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March 15, 2010

One recipe for rock-band success? Video games

Posted: 03:24 PM ET

Matt Drenik, frontman for hard-rock band Lions, has an easy formula for worldwide exposure - meet an employee from a video game company, then get him drunk.

"We had a showcase here three years ago. He came and drank beer with us until 5 a.m.," said Drenik during a panel Monday at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. "Next thing we know, we have a contract to be on Guitar Hero III."

Having their song, "Metal Heavy Lady," on a game that has sold 13 million copies worldwide couldn't have come at a better time for the Austin, Texas-based rockers, who had recently been dropped from their record label.

It's part of a years-long effort by bands looking for ways to gain exposure at a time when mainstream radio stations have moved largely to safe, structured formats that don't leave much room for independent artists.

"It's very challenging now for certain bands like mine and others who are heavier riff-rock bands to kind of break out," he said. "Everybody knows the U.S. modern rock radio is pretty bad. They don't really spin a lot of good innovative bands anymore."

Lions was the only independent band on a game that featured the likes of Slash, from Guns 'n' Roses, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

Doug McCracken, of “Guitar Hero” creators Activision, said the obvious approach would be to try to pack games like his and rival “Rock Band” with “only artists that have sold X-number of records.”

But including an indie band, along with groups like a reunited Sex Pistols and death-rock icons Slayer, benefits the product by expanding its base, he said.

“From our perspective, we have a range of music so we can appeal to a bunch of different types of people,” McCracken said. We love that it adds to … the authenticity and credibility for our brands and also helps the artist.”

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Music

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Colin   March 15th, 2010 4:10 pm ET

Harmonix's Rock Band has taken this to the next step with Rock Band Network. Now, any artist and get a hold of the tools to create Rock Band versions of their songs, which they can then post in the in-game store for purchase. The band gets a percentage of the price, the developer gets a percentage, and the artists get exposure in one of the biggest music games available. An awesome new platform for bands trying to get themselves heard.

Anex   March 15th, 2010 5:12 pm ET

Totally agree with Colin, why are we sitting here STILL talking about Guitar Hero?
The Rock Band Network has been out for over a week and I have YET to see a single article about it on CNN. So many previously unknown bands are getting their music out there to the masses... this is HUGE and CNN is missing out.

Chris   March 15th, 2010 6:00 pm ET

Ha. Someone from Activision says that the obvious approach for Guitar Hero and Rock Band is to only go for popular bands, but Rock Band (Harmonix/MTV Games/EA) HASN'T taken that approach, and that's why they've been the clear leader over Guitar Hero. This can especially be seen in the recent Rock Band Network, allowing anyone to make versions of their songs playable and able to sell to anyone in the world (assuming they have the Xbox 360 version).

Eric D.   March 16th, 2010 4:40 pm ET

Video game industry aside, Lions are an incredible band. Take some Monster Magnet, throw in some Ted Nugent and Deep Purple, turn it up to 11, throw away your preconceived notions and add a killer live show and you have a great up and coming band. Check out and buy "No Generation" however you can (itunes has it)

QUIN   March 16th, 2010 6:39 pm ET

Agreed. "No Generation" is an amazing album and the Lions totally kick ass onstage. I was hooked the first time I saw them, even though I had never played guitar hero before.

Ben   March 16th, 2010 7:01 pm ET

Agreed, I've been a huge fam of Lions ever since I was lucky enough to see one of their very first shows back in late 2005. These guys have their own unique sound and really know how to throw a great live show. Do yourself a favor and check out their discography, or better yet a live show.

Brent   March 16th, 2010 10:11 pm ET

RockBand is lame and so are all of you that are going on about it! They have been on a lot of other things besides Guitar Hero. Matt was simply explaining how Guitar Hero was such a great platform to boost the bands career. The Lions are in a whole new world of R&fn'R. That is some of the best rock to have come out in years! Matt Drenik has a crazy voice and they can party like a rock band should.

BallerCraig   March 16th, 2010 10:16 pm ET

OMG Lions rule like OMG like wow man you know? it's like wow man ...

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Misha   April 1st, 2012 8:22 am ET

Natural Minor and Harmonic Minor are good for metal. Check out Marty Friedman's work with Megadeth for some fine examples. For Rock, dpeending on the style (hard rock, southern rock, blues rock, etc), you can use Natural Minor, Dorian, Pentatonic, Major or Mixolydian. You improvise solos well by practicing within the particular style of song you want. For metal, you're generally going to be soloing in natural minor, so practice that scale, and do it all over the neck of the guitar. If you have a sequencer, you can set it to just pedal on a certain chord, and practice your scales over that chord. Also practice bending notes. If you can already play the blues, you should be able to play metal. Pentatonic scales also work for that.For Rock, do the same thing, but with major, pentatonic and minor scales. If you want to play something that sounds a little jazzy, or like the Allman Brothers Band, throw a Dorian scale in the mix. If you want to play something like an Eagles song in a major key, try some mixolydian (also good for country). Just make sure to keep practicing everything, and you'll get it fairly quickly.

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