We’re still wheeling – sorry, reeling – from last week’s news that remastered versions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 – y’know, the two greatest skating games ever made, with soundtracks that enhanced the lives of anyone who ever spent time with them – are coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC (exclusively on the Epic Games Store) on September 4. Who knows, we might even be allowed out of the house by then. And if we can’t, well, things are looking up…
Hugely popular – it’s estimated that over nine games, the series, named after the iconic ’90s skating figure, has made an astonishing 1.4billion dollars. Such is the influence of the game’s iconic soundtracks, best described as a portal into a universe of underground metal, ska, punk pop, hip-hop and more, we thought it fitting to hold a celebration of sorts, in which we crack open the Pringles and invite a bunch of bunch of punk legends (My Chemical Romance, Lagwagon, Millencolin), big hitters (All Time Low, Neck Deep, Creeper) and breaking bands (Best Ex, Seaway, ROAM) over to NME HQ to discuss how those soundtracks changed their lives.
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We learned a lot from our impromptu virtual roundtable, including that one musician likes these games so much he’d rather wet himself than stop playing.
Shall we kick this off by you all sharing your personal favourite song from the Tony Hawk’s soundtracks?
Jack Barakat, All Time Low: “I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to get it down to one. Those playlists shaped my life. They’re the reason I got into punk rock in the first place.”
Michael Cunniff, Boston Manor: “I loved ‘Cyco Vision’ by Suicidal Tendencies. I was about 12 or 13 and only really just discovering punk rock at the time. I never heard anything so loud and abrasive before. It was hard to choose because this is one of the best game soundtracks of all time!”
Frank Iero, My Chemical Romance: “Oh, so many. ‘Amoeba’ by the Adolescents, ‘Police Truck’ by Dead Kennedys, ‘You’ by Bad Religion, ‘Jerry Was A Race Car Driver’ by Primus. Also later on My Chem was asked to do a cover for [2005’s] Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and we did ‘Astro Zombies’ by the Misfits. So that was huge for me.”
Mike Sanchez, Can’t Swim: “‘Last Resort’ by Papa Roach. What a jam.”
Dani-Winter Bates, Bury Tomorrow: “I’m going to have ‘Blood Brothers’, also by Papa Roach. It’s fast and driving. It’s all orientated around one monster riff. It combines rap with metal. It just breathes skateboarding.”
Nick Ventimiglia, Grayscale: “On the original, Suicide Machines’ ‘New Girl’ was probably my favourite. THPS2 is how I was introduced to Rage Against The Machine; ‘Guerrilla Radio’ was an absolute ass slapper and that still remains true. THPS3 had so many great songs on it that it’s hard to pick, but if I had to it would be AFI’s ‘The Boy Who Destroyed the World’, CKY’s ‘96 Quite Bitter Beings’ and Alien Ant Farm’s ‘Wish’. The whole soundtrack straight through is amazing, though.”
Ken Taylor, Seaway: “‘You’ by Bad Religion. It makes you want to skate fast. We opened for them a few years ago, and seeing them play this live gave me flashbacks to playing THPS2 with a bag of chips and a can of Coke by my side.”
Matt West, Neck Deep: “Mine is ‘My Friends Are Metalheads’ by Less Than Jake. I remember turning off every other song on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 and having that one on repeat for hours on end, and somehow I never tired of it.”
Sam Bowden, Neck Deep: “Can I have two? ‘Guerrilla Radio’ by Rage Against The Machine, I love how aggressive that riff is. And I’ll have ‘Anarchy In The UK’ by the Sex Pistols. My dad was a Pistols fan and tried to get me into them, but you know what it’s like when you’re younger. You want to discover stuff for yourself. It took hearing it on Tony Hawk’s for me to realise, “I like The Sex Pistols, I should listen to my dad more…”
Jack Barakat: “When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 came out, I was given a sample disc of the game, which only featured one or two levels. Game systems back then used to do this to get kids hooked so that they would force their parents to buy them the full version. I think the trial version only had a couple songs on it and one of them was ‘You’ by Bad Religion. I must have heard that song a million times before I was able to get the full version. I was only 11 or 12 and had no idea who Bad Religion was at the time.”
The soundtracks have a legacy for introducing entire generations to rock and punk music…
Will Gould, Creeper: “It was how we found new bands, it really was. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 featured ‘The Boy Who Destroyed The World’ by AFI on it. I heard it and was instantly hooked. That band changed my life, y’know…”
Ken Taylor: “I remember buying the THPS3 soundtrack from Sam the Record Man – a legendary Toronto record store that has since closed – and listening to it non-stop. Once they started including the tracklists in the game menu, I would go download songs and buy records from the artists I liked. I can definitely attribute my introduction to punk and hip hop to the early games and some of the later ones helped me find bands like The Distillers, AFI, Refused, and the like. It was a stepping stone to good music.”
Dani Winter-Bates: “The games were amongst the first to put a huge amount of effort into how the music feeds the experience of playing. There were songs from different genres that I wouldn’t have naturally gravitated towards, but I did because it meant something to the game. I can’t think how else I would have arrived at Mad Capsule Markets, Xzibit or Primus…”
Jack Barakat: “At the time the games started coming out, I was already familiar with bands like Blink 182, Sum 41 and Green Day because they were all over MTV and TRL. I hadn’t really been introduced to underground punk or ska or anything like that. The Tony Hawk’s soundtracks led me to The Vandals, Bad Religion, Millencolin, Lagwagon… even more rock stuff like Powerman 5000 and Papa Roach.”
Frank Iero: “Back when I was growing up I didn’t have access to the internet. I’m kinda old. So you would have to buy records based off of friend recommendations or just rad cover art. Then you would pour over the liner notes and see what bands they mentioned in the thank you notes and then look for those records. THPS put bands you liked or may have just heard of right in front of you. If you played the game as much as I did those songs got burned into your psyche and became your favourite songs.”
Matt West: “What struck me most about the Tony Hawk’s games was how varied the soundtrack was. You had a band like Goldfinger on the same soundtrack as a band like Primus. It kind of broke down a genre wall for me when I was younger. A lot of people my age grew up playing that game, and I think that reflects in my generation’s view on genre. If the music is good, it doesn’t matter.”
Mariel Loveland, Best Ex: “Tony Hawk’s was the one video game that bridged the gap between punk music culture and the mainstream. It was kind of like Warped Tour, in the way it was something everyone could agree was cool even if they didn’t particularly relate to any specific music scene.”
We’ve got some acts with us today who actually appeared on the soundtracks. I’d be dead interested in knowing what that experience was like…
Roger Lima, Less Than Jake: “Well, ever since we had a song on the soundtrack, we’ve had people assume we can actually skate. I can assure you that being able to do a kick-flip was not a requirement!”
Barry Ashworth, Dub Pistols: “I think of it like this. Our song ‘Cyclone’ was our first track to get on a Radio 1 playlist – but it was the Tony Hawk’s game that got us the biggest global audience. Even now people tell us that it was the game that got them into the band. It seemed like the whole world was playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 in 2000.”
Ben Osmundson, Zebrahead: “Good story: our first label turned down two offers for us to be on the game. Good reason to never sign to a major. By the third time they offered us a slot in the game it was already a huge success and the dumb label reps were feeling pretty stupid. We learned a lesson from the game, principally, to control our own music and be able to approve stuff on our own. For 15 years, we have been essentially DIY because of that experience!”
Joey Cape, Lagwagon: “I’ve said this before, but, it’s almost as if the Lagwagon track, ‘May 16th’ is our only single. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 made it a hit in our world. Pretty great for a band that generally has never gone after radio or video to gain exposure. We are lucky to have been a part of the soundtrack. It’s one of the greatest games ever.”
Erik Ohlsson, Millencolin: “Oh, people everywhere around the world tell us that they first heard us on the game. Our song ‘No Cigar’ is definitely our most popular song and I guess lots of that has to do with it featuring so prominently within the game. How it came about is kind of a funny story. Millencolin are on the second game, but we played the first one [1999’s Pro Skater] all the time both at home and on tour buses. On the Warped tour we played it almost every night with our friend [and professional skater] Steve Caballero; he wasn’t in the first game. After that tour Steve contacted me and said: ‘Guess who will be a character in the next Tony Hawk’s game? I thought it was awesome. I said to Steve, ‘If you’ve got any say in the soundtrack, can you let the developers know we’re up for it!’ The Neversoft guys contacted me 30 minutes later and we were on the game!”
Obviously the reason we’re all gathered here today is to celebrate the coming remasters of the first and second games. What would you like to see done in those games? And what wouldn’t you?
Mike Sanchez: “Just graphics, which from what I’ve seen from previews are looking insanely better anyway. They can’t lose the original gameplay. The feel of it.”
Ken Taylor: “I’m hoping for another custom level creator that you can share. I would love to make levels that my friends can skate, and vice-versa. I used to make the most ridiculous levels, but I would imagine with today’s tech we could come up seriously stupid stuff.”
Alex Adam, ROAM: “I actually wet myself once playing it at my friend’s house because I didn’t want to stop playing. I was way too old at that point to be pissing myself playing PlayStation. Honestly, I’d want it to play exactly the same as it did. No extra thrills, just Darth Vader and unreal laws of gravity.”
Mariel Loveland: “Keep the levels. They’re ingrained into my soul in adulthood. When my band first started going on tour, I remember talking with one of the members of Man Overboard at one of our dates in Tampa being like, ‘Man, this place is familiar. I have the strange, uncomfortable feeling I’ve been here before, but I’ve never been to Tampa’. He was like, ‘This is legitimately a Tony Hawk’s level.’ It blew my mind. It was the one from THPS2 and Underground. After stumbling upon Venice Beach one day and getting that same feeling, my band made it a mission to find all the levels as we explored each new city. I had a new appreciation for the game because the levels were so accurate, I could navigate these places I’d never been to!”
Jack Barakat: “The reboot has me super excited, especially right now – there isn’t shit to do in quarantine! I really hope they don’t alter the game that shaped my childhood, too much. I am hoping that the characters, move, levels and music are all the same. Is that too much to ask…”
Frank Iero: “These games were such a big part of my world for so long. Tony Hawk is of course the greatest of all time and someone I looked up to as a kid learning how to skate. So you mix that with one of the funnest video games ever created coming out around the same time that I had a job where I could afford semi-decent weed, plus an amazing soundtrack of influential bands. What’s not to love? I played that game every day for hours on end. We had a backroom at my old band’s studio lockout and after practice I would just blaze all day and play Tony Hawk. I mean, it’s where I met My Chem and eventually joined their band and also met my wife, Jamia…”
Will Gould, Creeper: “I’d like a Creeper song on the soundtrack. If anyone who can make that happen is reading this…’
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 will be available on PS4, Xbox One and PC (via Epic Games Store) on September 4.