Music Article

Music inspired from the Nintendo soundtrack

EW takes a look at bands covering tunes found in classic videogame systems Nintendo, Game Boy, and Atari

You've been there: After a marathon session in front of the flickering screen, fragging thousands of Halo baddies, you drag your couch-potato butt off to bed with bone-dry eyes and supersore wrists (from the joystick, dude, the joystick!), only to stare at the ceiling as the freakin' videogame theme does a merry-go-round in your head. We assumed this was a universal problem, but L2T has learned there are certain individuals who actually enjoy these musical machinations -- so much so, they've dedicated their lives to re-creating the Super Mario theme song when the console is unplugged. Introducing the hardcore gamers who've turned bits and bytes into pixel-heavy rock & roll.

GROUP THE ADVANTAGE

INFO A four-piece instrumental rock band based in Sacramento.

TOO MUCH INFO The band plays meticulously re-created covers of '80s-era Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game music. Their self-titled debut includes sounds from such faves as Mega-Man 3 and Ninja Gaiden.

SOUNDS LIKE Punky surf rock played by geeky prog-rock icons Neil Peart (Rush) and Steve Howe (Asia, Yes).

DORKY EPIPHANY ''I really liked the music in the MegaMan games,'' says drummer Spencer Seim, 23. ''I remember playing all day to get to the last two levels just so I could record them. That's the only way to do it -- play all day to get there.''

ULTIMATE GOAL ''To learn and record as many NES songs as humanly possible before we die.... So far we know about 55 or 60 songs -- I figure we have about 8,000 left.''

IF THAT DOESN'T PAN OUT Seim's got his other band, spastic punk-prog act Hella, to fall back on -- but giving up is not an option. ''Even if the rest of the band quit,'' he says, ''I would keep doing it on my own.''

GROUP VARIOUS ARTISTS (VGM MIX TAPE #8)

INFO A compilation of videogame-inspired beats masterminded by Billy Sides, 27, owner of the No Sides Records label in Chicago.

TOO MUCH INFO Sides assembled such under-the-radar gamer artists as Royal Space Force, Role Model, and Produkt. They gather sounds from the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64, and ColecoVision, among others.

SOUNDS LIKE Q*bert and Zelda dropping ludes and grooving the night away at Studio 54.

DORKY EPIPHANY ''Definitely Mega-Man 2 on Nintendo,'' says Sides of the 1988 game. ''It was the coolest videogame music, just totally rockin', balls-out tunes.''

ULTIMATE GOAL ''To bring some more diversity to the videogame music scene.''

IF THAT DOESN'T PAN OUT Sides still has his label and plenty of other weirdo acts to fall back on. Plus, he's got a part-time restaurant gig to help pay the bills.

GROUP 6955

INFO The recording name of Tokyo resident and Canadian expat Jason DeGroot.

TOO MUCH INFO He uses outdated Game Boy music software, hooks up some cool loops, and then tweaks it with guitar pedals and effects.

SOUNDS LIKE Freaky experimental techno beats in the vein of Aphex Twin -- or Tetris on LSD.

DORKY EPIPHANY ''When I was 8 or 9, the variety store by my house got the arcade version of Defender,'' says the 28-year-old. ''It blew my mind. I was terrible, but I was hooked!''

ULTIMATE GOAL ''The music I make isn't going to change the world; it's not going to be the next Nirvana,'' he says. ''I just hope people stumble across my record and think it's cool.''

IF THAT DOESN'T PAN OUT ''I have a job to help sustain myself. I teach English. Anyways, I have nothing to feel guilty about -- I've taught myself electronics, that's a pretty rewarding experience.''

Originally posted May 14, 2004 Published in issue #765 May 14, 2004 Order article reprints
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