Here are some visuals I did for Vice & Activision's Guitar Hero mini site, Guitar Hero® Warriors of Rock rocknrolltales.com
Vice asked bands to submit a story from touring and artists illustrate a visiual for the story. I was asked to do the illustrations for (as seen in order) Band of Skulls, Dragon Force and Flyleaf.
We were stopping by our record label the first time we played Guitar Hero, so we were in LA. We had a little bit of a jam to Johnny Cash on the first level and I slightly failed at that. I thought I’d be a bit better at it, playing the guitar as long as I have, but it seemed that anything I’d learned on the guitar was sort of irrelevant to Guitar Hero. It made me use a totally different part of my brain, which I don’t have or is totally underdeveloped.
They had the drum kit too, which I think is a bit unfair compared to the guitar because really the game’s drum kit is a lot more like a drum kit, whereas the guitar controller is like a whole new instrument, so drummers definitely have an advantage. Matt [Band of Skulls drummer] and I both had a go at both instruments, but I think he was better at both the guitar and the drums, but he is quite annoying because he is good at everything. He’s one of those type of guys who can just learn something in ten minutes where I would have to go away for a couple of months.
Just recently a kid phoned me up on his birthday and said, “I’m playing your song on Guitar Hero.” And that was weird that he phoned me up to tell me he was doing our tune. It was really strange. He’s a younger kid I’ve been encouraging to get into the guitar anyway. And I think that is probably the healthiest thing about the game, especially for rock music, it exposes people to the idea that they can be in control of creating something. They can go be in a band. I think it is a good thing to introduce people to that.
When I was growing up, a band would put a single out. Then you would go and see them do their tour and if you liked them enough you would go and buy the album and that was about it as far as the interaction you had with a band’s music. You might go and join the fan club and get sent something once a year, but now it is such a multilevel thing. We’re definitely crossing a border with how our fans interact with music they enjoy. As the record has come out this year we have been a part of several different kinds of new things like that. But how it all works and reaches people—it only becomes apparent that these new ways of reaching people are working when it comes back to you like someone phoning you up and telling you they are playing you on a video game. Last week someone sent us the video of Gossip Girl where they are using our song, and that is several levels of surreal, to see it on TV like that. When we made our record we weren’t really thinking along any of those lines. It’s great people are enjoying our music after we’ve put a lot of care into it. If they can get a kick out of it then it doesn’t really matter how they are getting a kick out of it. As long as people are enjoying it then we’ll carry on making it.
Russell Marsden, guitarist and vocalist, BAND OF SKULLS
We’re the ones guilty of doing the song “Through the Fire and Flames,” which is really well known since it was used in Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock. They used that song for the Guinness Book of World Records contest for bestGuitar Hero 3 player. Every day I get a question from someone about “Through the Fire and Flames” because of that. People love to tell me how stuck they were on the song back then—it was the most-played song and it was the most difficult. It was also on Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits, so it really has become a continuous phenomenon. A lot of our fans play the game and they kept requesting that the song be included and then it was on the third game and it became this massive thing.
I’ve played “Through the Fire and Flames” on Guitar Hero and it is really cool because it is actually really reflective of how intense of a song it is to play. Your hands are constantly moving and there’s no stopping. The programmers got it right, really right, in the game itself with how every note has to be pegged, and that was a real challenge on the game and on the guitar when we had to play it and record it. I haven’t played Guitar Hero since the third one since we’ve been touring so much, but now that I have some downtime while we work on the new album I’m really looking forward to playing the new game to see how it has all come along.
We’ve been touring so much that things that would be crazy to other people become normal to us because we are on tour every day. In the last year we’ve done 250 shows. Every night we have friends who come out to the show, and it’s one night for them so it is the highlight of their week and it’s a big party for them. We have a lot of people getting wild on the side of the stage and some people who end the night locked in the tour-bus toilet because they can’t find their way out. For us it is just another day, and all of that has become very normal.
On the last tour we would go and play the last song in the crowd—not the drummer, obviously, but everyone else, even the keyboard player. We’d run to the back of the room and start playing on the bar and the fans would get really fired up. People start smashing glasses and knocking drinks over; chaos happens. People are shocked. Sometimes people try to touch our guitars. One guy was trying to feed me a drink and he ended up feeding it to my guitar and the guitar stopped working so that was the end of my trip into the crowd for that night, those things will happen. People pull on my hair and pull at my trousers, and I don’t really know what to do about that when I’m trying to play. Maybe they want to take a piece home. It is fun to have the interaction, it seems like some people don’t know what to do with themselves when we’re out there but maybe that’s because we always go and play in the bar area.
Herman Li, guitarist, DRAGON FORCE
This past summer, we had a crazy trip where we played Russia’s version of the Video Music Awards. I think I got like ten hours of sleep total during the whole week.
We had been to St. Petersburg, before but this time we got to go to Moscow. It is a giant, gaping town. The culture is just so different. Russia is a more hostile place.
The setting for the show was incredible. We were in a massive arena that had been built for the Olympics. It was filled with 20,000 people, and we had been brought over to play three songs. There was one other American band there, so there was our band and the Exies, and everyone else was these Russian pop acts that were so strange. Some of them had violins and flower garlands in their hair, and all of their songs had a club beat behind them.
The stage was gigantic; we were playing 20 feet off the ground. Up top it looked beautiful and well made, but underneath it was a bird’s nest of wires. All of the bands were standing in this really long single-file line waiting to go on. All the bands were just standing in line, holding their instruments, waiting for their time to go on. It looked like an endless unemployment line. Whoever built the stage didn’t factor in that a lot of people were going to be under there filing in to go onstage, so there were all sorts of scaffolding and wires all around, and it was like squeezing through jail-cell bars.
To get up onstage there were these little lift pads to raise us up so we would appear on the stage out of nowhere. They quit working, then they would be fixed, then they’d stop again—they were completely unsafe. I thought I was going to have a heart attack from fear. I was convinced that if we even made it onstage it was going to all go wrong. All this weird stuff was happening, and to top it off our sound check had been cut short and we didn’t get done what we needed to get done.
Then the big moment arrives and we get on the lifts to go up to the stage and the stadium is filled with people. So we make it through all that and we start playing and my ear monitor had been switched and rewired at some point so I end up playing the entire show not able to hear anything at all. When I realized that, I literally almost fainted.
But somehow we made it through, and I eventually saw a video of our performance, and watching it there was no way to tell that it was the worst day of our lives.
Pat Seals, bassist, FLYLEAF