Interview with RBN Artist: Graveyard BBQ

The rhythm gaming phenomena has been around for a long time, and its popularity has attracted a lot of artists along the way to lend their music to be included in the games. Some of the bands needed to be convinced of the popularity of the trend before going all the way. But some artists were there right from the beginning. Graveyard BBQ is one of the latter.

Graveyard BBQ won a national competition called the “Be a Guitar Hero” competition, and had their song “Cheat on the Church” included in the original Guitar Hero setlist. Up until recently, Rock Band was missing its dose of Graveyard BBQ, but now “Cheat on the Church” is available for Rock Band, and eventually you’ll be able to get your hands on five more songs from the band.

I caught up with Graveyard BBQ’s Brownbag Johnson, and asked him about the band and what it was like to get in on the ground floor of the cultural rhythm gaming phenomena. Check it out!

RockBandAide: For some of those in the Rock Band community not familiar with you, tell us a little bit about yourself and the band.

Brownbag Johnson: This is Brownbag Johnson. I’m the slinger/vox/songwriter/creator of the dirtcore band, Graveyard BBQ. Back in 2005, we won the “Be a Guitar Hero” National Contest to have our song, “Cheat on the Church” featured on the game’s legendary playable songlist. We’ve been around since 2003 and we’re still goin strong! I just re-located from my hometown of Waltham, MA down to Austin,TX which is also the new home of Graveyard BBQ.

RBA: How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it?

Brownbag: It’s the most badf**kingass music to come around in a long long time… if you don’t believe me, go check us out!

RBA: What was the initial catalyst to get you to pick up a guitar for the first time?

Brownbag: I got my first guitar when I was 6 years old at Christmas. I didn’t ask ole’ St.Nick for it, so I guess my parents got a hunch that I’d like it. I have an older sister who really turned me onto rock at a very early age, since I was basically in the crib! Haha! She used to blare Van Halen, AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Lynyrd Skynyrd records and I was her entertainment! Haha!

We also used to watch a lot of MTV together… MTV used to be the sh*t! They played the best, coolest rock/metal videos in regular rotation all day long. It was the 80’s! The heyday!! So much righteousness back then. I used to play air guitar like it was goin’ outta style! And I have pictures to prove it! So I think all of this combined, plus a lot more craziness growing up, really influenced and shaped me early on, and it’s always stayed. It’s destiny!

RBA: Who were your early musical influences?

Brownbag: Metallica, Pantera, Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Slayer, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue. I used to be obsessed with all of them growing up, for a long time! From there, I graduated onto all sorts of other different rock and metal bands and records, and from there… got into the blues and country, etc.

RBA: What album do you remember listening to growing up that had the biggest impact on you?

Brownbag: Hmmmm… when I was real young it was probably Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction.” I remember hearing that for the first time on an airplane. My older brother was listening to it on his walkman, and made me listen to it. It blew my f**king mind! I remember looking at the album artwork too, it was just so dangerous, and righteous, and probably not meant for a 6 year old to see and hear. I was corrupted at a very tender age. Haha! Then… was I was 15, I found out about Pantera, and was immediately hooked. I got “The Great Southern Trendkill” the first day it came out, and saw them in concert for the first time a few weeks after that. They were the band that did it for me. They turned me into a full blown metalhead! That album made so much sense to me at that time… a pissed off 15/16 year old kid reciting the lyrics, “The trend is dead!” ARRRRRRRRRR! Both of those records are still in my top favorites.

RBA: Your style of music that is a hybrid of metal, southern rock, and psychobilly has been dubbed “dirtcore.” Do you know how this name came about?

Brownbag: Yeah. I came up with it! The core of everything Graveyard BBQ is dirt. The sound and style is a mixture of Delta Country Blues, Sleaze/Stoner/Southern rock, and metal. When all these elements are combined, polished off with red hot slippery slide guitar, it makes for a real dirty, grimy, gritty, badass, heavy sound! It’s dirtcore!

RBA: Which one of your songs has the most meaning to you?

Brownbag: Hmmmm… Like most artists, I really do have a special attachment to all of the songs I’ve written. They all have their own unique charm and meaning to me personally and represent different things in my life and to the almighty creed of the BBQ nation! But… if I was to pick only one, it would be “By the grace of the grill.” I think its the best song I’ve written to date, and it truely represents the complete “dirtcore” sound, which is Graveyard BBW. I wrote the lyrics too, which are pretty much about making your own mark in life, having no regrets, rockin’ ’til the end, and knowing that when my and everyone else’s time comes, we’ll all be there together having one big giant party… a graveyard BBQ! When I die, I want this song to be my eulogy. That’s how much it means to me.

RBA: You guys have two albums: “Graveyard BBQ Greatest Hits Volume One” and “Graveyard BBQ Greatest Hits Volume Two.” Is there a Volume Three in the works, by chance?

Brownbag: Yes! And no. Haha! I think “Greatest Hits Volume II” was the appropriate and only way to follow up “Greatest Hits Volume I.” Just a lil’ of the Graveyard BBQ humor. But now it’s time for what I call “conceptual digression.” Haha! Now its time to work backwards. It only makes sense this way. I’ve already got 20+ songs written, and ready to record. A brand new Graveyard BBQ record is on the way!

RBA: What is your favorite song to perform live?

Brownbag: Just like the “what’s your favorite song” question… I love ’em all. They’re all challenging and fun in their own way. But again, if I was to pick one, it would be “BBQ Nation.” That song is always the last song/closer to the set. Its also the pinnacle of our live show. Everything is just a buildup and climax to that last song, then its party time! Over the years we’ve always made a point during this song, and during our live show in general, that “our stage is your stage” And it’s developed its own reputation where no matter where we’re at, everybody, whether it’s the people that came to see us, or people that never even knew who the hell we were, (but we won ’em over and kicked their ass during our show), they get up on stage and rock the f**k out with us! Also, during my guitar solo, I’ve made it a signature part of what I do to either get up on the bar, or crowdsurf, or hop into the pit, or whatever I see fit at that peticular moment to make sure that the audience has a smile on their face and that they got every goddamn dollars worth. We’re a no holds barred live band/show. Rock and roll intensity at its absolute f**king finest.

RBA: What has been your favorite memory as an artist thus far?

Brownbag: Probably the whole creation process of both “Greatest Hits Volume I” and “Greatest Volume II” from start to finish. Both were a real challenge since I wrote all of the music, lyrics, and also recorded,
and produced both of them, and a lot of fun to make. There’s a lot of magic that went down during both sessions and are some of the best memories of my life.

RBA: Is there any aspect of your musical history that you would change?

Brownbag: Nah, not at all. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and even if you look back at something and wonder “why the hell did I do that,” or “I should have done this or that instead” But,
whatever the case, it was the “right” step at that peticular moment in time. Without proper steps, you can’t get to the next level. There’s a lot of in between that goes on from point A to B. Ultimately, you control your own destiny. Sky’s the limit!

RBA: Any advice for aspiring musicians?

Brownbag: As cliche as it sounds, follow your heart and your gut. Do what you feel is right. And never let anyone tell you different. Even if you’re doing something that’s considered “not cool”, there’s always room for originality and talent, and for something different. I’m a huge “Rocky” fan. I grew up on those movies… I love ’em. There’s so much in those movies that relate to everyday life. There’s a motivational speech in “Rocky,” where he says, “Life isn’t about how hard you can hit… its about how hard you can get hit and get back up and keep moving forward.” This speech is so true. It’s how I’ve gone thru life and I’m sure many others. Regardless of how easy things may come to you or not come to you, you gotta keep moving forward, and never stop. Ever. Eventually you will win. I live by the motto of my blood relative, and first boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World, “Gentleman Jim Corbett…” “Fight one more round!” All aspiring musicians and anyone aspiring to follow their dreams has to live by these words.

RBA: You appeared in the original Guitar Hero game by winning the national “Be a Guitar Hero” contest. Before you entered the contest, did you have any idea the game would be the cultural phenomenon that
it turned into?

Brownbag: I knew it was gonna be something special and cool, but certainly didn’t think it’d take off as far as it did! I mean the name alone, “Guitar Hero” is such a huge moniker and especially with that soundtrack and how fun the game is, it was destined to be as huge as it became. And also, timing is everything. It came out at the right time, when there wasn’t much rock coming out, or anyone, or any rock stars (like an Eddie Van Halen of the new generation) to really inspire kids and even adults to go pick up a guitar and start playing. It took a game like this to do that. We’re so grateful to be a part of it. Such an honor.

RBA: Being that your music is now featured in Guitar Hero and Rock Band, do you and the guys ever sit down and play the game? Would you play your own song in the game to see how it is?

Brownbag: Lets put it this way… Personally, I don’t play much video games, but I have played our song on Guitar Hero and have gotten my ass whooped by little kids! How do u like them apples?! Haha!

RBA: I saw on your MySpace page that there are plans to bring six songs in total to the Rock Band Network. How did the opportunity present itself for putting your music in the Rock Band Network?

Brownbag: We heard that Rock Band was taking submissions for the Rock Band Network Store. We’d been trying very hard for a long time to get back into the games, and this was the perfect opportunity. It was a no brainer.

RBA: What about games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero having an impact on a player’s interest in playing a real instrument at some point… do you think fans of the game would be more or less inclined to give the
real thing a shot after playing these games?

Brownbag: No, I think fans of the game are more inclined than ever to go pick up a guitar and start playing. Eventually, playing the game and beating it will get old, and I would think that there would be some kind of
curiosity there as to, “Hmm… I wonder what its like to play the real thing?” Also, a lot of kids today aren’t exposed to good music anymore. Rock and roll. Because of the fact that rap and hip hop, and pop have dominated the airwaves, TV, and everyday lifestyle of the youth. Rock kinda became uncool to kids. But now it’s back in a big way! And a lot of it has to do with the booming of these games, and the songs and artists on them.

RBA: With Rock Band 3 coming out later this year, gamers will finally have a chance to play REAL guitar in the game, not just a plastic version. What advice do you have for those who wish to make the ultimate transition and learn to play the real thing?

Brownbag: Do it! You can do it! Haha!

RBA: Is there anything that you would like the Rock Band community to know about you that we haven’t touched on yet?

Brownbag: Yeah… Go download “Cheat on the Church” at the Rock Band Network Store, along with the other Graveyard BBQ songs! Thanks for your support and keep kickin’ ass and takin’ names on Guitar Hero and Rock Band! Welcome to the BBQ Nation! “If you ain’t with us, yer against us!”

RBA: Thanks, Brownbag!

For more info on Graveyard BBQ, head on over to their Myspace page or YouTube channel. Their first single “Cheat on the Church” is currently available on the Rock Band Network, and five more songs are slated for release on the RBN in the future. Directly below is a full band sample of their first RBN single.

[Thanks to Miguel and Rock Gamer Studios for setting this up!]

http://rockband.com/songs/UGC_5003503

2 Responses to “Interview with RBN Artist: Graveyard BBQ”

  • Whizzer says:

    Excellent interview. This guy conveys his true self through this interview.

    Please keep doing these interviews, as many as you can. I really like them.

  • flash316 says:

    want to tell you i was at local gamestop an rockband 3 drum/cymbal kit is out 129.99