ALL about… The Protomen

Jason Hall

8-bit Nintendo legend fused into rock

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The last person to interview The Protomen was forced into a van, blindfolded and led to top-secret remote location to speak with them via closed-circuit television.

They’re mysterious and elusive, but not because they don’t want to be found. They wear costumes and give themselves codenames, but not because they’re afraid of being seen. They have all the power of an underground revolution and an arm-mounted laser cannon, and they’ve got a message to share with the world.

Some would say they’re just a band from Murfreesboro, Tenn. – a group of misfits from across the country who get together to put on some costumes and play music about a blue robot .

And they are. But that’s not the whole story.

The way they tell it, they’re on an important mission to free the world from the evil reign of popular media and its deceptive propaganda.

They carry out their mission the only way they know how – by writing and performing a rock opera based on the story of Mega Man.

In the popular series of Mega Man games, the world is under the control of Wily and his robot army. Destined to overthrow this tyranny, a lone inventor by the name of Dr. Light creates a robot of his own to fight Wily’s army.

Light’s first robot, Proto Man, is destined to break Wily’s stranglehold on humanity. Ultimately, he fails in his mission, and becomes a mysterious vagabond of the Mega Man world throughout the series.

The second robot, Mega Man, follows his brother’s quest to bring Wily to justice. Of course, each game ends with Mega Man standing victorious over the rusting trash heaps that were previously his opponents, and everyone lives happily ever after.

The Protomen’s version of the story is slightly different, however.

Most noticeably, the backdrop for the story is much darker than the flashy 8-bit colors of the Nintendo series. All the peppy background music has been replaced by blistering guitars, fuzzy synthesizers and screaming vocals. A future ruled by robots just wouldn’t be a nice, quiet place to live, as the Protomen see it.

Their version also focuses on the human aspect of the battle against Wily rather than just Mega Man’s battle.

“We recognized that there was potentially much more to the story that had never really been explored. Most of the characters in the album are from the games, but we wanted to talk about what drives them to war and to create and to die,” said a representative of The Protomen codenamed Commander.

Ultimately, the story delves into humanity’s apathy toward Wily’s oppression.

“Why should (Mega Man) fight to save them?” Commander said. “Why do they not fight for themselves? These are the ideas that we thought warranted an entire album.”

In many ways, the story has parallels the current state of the world, with people as slaves to the power of popular music acting apathetically toward the state of our world. They rely on a hope in “someone” to save them “sometime,” never thinking to stand up and fight for themselves.

In that case, The Protomen would be that “someone,” charged with the task to bring good music to people who don’t know any better.

But The Protomen have not let their place as mankind’s musical saviors go to their heads.

“We would never claim to be the greatest thing to happen to music,” Commander said. “For we are merely the children, bastard or otherwise, of all of the prominent influences upon us,”

It should be obvious The Protomen take their work very seriously.

After all, saving the world is exactly the kind of thing that should be taken seriously. It may be based on a classic video game from the ’80s, but with these dark themes and overarching message, their album is much too important to write off as a joke.

And the band is too important to write off as a joke band, though it would be easy to do so. They did write a rock opera about Mega Man, after all.

Contact ALL correspondent Jason Hall at [email protected].