Welcome to BLUNT’s experimental new column Beyond The Beat, where we catch up with some of our favourite bands and artists to chat about anything and everything except their music. The idea is that we’re keen to learn more about what our faves get up to when they put the mic down; is that hardcore hero a secret baking pro? Does old mate metalcore froth a good walk through the botanical gardens on his Wednesday mornings? Let’s find out!
When they’re not riffing out to their hearts’ content in sweaty, sold-out theatres around the world, the Brisbanian party-punks in DZ Deathrays can be seen tearing up the racetracks in a good ol’ fashioned round of Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Switch – a platform that, according to drummer Simon Ridley, has totally revolutionised touring. Fans can even join the band in their chaotic world of blue shells and bumper-bashing, with livestreams scheduled every Sunday night on their official Twitch account.
DZ are also no strangers to the art of the video game soundtrack, with their latest inclusion being a cut in the current-gen Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater reboot. Such was a particularly big win for the lads, as they all grew up frothing the original PS1 titles (since, of course, they couldn’t skate for shit IRL).
While we all wait (very im)patiently for DZ to drop album number five – the rip-roaring second part of their epic Positive Rising series – next July, we caught up with Ridley and shredder Lachlan Ewbank to vibe on all things gaming.
Let’s start right at level one: what was the first console you ever owned?
Simon: I had one of those massive old-school Game Boys, and I think the game was called Dexter. And it was terrible. It was one of those old green 8-bit platformers, and it was just a terrible game. But then I ended up getting Metroid and all those sorts of games, and that was really cool.
Lachlan: I’ve got three older brothers, so I grew up with all of their consoles second-hand. The first thing I remember is the OG Nintendo – your classic Mario Bros. and stuff like that. But then I remember we got this weird bootleg cartridge that had, like, 300 games on it. It was so weird, but so much fun. And then obviously after that we got the Super Nintendo, then started descending into Nintendo 64 territory and all that.
What was the first game that really struck a chord with you?
Lachlan: I think mine was Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. Just the music and everything, being a kid I was just like, “Fuck, this is sick!”
Simon: The first console I actually bought with my own money was a 64, and Mario Kart was so awesome on that. That was probably it – from there I was just hooked.
That makes sense, since Mario Kart has become an actual part of the DZ Deathrays experience.
Simon: Yeah, we’ve been playing tonnes of Mario Kart 8! I think mainly because when we went on tour at the end of last year, we all got Switches to keep ourselves from going insane. You spend so much time not doing anything in a van, just looking out the window or trying to sleep, so we all just got Switches and started playing tonnes of Mario Kart and Rocket League. We did a tour with Hockey Dad and they all have Switches too, so we were doing a lot of Rocket League and Smash Bros. on that run, which was cool.
Lachlan: The Switch was also really good for the plane, because you’d get so sucked into the game, and then all of a sudden four hours had gone by and you’d be on the tarmac. You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do, or what movie you’re going to watch for the fourth time because they never update their fucking entertainment.
Out of the three of you, who is the best Mario Kart racer?
Simon: It’s gotta be Shane [Parsons, lead vocals and guitar].
Lachlan: Oh man, it’s totally Shane.
Simon: He’s been playing it heaps, though. I haven’t really been playing much – I’ve just been doing it when we do the Twitch streams. But I’ll be talking to him and he’ll be like, “Yeah, I’m just gonna go have a race.” So he’s pretty well practised at that.
Lachlan: Simon and I just suck – we always come, like, 12th and 11th. If we come 5th, I’ll be like, “That’s a good score.” I’m proud of us when we finish in the single digits.
How would you describe the average Sunday night DZ Deathrays x Mario Kart stream?
Lachlan: A lot of swearing and a lot of lag.
Simon: And a couple beers, too! I don’t think anyone really cares about the races themselves. It’s pretty casual.
What’s the game you’ve spent the most amount of hours playing?
Lachlan: The one I can remember most from when I was a kid would be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It’s just one of those games – especially when you’re a kid – where you have no idea what to do at the start, and it just takes you so long to do every mission. But then you find out what to do and you’re like, “Ah, it’s pretty easy!” But it takes so long to get to that point and work it out. So yeah, I probably spent an embarrassing amount of hours on that game.
Simon: That was such a sick game, though. Mario 64 was sick too – I put so much time into that one.
A few months ago, you guys scored a feature in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 soundtrack. Were you all into that scene back in the day?
Lachlan: Yeah, absolutely! I couldn’t skate for shit, so that was like my little confidence-boost, like, “Yeah, I can do this!” Those games were huge when we were growing up – evidently they still are, but the whole soundtrack idea was a totally new thing that games never really had until then. I think from then on, they thought more a bit about music and how it can change a game.
Simon: That was such a big game-changer, having bands on there that were real instead of just MIDI beats and scores like on GoldenEye 64 or something.
Lachlan: Hey c’mon, don’t knock GoldenEye 64! That soundtrack is a classic.
Simon: It was good, but it was so different, going from that to being like, “Oh shit, these are real bands that do stuff outside of the video game! I can go see them on tour!”
For a lot of us, those soundtracks offered an entry point into punk music itself.
Simon: Totally. There are so many bands that I found out about through those games. You’d hear the song and then you’d go find the CD. Or I guess if you had the shitty dial-up that everyone did back then, you’d go try and see if you could download it from somewhere.
The amount of times I fucking destroyed my parents’ PC with Limewire downloads…
Simon: Oh man, I remember Limewire! That would’ve been such a stressful time for parents – you’re constantly wondering what’s wrong with your shit, and your kids are just there clicking on everything and filling your desktop with new viruses.
Awful flex, but I know for a fact that I could outline the Canada map from Pro Skater 3 with my eyes closed. Did you guys ever have a favourite location from any of the games?
Simon: School was always awesome!
Lachlan: Yeah, I’m a classic Warehouse Hanger kind of guy. It’s kind of small, so I can just ace everything there is to do right away. There are so many levels where you can’t even find the good ramps because they’re so fucking big – but with the Warehouse, it’s all just right there.
As people who have seen a lot more of the world than most, where’s one place they haven’t made a Tony Hawk level yet, but totally should?
Lachlan: Have they done one in Rio? Somewhere in South America, if they haven’t already done it. Or Prague, that’d be a cool one – very hard to skate on all the cobblestones, though.
If they did one of the more tropical areas of South America, they could use those bendy palm trees as rails and shit like that.
Lachlan: They should just make a level in the Amazon! I’d be into that.
What’s the DZ consensus on next-gen? Have any of you hopped onto the PS5 hype train?
Lachlan: Not yet, but if next year is kind of like this, then I’m definitely going to get onboard.
Simon: Yeah, I’m not in a rush, so I’ll wait out the initial crazy bit. I only just recently got a PS4 that I’m still kind of dabbling in.
Lachlan: PSVR is pretty good. There’s a game called Super Hot where whenever you move, the enemy moves. So if you’re just standing still, the whole screen is frozen. You’ve just gotta shoot dudes, basically, but you’ve gotta strategically figure out how you’re going to do it, because the more you move around, the more they just come at you. It’s pretty rad. But I think the thing with VR is that you forget how unfit you are. After playing it for two hours, bending down and moving around all the time, you get pretty fucking sore.
Simon: My favourite thing is watching people play VR – it’s more entertaining than actually playing the game.