Bands add own twist to classic game tracks

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Since people first put sounds together and liked what they heard, they have been copying each other’s music.

Rock came out of blues, metal came out of rock, disco came from soul and funk, and then rock came again from video games.

The generation that grew up with home game consoles (Nintendo, Atari, Sega, etc.) in the ’80s, are now old enough to make records. These kids grew up loving both video games and music and now they’re putting the two together. The bands are not mainstream, but they’re out there and people are starting to listen.

California’s The Advantage and Arizona’s The Minibosses have made several albums copying video game music. As Hendrix made Dylan’s music his own, these gamers make Mario theirs.

The idea doesn’t sound like much but it’s an intriguing musical exercise.

The Minibosses take a rock approach, adding guitar distortion and heavy metal flourishes, while The Advantage sticks more to the original sounds but makes it funky.

The soundtracks for these games were all programmed on low-powered computers with no intention of ever being performed. It takes musical commitment to turn bleeps and bloops from a computer into something someone would throw on their stereo.

Bands covering video game music usually opt to keep the melody the same, as that’s what gamers remember most. They’ll often add new drum and bass parts to make the songs their own.

The Advantage covers the Underworld Theme from Super Mario Bros. 2. Countless gamers know this melody and the band stays true to it while adding booming bass kick and toms, a perfect tribal addition to a theme that plays while Mario runs and jumps through caves.

Bands like this need a lot of musical know-how since these tunes were never meant to be performed on real instruments. They’re not written to be played easily, are often awkward to play and usually don’t have enough musical content to arrange for a band (most game consoles could only play a few sounds simultaneously).

The bands have to write some new parts to flesh out the songs. Since these are such well known melodies for gamers, that can be delicate work. They have to change some things to make the new music work, but both The Advantage and The Minibosses are adept at retaining the essence.

Gamers will still recognize the songs and have the nostalgia factor.

The Advantage and The Minibosses in particular have found an international fan base by doing just that. They take the songs gamers from the ’80s love and make them rock.

You can find lots of really questionable cover music of video games on the Internet, but bands specializing in this unusual genre are few and far between. Skilled, creative groups like these two do deserve to be heard.

Check out “Self-Titled” and “Elf Titled” by The Advantage, and “Minibosses” and “Minibosses Brass” by the Minibosses

On the Net:
The Advantage:
The Minibosses: (no www.)

Calen Henry is a fourth year student of Japanese Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

© 2007 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.