With new album Vengeance Falls scaling charts around the world, Ghost Cult caught up with Trivium bassist Paolo Gregoletto to hear all about the band’s sixth, and definitive, opus. They also chatted about writing and recording, touring Europe, recording with David Draiman, and comparisons to Metallica.
Being a fan of the band, it’s interesting to see how Vengeance Falls fits into the overall journey. Ascendancy established the core sound, The Crusade added Classic Metal, Shogun was dark and heavy, then In Waves and now Vengeance Falls follow a more linear path from each other, being more melodic, more straightforward “Trivium” albums. Was this a conscious decision?
Since the beginning it’s just been let’s get together, write riffs and get the music together, but never to a set plan. This time around we really wanted to have a clear vision well before going in. Every day on tour and during writing we were talking about what we wanted to get out of this record; who we are, what we stand for, and all the things we’ve done previously, what we loved about each of the records, what we could have done better, and what “Album 6”, this far into our career, should be. So, (this time) we wrote towards a specific goal.
You worked with David Draiman (from Disturbed, who produced the album), a decision which caused a “mixed reaction” online, to say the least. Were you aware of the controversy around it, and did you approach working with him with any caution because of that?
When David first approached us, we were really surprised. We didn’t know he wanted to produce us, or even that he produced other bands. When we decided to work with him, we knew that there’d be a stronger reaction than any other time because no other producer we’ve worked with has been in a multi-platinum band, so, yes, we knew there was going to be a reaction, good and bad. When we showed him the demos, and talked to him, and saw the excitement from him to want to work with us and the ideas he had, we all agreed that the music would speak for itself.
We’ve always been a band that has done unexpected things here and there, and this album is one of those moments. I feel you can’t make something unique and exciting if you don’t try to get out of your comfort zone. People will say what they want before they hear it, we just had to make sure we produced what we were talking about from our first meeting, then that would say everything for us. We all feel very confident we achieved what we were talking about in the beginning.
I’m not just pleased with what came out, I’m totally blown away with it.
There is a much greater emphasis on the vocals than any previous album and the comparison that sprang to mind is Bob Rock working with James Hetfield on the ‘Black’ album…
Definitely. This is the album where Matt (Heafy, vocals/guitars) fully comes out as “The Vocalist”. Before, Matt would write as a guitarist first. When you play an instrument and you sing, I think you can use the instrument before thinking about the vocal stuff, and this time he turned that around and the vocals were a big focus. ‘In Waves’ was the start of that, but this time Matt really stepped up to the challenge of taking the lead of a song. Of any record we’ve done, this is one where the vocals are the dominant feature. There’s still the riffs and the technicality we do, but the vocals are in your face. When people hear it for the first time, they’re not expecting the vocals to be so powerful and upfront.
It’s all about the balance. We love our extreme side as much as any of our fans, but we love the melodic side, and all our influences are so varied from very, very extreme metal to very melodic metal, and everything in between. For us, it’s now not about trying to throw everything and a kitchen sink, but finding what works best for the song. Basing a song around him, the vocals sometimes being the key feature, was something that all of us had to learn how to do. But in the end, by doing that we were able to craft the songs into something much, much bigger than when we started demoing them.
The last two tracks take a different approach, and really stand out with a darker, more expansive approach, and two of the best tracks you’ve done to date. Is this a hint at a future direction for Trivium, or just something in line with the dynamics and pacing of the album?
‘Wake…’ was definitely always the one we had in mind for closing the album, for sure. When Incineration came around, that was another we felt could be a potential closer, but then when all was said and done, they fit very well together, the music, the lyrics. They’re definitely the more progressive songs on the album, and we wanted to end it on that note. The beginning, it’s more to the point, the singles, and the more up-tempo stuff, whereas those 2 songs definitely fit together well at the end.
You’re a very highly regarded bass player, with your own BC Rich Bass Guitar range (and VERY nice basses they are too!). How does it feel to be so well thought of in your field as a musician and a technician, a field with a lot of competition?
That’s something I would never have thought of starting out, being recognized for that. The fans getting the band to a certain popularity definitely got me recognized, but I think as each album has gone on I’ve focused on making sure the bass playing is living up to what people want to hear from me, and in the live sense always pushing to perfect my sound and my playing. Bass playing isn’t the thing that gets noticed by the average fan as much, but the people that do hone in on that, it’s nice to be recognised by them. When people say “Aw, man, the bass player’s awesome”, it’s not something you hear for every rock or metal band, and I really appreciate it! And the people I look up to are the larger than life presences in bands, like Steve Harris or Cliff Burton. Even Jason Newsted… just look at his presence in the band… Things like that I’ve tried to emulate myself, but do my own thing, but find my own spot both in the band and in heavy metal bass playing in general.
You’ve just announced UK tour with Killswitch Engage for February 2014, another band who has released a very strongalbum this year. You must be excited about that, and touring again?
We tried to make it a whole Europe thing, but schedule wise it just didn’t work out, unfortunately, so it’s just in the UK, but I’m really, really excited about it. Killswitch Engage are easily one of the best modern-day metal bands and we’ve been friends for a long time. I’m really excited we can make a tour like that happen. I think for fans, and for people that want to go to shows, it’s tough to go see every band you want, and when 2 bands can just get together and make it happen, that’s great, and I’m really excited Killswitch and us can do this.
As a band, you’ve made no secret of your desire to be as big a band as possible, to try to reach Metallica-like status. Is ‘Vengeance Falls’ the album to push you to the next level?
So far, so good with ‘Vengeance Falls’, we’re very happy with it, with how it sounds, the songs we chose, the order we chose. We had a lot of time to really think about it, and we wanted to make everything from the music to the artwork really solid and I’m glad we had that time to make it happen.
The desire of this band has always been to push it to be as big as it can be. In the beginning we just got out there and toured and we realized you have to make those things happen. Make quality music, do quality tours and the rest is up to people taking to it. When we went in to make ‘Vengeance…’ the only thing for us was making a quality record. Whether it’s the album that gets us to that level, I don’t know, but we put everything into it to make it the best it could be, and if it’s the right record at the right time, then maybe…
I definitely feel this is one of our strongest albums, for sure.
So, will you be recording a Metallica covers album to get to number 1?
(Laughs) Err, no comment on that one!