Thursday, August 5, 2010

World Minus One Interview

Back in the day, there was this band called Envy. Due to copyright issues, they quickly became All Envy Aside. Hailing from UW-Platteville, the group went on to win MTVU's Best Band on Campus in 2005 and deserved it. However, the band soon dissolved shortly afterward.

Lucky for us, half the band stuck together and formed the new local (to Milwaukee) group World Minus One, and they're just as kickass as ever. With a new singer, drummer, and an added keyboard, these guys make for a pretty awesome combo.

I had the privilege to hang out with these fine folks after they opened for One eskimO this past summer at the Rave in Milwaukee. Here's what they had to say.

First off, could you explain the name World Minus One? Where exactly did it come from?

JAEK: “World Minus One” was a name that (guitarist) Dan Faherty and I were throwing around for years. When we finally got the band together, we threw it out there and it stuck with everyone….probably because the rest of the band didn’t know the origin. It’s a reference to this glitch in the original Mario Bros. game for Nintendo. You know, like there’s World 1-2, and 1-3 and all that, and there’s a hidden World -1 that you can warp to and can’t escape from.

So Jaek, in your past band All Envy Aside, you actually made a whole video game RPG just for the band. Now, for World Minus One, you’ve got one song done for Rock Band and another on the way. Can you tell us how or why video games have become a part of your music?

JAEK: It was just one of those obsessions I developed….I didn’t have a game system when I was a kid, so when I was 9 or 10 I would actually write my own video games and music on Basic (programming language) on an old 286 PC. The hobby stuck with me through the years, and I thought it’d be awesome to tell a band’s story through an RPG (role-playing game), so that’s how the ‘Envy RPG’ came about. I just took all the old-school NES elements I liked and wrote the band’s story around it. In World Minus One, even putting the video-game name origin aside, we kind of continue the tradition…Dan actually modified a Nintendo Advantage controller—those were the huge ones with the joystick and big buttons—into a foot controller pedal for his effects. And there’s a song topic or two that stems from fantasy themes you might find in video games (like our track “Wizards & Dragons”)….but for all that, it’s amazing how grounded most of our stuff is. We’re all geeks at heart, but most of our music doesn’t really come off as geek anthems.

Have you noticed an increase in popularity by posting your music on Rock Band, or is this mostly something you did for the fans or for the hell of it?

JAEK: I had no idea how we’d be received or who’d buy our track or whatever, but it was something I felt like I had to do, because the game programming wasn’t hard for me to pick up. Our song ‘Still Alive’ was a natural pick just because it had some good gameplay elements, and we priced it at a buck, which is the same you’d pay for a single song on iTunes. We were one of the first bands available for their ‘Rock Band Network’ format, which didn’t hurt anything. In the first three months we sold over 1,100 downloads of the track in 8 countries, which absolutely blew us away. It doesn’t quite hold up to the platinum artists they offer, but we don’t see anywhere near those numbers on iTunes or Amazon or those sites, so it’s a big success for an indie band like us. The word-of-mouth for the track was really good, and we held some contests that you can find on YouTube to get free tracks and stuff, which I think helped people check it out. It got enough attention for Harmonix, the game developer, to interview us for a segment on, which was very cool of them.

You’ve mentioned you’re working on another track for Rock Band. How’s that coming along, and are there any plans to make an RPG for World Minus One? A sequel perhaps?

JAEK: The whole gametrack authoring process is really tedious, and I’ve just gotten to a point where I can fully playtest our next track, “Fool For Your Love”. I have some tweaks to make to the animations, lighting, and venue camera cuts, and then it should be ready to be reviewed. I’m hoping it can be out sometime in August. As for a WMO-RPG…I wrote the RPG at a time in my life when I had a LOT of time on my hands. It probably took about 1000 hours to make that game, which is something I just can’t sign up for currently. I need to do a lot of writing and rehearsing for the band as well, so it’s not high on my priority list right now.

Alright, now this is something I’ve gotta ask every band: do you prefer playing live or in the studio?

JAEK: I honestly like each differently, because they both compliment the songwriting process, which is what I’m all about. Seeing a tracking going from an idea to my head, to a jam at practice, into different studio mixes, and hearing the feedback after the live show….its all tied together. I guess if I had to choose, the live show is kind of the culmination of the whole thing for me, so that wins out.

PAUL: Definitely live - people don't cheer when you lay your 14th track down and it's still not right.

DAN: Live is where its at for me. Especially on a big stage, its so much fun with lights and a loud PA!

ADAM: I'd much rather be alive when I play than the alternative, even though I am a bass player.

What were some of your favorite on-stage moments?

JAEK: Our Summerfest show we just did in July was definitely a highlight for me.

PAUL: Locust Street festival in Milwaukee seeing tons of people dancing to our cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and just being on the Harley stage at Summerfest were pretty awesome.

DAN: Our first show - it was a huge adrenalin rush, but the chemistry was there and i knew that this was going to be a great band to play in.

ADAM: My all-time favorite was Kirk yelling "Go right into it, right?" about 3 seconds before our opening song for a gig, which with all the noise translated to "blah blah blah blah mmmmmm ajasasldkfjadsf". He then went right into a drum beat in a spot where just keys were supposed to play, based on a conversation we had 3 months prior about possibly changing the beginning of that song. I only hope he was drunk that night. For his sake.

Any talk of getting in the studio to record a full length album?

JAEK: We talk about it all the time. Problem is, its expensive and time-consuming, and we want to be sure we ‘hear’ the finished product as a band before stepping in the studio to do that. To get to that point, we experiment a lot by recording our tunes to the best of our ability, and we’ll use what we learn from that to springboard into a studio under a producer.

PAUL: I think we're working towards that - at this point, it's more of a "one song at a time" deal.

DAN: Right now the band is working on some new material, and hopefully will have a new disc out by Christmas.

ADAM: I think that's always in the back of everyone's minds. These days with internet distribution and people wanting to get a cheap CD at a show, we've been doing really well throwing a couple tracks on a CD and selling it for a few bucks. That said, I would say our eventual goal is to put a number of tracks together to call it our real first album.

Now how did the six of you meet and decide to start a band together?

JAEK: Well, Dan and I met in college and played in All Envy Aside together. After over a year of looking for a singer for this new project, we found Sara through craigslist, and thought she was great and had a lot of potential. Kirk and Adam were kind of a package rhythm section that strong-armed us to trying them out, and we gelled with them. Finally I asked my brother Paul to join, knowing his singing and keyboard background and enjoying writing music with him. We met a few times in 2008 to write material, decided it was working, and started playing out right away in 2009.

PAUL: Well, the other five were basically in place, and then my brother BEGGED me to supply my exceptional keyboard and backup vocal skills. It's hard to see a grown man cry - so then there were six.

DAN: Kirk Pogo was hauling a load of chickens across the Mason-Dixon Line that were stuffed with illegal bubble gum laced with mint leaves and Deputy Adam was trying to catch him. Paul and Jaek Duke were going to cut them off at the pass, when Boss Dan chased the whole gang down Uncle Jessie's shortcut and jumped his Cadillac into a muddy pond. Daisy Brauer showed up in her trusty jeep and the rest is history. that's how them there boys met or maybe I’m getting that confused with an episode of Dukes of Hazard...

ADAM: Well I think after the 37th email, Dan had no choice really. I never actually threatened to cut his power or anything, but, well, I'm just sayin'...

Where are all of you from? How difficult is it getting together for rehearsals?

JAEK: We’re all from the greater-Milwaukee area, so we consider that our home base. It is hard to juggle 6 schedules, so we have a scheduled time each week where we meet for 3 hours. It only works when everyone can contribute so we all consider rehearsal a priority in the band. Kirk’s got a nice setup at his place with a practice PA. We record everything we do over there and post it online to learn from and critique what worked and what didn’t. It can be brutally honest sometimes to listen back to, but it ultimately makes us a better band.

PAUL: I'm probably the farthest away from our rehearsal space (35-40 min. drive), but we can usually all find ways in our schedules to make it work and get a good practice in.

DAN: Usually we get in 1 rehearsal a week and it’s a good old time! Crack a few beers, crack a few snare drums and crank a few amps!

ADAM: There aren't any real distance issues, but with a 6 piece band the schedules are already tight as it is, add in everyday life and there's even less time. That said, we're all able to make a commitment to practice weekly with the occasional extra thrown in here and there, usually around larger shows.

What are some of the band’s plans for the future?

JAEK: We’re definitely focusing some energy on putting out a new disc yet this year, and expanding our base a little bit. Nothing crazy, but we realize we have something special together right now and trying to make the most of that.

PAUL: Recordin', 'ritin', and rockin' - the three R's of any balanced rock curriculum.

DAN: Were going to get more shows around the state and in Chicago and try to expand our fan base. Get back into the studio and cut some more tracks, and then get out there and promote the heck out of it.

ADAM: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.

Be sure to check out some of the band's music here. And definitely be sure to check out their song "Still Alive" on the Rock Band Network. I give you my word that it's one of the most fun songs to play in the game.

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