Video game influences in music aren’t a new trend. Dragonforce creates Pac-Man sounds with guitars and even Cee Lo Green once sang “says she’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari.” But when you create rock opera-esque albums based around the beloved 1980’s action game “Mega Man” and its sequels, it’s a safe bet that market hasn’t been covered.
Enter the Protomen, a band of epic proportions, literally. The group has eight band members: Raul Panther, vocals; Murphy Weller, bass synthesizer; Commander B. Hawkins Jr., synthesizer; Sir Dr. Robert Baker, guitar; Shock Magnum, guitar; Gambler Kirkdouglas, choir; Reanimator, drums; and K.I.L.R.O.Y. on “fist pumps, hand claps, armorer, sledgehammer, maracas and jarana.”
The band’s studio albums are based loosely off the “Mega Man” story, but take creative liberties in story points. And with musical influences coming from Queen and Styx, the members of the Protomen clearly have done their homework on the classics. Mixing that with ear-catching video game soundtracks of the 1980s, creates a sound both progressive and immediately accessible. Before the band hits The Waiting Room on April 19, I spoke with Panther about video games in music and the challenges of touring.
Question: The music you create is based around the “Mega Man” franchise of games. Do you think video games serve an ever-increasing and important role in being a wellspring of creative influence for artists?
Answer: Sure. I guess people find inspiration anywhere. We certainly found it in an 8-bit game from the 1987. I haven’t heard of any killer bands forming around the concept of “Fallout” yet, but I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.
Q: On the flipside of that question, you guys were featured in “Rock Band 4,” which is where I first discovered your music. Do you think video games also can serve artists in terms of spreading their music to a wider audience? Is it something more artists should take advantage of?
A: Absolutely. I think video games are starting to do now what TV shows and commercials, with really sharp music directors, started doing more and more of in the late ’90s/early 2000s. And that’s getting really good new artists and pairing their music with really good stories. It’s usually a win-win …. unless it’s awful.
Q: What is it that drew the band to “Mega Man” and its story?
A: We get asked this a lot. And it wasn’t so much that we were drawn to it, it was just always there. It was something we grew up with and continued to love well past the age when we were expected to throw our Nintendos in the trash and get real jobs. The music is stellar. The story is classic. So really, the framework was there, and we just kind of took it a bit further.
Q. You also take a huge amount of influence from classic films and film soundtracks. Do you look out for new inspiration every time you watch a modern film?
A: That’s true. Just like video games, it’s what we grew up loving. It’s also why we love the visual aspects of a good rock and roll show. Music is just better when it’s tied to something rad to look at. As for new movies … there’s a lot to be inspired by, but really a lot of the great movies from the last decade or so are drawing from similar older inspiration, so we find ourselves beaten to the punch sometimes when a movie comes out that’s close to our plot line. But what can you do? Almost all stories have been told before. We’re just trying to tell ours as interestingly as we can.
Q: With so many band members, are there ever any challenges in touring on a regular basis?
A: So many! It’s virtually impossible to schedule a tour that doesn’t ruin one of our lives in some way. And if everyone is on board and happy, like our short run this past January, the Southeast gets covered in a blizzard. We’ve got a band full of incredibly talented musicians that are very dedicated to the cause though, and once all the fires are out and the snow is shoveled and we’re on the bus, they’re ready to do nothing but rock and roll until the ride’s over.
Q: Have you guys ever considered scoring a video game? With so many indie games that take inspiration from the classic games of the ’80s, is this something that’s crossed your mind?
A: We’re actually working on a jam for a pretty awesome looking game right now called “Starr Mazer” that sounds exactly like what you’re talking about, so yeah, it’s definitely crossed our mind once or twice. As busy as we stay, we’re always open to trying new things like writing for video games or scoring for film. We actually wrote and recorded the score for a stage play that tied William Shakespeare to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” which was exactly as awesome as it sounds. We love telling our story, but it’s a lot of fun to contribute to someone else’s when we can.
Who: The Protomen
When: 6:30 p.m. April 19
Where: The Waiting Room, 334 Delaware Ave.