Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CrossTopix #13: Top 5 Inspirational Songs, Music Artists that Lip Sync, South Park, and Downloadable Game Services

Welcome to CrossTopix! We have a great edition lined up those into music. This week we have Nik Rubicz, the guitarist from (the band that) Neverwhas this week! Before I let him introduce himself, let me remind all of you that CrossTopix is on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace! By following on any one of these three pages, you get instant notification of when the next site update is, discussion questions, and links to news pieces you would find interesting. Next week is E3: The Electronic Entertainment Expo and when the news breaks, CrossTopix will provide the links. Now without further ado, introducing this week’s guest, Nik Rubicz!

Nik: Hi my name is Nik, I'm the guitarist for (the band that) Neverwhas. We're a dedicated modern rockband and we'll be performing at Chord on Blues on June 19th. 21+, $5 cover, lots of great specials and of course, great music!

1. Top 5 Songs That Have Shaped Your Life

STVO: I’m not as good as describing music as musician such as Nik but I am going to post video links to each of my choices. Each song I pick whether it is serious, humorous, or sad has played a role in my life. These songs are not in any particular order.

1. Dire Straits – Money for Nothing

2. Ben Folds Five – Brick

3. Collective Soul – The World I Know

4. Foo Fighters – Big Me

5. Rick Derringer – Real American (Yes, Hulk Hogan's WWF/WWE Theme)

Nik: Lets see. There are so many songs that have shaped my life, it is so hard to pick 5! I will try my darndest!

1. Pink Floyd – Marooned – From: The Division Bell
This song reminds me of Galena IL. We used to go up there every summer and fish. My dad would play the album all the time. The song has such a sway to it that makes you feel like your floating. A totally airy song with hints of moisture… I think I got a lot out of Pink Floyd in my early days.

2. Phish – Reba – Live at McNichols Sports Arena 11/17/1997
The first time I heard this song, I wasn’t in to Phish at all, but the first time I heard this was the first time that I felt encompasssed by musical emotion. The jam that they provide is well beyond any talent I’ve heard anywhere else today, IMO. This song made me realize that song structure (and life structure) is not always needed, and that improvising is just plain Bad Ass! Good things happen without warning.

3. Staind – All Songs

I can’t say that one just one song from Staind shaped my life, pretty much all of their tunes. I don’t normally like heavy structure that conforms to a specific genre of music, but Staind does it in a way that just always sounds good. I used to be a dishwasher when I was 15-16, and Q101 was always playing. This music brings back so many memories and feelings. Great times of life. Staind has continually kept their sound just as bad-ass as it was years ago.

4. George Strait – Amarillo By Morning
Anyone who has heard this song and listened to it words know what I mean when I say that this song is tops. This song changed my life when I heard it. It still does. Its powerful, and true. George picks songs that he can relate to, which makes him a killer artist because he plays with emotion and experience. There have a been a many times with Straits’ music that I can really connect with the words. I'm not usually a lyric buff, but I listen well to words he sings.

5. Joe Satriani – Clouds Race across the Sky – From: Engines of Creation
This song was always playing on the bus ride to school when I was a freshman and sophomore in HS. This song has a beautiful mixture of electronic beats, and atmospheric guitar phrasing. I remember wanting to play like Joe for so long solely because of this song.

2. Recently, Ke$ha has called out Britney Spears for occasionally lip-syncing at her concerts. What is your opinion of artists who aren't at their full game when they perform? Should they perform to the best they can, have a soundtrack blast behind them, or just call the show off?

STVO: I look at it this way: if I want to listen to a CD or recorded version of the song, I’ll find the video on Youtube or buy the song on iTunes. With the prices of tickets for any event these days, unless you really love the band or singer and might try to meet them following the show, why on earth would you pay the extra money to hear something you can download or purchase for much less money? I understand with pop stars there are a lot of pressure with them looking good, having catchy songs, and dancing incredibly well, but when it comes to music, it shouldn’t be entirely about having a flashy costume, incredible pyrotechnics, and sexy fly girls dancing in the background, it’s about having fun with music!

Simply put, if you have a concert, you better be singing! That’s what people are paying to hear. Milli Vanilli got in trouble for lip syncing. Okay, so they didn’t really singing the songs they performed while other artists like Britney Spears and Ashley Simpson did but weren’t singing in their MTV/SNL performances, but the fact is it makes them look bad. As for not being able to perform due to being too drunk, are too sick, etc. While it would be a big letdown for the paying customer, it’s understandable BUT the people who paid for the show should be refunded that money. I once paid to see Dark Lotus but they canceled a week before the show for reasons I can’t remember, but fortunately I was refunded for my ticket. The only time where I can understand tickets not being refundable is if the artist passes away.

Nik: In my opinion, all live music should be played live. There should be no soundtrack. That being said, I guess I can see why POP stars need this special treatment. I believe they are under heavy stress by many people, and perhaps live music isn’t fun for them anymore. Once you get so big and are in the headlines and are the “Forefront of modern Pop”, I think you are more expectable to the pressure of NEEDING to perform. I don’t think you get to pick and choose what you want to do as much, as when you weren’t so big. I always say the show must go one, unless you are totally unable to perform.

I think that sound tracking is big in music now, just because of how electronically sampled and choreographed everything is. You literally cannot dance around and climb banners and do aerial tricks while hitting perfect notes and rhythm. Try it. These pop stars are just entertainers in costumes doing flashy ticks for people who don’t realize what the hell is going on, and I think they know it. So for them, sound tracking is perfectly OK.

Now if we move to other genres beside pop, you will find that live music is still live, and that performers will do their best to perform consistently, without having to “Fake” it.

3. South Park just completed season 14 and is going to be receiving a 15th season sometime in 2011 or starting later this year. With many changes that have occurred since the first season (storylines mirroring parodies of current events, different animation, departure of characters such as Chef), has the show been improving or getting worse? Make any comparison.

STVO: God bless Netflix instant for really letting me watch every season of South Park and god bless Matt Stone and Trey Parker for having South Park Studios ( for allowing people to watch every single episode (with the exception of 200 and 201 due to censorship issues) ever. I think the show has been getting better and better and with the more recent seasons, I just constantly love to watch this show. It’s right up there with Married With Children, The Simpsons seasons 3-10, and while I love Beavis and Butthead, I decided this show is just a lot funnier.

With that said, Chef was a good character (I miss you Isaac Hayes) but the show has done just fine without him after leaving over them making fun of scientology. Pip was a funny character but Butters not only made a great replacement, he has been a much better character and is pretty much the 5th member of the South Park kids. Just like the Simpsons, while there are plenty of episodes about the main four kids, there are a lot of great episodes about characters such as Timmy & Jimmy (I LOVE JIMMY!), Butters, Randy Marsh (started off as a normal character in season one but gets wackier every season!), Mr./Ms. Garrison, etc. “Scott Tenorman Must Die”, “Fishsticks”, and ”Erection Day” are some of my favorite episodes. Two episodes I didn’t care for were “Best Friends Forever” and “W.T.F.”

Nik: I think the show had made a HUGE jump somewhere near seasons 8 and 9. Animation IMO was better, everything was settled in, and South Park had a name for itself. They probably had enough pull in the industry to start really going at it. Most of my favorite episodes are from season 8 (such as “Playing with Weapons” and “Aweome-O”).

The departure of Chef, wasn’t a big deal for me I don’t think. He never was one of my favorites (although he WAS a staple in the show). I think the introduction of characters has really taken off, and they play off current events beautifully. What makes them so great is that they have the balls to do such bold things. I think the show has continually been getting better. What sets them apart is that there are so many characters that have parts in the episodes. Sure there is the fantastic four we all love, but each member in the community contributes just as largely. From what I know South Park is going to go down in history, one way or another. It was (and I still try to make it) a big part of my television years!

4. With game consoles (Nintendo Wii/Xbox 360) and smart phones (iPhone/Droid) offering downloads of classic games (Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros., etc.) and even original new titles (Shadow Complex, World of Goo) there's many great titles available to play not requiring a CD. What are some of your favorite titles and what do you play them on?

STVO: Aside from some Nintendo first-party titles, the Virtual Console/WiiWare is one of my main reasons I still own/play the Wii. I love this feature! I own several games on it but some of my favorites include Super Mario Bros. 3, Splatter House 1 and 2, Punch-Out, Mario Kart 64, and Star Fox 64. World of Goo is fun from what I have played but I also enjoy the Art Style games Cubello and Rotohex. You can’t go wrong with online Dr. Mario either!

Video Demonstration of Rotohex, Very Addictive!

I also own an assortment of titles from PSNetwork and Xbox Live Arcade. Cuboid and Lemmings on PSN are very addictive puzzle games and I’m currently working on Rocket Knight, the sequel to the Sega Genesis game “Rocket Knight Adventures.” On Xbox, I love Shadow Complex. It’s from the creators of Unreal Tournament and Gears of War. Think of it as a 2D Metroid with elements of Metal Gear Solid and Contra. It is very fun and challenging, comparable to many retail games. Some other games I get addicted to on XBLA are Pac-Man Championship Edition, both TMNT arcade games, and Peggle.

Nik: World of Goo is such a great game. I can sit there for hours and just listen to the music and play mindlessly. That’s what I love most about video games, the ability to have the real world melt away. I play a lot of downloaded games on the Wii, but I also have quite a few on the XBOX. I am a fool for old MegaMan games. The music in those games is incredibly entrancing.

I also have spent much time with Punch Out, Sonic the Hedgehog, Paper Boy, and even Golden Axe! What I like about the downloaded games is that they are still simple, just like the old days. NO crazy controls and no highly detailed story lines. Just plug and play. Simply get from point A to point B. Kudos to the gaming industry for bringing back the classics.


That is all for the week! Once again, a special thanks goes to Nik for being this week's guest! Stay tuned later this week as we will have a full interview with him and the rest of his band, (the band that) Neverwhas in the 3rd ever "Cross X-Amine." In the meantime, check out some of the music of Neverwhas by visiting Also be sure to tune in this Sunday for the start of "All Gamers Week" as STVO, Matt B. Wild, and Mark Shenefelt will be giving our opinions on what will take place at E3 and throughout the week we will share thoughts in regards to what is announced and revealed. When the show is done, we will share our final thoughts. If you wish to be a guest on CrossTopix, message me at

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