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Interview With Rock Manager's Erik Johansson

by Rainier on March 7, 2002 @ 8:01 a.m. PST

On March 15th Mindscape will release it's first big PC CD game of the year, the quirky and irreverent management sim, Rock Manager. Former CTW reporter and rock musician, Stephen Daultrey, caught up with the game's scrip-writer and director, Erik Johansson of the Stockholm-based developer, Monsterland, to get the lowdown on the game that's not afraid to dish the dirt on the cut-throat world of the rock'n'roll music world. The following interview was to originally be published in the last edition of Computer Trade Weekly magazine on 1st March 2002, however, the final issue never made it to press. We did not want you people to miss out on this .. so here it is!

CTW: So, Erik, what is Rock Manager all about?

Johansson: I think it's about laughing at the music industry and taking the piss out of it. It's an industry we (Monsterland) all love and hate at the same time, and in rock Manager, we've been having a kick at all its different aspects - we've got the stupid musicians eager to make a name for themselves, the money-driven record executives with no interest in the music, and the media who can easy be manipulated (surely not - Ed.).

CTW: Where did the inspiration come from?

Johansson: We've all played in crappy bands and our project manager once worked for a record company, so we all thought that it would be a funny setting to use. And it hadn't been done for a long time, too. More importantly, we're all really into music in one way or another, and a couple of us still play in bands or hang out at concerts. The last one we went to was Daniel Johnston, a low-fi American guy who Kurt Cobain once famously praised.

CTW: What kind of research did you do?

Johansson: We watched documentaries and read lots of biographies. Dirt, the book about Motley Crue, was hilarious. When you read something like that, it's hard to compete. The book is the most outrageous thing put to print. We also watched the classic spoof-movies Spinal Tap and Airheads.

CTW: Is it fair to say that Rock Manager takes the 'humorous' approach?

Johansson: Not really - the core of the game functions pretty much as it does in real life - we've just twisted everything a little bit and taken a cynical and ironic view on things. That's where the humour comes from. At the end of the day, it's a management sim, but we wanted to avoid it being a 'boring' football-management-type game. The aim was to 'cheer-it-all-up' and I think we've achieved it pretty well.

CTW: So what sort of references can gamers expect to find?

Johansson: There are lots of clich├ęs and stereotypes included in the game. The Gollander brothers clearly have their real-life counterparts, as does the ageing metal band Fire Wolf, who represent a pastiche of such heavy rock giants as Poison, GNR, black Sabbath and Man O'War. One thing we concentrated on was coming up with all the typical things that rock stars tend to say and do.

CTW: What type of gamer are you attempting to cater for?

Johansson: We're definitely not targeting the hardcore gamer. Rock Manager has been made for a broader audience - it's for people who are interested in music, and who read the music press and the tabloids, so that they would have a strong understanding of what's happening within the music world.

CTW: You've been doing lots of interviews and PR with the UK music press. How are you finding it?

Johansson: It's been cool. We've scheduled an interview with Kerrang tomorrow, but we've already been to Metal Hammer and they really seemed to like it. We've also shown it to Uncut, and they too were clearly impressed. I think that the response from the music mags has been very positive and encouraging. I'm not surprised though - all along, we've been checking the game with people within the record industry, and they all seem to like it.

CTW: If there is one criticism of the game, it would have to be its lack of depth. Any plans for expansion kits or upgrades?

Johansson: It's certainly possible, but it's a decision between the publisher and us. The game has been constructed very openly, so it would be very easy to create new levels, musicians and songs - even a sequel would be possible. We just don't know yet. There was quite a lot of stuff that we left out of this version, so we still have a lot of material that can be used.

CTW: With Rock Manager, what has been your biggest personal achievement? Or perhaps to re-word it, what has pleased you most about the game?

Johansson: For me personally, it would have to be the songs - I think they're excellent. We hired two musicians and gave them a few key words such as cheesy pop, Smiths-like and stoner rock. They then went away and created these incredible songs - it was great. Another thing that pleased me was the use of voice-over within the game. Being responsible for the script-writing, the recording of the character's voices and vocals was great fun. It's not everyday that you get to use slang and obscenities in a computer game!

CTW: who's your favourite Rock Manager character?

Johansson: that would have to be Eddie St. Johns, the lead singer of Fire Wolf. Funnily enough, the guy who did his voice lived in L.A. for 10 years and fronted his own heavy metal band, which was quite cool. He really knew how to play the part.

CTW: Finally, what type of bands are you into yourself?

Johansson: My music taste is pretty wide, but right now, I'm listening to a few Swedish bands such as The Plan and The Hives. Other than that, I've also been impressed by The Moldy Peaches and the stoner rock band Fu Manchu.

If you want to download the original CTW interview .. get it HERE

Check our previously posted Q&A with Erik Johansson


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