UK LoL caster Hiprain: “To finally get the offer, to actually be on the LEC… is a really bizarre feeling. I don’t think it’s quite hit home yet. I don’t think it will hit home until about five seconds before the break ends and I go on, to be honest!”

Hiprain
Jake ‘Hiprain’ Matthews is name many are familiar with in the UK, Ireland and European League of Legends (LoL) scene. The play-by-play caster has worked in many tournaments from the UKLC and NLC to the EU Masters and even Rift Rivals 2018 in Australia. But the top-tier LEC has so far eluded his stacked resume. Until now.
Last week he was announced as one of several UK casters to be appearing as a guest on the LEC alongside many familiar names, such as Guldborg, Jamada and Troubleinc. Megalodontus asks Hiprain about the NLC Summer Season so far, what it means to reach the LEC and why he wants to reunite with LCK caster Chronicler.

Thank you for accepting this interview, I believe this is our fourth or so interview together. Congratulations on making it to the LEC broadcast! You’re a long time caster from the UK scene, so how does it feel?

It is a bizarre feeling! I started casting… god, four to five years ago probably? I actually couldn’t give you an exact time because I can’t remember how long ago it was. I haven’t been doing it as a job all that time, but I started getting on the amateur circuits and things like the NUEL and Compete League.

Obviously the whole time, there was one goal in mind which was EU LCS and now the LEC. To finally get the offer, to actually be on the show and be part of it… is a really bizarre feeling. I don’t think it’s quite hit home yet. I don’t think it will hit home until about five seconds before the break ends and I go on, to be honest!

Is it just a one-time guest appearance and you’ll see how it goes after that? Will you and Jamada be casting it on-site or remote due to Brexit and COVID? 

Yes, it’s a guest appearance. Jamada and I are going to be on the LEC this weekend and at the moment, it’s just one day. I don’t think too much is booked beyond a certain point but I know there’s a long line of people they’re looking at. Hopefully I can get on more days, that’s the goal right? I just have to do well and not fuck it up.

Unfortunately, due to the state of the world being in a pandemic and my government well… being my government, at the moment getting to Germany is a pretty hairy task, so Jamada and I will be doing it from home. The good news is, it’s a setup we’re both used to using. Obviously, I would love to be in the studio with an audience, but you know, one step at a time I guess. 

If we get offered future dates, I hope there will be a workaround. I think it’s just down to timing and things being a little bit up in the air at the moment. 

“Going into the second season of the NLC, they let me host a little bit more. Excoundrel is an incredibly professional host, and then they put me on camera and it’s chaos! But I thrive in the chaos so it was fun.”

Speaking of Jamada…this is going to be a difficult question. You’ve had a lot of casting partners over the years and recently you’ve been paired most with Guldborg, Jamada and Aux. Which of these three is your favourite casting partner and why?

I… don’t think I could ever choose a favourite. I’ve had a whole bunch of really amazing co-casters over the years. For a while, I was with Excoundrel when he was doing colour casting. Back when I first started, it was me and FrozenDawn, and he really showed me the ropes of getting better at casting, and I definitely wouldn’t have grown to the point I’m at without him. He was kind of my “first love” (laughs). 

Jamada has obviously jumped in recently within our scene. He’s just had this explosion of growth unlike anyone else I’ve seen before. If you look back to what he was like in January to what he’s like now, that was only six months ago and he’s just leaps and bounds better than where he was, and he already started in a pretty good spot. He’s an amazing caster. 

Unfortunately, I’ve not had that many opportunities to cast with Guldborg. I know it seems like we have, but I feel like Guldborg and I probably haven’t been able to cast together all that much, just because of the way the rotas have been working out in the NLC. I did work with Guldborg a lot on the EU Masters and that was probably the first time I properly got to work hand in hand with him.

I can never choose a favourite, but I will say my most reliable partner will always be Aux. I’ve worked with him for so many years. It doesn’t seem to matter how long it’s been since we last spoke or worked together, it’s just so easy with Aux. I think that’s just the amount of experience as I don’t think I’ve cast with anyone as much as I’ve done with him in my career. I love working with him, Aux is really great. He’s funny, he bounces off me well and we just have really good fun together. He’s taught me the most about the game, and I don’t think anyone in this industry has taught me as much kind of just core game knowledge as Aux has. 

I need to tap into his knowledge one of these days. Now that you’ve made it to the LEC, and let’s say you make it back in the future, are there any LEC casters that you hope to one day cast with?

The only one I’ve not worked with is Vedius. Ender is kind of a guest now as we’ve seen, but I have worked with him and we did an EU Masters finals together. I’ve worked with Caedrel last EU Masters, and I’ve worked with the rest of the guest casters like Jamada, Excoundrel and so forth. Vedius is the only colour caster I’ve not had the chance to cast with. 

I like seeing how different people prep because everyone has a different approach, and it’s always interesting to see how people work versus how I work. It would be interesting to see how someone like Vedius preps, because he seems to be very methodical and he understands the game in ways I don’t. It would be really cool to see and learn from him. 

For this LEC, we see a lot of guest casters from the NLC and a lot of them also come from the UK. Will you be bringing that ‘UK bias’ to the broadcast like Foxdrop and Machine have?

Probably not as much as them, especially not Foxdrop. There will always be a slight or level of bias and I don’t think that’s actually a bad thing at all. It’s fine for commentators to be passionate about individual players or teams or whatever, as long as it’s not suffocating. Or it can go in a very meme-y way like how Foxdrop does it. He handles his bias in a very funny way, which makes it enjoyable. 

I don’t know right now how biased I will be (laughs). I try to be fairly neutral in most scenarios unless it’s the European Masters, because they’re the teams who I’ve followed for years and they are the teams I’m proud of. I want to try and cast from a neutral standpoint unless it’s like a particular player that I’m hyped by. 

I’d like to move the conversation to the NLC. What are some of your favourite moments or fondest memories? Is it your podcast moments with Guldborg or a particularly hyped game you cast?

I can’t remember a single game. It’s bad, but it’s true. I cast five days a week and I can’t remember a single game. All the moments that shine and the ones I remember are where we’re dicking around! I think that’s when the show is most fun to watch and when it’s the most fun to be on when everyone is just having a fun time, and we’re taking the piss a bit like Guldborg’s ‘self defecating’ moment and Guldborg and I spending 40 minutes talking about holidays in Japan because of a technical pause. Or one of the many, many tangents me and Aux have gone off on.

I feel like those are the moments that always stand out to me. I hope the viewers were enjoying them as much as I do doing them!

I moved to Overwatch when it first came out and I was casting with a company in Malta, and they gave me this co-caster I had never heard of or never met before. His name was Chronicler. I would honestly love to go to LCK just to be reunited with him.”

On the NLC, I noticed you’ve also played the role of host occasionally on the analyst desk. I’m not sure how often you’ve done it in the past, is this something that you are working towards in the future?

Hosting was always something I’ve kind of had to do as a play-by-play caster, all play-by-plays usually have to do a little bit of hosting. This is because if you’re a colour caster like Guldbog, you naturally fit into the analyst slot on shows where they can’t get a dedicated host. 

It’s not something I fully dedicated myself to until I joined the NLC. During the first season, the NLC were pretty dedicated on the idea of me and Aux just being casters, and the rest of the talent being on the analyst desk. Those were the assigned roles at the time. We did switch things up because we said it would be a little boring with just Aux and I casting, as much as I love casting with him.

At the time, Excoundrel was purely a dedicated host and I knew he wanted to do play-by-play casting. He wanted to keep expanding because at that point it was around when he was switching from being an analyst/colour caster to being a play-by-play caster. I was more than happy to hand him the reins and let him do that, because I also decided being able to host is a talent and a skill that I should probably add to my repertoire. And where better to do this than the NLC, where I’m surrounded by people I can trust to pick up the slack if I fall apart?

It was something we spoke to them about going into the second season of the NLC, and they still wanted to kind of keep me and Aux as the main casters, but they let me host a little bit more. Excoundrel is an incredibly professional host, and then they put me on camera and it’s chaos! But I thrive in the chaos so it was fun. I think my producer decided actually it wasn’t as big of a car crash as he initially thought it could have been. 

Moving into these future seasons, you now see a way more diverse rotation of casters. It’s not just Aux and I anymore. So yeah, it’s been nice being able to do a bit of hosting and casting, but I still much prefer casting. I think I’m definitely better suited as a caster, but hosting has been really fun and a nice change of pace. I’ve tried to be a bit different from the likes of Excoundrel, Machine or Sjokz since I’ll never be on their level, but I can put my own twist on my own brand on air. Maybe that makes me stand out a little bit as a host as well.

Before we end, now that you’ve made the LEC, it’s a big step for you, coming from the UK scene. I never got to ask you this before, what are your goals and ambitions? Is it to reach the LEC by 2022 or maybe cast other leagues like LPL, LCK or even LCS?

I’d honestly be open to most leagues, LEC has obviously been the main goal for me as a caster since day one. But if the chance to cast the LCK came about, I’d happily take that too. 

When I first started casting, I couldn’t get any LoL gigs because Medic was still in the scene. At the time, I was competing with Jaws, who’s now at Overwatch, and I was competing with Medic, and Munchables was working for ESL. With those three there, it was very hard for me to find other work. I moved onwards to Overwatch when it first came out and I was casting with a company in Malta, and they gave me this co-caster I had never heard of or never met before. His name was Chronicler. 

Chronicler and I did Overwatch together and we both were very new to casting. The pair of us had very little experience but we had an absolute blast doing the shows. We loved every moment of it and I still really look back on that show fondly because it was my first ever paid gig. It wasn’t a lot of money and they weren’t particularly great at communicating when games were starting, so we would sometimes sit there for 30 or 40 minutes until they went, “oh, you’re about to go live” and then the camera would go on and we went live. It was all done from home and it was really great fun.

I remember saying to Chronicler that he should be a LoL caster and come along with me to cast LoL. At the time he said no and he really wanted to focus on Overwatch. But a few months later, he actually did go back into casting LoL since he had already done a bit of it in the Netherlands. I would honestly love to go to LCK just to be reunited with Chronicler, who was the first person I earned money with doing this job.

I’m pretty open to a fair few places and I’ve spoken to people before in the past about casting other regions. People have approached me before on it but at the time things weren’t right. My ultimate goal, however, is still the LEC, but if I had the opportunity to cast the LCK or LCS, I would 100% jump on those without even thinking.

I really have to ask this question now that you mentioned Chronicler. When I spoke to Guldborg, his ultimate dream is to work really hard and cast a Worlds finals together with Chronicler. Because the format is one play-by-play and two colour casters, is it the dream to have yourself, Guldborg and Chronicler cast a Worlds finals?

I would love that. I would absolutely love that! Having Chronicler would just be incredible, because it’s like looking from where we started together and then reaching our end goal at the same time. That would be incredibly surreal. 

I’ve really, really enjoyed working with Guldborg. He’s kind of the little brother of the NLC group, so to be there for and with him would be incredible. Yeah, that would be a dream. That would genuinely be the dream.

“Aux has been the most incredible co-caster for all these years, and I’m really hoping we get him on the LEC because he deserves it more than the rest of us. I don’t think anyone in this industry has taught me as much core game knowledge as Aux has.”

We’ve come to the end of the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add or any other shoutouts you’d like to give? 

Yes. There are few people who I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and obviously the first one is daddy Excoundrel. That man has been an absolute inspiration for me. I honestly look up to him so much. 

Aux has been the most incredible co-caster for all these years, and I’m really hoping we get him on the LEC because he deserves it more than the rest of us. They’re the big two for me, I love the pair of them, but also shoutout to the NLC team in Trouble, Guldborg and Jamada. I’m really happy for all of them. 

I’m so excited to be on the show with them and it’s really great we all get to make our debut together on the show. 


You can follow Hiprain on Twitter here. The LEC continues on and the first match between SK Gaming and Schalke 04 Esports begins at 5pm BST today (June 18th 2021) – watch it on Twitch or YouTube.

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