Pre-PAX Primer: Destructoid interviews The Minibosses

In two weeks, thousands of gamers from all over the United States (and even beyond) will converge on Seattle, Washington to attend the 2007 Penny Arcade Expo, a three-day gaming festival packed with exhibitor booths, tournaments, panels, free play games, and much more. Consider it a gamer’s heaven.

A highlight of the festival is its musical concerts, featuring the hottest game music cover bands and Nerdcore artists. As this year’s attendance is expected to be at an all time high (30,000+), many first-timers will not be prepared for the face rocking that they will receive at the Friday and Saturday night concerts. Destructoid aims to ease first-time attendees into the world of game music by profiling and interviewing some of the talent performing this year.

First up is arguably the most popular video game cover band in existence, The Minibosses. Destructoid spoke with ‘bosses guitarist Aaron Burke about Penny Arcade, PAX, game music, and games in general.

Hit the jump to read our interview. 

Destructoid: How did The Minibosses come together to form a video game cover band? How long have you been a band?

Minibosses: Well, we first got together in 1999.  Matt (the drummer) and I had previously played in another band called the Jenova Project, and we played some video game tunes in that band. When Jenova Project broke up, we decided to start a band that would do video game stuff exclusively.

Destructoid: Please tell us more about the band. How many members are there and what are their roles?

Minibosses: There are four people in the band.  Ben is the bassist, and is responsible for bringing down the house with his “Big Muff” (bass pedal) and is also responsible for being responsible, i.e. keeping the rest of us from getting too drunk before shows. So, as you can see, he is good at some things but bad at others. Matt is the drummer and I play guitar.  The three of us have been in the band since the beginning in 1999.  The fourth place, second guitarist, has seen a lot of different occupants over the years – right now it’s held by Fred Johnson, who used to occupy the position full time, and sometimes by Robin Vining, a local Phoenix legend dude who plays any instrument on earth.

Destructoid: Why videogame music? Did you always know that you would be a game music cover band?

Minibosses: Videogame music and Led Zeppelin were the two driving forces behind my wanting to learn to play guitar, and since a Led Zeppelin cover band is just a shame, there was really
only one choice. [laughs] Yeah, it just seemed obvious. Those were the songs I noodled on all the time. It seemed like a challenging project but something you could have a lot of fun with at the same time.

Destructoid: Tell us about the venues you’ve played. How many shows have The Minibosses played? Are there any favorite gigs you’d like to share with us?

Minibosses: We have a list of every show we’ve ever played on our site. We just played show #159 this past weekend. it was one of the best. It was an information security convention called Defcon, and it’s held in Las Vegas every year.  We’ve played everything from tiny houses that hold 20 people to arenas that hold 3000.  This year’s show at PAX should be our largest yet, we’re definitely looking forward to it.

Destructoid: How do you feel about headlining the Penny Arcade Expo concert?

Minibosses: We feel very honored. Just by looking at the lineup over the years you can see there’s a lot of talent there, so being asked to headline is very humbling.  We have a lot of fun and have a lot in common with those guys, so I think it’s a good fit.  We’re big fans too – every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Penny Arcade is the first site I hit when I stumble into work.  We definitely look forward to this show every year – I can’t describe how lucky I feel to wander around the expo playing games, talking to people, checking out the panels, and then – playing a crazy show in front of a huge, amazing crowd.  You can’t find a better crowd out there.

Destructoid: Are there any other acts you’re looking forward to hearing at PAX?

Minibosses: I think the lineup is especially strong this year, but every year I always look forward to seeing Optimus Rhyme and MC Frontalot – and of course our good buddies the NESkimos are back.  The other acts are certainly nothing to sneeze at. It should be two nights of insanity. My favorite.

Destructoid: What do you think about the cult following behind game music? Do you ever see it becoming more mainstream?

Minibosses: Well, it is becoming more and more mainstream all the time. Video game soundtrack sales are up, fan sites are everywhere, message boards can’t be ignored, there are live tours with orchestras, and more video game bands than you can shake a rib at. I think the awareness and the popularity is going to continue for a little while – but I don’t know if it has what it takes to overtake pop, rock, hip hop, or classical.  Of course it has what it takes to overtake country.  ZING! Just kidding.  There aren’t any country fans on your site right? [Ed’s note: I don’t think so.] I don’t mind if people like country, but I don’t. [laughs]

Destructoid: Are the ‘bosses avid gamers? If so, what systems and types of games do you play?

Minibosses: Right now, the Nintendo DS dominates. And the Xbox 360.  It’s a great time right now: we’re playing Catan, Worms, Aegis Wing – all this great shit on 360 that’s all available on Marketplace. We probably shouldn’t get started on the DS. There are way too many good games, too many awesome experiences to be had playing with your friends. After those two systems I would say that we’re still playing some original NES, GameCube, Dreamcast, and PS2. You know, the usual shit. Everything else we emulate on PS.

Destructoid: What’s next for the Minibosses?

Minibosses: Our last album was called BRASS, so we’ve started working on the new album, and of course it’s called BRASS 2: MOUTH.

Destructoid: What would you like to say to any of the potential new game music fans out there?

Minibosses: Try not to think of it as “game music”, but just as music. I could go on for hours and hours, but I’ll just quickly say that dividing music into genres serves some purposes but it
also has some negative effects.  I know I made a joke earlier about country music, but I did that for humor’s sake, and of course there are some good Country tunes in the bunch. Well, old style Country and Western – not in this new Modern Country rubbish. [laughs] Ok, just kidding. It’s all music. I think anytime you listen to a piece, you should listen to it on its own, without the classification or context attached to it. Don’t get me started.

Destructoid: How can people find out more about the Minibosses?

Minibosses: You can go to minibosses.com, or you can just talk to us at PAX.  We like talking to folks, so come up and try it.

[Minibosses, thanks so much for your time]

Dale North