Interview ~ Matt Heafy of Trivium

A few years back, Matt Heafy of Trivium did almost the unthinkable and landed the rights back to Trivium’s earliest recorded works. It’s a very rare feat in the music world and to some artists it’s better than winning the lottery. After initially announcing it on his Twitter account in 2014, Heafy and the band are poised to re-issue the band’s 2003 debut album Ember to Inferno through a partnership of the band’s and 5B Artist Management with Cooking Vinyl. The record quickly captured the attention of the band’s earliest fans as well as the ears of A&R reps at Roadrunner Records, who quickly signed the band and went on to release their watershed album Ascendancy in 2005. Ember to Inferno was the catalyst for what was to come and it has been out of print for many years, until now. The re-issue will be available in a standard version along with a deluxe edition that includes thirteen additional tracks that have never been previously available yet have earned evasive legendary status among the diehard Trivium fans. It’s a true treasure trove of material that will delight the staunchest Trivium fans and beyond. We recently sat down with Trivium frontman Matt Heafy who gave us some rare insight into the debut album that’s finally going to see the light of day again.

You tweeted back on December 2, 2014 that you were going to be reissuing Ember to Inferno and now it’s scheduled to happen two years to the date from that text. Why did the process take so long?

Matt Heafy/Trivium: We were super stoked when we were originally signed to Lifeforce Records, as every band that’s just been signed. We took out ads in Guitar World and in local papers and I remember when the release came around. We went to our local record store to buy the record and it was completely non-existent from the shelves. It wasn’t because it was sold out; the label that we were on didn’t have a proper worldwide distribution deal, so the record was no existent. About a year later, I think it was a year later but I’m not exactly sure, they created a new distribution deal so it was available almost everywhere. At that exact same time was when Ascendancy was about to come out on Road Runner, so Ascendancy actually eclipsed the proper re-release of Ember to Inferno. A couple of years later after Ember had been out on an independent label while we were on a major label with Road Runner, the contract on the initial label ended. I inherited the rights to the record back which is something that’s super rare these days. A couple of bigger bands on major labels might be able to get that to happen, but for us and our Road Runner records, we won’t get the rights back to those records. So, I inherited the rights back for Ember and I’m not sure exactly when I got the rights back but it right around 2013 and 2014, so that’s when I started talking about it. At the time, I started thinking about what I wanted to do and what record label it should be on. Should it be on Road Runner or another metal record label and as a couple of years went by, I started talking to our management company about it. They said that I should do a label for it and through myself; I could release it through this company called Cooking Vinyl who would act as a distribution company and will also do things like organize the press. It’s an interesting, modern, independent way to attempt to see how a Trivium release could be. It took up until that time to figure out what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do it and having everything completely set up before we were able to do it as it is now. So now, on December 2nd, the record will come out properly as it never really did before.

How did the connection with Cooking Vinyl happen?

Our management company 5B, who also looks after Slipknot and several other bands, was talking about they had this idea to either be a record label or to be the face of a record label and work out a distribution deal. After months of talking to 5B, even though we’re already signed to them for management, for months about being a label, they presented this idea to me that they were working with Cooking Vinyl. They wanted to see how it would go with them and that’s how we decided.

Did you tweak anything or touch anything up on this re-release?

A big thing with me is always being able to transfer people to an exact moment in time. I’ve never liked when things have been altered much. I look back to when some of my favorite bands would release remixes or re-recordings; sometimes it’s cool, but some re-releases I remember artists losing vocal tracks and they re-recorded vocal tracks on top of old songs and it doesn’t make sense. The imperfections that you loved as a kid of something is suddenly gone, so for me, I wanted this to be the exact same way it was when it came out.  For the Red record, Blue, Ember and Yellow, I wanted them to sound the exact same way they did when they first came out completely untouched, un-messed with and even preserving the original Ember artwork. For the special edition, we have the new re-imagination of what the Ember artwork modernized would look like, so that’s the only thing that we changed up.

Did you help with the designing the special editions? I have to say that the box-set is pretty damn sweet!

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing; the artwork is incredible but unfortunately there isn’t a credit for the people involved with the new art. The art was pieced together by my wife who did the graphic design for the layouts of everything. The logo was done by Christophe Szpajdel, the man who did the emperor logo and a lot of very legendary black metal band logos. The photo that’s behind everything was done by my best friend John Paul Douglas, who did all of the artwork for In Waves and Silence in the Snow. Ashley kind of spun everything together and made it the reinterpretation of what the original Ember artwork was. The original artwork was that kind of CGI manipulated picture of the woods, so the new picture of a different set of the forest with the colorization of Ember with the new black logo that kind of is a revamp of the super old Trivium logo. Each record has its own colored vinyl, so it’s going to drive collectors pretty nuts. I know for myself, I’m a collector of bands that I really love and I want to have every single edition of everything that they have, so I definitely think that this will make people go a little crazy for it.

Why was there a crediting issue for the artwork?

The scheduling for putting everything together was kind of rushed because of everyone’s schedule including Trivium’s and Cooking Vinyl’s and the names of those three people were the only things that didn’t make it in on time.

It’s been about thirteen years since you made this, so how do you feel the material has help up as you look back on it?

It was 2003 for Ember, 2003 for the Blue demo and 2001 was when the Red album was recorded, but pretty much nobody has it as well as the Yellow demo which pretty much nobody has. It’s been really fun to go back and I had to make sure that all of the recordings sounded correct. I had to listen to every song in depth, I had to make sure the lyrics matched, I had to make sure it sounded right on vinyl, CD and MP3. It’s been a fun experience to hear what we were in the absolute beginnings; I wouldn’t change a thing about Ember. It has this special aggression to it; while it was still very melodic and had the clean parts it has this unrestrained brutality and aggression to it. We’ve had it throughout our career, but Ember does it differently. I think the four songs on the Blue album and Ember actually sound even better on the Blue album than they do on Ember. I don’t know why that is, but they sound better to me. On the Red record, I think it’s a really cool thing for the people to be able to go back. The second song on there is the very first original Trivium song ever written and it was co-written by our original singer Brad (Lewter). I think everything really does hold up; the Red album for me being only fifteen years old, of course there are things that are better nowadays than they were then. I love that people can listen to it exactly the way it was, untouched, unedited and see where we were when I was fifteen.

I shake my head when I think about you being fifteen and doing this; I was being a knucklehead when I was fifteen!

I joined this band when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, so there are demos going even back to that, but the best sounding that I was able to find was that one.

If it’s ok, I wanted to ask if you were surprised with some of negative reactions online to Silence in the Snow?

No, we’ve done that in the past; we released Ascendancy and then when we made The Crusade we did the complete opposite of what we had done before. Ascendancy had screaming and The Crusade had no screaming at all, so we’ve done this move before, but this time with different sounds. We set up something very early that every single record was not going to sound like the previous one. In our opinion, there are enough bands out there that do that. We want to make something different with every album that we make, but we do listen to what our fans have to say as well. I think that other bands need to recognize that negativity, no matter what you do in life. The biggest most important thing that a band can do is keep making the kind of music that they believe in and love. Ascendancy did very well for us in the UK and we were on just about every magazine cover that they had in the UK. Then, we released The Crusade and pretty much the entire country hated it. We didn’t have Europe into us before and they loved The Crusade. We got brought out by Iron Maiden for seven weeks with that record and that didn’t happen with Ascendancy, so everything that we’ve done has gotten us different fans. We hadn’t really cracked America up until Silence in the Snow, so that album helped hugely in making our home country finally come around for us. I think that before we had done ok in America, but thanks to Silence in the Snow and mainly with the song “Until the World Goes Cold” that our band finally has a great footing in America. I like that we’re the kind of band that generates intense love and intense hate with the stuff we make. If it was a reaction of ambivalence I think I’d be upset with myself; if people reacted with ‘Eh, it’s alright’ then I think we would be doing something wrong.

You’re headed overseas and doing some UK dates in 2017 and weren’t they the first to really embrace you guys? Do you still feel that intense connection with them today?

Absolutely and I was saying it to a British journalist that there are times that I feel the British media treats us like we are a British band. I feel like they’re a little bit harsher on us than they are on other foreign bands. I think a lot of other foreign bands get passes for trying different things, but I feel with us in the UK with their relationship with how much they love Ascendancy that everything that we’ve done since then they compare to that.

Those were the easy questions and now we’ll wrap things up with some tough, intense ones for you. I had a friend on social media who mentioned that you are a foodie and wanted me to ask what some of you favorite new food discoveries are?

There have been so many and I stumble across dishes that I want to recreate at home. One of the most mind-blowing restaurants that I’ve ever been to in my life is called Chin-Chin, which is cheers in Chinese, in Melbourne, Australia. The head chef there is Benjamin and I’ve gotten to know him throughout the years and he’s become a teacher to me in life not only with food, but creation in general. They had this dish there was pork belly and Barramundi salad and normally I am not overly excited about salads. The way they do it that they cook the pork belly and it becomes this peanut butter, molasses like type of stuff. The prep work for this dish takes about a day and you fix it the next day.  I think I posted about it on my food blog. The dish was so great when I had it that I immediately bought the cook book because as soon as I got home I knew I had to recreate that for my family. Another cool thing that people can easily recreate is one that I found in South Africa is a style of pizza with the typical kind of dough with fetta, avocado and bacon and that’s how they do their pizza there which I thought was a cool trio of toppings. I added an egg to it because I add eggs to everything; a fried egg on a burger is one of the greatest things in the world.

Other than cooking, do you have any free time to binge watch anything?

Right now, I am still kind of searching for what that next big hook is going to be. Recently, Mr. Robot has been one of the greatest ones that I’ve ever seen, Hannibal is another, and I’ve been obsessed with Westworld recently. As far as happy shows go, I love The Goldbergs which my wife turned me onto. When you all of this stuff like Westworld, you need something to bring you back to reality a little bit. I like Modern Family a lot, Seinfeld, Southpark, but the best serious ones are Mr. Robot, Westworld and Stranger Things.

Matt, I think our time is just about up, so I want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today. Is there anything that you’d like to close with?

With this record, Ab Initio in Latin means from the beginning so the intent of this record is to bring them up to speed from the very beginning of Trivium and bring them all the way up. For new fans, I think it will be super exciting for them to trace it all the way back and for old fans, I definitely think they’ve never gone this far back. I think it’s going to be super exciting for everyone across the board.

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Get your copy of Ember to Inferno HERE

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