Ronny North's Chatting with The Pros: Marcus Henderson: The Virtual Life Guitar Hero Print
Wednesday, 05 December 2007 05:49
l_fdea32c7fdbf3806b7c031ae6df44be7.jpgBy Ronny North - GJD Contributor
The Guitar Hero video game is everywhere these days and even Slash has jumped on the band wagon. To be truthful, when I was first offered to interview Marcus I was a bit hesitant since I'm not sure what I think about the game itself and I have actually never played the game. After thinking about it a bit, I contacted Marcus and found that he was really cool and can also really play guitar. In the end, you have to give him props for going in and recreating some classic songs in both playing and tone. Only someone who is a real player could pull it off. Here's his unusual adventure of how he became a virtual life Guitar Hero...

Ronny North: What brought you to the guitar???

Marcus Henderson: When I was about 6 years old, my family and I went to the drive-in movies to watch Superman, but for some reason I kept looking over at the movie playing to our left which looked pretty freakin' hilarious, so I watch a bit more instead of the dancing hotdog on our screen. There I am watching this other movie, then all of a sudden, some psycho biker dude with a beard started playing the electric guitar with an f'in monkey wrench and I was floored. You know how people say cool shit like, "When I heard Miles or Hendrix play it became me blah blah..." Not me man. Tommy Chong's guitar solo from Cheech and Chong's next movie is still the coolest shit ever. So you could say my first guitar hero was actually Chong from Cheech and Chong. Other than that I kinda feel the guitar-thing chose me early in a weird way. I'm simply it's puppet with strings gauged 9-46...(lol!)
RN: Do you remember your first band?

MH: Oh yeah dude! We called ourselves 'Square Meal' and our first show was on April fools Day 1989 opening up for Sweet Children (who would later go on to be Green Day). Roughly 4 Square Meal shows later, we played with them again, only this time they were called Green Day and I happen to remember that show for one thing... And it's always the bad things you remember (lol!). I remember going for the killer EVH panama jump off of my amp, but landed on my ankle wrong and fell on my goddamn amp, knocking over everything in the backline like a sick game of electric dominoes. Awesome.

RN: How did you become a video game guitar hero? How did you get the gig with the video game company? Is there a discovery story?

MH: I dunno. Kinda like the Rock Gods punched my ticket and gave me a chance to rock! I really have no goddamn idea, but I love it. I think because I was slated to do all of the cool hard shit for the series that people started giving me props. Than the game became so huge that it's natural to seek out those who made it to offer gifts of love and sweet comments on your MySpace page. Twenty million fans later, I'm still the same dude that Wave Group hired in 2005 to do some work on a little game called Guitar Hero. There's a level of honesty and intensity in my playing and personality, and my passion for the fans and the instrument itself is unquestionable!

RN: I'm going to be honest and tell you that I'm not interested in playing the game. I've never played Guitar Hero. To me it's just a game and feel like it totally cheapens the art of playing guitar. What do you think of the whole guitar hero video game phenomenon?

MH: I had the same sort of approach at first when I saw early screen shots of GH back in 2005. But honestly, I would rather have kids playing a Guitar Hero over anything else because I deeply understand that exposure to the instrument is crucial as a way to keep our industry alive. New guitar players always have to come from somewhere, and luckily GH has been a wake up call to not only all industries considered, but also to new guitar players that are being born every day due to the confidence in the inherent skill set Guitar hero helps manifest, like timing, ear training and basic finger movements.

RN: I have heard players compare the game to Karaoke. I have met people myself that just because they rule at the game they think that they can actually shred on a real guitar. Well of course they can't even play a note on a real guitar. On the flip side, I do think it's great that it does expose kids to music and the guitar in general in a very roundabout way. The irony is that you're an actual guitar player who has legitimate chops and put in the time to learn to play the instrument. Do you ever get any grief from guitar players both famous and not?

MH: I'm very lucky to have been awarded for my work in too many ways to count, but when I get a compliment from an artist that appreciates the care we put into making their respective song kick ass and not sound like muzak, it feels unbelievable! I've had several artists come up to and straight up tell me I played it so sick, they want me to show them how I did it. No shit.

RN: This whole thing has definitely made you a celebrity and got you some exposure in the legitimate Guitar Magazines. Even though you can play guitar did you ever think in your wildest dreams that playing on a video game would make you famous?

MH: Dude, it's the raddest thing ever. A music career is a lot like a video game; you struggle, acquire new upgrades, experience fun, tragedy, and if you avoid the crazy life drainers and beat the bosses of fear and doubt within yourself. Eventually, good stuff does happen. I was so lucky to be given a chance to work on not only the music for the games, but also as a consultant for Guitar Hero II and am sometimes awestruck at the magnitude of the success.

RN: Take us through a day at the studio when you track your guitar parts for the game. Do you ever do any promotional events for the game?

MH: It all begins with the track in question. My good buddy and ace engineer Bill Frank and I have a system for this. A lot of it is secret and involves random Moloch propaganda and a fair lass by the enticingly denominational moniker of "Penny Lane." Aside from that, I listen to the song until I can play it on the guitar in my head, than I research the master track for all sorts of hidden goodies like original gear used, all the way down to recreating the characteristics of the producer and they're tricks and tendencies. Something like twelve to twenty hours of pre-production per song before I even hit the studio is spent in my little home studio alone. The biggest hurdle when getting theses tracks note for note is matching the subtleties of the original player so that you capture the essence of the original and make an extension of it. So many players have tons of variables that make of they're sound that you have be pretty on it as far as your technique is concerned to really make it sound authentic. After I gather all of my notes and practice the hell out of the tricky parts, we hit the big room at Wave Group and let 'er rip!

I've done tons of promo for the game and look forward to promoting not only the game but guitar in general in 2008 and beyond!

RN: The craze is definitely not going away anytime soon and now even Slash is jumping on the bandwagon. When all is said and done, you did get famous for playing guitar a thing that most of us fellow players would definitely be envious of. Tell us about what's it's been like riding the wave of the game from the beginning?

MH: Thanks Ronny! It's a tremendous honor to be a part of an insanely talented group of people that came together to put this thing into orbit. Who knew my love for video games and guitar would fuse together to allow me to play music for anybody? (lol!) That's why I get it; the fans, the game. I actually truly give a shit about people and the art of excellent guitar playing in any form, so if this is one of the things I'm here on this crazy ass planet for, than I'm gonna do it with all my heart like I've always done...just for more people. (lol!)

RN: Any last words for our readers?

MH: Hell yeah! First off, thanks for the interview dude! And if you are reading this, thank you for supporting me and the game! You guys are the ones that inspire me for real.

Happy Holidays!

Marcus



Gear of Marcus Henderson:

GUITARS

FENDER AMERICAN STANDARD STRAT. W/ SEYMOUR DUNCAN JB HUMBUCKER, GRAPH-TECH HARDWARE
TOM ANDERSON DROP-TOP CLASSIC -STOCK
FENDER BIG APPLE STRAT HEAVILY MODIFIED W/ CUSTOM EMG 85/85 PICKGUARD ASSEMBLY, GRAPH-TECH HW, SPERZEL'S
YAMAHA TY TABOR SIGNATURE MODEL STOCK WITH SEYMOUR DUNCAN JB HUMBUCKER; HOT RAILS SINGLE COILS, SPERZEL'S
WASHBURN DIMEBAG DARRELL SIGNATURE MODEL STOCK W/DIMEBUCKER
GIBSON FLYING V - STOCK
GIBSON LES PAUL CLASSIC WITH BILL LAWRENCE L-500XL HUMBUCKERS, SPERZEL'S
DEAN FROM HELL DIME SIGNATURE MODEL - STOCK
EPIPHONE ZAKK WYLDE CAMO W. MAPLE NECK
EPIPHONE TONY IOMMI
EPIPHONE JOE PASS EMPEROR 2
FENDER YNGWIE MALMSTEEN CUSTOM SHOP SIGNATURE MODEL
TAYLOR BIG BABY ACOUSTIC
ESP PARAMOUNT HOLLOWBODY - STOCK *LOANER FROM SNAKE OF SKINLAB FOR "CARRY ME HOME"
IBANEZ RG440 WITH DIMARZIO EVOLUTION PICKUPS, FLOYD


AMPLIFIER LIST

1994 VHT PITBULL CLASSIC HEAD
VHT DELIVERANCE 120 HEAD
MESA/BOOGIE MARK IV LONG HEAD
RIVERA KNUCKLE HEAD TRE' HEAD
KRANK REV. ONE HEAD
CARVIN LEGACY HEAD
MESA STILETTO 2X12 COMBO
FRAMUS COBRA HEAD
RANDALL V2 HEAD
MARSHALL JCM 900 HEAD
RANDALL LYNCH BOX
BUDDA SUPERDRIVE II 45

CABINETS

MARSHALL 1960A 4X12 CABINETS W/ G12T-75 CELESTIONS (2)
VHT DELIVERANCE 4X12 CABINET W/CUSTOM EMINENCE SPEAKERS

PEDAL LIST

VHT VALVULATOR POWER SUPPLY * POWERS EVERYTHING; ALWAYS ON
BOSS HEAVY METAL PEDAL WITH KEELEY MOD
BOSS DS-1 DISTORTION
BOSS FZ-2 HYPER FUZZ
KRANK DISTORTUS MAXIMUS
TOADWORKS JOHN BULL BRITISH OVERDRIVE
MXR WYLDE OVERDRIVE
BOSS RV-5 DIGITAL REVERB
DIGITECH WHAMMY III RE-ISSUE
MORLEY PRO SERIES VOLUME
MORLEY BAD HORSIE 2 WAH
MORLEY TREMONTI WAH
CRYBABY WAH WITH FASEL INDUCTOR
BOSS DD-20 GIGA-DELAY
MAXON OD808 OVERDRIVE
ISP DECIMATOR NOISE REDUCTION
DIGITECH BLACK 13
BBE SONIC STOMP
BBE GREEN SCREAMER
KRANK KRANKSHAFT
BLAZER SOUL CAGE OD
BBE ORANGE SQUASH
BBE CRUSHER
BBE TREBLE BOOST
BOSS TUNERS

MISC...

MORLEY A/B
MORLEY TRIPLER
THD HOT PLATE (8 OHM)
EBOW PLUS
BBE 482I SONIC MAXIMIZER


STRINGS

DEAN MARKLEY BLUE STEEL VARIOUS GAUGES
PICKS AND TRICKS
DUNLOP JAZZ III BLACK
ERNIE BALL MEDIUM
FENDER MEDIUM
DUNLOP NYLON .73
DUNLOP NYLON .88
TORTEX .88 SHARP
TORTEX 1.14 SHARP
STONE PICK * USED ON THE SOLO FOR BUTTHOLE SURFERS TUNE FOR MAX ATTACK
1971 AND BICENTENNIAL QUARTERS
DUNLOP SLIDES
BLACK BANDANNA * USED TO OCCASIONALLY MUTE STRINGS FOR TAPPED PASSAGES
EDITING TAPE TO SLOT NUT OR TAPE STRINGS


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