For many bands, video games are an amusing distraction at best. Practicing at the home of a member who owns a console can be a risky endeavor, as a spontaneous game of Halo or Madden might stretch into an hours-long tournament.
That’s not the case with Arlington’s Man Factory. This band is in the process of turning a love for a classic fighting game into a three-CD epic.
The members offered the first part of Street Fighter II: Rock Opera as a free download on their MySpace site last year (it's still up for free download, now), and they've begun work on the follow-ups.
Curious about the progress on the trilogy, we sent a few questions to singer/guitarist Tyler White and guitarist/keyboardist Austin Sevener. They kindly answered our questions about the album by e-mail, and even made up some queries of their own. We’re still not sure how they managed to storm out and knock over our tape recorder three times during the exchange... --Jesse Hughey
Is there a primary songwriter, or do you all collaborate on songs? Tyler: The order of who writes the most to fewest is Tyler, Austin, Ian--although I should say the number of songs that end up being on target seems to be equal. I just throw the most stuff out there to give myself the most chances.
How'd you get the idea to write a Street Fighter II rock opera? Austin: The lame answer is: We were all actually sitting in Tyler's bedroom playing Street Fighter II and talking about Chun Li's bogus hips. The real answer is that it came to each of us, on the same night, in a dream--a crazy, sexy, dream. This interview is over. [knocks down tape recorder]
Did you lift any parts of the story from the game (or other sources like the anime cartoon or the great Van Damme Streetfighter movie), or was it completely original? Tyler: Well, as great as that Van Damme film is, we had to create a lot of little stories so there wasn't just the familiar story arc of Chun Li avenging her father's death. I mean, all we know about Blanka is that he's got a human mother that calls him Jimmy? WTF? The game just leaves it there as they walk off arm-in-monster-arm together--but with a name like Jimmy, and maybe a better haircut, there's no reason he couldn't integrate into society as, say, an undercover cop.
How far along on Rounds 2 and 3 are you? Do you have the whole story for them planned already, or do you just kind of make it up as you go? Tyler: The music and story/lyrics for Rounds 2 and 3 are written but exist only in demo form. Now it's just a matter of taking a break from our never-ending Street Fighter tournament to record final versions. It should be a couple of months now for Round 2 to come out--again for free download--and then Round 3 shortly thereafter as part of a full package for sale.
Will you do any other rock operas or concept albums after the Street Fighter trilogy is complete? Austin: We're friendly to the idea of every album being a concept, at least loosely, so yeah, maybe. Probably, even. For instance, we might do an album where we act like Oasis called maybe probably. I just came up with that. Just now.
I read something that said Capcom commissioned you to do the album after hearing demos. Is there any truth to that? Did you work with Capcom in any way, or have to get permission? Tyler: Oh we've worked with them, alright. I sent them the sweetest letter asking to use character names, but they just said it didn't fall under their plans for the brand. Well, that's no surprise. I doubt their upcoming movie was a musical with rap duets between a trash-talking Balrog and rabid members of the press, but our question is: Why the hell not? Austin: My dad actually worked at Capcom, and when he showed his boss our recordings, he was fired.
Have you gotten any offers from record companies since you put out the download? Austin: Well, I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about it yet, so at the risk of blowing the whole deal--yes, yes we have. This one company offered us like 10 CDs for a penny or something. I think we're going to take it. This interview is over. [knocks over tape recorder] Tyler: We did get an offer, and that's why I had to contact Capcom to ask permission for character names. Their legal counsel said we couldn't get signed until we had that permission. Oh well. Maybe we'll figure something out by Round 3 that won't result in a lawsuit. Or maybe not. Look for Man Factory on an upcoming episode of People's Court as we face the evil, Bison-esque president who no doubt represents Capcom. Fuck you, fuckhead.
Are you recording any unrelated songs, or just focusing on the Street Fighter series? Austin: Right now--and I mean like today--no. But we have some demos of like 25 old songs up on our Web site, manfactory.net, or for sale on MySpace. We're not on iTunes because Ian [Smith, drummer] met Steve Jobs and tried to fight him.
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Do you have any shows or a tour or any other news coming up? Austin: We'd like to take this opportunity to announce that we're breaking into Six Flags and commandeering the AT&T Music Mill. Tyler: I'd like to invite the Goo Goo Dolls to come out and open if they're out there.
Didn't I see three or four of you guys in some Gap ads a few months ago? Tyler: Probably four of us. We were wrapped in a sweater with Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, but somewhere deep inside the sweater.
We've heard a lot of talk about a Saved by the Bell musical in the works. Would you like to comment? Tyler: No comment. Austin: Didn't you already ask this question? This interview is over. [knocks over tape recorder]