Alex ‘Machine’ Richardson is the definition of a jack of all trades when it comes to talent in Counter-Strike. Stage host, desk host, and commentator are just some of the duties that Machine has undertaken in years gone by, and particularly during the Online era induced by Covid, he has firmly placed himself in the conversation as the most recognizable voice in the game. Before taking to the stage to start the day officially on the broadcast, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to sit down with the man himself and discuss the event, his partnership with Chad ‘SPUNJ’ Burchill, and the goals he has set his sights on going forward.
I’m here with Machine on the final day of BLAST Fall Finals, how are you feeling at the end of the event and what are your thoughts on it?
I just said it there when I was talking to the arena just there, I’m excited and exhausted – I’m exchiausted. I’m riding such a high and I know I am going to collapse at the end of this. There’s something about when you have got so many people and you’re feeding off of their energy and they’re also taking yours but yeah, I’m pooped.
It doesn’t feel like I’m working that hard, you know? When you step on the stage and do a two-minute interview and say, “LET’S GO!”, and the party starts. But yeah, tired, excited and just celebrating the fact that this is what we have been waiting for two years. This is what Counter-Strike needs and we are getting it back-to-back with the Major, into a well-executed, polished broadcast with a loud crowd.
You’re off the back of the Major with PGL in Stockholm, the crowd there was obviously very passionate with the Swedish fans there. It might get you in some trouble with some Scandinavians, but which crowds were better?
Well, you see this is where it gets awkward and I’m going to start preaching about audio engineers. The Royal Arena is electric, but it was in Stockholm too. Unfortunately, the difference is that one was in the Globe with a very hard sound profile, don’t forget that it is a crazy shaped building which means the acoustics are very complex and you need an expert for it. I think what BLAST has done by hiring the best of Northern Europe in every field and for every role, they are reaping the rewards of that because they have got a perfect encapsulation of what this feels like for everyone who is watching at home. I think that is magic and we don’t always get that as we certainly didn’t get that in Stockholm.
We are back on LAN as you said thereafter a build-up during this two-year period off. You and SPUNJ created such a dynamic duo and were a staple of that online era, how did that feel for you?
It’s cool man. You know, we were living together at the time, me, HenryG and Chad, and when Henry was stepping away from the space, Me and Chad had this moment where I was hosting and he was and analyst primarily and we both felt like we didn’t see a goal and something to set our sights on, something to pursue, and something to get us up out of bed and really be a driving force for us. We were running out of that and on autopilot a little bit and when I was casting with Henry, me and Chad had that moment of ‘why don’t I just cast with you?’ He was like ‘yeah why not, I’m looking for something new.’ He was an ex-player and every play-by-play casters dream is to have an articulate, charismatic, knowledgeable ex-player as a colour commentator, and what have I got? Exactly fucking that. So in terms of me having the tools at my disposal to be the best I can be in my role, I have the perfect partner for it.
You guys did such a good job with it, do you think that casting the Major final was vindication for that two-year period?
I don’t think vindication is the word that I would use, but yeah it was like evidence for me, and us, selfishly because we were onliners and I just wanted us to prove to the world that this is something that we can do and do it our way and sell and be genuine and authentic. It doesn’t have to be copying anyone else and it doesn’t have to be something that you have heard before, it can be its own thing and that is the beauty of commentary – the structure of it and the way it feels to listen to it and how it makes you feel when you are watching the game. It is entirely up to the people who are speaking and I love that freedom and I love that we are slowly chiselling away at our playbook on how to do that properly.
In the Major final you had that “Disaster, an absolute disaster” call with NiKo, for you personally –
I could have done so much better!
Do you think so?
Yeah of course, but I was so wrapped up in the moment and I think that there is a balance to be struck where, when you listen to Launders and Scrawny, they embody that really well where you have to remain composed, and you have to continue to push the dialogue even in those crazy moments. You know, I had two years of those crazy moments where I was used to locking myself in and doing that, it’s just that it was such a combination of the return to LAN, the Major, the final, the crowd, the teams, the storylines, NiKo or s1mple getting their Major. I was so lost in all of that so I was just a fan with a microphone in front of my face, so at that moment, it led to a lack of composure and a lack of eloquent delivery at times. I think that I’m not going to sound like that or deliver lines as wobbly as that normally, so it was just a product of everything.
I think it turned out quite well.
It’s easy when, you know how when you have an argument with someone, and you can always come up with the best response in the shower afterwards? Imagine that but with professional commentary. Your brain is just constantly “you could have done this better; you could have done this better” but the moment is gone, and you are there in remorse with what you didn’t say.
What would you say your favourite call that you have ever done in your time in commentary would be?
I think fresh in my mind would be Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller’s 1v5. Just because it was during the online era, I got to cast it with the new skillset that I had developed in terms of online commentary, doing it differently. There’s no crowd behind you and it’s just the two of you in dead silence, it’s online so it’s not as personal or, quote on quote, “passionate”, so I casted it differently and the fact that we joked about it and made jokes like “have you not heard about the 1v5 with a p250?” and after we made the joke it actually happened. So, retire the joke format and just celebrate that incredible play.
You mentioned Henry who is obviously out of commentary now because he has said that he feels like he has accomplished everything in commentary. For you, as someone who is stage hosting, desk hosting, commentary, and now having done the Major final and pretty much every big event, what more is there for you to do?
My goal at the moment honestly is just, commentating was the thing I started in and what I was doing for fun, for free, in my boxer shorts at home, skipping uni parties to cast a one night cup and that kind of vibe. So being that guy and having commentary taken away from me, I say taken away from me so dramatically, but I wouldn’t be here where I am now without the desk host pivot, without becoming a recognizable face and voice and someone that people can trust in the space, I wouldn’t be able to do this pivot and pull it off so it’s all part of how I got here.
But to get back to the question, my goal is that I want to get to the stage where I am seen as one of the biggest names in commentary historically. I want people to be able to use me as an example in future years. I think I have the capability so now I just need to execute and keep getting those opportunities to prove myself.
You mentioned earlier the different names that have been coming through in commentary like Scrawny and Launders, Harry and Hugo who have become quite a good duo. You said that you want to be that standout name in commentary history, what would you say to any aspiring commentators entering into the scene now?
Being yourself, whilst also acknowledging that you have to wear, to a degree, a mask. Acknowledging that the mask is exclusively and ideally polished, it’s just you tidying it up and trimming the ends of who you really are. You will find as you develop more of a personality that more of you is exposed to the public eye and you will see that people will understand more and more of the intricate character that you are. Be yourself, and assuming that you have the personality for it because not everybody does, some people genuinely shouldn’t be pursuing that role if you don’t have that natural social intelligence and charisma to, for lack of a better word, manipulate the situation to your favour, so that you and everyone else on the broadcast looks good. That is your job, your job is to make the players, the other people you are working with, and the game, look good and exciting. If you can do that and do it in your own way, while still being genuine, you have the recipe for success.