Loren Dircks has been a fixture in Tucson's music scene for more than two decades, first as a founding member of "country metal" stalwarts Gila Bend and currently as a solo performer and frequent collaborator with fellow Tucsonan Al Perry. Dircks recently attained a degree of notoriety thanks to the video for his song "Guitar Hero Gone," which laments the popular video game's impact on music and the concept of musicianship as a whole.
The video became a minor YouTube sensation, racking up more than 10,000 views and ruffling the feathers of many Guitar Hero enthusiasts. In a near-perfect twist of irony, Dircks was contacted by the developers of Guitar Hero rival RockBand to create a downloadable version of the song for RockBand Network. The song received a few tweaks on its way to becoming a playable RockBand track, however, most notably a name change (presumably to avoid copyright infringement) and the removal of the word "gay" as a descriptor of an unnamed Metallica song.
Check out the "uncensored" video for "Guitar Hero Gone" and an e-mail Q&A with Dircks on the origins of the song and his upcoming Valley show after the break.
Up on the Sun: How did you originally come up with the idea for "Guitar Hero Gone"?
Dircks: I used to get overly excited about the Japanese takeover of our entertainment. I think it started with cartoons when I was a kid. Then it was Sony Tree, and then karaoke, which did have an impact on the numbers that came out to see/hear live music. American Idol, I don't even need to go there... But the final straw was the day my kids asked me for Guitar Hero. I met their request with loving indignance and bemoaned the fact that they all have real guitars and a live-in instructor. All that said, the song was written in good fun, and tongue-in-cheek. I don't really lose sleep over those things.
Were you surprised by its success on YouTube? What do you think caused it to take off?
I was pleasantly surprised with the number of views on YouTube. When the whole controversy started, I did not know what to think. But most of the people that fired off the venom were just having fun, as well. The video had perfomed well from day one, but when the video gaming community discovered it, they inadvertently boosted it. I think we just "got their goat."
How did the deal with RockBand Network come about?
Some of the gamers had made suggestions to us to put it in the game. One of them actually charted it in GH and made a video of it, full of colorful messages directed at me. Then we were contacted by Miguel Molinari from Rockgamer Studios. I was hesitant at first, but the irony was awesome, and Miguel is a great guy, so I trusted him.
When will the song be available for download? How much will it cost?
I think it will be available for download in a couple of weeks. It should only cost two bucks.
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Can you explain the process of turning the song into a downloadable RockBand track?
I could not even begin to explain that. I think they have to build it into the game and then "play test" it. I had to break the song down into stem mixes so that each instrument can drop out of the mix if the player misses a note. All of the sounds are the real thing...My guitars, Nick Augustine's drums, etc.
Were you disappointed that they changed the title to "I Hope You're Happy" and edited out the word "gay"?
Sure I was disappointed. It is my art. But the real reasons for that were 1. I don't like the notion that Activision has any kind of exclusive rights to the phrase "Guitar Hero." 2. On the "gay" piece, I was disappointed because I think people are way too sensitive. I used that term [with] a generous helping of irony. I am not much of a Metallica fan (I love Maiden) but I used that imagery because Metallica represents metal machismo so well. It was nothing more than an obnoxious way to interject more irony.
How did your upcoming gig with the Earps come about? Do you play many shows in the Valley?
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I was talking with [Earps bassist] Jason [Smith aka "Buckshot George"] through Facebook one night and he told me about the CD release party. I mentioned that I would love to come up and play with them sometime, and he put us on the bill that night! We used to play up there regularly with Gila Bend. Even back in the Sun Club days. We used to love playing there, even sans-AC... We are going to be playing all around Phoenix, so we will keep you posted!
What are your plans for the future (your website hints at a possible Gila Bend reunion)?
We get together with the old lineup almost once a year. Al Perry and I had been working on some ideas for a new GB record, and of course, we would play to support that. We are doing a bunch of the GB songs in our set right now. We are a three piece: Jim Blackhall (from Gila Bend) on bass, and Nick Augustine (Rainer and Das Combo) on drums. So you still have two-thirds of Gila Bend.
Loren Dircks is scheduled to perform at the Earps' CD release show on Saturday, June 12, at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.