So here we bring you another of our Gear Nerd series, where we talk to our musicians about their instrument of choice and what fuels their passion, influences their sound and all about the specific instruments they use.
This time around we're grilling to Matt Heafy from Floridian metallers Trivium about his guitar playing career and here, in part one, we get an in-depth insight into the music that drives and influences him. Come back Thursday to learn more about his playing style and kit.
Roadrunner UK: So first up, how old were you when you picked up a guitar?
Matt Heafy: When I literally first touched a guitar?
When you picked it up and were like ‘this is what I wanna do’.
When I picked it up to play I was 11. When I first touched a guitar and posed with a guitar in a picture I was probably just a couple of months old. [Contemplates] Maybe 6 months old? 7 months old?
So music and guitars have been around you all your life?
They’ve been around, but I think my parents just wanted me to discover it myself, they never told me ‘oh hey go listen to these bands’. So the first thing I got into was pop punk and radio rock. As all kids from Florida do, ‘cause that’s all there is in Florida, pop punk and radio rock. So I got into those kinds of bands at first, like ska, and my first show was ‘Real Big Fish’, second show was like ‘Blink 182’. I tried out for like a pop punk ska band, my try out song was ‘Dammit’ (by Blink 182) but I wasn’t good enough to play it so they didn’t let me in their band. They’re actually still a band, I’m still buddies with them so they always joke about how they kicked me out, but they never let me in. I got the ‘Black Album’ (Metallica’s self titled release) when I was 12 and then I kind of rediscovered guitar and realised what else you could do with guitar. I got very much into metal at 12 and started practicing, made it into Trivium at 12 so yeah I practiced at ton when I got into metal.
So were you ‘self taught’ or did you have lessons?
Self taught for quite a bit of it, did lessons on and off for maybe two or three years, but I do not know anything formal music on guitar. I do on saxophone though…but that doesn’t help me on guitar.
So which came first, saxophone or guitar?Guitar...er...let me think [contemplates] you know what- it might’ve been saxophone. It was in sixth grade, so however old I was then, I must’ve been 10 or so, yeah saxophone was first.
So your parents must have been quite supportive, did they buy you your first guitar?
Yeah, well the Les Paul I’m using in the ‘Shattering the Skies Above’ video is the first Les Paul my Dad ever got me- he got me that when I was 13 or 14. They were very supportive; my parents have always been very supportive, my family’s always been very supportive. My Dad managed the band from when I was about 13 till about…guess about a year ago. They still are and always have been very supportive.
So was that Les Paul the very first guitar you got?
The first guitar I got was probably like a Fender Strat Pack but I consider the first real guitar I got was that Les Paul Custom.
So who would you say has inspired you the most; who were you looking up to the most when you first started out
If it weren’t for James Hetfield (Metallica) I literally wouldn’t be here, I mean know that there are a lot of other musicians in that band aswell, especially from the ‘Black Album’ era, but it was Hetfield who really brought me into metal; like to see their live shows and see what a commanding presence he was, and to see how good of a guitar player he is. So, he got me into everything, then I bridged out from there.
What other music do you think have influenced your playing
So many. The first big chunk I got into, when I got into real metal was like, obviously ‘Metallica’, ‘Pantera’, ‘Megadeth’, ‘Testament’, ‘Slayer’, ‘Iron Maiden’, ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘Judas Priest’, like those were all the bands I got into first. Then I got really heavily into melodic death metal, bands like ‘In Flames’ and ‘Children of Bodom’, ‘Arch Enemy’, ‘Dark Tranquility’, the list goes on and on through like ‘Opeth’, (thinks) what else?...there’s like so many melodic death metal bands, pretty much all of them like ‘Dusk Fall’, ‘Mercenary’ even though they are a Danish band...just all over the Scandinavian area. Erm, got a little into death metal, never too much into death metal, the band that influenced my playing the most was ‘Krisiun’, which is this ridiculously heavy death metal band from Brazil but I got my tremelo picking from them, which is like really fast picking, I got that from that band. Um, got into black metal then after that through bands like ‘Emperor’ and ‘Dimmu Borgir’ and ‘Mort Grooning’ [???- Ed] a Swedish band, ‘Dark Funeral’ and ‘Anorexia Nervosa’ is this French black metal band- ‘New Obscurantis Order’ is one of my favourite black metal albums. I joined a black metal band when I was like 16 or so in Florida wearing corpse paint, spiked armor, all that shit. Um, they kicked me out ‘cause I was still in Trivium and I wouldn’t leave Trivium. And I joined ‘Capharnaum’, which is a technical death metal band at like 16, 17 with Jason Suecof.
So I went through all the extreme metal things, towards my senior year, I guess I must have been 17 or so, when I started getting into hardcore, that era’s hardcore, bands like ‘Poison the Well’ and ‘Hatebreed’. ‘Tear from the Red’ (by Poison the Well) was really influential on me & Hatebreed’s ‘Perseverance’. I got into stuff like ‘Underoath’s’ ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’ and ‘Beloved’s’ ‘Failure On’. Oddly enough, after being into satanic black metal I got into a lot of Christian metalcore and hardcore bands, a lot of Christian emo bands and I was into, still am into, bands like ‘Further Seems Forever’ and ‘Dashboard Confessional’, little things I never really talked about but were actually really big subtle influences on my sound, incorporated with huge bands like ‘Death’ and ‘In Flames’ and ‘Killswitch (Engage’) that all rolled into one I guess and helped craft some of my style and some of the interesting things that happened on ‘Ascendency’ and ‘Ember...'. So I was in and out of those things for a little while, not as long as black metal or melodic death metal or anything.
Anything outside of the metal genre that you think have influenced your playing style?
I think for me it's more like bands like ‘Further Seems Forever’ and ‘Dashboard...' maybe even like ‘My Chemical Romance’...things that took the guitar...I mean if you look at ‘Further Seems Forever’ mostly, every single chorus had a different guitar melody than a rhythm guitar part, same thing like ‘...Maiden’, so still it’s things that came from metal and probably came from metal bands that maybe they liked?
I remember when we did ‘The Crusade’ I got very heavily into ‘Queen’ and that’s pretty much all I would listen to and a little bit of ‘Kelly Clarkson’ and some pop stuff and when we were doing ‘Shogun’ really just into ‘The Beatles’. Lately, I’ve been into the entire ‘Depeche Mode’ catalogue, pretty much exclusively ‘Depeche Mode’ and classical music. Classical music has been the best thing I’ve listened to, it’s helped my playing out so much- not in a Yngwie Malmsteen way, like shreddy ridiculous arpeggios and stuff, even though I could do some of those stuff, not as much as I used to, I leave that to guys like ‘Dragonforce’. You know dudes like Malmsteen took classical in a lead guitar playing sense where I’ve been taking classical in a song writing sense. I just listen to it, I don’t know it formally but when people hear our new stuff they’ll know that it’s been a subtle influence in there and even and even the ‘Shattering...' chorus, the rhythm guitar part I’m playing is very classically involved using three not chords, three separate note chords versus the standard power chord, which be like the same note, octave and the fifth, so I know a little bit about music but not too much.
I’ve been getting into bands that are going really well with the graphic novels I’ve been reading, like ‘Depeche Mode’s’ ‘Sounds of the Universe’ goes incredibly with ‘V for Vendetta’ by Alan Moore. The new ‘Kings of Leon’ album actually goes well with ‘Preacher’, which is the greatest story ever, it’s the greatest thing across any medium I’ve ever read, seen , played, anything, ever, ‘Preacher’ by Garth Ennis. ‘Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Year Zero’ goes incredibly with ‘Sin City’ by Frank Miller and ‘Black Celebration’ by ‘Depeche Mode’ goes incredibly well with anything that involves Batman. So, graphic novels and just getting into anything, any kind of music is really helpful. The last couple of things I got was ‘Wavering Radiant’, the new ‘Isis’ album and ‘Panopticon’, so yeah everything from symphonic black metal to avantgarde, I also have this CD that’s all sort of Brazilian music which is really interesting, anything form jazz to flamenco music, yeah, all music is good music to me as long as it’s good, I just got the new ‘Pink’ album too, I just wanted to see what it was like because I just heard she just did 3 sold out months of Australia (???) Which is like as much as AC/DC.
With me, it’s all about the song and it’s all about bringing something to the table. I’ll like it if I like it. I don’t think I’ll ever like pop-country, I think pop-country is terrible. I do like some folk bands like ‘The Devil Makes Three’, this incredibly guitar trio band that has no drummer and ‘Olver’ [ ?- Ed] is one of my favourite bands, used to be a black metal band that recorded out in the forest then went to make this thing that was the soundtrack for this movie that never came out, then had this album that they read passage from William Blake in."
Trivium have just finished their UK headline tour and have returned home to begin working on their follow-up to current album Shogun. You can pick Shogun up online HERE. Check Back Thursday for Part 2!