Trivium's Matt Heafy on festival bottlings and why dragons are metal

Matt Heafy headshot
(Image credit: Roadrunner)

When it comes to Trivium frontman Matt Heafy, the operative word is ‘fast’. We could refer you to the Florida metallers’ rampant work-rate since 2003, and the 10-album streak that makes their peers look positively sluggish. 

We could clock the breakneck guitar solos that light up songs such as A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation, which put shred standards like Eruption in the shade. 

Then, of course, there’s the frontman’s warp-speed interview manner, which trolley-dashes from this year’s pummelling new album, In The Court Of The Dragon, on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Japanese mythology and more. Over to him.


Right now you’re on the road with Megadeth, Lamb Of God and Hatebreed. How’s it going? 

It’s been incredible. I would have been excited to see 4,000 people a night. Lo and behold, 9,000 people showed up to see us in Austin, Texas, which is insane for four bands who play metal and are essentially from the underground world. 

Have your shows always gone so well? 

No. I mean, I was doused from head to toe with a hot bottle of piss before our second Download show in 2006. No one had an extra towel, so I had to play covered in someone else’s piss. That sucked. Falling through the stage sucked. Losing my voice sucked. Doing shows with tonsillitis and food poisoning. I’ve had it all. 

Who’s the band to beat on this tour? 

I feel like all four are firing on all cylinders but, man, Megadeth is just unbelievable. Every single detail of their show is meticulous, and Dave Mustaine is still flawless. There is no one else on the planet like him. Am I competitive on a tour like this? Of course, there’s the ‘humility’ answer: I do believe that everyone rises up together. But I also want this, more than anyone else I know. 

Do you think the events of the last two years have brought a more aggressive edge to In The Court Of The Dragon? 

I feel like it has to. I think metal should be very reactionary to the world around it. Bands have a responsibility to do that. Music has always been about tackling the deepest, darkest, most intense things about society, looking into the mirror and the soul, and confronting that. And the bands that don’t do that just write the typical drivel of either ‘Life’s a party’ or some song-generator BS.

What themes did you find yourself writing about? 

The title song, I started writing about Norse mythology, and Thor battling Jormungandr at Ragnarök. But Paolo [Gregoletto, bass] said, “We should create our own mythology instead.” When he said that, it really set off this spark in my mind. Something I’ve been tapping into recently is my Japanese side. 

Y’know, like the Japanese storm god Susanoo battling Yamata No Orochi, the eight-headed serpent of the sea. My favourite characters are Raijin and Fujin, the gods of thunder and wind: that’s probably going to be my next tattoo. I’m also making a children’s book about Japanese folklore. 

Isn’t that stuff too dark for kids? 

Oh, very much so. Like, there’s the story about the kappa, which is this turtle-human thing. It’s kinda evil, and it’s disgusting, too. 

Are dragons as rock’n’roll as snakes and bats? 

Absolutely. I remember seeing this old Dio interview where they’re asking him, “Why are you always singing about dragons?” And he said, “The dragon can be anything. It can be an obstacle or foe in your own life, or something evil you see in the world.” I loved that. The history of dragons is all over the place. You see them in the ancient Asian cultures, across old English stories, Russian stories. Dragons are a metaphorical punching bag, essentially. 

Famously, Trivium are perfectionists. Which of the new songs has the biggest potential for screw-ups? 

Man, they’re all tough. Dragon’s got a lot of right hand. The Shadow Of The Abattoir, vocally, that’s low in the verses and Bruce Dickinson-high in the final chorus. What’s interesting is, my favourite shows recently have been where I’ve missed a couple of notes. People like the human element. 

When we did the A Light Or A Distant Mirror livestream last year, my friend’s favourite moment was when Alex [Bent]’s snare drum broke, and he realised it wasn’t pre--recorded. I think we’re one of the only bands whose livestream was actually live.

How much can you drink and still pull this stuff off? 

Back at the start, we were a bunch of snot-nosed party kids that for some reason were still pretty good live. But our stuff is too technical now. I can’t be high or drunk before playing any of our shows, ever. 

How badly have you been injured while doing jiu-jitsu? 

I went into it eight years ago, thinking, “Alright, I’m good at the whole band thing, I should be good at this too.” And I got my ass kicked for five years straight. One of my middle fingers is still pointing sideways at the top, from grappling with this absolute monster of a human. That’s probably the most career-scary injury. 

Have you ever had to use your fighting skills outside the ring? 

No, thankfully not. We were jumped once in a random town – 15 people on three – but luckily we got out alive. 

If you could play any famous guitar, what would you choose? 

I’d like to play some old lute that belonged to a renaissance master from the baroque era. I can’t think of a sick lute player off the top of my head, but that’d be pretty cool. If we had to say a rock musician, maybe one of Brian May’s original guitars. 

What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve ever had with a fan? 

Someone made me sign their newborn baby once. This guy gave me a look, like, “You’d better sign my kid or there’s gonna be a problem.” So I very delicately and gently did it.

In The Court Of The Dragon is out now via Roadrunner.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.