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Rock Band 2 Art by John Dee

HMX artist John Dee created iconic artwork for Rock Band and painted a one-of-a-kind guitar case for the Child’s Play charity auction. We spoke with him about his art for Rock Band 2 and how he kept the Rock Band look without repeating the same images.

Figure 1: The evolved Rock Band 2 Two-Headed Tiger


John says, “I look at Rock Band as the classic original, and then we moved to the second one. They were going to bridge and connect together somehow. ” Rather than lose all the iconic images from Rock Band - like the tiger and the octopus – John decided to have them evolve instead. Inspiration for this evolution came from skateboard companies: “Whenever skateboard companies back in the day would release a deck, say, the Tony Hawk board, it would be this really cool skull with a German cross behind it with a leopard print behind it. The next board that would come out would be the same skull, but maybe slightly mutated or twisted. You still recognized it. If you had a favorite skateboarder and you loved his deck, each iteration of his deck would evolve.”

Figure 2: The Rock Band 2 elephant


In this vein, John evolved his animal creations into new forms for Rock Band 2. “The elephant [in Rock Band] had a regular tusk. In the new one, the tusk evolved into two different pieces and the trunk is different snakes [seen above]. There's definitely a push for expanding on and making it more dynamic, and also bringing in new, powerful animal creatures.”

Figure 3: Skull octopus with spine tentacles


This also allowed for some unlikely combinations of images, such as an octopus with a car engine for a head. John explains, “A lot of it is what I call ‘frankensteining,’ where I’ll go through and find a bunch of photos and hack those photos to create an amalgam. I would frankenstein these photo pieces together to get something I would want, and then I would use that as my inspiration to do my own drawing.” This “frankensteining” resulted in some of Rock Band’s creepier images, including the skull octopus above that has spines as tentacles, and the aforementioned octopus with a car engine head.

The animals weren’t the only images to evolve from Rock Band to Rock Band 2. John says, “I felt like some of my early skulls [for Rock Band] were a little bit softer and a little bit rounder compared to the newer stuff which is holding up a more mature look to it.” You can see the difference in the two skulls below.

Figure 4: Rock Band skull on the left; Rock Band 2 skull on the right