Ahead of a celebration of the legendary soundtrack curations behind the ‘Tony Hawk’s’ series of skateboarding videogames, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with dedicated series fan Darcie Faccio about its impact on Irish youth subcultures, and videogaming as a force of cultural import.
Next month at the Workman’s Club, a distinctly Irish celebration of a pervasively all-American phenomenon takes place. Graphic designer, DJ and returning promoter Darcie Faccio gets behind the decks and curates visuals for ‘Story Mode’, a multimedia celebration of the Tony Hawk’s series of skateboarding videogames, and more specifically, their carefully-curated soundtracks. A window to a wider musical world for working-class and rural strands of the post-’alternative’ generation of kids, the games introduced young players to a variety of heavier and more eclectic sounds, from American hardcore and punk to pioneering hip-hop. From a social point of view, moreover, it did so right before a time that long-entrenched youth-culture tropes were beginning to give way to wider social trauma brought on by world events, economic crisis and technological disruption.
TOTALLY DUBLIN: It’s one of those thing that was so prevalent in certain circles that you’d be surprised no-one thought of it sooner. But tell us about your experiences with the Tony Hawk’s games and their soundtrack?
DARCIE FACCIO: I was very much a ‘Tony Hawk’s Underground’ kid. It was released while I was in the middle of my “I love Bam Margera” phase, and through that I discovered the previous games. I was twelve, poor and had no idea about “good” music, outside of the one single I owned: Korn’s ‘Thoughtless’, which my friend had robbed from Virgin and sold to me at a massive markup. Through the games, I discovered bands like NOFX, Stiff Little Fingers, Refused, the kind of thing I never would have heard organically as a kid in Crumlin. We didn’t have SKY Digital, so I couldn’t flip through Kerrang or Scuzz (RIP), so this was how I discovered music. As I’m sure is true for most people, the music I listened to then shaped who I am now, and lead to a lot of the formative experiences in my life, as well as connecting me to mates I still have now. Plus Create-a-Skater was great craic.
TD: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 really hit the ground running in late 2000, a few years after the sun set on the wider grunge oeuvre, and just as a lot of broad “alternative” Americana was coming our way – nu-metal, Jackass, etc. Irish pop-culture almost seemed to take a back seat to our interpretations of all this, and the channels it reached us through. What are your thoughts on the cultural import that whole aesthetic had for a generation of young Irish people?
DF: I feel as though, apart from the whole Blog House scene in the early 2010’s, that that was the last great immersive youth subculture. Things like hanging out at the Central Bank, Blast gigs, and getting egged for being an Emo, there hasn’t been a subculture that aesthetically definable since. It was tribal, and gave us a sort of family of people who always knew where to find each other. It was all-encompassing.
TD: We can talk about the soundtrack and the aesthetic all day, but ultimately it comes down to the game: we can talk forever about physics, score-beating, challenges, etc, but what was it for you that makes the games and series stand out to you all these years later?
DF: For me, it has to be how they managed to contribute to a worldwide movement, that in itself is incredibly rare for a videogame franchise. Skateboarding was a fringe sport before the release of Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding. They also managed to capture the real-life difficulty of skating, you failed and failed often, but it managed to instill you with a determination rather than frustration (most of the time).
“Things like hanging out at the Central Bank, Blast gigs, and getting egged for being an Emo, there hasn’t been a subculture that aesthetically definable since.”
TD: Looking at how the series died a death, and the failures of (series reboot) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, it’s awfully like a microcosm of the greed and wheezings of AAA gaming in general. Ironically, though, gaming is a greater cultural force than ever now. What do you feel is the series’ legacy to gaming?
DF: I think when it really died was after Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. It was so ingrained with Jackass, that it became a sort of parody of itself trying to pander to that crowd, which at the time of the release of American Wasteland was already in its death throes, though this speaks to how deeply, as a game, it was ingrained in youth culture. I think a lot of sports games now are concerned with realism, the TH’s series wasn’t, it was more about making the player feel like a pro skater. I think this style of emotional gaming has informed today’s gameplay outside of the sports genre, and I would love to see another TH’s release recapture some of that magic. After all this I honestly wonder: will Tony Hawk’s legacy be his skating or the games?
TD: The night itself also has visuals taken from classic skate tapes, the likes of the cKy series.. What was the process of sifting through all of these like?
DF: Made me feel all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. Some of those tapes remind me of one of the best times in my life. It also really made me miss skating, I regret quitting, I could have been a pro, but now we’ll never know.
TD: This is your first gig back as a promoter, and the first under the name DADDY. What brought you back into the dark arts of talking people into a building, and what do you make of the current musical landscape in Ireland?
DF: In short, it gives me a great buzz. I love seeing people have fun, there is so much crap going on in the world that’s difficult to make sense of, and we need an outlet more than ever. Unfortunately, as a city our creative institutions are being ripped away from us at an alarming rate. There is so much class talent out there, and a lot of unique and experimental things going on, and it’s very important that we give our talent a place to express themselves or risk them (and they are) leaving. Let’s try and hold on to our amazing musicians and creatives and give them room to thrive. The media is saying young people aren’t going out anymore, and I think we need to look at why, as a young creative myself I disagree with the theory that it’s a lack of interest in music/clubs. Lots of European cities are thriving. Oppressive licencing laws as well as a lack of support and funding are just some of the reasons we need to take a look at.
TD: What next for both the extended idea of a Tony Hawk’s series soundtrack night, and for DADDY Presents?
DF: The night was only ever intended to be a one-off, a bit of fun to help me ease my way back into the game after such a long hiatus, but the response has been huge. For part 2, I would love to introduce some consoles into the mix so people can play while they pint, a live band would be another element I’m looking into. For DADDY, there are some international acts being announced in the near future, as well as homegrown talent. I saw JK Flesh in Workman’s last year and discovered that as a venue for techno, industrial and dance music in general it’s a massively untapped resource, so that’s something I’m planning on exploring. Really, if I’ve given even one person an escape for a few hours, and put a smile on their face, then that’s my job done.
‘Story Mode’ takes place at the Workman’s Club on Friday February 8. Kick-off is at 11.30pm, and tickets (€5) are available now at TicketWeb.ie.