Like so much of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2,” the recently released remaster of the first two “Tony Hawk” games, the soundtrack captures the magic of the first two installments while adding some improvements.
For starters, Vicarious Visions and Activision Blizzard, the developer and publisher behind “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2,” managed to get back 22 of the songs from the original soundtracks, missing out on just a few tracks due to licensing issues. Fans who are nostalgic for grinding for high combos to Naughty by Nature’s “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” or chasing down the letters of “SKATE” to Goldfinger’s “Superman” can still do just that.
Unsurprisingly, getting most of those original songs back was “hugely important” for the developers, says Justin Joyner, senior sound designer at Vicarious Visions. But the team also added 37 new songs, ranging from older hits like A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 classic “Can I Kick It?” to Machine Gun Kelly’s 2020 hit “My Bloody Valentine,” and spanning genres from punk to alternative to hip-hop.
The end result is, as Joyner calls it, “the original soundtrack on steroids, basically.”
“I had to really first understand the original games and the original soundtracks, get a good sense for the genres that were incorporated into the original game,” he tells Variety. “And then it was basically like, fast forward 20 years and if this game were coming out today, what kind of music would we have? My whole philosophy was, well, let’s just add more of that, and get some more current stuff in there too.”
Joyner, a musician himself, says he poured over “probably thousands” of tracks to find the perfect ones for players to hit the old skate parks to. He scoured the internet, he explains, and used everything from skate videos on YouTube to algorithms on streaming platforms like Spotify, and kept an Excel spreadsheet that categorized each song he picked to make sure he had a wide range of music genres.
But it was also important that, in addition to the heavy-hitters like Machine Gun Kelly, the soundtrack include plenty of up-and-comers. That, too, is in the spirit of the original game, which Joyner calls something of a “music discovery platform.” Just as young gamers discovered their love of grunge and ’90s rap through “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” those picking up the remaster can dive into dozens of newer acts.
One of those groups to hit the new soundtrack is Rough Francis, a rock band from Burlington, Vt., whose hard-hitting punk track “Deathwire” sounds like something that wouldn’t be at all out of place on the original 1999 release. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Tony Hawk himself hand-picked the song for the remaster, as brothers and bandmates Julian and Urian Hackney tell Variety.
Urian explains that Hawk was a fan of their father’s band, Death, which was featured on a previous “Tony Hawk” game. After seeing Urian skateboard in a documentary about their family, “A Band Called Death,” Hawk tweeted at Rough Francis’ account, and the two starting casually direct messaging about their shared musical tastes. With Rough Francis gearing up to release new music, Urian sent him a locked Soundcloud link for “Deathwire.”
Hawk loved it — and then Activision sent him an email. For a second, Urian was afraid the song leaked, but Hawk had just personally recommended “Deathwire” to be included on the new soundtrack. For the brothers, who grew up on “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” and have childhood memories of skating in the game to groups like Dead Kennedys and The Suicide Machines, it’s been a “surreal” experience from start to finish.
“Playing [‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2’] and having our song come on, I kind of forget I’m playing this classic game that me and Jules spent a lot of time fighting in front of an N64 about,” Urian says. “Then our song comes on and every time, it’s like, ‘Woah! This is really weird. It’s really, really, really weird.'”
“There’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it,” adds Julian. “To have it come full circle — I don’t know what to say. It’s just, it’s unbelievable.”
Merkules is another artist to join the new soundtrack that has fond memories of growing up with the skateboarding games. His fast-paced “Bass,” featuring Hopsin and Tech N9ne, adds an up-tempo beat and confident lyrics to the rotation, and the rapper is still getting used to hearing himself in the game.
“I mean, no shade to anybody on the soundtrack, but I definitely went into the settings and made it so only my song played for an hour,” he laughs. “It’s a surreal thing and it’s crazy. Being a person that found most of the music that I first learned about through that game, it’s just really cool now that I’m a part of it.”
Merkules remembers hearing Rage Against the Machine for the first time in “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2,” as well as diving into other groups like Papa Roach, Anthrax and Public Enemy. To be included on the new soundtrack 20 years later, he says, “is definitely a bucket list thing for me.”
“There is no other game that I would want to be more of a part of than ‘Tony Hawk,’ because that’s all I played,” he says. “I dedicated so many hours into that game.”
Both Rough Francis and Merkules have seen new fans come their way through “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2.” Rough Francis has gained 13,000 listeners on Spotify, Julian says, since the soundtrack was revealed in late July, and Merkules says his fan pages are already filled with congratulations and new fans, even though the game’s only been out since Sept. 4.
Plus, Urian and Merkules have gotten a chance to enjoy the game — in fact, Urian says he’s already reached 100% completion, beating all the levels and collecting every item. And both have gotten into the soundtrack, with Urian shouting out fellow new additions Screaming Females and A Tribe Called Quest and Merkules highlighting Token, CHAII and even Rough Francis. But Julian doesn’t have a console, and is waiting until he can play to listen to all the new songs and get the desired effect.
“Honestly, I’ve just been listening to ‘Superman’ on repeat,” he laughs. “I feel like, because I don’t have the game yet, that’s the closest thing I can do to feel like I’m playing.”
“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2” is now available on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Listen to the soundtrack below.