Matt Heafy by Anne Erickson

On 2013’s Vengeance Falls, Trivium mine a tight and cohesive blend of melody and blazing riffs with many apexes. This summer, Trivium are performing songs off Vengeance Falls (one of my favorite albums of the past few years) and the rest of their catalog on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. On Mayhem, Trivium frontman Matt Heafy slings his two signature models: the Epiphone Ltd. Ed. Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom and the Ltd. Ed. Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom-7 seven-string. He’s also turning his tour mates onto his signatures, with Korn’s James “Munky” Shaffer among one of the newest fans.

After a scorching set at a recent Mayhem stop, caught up with the always articulate Heafy to talk about why he believes “the Les Paul is the perfect instrument” and when to expect new Trivium music.

Matt Heafy by Anne Erickson

Thanks for speaking with me here at Mayhem Festival. You have two signature models: the Epiphone Ltd. Ed. Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom and the Ltd. Ed. Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom-7 seven-string. What was the inspiration behind the design of your signatures?

When I was thinking of doing a signature guitar, I wanted to first of all pick my favorite guitar. My favorite guitar was one my dad gave me when I was 11 years old. He gave me a Les Paul custom, which is an absurd guitar for an 11 year old to get for their first guitar, so I was very fortunate that I received that from my dad. I played it on most of our records, and it was always my favorite, so when we were engineering, I sent it to Epiphone and said, “Copy this. Make it play as close as possible to this guitar and look like this guitar, and make just a few changes.” The changes were the “Axcess” heel and all black hardware instead of silver or gold. Also, EMGs, which I’ve always used, EMG 81/85 or 81-7/707 pickups. And that was it. I always thought the Les Paul was the perfect instrument, so I didn’t want to mess with a perfect guitar too much aside from just putting my stamp on it, and those subtle changes made it my own.

What’s it like to have your very own models?

It’s ridiculous. It’s so cool that some of my heroes and the people that are responsible for why I’m in the music industry today playing these guitars. Munky from Korn saw me playing one and was like, “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to check that out. I really think it’s a great guitar. It looks great. I hear it plays great.” And, I just surprised him with one the other day. I said, “This is for you. Thanks for everything you do.” (Check out the photo here.) Korn is the reason why I first bought a seven-string as a kid. I bought one because I was a huge Korn fan. I started learning all their songs on a seven-string. As I got into these other prog-y seven-stringers, like Dream Theater, I incorporated that with the influence of bands like Korn, and it became what it is today. Half of our catalog is on seven-string, and half is on six. Kirk Hammett, my favorite guitar player in the world, recently played my Matt Heafy Signature Les Paul on stage in front of 110,000 people. He played “Fade to Black” and “Fuel” on it, and he surprised me. I had no idea he was going to do that. I gave him and James Hetfield one just as a “thanks” for all the years of influence they’ve given me, and Kirk played it. I’m actually going to bring Slash one of mine as well, because we’re playing together in Florida. He’s a Les Paul player, so hopefully he’ll give me one of his, too. We’ll have to see.

What was most important to you in the design of the guitars?

To stay true to the original because of how much I love the custom and how much I feel it’s one of the most iconic guitars. I played Gibson my entire life, and there was a year when I didn’t, because we were a smaller band and not really on the radar, and as soon as I switched back to the Les Paul custom, all these other bands that I was touring with said, “Now you look like the way we remember you. This is the way you should be. You’re a Les Paul player.” I think it was Brent (Hinds) from Mastodon that came up to me and said, “Yeah, this looks better.” It’s just cool! When you think of other Les Players, it just works. There’s something fortunate about being a Les Paul player that it translates across multiple guitar players all using the same body.

Matt Heafy by Anne Erickson

What guitars did you use for the recording of your latest studio album, Vengeance Falls?

I didn’t bring my entire collection, because we went to David Draiman’s studio in Austin this time, so I brought about 10 of my favorites, and we just focused on which ones were the best. It ended up being the Les Paul I got when I was 11, the one that we modeled to be my signature. It’s the same one we used for In Waves, Ember to Inferno and the same one we used for a lot of the overdubs on Shogun, so it’s really cool that it came back to that guitar again.

How have your signature guitars been holding up on Mayhem Festival?

Really great. One of the things I always wanted to push with having a signature model is that the exact same one that I would play on stage and in the studio would be the exact same one kids get. So, before this tour, and before multiple other tours, I had the factory ship me the guitars as they would have been to a music store or an online store, and I played that exact guitar. My guitar would tech set it up, put my strings on it and I would play that one. It’s all I use. If anyone were to come to our show and come watch the show, all I’m using is my signature – the six and seven-string models – and mine is no different than what anyone else would get in the stores.

What’s next for Trivium?

We’ve been writing and recording on tour. We have about 15 to 20 songs in demo stages recorded already. We’re not recording the album until February, though. It’s just non-stop. We’re working on music constantly. The new album should be out the middle to the end of next year. Until then, we’re touring, touring and touring.

Photos by Anne Erickson