Here's a short article I recently wrote for a project at university, and I thought some of you guys might find it interesting so I've thrown it up on here. And look out for Year 200X's new album some time soon!
Most people would recognise the Super Mario Bros. theme tune instantly, but how about if it was played by a full rock band, complete with drums, bass and guitars?
“I first got the idea after stumbling across a few Minibosses songs around 2000 or 2001. I immediately loved the concept of playing video game music on conventional instruments, but I wanted to mix in the genre that I liked the most, metal.” says Tim Lydon, guitarist of popular video game cover band, Year 200X.
“Fast forward a few years, to when a buddy of mine recorded a cover of the Ninja Gaiden II title music. We decided to make a page on MySpace for our increasing interest in recording VG covers. We didn't even think of forming a real band until a couple other friends of ours heard what we had, and told us that if we ever wanted to start playing out live, they were in.”
An additional two guitarists, bassist and drummer complete the Year 200X line-up, their name a reference to the Mega Man series of games. Based in Lansing, Michigan, the band is currently recording a full-length album and is set to play at the '32-bit Genocide' festival this summer.
Tim explains how the crowd typically respond at live events: “The reactions are usually one of two types: we either get a blank stare, indicating that they either don't really understand what we do, or that they think it's the dumbest thing they've ever heard. The other reaction is positive, and usually comes from gamers.”
And it is gamers who make up the majority of a cover band's fan base. Having grown up listening to the music of their favourite games, hearing these tunes fleshed out by a full rock band is quite appealing.
Many bands focus on older video game tunes – those from the 80s and early 90s. This is probably because bands and their fans both grew up with this era of video games, and so these songs create a feeling of nostalgia that newer video game music may not. Also, as contemporary video game music has become very high quality and impressive in its own right, converting the 'bleepy bloopy' sounds of past decades is quite a novel concept. “I owned a NES when it was new,” says Tim, “and that's where my love for games and game music started. So that's really what we wanted to pay tribute to.”
Paying tribute involves playing the original material accurately, although this can sometimes be a difficult task, as the music was never intended to be played on traditional instruments. However, one technical aspect of old video game music does lend itself to a rock band setting: “the NES soundchip basically produced four tracks, and they were often utilized as two 'lead' tracks, a 'bass' track, and a 'noise' track that was usually used for percussion or sound effects. It's almost a no-brainer that these would translate well to two guitars, a bass guitar, and drums”.
Whilst fun and enjoyment is often the focus, with some bands not taking themselves seriously at all, Tim believes there is something more to video game music than novelty and nostalgia. “I think that the word is spreading that there are people out there doing this kind of thing. And as more and more people find out about VGM artists, it is inspiring more and more people to try their own hand at video game covers, chiptunes, and other forms of VGM and video game inspired music. Plus, people are starting to realize that video game music is a very valid, expressive, and important form of music.”
Year 200X AT NewAge Arcade - Mega Man 2