Corey Beaulieu is the lead guitarist and backing vocalist for American metal behemoth Trivium. A talented player with a wide array of influences, he joined the band shortly after ‘Ember to Inferno’, the recently reissued Trivium debut, and his menacing presence on stage adds a perfect counterpoint to Matt Heafy’s hyperactive antics. Once again touring Europe in support of the rabidly received ‘Silence in the Snow’, Trivium have rarely been off the road since that album dropped in the October of 2015 and were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Corey about the record, the band’s writing process and the reissue of ‘Ember to inferno’ shortly before he took to the stage to crush a fully-packed Rock City in Nottingham (check out our review here).
The first thing to ask is that, you’ve been on tour for something like twelve months, and I believe that you do some writing on tour so I was wondering if you’ve been thinking about what’s coming next whilst you’ve been travelling?
We haven’t really started writing songs on this tour. We used to do that in the past, but we kinda stopped. I guess, whilst we’re out on tour, we like to enjoy where we’re at and just do other things and, you know, we’ve been out on tour and we’ve seen so many bands cooped up in the corner in a venue with their laptop working on songs and stuff and they don’t really get out and enjoy anything, so we kinda stopped doing that. It’s great because in between tours, if we’re not writing then, you get home, get some ideas and they roll out easily. We’re always writing during our downtime, whenever we feel inspired, so we’ve got ideas and stuff, but we won’t full-on start getting into another record until after this tour and we’ve taken a little bit of a breather because we’ve been on the road for most of the last thirteen / fourteen months or so.
One of the things that did happen whilst you were out on the tour was that you re-released, or your label re-released, ‘ember to inferno’, and I wondered how far the band got involved with that because it was obviously a deluxe edition with lots of demos and stuff?
Well, that was pretty much Matt’s project because he owned that record, or he owns the record. We had a deal – the original label that put it out had a ten-year kind of thing, I think, I’m not really sure about that because it was before my time, so I don’t know how it was all set up but I think they had X amount of deal for ten years or so and then after the deal was up they had the option to take the rights back for the record. So, they ended up doing that and it’s been off the market for the last couple of years and Matt’s just been waiting for the right time to dive into putting it together, putting it back out and looking for the right label which ended up being through our management company.
So, they did the re-release and yeah, we all have old demos of material from way back before ‘Embers to inferno’ and stuff from before ‘ascendency’ that’s on there, so it’s cool to put all that early stuff out, so people can see where the band was leading up to ‘ember…’ and hear the progression because, you know, Matt started playing in the band when he was twelve, so he did ‘Ember…’ when he was sixteen, and there’s even stuff on there from when he was thirteen / fourteen years old. So, it’s cool that it’s finally back out and people can, I guess, complete their back catalogue if they weren’t able to find it or get the record when it was out before. It’s cool to see from when that record originally came out to now, we obviously have a lot more fans now than we did back then, so it’s cool to see that record getting some recognition from the fans who are finally able to get a CD copy of the record and enjoy it and get into it. It’s also cool playing songs form the record now, and it definitely seems people are more familiar with the songs from that record, so it goes over better live and that’s great.
I wondered, as well, if the re-release of the record has informed the set list on the tour as it’s progressed?
When we do headline stuff, we try to do at least one song from every record so we were playing songs from ‘Ember…’ even before the re-release came out on the couple of previous tours prior to this one. We would play a tune off there and it always got a pretty good reaction, and there are ones that people seem to have caught on to over the years, but now it seems when we play ‘Ember…’ songs on this tour, it just seems like the longer that re-release has been out, when we play those songs now, it just goes over as crazy as the other stuff that’s been out for all these years. So, for the set list, we just try to pick something really fun that the fans will think is really cool, with some unexpected stuff mixed in with the mandatory songs that everyone expects to hear. So, it’s been… it’s been really cool… the fan reaction on this tour has been some of the craziest we’ve ever seen in this country since we started, so it’s cool to see that everyone’s still pumped for when we come back over.
It seems that the UK has always embraced Trivium and when you last played here, about nine months or so, you made a special effort to play out of the way venues as well which was cool. Do you notice a big difference between touring the UK and Europe and touring the US?
Um, yeah, it’s… touring over here, usually the venues are nicer most of the time and definitely the fans are a big deal. Especially being in England and some of the European countries, we have fans that come to every show on the tour or multiple shows on the tour. In the States, it’s kind of hard for people to do that because usually your shows are really far apart. You know, over here you drive anything between two-four hours to get to a show, whereas in America, that’s like absurdly short. An average drive is like eight hours to the next gig, so most of the time people get to one show, whereas over here there are fans who’ll go to multiple shows.
We’ve even been over here opening for other bands and we’ve seen that. We toured with Iron Maiden and it was the same fucking guy in the front row and it was like “Dude, you’re here again? Holy shit!” People can really travel with the band and come out to a lot of shows, so it’s cool to see those people who are super-dedicated to the band and, even if we play the same set list every night, they still love it, so it’s cool to see familiar faces at almost every show.
To go back to ‘Ember…’ for a minute – Trivium is a band who have evolved over every album. When you have a chance to look back at your career, as with a reissue, do you have a chance to take stock of your career and think about what you’d like to do next?
I think when we’re writing… the reason that all those records are unique to themselves in the catalogue is that, when we write we see what happens and we go with what I guess is inspiring us at that moment. So, that’s why each record has a different thing because at each moment in your life you’re more interested in something else or a particular sound or certain situations or whatever – they help to promote your creative output. So, we try to let whatever feels natural come out. We don’t like to force anything or try to do something that doesn’t feel natural or right. So, if we wanted to do something more melodic, it’s not like we’re going to force ourselves to write a death metal record or something like that.
So, we just let it go and before we start up a new record, we usually have some time from the previous record to reflect on it and how well it sits in the catalogue after X amount of time. So, we think about what we liked doing and what we weren’t so keen on and we critique our albums and look at our records to see what combinations of elements in our sound worked the best and what fans seemed to gravitate towards more. There are certain things that we do that seem to be fan favourites, so in the present we are a lot more aware of what makes people love what we do in our music and we use that as a guide for what we want to do. We already have an idea for what we want to play and then it’s kind of like seeing what the fans are really digging and then thinking about whether they’ll dig the new stuff – you know, what’s mixed in form the previous records and what new elements are there that don’t sound like we’re rehashing anything. So, we always want to move forward and hopefully this next record will have a lot of stuff that people like from all the old records along with a new twist that’ll make it sound fresh and exciting, so I’m really looking forward to diving in to the writing and seeing how it turns out.
it’s probably an odd thing to pick up on, but one of the things I liked about ‘Silence in the snow’ was that it was a very dynamic record that didn’t feel the need to slam the listener – was that something you consciously worked on to get a more organic / analogue sounding mix?
Yeah, we purposely did that and it comes from just being music fans and all of us just listen to a lot of old school metal stuff. We listen to that stuff a lot and you have it ingrained in your brain how all that stuff sounds and then new records come out and there’s something about it that has this frequency that’s… the problem with a lot of records is everything is mixed loud as fuck, then they master it loud as shit, so there’s no dynamic range and everything’s pegged as loud as it can go and there’s no room for the instruments to go anywhere, so the louder you turn it up the shittier it sounds.
We did the opposite where we got everything in the mix the way we wanted it and then we mastered it like, I think about 2 or more db. lower than most records are mastered nowadays, so if you listen to it on your phone or whatever, you might think you can’t turn it up anymore, it’s kinda quiet, but if you listen to it on a good hi fi or your car stereo, it’s like the louder you go, the bigger the instruments get and there’s room for the instruments to get bigger and louder and not get crushed by compression and stuff like that. So, we purposely did that for ourselves because that’s what we wanted the record to sound like and also, hopefully, fans who like pristine audio… they can turn it up and not ruin the record. So hopefully we’ll end up going that route in the future to preserve all that money we’ve spent making the record to make it sound good. The worst thing to do is to spend that much money making a record and then at the last possible hurdle… fuck it up!
The last question is about the records themselves – Trivium records have a really strong flow where there are these textured introductions and a real swell between the songs – do you spend a lot of time on sequencing the albums so that they work that way?
It’s usually pretty easy. When you’re making the record, you get a feeling for which song would be a good opener and closer so, after that, you start to think in ways like an old LP where you have an A & B side. So, you make the record where you think what songs might potentially be a single – and they’ll be like track two or three – and then you think about a song for the half way point, which is like flipping the record over. So, it’s usually pretty quick because after a while you hear the songs so many times that you get an idea. Then there’s help from our manager and our record label guy and when they hear the record they throw out their ideas of a track listing and the whole thing solves itself pretty quick.
It’s not a painstaking process, but it’s easier when you have segue tracks (like on ‘In Waves’). Where you have those little interludes, they’re usually based off a particular song, so they kinda work together and that usually that makes it a little easier because, when they’re connected to a track they go in a certain place and they’re not just some random piece of music thrown in the middle. So, we always try to make it fun for our listeners who listen to a record from start to finish, so that it has a good flow and the songs… there’ll be a fast song, then something slower and from track to track it makes it easier to digest everything so it’s not just all thrash songs in a row or whatever.