Here’s something you may not expect from the members of synth-rock video-game cover outfit Mega Man. They’re a little curmudgeonly — with hearts marooned in a more pixilated age.
“I don’t really care for that Halo bullshit or Modern Warfare,” said guitarist Ian McIntosh. “Fuck all that.” McIntosh (of Daytes) is the only band member who cops to playing modern video games. Even then, he sticks to franchises that date back to the early ’90s.
In an interview at their rehearsal space (a storage unit near the intersection of I-10 and Loop 410), keyboardist Joseph Cáceres (of XRY) went so far as to praise the virtues of the cassette tape. Difficult-to-navigate cassettes don’t accommodate people who are sluts for a single track. “You listen to the damn thing,” he said, with a hint of a scold. While Cáceres quit playing video games in the late ’90s, bassist James Woodard (of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy) doesn’t play anything made after 2000. “They’re not really that fun,” he said.
While that statement may prompt some Halo-loving, local hardcore fans to wish they could take energy swords to their Grasshopper albums, Mega Man’s nostalgic indignity is partly why their upcoming album-release show will be so special.
First, it’s likely be their last (“Our real bands are more important,” Woodard said). Second, the album will be an extremely limited and unique run of covers of songs from Mega Man, the video game developed by Capcom. Only 49 copies will be available — cassette tapes skillfully packaged inside actual Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges. Woodard purchased the NES games necessary for the project (mostly crap sports titles at a dollar apiece), gutted their game disks, and stripped their labels. He’s printing new labels that look like the original NES game stickers printed on the first 10 (or so) games for the system. The cartridge pops open to reveal the cassette and an all black “instruction booklet” serving as the liner notes. The notes feature illustrations of the band members as if they were villains from the Mega Man video games: Synth Man, Guitar Man, Drum Man, and Bass Man.
“It’s grueling,” Woodard said of producing the albums by hand.
Woodard designed everything in Photoshop and cut and affixed all the stickers himself. The band also recorded the album on a 16-track reel-to-reel recorder in mono sound (“If one of your speakers is broken it won’t matter,” Woodard joked). He added that getting the cassettes manufactured was actually cheaper than making the project on CD, though the album will also be available digitally.
Mega Man’s crotchety love for gaming generations past translated into pure reverence when they previewed their set for the Current. To say they played in lockstep, both as a unit and with the original songs, would be the understatement of 2011. The original songs were built for a three-voice synth chip (in the NES) and had an additional channel for what passed then as percussion. Those technological limits forced Capcom’s musicians to dial down deeper.
“It was so limited, they had to write it tight,” Woodard said.
“These [songs] aren’t just playing major chord and major harmonies, they’re playing modulations, changing the keys, doing some Music Theory III and IV shit,” Cáceres added.
For those reasons and more, the Mega men still consider the music of Mega Man among the most memorable music they’ve heard.
With the album release behind them, Grasshopper will return to writing new material and XRY will leave for tour. Naturally, the members of Mega Man will continue to game — just don’t expect them to be relying on high-def graphics or in-level adjustable difficulty. “That’s the [video game] world we live in now,” Woodard said. “Everybody’s a goddamn winner.” •
Mega Man album release and final show, with CRAWL and BURRN!!
9pm Saturday, July 30
The Ten Eleven
1011 Avenue B