Video games are overlooked as a music discovery medium. Both industries have a closer relationship than you might think. One in game in particular that continues to push the scale of the music experience in gaming is Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series. Since its revolutionary in-game radio stations from GTA III, the gaming company has become known for integrating real life artists, songs, and celebrity radio hosts with their open-world cities. GTA Online’s latest expansion After Hours aims to take that experience even further by adding real DJs to the game.
Have you ever had dreams of owning the biggest nightclub, or having the best DJs in the industry spinning fire sets at your party? After Hours is giving players the chance for both. The expansion gives players all the tools to build out their very own club empire. From running missions to secure your club’s essentials like security staff and equipment to promoting your venue to boost your profile, take on the Los Santos nightlife to become the owner of the hottest spots in city.
No party is lit without a good DJ though. For the update, Rockstar is bringing real life DJ’s into the game. The bigger the profile you make, the bigger the talent you can book. Solomun, The Black Madonna, Tale Of Us, and Dixon are all resident DJ’s you can hire to keep you club lit all week long. Not only do they keep the party going, but characters players can interact with.
Rockstar tell us, “Upon booking, players will coordinate picking up Dixon, only to find his backpack has been stolen, with Dixon talking and interacting with the player and other characters along the way. Once they track down the thief, they’ll transport Dixon to their Nightclub to kick his residency off.”
Each DJ puts on unique performances and sets that mirror their real life shows. To pull this off, Rockstar created a motion capture studio rave to “capture every nuance of each DJ, from the way they danced and moved as they played, right down to their tech rider.” They were able to record each DJ’s performance and even live crowd reactions. So what gamers see in game is as accurate and as natural as possible to the real life experience.
It improves upon the immersion of music Grand Theft Auto games have always been praised for. Instead of just listening to our favorite songs as we run rampant in the streets of Los Santos, we can now engage, party, and witness their personalities at more in-depth level.
We spoke with the inimitable Dixon to discuss being apart of the update, the curation of his in-game DJ sets, turning a studio into a rave, and more below.
What was your initial reaction when Rockstar reached out to be apart of ‘After Hours’?
In the beginning I thought they were only asking for some music to be played on the radio channel in the car. It seemed interesting, but I didn’t really have time to work on a mix so I was about to refuse the offer. Only when I understood that they actually wanted to have me in the game as a character I realized how crazy this opportunity was and that I should better make time for it!
Did you ever think you would be a character in a video game?
Of course not! Not in the beginning of my career, not 10 years ago when I played some video games online and not the day before I got the offer from Rockstar Games.
In game, you have live DJ sets, how do you go about crafting those sets?
I was asked to do one mix that would be played both in the club and in the car, so I needed to find a balance. But once I realized that you might enter the club at some point in the game but that you will spend most of your time in the car, I thought that it is more important that the mix works in the car. To get that feeling of moving while listening to music I obviously could not work on the mix while I was driving a car myself, but since I travel a lot I decided to work on the mix only when I was in an airplane or a train. Once I was finished I listened to it a couple of times while jogging and then edited it here and there.
What was it like turning a motion captured studio into a rave?
In order to capture the vibe of each DJ’s performances as accurately and as naturally as possible, we had each of the DJ’s play sets for us, live to a crowd inside our performance capture studio, while wearing motion capture suits (following wearing facial rigs for VO). This way, we could capture every nuance of each DJ, from the way they danced and moved as they played, right down to their tech rider
How much freedom did Rockstar give you when it came to the sets curation?
The owners of Rockstar are long-time fans, so of course they gave me all the freedom I needed. I mean, wouldn’t it be silly to ask me to be involved and then not let me do my thing? There are always some songs that are not possible to license and that was the only issue.
Can you tell us more behind the inspiration behind the mixes?
You’re getting the mix from me; there is one that is for the car, there is also one mix for in the club. So for me I had to find the balance between the music that you would like to listen to in the car and music you would like to listen to in the club which is obviously not exactly the same.
Did you get to style your in-game characters as well?
Yes! Actually even my rings, my necklace. We picked all our own clothes.
Are you a gamer? If so, do you have a favorite GTA game?
No, I’m not. There was a time more than 10 years ago (maybe even 20?) when I played that game “Age of Empire” pretty intensively – when it was absolutely new that you could play games of that complexity online with other people. Nowadays I only play chess online now and then, mostly when I am on the road and need to get my head cleared from all the extra “noise” around me.
What can players expect from your character in game?
You have to find out for yourself! But I can tell you that when I went to New York in March to do the motion capturing for my character, there was an extra two hours of voice recording, so my character can react properly to all the behavior – or more important the misbehavior – of the players of GTA Online!
Check out the GTA Online: After Hours update available now, and be sure to tune into the in-game radio station Los Santos Underground Radio (LS-UR) to hear Dixon’s full set.
For more on video games, check out the latest gameplay trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2.