Sadokist: "The Anders and Semmler split is, I think, official now, though they'll still consider working together if events ask"

Sadokist: "The Anders and Semmler split is, I think, official now, though they'll still consider working together if events ask"

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Photo by: DreamHack | Adela Sznajder

Together with Henry "HenryG" Greer, Matthew "Sadokist" Trivett is one of the emblematic voices of modern Counter-Strike. Which means we'd never pass an opportunity to talk to him.

In a lengthy interview, Matthew shares details on his work dynamic with HenryG and Scrawny, growing up racing go-karts across Canada and getting to meet one of the great F1 royalties -- Jenson Button.

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So one of the broader topics I wanted to touch on with you is how Anders and Semmler -- and you and Henry to a lesser extent -- split up briefly and casted with other people. What’s caused that trend and is it a positive thing for you casters?
Well, Henry and I haven’t officially split up, we never intended to. I’ve just been really busy. Then there were conflicts around ESL Pro League -- we moved to Denmark because the studio in Germany was torn down -- and I couldn’t reschedule some things at home. Together with some wedding, family, racing and doctor appointments I had in Canada, I missed part of the start of the season.

So, it made sense to come back after somе events. Keep in mind that had I also had DH Montreal and ESL One NY, they would have to pay for six flights for five days of casting, which doesn’t make any sense. So Henry worked with other people at those.

ESG Mykonos was a similar thing. I hadn’t done a Canadian event in over two years. It was actually 25 months from  ESWC Montreal to DH Montreal, and I really felt like I needed to do a Canadian event. I like seeing Canadian esports grow, I think it’s got some good roots that don’t get tapped and when I get a chance I try and do what I can for it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do much, because I’ve been booked during most of their events. So I committed to DreamHack Montreal really early. Mykonos popped up a while after that, and Henry said, “Well, I kinda want to do Mykonos what do you think?”. And I said, “Do what you want, that’s fine.” Montreal’s not a Tier 1 event, Mykonos kind of was; it was a premier level event but it was last minute, and he could work with Alex [Machine] and I’ll just go work with Scrawny who is someone I’ve been enjoying watching develop.

I think that Semmler and Anders just became stagnant and a little bit stale and I think that that’s something you have to watch out for.

The Anders and Semmler thing is completely different. Their split is, I think, official now, though they'll still consider working together if events ask. I think that they just became stagnant and a little bit stale and I think that that’s something you have to watch out for. They went so hard at it for so long that they just sort of hit a level with each other that I don’t know if there was much more to gain from it. I think they were starting to realize that. Semmler also went through some family issues and had to take some time off and I think Anders decided during that time that maybe it was best for both of them to continue to develop their talents apart.

I think that both of them have great talent and Anders and Moses possess a similar chemistry to what Henry and I have in that Moses brings more of a color background and Anders can focus on the play-by-play. And I think that Semmler can develop into a host, an analyst, can work with just about any other caster anyway so I think they’ll both be fine. Still, it is a different thing for fans to get used to because they have been the voice of Counter-Strike for so long and they worked very hard to achieve that. But I think that is part of it as well: they just needed a new challenge, and I think that’s something we all have to be worried about because Henry and I have definitely had times when we would finish a broadcast and we just don’t talk, we just say “Okay, good job” and then walk out of the room and we’ll go our separate ways. You kind of lose the novelty or the appeal of it and it becomes so mundane at times because it’s the same thing.

This is why Henry and I are not scared to just be loose at times. We were too loose I think at the start, which I kind of saw as a shock value of getting noticed, but then I think we were a little unprofessional at times. But now we’re still not scared in group stages to make more jokes, to be more relaxed, to not necessarily be yelling and screaming and going insane, or analyzing the game to a fine point like we do in arena matches and playoff matches because it keeps it fresh. It’s appropriate to the quality of the game and it also means that we don’t have to feel like we are constantly giving 100% and emptying the gas tank every time we cast. So every now and then, in some ways it’s good to have an off-game just to relax and enjoy it, so that when the big games arise you don’t feel like you’re kicking a dead horse.  

DreamHack Montreal was Sadokist’s first Canadian event in over two years. Screengrab via: DreamHack | YouTube
DreamHack Montreal was Sadokist’s first Canadian event in over two years. Screengrab via: DreamHack | YouTube

Touching on what you said about Scrawny just then, when I was listening to you guys cast, it did seem like there was less of a clear-cut play-by-play and a color commentator. What was that like for you? I mean, it seemed like a less traditional broadcast, was that difficult to adapt to for you or him?
I think for him it was pretty straightforward. He’s used to working with multiple people. Obviously he’s trying to brand as a duo with Launders, but he’s used to it -- when you are new and getting invited to fewer events you have to take what you can get and you have to work with anyone. I went through that and I worked with anyone and everyone and I would focus primarily on play-by-play just as he does but I’d be willing to adapt and give the other commentator the space they needed to make it work. Anders and Semmler are a prime example of two guys who focus primarily on play-by-play and were more of a hybrid duo in that sense. Obviously, they brought color commentary too, but the point is to the example you’ve given: they’re almost exactly identical to that.

For me it’s the biggest change. I have to be a little more analytical which -- and this sounds odd -- means paying more attention to finer details instead of a broader picture at times. I actually wanted to work with Scrawny a bit because he’s got talent, he’s another young Canadian commentator which is great. He’s putting in the effort to succeed which means he should therefore be taken seriously.

We have an awesome job, so a bad day at work is still a pretty good day.

So in one game in particular, I actually sat back and did pretty much strictly color, and what I wanted to do was feel out his pacing, feel out how much room he would give his color commentator, feel out how I could interject. Occasionally, I would interject to kind of interrupt him on purpose to see how he would adapt to it. I was trying to feel him out and then throughout the rest of the event we worked on tempo and how to jump in and out -- basically the chemistry and how to transition between two commentators in a way to make the narrative make sense and feel genuine, with a little more elaboration on it.

One of the things I think he’s still guilty of is at times he goes from being very natural at the start of the round to -- when things get exciting -- a set tempo which is almost like he’s reading slam poetry, which kind of makes me think it’s very unnatural, even though he has great delivery and his vocals are great. I think if he wouldn’t try so hard to focus on that tempo and let it be more natural he would accelerate again, but one thing at a time. He’s progressing very well overall.  

So with Henry and Alex doing Mykonos, and you and Scrawny doing Montreal, with that being successful it does sort of open up more doors for you not having to be tied to Henry. Were there ever times where you attended an event or he did that you felt obligated to do because the other wanted to go there?
That’s happened in the past. In 2016, I did 29 events and I think Henry did 28 -- we did all but two of them together. There were a few of them that he agreed to and assumed I was going to be good with and I was like “Ah, I kind of want to take a break that weekend”. That always happens, but that’s part of it. First and foremost, we have an awesome job, so a bad day at work is still a pretty good day. We enjoy each other’s company and we obviously work well together so it’s fine, but it can cause burnout.

If we couldn’t be better than everyone, we could out-work everyone.

Last year we felt obligated to grind it out because we weren’t necessarily the established duo that we are now and we knew we could out-work everyone. So that was our goal: if we couldn’t be better than everyone, we could out-work everyone. Тhat was kind of the way we approached it. Now we have taken a step back and said “Okay, if you want [to work] this event I’m not going to do it”. I think this year [Henry] has done more events than I have. Тhere’s been three or four, I think, that he’s done without me, whereas I’ve only done one, maybe two without him.

I don’t think it means there are more opportunities without him. I think we are a branded duo and more people seek us out as a duo. But, for example, it could give me the chance to get back into some more hosting. I branched out and I did some McLaren stuff this year,  World’s Fastest Gamer, where I was doing some hosting. That stuff is great, but in terms of Counter-Strike, the opportunities are going to be much more if we are a duo than if we are apart.   

HenryG and Sadokist make up the premier casting duo in Counter-Strike, in many people's opinion. Photo by: DreamHack | Adela Sznajder
HenryG and Sadokist make up the premier casting duo in Counter-Strike, in many people's opinion. Photo by: DreamHack | Adela Sznajder Flickr.com


I’m glad you touched on racing. To completely divert the topic, how did you get into that, you’re obviously very passionate about it. Do you remember how old you were?

Oh yeah, I remember all too well how I got into racing. My father worked on a radio; he’s been instrumental in vocal coaching, and breathing, and technique, and delivery. His father was an Anglican clergyman who delivered sermons to many, so public speaking has been a thing in our lineage.

But my father was also a car guy and throughout his time at the radio he always had a big interest in cars. Datsun 510’s, 240z’s were his favorite. He and his best friend, who still actually co-drives my car while dad recovers from knee surgery, decided at a very young age -- a younger age than most entrepreneurs these days -- to buy a car dealership. I think they were in their early 20’s. They bought a Volkswagen dealership in Truro, Nova Scotia, which is still owned by my father's best friend today. That was what I grew up with, I think they bought that around when I was born in 1989, and at that time he was already racing cars. So I kind of grew up going to the tracks with dad on the weekends. I used to really, really enjoy it -- my brother as well.

For six or seven years we were racing high level go-karting all over Canada with great success.

Then, when my brother was 10 or 11 and I was 8, dad decided “Okay, let’s see if they can drive” and bought us our first family go-kart. My first experience with the go-kart was two things: One was driving on a public street and driving into a ditch because I was 8 years old. And two: my brother’s first race he came in and I went to congratulate him, and I leaned over and grabbed what I thought was the seat, but it was actually the exhaust pipe, so I left some skin on that -- which smelled lovely.

But then I didn’t start racing because I was so young and we only had the one go-kart and my dad wanted to focus on my brother first. I didn’t start racing until the year after, and then every year after for six or seven years we were racing high level go-karting all over Canada with great success, my brother especially. I was probably faster over one lap; he was very consistent as a driver. I was a little bit reckless and would get black flags and he would win every race. We were very, very different in our driving styles. Then we both transitioned into cars, we’d watch a lot of Formula 1 and went to a bunch of races in Montreal, and both my brother and I, in our first race weekends, flipped the car because we weren’t used to weight transfer. His was a little more excusable; he actually got punted off which was a bit greasy. Mine was just over-driving, and I shortened the car by about three feet on either end because I went end over end.

I was a little bit reckless and would get black flags and my brother would win every race. We were very, very different in our driving styles.

That kind of killed our budget, but then this year I built my first race car, the M3, and it’s been exceptional. It’s been incredible, and we’re having good success at home. I’ve been on the podium just about every single race if we don’t get some sort of infraction. I was even lucky enough to get third place at the Fall Classic which is one of Canada’s bigger races in GTC, which is a class filled with some other pro drivers from the Canadian tour championship and some cars that are much, much more expensive and faster than mine. So it was a heck of a weekend, actually.   

Sadokist's customized race car. Photo by: Sadokist
Sadokist's customized race car. Photo by: Sadokist Twitter.com

So, to put that race you mentioned into perspective for people that don’t get racing, like myself, what would you compare yourself to as an ESEA level? Are you ESEA Main, are you in Premier?
Ah, I would say Main is probably right. I mean that race had drivers in it that do drive in a pro series in Canada; it was sort of an open invitation race. If Formula 1, WESC, and Formula E is like ESL Pro League, I would say [ESEA] Premier would be the pro end divisions of IMSA, or VLN, or Porsche cup. If I were to dabble in it, I’d have to get some sponsorship money to pay for the seats and whatnot, which is unfortunately the nature of all racing. And then I would be just below that, in sort of the Main division.

You mentioned you did a bit of work for the racing world earlier. I did actually see you interview Jenson Button, and as clueless as I am in racing I know who he is so that’s huge. How did that come about and has racing ever been a possibility to enter, career-wise?
I’m kind of dabbling with it now to see if it is a possibility later. If anything were to happen in CS: if Henry and I were to decide not to cast together anymore, if CS died, if I got sick of esports. So I kind of just been playing with it to open a few doors. That particular door was opened by OJ Borg, believe it or not.

Many people don’t know this, but OJ used to be a pit lane interviewer for the Blancpain GT Series in Europe. I found out that he did this and thought that’s really cool and he goes “Yeah, but I’m not actually a car guy, it’s cool and I like it”, so he kind of stepped away from that. He had to do every race in the season in 2016 and ESL wanted him for events that overlapped so he chose to do ESL because it created more opportunities down the road. The same people that got him into that job were looking for someone to host this World’s Fastest Gamer stuff -- specifically the first one being the launch -- and the interview with Jenson Button.

Matthew interviewing one of the F1 greats, Jenson Button.
Matthew interviewing one of the F1 greats, Jenson Button. Youtube.com

OJ was busy with the esports round-up here in Copenhagen and said “I can’t do it, but I know a guy that’s really into cars and I know he’s a big F1 fan he’d probably do it”. So, out of nowhere, I get a message from OJ that just says, “Thank me later” and then I got a message from a producer from a company out of the UK and they said “Here’s the opportunity, it’s with McLaren, it’s World’s Fastest Gamer”. I said that was cool and I saw the competition and it looked great. So then they said “You’re interviewing Jenson Button” and I was like, “Holy shit, what? What did you just say?”. The interesting thing is I’m a massive Alonso fan. I will stand by it that I think Alonso is the best driver of all time, technically speaking. Many people don’t agree, I don’t care, that’s my opinion and I can back it up with some facts -- well, some objective observation of his driving, may or may not be correct, but I think Alonso is better and we’ll leave it at that.

So then they said “You’re interviewing Jenson Button” and I was like, “Holy shit, what? What did you just say?”

Button was Alonso’s teammate and if I’d have interviewed Alonso I don’t think I could have done it. I don’t fanboy anyone in the world, it doesn’t matter who you are, but F1 drivers are always different. They’re held with such prestige that they’re almost like royalty in the racing world and they’re so inaccessible that it was like “Hang on, I’m suddenly in the McLaren factory and Button is supposed to show up?”. He walked around the corner and, thankfully, F1 drivers are small so they’re not that intimidating, he’s about the exact same size as me, and he’s in his McLaren suit and Jenson is the perfect person to interview for the first time because he’s so laid back and so polite and so well spoken.

I looked at him and got butterflies and went “Nope”. Kill your inner fanboy. Be professional. This is it. And as soon as he walked over I shook hands and said “Hey, how’s it going? Let’s do this” and he was like “Absolutely. Let’s do it”. We had a great interview, I think he actually enjoyed it because after he walked off camera he looked back at me and gave me a thumbs up and was glad I didn’t keep him for too long as well.

But here’s another interesting thing with the F1 world. While I was interviewing him and was putting in some insightful questions through my racing experience, he made a joke about Honda’s terrible reliability. It was along the lines of my question “Why didn’t you go to the Bahrain test?” and he said “Why would I fly 17 hours to do 17 laps?”. Normally, in esports, if I’m interviewing someone and they throw me a line like that I’m going to dig at it, I’m going to meme the shit out of it, I’m going to make jokes. I looked over and there’s like three McLaren people with their arms crossed just staring at me after he said it and I was like “Um, yeah, anyway...”. I just could not bring myself to make that joke and then get kicked out of the factory. So glad he made it and not me.  

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