Matt Heafy is the front man and lead guitarist for heavy metal band Trivium. He has meshed the worlds of heavy metal and live streaming and reached an entirely new audience in the process. He gives his fans an intimate look into the life of a rock star, and he has become a better musician thanks, in part, to live streaming.
We sat down with Matt and asked him about his transition to live streaming, how he manages his time between streaming and playing in a band, writing the theme sound for Shroud, and more.
The full transcription from the interview is copied below.
Streamlabs: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Matt Heafy: My name is Matt Heafy, I’m singer and guitar player in the metal band, Trivium.
I joined the band when I was about 13 years old in middle school. I originally tried out for a pop punk band before that in this band called Freshly Squeezed. We are Floridians, of course, it makes sense, a band like Freshly Squeezed. I tired out for them, didn’t make it in, I was super bummed out, kind of give up on playing in a band. And then a friend lent me this thing called The Black Album by Metallica. I had never heard it before, never heard metal before. I checked that out. I said this is the kind of music I meant to play. So I practiced nonstop for eight to ten hours a day and got pretty decent.
And this high school band singer came through. He said, Hey, do you wanna try for my band? We’re looking for a lead guitar player. My trot song was “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, walked in the room and all the high school kids were looking at me like, who is this little kid? What can I do? Well I played the song perfectly, their jaws dropped and I’ve been in the band ever since.
The original singer left the band, he said let’s split the songs in half, you guys can keep the name. I’ll start a new band name. And that was it. The rest is history.
Streamlabs: What initially drew you into the live streaming space?
Matt Heafy: I’d always been fans of streamers like Shroud and Dakotaz. And there was one show that we played in Spain where I met a YouTuber who came out. Actually there were several YouTubers that came out that day. Jordi Wild was one of them. And they came back and met us and afterwards I was like, man, that’s really cool that these guys do this for a living. We looked at their subscriber counts and were like damn, these guys are absolutely killing it.
I said out loud I should start doing YouTube videos. And they said you should start streaming on Twitch instead. I didn’t know too much about the platform. I didn’t know much about the engagement perks or the chat room functionality. I used to watch Twitch on an old Roku TV App. So I started just playing PS4 with a PS4 webcam, a little bit of Overwatch, anywhere from like 20 to 30 minutes a day. And that was it. I’d interact a little bit here and there, was still impressed that people wanted to watch me. And from there, I befriended a couple people from Twitch because they heard that they knew I was in the band. I mentioned that I would love to stream more, but I have to practice four to six hours a day when I’m off tour. They said why don’t you turn the camera on for that. And the rest, ladies and gentlemen is history.
Streamlabs What kind of content do you typically stream?
Matt Heafy: Typically my channel is mostly music. It’s like 90 to 95% music. I warm up about an hour before the stream starts while I’m hanging out with my kids and doing some housework and cleaning bottles and stuff. I’ll get five or six subscriber requests for Trivium stuff. We’ll do like four sub, one non-sub song, and then a Trivium acoustic re-imagination of a song. From there we do a thing called Kiichichaos karaoke where people bid for five minutes on what song that I’m supposed to learn and I basically have to dedicate the rest of the day or however long it takes to perfect a song that I’ve typically never heard before. We’ve done everything from making Cannibal corpse songs beautiful.
We’ve taken Baby Shark and added screaming. I’ve done a lot of Lincoln Park covers, a lot of Slipknot covers, Avatar covers. We’ve done Celine Dion, Jeff Buckley, Sum 41, Blink 182, a little bit of everything. The most challenging cover to date was Logic, the suicide prevention hotline number song. But after that I grew a new confidence in rapping. I didn’t know I could do that before.
Thanks to streaming on twitch, I’ve become better at guitar playing, singing, frontmanship learning songs, writing songs.
Streamlabs: How do you find time to balance being a kick-ass rock star and Twitch streamer?
Matt Heafy: It’s difficult at times keeping the two worlds together. But I’ve found that ever since they’ve been more linked and when I’ve made it more about the routine at home, rehearsing and staying up to shape with everything — on tour I’m able to stream everything as I go on the road. We’ve stream every single show, every single soundcheck , every single warm up, I’ll stream Brazilian Jujitsu sometimes too.
Streamlabs: Is there a big heavy metal community on Twitch?
Matt Heafy: Thankfully I’ve seen a lot more guys in metal bands coming out and starting to stream, which is really cool. I love Fortnite. Fortnite is the only game I really stream anymore. But I’ve noticed that metal kids do not like Fortnite.
But Joe Bad, one of my favorite singers from one of my favorite bands, Fit For An Autopsy, he streams now. We’ve got dudes from all sorts of bands coming in now. We have a team called Metacore, where you can kind of come and see all the band guys that we’ve been able to reach out to and bring in. Herman lee is a big shredder streamer. He has an amazing channel. Alot of really great musicians that are signed and unsigned.
I always try to make it a point to raid upcoming music streamers, fellow teammates, band guys streamers. It’s definitely growing
Streamlabs: Has streaming on Twitch allowed you to reach people that may not have necessarily found you on their own?
Matt Heafy: Streaming on twitch has been crazy. I was able to write the Shroud theme song. I reached out to him. I know he likes trivium. I said, “Hey, I’d love to write you a song”. He said, “let’s do it”. So, he came and hang out in the chat. Sent him the song afterwards, which he’s been using, called Shroud of Chaos, it’s a really killer song.
Dakotaz and I have become really good buddies and we’ll play fortnight. He’s got an amazing community. A lot of his community was kind of unaware of what metal was and now they all know what it is, which is really cool.
It’s unbelievable to be able to play with one of my favorite streamers in the world, with my favorite game in the world. Shout out Dakotaz.
Streamlabs: Did you ever think streaming your practice sessions would be so well received by the Twitch community?
Matt Heafy: I never imagined that people would want to watch me warm up and do ridiculous vocal exercises and make silly faces and have vocal cracks and still come every single day and watch the channel grow and grow with essentially the same thing. People like to see someone genuinely loving what they do and crushing at what they do.
That’s the attraction for me. Like watching these guys who are so unbelievable at games that I love. That’s what’s entertaining. So I was trying to figure out what’s my game for this. Oh yeah — This thing I’ve been doing for 20 years. Trivium. So let’s show people this thing that I’m actually really good at that I love to do and I feel like even if someone isn’t into metal at all and doesn’t like our music, they’re still going to have a good time here.
Streamlabs: Has live streaming led to any opportunities that you didn’t imagine being a part of prior to your streaming career?
Matt Heafy: What’s been crazy for me is like I grew up playing video games. I beat Mario while I was still speaking Japanese with my mom when we first immigrated over from Japan. My dad was a marine so it was just kinda the two of us and I was watching anime, speaking Japanese, and playing games. I never imagined the two worlds melding so much because I’ve always loved games and I’ve obviously loved metal. I feel like metal and video games are meant for the underdog. They’ve always been for the outsider. And it’s really cool to see those two things growing and growing kind of together. Phase Temper, a good buddy of mine, we’re talking about making some music together. He sang on our last record, he’s sang on The Sin and the Sentence, which is really killer. I think he was on like two or three of the songs, and we keep in touch.
Being able to write Shroud a song and play games with Dakotaz. It’s been fun trying to embrace and try to help bring up other streamers. I’ve been making a point to really at the end of every single stream raid a smaller up and coming streamer, or a friend who is a mod or, a female streamer, or a musician streamer. And I feel it’s unfortunate we need to say this, but I feel like we do need to say this, we need to be treating female streamers the same way male streamers are treated. And that’s a big thing with me. I make sure that I collab and play games with female streamers and male streamers alike and bring up the whole community because when everyone does well, and when you support everyone, we all succeed. I feel like that’s the attitude that needs to be there on Twitch.
Streamlabs Have video games inspired the music you are making in any way?
Matt Heafy: Video Games have always inspired music for me. I mean, we have a song called The Calamity. It’s not about Jenova, but I got the idea of that from Final Fantasy Seven. I have a song called Strife. It’s not about Cloud Strife, but obviously, you know, got the idea from there. I’ve always felt that metal and games are very into the folklore of the fantasy world. They can go there at times, which is cool. They can get kind of Game of Thrones-y, Lord of the rings-y in their subject matter for games and for music, for metal particularly. And I feel like gaming and metal are both so technical. Pop music, it’s a science. It’s about knowing exactly what people like and just going exactly for that. But with metal and games, I feel like it’s about displaying what technicality and what kind of the deeper recesses of the brain need to be there to create something really special. So it’s really cool to see those two living symbiotically.
Streamlabs Is there a particular tool or feature from Streamlabs that you couldn’t live without?
Matt Heafy: With Streamlabs, everything is built in. That’s what I love. I don’t like to have all these scattered things. I like everything to make sense, to be minimal, to not be overly difficult. I’m not a tech person. I’m not great at that stuff. I’m good at guitar gear, but I’m not great at the PC. I’ve only been playing games on a PC for the last year and a half, thanks to Asus. I tweeted them one day, I was like your laptops are pretty sweet and then they’re like, alright, you want to become one of our streamers? So thanks to them. I got my first PC, I’d never owned a PC in my life. I’ve always used the other company, but that company cannot game and I thank them for that.
I’m blown away about how Streamlabs does merch. Once they make their costs back, the rest of the proceeds go to the streamer. That’s pretty big. That doesn’t happen much in music, ladies and gentlemen. Musicians have it a little bit rougher. I know from firsthand experience. Thankfully nowadays we’ve got a really good deal with a really good label.
I love it that in Streamlabs, it is streamlined. Merchant integrations, the face masks, the donation function is all in there. Having a main homepage where everything is integrated. I think the fact that everything is integrated, it’s all there. And now Streamlabs gives back with the Giveaways. They’ve always been super helpful to me whenever I’ve had an issue or if we try to work something out and building this kind of stream is very specific because there’s not much like it. So it’s been amazing to see how a program like Streamlabs can just kind of wrap itself around whatever it calls for. I love that everything’s integrated and it’s made streaming so much easier.
Streamlabs Do you have any advice to musicians thinking about live streaming?
Matt Heafy: My advice to musicians who want a stream, play games for fun on stream. Don’t play games with the intent that you’re going to become the next best gamer in the world because, my friends, we’ve got our other crafts to keep on top. So I recommend you stream your practices. Show people and bring your audience into see that side of you that they don’t get to see when they see you on stage. And then stream some shows, stream some practices. And when you want to go to games, play games for fun, don’t try to become the next esports king because if you’re in an active band, you need to be the king of that and keep that craft at the top. That’s what I realized. I was thinking when I first started, that I need to become like an esports prodigy and I need to crush at games. It’s not going to happen. It’s not realistic for the amount of time that the pro gamers and the pro streamers are able to put in and they’re able to put in this six to eight to 10 to 12 hours a day and they’d been doing that since there are 13. Whereas us musicians, we’ve been doing those hours for music since we were 12 and 13 and we need to keep up with that.
Follow Matt on social