A perfect storm occurred at Harmonix last week when a dirty microwave somewhat randomly signed by the company crossed paths with a high end guitar case en route to Seattle for Penny Arcade’s annual fund raiser for Child’s Play. At the center of this storm was none other than Harmonix’s own lead artist responsible for the ornate, intricate and distinct patterns that give Rock Band its signature look. The guitar case was sorely in need of an ally to lift its status above that of the signed microwave (Editors note: the microwave was stuffed with cool shwag like CDs, Microsoft Points, Harmonix games and t-shirts, etc.). This is how the John Dee Experience began for the case.
Fish McGill: How much pre-planning went into customizing the guitar case?
John Dee: Absolutely zero preplanning. Maria O’Brien (QA Tester) was worried about just submitting the microwave (to the charity), not really having any substance compared to the other companies, “We need it by tomorrow afternoon” she said. Allllllllriiiiiiiight. She told me what it was for (the kids) and I said absolutely. I have never done anything charitable before, to be in a position where I have an amazing job, a fiancé I am getting ready to marry, and all this stuff happening, it only made sense. I have done what I call ‘speed painting’ before where I have to get a lot done in a certain consistency.
FM: Did you do a lot of designing and layout before you got to work?
JD: Wednesday night I went home, gesso’d it, ate a quick dinner, let it dry for 15 minutes and got to work laying out the entire sketch free hand watching television. I got the octopus and a few elements initially inked and brought it into work the next day.
FM: How long did the whole process take?
JD: Thursday I set up camp (at Harmonix) from 7:30AM-7:30PM to get the whole front done and at least get the back done for the autograph clouds. I roughed out the opposite side and had Sherika Vitureira & Erica Henderson (Harmonix artists) help fill in while I finished the front.
Friday everybody signed it and I went to the Harmonix holiday party.
Saturday I got to work on clean up. I sat there and looked at it after I put a varnish on (the front & back), I thought to myself: I could either add a nice monochromatic red to some of the flowers or I could just do the whole sides. I picked up the pen and just started doodling on the sides and next thing I knew I was making the ornate stuff on the side of it.
Sunday I spent the day, 10 hours or so just getting it all done. Then I just called it a day from there. It was a lot of fun, it wasn’t anything I don’t like doing, it’s stuff I totally like doing. I like getting that sense of freedom and scariness of working straight on without making a mistake. It’s a scary thing but once you get into it, it becomes a second nature. I definitely wanted to do something like a tiger and a octopus clashing together.
FM: Did it feel good to beat the microwave in the auction? (The microwave went for $1800 and the guitar case went for $1900.)
JD: It feels pretty awesome to know my work is worth a hundred dollars more than a dirty microwave! I feel the love in the room right now.
I can’t wait until Penny Arcade does their expo for Child’s Play in Boston and say hi to those guys. I have never been in a position to be offered a chance to do something like this and it was awesome.