Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu introduce a surplus of shiny signature gear from Epiphone, Jackson, Fishman, Seymour Duncan, and Dunlop, before detailing their massive move back to 5150s.
Trivium steadily raised its metal flag through the old-fashioned method—relentless touring. The band took any and all opening slots, priming crowds for Metallica, Iron Maiden, Killswitch Engage, Machine Head, DragonForce, Korn, and Megadeth before graduating to headliner status. That constant grind was fueled by 10 full-length releases that incorporate varying tints and tinges of their three core musical tenets: metalcore, melodic death metal, and thrash. (The band derives their name from a Latin word that means “three-way intersection,” describing their combination of these aggressive subgenres.)
And while tone dictates many decisions made by a guitarist, touring comes with a cost and might be the one thing that could trump a player’s desired setup or sound. Now, with elevated gas prices, venues fleecing bands for merch cuts, and overall hiked inflation, many artists are having to compromise and condense their live arsenal. Thankfully, digital modelers like the Fractal Axe-Fx and Kemper Profiler have made that decision easier (or harder, depending where one sits on the digital-versus-analog debate). Trivium embraced the future in the early 2010s, when they shifted towards the Axe-Fx II and then pivoted to the Kemper Profiler.
“We were one of the first bands to use Axe-Fx and Kemper, and both those things rule,” says Matt Heafy. So, it’s rare to see a hard-charging, globetrotting force like Trivium—who were rocking Kempers during our 2014 Rig Rundown—return to their roots, blasting through furious 5150-style heads after nearly a decade on the digital dial.
“In 2019, when we were in the studio recording What the Dead Men Say, we didn’t have any amps and it was a bummer. We had to scramble to find somebody who had tube amps that we could use to track, so after we finished that album, I never wanted to be stuck in that situation again. I scoured Reverb and bought all my favorite amps and everything we used for all our past albums. Through that process, I really got back into messing with gear,” explains Corey Beaulieu.
Onstage, the return of the stacks enhanced their performance. “The modelers had a slight latency—I don’t think the crowd noticed the difference—and I felt that if we could shave off a little bit of that by bringing back the amps, reducing the response even closer to zero, we’d be better for it. We’ve just really loved returning to live tube heads.”
The afternoon ahead of Trivium’s headlining performance at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works on October 14, guitarists Beaulieu and Heafy joined PG’s Chris Kies to cover the pair’s smorgasbord of signature gear—they know what they like, and brands are eager to hit their high standards—and why they transitioned back to traditional tube-drenched tone.
Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.
While Trivium was out on the 2013 Mayhem Fest tour, a Jackson artist rep reached out and told Beaulieu they had some new guitars for him. The rep delivered one of his standard U.S.-built axes finished in transparent red burst, plus this blue bombshell. A Jackson Custom Shop master builder took the initiative (and chance) to build Corey this 7-string based on his standard King V KV7 signature specs, but swapped the usual AAA-flame maple cap for a quilted maple top. It’s the only King V with this finish, and for years—because it was special to him—it wouldn’t hit the road and he’d just use it at home. Hours spent with the guitar on the couch fostered an attachment, so the band’s last few tours have seen this blue devil as his main 7-string. Another cool tidbit is that it currently holds a set of Beaulieu’s signature Seymour Duncan Blackouts that have yet to be announced or released. Beaulieu says that the standard Blackouts have a mid-scooped voice, and he had compensated for that with a MXR M109S Six Band EQ, but he worked with Seymour Duncan to bump those frequencies in his set and he no longer requires the pedal. It takes the band’s signature Dunlop TVMN10637 Heavy Core Trivium Strings (.010–.014–.018–.030–.040–.052–.063) and usually stays in B-flat tuning.
Winter Is Coming
Here’s Corey’s Jackson Custom Shop Signature King KV6 that roars with his custom Seymour Duncan Blackouts, squeals thanks to its Floyd Rose Original Double-Locking Tremolo, and is finished in winter storm. Like the 7-string, it takes the band’s signature Dunlop Heavy Core Trivium strings (.010–.052). This abominable snowman tunes to either drop D or C#.
Restoring the Rock
“We’ve used some sort of iteration of the 5150 formula on nine of our 10 albums, so it made sense to tour with. Plus, the EVH 5150III 100S were featured on [2021’s] In the Court of the Dragon, so it made sense these would be the ones,” details Heafy. The band were early believers in digital disruptors like the Axe-Fx and Profiler, and toured with either, exclusively, for almost a decade. Both Heafy and Beaulieu have come full circle and returned to their glowing-glass roots. They landed on the 100W 6L6-version of the 5150III 100S for the road because Heafy digs their “super-tight feel.”
The down-picking duo each employ their own Radial JX44 V2 Concert Touring Guitar & Amp Signal Manager and Shure AD4D wireless unit. The Kemper Profiler in the top left isn’t even plugged in and is an extra safety net.
Corey Beaulieu's Pedalboard
Corey tries to keep his signal as pure as possible. He has an MWK Audio Lonely Ghost (reverb/delay/boost), an Eventide H9, an ISP Decimator, and a MXR M109S Six Band EQ that now sits flat. An MXR Iso-Brick powers the stomps.
Both Corey and Matt run their 5150 IIIS heads into matching EVH 5150III 100S 4x12s that are stocked with Celestion G12 EVH speakers.
Matt Heafy’s first real guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Custom—a gift from his father when Heafy was 11 or 12. And while he’s played several styles of guitars made by numerous companies, he recently made a splash by announcing a new partnership with Epiphone, collaborating on 6- and 7-string models that would be available in right- and left-handed configurations. The above white singlecut is his Epiphone Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom Origins, with a mahogany body, a maple top, a mahogany SpeedTaper D-profile neck, Grover locking tuners, and Graph Tech nut. A hallmark of the instrument is Heafy’s custom-voiced signature Fishman MKH Fluence humbuckers that sound pretty close to the Modern Fluence humbuckers, but Heafy added an overwound split-coil option when you pull up on the volume knob. The push-pull function of the tone knob toggles between active or passive humbucker modes. The production models come stock with a Tune-o-matic bridge, but Heafy prefers an EverTune bridge to lock his stage instruments in tune. The nylon snugged between the pickups is the second strap for his Richter Straps Matt Heafy Signature Double Guitar Strap, which wraps around each shoulder evenly, distributing the guitar’s heft by reducing any unwanted tension on his left shoulder and upper back. His 6-string takes Dunlop TVMN1052 Heavy Core Trivium, and he attacks them with signature Dunlop Matt Heafy Custom Max Grip Jazz III picks.
(He jokes during the Rundown that when his twins hit that age, they will not be getting Gibson Les Paul Customs. However, we bet they’ll have a few of dad’s signature Epiphones laying around their bedroom.)
Heafy's Heavy Hitter
Meet Chugasaurus Rex, his Epiphone 7-string Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom Origins signature that shares the same DNA as his 6-string, but boasts an additional string for ultimate evisceration. As expected, this one takes Dunlop TVMN10637 Heavy Core Trivium strings.
Matt Heafy's Pedalboard
Trivium’s leader utilizes a few more stomps than his counterpart, but keeps things relatively simple. Heafy routes his guitar into the MXR M109S Six Band EQ, and then into KHDK Electronics Ascendancy Trivium signature overdrive, then into an ISP Decimator, and then into the amp. His 5150 III’s effects loops holds the MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe, MXR Reverb, and Airis Effects Savage Boost. A MXR M238 Iso-Brick breathes life into the pedals.
PA As the Cab
Trivium does have live cabs onstage that pump out some serious dBs, but Heafy believes the best way to utilize technology and fill the room with pure sound from front to back is to send the head into a Two Notes Torpedo Captor X that then feeds FOH—who then fill the PA. “I mean, why not use the head with the PA as the cab? I feel that’s the best way to do it,” asserts Heafy.
Gold necklaces, contraband mags, and backstage near-run-ins: How the guitar god helped shape the life of PG’s editorial director in far more than just guitar playing.
My earliest memory of Edward Van Halen is from 1978, the year his band’s eponymous debut LP was released. I was 6 years old, and our family had just moved to a new neighborhood miles from everything I’d ever known. I was in a new school and didn’t know a soul. My shyness didn’t help matters. I felt alone and insignificant.
I remember standing in front of the big Sharp-brand record player in our hardly furnished, plush maroon-carpeted basement family room, in utter awe at the sounds emanating from the 2-foot-high speakers. The backward car horns, the foreboding Eb bass note, the behind-the-nut string plucks, all worming through a black hole and forever into my brain. As a goody-two-shoes (then) Mormon kid from Provo, Utah, I felt guilty for being so captivated by a song called “Runnin’ with the Devil.” But that didn’t last long, as the next track was “Eruption”—Eddie’s tour de force instrumental guitar track that blew minds around the world and changed the landscape of modern music. It didn’t matter that I didn’t yet know how to play guitar—in fact, the idea had never even occurred to me before that. I didn’t need to know a thing about the 6-string to echo millions of other music fans—including expert guitarists—in gaping, “How the heck is he even doing that? Is that really a guitar?”
I wouldn’t lay my hands on the instrument myself for another six years, but the seed was planted. I’ve already shared how, as a kid, the only 8-track cassette I ever wanted to listen to in the family car was Van Halen II. And my older brother, Sam, and I spent countless hours lip-syncing to all the Roth-era albums. School art projects, workbooks, and folders were crisscrossed with striped patterns like those on Ed’s famed Frankenstrat, his Ibanez “Shark” Destroyer, and all those weird axes on the slipcover for 1982’s Diver Down.
Besides imprinting on my musical mind, EVH affected my very identity in other ways … some of which are pretty funny/embarrassing. The year Women and Children First came out (1980), the images of Eddie suddenly made me enamored with gold chains. I unabashedly drew pictures of myself on school stuff with long hair and a VH (“Van Hammond”)-logo necklace. Before long I’d gotten in trouble for absconding with Mom’s recently bought gold chain and wearing it to either a baseball practice or a scout get-together. I forget which it was, but I do know that once I’d gotten to the activity, Sam noticed the chain and made me take it off so it wouldn’t get broken. But he put it on instead, so he probably just wanted to look like Eddie, too.
On vacation that same summer, I pestered my parents so bad about getting my own gold chain that they finally acquiesced and got me a cheap fake-gold thing. I’d wanted one with a crucifix, too, just like the one clearly visible around Ed’s neck on the back of Women and Children, but Mormons don’t typically wear crucifixes and I knew not to push it with Mom and Dad on vacation. Dad was probably never more ashamed of me than he was when I donned a sissy piece of jewelry out of love for the greatest guitarist I’d ever heard—the guitarist responsible for music he insisted they’d be playing in hell. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t voice my desire for the jumpsuit Ed was wearing in the same pics.
By the time 1984 came out, new wave and synth-pop were all the rage. Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, A-ha, Depeche Mode, Alphaville, Men Without Hats, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, etc. were in, and to kids at school everything else was outdated garbage from a bygone, no-longer-cool era. I liked a fair amount of the new stuff, too, but I took all sorts of heat for being the die-hard Van Halen fan still decorating everything in sight with red-and-white stripes.
That year was a huge turning point in two ways. First, I finally started taking guitar lessons. I had no interest in “boring” ol’ acoustic guitar, but Mom said I could switch to electric if I stuck with it for a year. Second, I went to my first ever rock concert. Fittingly, it was Van Halen's 1984 tour. It was just me and Mom, in the nosebleeds at the Salt Palace arena in Salt Lake City. (Sam, despite being the one who slept in line for tickets, prioritized some school event that he’s probably kicking himself over to this day.) I’m not ashamed to admit that the “Little Dreamer” in 12-year-old Shawn sat there, peering through the haze of pot and tobacco smoke, fantasizing about being called onstage to play alongside EVH, despite the fact that I could barely play a barre chord, let alone pull off blazing double-tapped runs.
In 1985 I got my first electric, a 1983 Fender Strat the local shop had never been able to sell. I didn’t know anything about electrics except that I wanted one and a Strat technically was one. I began devouring every guitar magazine I could lay my hands on, and I’d only had my Strat for a few months before I realized it simply wouldn’t do. The interviews and ads clearly showed Eddie with cool-looking, brightly colored Kramer guitars outfitted with a humbucker and Floyd Rose tremolo you could endlessly wail on. Naturally, I had to start nagging Mom again. Within another year, I’d saved up for the best Kramer in the state of Utah, a Stagemaster Custom in “flip-flop red.” All because of my hero Ed, whose poster was over my dresser, bidding me good day as I headed to school each morning.
That year, Mom and I also hit the 5150 tour, and when OU812 came around, Sam took me to that show. As difficult as it is for longtime readers of my Tuning Up column to believe, the now-atheist author of those columns was a door-knocking missionary in Washington state when For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came out. I wasn’t supposed to listen to anything but church or classical music during those two full years of proselytizing, but on days off I sometimes managed to convince my missionary “companion” (I know, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?) that it was okay to sneak off to the local music shop so I could play electric guitar for a little bit. On one of those visits, I saw Ed on the cover of a guitar mag for an interview about Carnal Knowledge. I bought it and voraciously consumed the contraband interview, against missionary rules. It was the only time I did so during those two years, and the fact that it was for the only EVH-related mag I saw during that period attests to the pull the man who “ran” with the Devil still had over me, even then. Naturally, I missed that tour, but Balance came out the year I married my wife, and she and I took Mom to that one, too.
Several years later, I had two windows to meet the man who’d turned me into a lifelong guitar freak. In 2011, while covering the Winter NAMM show for PG, I spotted Edward just a few feet away in Fender’s exhibition space. As you’d imagine, people thronged about him, as they must have everywhere. I’ve never wanted to be that guy, fawning and pawing for an autograph or a selfie. Plus, I was behind schedule for my next video appointment. I hoped someday I’d have another chance to say hello under better, less harried circumstances. I always held out hope we’d get to do a proper interview.
The following year, PG multimedia manager Chris Kies and I flew to Nashville in 2012 to do the closest thing to an interview or Rig Rundown that Van Halen management would approve. We got to sit in on soundcheck. Eddie played impeccably, and it was lovely to see and hear him and son Wolfgang having a ball together onstage, all while singing trademark Van Halen harmonies perfectly, unimpeded by Roth’s struggling vocalizations. Afterward, we got to photograph Edward’s gear and talk to his and Wolf’s guitar techs.
In the midst of all this, as I was walking back from a trip to the backstage restroom, I saw Eddie briefly emerge from a side hallway blocked off with a curtain and an “authorized personnel only” sign. Having been given strict instructions from Van Halen management to not exceed the bounds of the agreed-upon arrangement, I had a mighty internal dilemma. With a mind to both management strictures and my lifelong aversion to coming across like an ass-kissing wanker, I chose to play it cool. I smiled and gave a friendly wave, and within a couple of seconds he was gone. Ever since then I’ve held out hope for that proper interview. I’m sure he had no idea who I was. But I know who he was. He was and is my hero, Edward Van Halen.
Go inside his impressive tone bunker, fortified with silver 7-string ESP sig models, 21st-century Fishman pickups, and stacks of 5150 and JCM800 disciples.
Facing a mandatory shelter-in-place ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, PG enacted a hybrid approach to filming and producing Rig Rundowns. This is the 22nd video in that format, and we stand behind the final product.
Taking a break from livestreaming on Fishman’s channel and building his own YouTube empire (Lord of the Rigs), Susi virtually welcomed PG’s Perry Bean into his tone zone. The Unearth axeman opens up about designing his signature ESP 7-string, pushing into the 21st century with “powered” pickups, and rocking in a world of 5150 and 800 descendants.