Bullet For My Valentine have established themselves as one of the biggest bands on the planet. Over the course of their astonishing career they have sold 10 million albums and toured the globe countless times, gaining more fans at every turn. In the UK their last tour saw them hit sell out arenas, including the hallowed Wembley Arena and now they’re coming to our very own O2 Guildhall.
Widely regarded as one of the most successful crossover artists, love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that they’ve been massively responsible for bringing metal to the mainstream and for shining a big bright light onto the alternative scene. Mixing classic riff-heavy rock with a contemporary grasp of dynamics they’ve plundered hearts with their emotive tunes and crashed their way into headline slots at almost every festival there is.
Their latest album ‘Venom’ is a return to their heavy metal roots. An unrelenting, fierce step forward for the band that had been criticised for going soft with their last album ‘Temper Temper’, it’s their heaviest record to date; it sinks its teeth into listeners with a powerful delivery by vocalist/guitarist Matt Tuck, ferocious riffs by guitarist Michael "Padge” Paget and rapid-fire rhythm courtesy of drummer Michael "Moose” Thomas. Bullet manage to maintain their signature balance of heavy, coupled with surging melody and push themselves to the next level with all the ‘Venom’ of a rattlesnake, and with new bassist Jamie now fully entrenched in the team and a tour to prepare for, we counted ourselves lucky to get a good old chinwag in with frontman Matt recently to talk all things dark, heavy and hairy...
We bumped into you backstage at Download, did you have fun? Who did you see?
Yeah I had a lot of fun. Got there on the Friday and the rain spoiled everything for everyone, as usual, but apart from that it was good. Saw a bunch of bands; Young Guns, Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Fightstar, the list goes on really. It was the first time I’d been there as a punter. We’ve always been there because the band’s been there and we’ve just played and shoved off somewhere else so it was good to hang around for a change.
New album Venom is just about to drop, what can we expect?
I think the best way I can describe it is a reinvigorated, way more aggressive Bullet for my Valentine. We’re super proud of the record. It’s definitely the heaviest record we’ve done overall and it feels like it’s part of something special. We’ve got the vibe that this could be a career defining moment for us so it’s good and everyone is super stoked on it and we can’t wait for people to hear it.
Do you feel like the heaviness of this record is a natural progression as you grow older or was it a conscious decision?
It was a conscious decision. We knew before starting to write the record that we wanted to step it up this time round. We wanted to make something aggressive, we wanted to make something angry and to reconnect with the more old school metal that we had on The Poison and Scream Aim Fire so that’s the only thing we had in mind before we started writing and it took a lot of writing to get to the point where we were happy with the level of aggression. The balance between the melodic and the heavy stuff has always been a Bullet identity so it was a long process getting there but as soon as we had two or three of the key heavier songs written then it was game on and it came on quite easy.
Lyrically it’s quite dark, how did you approach writing this album?
It was about reconnecting with stuff that defined growing up, as a teenager, as a young man, going through life and the struggles that I personally went through. Y’know growing up in a not very nice part of the world where you have a talent and are motivated to actually do something with your life, no one ever took me and the boys seriously. No one ever harnessed that positive energy. I always had this ambition of something special and being a songwriter and touring the world and making a difference connecting with people on a musical level. So I thought it was important to reconnect with those moments in my life and I haven’t had those moments for a long time because I’m grown up and everything’s cool and I’ve gone through all those things and I just thought that that was when I was at my most frustrated and let’s try and recapture that frustration.
Which song on the album was the most difficult to write and why?
I think they all had that moment of frustration really. Lyrically and performance-wise the most difficult one was No Way Out. That song is very aggressive and the chorus is right at the top of my range and beyond so it’s a difficult song to perform. It’s one of those songs that’s super pissed off sounding so in performance, you really have to give it some shit, so I did.
How has the reaction been so far for No Way Out?
It’s been incredible man. It’s just reconnected with everyone to a level where it already feels like the album is out and everyone’s back on board.. It’s a heavy song anyway but coming off the back of our last record I definitely think people are quite surprised but happy at the same time. It’s been amazing, the feedback we’ve had from that song. I haven’t heard anything negative really and all the people that are lucky enough to have already heard the album have all said the same thing about the whole album so everything’s looking great and we’re super happy with how it’s been received.
Out of all your albums, which has been your favourite album to record?
Probably The Poison or Venom would be the two, both for very different reasons. The Poison was the birth of the band as we know it. It was one of those moments that connected where the band blew up instantly. Going through that process of being accepted and having the opportunity to make the record was the best feeling ever, probably the most exciting time in my life and the band’s career. And we kind of had that same feeling on this one really. You know when you’re doing something special. We’ve had it on a couple of songs in the past and we had it on The Poison for the whole process but from the moment we started recording this album there was an energy, it just feels special. So having those two experiences 10 years apart is odd, but those two records are very, very special to us.
Do you get nervous releasing new material?
Yeah, obviously you’re putting yourself out there and you know that there’s always going to be someone that says something that you’re not going to wanna hear haha. I don’t think it’s so much nerves as it is the anxiety of putting yourself up on a pedestal in order to be thrown off it y’know? But it’s just part of what you do in a band so we’ve just become used to it y’know? We were in Germany last week on a press trip and we did a fan playback party and it’s the first time we’ve done that in a while, where the band have been in a room with fans, genuine fans, and hardcore fans and we played them the new record and we were all very, very nervous about that. But I think it was just an unusual situation and you sit on an album for so long and it’s such a private, intimate thing that when it finally goes out there, especially cos we were there! So we don’t really get nervous about it but that was a moment where everyone had sweaty palms but it was good, we had a great night and the fans loved it which was the best because they were there for a reason and everyone left with the same feelings.
New bassist Jamie has joined the band. Where did you find him and what do we need to know about him?
He had a relationship with Padge behind the scenes. Jamie used to be the frontman of a band called Revoker and he’s a Welsh lad as well, grew up in a similar area to us, and Padge gave him a shout and said ‘send us a video, we’d love for you to have a shot and try out for the band’ so he did us a little video on his phone, playing some songs and doing some backing vocals and sent it in and it was awesome. So we did a couple of live auditions with a couple of the guys we thought might be suitable and Jamie was one of them and he came in and both auditions completely smashed it. It was awesome and it just felt right. He’s from the same part of town so having that relationship and the same upbringing was amazing. We never thought we’d be able to keep it an all-Welsh thing y’know but we did! And he’s good, he’s an amazingly talented guy and a great asset to have within the band.
You debuted him at Camden Rocks festival, and it was your first live performance in a year, is that right? How did it feel to be back out in front of the fans again?
It was actually really easy. We’ve been doing it for such a long time now that when we hit the stage, that’s where we come to life in every respect y’know. And where we’d had that time off we were even more anxious to do it, rather than being on tour for three months and coming to the end of it and being all ‘here we go again’. I think it was that excitement of not playing for a year and a half, having two new songs AND it being Jamie’s first show all at the same time was just an amazing feeling. It felt so good.
Did your throat operation and losing your voice knock your confidence at all?
Oh absolutely, yeah. It was the lowest point, not only in the band’s career but of my life really. It was at the stage where it was coming off the back of The Poison and we were trying to make the second record, the follow up to this record that blew up worldwide and working so hard up to that point and having all that success and then almost being on the brink of having it all taken away again was awful. It was a very dark point in my life, very low and scary. Everything we’d wanted to achieve, we’d just got there and it felt like we weren’t going to be able to continue so it was awful. It took a long time to get over it and get my confidence back and get my voice back into any shape at all but hard work and persistence and we got there in the end. It was a weird time but it was definitely something that needed to happen because it made me professional, rather than a guy in his band with his mates that got lucky. I think it opened everyone’s eyes that shit was serious now and we had to look after ourselves. I got vocal coaching and stuff like that and from that point on there’s been no issues.
Do you have any tips for taking care of your voice when on the road?
Make sure you get proper vocal coaching – warm up, warm down, apply those techniques to the songs and look after yourself physically. No partying, no late nights – I mean we still have those moments but they’re few and far between now because it just takes its toll and there’s nothing worse than going on stage at 60 or 70%, that’s just not good enough for us these days. For me personally I won’t go on stage if I’m not feeling Matt Tuck from Bullet for my Valentine. I have a pride in my work and a reputation and I hate going on stage with a sore throat or being bunged up because I know it’s going to take something from those shows so to put myself into a self-inflicted situation like that, for me, is just not acceptable so I haven’t done it for a long, long time.
Who are your vocal heroes?
I’ve always been a guitar player, I don’t really think of myself as a vocalist, I’ve just never been that guy but I think obviously Hetfield was my main influence for everything growing up. Just watching him on stage and being a Metallica fan y’know, he was the guy that inspired me to do what I wanted to do. He was just this being, this package of a guy that did everything, he’s just a hero. Rob Halford I have to say just cos how he does what he does, I’ve got no idea what’s going on there. How he does that, I don’t know! Bruce Dickinson again, his range and his ability to do what he does at the level and age of those guys and still to go out there and smash it like he does is inspirational. I’d say Eminem would be one, weirdly. Again I just like people who have an individual voice and have character. It doesn’t have to be in the metal world as such. I’m gonna be really weird here and say Mariah Carey as well because, being a singer in a band that’s nowhere near that world but I know what you have to do to get to that level as a singer and that’s a commitment and a life choice and not many people will ever get to that level. So there you go, Mariah Carey is my vocal inspiration!
You look really different with short hair. What made you decide to cut it and will you ever go back to long hair again?
I just wanted a change really. I got married in 2013 and I wanted to look dapper for my wedding. Y’know the wedding photos are forever and I wanted to look the best that I could possibly look for my wife so I took it on the chin and got rid of the hair and looking back, it’s the best thing I ever did. It was manning up, in a way and to get rid of the mane was a big thing cos I’d had it forever and I went through a couple of transitional styles but once I’d done it for the wedding, it was like YES because without wanting to say so myself, I look like a f*cking GENT haha!
That’ll be a no to growing it back then…
Catch them live @ O2 Guildhall – 21 October 2015