|16 members of Bang Camaro|
By Blake Garris
Boston, Mass. born and bred, Bang Camaro is a rock band that's known as much, if not more, for video games as it is music. The group has been featured in "Guitar Hero 2," "Rock Band" 1 and 2, "The Sims 3" and guitarist Bryn Bennett currently works for Harmonix, creators of the "Rock Band" games.
But the video game connections don't stop there. We got the chance to talk with vocalist Morgan Brown, who in a past life was a content designer at Iron Lore Entertainment for the computer RPG "Titan Quest." His band released their sophomore album aptly titled "Bang Camaro II" late last year, have been popping up all over the place there's something like 15 members in the group. But before he loved music and video games, he loved comics. Read on to find out why his favorite character has changed from Wolverine to Nils Styger, aka Abyss.
Marvel.com: To begin, I hear you used to be a content designer for Iron Lore Entertainment, which developed the game "Titan Quest." Can you talk about that time of your life? And what does a content designer do specifically?
Morgan Brown: I finished college at Full Sail in Winter Park, Fla. (a suburb of Orlando), where I studied character and environment art for video games. Afterward, I had to move home to Waterford, Mich. (a suburb of Detroit) to take care of a DEFCON 2 situation in the family. Meanwhile, my good friend and schoolmate Eric Miller got his foot into the door at ILE. When I tied-up all of the loose ends I knew about, he got me the fateful interview. He was the Loggins to my MacDonald, and swam a life preserver over to me.
We made "Titan Quest," which was a love letter to action-RPGs like "Diablo," and the three of us content designers created the world and its denizens. Your typical day is spent jumping between constructing a historically accurate to-scale interactive Acropolis with an artist and a programmer, and building a super-ancient city that's been overcome with water and Dagobah-like growth, and populating it with antlered monsters. It could be very intense and exhausting, but I loved what I was doing and where I was going.
There was a programmer, Bryn Bennett, who was introduced to me as a very mysterious and edgy rocker dude, which still cracks me up today. We hit it off after I informed our boss "your crime is time" when we were all handed nutty schedules at a company meeting during my first week. A little under a year later he invited me over to have beers and work with some random dudes on something he and some guy calling himself Alex Necochea came up with called "Bang Camaro." And here we are.
Marvel.com: Why leave the game industry for music?
Morgan Brown: It just makes sense for me. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an easy thing to pull the trigger on, and I will definitely work on games again. In fact, I'm working on a game project while out on the road. However, I dove head-first into Bang Camaro, and it started moving forward at the best point for me to wander off to be a touring musician. I'm out here seeing the world, meeting all kinds of great people, and playing rock shows with a bunch of my best friends. Plus, I can still get into the right kind of trouble and I'm seasoned enough to know which way is up at the end of the day.
Marvel.com: Are there any other games you worked on that people would be familiar with?
Morgan Brown: Besides "Titan Quest" and its expansion, "the Immortal Throne," there were some projects I had/have my hands on that I can't really talk about right now.
Marvel.com: Speaking of games, Bang Camaro is featured in "Rock Band," "Rock Band 2", "Guitar Hero 2" and now "the Sims 3." That's kind of a coup, no?
Morgan Brown: It began with the first two "Guitar Hero" games, actually. We narrowly missed the first one and were extremely fortunate to make the cut with the second. Some people say we've been grandfathered in because we started so early and since Bryn has started working at Harmonix (the "Rock Band" and original "Guitar Hero" developer), but this is emphatically not true. Everyone has to audition hard for a part on those games each and every time. I'd hate to be the guy that has to make those decisions—especially since Harmonix is a company built out of musicians.
Our band's relationship with video games started there and has kept going through "Rock Band," "Rock Band 2," downloadable content for the two, "the Sims 3" and (hopefully) beyond. We owe a great deal of our success to the medium. I could go on and on about the games-music revolution and how it's affecting the music industry, but suffice to say we've been discovered by countless rockers who we otherwise wouldn't have had the pleasure of partying with if not for our music being in these games.
Marvel.com: Now let's get into comics. What Marvel stories are you reading right now?
Morgan Brown: Let's! I have to say "Dark Reign" has me pretty psyched, as well as the X-Men moving to San Francisco and tackling serious threats directly instead of taking it to the face all the time. I [knew] "Messiah War" [was] going to be amazing and I can't wait to see the X-Books out there with the rest of the line again. And let's not [forget to] mention WAR OF KINGS (and all the cosmic stories that led into it).
18 members of Bang Camaro
Marvel.com: Do you think comics had any influence in you working on video games?
Morgan Brown: There are two answers to this, and they both begin with "yes."
Storytelling has always been a huge part of everything I do, where it's applicable. A song tells a story, a tattoo design can have a story, the game character I build has a story—it sounds cliché, but comics really did expand my mind at the right time and became another way I was mainlined inspiration and ideas.
Comics were also one of those things that encouraged me to go my own way. I took away from them that it was alright to be an outcast and **** everyone who gave me grief for liking what I like. That included going to "art school" to "make video games."
Marvel.com: Did comics have any influence on you becoming a full time musician at all too?
Morgan Brown: I'm sure they did on at least the same level as they helped me land on being a game designer. "Can I go ahead and drop everything to tour the continent with a 10-piece rock band? Well, why not?"
Marvel.com: Are there any Marvel games you love to play?
Morgan Brown: If I see a Capcom fighter or a Konami beat-'em-up with Marvel characters, especially X-Men, then I'm going to cram quarters into that thing as long as I can. The new generation of Marvel games is pretty rad, too.
Marvel.com: I think "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance" is probably the greatest game since "Contra." What are your thoughts on it?
Morgan Brown: It's great to see the characters being used as well as they deserve to be. The stories are written well for the format, everything within the canon created for the games is cohesive, the production values are high and it has a lot to offer the fans while still appealing to a casual crowd. I would love to work on a Marvel game and/or do some sweet voice work—even if it's Black Bolt.
Marvel.com: Do you have any favorite Marvel characters?
Morgan Brown: The character that really got me into reading comics was Wolverine via the six-player Konami "X-Men" game at 313 Gameroom in my hometown of Waterford, Mich. When I was informed it was based on a comic, I pretty much went directly to Comics N' Cards, the local shop and bought a fistful of Claremont/Lee X-Men and Hama/Silvestri Wolverine comics with money I begged my dad to give me. I was instantly hooked.
Marvel.com: What about illustrators or writers?
Morgan Brown: Man, where to start? Let's talk about what's been going on recently. Chris Yost and Craig Kyle are absolutely killing it (no pun intended) with X-FORCE, Peter David is blowing minds with X-FACTOR, Mike Carey is out there making sense of everything with X-MEN: LEGACY and I can't wait to see what Jason Aaron does with WOLVERINE. Over the last few years Bendis, Brubaker, Straczynski, Millar, Abnett, and Lanning got me invested in corners of the universe I used to pretty much ignore outside of crossovers. Hickman's SECRET WARRIORS, by the way, is the book to keep an eye on.
I'm a sucker for Marc Silvestri, Clayton Crain, Mike Choi, Olivier Coipel, Steve McNiven and Stefano Caselli. There are probably some others, but I can't think straight after that list. Geez.
Marvel.com: Any top Marvel stories of all time?
Morgan Brown: "The Age of Apocalypse" is capital. I read all of my trades through on a fairly regular basis, but I definitely run through this quite a bit more often. I wish it ran longer and explored more of its potential, but it's brilliant as it is. I even sniff around online for more information on it as if it's still running and pore over what's there.
Morrison and Quietly's "E is for Extinction" got me back into comics after a hiatus, and Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X" story is pretty clutch. Today it still reads incredibly well, but I can't imagine reading it when it first hit the stands. I probably would've lost my mind.
Marvel.com: How do you keep up with comics and games while on the road?
Morgan Brown: I'm pretty reliant on Internet coverage for both of these things, but I don't put as much effort into games. I often prowl a message board or two and get word-of-mouth from friends which serves as sort of a barometer of what I want to check out when I roll into Everytown, Earth in walking distance of a comic or game shop.
Marvel.com: Tell people about your latest album, "Bang Camaro II."
Morgan Brown: "Bang Camaro II," our second album, was released nationwide last January. It features "Night Lies" from "Rock band 2" and "Revolution" from the upcoming "Sims 3" game. There are other secrets about this album, but we can't talk about those just yet. We're pretty proud of the album. We've learned a lot about our abilities across the band and where we want to take this ride since our first album ("Bang Camaro"), so we've pursued those ideas without losing sight of where we've been and are happy with the results. I just hope people give it a listen.
Marvel.com: What was playing on Conan O'Brien like?
Morgan Brown: I've been a fan of Conan's for years, plus where it is shot is somewhat holy ground. There we were with our little 15-piece rock band, standing in the middle of that really cold, yet really familiar studio. Surreal. We were privy to the process Conan and his writers go through every day to refine the bits, which was fascinating. They all really care about the quality of the show and how they do it with that amount of pressure and speed is nothing short of amazing.
I got to wear Conan's "Year 2000" robe and he and I had a pretty funny conversation about the Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man Cruise we were off to the next day. Everyone was great to us and our time on-camera for "Revolution" seemed to go by in three seconds. This was truly a great victory for Bang Camaro.
Marvel.com: What's next for Morgan Brown and Bang Camaro?
|Album art for "Bang Camaro II"|
Between shows, hours behind the wheel, naps in the man van and getting to know the women of the world, I'll be doing my best to keep up with the current events of the Marvel Universe. I don't want time to fly faster than it does. Maybe we'll write something for the Marvel Universe? Would anyone be interested in something like that?
Be sure to pick up Bang Camaro's latest album "Bang Camaro II" and go to www.bangcamaro.com for additions to their ever-growing tour schedule.
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