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June 2020

Trivium: "Mental health is a real thing"

Matt Heafy is taking a considered approach to life, health and music.
Published: 10:56 am, May 06, 2020Words: Steven Loftin.
Trivium: "Mental health is a real thing"

Moderation has become the new norm for Trivium frontman Matt Heafy. Where it used to be all things all at once - and still is to some degree - these days, knowing that there's a balance, a yin and yang, is what keeps him grounded.

In fact, even more so in the current climate, when early warning signs around the current pandemic crisis saw the group swiftly cancel all trips and tours surrounding their new outing, 'What The Dead Men Say'.

"I know it might sound paranoid, I had this feeling that that's what was going to happen, and luckily we didn't fly out and get stuck," he remembers.

It's this astute awareness which echoes through everything Matt, along with Corey Beaulieu (guitar), Paolo Gregoletto (bass), and Alex Bent (drums), have created on their ninth outing. Sure, some missteps have been taken, with recent albums feeling like a lost wandering into singular depths, as opposed to the full meal, but now they're back, and on 'What The Dead Men Say', it's full steam ahead. Moderately, of course.

"It's interesting for me to be championing moderation. I've always found myself to be extremist in everything that I do," he chuckles. "Everything I've gotten into I've gone in full; when I got into cooking, I had to make something that took three days for the first time. When I decided to do the martial arts, I feel like I picked the hardest one. But for an extreme person like myself to be saying let's find moderation, then it's a real thing."

Matt's extremes were indeed prevalent at the beginning of Trivium's career. But over the years, the tide has pushed and pulled them all over the shop, from the immediate success of 'Ascendancy' and across the following six albums that have led them here today, so looking back is both a cause of reflection, and a setup for what comes next.

"We've been playing 'Ascendancy' stuff our entire career, but it's almost like I forgot we made that record," Matt says. "I looked back at what an amazing time it was it, like with the UK, we were the press band. We were the band that was collecting all the awards, that was on all the magazine covers, that was hailed as the next best thing.

"That was the only time in our entire career that that happened. It went by so quickly that it was essentially a blur. But we're able to look back at it now and see what it was about that record, what it was about the formula we did then that made it so Trivium."

And what was that then?

"It was that we didn't have fans yet, so we just made the kind of music we wanted to make," he shrugs. "Us being fans of metal, into melodic death metal, into extreme metal, metalcore, combining all these things on record and allowing everything to be and just happen naturally."

"I need Jujitsu, and I need food, yoga, weightlifting, Twitch streaming and practice"
Matt Heafy

With Trivium's growth, as with any band, time can certainly convolute things. Those albums that haven't quite sat right with the expectation, while not offering Trivium the past glory, are all stepping stones to what 'What The Dead Men Say' can finally do - offer a banger filled retribution.

"I feel like part of the Trivium sound is allowing absolutely everything to be there, allowing everything on one record that should be on one record. Whereas the times of our career where we have focused in and stayed away from these other elements are the times that didn't, as an album, express that Trivium mentality."

It's not just the sound that Matt knows has taken the long road to get all ironed out. Admitting that aspects like band photography, music videos and staging only hitting their stride under the campaign for fifth album 'In Waves', when it came to this ninth chapter in Trivium's ever-growing novel of strife and clenched fists against the crowd, "everything has been given the proper care and attention it deserves."

As a true master of moderation, Matt has become more than aware that care and attention has to start at home, and ultimately boils down to mental health; knowing the ins and outs, the balance required, those yins and yangs.

"It's always a push and pull. I approach things very level headed because I recognise what it takes to make me feel balanced," he reasons.

"A big thing I always advocate for is for people to recognise that mental health is a real thing, more important than bodily health. I know that people may not agree with me, but the brain controls everything. The way you feel mentally is the way that you're going to feel physically."

Speaking candidly of steps forward the world needs to make, including "I would say the solution is everyone should see a therapist," a thing he admits being "taboo" to say, but the knowing tone in his voice echoes wisdom and no ulterior motive. Matt just wants to help.

"It still feels weird even for me to be encouraging it, because we're brought up to feel if we have to do it [only if] there's something wrong with us. That's not true," he says. "Everyone has something specific about themselves, and it's very important to recognise that. I recognise that I need Jujitsu, and I need food, yoga, weightlifting, Twitch streaming and practice. It's all these things on top of each other that is what makes me feel balanced."

Like all musicians, his craft is also his outlet. That list may be Matt's checks and balances on a personal level, but musically it's all about "having songs that are able to go into the darker aspects of life, and confront these things."

"The reason why the music sounds dark, the reason why the lyrics are very grave most of the time, it's so we can get these feelings out," he explains. "So we can realise that everyone is feeling that, we can get that out, and then, in turn, be able to enjoy life a bit more. I'm being balanced and happy because I know what it takes to keep me there, and I make sure I have all those ingredients, pretty much at all times. I encourage people to find that."

Helping tendencies aside, Matt's also been given him one of life's natural perspectives, kids. Twins, actually - Mia and Akira. "It's the most amazing thing in the world, but it's also one of the most challenging things in the world. When our son and daughter were born, I always wanted to make sure I portrayed a good example because they really are sponges, they can absorb everything.

"With my son, he already has a lot of my tendencies. He has my impatience, my irritability, and he's very extreme. Everything he gets into he wants to go to the highest extreme, so that's mindblowing - to be a parent and see that before you can even set a bad example. They've already inherited some of what I see as my more difficult aspects, so I apologise to him - I'm sorry Akira!"

"When our son and daughter were born, I always wanted to make sure I portrayed a good example"
Matt Heafy

Recognising who it is in the mirror, and knowing where the change needs to happen, be it personally, or even musically is the twenty-odd years of growing in a unique spotlight showing their maturation. "The four of us, we're not perfect," he says of himself and his bandmates. "I'm by no means a perfect human, but encouraging the correct things and discouraging the things that I find to be incorrect is good.

"It's great that Trivium has always been a band about accepting all walks of life. An outsider looking in will be like, 'well your music's just shouting, and it's angry all the time', but that's not the point of it. It's to show what is wrong in the world, or to show a specific take on something so that someone else can see, 'Oh I've been feeling that and it's amazing that Trivium does too', and they can find that solace in that company and then that community from there."

The heart of Trivium has always been sincere. They've racked up "tens of thousands of hours" on their craft, have become self-confessed "religious obsessive practitioners of what we do", and they've hit a brad new stride that echoes the sentiments heard all those years ago around the hype of 'Ascendancy'. Trivium are indeed a band rooted back in where they belong.

"It's now been 21 years since I joined this band and I feel like we're more invigorated, motivated and inspired than we've ever been, which is great. I think about when I was 13, and if asked where would I be in 21 years I'd still say Trivium, but I wouldn't think that we'd be as fired up as we were back then."

That fire is what has kept Trivium pacing onwards, refusing to stop, taking no prisoners. Given the growth that's happened, 21 years of it, surely the darkness Matt and co are pulling from has changed also?

"It's developed more worldly, where we look at like society as a whole, the entire planet," he ponders. "Or what we see as right or wrong, or the injustices of mankind. That's the other aspects of metal to be able to call out what we find as wrong in the world, and I've always felt that the lyrics need to be as important as the music in any form of music.

"There are a lot of musicians that don't care about lyrics. I've read lyrics that seem like people don't really care about what they're saying. So it's been really important to me that we always keep that as thought out and as planned and as important as the music."

Thoughtfulness and moderation may have had to come into play for various reasons, be it the growth of families, on a personal level or just straight-up survival, but the extreme will always remain in Trivium, and that's their truth they refuse to hide.

"That's totally key," Matt ends. "Key to where you need to be as a band to truly believe and have a good time. it's about getting back to the roots of yourself, and why you started this in the first place." 

Taken from the May issue of Upset. Trivium's album 'What The Dead Men Say' is out now.

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