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Interview: Trivium

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For over a decade now, the UK has been something of a second home for Trivium.

The Florida-based heavy metal icons are currently enjoying the final days of their most recent British tour, giving the country a thrashing dose of American brutality with Heart of a Coward, Savage Messiah and As Lions in tow.

Just before their show at the Pyramids Centre in Portsmouth last week, guitarist Corey Beaulieu and bassist Paolo Gregoletto showed great enthusiasm for their latest English trek.

“We’re only two shows in, but those two shows were great,” Paolo says.

“Didn’t have any technical problems, the sets have been fun, crowds are great and hopefully it sets the trends for the rest of them.”

“We’ve known a couple guys in As Lions before from Rise to Remain,” Corey adds.

“We toured multiple times. So it’s good to be out with [lead singer] Austin [Dickinson] and those guys.

“And Heart of a Coward, this is the first time we’ve met them. Last night, after the show, right across the street there was a pub. We all got to hang out, shoot the shit and really get the tour comradery going.

“Everyone’s really cool, all their sets have been going over good, crowds are reacting well and they seem to be happy to be on the tour. So it’s been going really good so far.”

Trivium’s connection with the UK began over a decade ago at the 2005 Download Festival, where they opened up the main stage to an amazing reception from eager fans.

“It was fucking cold,” Corey laughs.

Paolo describes: “I just remember being on the stage and thinking how big the field looked and how I hoped there was going to be people there and that the weather is good. I’d never experienced anything like that.

“It was such a thrilling day: it was scary but exciting, there was so much adrenaline running. After I was done I couldn’t remember the performance, it was almost like a black-out.

“It was probably the most intense adrenaline I’ve ever felt. I can remember festivals since then pretty well, but that was just another experience. It was our first trial by fire in front of a big audience. The whole weekend and the build-up to it, coming and seeing all these big bands, knowing we were going to get our shot, and the next day being there and having the after-glow of playing, how much it meant to people, being on Kerrang! magazine, it was crazy.

“I have to pinch myself when I remember going through it, because not many bands get that. Some bands will wait years and years, we’ve been lucky because we’ve had success along the way. But to have that so immediately and out the gate, it’s life-changing.”

“Thinking about the actual performance part of it, the only pictures in my head come from the Roadrunner DVD that had the show on it,” Corey recalls with some difficulty.

“It’s like a memory loss, just for those thirty minutes.

“We felt like we were drunk on the side of the stage, just had one last shot before black-out time. It was nuts! Seven circle pits going on. I’m sure it doesn’t sound as good now, but it was just the raw energy. We were going balls to the wall!

“And we got to meet [Megadeth front-man] Dave Mustaine that day. And Lemmy. But the actual performance, I can’t really recall. I just remember right before going on-stage, standing outside and cold with out-of-tune guitars. And then obviously you saw just a shit-load of people coming over the hill.

“Originally we were booked to play the third tent stage. On the Road Rage tour we did in the UK [with 3 Inches of Blood and Still Remains], I remember just getting off the bus at the first show, and all these people just coming up.

“The [Ascendancy] CD had been out for about a month or so and already people were coming up and just freaking out. The buzz was weird, suddenly most people knew what we looked like, wanted to talk to us and take pictures with us. That whole UK tour, the fan reactions were just so insane, then we did Europe and came back at the end for Download. And by then the record had sold and that tour had created a buzz.

“Andy [Copping] at Download hit up our manager saying that we now had the opening slot on the main stage. With the buzz for the album coming out, they were scared they couldn’t fit the demand in the tent so he asked if we wanted to open the main stage and we were like ‘OK, sure, why not?’

“In the moment, you don’t think ‘We’re playing the main stage, we’re about to blow up’, it’s more like ‘Let’s just go up there and crush it.’

“It just snowballed and we were along for the ride.”

And now, eleven years and five albums later, the band are here once again, touring in support of their seventh record, Silence in the Snow, which hit stores back in October.

The release showcases the band at their most melodic, without the screamed vocals that have been present on their previous albums; it’s a change that, according to Paolo, the English crowds seem to be warm to.

“We haven’t been over here except for Bloodstock, so it’s kinda hard to judge what people would have thought right away when it came out.

“But the one thing we’ve noticed is how well people know the material. We’re playing a song we’ve never played until this tour, ‘The Ghost That’s Haunting You’, and people right away, they knew it and were into it.

“I think a lot of times, people have to hear it live to really feel the intensity. I feel like the new stuff is melodic, but it’s powerful. That’s where it really lends itself to being in the live setting.

“We try and pair new and old songs on the set, like we open with ‘Silence in the Snow’ straight into ‘Into the Mouth of Hell We March’ [from 2008’s Shogun]. I feel like those two songs, while they’re different in some ways, they both came out of the same demo time, around Shogun. They both have a lineage there and it’s cool to have something that came from that time but was recorded now. That’s what we look at when we do the set: pairing them together.”

Silence in the Snow is Trivium’s first album under new producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette, who is also renowned for his work with Alter Bridge, Slash and Tremonti.

“We met him a couple years ago, he’s an Orlando guy,” says Corey.

“We’d been talking about working with Elvis, and after the last record we did in Texas, we wanted to do the record at home, and Elvis has a studio in Orlando. We had known him and we’re fans of his work producing other bands, so we hit him up and got in touch. He was interested, we were interested, we got together and played him some demos.

“He was really excited: he’s a guitar player, singer and songwriter himself, so having someone with that musicianship always helps. I had a lot of fun tracking guitars. He had a lot of the same guitar influences that I have, so we could geek-off on solos, styles and stuff like that. Really chilled vibe.

“Each person in the band, doing their parts and working with him, he was really able to get the most out of everybody and really mix everything up. Every time you record, you learn some new tricks because every producer has their own way of getting around recording. It was fun to work with him because we learnt some new ways that we could put into our creative process. We had a good time and we think we’ve made a pretty kick-ass record.”

Shortly after the release of their seventh album, Trivium are now faced with the tenth anniversary of their third, 2006’s The Crusade. Paolo looks back at the album and that era of the band very much without rose-tinted glasses.

“It was a big learning process. We had to learn how to make a follow-up to a record like Ascendancy while touring, we had to learn what to do and what not to do in the studio in terms of preparation, and I look back at it as a very bold move.

“It set the course for us wanting to make each album its own thing and unique. While I think it wasn’t perfectly executed, I like it more now. Now that we’ve made a lot of records, I can appreciate what we were trying to do at such an early stage in our career.

“The lessons we learned definitely shaped future releases. We would never have made something like Shogun without The Crusade.”

This latest UK tour is also Trivium’s first with their brand new drummer, Paul Wandtke, who made his debut with the band at Knotfest in December.

Paolo says of the new drummer: “I think he may have been here before with Rock of Ages, but his first shows in the UK with Trivium have been great.

“We’re really excited because for the first time ever we have more songs prepared than what we plan for just the sets. We can let it rotate, so tonight we’re going to throw in a different song than we’ve been playing from all the other nights. Tomorrow we might change it up a little bit and break out of the habit of playing a set of fifteen songs and sticking to it for three to four months. We try and keep things exciting, and Paul’s been a big help in that.”

After the exit of Trivium’s previous drummer – Mat Madiro – last year, Corey explains that: “We had been looking for candidates, and we spent almost six months vetting people. Just finding people that we thought could be a good fit and then let people just weed themselves out for any particular reason. We had got to a point where we just ran out of ideas of who would be a good candidate to audition.

“I think Paolo told Matt [Heafy, lead vocals and guitars] to email John Petrucci from Dream Theater and get in touch with Mike Mangini. Because Mike, before Dream Theater, was the head of the drumming department at Berklee College of Music. He ended up hitting us back the next day with Paul, who studied under him at Berklee.

“So you can thank Dream Theater: they suggested him, we got in contact with him and out of all the people we had been talking to, he was the most excited about the potential of the gig. He was really pumped about the possibility.

“He’s had experience with touring and big shows, so it wasn’t like we had to break somebody new in and try and get him caught up with the rest of us.

“He’s definitely upped our live shows, from an overall tightness and performance-wise it’s definitely the best we’ve ever sounded.”

“We pretty much were like ‘If you want to start with us at Knotfest in Mexico, it’s cool. If not, maybe in the New Year’,” Paolo adds.

“But Paul, he was like ‘I knew if I didn’t jump on it, someone else could come up and I might not have got the gig.’ So for two or three months while we were on tour, he was sending us videos of him learning songs. And he paced it: he learnt a new song every three or four days, then we’d get a new video and we’d watch. And that was just such an important thing for us because we weren’t going to be able to jam beforehand and we needed to see that he was learning.

“I think the first video we got was ‘Silence in the Snow’ and the second was ‘Rain’ [from Ascendancy] because a little bit of some of the new stuff and some of the old. And once I saw him do ‘Rain’, I knew not only had he learned double-bass but he managed to get it to feel exactly like the record. This is what we’ve been looking for!

“And it’s been great, it’s been fun and it’s nice to have someone back there who can just handle the drums so capably and know so much about it.”

In regard to the band’s situation with Mat Madiro and the drummer’s ultimate exit from Trivium, Paolo clarifies that: “There weren’t any bad things happening, it was just the situation of him coming in and playing with us, in my mind it was always a trial basis. And there were so many things we had to get through until I’d be comfortable with having him in the band full-time.

“We did the couple tours right after [Madiro’s predecessor] Nick [Augusto] left, and it was like ‘He’s filling in, he’s learning the songs, then doing a record then getting ready for more touring.’ It was just getting him through each of those things and seeing how it went, how he adjusted.

“And we just came to the realisation that it might have been a rushed decision: not getting him to come in and help us after Nick – he saved us big time – but we had never given ourselves the chance to do a proper search for a drummer. The joke’s always been the last guy’s drum tech coming in and taking the place. We did that because we were like ‘Well, we like these people, their friends of ours, we know they play drums. Maybe they could get up to speed with what we were doing.’ But it was time to look for exactly what we needed.

“Pretty much every time we’ve had changes, it’s been in the middle of a tour cycle. We can’t cancel a tour and take two months off to look for someone.

“We knew we were going to do it properly this time. That’s why we did the videos and that’s why we talked to people. That’s why we didn’t rush, because the honeymoon period of talking to someone in week one, maybe it’s not going to be like that in like a month or two. Paul proved that he was the right fit for us at the moment.”

As Madiro left and Paul was ushered in to sit behind the kit, Trivium kept the entire process heavily under wraps, with fans only knowing of the line-up change after they saw the new drummer performing live.

“We kept it quiet because if you mention anything online about looking for a drummer, you’re just going to get bombarded by everyone,” says Corey.

“There could be some fifteen-year-old in his bedroom sending in an audition tape. We just wanted to keep it quiet because we still had to tour for a couple of months before we could do any switches.

“Out of respect, Madiro was still playing with us and we didn’t want everyone to be throwing around drummer auditions. But when you go off of someone giving you referrals, I think that stamp of approval has a lot more weight to it than just scouring YouTube clips trying to find some diamond in the rough.”

Trivium may be nearing the end of their 2016 run in the UK, but the touring for Silence in the Snow is far from over as they set their sights on Japan and Australia before thinking about the upcoming festival season.

Trivium’s latest album, Silence in the Snow, is available physically and digitally now via Roadrunner Records. Read our review of the album in our “Best metal albums of 2015” article.

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