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The Beatles: Rock Band

Interview: Harmonix's John Drake waxes lyrical

Rock Band Beatles is going to be the next big thing when it launches on September 9 as it's not just a run of the mill Rock Band spin off. We can't wait to fire it up based on the visuals alone. It looks beautiful. To find out more we caught up with Harmonix's John Drake.

Some bands now sell more copies of their music games than they do CDs. Do you get more requests from bands now?

John Drake: I think that the phenomenon that you're talking about, it's gone from bands saying: "What, you want a recording of our drum stems in stereo and separate? What are you talking about?" to bands approaching us to be in the game.

We have a great relationship through MTV with all the major labels, so we've had a long list of requests.

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Any significant examples?

Drake: It's hard to say because it's not usually the band themselves but their agencies we speak to. I know of one example - and it's not a band we have on our list, I'm not saying this is happening - who we played with at a recent festival. Big Boy from Outkast.

He played Nirvana and he was like: "We gotta put some Outkast in this game." Newer, younger artists are really excited about it, but he's a huge artist so it was really surprising for us.

We heard a rumour that Activision might be interested in bidding for the rights to The Beatles catalogue for its Guitar Hero game...

Drake: I don't know what Apple was considering before they started working with us, and I'm sure that there were conversations on both sides. I think they saw that we were the company with the most reverence for what they were doing - we're not looking to turn a quick buck on The Beatles. This is something we've loved and respect and would not want to screw up.

We were terrified while making the game, hoping we don't make them mad at any point - they're really nice and easy to work with, but this is The Beatles, you can't afford to mess this up.

I don't know too much about the licensing side of things, but either way it doesn't affect what we're doing with the game.

What's your response to artists that are vocal about Rock Band distracting kids from learning real instruments?

Drake: I think they're missing the point. I think that they don't understand why it's a phenomenon. From my perspective, anything that gets kids interested in music and gets kids playing music in their house that isn't an MP3 they stole off the internet, is a good thing.

Anything that's making money for music and making music relevant to kids again is a good thing. I think they think that we prefer people playing plastic guitars over real guitars, and that couldn't be farther from the truth.

We would love nothing more than for every kid that buys Beatles: Rock Band in September to immediately ask for a real guitar for Christmas because they're inspired.

I'm in a band, our CEO plays music every day - we're really hardcore about wanting it to be a real authentic experience so, while I understand where they're coming from, I think it's a narrow perspective of things.

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How hard was it to get the remaining Beatles involved?

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