“I still remember that trip as if it were a couple of weeks ago.”

The venture the metal frontman is referring to is the Orlando heavyweights’ very first trip overseas in Europe following the drop of debut album Ember to Inferno 13 years ago, which got re-released this month after being long out of print.

The band’s tour began in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, before continuing on to Germany and Belgium among other places. As Matt Heafy reflects, “It was a great foot in the door of being able to experience being outside the country.”

“I’m not sure if it’s quite the same in Australia, but in America a lot of people that I’ve known my entire life haven’t really left their home state. I’m so fortunate that I get to constantly learn about the world through travelling.

“It’s been really cool to see how people live, and what I’ve learnt is that while there are differences between other places of the world, we’re all really similar as well.”

After contemplating a more recent tour experience which took him back to those Ember years, Heafy remembers, “We did just play Eindhoven for the first time again, which was pretty crazy being the first European city we ever played at.”

“I remember the first time I went through Eindhoven, there wasn’t really much of a food scene or many clubs to play. Now there are amazing restaurants everywhere and it was a really nice club we played this time. So it’s cool to see how things have upgraded throughout the years since we’ve come back.”

The conversation naturally turns to food, with the singer citing eating as his favourite thing to do while not playing shows. He’s even been taking cooking lessons. Yet even while making local brekkie recommendations, it’s clear that his passion extends far beyond learning how to serve up a killer meal.

“I feel there’s no better way to learn about a culture and country than through their food, and that’s something I always strive to do,” Heafy asserts. “My favourite restaurant in Sydney is Mamak, I love it. The other place to go to is Din Tai Fung, the dim sum place. Also, Single Origin Roasters is one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had in Australia, if not the world. The coffee shop is tiny, and it’s unbelievable.

“I feel like America and Australia have my two favourite breakfast scenes. The other amazing place is Paddy’s Lantern in Adelaide, and then probably Cumulus Inc. in Melbourne. I think Melbourne is one of the greatest food cities on the planet, so every time we’re there, we’re very happy.

“The way I’ve always equated the Australian cities is I’ve said Melbourne is like San Francisco, with the amount of culture and restaurants it has. Then I usually equate Sydney to LA, which also has great food and everything.”

The chat takes a more serious turn to the wilful cultural ignorance of many US acts that actually hate touring outside their home country. As Heafy puts it bleakly, “That crushes me.”

“There are so many people that want to be able to tour around the planet, and we meet these bands that hate going overseas because they a) don’t like it there and can’t figure out something to do, which is ridiculous, or b) don’t like the food because it’s ‘weird’.

“I think an open-mindedness to food leads to an open-mindedness to everything in life, and those that have a closed mind to other cultures I think do it out of fear. It’s so important to learn about where you are and the people that are welcoming you into their homes, and to see if there’s something you like in that,” the vocalist concludes wisely.

One real upside of Heafy having such an open mind is being able to make lifelong friends across cultures, many of which are on the opposite side of the world. Reflecting on those connections, his ties to Australia seem to run even deeper.

“One of my closest friends in the world, Brenton, is in Melbourne,” he reveals. “He’s one of the teachers at a school called Absolute MMA, and that’s where I usually train at when I’m there. We both love metal, food, jiu-jitsu… I’ve learnt a lot from him. He’s an amazing fighter and person, and I keep in touch with him regularly. One of the guys I met Benjamin Cooper, the head chef at the restaurant Chin Chin, is a close friend of mine as well. I consider him my mentor, he’s taught me a lot about the creative process and inspired me in making music.

“So there are great people that we meet around the world, and I’m very thankful for that.”

Heafy is certainly grateful for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which retaught him humility, although he admits, “Thankfully I come from two pretty disciplined cultures. My father’s a marine and my mum’s Japanese, so that explains a lot about my regimentation. But of course, everyone when they’re 18 or in their early 20s flies off the handle a little bit, and as you should. You should know what it is to push the boundaries of yourself.”

“It was great that back then we had the confidence, and I think that was misconstrued at that age. Maybe we were a little cocky as well. But that’s what you have to have growing up. Martial arts is a great equaliser for people, and really teaches you to be humble if you don’t have that opportunity. But thankfully, my parents were both very good at discipline, and the jiu-jitsu just reinforces that on top.”

The martial art also serves as a counterbalance for Heafy in terms of the draining nature of songwriting and relentless touring. Yet ultimately, the vocalist applies the discipline of jiu-jitsu back into Trivium, and that’s something he’ll never take for granted.

“It’s been an amazing journey with learning something again from the ground up,” he muses. “I’ve been in Trivium since I was 12, so I didn’t really realise that I was getting better at things as I was going. It was just something I was always doing. But to get into something brand new like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, that’s given me a metaphor for life, to learn something from the ground up and not have any idea or capability of doing that… By no means am I great at it or will ever master it, but that’s what I appreciate about it.

“Getting into jiu-jitsu has made me a better singer and guitar player, because I’ve applied that drilling and constant wanting to be better at something to things that I’ve done my entire life. It’s great for me because there are very few times in my life where my brain is actually quiet.

“I could be playing guitar, singing, at a show and it’s still thinking about other stuff. But when I’m grappling, sparring and rolling, it’s really the only time my brain is quiet and I’m just in that moment. It’s like meditation for me, and lets me do what I have to musically.”

Grab a copy of Trivium’s freshly re-released debut album Ember to Inferno, out now via Cooking Vinyl Australia.

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