INTERVIEW: Paolo Gregoletto of TRIVIUM

For a band still so young—the core trio of vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy, guitarist Corey Beaulieu and bassist Paolo Gregoletto are all in their mid-30s, and drummer Alex Bent still is on the other side of 30—Trivium has released an impressive—and extensive—body of work over the past two decades. The Florida-based band’s ninth album, “What the Dead Men Say” (April 24, 2020, Roadrunner Records; read Live Metal’s review), might be its best yet, incorporating the wide range of influences that have populated previous records and playing as if this is the musical statement the band has been building to all along. While touring to support the new release is on hold due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Trivium has a leg up on most other bands due to its prolific track record of streaming. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently spoke to Paolo about that, the new album, an underappreciated record from the band’s catalog and more.

LIVE METAL: First of all, I just wanted to say that you are an important part of our website’s history. We started in early 2006, and you were the first person I interviewed.

PAOLO GREGOLETTO: Wow. Old school. (laughs)

You were on tour with In Flames and DevilDriver at the time. I don’t want to linger on the past too much, but that must have been an exciting time for you and the band. You hadn’t been in the band for very long at that point, right?

Yeah, I joined like August 2004, and I think, at that point, we were probably—I can’t remember if we had put out “The Crusade” yet, but we were still touring for “Ascendancy,” probably a little bit for “The Crusade.” It was a really big tour for us. Obviously, In Flames is one of our favorite bands, and to be out with them and doing that tour was one of our highlights up to that point. Still, thinking back, it was a great tour for us.

It feels like that just happened, but it was 14 years ago. You’ve put out a lot of albums, a lot of music. You’re a veteran band now, even though you guys are still pretty young. Do you feel like that, like all that experience has added up?

Yeah. We’re in a unique and, I would say, a really good place to be, in that we’ve been around for a long time, but we happened to, luckily, get our start at such a young age with our career, with putting out records with Roadrunner, that when you add up all that time, all things considered, we’re older now, but we’re still young, I would say, and we still feel like we have a lot to prove. So we’ve been able to rack up the experience but never lose that new band drive and fire. And things have gotten even better for us over the years, but looking back to those early years, it really helped establish a base for us in the States. We were very lucky to get those tours back then when we did.

So now, today, we are in unprecedented times with what’s going on in the world. How have you been making out so far during this pandemic and lockdown?

Yeah, it’s been really interesting, of course, putting out a record and not having the usual press/promo things happening with us, like going overseas to do some press. We were supposed to go to Asia a couple months ago, and that had to be canceled. So it’s been really weird to have this lead-up to the big moment with putting out the record and kind of realizing we’re probably not going to be touring for a little bit.

We’ve been doing a lot of press at home. All of us always practice and do stuff on our own time, so when we’re able to get back together and rehearse again, we’ll be ready. We’re just kind of thinking about what we’re gonna be doing over the next few months, because with touring kind of in the balance, we’re gonna have to plan just the way we planned for the release. I feel like every single week leading up to it, we had to alter plans because things were changing, and we’re kind of doing the same now with where we go from here.

Do you feel like Trivium was maybe a little better prepared for this because of the track record you have of all the streaming of the shows and things like that?

Yeah. I would say it’s just kind of a bit of luck of getting ahead of the curve with things. We started incorporating streaming stuff into our live shows a couple years ago. Matt’s been on Twitch for maybe three years. We had this sort of experimentation going on over the years that was like we’ll stream the shows and see how that works. We even streamed the shows that Matt had to leave for when he had to go home for his wife’s pregnancy. So he was watching us on his own stream as we continued the tour, which was kind of a weird, surreal thing for him (laughs).

So we’ve been doing this for a bit, and now, we haven’t even really rolled out what we’re gonna do yet with a lot of the events and streaming stuff that we’d like to do. We’re starting to plan for it now. The first and foremost thing was to get the record out and make sure that was all handled. We knew that after the record’s out, we’re gonna have to start thinking about what we do next. I don’t know if things are really gonna change that much, but if we’re able to travel and get into a rehearsal room and start working on stuff again, we’ll start planning the events, and we’ll make something happen.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Paolo just started his own Twitch channel.)

What was it like to play those shows without Matt? That’s obviously a pretty big hole to fill.

Yeah, it was really a wild experience. We lucked out: We had Howard Jones (Light the Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage) on the tour, so if you’re gonna have someone fill in for a lot of songs, you can’t really do any better than that in terms of a modern metal singer, iconic in his own right. So that was great. We had Jared Dines out, which was awesome. Not only is he a great guitar player, but he has this sort of online celebrity that he brought to it, as well.

We wanted to make sure that if Matt had to leave the tour, which he did, that we kind of had this once-in-a-lifetime experience to the shows so that it didn’t feel like people were missing out on something or getting gypped with the show. The fact that we were able to pull it off with a headlining set, and then Corey and I kind of handled the frontman duties talking to the crowd, it was fun. It ended up feeling like a party more than anything.

We’re such a regimented, well-rehearsed band that going on tour, every night we don’t go through the motions, but we know what we’re doing and you know what to anticipate. And then with these shows, it was sort of like all bets are off, because this is like a whole new band in a way. It kind of had that first-tour-ever kind of vibe, where you’re nervous going up onstage, even though I’ve played these songs a bunch of times. But it was fun. And having Brandon (Saller) from Atreyu out at the Anaheim show, it was really a wild celebration. I’m glad we pulled it off, because those shows were great. It sucks Matt had to miss them, but I’m glad we were able to still do them.

You had a big tour booked for the summer—Megadeth, Lamb of God, In Flames. There hasn’t been an official announcement, but I’m assuming that first leg isn’t going to happen. Are you waiting like the rest of us for the official word on that? (EDITOR’S NOTE: It has since been announced that the first leg of the tour has been postponed to 2021.)

Yeah, that’s really kind of it at this point. The reality of the situation, I think no one is gonna be surprised when Live Nation makes the announcement of what it is. I had been figuring that maybe what’s gonna happen is it’s gonna probably get rescheduled to another time, and they’ll give people the option either to hold onto tickets or hopefully they make refunds easy for people. We’re not in the day-to-day decisions with that kind of stuff, because we’re not one of the headlining bands. I hope everything is as seamless as possible for people. It sucks that we’ll have to probably move it, but everyone really wants the tour to happen, and at the end of the day, there’s really nothing we can do about it, besides being disappointed and knowing that we’ll have to wait a little bit longer.

Nobody really knows what’s going to happen in the future, but when the time comes that touring can resume, do you have any thoughts or ideas about what that might look like, what restrictions there might be?

I definitely think masks are gonna have to be a thing, especially in indoor shows, because everything I’ve been seeing about it is the issue is like, you had the people at the choir or people in call centers or in restaurants, and you’re starting to see a pattern here, like people speaking and projecting their voice is kind of an issue. Especially if you’re in the front row for us, we’re not gonna be able to wear masks when we play, so the audience is gonna have to be the ones doing that.

We’ll see how it all goes. I don’t think we’re in a state where we can even think about shows yet. But when that time comes, if we’ve gotta make some changes to things—like there can’t be moshing or crowd-surfing, whatever—I’d rather go out and tour than not, so if we all have to sacrifice a little bit of that energy of the show to be able to go out and enjoy things again, then it’ll be what it is, and I think people will be understanding. Hopefully, in the next year or two, things will get to a sense of normalcy, at least in health terms.

Yeah, it seems like people just want to get out now, and I think they’ll be willing to work with you on stuff like that.

Yeah, I think so. Maybe venues can—and bands and everyone at shows—provide masks if people don’t have them. It’s weird ‘cause we’ve been touring in Asia for so long, and that is a normal thing. When we walk around on the streets, people wear masks because that’s just sort of a thing in the culture. They’ve experienced pandemics and stuff over the last couple decades, so there’s a memory of those things. We’re kind of new to this whole thing, so people are hesitant and resistant to measures that need to be taken. It seems like most people are doing the right stuff. That’s really a good sign, so when tours come back, I think most people would be willing to work with us on that.

The new album, “What the Dead Men Say,” came out just a few weeks ago. What kind of goals did you have going into this album?

We felt like we had a lot to live up to with the last record. We felt like people really loved it. There was a lot of momentum coming off that record—of course, having the Grammy nomination, having all the big touring and the success of that. So we knew that going into this, it was like OK, we really made a statement, so we have to have something to follow it up that’s not just going to be—I don’t know—at the same level or maybe a little bit more lackluster than that one. It has to be much more.

We were very focused in on not overloading ourselves with a lot of material. We wrote what we were gonna write on the record. We didn’t write any more than that. We dove into the details of each song. We wrote as many riffs as we could, and we just tried to make sure that each song was as thought out as possible. And we did that over the course of a couple months before we even got into the studio. We felt very confident going in that we had really great material, and as we started recording, it felt like we were kind of elevating from the last record. So far, people seem to really love it, and I think we nailed the mark of what we were trying to achieve on it.

In the past, your band has been known for making relatively big shifts in style from album to album. I think starting with the last one, it seemed to me the approach was more taking elements from the previous albums, then kind of shaking them up, mixing and matching them, and putting them together into new songs, and then you’re building on that with this new album. Was that the intent?

Yeah. I think we felt like we found what really worked on “The Sin and the Sentence,” and getting Alex into the band felt like this sort of stabilizing thing for us. We’ve worked with a lot of different people—different producers, and we’ve had different drummers. I do think that any time you add something into the mix, the chemistry’s always a little different, the outcome might be a little different. But I think throughout the years, Matt, Corey and I, we’ve always approached things riff-wise from a similar approach. This one, having Alex on both these records, having Josh produce and mix both these records, there was a sort of stability with that stuff, and the chemistry of what worked last time was there, and we didn’t need to go and try to change the entire experiment. It was really just like adding in little things here and there to make it sound as good as possible, make the riffs as good as possible. I think we found where we need to be, and where we go from here, I think it’s just trying to push ourselves to top this record and see where that goes.

I was reading that you recorded what most of the time would be considered backwards, with the drums last. Why was that done that way?

When we started working with Josh as producer on the last record, he had mentioned doing it like that. It’s something he likes to do because it allows him, when he’s working with a band, to always be able to, like if there needs to be a structural change, you haven’t committed to recording the drums and it’s a lot easier to make changes like that. We’re a band that’s always really well prepared going in, so we could’ve had Alex play first, and I think we would’ve got really close to exactly what the outcome was with this record. But I do think there were certain things—like on “Bleed into Me,” we made a couple structural changes that if Alex had already cut his drums, we might’ve had to cut out fills and stuff to make a re-edited version of that structure work. This way, we just had midi drums that he had played on the electric kit, so changing all that stuff is not a big deal, and that way Alex got to play his parts to the finished version of everything—all the solos, all the vocals, all the hits and parts that we locked in in the recording. He’s able to play to that, he’s able to play the fills to that. I think for a drummer, that’s probably got to make it a lot easier.

Obviously, you have a good working relationship with Josh Wilbur. What has he brought to the band, aside from the suggestion of recording the drums last?

I think he’s a real stabilizing figure. As a producer, I think his demeanor in the studio works with bands like us. We don’t like drama. We don’t like people butting heads and stuff. We’re all trying to work toward a common goal. He wants to get the best out of a band, and he wants everyone to feel proud and happy with what turned out. It’s not about getting his ideas on the record; it’s about getting the best idea. If he ever suggests something and if we’re not feeling it, he doesn’t force the issue. But we also respect him as a producer, as a writer, as a person that’s been in this industry so long and worked with so many great bands, and when he’s got an idea, we listen because we trust him. I think he gains trust because he’s a guy that’s not always looking out to get his ideas on. It works with us. Maybe other bands need someone that works differently, but I think we found someone that meshes with the way we like to do things. He went into this record wanting to do the same things as us—top his mix, top his production and see what he could change to make it better, bigger, and that’s the kind of attitude we like going in to record.

Not counting the newest album, because everyone always says the new album is their favorite, what is your favorite Trivium album?

Hmmm, tough. Taking off the new record, I feel like the last record was probably one of my favorites. I feel like we kind of found ourselves again, and that’ll probably always be one of my top albums just because of that. If I had to go back before then, top to bottom, “Ascendancy,” “Shogun” and “In Waves” are probably some of my favorites that I can go back and, start to finish, they really feel like complete thoughts, and I’m very proud of how we were able to pull off an entire record’s worth of music that flows well together. The new one, of course, even though I wasn’t supposed to add it, I really love it. I think it was a big leap. It’s hard to make a leap from a record that does well. That’s always a big challenge. When you’re following up a well-received record, it’s so much harder than anything. So I feel happy we were able to exceed people’s expectations.

Yeah, I think the new one is probably my favorite. I have to live with it a little more. But before that, I would say my favorite is probably one that not many people say, which is “The Crusade.”

Hmm, interesting. Yeah, I love that record, too. It’s always weird ‘cause things that I consider maybe marks against it are things I don’t think anyone listening to it would even know or think about. When you make a record, you know the entire process, you know the behind the scenes of everything, and so sometimes you feel like you could’ve done this a little differently. At the end of the day, we got a lot of great material out of that, and there’s still songs on it that are fan favorites. I think over time it’s become a lot more of a well-received Trivium record than when it first came out. It’s kind of nice to see a lot of that material get its due and feel a little vindicated. I guess at the time, it felt like people were panning it because it followed “Ascendancy” and it was different. But in the context of everything we’ve done since then, it makes more sense.

OK, I don’t want to use up a ton of your time. I know you’re answering questions from press all day long. Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?

Just everyone, stay safe, stay healthy, and once we can get this show on the road again, we’re looking forward to seeing everyone out there.


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