Starting from The Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Motörhead and more, the sons of Great Britain have always been the driving force behind rock and metal music throughout history. Alas, the present generation is here to witness the near-end of those splendid times, pondering what will come next. While the US struggles with Bieber Fever and Europe is… well, being Europe, the spawn of Perfidious Albion knows no rest. It didn’t take long for the savior to emerge under the glorious name of Bullet for My Valentine, who has set out to, “take over from Metallica and Maiden,” and dare I say, is here to bring metal back to the place it belongs.
After the release of their third studio album aptly named, Fever, the band embarked on tour to bring Bullet Fever (pun intended) to the masses. During a brief stop in Norway we caught up with the quartet’s mastermind, Matthew Tuck, to talk about the music, the fans, the band, and their more-metal-for-everyone ideology.
Bullet for My Valentine recently released a new album, Fever. Can you tell us more about the meaning behind the title? Is there any connection to the cover art?
No, it’s nothing that we really think too much into; we just usually pick a song from the album to name the album. We picked Fever because it was really short and sharp. The song itself is kind of a fresh Bullet for My Valentine, something we’ve never done before. We thought it was a great indication of where we’re at and where we’ll be heading in the future. So that’s why we picked Fever.
What about the cover – the girl with a claw?
Yeah, I don’t know, we just wanted something that was really weird, something that was really eye-catching when it’s on a shelf in a shop, and people would check it out because it’s a bit creepy. So there is no real meaning between name of the album, the song content, or the cover.
Are there any significant changes on the new album compared to your previous works?
In what sense?
Musically I don’t think anything is dramatically different from what we’ve done before. The biggest difference was working with Don Gilmore – we’ve never worked with a proper record producer before. He made me think about lyrics a lot more. And if he didn’t think it was good enough, where I thought it kind of was, he would say, “No, do it again.” So we would sit down and write together until we came up with the strongest lyrical content we could at that time for that song.
It was ok for you to comply with what another person told you to do?
Yeah, it was difficult at first, ‘cause I never had anyone tell me what to do or say, “No, that’s not good enough.” People were always just, “Yeah, it’s cool.” And up until this time in our career it’s been done really well, so no one had any reason to, but it was good that he really pushed me super, super hard, just trying to step up my game and write things better than I thought they could be.
A lot of musicians say that they don’t care about critics, but everyone has a person to whose criticism they really pay attention to. Do you have that kind of a person?
It would be the record producer and bandmates, really. As long as we’re happy and the person that’s making the record with us… if we love it, then it really doesn’t matter if people criticize it or don’t like it, because it’s not really relevant. We make music first and foremost because it’s our creative art. What we do is what we love. As long as we like that, it doesn’t matter what people think.
What is the meaning behind the song, “A Place Where You Belong?”
It’s about losing a loved one before you make amends with them. In the song it’s more of the sense of a relationship, but it could be with a parent, a friend, or someone you’ve had a hard time with and you don’t talk for years and then they pass away and you’ve never made that connection. And it’s sad that a lot of relationships in reality end like that. People have feuds with friends and loved ones and then something tragic could happen and you’ve never had that opportunity to make amends.
Is it hard to mix your personal life with the band life?
It’s not super hard, it’s just our job; it’s what we do. The people in our personal lives understand that. It’s what we’ve done for quite a while now, for like 6 years, so it’s not new anymore. It is hard, because we miss our friends and loved ones a lot. But it’s something we love doing and it’s a sacrifice you have to make to do what we do.
I’ve read an interview where you said that you opened the doors to the metal genre, made it more mainstream, and that there would be a bunch of people who wouldn’t care if it wasn’t for you. Isn’t it the essence of metal to go against the stream?
I don’t know, why would you say that?
Well, being a part of this subculture, people are trying to go against the “establishment.”
What’s an establishment? Government or something?
In some cases the government, but mostly something that’s considered “normal” to the public, let’s just say so. Metalheads have a certain dress code and stand out from the crowd. And you’re just trying to bring in everyone, which in a way is a good thing, but it’s so hard to share your favorite bands with the rest of the world.
I don’t know. I just see it as the more the merrier, why would we limit ourselves to a certain scene? It just seems kind of silly. As a profession to limit our opportunities, it doesn’t make sense to me.
So you think that you can stay true to metal and still make it mainstream without going more pop?
I think we already have. You disagree? If you do, that’s fine.
I don’t disagree, I’m asking you.
Yeah, we’re in this to make a career out of what we do, we don’t want to limit ourselves and close doors and we don’t have to. We can be as heavy as fuck, if we wanna be, you know, but as long as we realize what makes people want to listen to our band and we give them that a little bit on an album, then I think it doesn’t matter, it’s cool.
And you truly believe that you opened the doors to get more people into metal?
Yeah, we’re kind of an easy accessible -style metal band for people who aren’t interested in the genre of hard rock/metal music. That we do it a bit more commercially, so then they will listen to us and they’ll read that our influences are bands like Metallica, Megadeth, or Pantera. You have a band like Metallica and a band like Pantera – it’s not the same fucking genre of music. And if we inspire people to go and buy, I don’t know, a fucking Killswitch Engage album – who are kind of a melodic metal band like we are, but maybe a notch up on the heaviness I think – that’s a good comparison. And then you go to bands like Bleeding Through and just experiment and go heavier. It doesn’t mean that you can’t like Bullet for My Valentine because you like Bleeding Through. It’s just silly in my opinion. That’s why we opened the doors to help people get into hard rock and metal music.
What is the story behind the band’s name? How did you go from Jeff Killed John to Bullet for My Valentine?
It was just an identity change, because Jeff Killed John was kind of something that we came up with when we were kids. We decided that we wanted to take things seriously. We knew that we had to do a bunch of songs, so we just changed the name to something more relevant and more up to date. We came up with a bunch of names that we thought were cool and Bullet for My Valentine was the one that stuck.
Well, it’s not like this kind of name just comes up in your head out of nowhere?
I think it was one of Moose’s [Michael Thomas, drums] ideas. We wanted something like a Marilyn Manson thing: something kind of pretty and something nasty at the same time. You know, like bullets and Valentines – kind of cool [laughs]. It summed up what the songs were about.
What was the main reason for you to start a band?
Love of rock music really, and wanting to play an instrument. It’s just as simple as this. I picked up the guitar and started hanging out with people that were into the same music as me. So we just got together and started making music. It was just because we like heavy metal, basically.
What inspires you when you write lyrics?
The more dark, twisted side of relationships. It has always been mostly about love songs and stuff like that. I find it more interesting to write about the more sinister parts of relationships. You know, like being ripped off and obsession, hatred, and love.
Do you pick it up from your personal experience?
No, not really. Not a lot of this stuff is personal; it’s more like the weird shit that goes in my head that I find it cool to write about.
Touring together with a bunch of guys must be tough at times. Do you play pranks on each other on tour? What was the worst one?
There’s a clip on YouTube from ages ago when Padge [Michael Paget, lead guitar] fell asleep on the tour bus, passed out drunk, and we literally covered him head to toe in trash, cans, remote controls. We put mayonnaise and crisps in his socks and his wristbands and his hat. We really just destroyed him and he was still asleep, then we filmed him waking up. And this morning, I don’t think he still knows that, but Jay’s [Jason James, bass] shoes are in the freezer, ‘cause he fucking woke me up about ten times last night banging the door, so I hid his shoes in the freezer. I don’t think he has found them yet.
Do you have any positive or negative fan stories?
There are loads of positive ones; anyone who just comes to the show or wants to say hello because of what we do is amazing. There’s this one chick in Australia… Me and Oli [Sykes] from Bring Me the Horizon did a photoshoot together about a year ago for an English magazine. The cover is basically me holding his severed head, blood dripping from it. And this girl in Australia has been to our shows the last two times we’ve been there just to give me shit about this cover. Like…really?! She’s got this total hatred towards me because of this photoshoot I did with Oli and this cover, it’s insane. It’s like she really believed that something…
Yeah… Are you insane? This isn’t real blood! Bring Me the Horizon were supporting us two months ago in Australia when this chick was there. Some people are just so stupid.
Have you ever been personally moved by something a fan has done?
Yeah, we have some really loyal fans. When we were in America last year this one girl came to one of our shows on the Mayhem tour we did with Killswitch Engage, Slayer, Manson, and a couple other bands. And this girl had a heart condition where she could basically die. So she went to this Make a Wish Foundation and her wish was to come and meet us and watch the show. So she did and she was just amazing, you couldn’t tell anything was wrong. She was so happy that her wish came true. She was on the side of the stage when we played our set and as soon as we did the last song, I unplugged my guitar and gave it to her. It was just really moving that her dying wish was to meet my band. How amazing is that?
What are the band’s future plans?
Just more touring. We finish this tour in December (2010) in London and we get a couple of months off and then go back to Australia for Soundwave Festival. And we’re doing a couple of dates with Iron Maiden in Korea and Japan. And then I don’t know, we’ll probably go to America and then come back to Europe in the summer.
Text: Tanja Caciur, Linda Nur Chbib