Battering five continents with their latest tour to promote the stunning “Vengeance Falls” album, Trivium recently tore up the UK and Ireland with Killswitch Engage. Shortly before going onstage in the home of heavy metal, Paolo Gregoletto spent some time with ThisIsNotAScene‘s Dewie talking about the new album, their classic cuts, his influences and the godfather of death metal…
How has the tour been going so far?
It’s been awesome, but it’s almost done now unfortunately.
You’re still really enjoying playing live?
And what is it you enjoy most about the UK? Is it the weather…the food?
Ha! The weather is definitely NOT on the top of my list, but we have always had a really amazing connection with the fans here since day one and now, nine years of touring here we’re seeing kids that have seen us a dozen times… there’s even a kid here today who’s seen us 52 times…. I mean, it’s crazy. It definitely makes it challenging for us to keep things interesting for people. We want to make it so that if you’ve seen us a bunch of times you’ll definitely get to hear the songs you want but also some newer songs and also older songs we haven’t played in a while. We try to keep it interesting for ourselves as well as the fans.
We were talking earlier about the gig in the Barfly [in Birmingham, England] back in – I think it was 2005 or 2006 – I was there and…
Ah, “Ember And The Infernos“…
Yeah, that’s the one – and from my side of the barrier it was amazing. We’re five feet from the band, the stage is a foot high… do you still enjoy playing tiny gigs like that?
Oh yeah… I mean sometimes it’s harder now to play shows like that when we do a tour, but not long back here in Birmingham we did a similar show at The Asylum when “In Waves” came out…
That’s actually the same venue – they just renamed it – but it must be cool to still play tiny clubs like that once in a while?
Oh yeah, we capped it at 200 people – I really enjoyed it. I mean, these big shows are great and we can do a lot more production but I like to still strip it down and it’s just the music and us and the fans. It’s nice to see the energy is there and the music can still speak for itself.
Birmingham is the home of metal of course…
Oh yeah, the birthplace of heavy metal – and on these UK shows we’re seeing lots of new faces as well as people who’ve seen us many times before.
For the newer fans getting into you now of course, the great thing is that despite being a very young band still, you’ve been at it since you were really young so you’ve already amassed a decent sized back catalogue
Oh yeah – it’s like getting into a TV show and then finding out there’s another seven seasons to just go back and binge! I like that with the music because when you put out an album to an audience that know you and know your previous stuff they have certain expectations but people who don’t really know you have a fresh perspective. A lot of people look back at our earlier albums and certain songs we never thought would have been that popular have become popular now and people want to hear us play them live.
Do you find it difficult in metal to get recognised for your skill as a bass player, when a lot of people just focus on the singer or the guitarist in bands? A lot of the stuff you play is incredibly intricate and it’s all finger-picked as well isn’t it…?
Yeah it is….but honestly, I think I have been given more recognition than I ever thought I would be. A lot of our fans are musicians themselves and bass players in particular will tend to pick up on what I’m doing. I try to do my own thing – it’s an interesting mix for me because I write a lot of stuff on guitar but I have the role as the bass player and I juggle both those things. I try to step up each time we do a record and just give it my best. There’s a lot of stuff on the new record I’m really happy with and I was able to have time to really put the effort in and now I’m already thinking about even crazier stuff I can try next time.
Do the other guys ever bring demos to you and you wonder how the hell you’ll fit a bass part around it?
It’s actually easier for me to work out bass parts when it’s their songs. When you’ve written a riff yourself and you really know it I tend to just stick to it and it can maybe limit you, but if I hear a riff Matt (Heafy– vocals/guitar) has come up with then I will hear different idea in my head for the bass part and the same with Corey (Beaulieu – guitar) so you’re hearing the riff fresh for the first time, whereas if I’m working on a demo and I’ve done it for a while I can end up being dead set on a certain course.
I think you’re doing ‘Like Light To The Flies’ on this tour aren’t you?
That, for instance, is a song that is amazing to watch all of you as you play. Do songs like that still present a challenge to play live or have you played them so many times that it’s second nature now?
That one still has tricky parts to it – a lot of pedal tone riffing for the guitars and a lot of screaming for Corey and Matt. Even with them sharing out the screaming parts more it’s still a lot for their voices every night. On the drums it is kinda deceiving as to how tricky it is to play and it’s one of those songs we shift in and out of the set. It’s nice to keep rotating songs like that and change the pace.
I read in an interview you did a while back that your favourite bass players included Cliff Burton and Steve Harris but you’re also a big fan of DD [Verni] from Overkill, right?
Yeah… it’s kinda weird because when I got into music it was not at a point where they were particularly big and even Maiden weren’t at their height of popularity when I first got into them, but it seems these bands are more known now in fact. When I was discovering them it was at the height of nu-metal’s popularity and once I heard from other people about more mainstream metal bands that’s how I heard about Overkill, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Manowar… it blew my mind. I was a 14 year old kid from south Florida and it wasn’t stuff I was just going to stumble on being played on the radio so it was via other kids and also when I took music lessons that I got to hear about those kinda bands and it lead me down this path I chose.
It wasn’t that easy really because at the time everyone was de-tuning and stuff and that wasn’t what I wanted to play. Nick (Augusto – drums) was in my first band and we played a lot of thrashy stuff – it really was idol worship of bands like Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden, but people were honestly telling us back then “This music’s dead – you won’t get anywhere playing this”. I mean that kinda drove us on in a way and we stuck to our guns. Obviously a lot of other people had the same idea at the time and there was this whole new wave of bands who wanted to play metal and it seemed that some level of virtuosity in playing your instrument was important again. So I guess it was a good choice that we all stuck to that.
It must be satisfying to have stuck to it and found there is such a large audience for it…
I think I learned from playing in small local bands that if you really love something stick to it because it will just be more genuine, and if you’re lucky it will pay off in the end. I think all of us in the band are rooted in the classic stuff and also a lot of the Swedish stuff that wasn’t that popular at the time of the nu-metal surge. I mean you look now and bands like At The Gates are revered – and rightly so.
Do you still enjoy the touring lifestyle overall? I got the impression that when you first joined Trivium it wasn’t a done deal and you were going to tour with them for a few months and see how it went?
Yeah… I mean, going into it I had just graduated high school. It wasn’t set in stone that I was going to be part of the band but I think we gelled and the music… we seemed to enjoy playing onstage together and then I joined permanently, and we did “Ascendancy” just after that and it just felt like the right decision for us all.
The first tour you did with the band was supporting Machine Head, which must have been a bit of a baptism of fire?
If ever there was a band to go “this is your first tour” I mean, wow – and it was the tenth anniversary of “Burn My Eyes”. Looking back it was crazy to have been there. If that had been my only tour with Trivium that would have been amazing, but since then we have been lucky to have had so many great tours.
On the latest album (last years “Vengeance Falls”) you have managed a good critical reception as well as album sales. A lot of bands these days are trading one against the other, either writing catchy songs that sell but get poor critical reception or heavier stuff that doesn’t sell so well… so what’s your secret?
It’s kind of a Catch-22, because if you go for record sales you will definitely dumb down the music but if you try to be too obscure it can go over people’s heads, I dunno – it has hurt and helped us over the years to just stick to our guns and write what we wanna write and do what we love. We have certain things we’re better at and we try to play to our strengths.
The old cliche so many bands trot out is “the new album is heavier and also more melodic” but I think you’ve actually nailed that with “Vengeance Falls”.
On “In Waves” we had that to an extent but it was shifting between heavy and melodic songs whereas on the new one it’s more of a blend of both throughout. We’ve always had those elements and we just try to balance them as best as possible.
You still play a lot of the favourites every night like ‘Pull Harder…’ – how do you keep it interesting for yourselves?
We try to rotate songs, so ‘Rain’ or ‘Like Light…’ might not always be in the set but songs we always do like ‘Pull Harder…’ and ‘In Waves’ are fun to play because people really respond to them and they’re easy to play so I don’t need to think too hard about playing them these days. When a song really connects with people live and it really works you never get tired of that.
Where next? South Africa? Australia?
Well, a couple more weeks in Europe, then South Africa, Australia and South America. Then it’s out across the States with Volbeat, which is going to be really cool.
What are the crowds like in some of these places, say South Africa?
Well that’s one of the places we’ve never been so it’s really interesting to see what it will be like. We’re excited to play there.
And what do you do on the road to stop the boredom eating away at you?
I listen to a lot of music and write new stuff but mainly try to get out and experience the places we’re visiting and try the food and just generally enjoy the company of the people we’re touring with.
So what music are you listening to at the moment?
Usually around show time I listen to a lot of metal, but overall I listen to all sorts. At the moment the new Amon Amarth album is one I really love. I’ve always really liked that band a lot and they’re great guys, but the latest one has really clicked and I am playing it
You mentioned Swedish bands earlier – do you like a lot of the death metal stuff from Scandinavia?
Yeah, Entombed and bands like that are definite favourites of ours. Matt is perhaps more into the Gothenburg scene and the melodic death metal from Sweden. I love it too, but I lean more towards thrash and also a lot of the Florida death metal bands. It’s great to see how all these things mesh into our sound. I mean, we’re not a thrash band or a death metal band, but there’s always elements of those things we love that get pulled into our music and have helped create our sound over the years.
Well there’s a fine history of metal from Florida itself…
Oh man, Death are one of my favourite bands ever… they’re from Altamont Springs, which is our home town and in fact on two albums we recorded the drums at Morrisound studios where so many legendary death metal albums have been made and it was kind of weird because we clearly aren’t a death metal band but these bands have been such an influence on us. Some of my earliest memories of going to shows were death metal shows because not many big bands came through south Florida so it was cheap and it was local and we had so many great bands there.
I have so many albums that have got Morrisound or Scott Burns, or both, printed on the back so it must have been amazing growing up surrounded by it?
Yeah, it’s crazy how many legendary bands came out of that area, but with the way people talk these days about Swedish death metal I think Florida sometimes gets overlooked… some of the Swedish bands must have been influenced by it too. I mean, “Scream Bloody Gore” was what… 1986…87? The whole family tree of metal is just fascinating – you never know what is going to influence the next generation.
Have you seen any of the Death To All shows?
I haven’t yet, but we’re playing a festival this summer where they’re playing too so I have to catch that set!
Max (Phelps – Death To All frontman) has a big pair of shoes to fill, but I caught them in London recently and the show was just immense
That’s AWESOME…I got into Death a couple of years after Chuck (Shuldiner – late Death frontman) died and of course it sucks that nobody will ever get to see him play again but there’s definitely a legacy he’s left behind that will always be there. You take an album like “The Sound Of Perseverance” or “Symbolic” and you’ll hear that influence on our records… on so many bands. I’ve been listening to Control Denied a lot lately too… but to see ‘Pull The Plug’ live would be amazing.
[There is then some further discussion of different Death songs that may not be as interesting to the reader as it was to Dewie and Paolo talking in some detail about their exact favourite parts of each song]
So you have a whole host of festivals lined up this summer. The last festival I saw you play was Hellfest last year. The crowd loved it and it was a great set, but clearly some sound issues to begin with? Do you enjoy being able to play to a wider audience or is it frustrating to have limited sound check and gear?
That was SUCH a hectic day for us. We flew in from Denmark to Paris in the morning, had a four hour bus ride down to the site, got in, had a couple of hours to unload and it was just throw and go. We know at festivals that it’s often gonna be like that and you just have to go with it, you know, and you have to give the sound guys a couple of minutes to get it going right. That day it was all analogue boards so you’re starting from scratch when you plug in, whereas with digital our guys already have our settings ready to go. It definitely tests your skill and we’re lucky we have such super-pro guys. It’s the same on stage – if there’s problems you just gotta keep going. The crowd don’t care if you’re frustrated; they wanna see you play, they wanna have fun, they wanna see you have fun and that’s part of the job. You can’t get bothered by it, you’re there to put on a show for these people and you need to get on with it. If there’s 10,000 people there and there’s problems you’re either going to look like an idiot screaming at some sound guy at the side of the stage or you can make the best of it and play your songs.
Well, thank you very much for taking time out to talk to ThisIsNotAScene… I’ll see you down the front later on
You will! Have a good one.