Robby Suavé Is 20 Years Old, Pt. 4
Welcome back to this Happy Birthday series! I kept you all waiting longer than I meant to. Let’s dive right back into it. Today we’ll transport back in time to the year 2010, and I’m going to talk a lot about Rock Band. Some of you reading this might be interested in that.
2010 was the year that Modus Operandi actually released. I already went over pretty much everything regarding that album in the last post. But something that began in 2009 but really hit its stride in 2010 was Rock Band Network.
I wish I remembered this time period more clearly because it was pretty awesome in some ways. In the latter half of 2009, Rock Band Network began. It was this Microsoft-backed initiative that allowed essentially anyone to author their own (or other artists’) songs to be played in the video game Rock Band, Rock Band 2 on Xbox 360, specifically. I loved Rock Band, and by that point, a lot of my songs were mostly ready for authoring for the game. Rock Band Network seemed to be designed for me.
Again, this might have been in 2009 rather than 2010, but whatever…I remember reading some documentation that the first song you author for the Rock Band Network could take 100 hours to complete. That only solidified my decision to go with “Everyone I Know Is an Alcoholic” to be my first song. There were only a couple synth parts, a few drum patterns, no bass part whatsoever, and the vocals had no real pitch, which meant they would be authored as “talkies” in the game. In other words, I didn’t have to figure out the notes for the vocals. If I remember right, I only had pitched vocals in one song that I authored for Rock Band. More on that later.
It’s true that that are only a couple synth parts in the song, but the synth lines do have a certain kind of envelope going on. The actual notes that are hit in my original composition and what the notes sound like are 2 different things. During the testing phase, I remember having discussions with other RBN authors about how to handle the synth lines, which were authored to the guitar in the game.
The drums had their own battles to fight. Although all the drum parts are relatively simple, what isn’t obvious is that there’s a low tom that plays with the kick sometimes. And I recall a playtester calling out why the blue drum pad was authored during certain parts. I had to explain that a tom is hit there. It almost sounds like a slightly different kick drum sound, but it is indeed a boomy low tom.
Vocals. I don’t remember anyone drawing attention to the vocals during playtesting. But a funny thing about those vocals: since they were all talkies, the notes that I authored them as didn’t (or shouldn’t have) matter. But since I chose a low note for them, it made the song not work right in a later game in the Rock Band series, Rock Band Blitz. Maybe something in Rock Band 3 too. I can’t remember anymore. It’s something that is an inside joke for the RBN community to this day.
What else about “Everyone I Know Is an Alcoholic?” Oh, before a patch went out for Rock Band 3, all the songs that had accented characters in the song or artist name borked the menus up. It would add random letters/words to wherever my name showed up in the game. It was kind of funny, but not. Also, back to it not having a bass part, I remember John Drake mentioning that I should have added one. He said I could have just added a different effect patch on the main synth line, if nothing else. He was probably right.
The song went on to be included in the infamous “Rock Band Network Megamix 01.” That was a fun project to be a part of. It was this compilation of a handful of RBN songs spliced together. It required a lot of cooperation from the bands/artists involved, not to mention the extra work it took to get it to sound right and the addition of a radio announcer type doing voiceovers to introduce each track. Oh, and some Harmonix and Microsoft legs were surely tugged a bit to get it on the Xbox Store for free.
Something in “Alcoholic” screwed up the Megamix too. It made it impossible to gold star the song or something. I think it was fixed, but yeah, I don’t remember exactly anymore.
I authored a few more songs for RBN, but the last thing I’ll say about “Alcoholic” is that it was definitely my best performing song. I don’t think we have access to the sales numbers anymore, but I want to say I had around 300 sales. Not too bad. Also, there’s this video. Maybe that guy says every song is his favorite song, but it hits me in the feels when he says he’s making the video so he can play his “favorite song” and it’s “Everyone I Know Is an Alcoholic.” Also, a fun game I like to play sometimes is to search for YouTube videos of people playing my songs in Rock Band. Watching and listening to the videos is cool, but the comments are sometimes better. I would say it’s about a 50/50 split between people saying how good/fun the song is and people not believing that the song is in Rock Band. It makes me feel good.
Definitely in the year 2010, I was hard at work on other songs for Rock Band. I did “Around the World,” “Electro-Heaven,” and “Bean.” I have less to say about these 3, but here goes.
“Around the World,” another track from Boobs, Butts, and Feets is pretty similar to “Everyone I Know Is an Alcoholic.” Dancy synths, KMFDM-y vocals, and no bass. But, because of John Drake’s comments on “Alcoholic,” I actually did add a new bassline to the RBN version. And so the officially released version of “Around the World” contains the bassline that I added for Rock Band. That’s a fun tidbit of information, maybe.
“Electro-Heaven” contains real guitar, and it was fun to transcribe that to a 5-button plastic instrument. It wasn’t as popular as the other two songs for whatever reason.
Then we have “Bean.” It was only available for purchase for a few weeks before I owned up to how bad it was. I know there was a timing issue. I believe the vocal track was a tiny bit off from all the other instruments for some reason. And I also got criticism about the charted pitches for the vocals were bad. I got someone else to do the vocal charting for me. I thought it was fine, but apparently not. All these problems are ultimately my fault, but there was some deadline to hit around that time, maybe Rock Band Network 2.0? I can’t remember. But yeah, it’s a weird song that was even worse in Rock Band. That whole experience tainted the song for me, so I reworked it quite a bit (including a jab at the RBN version) when I officially released Modus Operandi in 2019.
Now for what hit the cutting room floor for RBN. Here are the songs that I started authoring but didn’t end up releasing for one reason or another:
- “Bring It Back”
- “Get Your Groove On”
- “One Big Lie” (Blind Hate “cover”)
I’m going to wrap this up now. I didn’t get into That Authoring Group, which was the Rock Band Network authoring group I was a part of. Maybe I’ll write a bit about that next time. That was probably more of a 2011 thing anyway. Towards the end of 2010, I might have began work on what would become the Punk Rebel Renegade album, but by far, the bulk of that was done in 2011, which is the year I’ll cover next time!