Green Day: Rock Band Q&A

Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt talks to us about Rock Band and getting "pwned" when it comes to video games.

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The influential band from Oakland, California, that spent its early years playing in Berkeley is exploring new ground with a Broadway adaption of its American Idiot album, as well a video game that will feature three of its most popular albums. Green Day: Rock Band will have the full tracklist from Dookie, American Idiot, and 21st Century Breakdown, as well select tracks from albums Warning, Nimrod, and Insomniac. The punk rock band is set to go on tour again this summer, and the game is set to come out on June 8 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. We spoke with bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt over the phone to find out what it is like to see a younger animated self onscreen.

Mike Dirnt, bassist and backing vocalist.
Mike Dirnt, bassist and backing vocalist.

GameSpot: So, how does it feel to have your own video game?

Mike Dirnt: It's pretty trippy. They approached us a long time ago, but it really never came to fruition. And it's not like we were chasing it down; they just kind of went on and did their own thing and then eventually came back. And by the time they came back, we had been obviously writing our own records and touring and everything. At that point, they had finished the Beatles video game, and it was like, "Wow, you've come a long way and look really great." I think they've proven that this is a genre that's here for a good amount of time.

GS: Can you tell us about the venues and why you decided to go with those?

MD: Well, one of them is kind of a nondescript warehouse sort of thing. It was either that or play in someone's living room, or bathroom, or garage. [The warehouse is] basically nondescript and also represents a lot of the places we played in back in the day. We also did Milton Keynes, which was our first stadium show in London, which is pretty interesting. And last but not least is the Fox Theatre in Oakland, which is near and dear to us because it's our hometown. They spent 30 years rebuilding that place and getting it up to what it is now, which is one of the most beautiful theatres, and they just reopened it in California. It's pretty cool.

GS: Were there any specific songs that had to make it into the game?

MD: I think what we wanted to do was represent at least a few full albums. One of things that we're really working on still and weren't able to do is to get some of the earlier records in there only because those were recorded on old analog tape. And analog tape becomes real brittle after a while. And to really get the stems from that…from the individual tracks…in order to put them in the game, you have to record them from analog to digital. And you get one chance to do it once the tape is really old. It's a really tedious process to not lose your entire history, so with that said, we are working on that diligently right now. But that's something we'd like to see in there as well.

GS: Most of the tracklist is pulled from three of your albums. Do you feel like your other albums have been slighted?

MD: No, I don't think so. There's something to be said about an album having a representation of that period of time. It's pretty cool. I explained earlier why we couldn't get the earlier ones. And quite honestly, for a video game, I think we skipped through a couple years where maybe later on we'll go back and we'll do like, Green Day: The Fat Years, or something. They probably weren't the most visually exciting years of our life. So who knows? The songs in and of themselves will be represented eventually. The cool thing is that you can keep adding to it.

Billie Joe, possibly 20 years ago.
Billie Joe, possibly 20 years ago.

GS: How much are you guys involved with the whole process in terms of the development of the game?

MD: That was the cool thing when they originally came to us. I think they were a lot more clueless, and we were completely clueless. Years have gone by, and their technology and their ability to get their heads wrapped around where they want to be have moved forward quite a bit. We've gone from completely clueless to only slightly clueless. We just knew that we wanted to represent different venues. We were like, "Look, you got to come out and see some of the live shows and watch some of these live concerts that we've played and documented so that you get an idea of what the energy of our shows are."

GS: What is it like to see yourself animated onscreen?

MD: It's pretty cool. I think they made us look a little younger than we are now. So, yeah, I'm not used to being an avatar. That's for sure.

GS: Have you played Rock Band before?

MD: I have, yes, a couple of times. I've stumbled onto friends of mine playing. Actually, my friend's kids, and they all let me jump in. I kind of made my way around all the different instruments. I've also stumbled in a room and literally stumbled in a room drunk. And other drunk friends of mine had a blast playing drunken Rock Band.

GS: Do you download your own songs?

MD: You know, it was kind of whatever they had going at the time.

GS: What do your kids think when they see you in the game?

Green Day fans can play through an entire album if they like.
Green Day fans can play through an entire album if they like.

MD: I showed my daughter one of the clips of the game, and she looked at it and goes, "You look cool," which is the last thing you'd expect to hear out of your 13 year old. I don't think I've heard her say that in the last year or two.

GS: There are some pretty crazy drum solos in the game. As actual musicians, how do you guys hold up on the drums?

MD: I certainly couldn't. I'm sure Tre can hold his own. As close as the kits are, they aren't actually real drum kits. If you can do that and you don't have a real drum kit, then you're blowing your time. If you can play the advanced mode of the drum solos and everything, you need to get a real kit.

GS: How does the guitar feel for you as a bassist?

MD: You know, I was never great at reading music, so the translation from hand-to-eye coordination is a little funky. That's what makes it a different challenge. Otherwise, you'd have guitar players all over the world buying these things up and playing them. I think the fun thing is it's for parties like that and for friends to get together and play with it. It's like karaoke on steroids.

GS: What about other video games? Are you guys gamers?

MD: Nah, every few years, I'll tap into video games. But I think at this point, it's got to be a video game that's easy enough for me to play. Because a lot of them…I just get…to quote the gaming industry, "I get pwned!" [laughs]

GS: Now, if you could star in any kind of video game, what would it be?

MD: I think they kind of answered it for me. You mean, what's my second choice? I'd want to be Mario and Luigi's brother Guiseppe. Because I know that game. I can get around. Love mushrooms!

GS: Now for something a little random. You guys had an interesting cameo on The Simpsons movie. How was that experience?

MD: I loved it. I've been a big Simpsons fan forever. It was kind of funny. Billie didn't watch a lot of Simpsons growing up, but they actually made it kind of more than it was originally intended to be for us, which was kind of a bonus. If you're into the Simpsons, you can't help but feel kind of cool.

Green Day as they got older.
Green Day as they got older.

GS: Last year, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre adapted your album American Idiot into a one-act stage musical, and now it's playing on Broadway in New York City. What's it like seeing your work adapted into a Broadway musical?

MD: That's completely surreal. You're watching people on stage who are every bit as talented as anybody you've ever seen in your life. It's flesh and blood on stage, and [at] some points, it's voyeuristic. [At] the other points, you're actually nervous for some of the things they're physically doing. It's breathtaking; it really is.

If you can see the Broadway play, you really should. What do they say? If theatre is life and movies are entertainment, then television is just furniture. We'll be out on tour again this summer, so look for us in a shed near you.

GS: Will do. Thank you so much for your time!

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