Metal juggernauts Bullet For My Valentine are back! We spoke to frontman Matt Tuck about their victorious return to Donnington Park for #DL2018 and their forthcoming album, ‘Gravity’.
Bullet’s history is entwined with Download as the band has played the festival a massive seven times since their first appearance way back in 2004. It’s only right with the release of their sixth album ‘Gravity’, due out on 29 June 2018, that the band are once again going to set alight Download’s Main Stage on the Friday before headliners Avenged Sevenfold.
We caught up with charismatic frontman Matt Tuck to discover everything about their “monster” new album ‘Gravity’, his favourite WWE NXT moves and what supervillain he would be at #DL2018.
You’ve played at Download multiple times. What are your best memories of the festival?
Every time we’ve played it’s been an incredible experience. Probably the most memorable one was our first appearance back in 2004 on the third stage (which was a tent at the time) and we hadn’t got a record deal; it was just when the band had a little bit of a hype and a little bit of luck in the press.
To get onto Download was beyond a dream come true and it was the start of everything; everything snowballed from that moment on. I remember getting there in the van – we didn’t have the luxury of a bus, just a crappy transit van we’d hired – and we got to the gate and got given these golden tickets (so to speak) into the festival.
It was a time as well when we didn’t have to leave to do another show, as we didn’t really have any other shows at that point; [we got to] enjoy the whole festival and bump into rock stars and people we idolised, and thought were untouchable for most of our lives up until that point – just an incredible life-changing experience.
How are you feeling about your upcoming performance on the Main Stage this summer?
Really excited. It’s been five years since our last appearance, so very happy and honoured to be invited back especially in the slot underneath Avenged [Sevenfold] on the Main Stage – it’s incredible, t’s not something we’ve taken lightly. We’re going to come and do what we do best and put on a great rock show and introduce everyone to the new album and start the album campaign off in style.
‘Over It’ is the first song you’ve released from your forthcoming album, ‘Gravity’. What can you tell us about it?
It’s a monster of a track. It’s got great vocal hooks and lyrics and an absolutely crushing guitar riff. It’s basically built sonically for the festival stage; it’s at a tempo that has incredible festival bounce vibe that you want when you’re playing a festival like Download, so we’ll definitely playing that….unite and make the ground shakes for three and a half minutes.
Is it representative of the album? What can we expect from the album as a whole?
It doesn’t represent the entire album as the album is very diverse: it’s got a lot of colour, a lot of dark, a lot of light – lyrically and musically it’s a very dynamic, contrasting record. We just thought that this song, particularly because of the timing of it, was a really good way to open the campaign; it’s got a great groove, it’s a headbanger and we knew we were playing all these festivals. We thought what better way to do it and get them engaged than to give them something that they want at this time of year.
Where did you seek inspiration for the album?
Inspiration for the album has come over a two year period behind-the-scenes of my personal life. It’s an album that’s very about myself; it’s a very dark, intimate look at what my head is like in times of trauma. Unfortunately I was going through a breakdown of my marriage over the last two years and all the emotional trauma and worry that comes with that. It’s me pouring my emotions out to someone, it was a very difficult album to write. I didn’t really want to give people that insight into my personal life, it’s not something I’ve ever been a fan of, but I thought it was a very relevant, very profound time in my life where for once I actually had something to say and get off my chest.
The album is very up and down emotionally; it’s a very powerful lyrical album and I’m very proud of it. It’s not something I wanted to do at the time; I didn’t even want to come to terms with a lot of it myself, let alone share it with the world. I’m happy in hindsight now that I did it as I feel the band have come up with an incredible record that is going to have a huge positive impact on all our lives. From a very shitty, intimate situation I thankfully had an outlet to do this and turn it around to something that’s going to be really positive in the future.
How do you feel about going out and playing the record live?
I’m ok with it now, I’ve had a bit of time to live with it and comes to terms with it. It wasn’t an easy decision to make to write an album that’s so personal, in-depth and open, but I feel good about it and it’s only going have a positive effect on my life now. I’m glad I did it.
Colin Richards produced your last three albums whereas on ‘Gravity’ you worked with producer Carl Brown. What was the reason for the change?
It wasn’t anything to do with other than we wanted to make a far more dynamic and contemporary record, which needed a different skill set to Colin’s really. Carl’s the same age as me, he’s a lot younger than Colin, and he’s very up-to-date with music technology and music production. We needed that skill set to bring to the table, because we didn’t know how to do it.
We’ve incorporated a lot of electronica on this record that we haven’t done in the past; it’s not a dominating feature it’s just an added sonic to the band that we’ve never done before. Carl’s skill set was ideal for this job and we spent hours and days going through music software and music production techniques to find something that would add to band’s already existing powerful sound. We needed a younger approach to it.
Is it going to sonically challenge your fans from what they’re used to expecting?
Absolutely. It is a step in a slightly different direction, but it’s for the good of everything. Historically we’ve showcased the band’s strengths as individuals and what we’re capable of on guitars, drums and writing heavy, thrashy metal tracks and it’s all been good. On this one we really wanted to push ourselves creatively and not rely on the band’s history to write the future and take the band in a new direction, which is what we struggled so hard to do last year and why it took a lot longer than usual.
We wanted to make sure that we were going to take this step and do it right with belief and confidence. It’s an album that I’m extremely proud of, all the elements that make Bullet who we are are still there, we’ve just executed it in a far different way than we have in the past and it’s an absolute monster.
On ‘Temper Temper’ you collaborated with Chris Jericho from Fozzy on the song ‘Dead to the World’. Have you got any collaborators on this album?
Yes, collaboration. There’s no one else performing on the record, but I did do a lot of writing sessions with a lot of different guys. I put myself in very weird creative positions to try to push myself to find a new identity, and a new direction for myself as a songwriter and for the sound of Bullet.
I worked with Matty Schwartz who’s a DJ/producer he’s done a lot of stuff with Massive Attack in the past and his whole thing is dark electronic music. I had a couple of weeks with him in his studio and we just got weird and we wrote songs and took them to a far extreme, making them EDM tracks with guitars on; once we found a couple of songs we loved we reigned all of that back and what we call “bandified it”. Eventually we found a really nice balance of incorporating these new sounds and techniques, but keeping the core band as it should be at the forefront.
It’s a very experimental time for the band’s writing process and career, but we’ve come away with something now that’s hopefully career defining for us.
If you could cover a song by one of our headliners who would it be?
We’ve already done ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy way back in 2007/2008. I think it would be fun to cover an Avenged [Sevenfold] song, I think it’s more up our street stylistically and musically. Maybe ‘Beast And The Harlot’ would be a lot of fun to do; it’s very technical, very shreddy, really high energy up-tempo which would be a lot of fun to cover.
When you’re putting a set list together is there one song you have to play for festivals?
Having five albums already out it’s quite easy to pick a bunch that you know people want to hear. We’ve had a lot of experience touring each album for at least two years on a cycle. If there’s one it’s ‘Tears Don’t Fall’, which has become a Bullet anthem over the years.
When it first came out it became very clear that it was a bit of a moment for the band’s career, even at that early stage and bit of a moment for the hard rock metal genre. It’s a song like no other and the things that song has done for our band is incredible. It’s a song that’s really connected and has last the test of time. That song will never drop because of the importance of it. We know the significance and importance of it, it’s a song that means a lot to us as well as the fans who were there in the early days and since.
WWE NXT Live! are coming to Download again. Are you a wrestling fan?
When I was a kid I was absolutely obsessed from the age of 8 to sixteen…I’d stay up until three o’clock in the morning to watch Summerslam and Royal Rumble. My generation of wrestling was Rick Flair, Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior – that era of WWE. As a kid I was completely obsessed and got in a lot of trouble wrestling with your friends in school doing suplexes and body slams. It’s great, it’s an amazing spectacle to go and see.
Our mascot is the Download Dog, do you own a dog or what’s your favourite?
I did own a dog when I was growing up. I did a very naughty thing and I went walking around Cardiff market one morning and they had a petstore and there were puppies and I just took one home, willy nilly. I was 18 at the time and still living at home and I fell in love with this pup and he fell in love with me, and before I know it he’s in the car [laughs]!
My dad went bats**t, my Mum did the Mum thing and she loved him instantly as did I. His name was Biscuit and we had him up until 2016. Me and my Dad eventually had to take him to the vet to do that thing every dog owner dreads and have him put to sleep as he was 14 and had deteriorated really badly.
I was there at the very beginning and holding him in my arms when he slipped away. I’m an ex-dog lover as I don’t think I could put myself through that heartache again.
We have Old Sarum tattoo on site, what’s the best band inspired tattoo you’ve seen?
We’ve seen loads over the years, they vary from very simple ‘BMFV’ stencils to massive back pieces. There’s a girl in the States who comes to all our shows, who was there for a couple of them on the Avenged tour we did recently in the States, and she has a custom artwork piece down all one of her sides from the armpit down to the waist and beyond; it’s roses, shading and the Bullet logo on and we’ve signed it all.
She’s a mega fan in the most passionate, beautiful way and she just lives for the band. We signed it for her and Jason [Mathias, bassist] signed it for her on the Avenged tour; we saw her in the crowd holding up a sign saying “Jason, please sign my tattoo” and he jumped down after the show, gave her a hug and signed it. She’s got every stage of Bullet, everyone’s been involved in her tattoo and she’s not shy on adding to it which is brilliant – her dedication is very humbling.
Our fancy dress theme for the Friday at Download is Supervillains. Which supervillain would dress up as?
Having a little boy and having to watch all the Pixar superhero movies I would pick Megamind.