Take a look at metal band Trivium right now, and you might think that everything is business as usual for the hardworking group. They just announced a new global tour with Megadeth, Lamb of God, and In Flames that kicks off in August. They’ve been hard at work on a follow-up to their well-received 2020 release What the Dead Men Say.
Look back, though, and you’ll see that life was anything but normal for Trivium in 2020. Recently, Trivium’s lead vocalist and guitarist, Matt Heafy, sat down with our own Jake Kulinski on the weekly ROG Sidequest podcast to talk about the past year or so. Even though the pandemic kept Matt and the band from touring, it never stopped them from making music. And through their active presence on Twitch and other channels, the band never lost touch with their fans.
From global tours to Twitch concerts
When coronavirus brought live, in-person shows to a screeching halt, Trivium was affected as much as any other band. “We’ve been actively playing shows anywhere from four to nine to ten months a year since 2004, so it’s been strange,” Matt said.
There’s so much that Matt misses about the touring experience. “I miss the shows, and I miss days off in new countries other than my own,” he told us. “I’m always having flashbacks of an old beer pub in Germany, or walking around the streets of Japan to find the best ramen shop. I’m always thinking about those things.”
Matt also recognizes that the lack of concerts has been tough on the band’s fans. “There’s nothing that will ever simulate a real live show, at least for metal,” he asserted. “Other genres, sure. Metal? Never. You have to be there. You have to actually be there to know what it feels like.”
Trivium hasn’t been able to provide that live, in-person concert experience for their fans in over a year, but that hasn’t stopped them from creating and sharing music. Thanks to Matt’s passion for live streaming on Twitch, the band was well-positioned to connect with its fans in new and creative ways.
The band performed three digital shows for their fans in 2020. “One was pay-for, which at the time was the most successful ticketed metal event,” Matt said. He attributes the success of these concerts to their commitment to performing “100% live, 100% in the moment.” “We did it all live. For us, this has to be live, in the exact moment, because we all stream on Twitch. We know what it means to be live, it should be live if the word livestream is in there.”
Gaming and music go together
It’s no small jump to go from live crowds to livestreams, but Trivium was in a great position to do just that because of the band’s passion for gaming. Before the pandemic even started, Matt had an active Twitch channel with an engaged community.
Matt’s journey into live streaming wasn’t without its bumps and hurdles. “I started on Twitch on March 27, 2017. And I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he rued. “I was streaming a PS4 into Twitch from the PS4's thing using an iPad. There were like 5-7 people watching me, I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I wasn’t really engaging that well.”
Things started to turn around for him when he upgraded his platform. “I was secretly recording our record The Sin and the Sentence in California, and one of my good friends who works for Blizzard invited me over for a house party,” he explained. There, he got a first-hand look at gaming on an ASUS laptop. “I played Overwatch on this thing and actually did pretty well.”
Since those early days, Matt’s Twitch stream setup has grown by leaps and bounds. It features multiple camera angles and a full audio setup with a 12-channel mixer. We hooked him up with the ROG Strix GL12CM for his home rig, and for gaming and streaming on the go, we put the dual-screen ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE into his hands. Matt credits his mod team for helping him put his streaming experience together: “I gotta give it up to my mods. My moderators have taught me so much, especially Deformance.” The community that grew around Matt’s stream has been crucial to his success on Twitch. “I’m not saying this to be humble. I’m not the best musician on Twitch, I’m not in the biggest band, nor am I the best streamer. I’m the best Matt Heafy. I will say that my community is the best community on Twitch. I can confidently say that.”
Practice makes perfect
Once Matt felt the excitement of live streaming his favorite games, it didn’t take long for him to start using his Twitch channel to share his music. At first, though, he couldn’t see how that could be successful. It was when he started working more closely with the staff at Twitch that he saw the possibilities.
“I was telling them how much I love streaming and stuff and they lent me the original Gunrun backpack,” Matt said of the band’s first serious experience with Twitch. This self-contained unit let its carrier stream from anywhere, so Matt took it straight to a nearby Trivium concert. “I streamed the San Francisco show, and I was hooked. From that moment, we have streamed every single Trivium show for free from around the world.”
Matt’s contacts at Twitch then pushed him to take things to the next level. He told them, “I love streaming, but I can’t do it as much as I want to because I have to practice X amount of hours a day. I was like, I blew out my voice in 2014, I need to keep up the good practice, keep up with the good regimen. I’m very addicted to having my scheduled routine of practice. So I have to do my vocal exercises.”
That’s when Matt was asked a question that changed his entire approach to practicing. “[My contact] looks at me and says, ‘Why don’t you stream that?’ I said, ‘No one wants to see me do my vocal exercises and sing Trivium songs every single day.’ He says, ‘Just give it a shot.’”
As it turns out, Matt’s fans really did want to see him do his vocal exercises. Once he started sharing his practice sessions with the world, his stream became more popular than ever. “From there, the stream really started to explode in a great way. People started coming more over to the channel.”
Matt’s fans enjoyed the direct connection to him and his music, and he started noticing benefits for himself. “I’ve never been in this good a shape vocally or guitar wise in my entire life, because I used to take time off. I’d finish a tour and I’d take a couple months off [from] singing and screaming. It shouldn’t be that way, I don’t think,” he said. “The way I apply it is more like an athlete. I need to be accountable to keep my practice up. And before I was streaming all the time, I’d be like, I’ll play five minutes today. But now I have people depending on me to entertain them. And that entertainment is me playing Trivium songs by request for them. In me entertaining them, it’s keeping my chops up.”
Matt’s level of preparation puts Trivium in a great place to perform their best, whether that’s on an album or at a concert. “If I had to make a record tomorrow, if I had to go on tour tomorrow, play a show tomorrow, I’m in vocal shape, I’m in guitar shape, I’m ready to go, always,” he said. And that’s what streaming has done for me.”
Even just on an emotional level, Matt thinks his regular streaming has paid off both for him and his fans. “The same way that I have given people a place to be with new friends and old friends and have community in a place where they can’t normally have that, can’t have that in the world for the last year, they’ve done the same thing for me,” he said. “They’ve kept my spirits up, they’ve kept me in shape for what I need to do, kept me feeling creative, and kept me feeling good in the same way I have for them.”
Leveling up their streaming game
Matt’s not the kind of guy to rest on his laurels. He’s working on an ambitious project to give fans even more access to Trivium and their music. The next step? Practicing, performing, and sharing those experiences in a renovated airplane hangar.
Matt couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the new space. “I hate that we pay rent to this practice place we hate going to,” he said. “Our realtor showed us an airplane hangar, and I was like, ‘this is really sick.’ We’re turning that into a streaming hub where we can stream Trivium shows, make Trivium records, have Trivium rehearsals.”
The project is just as ambitious as Matt is. “It’s going to be so good. It’s going to be so good,” he enthused. “Thankfully we’ve got LMG, who’s an incredible local staging, lighting, sound company who’s helping us spec everything out. Since we’re building it from the ground up, it’s going to be easy for everything to have the proper insulation in the walls. We just went there last Friday, and I thought it would be a quick in and out, but we’re planning out where all the electrical goes, all the troughs for cabling, all the security stuff, the internet stuff. That took hours upon hours of just Sharpie-ing sawdusty floors.”
Matt sees projects like this renovated hangar as vital to the band’s success, both during the pandemic and down the road. “The pandemic is very tough because we’re not one of the biggest bands in the world. We’re dead in the middle as far as rock and metal goes. So we’re the kind of band that has to keep hustling and has to keep working,” he explained.
A stream that travels
The streams won’t stop once Matt and Trivium get back on the road and start touring. Matt’s home streaming setup is incredible, his converted hangar looks to be even better, and he also has the equipment to conveniently connect with fans even as he goes on a world tour.
Matt used to go to extreme lengths to provide fans with a high-quality stream while he traveled. His main trouble was having the screen space for his game and his Twitch chat. “I used to just tape my cell phone against the hotel lamp or the dressing room lamp,” he admitted with a laugh.
Now, with the dual-screen ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, he’s ready to game and stream on the go without the hassles, delays, and improvisation. “With the dual screen, I can have all the alerts and all the chats on the small screen,” he said. “So when I’m on tour and using the Zephyrus, if it’s music based, it’s me and a practice amp, it’s me in a hotel room or dressing room, rehearsing directly to it. Like a baby version of my main stream.”
As excited as he is to go back on tour, Matt’s not looking forward to the long hours on airplanes and tour buses. Thankfully, he is well-equipped to deal with boredom. “The ROG Phone will help with those moments,” he said, laughing.
Bridging metal and streaming
Ask Matt about the future of metal in gaming and streaming, and you’ll find that he’s endlessly optimistic. That’s partly because he sees so much opportunity for growth. “There are a lot of gamers, a lot of streamers who don’t listen to metal. That’s always shocking to me,” he indicated. “And when I’m on Twitch I don’t feel like a lot of people know what metal is. There’s a surface level of, I’ve heard of Metallica once. Or hey, is Metallica the band that did ‘Smells LIke Teen Spirit’? That’s kind of the vibe, which is very strange, because I’ve always felt gaming is for the underdog, metal is for the underdog, and gaming you really shouldn’t be listening to anything other than metal.”
We’ve started to see bands use virtual in-game spaces to share music fans, and judging by Matt’s reaction, Trivium is certainly open to the idea in the right game. “When I play stuff that’s more like cartoon graphics, Valorant, Overwatch, or Fortnite, the general metal audience doesn’t like watching those, but they love the graphic style of things like PUBG or Call of Duty,” Matt said.
His ambitions go beyond one virtual concert, though. “One of my dreams in life is to score Doom,” he asserted. “That is a dream, that has been a dream forever. I mean, you look at our third record where we have a song called ‘Tread the Floods,’ and I say, ‘I’m knee deep in the dead, still waiting,’ and that’s a difficulty level from Doom. Doom has been a big part of my life, and I would love to get the frickin’ gig for that. I just don’t know how you get that. Maybe I’ll slip my name in a hat, this mystery hat to score Doom.”
Helping others get started
Matt’s learned a lot as he’s taken his talents for music and gaming and shared them with the world through his band and his stream, and he’s eager to pass that knowledge and experience on to other musicians. “Right at the start of the pandemic, I put it out there: Any musician that wants to learn to stream, hit me up. If you don’t need advice, cool, but any questions, any time, just let me know. Whether it’s about, what is Twitch, to how do I get my audio set up, how do I play music, whatever the question might be.”
He’s happy to help with the details, but Matt’s most passionate about just getting people started. “The biggest thing I would say is just start,” he insisted. “That’s what I told Brandon Saller from Atreyu, just start. I just told Richard Shaw of Cradle of Filth that two days ago. Don’t be like ‘when I build my stream room, when I build my stream rig,’ start. Start on your laptop with the webcam, with the microphones built in your laptop now, Build your audience a little bit as you go.”
Matt points out that even your struggles to improve your setup and get going can provide compelling experiences for watchers. Matt explained, “There’ve been so many streams where either bringing new audio into this, or setting up new stuff, setting up new rigs, I’m just streaming it. And people can see a different side of frustrated dad not understanding what the hell is going on. And that adds another value level. I would say just start. Your stuff can be upgraded as you go on. If we look at some of the old clips of this channel it was pretty rough, it looked pretty rough but you have to start somewhere.”
Much more to come from Matt Heafy and Trivium
Between his music, his games, his family, and his band’s new airplane hangar streaming hub, Matt Heafy lives a fascinating life. To check in on everything Matt’s up to, you can catch him on Twitch five days a week at 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM ET without fail. You can find him on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well. “I even started a TikTok to embarrass all my young supporters out there so they can roll their eyes at their dad being on TikTok now,” he said with a laugh.
Fans of the band can find Trivium on the touring circuit starting in August. Check out their tour page to find the location closest to you.