Posted on November 18, 2014
What’s with these homies dissin’ my girl?
As I drive home from work and listen to any old song my iPod shuffles to, I can pretty easily think back to the first time I heard it. At the very least, it’ll bring back a memory or two, much like playing games often does.
Not that I’d start another blog based on music memories, but I certainly could do that if I wanted to.
In the spring of 2000 I found out my friend Tom played guitar. I messed around with that red Fender of his as we listened to bands of the day, but I found that chords were not my forte… one string and note at a time was pretty much all I could handle.
Tom mentioned that that was basically (bass-ically) what playing bass was like, so I took the plunge and bought one used with a small amp so we could jam.
Playing music with other people proved to be way more rewarding than I could ever have dreamed. The simple notion that I could play along – not to mention keep up – with songs I was just discovering and finding a whole new appreciation for was a high I can’t even put into words. It was so damn satisfying.
Most of that summer was spent indoors playing Green Day, Metallica and Offspring tunes, or anything else I challenged myself to learn. I call it the “summer of the Mission: Impossible 2 Soundtrack”, due to me listening to it (pretty much) non-stop.
Tom and his family ended up moving out of his house and into an apartment that fall, so jamming together loudly and to our satisfaction was no longer in the cards. The idea of recording ourselves somehow – like we had planned to do while he still lived nearby – also went out the window.
By the next year, my skills had improved a fair amount. My friends Justin and Max played guitar and drums (respectively), and we would practice almost every lunch hour in one of the school’s music rooms. One of the teachers approached us and said a few students complained about the noise and asked us to turn our amps down, which we were less than thrilled about.
This prompted us to name our band “Quityerbitchin’” after a sticker on Justin’s guitar case… when it came time to perform at our high school’s Battle of the Bands in May of ’01 – the ESApalooza – that name seemed a bit harsh, and we were asked to change it.
“No Complaints” was the next name that came to mind, so we went with that.
In the fall of 2001, Justin and I got together just for a quick jam session at his house. It was a rainy and depressing Sunday afternoon, and I had nothing better to do. It was also raining at the site of that weekend’s NASCAR race in Martinsville (Virginia), and it didn’t look like they’d be racing that day. With no race on TV, I might as well go jam!
He and I had a list of songs we’d jammed with Max, but we also had a bunch of tunes Max didn’t like… we would jump at the opportunity to play those whenever we could, and on this day, Justin had another idea to make things even more fun;
“I have a mic hooked up to my PC – let’s bring our amps up to my computer room, record it, and see what happens.”
New songs we both knew but had never played together, songs we had already covered with Max, songs he had never heard, songs I had never heard, songs we taught each other on the spot… we recorded something like 25 tracks, and it was a blast. I even sang on some of them – not well, mind you, but it was all in good fun.
It was quite warm in the room, so we took a break at one point and opened the window. Instead of playing loud and annoying the neighbors, we stopped and played some PC games.
The first game he showed me was a one I had heard about, but never had any interest in seeing in action.
I just looked up footage of this game, and I remember even less about it than I originally thought.
It’s a third-person action game that combines hand-to-hand combat and gunplay. It was developed by pre-Halo Bungie and pre-GTA3 Rockstar Games. That’s pretty much the only noteworthy thing I know about Oni.
It wasn’t long before Justin switched over to a game I was much more interested in seeing in action…
At its core, Max Payne is a dark and gritty third-person shooter that feels like a playable graphic novel. Comic book pages replace cutscenes as a method of storytelling, and there are great voiceovers and sound effects to keep them interesting. It’s pretty unique, and it adds a bit of intensity to the whole thing.
One other feature in particular helped add to the game’s appeal; the ability to trigger slow-motion at the touch of a button.
Having been popularized in The Matrix a couple years beforehand, it was just a matter of time before games hopped on the “bullet-time” bandwagon. It’s not infinite, but everything goes into slow-mo whenever you need it to; it helps you dodge bullets, allows you dive through the air, and helps you take out hordes of enemies in one fell swoop.
Justin was in some sort of boiler room area and was busy dealing with enemies up above. As a nice cinematic touch, the camera shifted to follow the last bullet he fired as it went from the barrel of his gun to its intended target…
From that point on, I knew I had to own this game. I only picked it up about a year later once I got a job, but it was that day in Justin’s computer room that sealed the deal.
After playing Max Payne for a while, we shut the window and got back to playing and recording tunes. We ended up burning a CD with all the best stuff we didn’t mind sharing with friends, and deleted whatever we thought was garbage. We titled the album “2/3 of No Complaints” – not really all that inventive, but that’s exactly what it was!
I brought my portable CD player to campus that week and showed off our work to a few close friends. My friend Mike made a little drawing as he listened to it in the George Martin Hall cafeteria, so I decided to make it my album art.
Whenever I think of Max Payne, I can’t help but think of that recording session in Justin’s tiny computer room. It was an absolute thrill to be able to hear the “other side” of us playing music together.
That being said, here’s a world premiere 13 years in the making! Enjoy!