What happened when Trivium met Shvpes

Shvpes Griff Dickinson and Trivium's Matt Heafy
(Image credit: Fraser Lewry)

A wall of noise threatens to flatten the empty Roundhouse as Trivium go through their soundcheck. The support bands’ equipment is scattered across the dancefloor, but apart from a few scurrying roadies, no one’s paying much attention.

The exception is Shvpes singer Griff Dickinson. He’s sitting at his band’s drumkit, facing the stage, drinking everything in. Six days into the tour and the novelty hasn’t worn off, but then Griff is a fan. A real fan. The kind of fan who has the Japanese script from Trivium’s Shogun album tattooed on his neck. The kind of fan who’s in a band because of Trivium.

So Hammer asked Griff to interview Trivium frontman Matt Heafy. They started off by talking about keeping healthy on tour…

Griff: “The majority of what I do is because you’re my coach, like how to look after my voice. They have honey onstage, the honey in the hot water bottle.”

Matt: “It still blows my mind that I just gave you a couple of little tips, and you’ve become a monster singer. It’s really mind-blowing. I remember at the first show thinking, ‘Fuck. I wish I could sing like that dude.’ I’m really proud of you. And it’s been good to offer some advice about staying healthy and maintaining your voice.”

Griff: “Do you get that anxiety of waking up and thinking, ‘I hope I can sing today!’?”

Matt: “Even living super-healthy I still think that every day. Every morning. Even right now, I’m thinking, ‘I hope I can sing later.’”

Griff: “That’s the thing about being a singer. Unless the drummer has repetitive strain injury or something like that, they can still get up there and play. They can be throwing up or shitting themselves, but they can still go up and bang a set out.”

Matt: “There are days when I wish I played an instrument that didn’t involve vocals. But of course I would never really want to change that.”

Griff's Trivium tattoo

Griff's Trivium tattoo

Griff: “Do you ever find that there a parts you want to perform that are compromised because you’re doing two things at once? Like the music will be really complicated, but then you’re also singing on top?”

Matt: “Absolutely. Even the song Walk by Pantera. That song is super difficult to play and sing because the rhythm of the guitar doesn’t really lock in with the vocal part. And with our Vengeance Falls record, most of those guitar parts don’t really fit into the vocal part either. It’s like they’re two different living entities, and that why sometimes I think, ‘Man, it would be so much easier to just sing, or just play guitar,’ and feel like I could do more with it.”

Griff: “Have you ever done that on any tracks?”

Matt: “With some of the songs now, like the verse of Until The World Goes Cold or the verse of Dead And Gone, I won’t actually play during the verse. I used to think that I had to be singing at 100% all the time, or playing at 100% all the time, but now I realise you can just use one guitar for a verse when you play it live, or sing softer for a part. It ends up texturising things.”

Griff: “I can barely watch porn and jerk off at the same time. There’s no way I can play guitar and sing!”

Metal Hammer: “How did you get into metal?”

Griff: “The bands that got me into music were Limp Bizkit, the Chili Peppers and Eminem. And then Trivium came along and I thought, ‘This is my jam!’”

Matt: “That’s so huge for me. We’re finally getting to a point now where we’re beginning to meet fans of our band who are in bands themselves, and that’s the most I could ever wish for, that someone was inspired enough to do it themselves. When you first told me that story I thought it was fucking awesome, and I’ve been telling that story onstage. As a person who makes music, it’s all you could ever hope for.

“For me, I got into pop-punk first. I picked up a guitar because I thought it was a cool thing to do, then tried out for a band called Freshly Squeezed and didn’t make it. They never gave me the call back, and I was kinda depressed, then someone gave me the Black Album by Metallica. This was in 1998, so I got into the Black Album super late.”

Griff: “How old were you?”

Matt: “I was 12 when I got the Black Album.”

Griff: “So you were 11 when you tried out for that band? For fuck’s sake!”

Matt: “Yes. So I heard the Black Album, decided it was the kind of music I wanted to be playing all the time, and then I heard about this band called Trivium who were holding try-outs. I was 12, and they were all 16 or so, and they tried to intimidate me, but I nailed For Whom The Bell Tolls and got in. As an eighth-grader I was playing high school gigs with them. So yeah, I’ve been in Trivium since I was 12. First band, first job. I’ve never had another.”

Griff: “What would you do if Trivium didn’t work out?”

Matt: “If it all fell apart now, and I could still play guitar, I’d teach guitar and music. And once I’ve got my black belt in jujitsu, I’d teach that. I’ve already taught people at my level now. It takes 8-10 years to get a black belt, and I’m about four years in. So maybe something with jujitsu, maybe something with food.”

Griff and Matt deep in conversation

Griff and Matt deep in conversation (Image credit: Fraser Lewry)

Griff: “With every album you put out, there’s always something different. Is that a conscious decision, or do you approach everything with a blank canvas?”

Matt: “There’s two parts to that. One, we’ve never wanted to make everything the same. I used to think that Ember To Inferno and Ascendancy were the same, and it wasn’t until later that I realised they were very different, and now it makes me happy that we have seven different records. And second, we’ve been hyper-critical of ourselves – looking at our catalogue, looking at our history, even looking at the way things have been going for us in the UK.

“When we made The Crusade, it was rebellion against what everyone else was doing. Everyone else was doing the thing that we did, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. And we wanted to rebel against ourselves. I didn’t want to do anything we’d already done. I wanted to give the world something different, and get the fans who didn’t like us. And things kept progressing from that point. Maybe the US and the UK didn’t like The Crusade so much when it first came out, but that’s what got us the Iron Maiden tour, and that opened the doors to Europe for us, because before that Europe didn’t care.”

Metal Hammer: “Matt, you’ve put the years in. How do you feel about being an elder statesman of metal at such a young age?”

Matt: “It’s a good thing. It’s funny, when we started off in Trivium a lot of people were looking at us thinking, ‘Who are these dickhead teenagers saying they’re going to be the biggest band in the world? How dare they do this?’ First of all, I think it’s awesome when bands have that kind of ambitions. You should never hold that back, or be afraid of wanting to be massive. But what those people didn’t know was that we’d already been a band for six or seven years when we were 18 or 19. We already had lots of experience under our belt.

“Now it’s funny. I heard a story about a radio station in Colorado who didn’t want to play one of our songs because they thought we were all in our fifties – they thought we were too fucking old! But we’re just as young as a lot of the younger big bands around, and I’m really glad we got that head start when we got it. We can ride that line between being experienced gentlemen of metal and still being young dudes.”

Griff: “And you’ve still got so much ahead of you.”

Matt: “I want to be doing this when I’m the Rolling Stones’ age, so we’ve got a lot of time to start selling out arenas on our own. We’ve accomplished a lot, but we’re nowhere near the goal.”

Trivium and Shvpes are touring Europe at the following dates:

Mar 01: Gothenburg Pustervik, Sweden
Mar 02: Malmo KB, Sweden
Mar 03: Copenhagen Vega Main Hall, Denmark
Mat 04: Aarhus Train, Denmark
Mar 06: Hannover Capitol, Germany
Mar 07: Leipzig Taubchenthal, Germany
Mar 08: Vienna Arena, Austria
Mar 10: Pratteln Z7 Konzertfabrik, Switzerland
Mar 11: Munich Theaterfabrik, Germany
Mar 12: Stuttgart LKA Longhorn, Germany
Mar 13: Milan Magazzini Generali, Italy
Mar 15: Lausanne Les Docks, Switzerland
Mar 16: Marseille Espace Julien, France
Mar 17: Barcelona Sala Apolo, Spain
Mar 18: Madrid Sala But, Spain
Mar 19: Santiago De Compostela Sala Capitol, Spain
Mar 21: Cognac West Rock, France
Mar 22: Paris Caberet-Sauvage, France
Mar 24: Cologne Live Music Hall, Germany
Mar 25: Antwerp Trix, Belgium

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.