is up for Best Metal Performance for the song “Betrayer” off their eighth studio album, 2017’s The Sin and the Sentence. It’s a song Heafy says is one of his favorites off the album.
“To hear we were getting not only a Grammy nomination but a nomination for that song make me so proud, because it has screaming and key changes and is so extreme,” Heafy tells Heavy Consequence. “We’re an intense band, 75% to 80% of the time, so it was such an honor to see that.”
The metal musician also recently became a father to twins, a boy and a girl, and had to exit Trivium’s fall tour to be with his wife for the births. Instead of postponing the remainder of the tour dates, the band enlisted tour mates Howard Jones (Light the Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage), Johannes Eckerström (Avatar) and YouTube sensation Jared Dines to fill in on vocals for the last handful of the shows.
Heafy spoke with Heavy Consequence about the Grammy nomination, the recent births of his baby twins, and why he thinks it’s important for veteran metal bands to support up-and-coming acts. Read the full interview below.
On scoring their first-ever Grammy nomination for “Betrayer” after nearly two decades and eight studio albums
We’ve always been the band that’s never gotten awards. When you go to a venue backstage, you see posters and pictures up of every band that has played there. We’re the band that never has their photos up there and never has the magazine covers and has never been credited as the greatest band ever. That’s with the exception of in the UK when Ascendency came out, and we were on every magazine cover and got tons of press. So, when the Grammy nominations were coming out, we weren’t even thinking about anything happening for us. I got an email from our manager saying, “You’re getting a Grammy nomination for ‘Betrayer.’” That song has so much to it and is the epitome of what Trivium is really about, so to get a nomination for that song means even more.
On why he thinks the Grammy committee finally recognized Trivium
Maybe it’s that we’re finally being recognized for the work we’ve put in, because it’s been a difficult, uphill battle for us, as it is for all bands. We came out so young. This year marks our 20th together, and I’m 32. I think when we first came out, we were so young, and we were saying that we wanted to be the biggest metal band in the world, and that got fans hyped up, but I think other bands didn’t like that. That’s the weird thing about metal. In hip-hop and pop and rap, it’s cool to be big and flashy and say, “We want to be the biggest band we can be,” but in metal, it’s frowned upon. I don’t think anybody should hold back. I think everyone should be the best at what they do. Why is that something you should hide from? If you’ve wanted to be the biggest metal band since you were 12 years old, you should strive for that.
On the moment he found out that Trivium were nominated
I couldn’t believe it at first. I was definitely surprised. But my excitement also came from seeing that it was a song like “Betrayer”, which is such an extreme song filled with blast beats. It’s a song that I consider one of my favorites on the record, because there are so many parts to it. We decided to go nuts on it. I think having that song be nominated shows that it’s more of an acknowledgement of Trivium’s career than just that song and this latest record.
On whether he plans to attend the Grammy ceremony
Absolutely! I know metal and rock aren’t televised, but I still think it’s a really cool thing. I’m excited about being there to represent metal, because it’s something that is so important to me. I understand that metal is more of an underground — and it’s definitely far more underground than pop or rock or country or hip-hop — so I’m glad that I can go. It’s always about representing what I love and do, and it’s always about championing young and new and great bands.
On the recent birth of his baby twins and the decision to have other singers fill in so he could be with his wife for their births
That was totally unexpected. The original due date was after the tour wrapped up, so we were like, “We’re going to be good. Everything with the tour will work out in time.” But there is no telling how births will go, especially with twins, because twins often come early. So, family is first for me. It’s before my band, guitars and anything else. Anyone who has a family should be that way, and if they aren’t, then they have their priorities messed up. I knew I had to be there.
I made the call an hour before going onstage in Fargo, North Dakota. I told everyone, “I need to head home tonight.” So, I did the set and told [former Killswitch Engage singer] Howard Jones and [Avatar singer] Johannes Eckerström, “Can you guys pull this off for me?” Thankfully, we had a day off the next day, and they learned all of the vocals that they could. That’s a lot of stuff to memorize in such an incredibly short time! To have Howard Jones involved in helping to fill in was so big to me, because without him, I wouldn’t do this. Trivium wouldn’t have gotten to where it is today, because it was through his influence on the [Killswitch Engage] album The End of Heartache that I saw what I wanted to do with my voice and music. He’s one of the more wonderful human beings, and I’m so glad that I got to know him. Since that tour, we have gotten really close.
On how his life changed since the twins’ births
It’s different! (Laughs) Since that period of time when I left the tour, it has been a rough several months, because I did leave a tour, and I’ve never done that before, but also getting home was rough because it was such a difficult labor for my wife. She had several epidurals, and as soon as our daughter was born, she was sent to the ICU, which was terribly stressful. And we had to put our dog that we’ve had for 10 and a half years down, who was kind of like our first child. Plus, I’m really good with having a schedule, and that all changed. So, I’m coming out of a really difficult past few months, the most difficult that I have ever experienced, and it feels great to be back on track. Slowly, things are getting back to normal.
On if he plans to get his twins into music
Definitely! As soon as they are 4 years old, I’m going to put instruments in their hands. They’re already listening to great music, because we have music on at all times. My son gets really calm hearing metal. So, we’re going to start them on music as soon as possible. The first full record they ever heard was in the car and it was an Architects record.
On the status of Trivium’s next studio album
Oh, we haven’t really started it yet! There are some riffs here and there, but we haven’t decided on anything. With the newborns here, that is where my focus has been the past few months and that is currently my focus.
On his thoughts on the state of metal music
I think the metal scene is going great, but the bands that have a fanbase need to be bringing up young, cool bands and giving them a platform to grow. Rock and metal also need to stay away from doing what everybody else is doing. I’m not saying this is all rock, but a portion of rock is trying to sound like these alternative and pop bands. There are some great new rock bands, but some bands are looking to what is currently successful on the alternative and pop radio charts and working with songwriters outside of their bands to sound like that. Bands need to take the power back in their own hands, make their own music and do something different. Rock and metal music are supposed to be a rebellion to everyone else, not doing what everyone else is doing. So, I would say to metal bands to keep being rebellious and doing what is uniquely there’s. While being rebellious to what the mainstream is doing, bands should also cultivate and grow the community within. It’s important to help lay the groundwork for what future generations should do.
Trivium are always bringing younger bands out on tour, and that’s something the bigger bands in the scene need to do. They need to bring out young, promising bands and not just the bands that are always booked on the festivals. We’ve always had the musical attitude that it’s about bringing your friends up, too, because when your friends do well, you do well. It’s about carrying the torch for not just your band but the whole metal genre of music.
On how bands should find their own voice
I think it’s up to the bands to take the control back into their hands. Typically, the band has to control all of these things. They need to write their music for themselves and not look around at what’s popular. People see through it. It all starts to sound kind of the same, because it’s written by the same people and songwriters. That’s what pop does, but not rock or metal. When I hear that, I’m disgruntled by it. I see it as a problem but don’t see how it can be fixed. That’s why I love the metal and hardcore and modern metal and metalcore genres — you don’t have to sound like anyone else.
On his favorite albums of 2018
There are so many great albums. Ihsahn, who is the frontman from Emperor, had a solo record, Ámr, and that’s my favorite album of the year. The new Behemoth record, I Loved You at Your Darkest, is great, and I love everything that band has done. Architects’ new album, Holy Hell, I think is one of the best of the year. Also, the new albums from Light the Torch (Revival), Avatar (Avatar Country), Ice Nine Kills (The Silver Scream), Polyphia (New Levels New Devils) and Silent Planet (When the End Began).
Our thanks to Matt Heafy for taking the time to speak with us. Trivium’s latest album, The Sin and the Sentence, is available through multiple outlets at this location. Check out Heafy’s favorite music of 2018 at his Spotify channel, and find out if Trivium take home the award for Best Metal Performance when the Grammys take place on February 10th.