Photo: Natalie J. Russel
Dear Brian, thanks for taking the time to join me in this interview to educate our community on SolRockers. First of all, can you give us a brief introduction to you? What is your story, dating back as far as you wish?
I am the Head of Product at SolRockers NFT and in my free time also the drummer for the multi platinum band Everclear. Some might think I live the life of a Rockstar but I’m just a conventional kind of guy. With a house in the suburbs, a white picket fence, a dog, 2.4 kids and to round it all out a wife that drives a minivan. LOL. Honestly I’m just a computer nerd who plays drums in a rock band.
I attended Berklee College of music in Boston Massachusetts back in 1989–1994. While living in Boston I spent a good 8 years playing with bands in the Boston music scene — 1990’s Boston scene turned out some great bands and I was lucky to be a part of it. I played with Tracy Bonham, went off to Chicago to tour with Fig Dish, and ended back in Boston to form American Hi-Fi with my best friend Stacy Jones in 1998. We recorded our record with Bob Rock in Maui, had a hit single on MTV, and toured extensively all around the world in the early 2000’s. Now I’m playing drums with the band Everclear. Somehow I manage to make a living doing what I love — playing drums.
The computer nerd part is where crypto and gaming comes in. I was hooked when my step dad bought me the Apple IIe back in 1983. A 1.023MHz processor, 64KB RAM, two 5 1/4″ floppies, bulletin boards were no match for my 300 baud modem. It played games too, good games like Castle Wolfenstein, Boulder Dash, King’s quest and Decathlon. It put my Atari 2600 to shame. Then I had a short stint with consoles including ColecoVision, Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, but.. then Doom was born. John Carmack and John Romero messed me up good, so good that I built my first PC because of their creation — specifically to play Doom. That 4MB of ram was expensive too. I’ve been playing PC games ever since — Battlefield 1942, Call of Duty, Elder Scrolls games, WOW, the list goes on and on. Basically I came from the same generation as James Holiday, him and I would have been good friends. Now it’s time to develop the Oasis, or at least a very small part of it.
Why did you get involved in the cryptocurrency industry, and where do you think the industry will be in 5–10 years?
I heard about this thing called Bitcoin back in 2011. So you can use your video card to make money? Really? Sounds like fun. I took one of my computer rigs, outfitted it with an ATI 5970, overclocked the hell out of it, joined a pool and started mining. Then I had two rigs, then three, lots of fans, I’m talking oscillating fans, not those fancy LED case fans everyone has these days. I mined 23 Bitcoin and then decided it wasn’t worth pursuing, it was costing me more in electricity to run the rigs compared to the going Bitcoin market value. I held on to them for a year and ended up selling them on MT Gox for a whopping $27 a piece (doh!). In hindsight I think I should have held on to them, maybe… I painfully followed Bitcoin on the sidelines for years, dabbled in Ethereum mining and finally started seriously investing in crypto again in 2017.
Remember the dot com boom in the late 1990’s early 2000’s? I just sat there and watched it all happen, I didn’t financially take advantage of the fastest growing industry phenomena known to man. The internet happened and all I did was use it to play Quake. I could have got involved but I didn’t. I had to go and focus on being a musician. An opportunity like that will never happen again in my lifetime.
Then comes Blockchain technology. Thank you Satoshi! Blockchain tech is the next boom, I have no doubt. It’s being adopted 2x faster than the internet, harvesting the brightest minds out there and is giving us all the opportunity to develop the technology of the future. And I mean the technology of everything. Smart contracts apply to so many different industries, including finance, data analysis, and the Internet of Things, let’s not forget about gaming. Who new smart contracts could be so useful?
I’m not going to sit back and miss out on a twice in a lifetime opportunity. So it either means I can redeem myself or go down in flames. I’ll either retire in Maui or greet people at the local Walmart here in Madison, I’m all in.
That’s amazing. Now can you give us an introduction to SolRockers and how it got started?
Back in 2012 I wasn’t just mining Bitcoin, I was learning how to develop video games using the Unreal Engine and Unity. I’ve always had a passion for game development but I’m not a coder by any means. These game engines gave me a way to translate my ideas into a functional game without being John Carmack. I’ve since developed third person shooters, twin stick shooters, first person shooters on a hobbyist level. I’d bring my games to friends’ LAN parties and play a round or two. It’s always fun to see friends enjoy your creation, bug free of course.
The emergence of the Play-to-Earn economy really grabbed my attention. I started playing games like Lost Relics, Alien Worlds, R-planet to name a few. I had conversations with my brother Mike, also a crypto investor, about all the P2E opportunities and he said “Why don’t you create your own game? You know how to develop games”. So that got me thinking and researching. I decided to combine the 2 things I’m most passionate about: gaming and music. I decided to combine the Rhythm game genre and the lifestyle of a touring musician to create a unique gaming experience. I’ve had some incredible times over the past 25 years; being part of great bands and touring all over the world, I want to re-create that experience for everyone who joins SolRockers. NFT gaming and being in a successful band are all about creating a community, it all made sense to me.
Early on, did you see an opportunity to fill a void in the market?
The market is one huge void, it’s an open slate. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this project and blockchain games in general. Just like every new technology, it gets
adopted by hobbyists and independents. This is the period in blockchain gaming when independent developer ideas can shine and make an impact on the industry. I believe we at SolRockers are doing just that.
When deciding on the direction of the artwork, we didn’t want to create a derivative of an ape and a pixel art SolRocker was out of the question. We wanted it to be original and life-like featuring detailed instruments and clothing, but with a light hearted cartoonish feel. The great rock bands of the 80’s and 90’s were over the top in their creative expression. The hair, makeup, tattoos and clothing gave us so many options and we spent months creating and revising. We had so many great ideas. The SolRocker name is a combination of the Solana blockchain and Rockstar lifestyle with a slight play on words. I think you get the idea.
A key point about our project that is important to relay is that SolRockers Battle of the Bands is a game that features player owned NFTs, not an NFT project that promises a utility game. The game itself is our main focus and the integration of the NFT is a key feature. The artwork will grab their attention but the game is the ultimate pay off. Literally.
We also noticed that you have your own token called $IROC, that will be used for your unique rhythm game. Could you tell us more about how this works?
$IROC tokens are the lifeblood of the SolRockers ecosystem and keeping the token economy balanced is our main priority. $IROC tokens are awarded to players/stakers and are used to purchase items in our NFT minting and merchandise marketplace. We have a number of ways our token is used in our game. Also, we feel it’s important to “burn” tokens as users create assets in our game ecosystem. We never want to dilute the overall value so a deflationary element will be incorporated into the $IROC token usage.
What have been the biggest challenges for you and SolRockers since you started the project?
It’s uncharted territory so it’s all challenges. I spent a lot of time researching all the aspects and moving parts that make up an NFT project, not to mention the game. The art work, NFT generation, rarity, minting process, discord server, website, token minting, front end game dev, back end game dev, media creation, NFT marketplace listing… and that’s just my job. My brother’s got more. Who knew a blockchain game project could be so time consuming? So finding the time to do normal family activity has been a challenge.
I think the biggest challenge for the project is breaking through and getting noticed. The NFT market is growing at breakneck speeds and has become a bit saturated. Ethereum based NFTs are a prime example. The Opensea NFT marketplace sure lives up to its name. Although the bulk of the NFT market is on that blockchain we felt it wasn’t a good fit for our project, or blockchain gaming in general. Solana was.
We chose Solana not just because of its efficiency but we saw it as the next blockchain to be adopted by NFT creators, investors and game developers. But with new technology comes serious hurdles. Solana NFTs and game development is still in its beginning stages so there are a few unanswered questions with creative development needed to complete a project like SolRockers. Thankfully we have blockchain backend engineers that can innovate and pull it off, I see them as the Rockstars.
Who do you think would be the ideal target audience for SolRockers?
At first glance it’s NFT collectors and gamers but it’s also music lovers, instrument collectors and artists. Individuals who enjoy being part of a music and gaming community, who love to express themselves through music and NFT creation. We want this open to everyone.
I think there are several types of “gamers” in the P2E environment. I love playing games, I can sit there and grind all day long if needed. Then you have someone like my brother who is more interested in the defi element. I think he doesn’t spend more than 20 minutes in any one game, but he “plays” several. It’s important to create a game that’s appealing to everyone.
Understood. Now what has been your greatest achievement thus far, and what has been the biggest failure or setback personally or in the history of the company?
My greatest achievements thus far would be the fact that I’m still able to support my family doing what I love — playing, and expressing myself through music. The greatest achievements related to SolRockers are still ahead of us. We just started in November of 2021 so there’s not much history to talk of. Talk to me two years from now and I will have a list. We have little setbacks every week but it’s nothing we can’t overcome.
What is the next step for SolRockers in the next 1–2 years?
Develop and release a fun and engaging gaming experience where users get to roleplay that Rockstar lifestyle, create a band, practice in a studio, go on tour and play at different venues — with backstage debauchery included of course.
A challenging Rhythm game is not complete without a great selection of songs. Artist collaborations will play a big part in this. Thankfully I know a few. But outside of the mainstream music industry are a lot of amazing bands and artists that deserve attention. We have plans to give everyone a way to participate and get involved. Our plans include giving the player and artist a way to create and enhance our game. SolRockers Battle of the Bands will feature the ability to add new songs and create new song patterns. And we want our community to be rewarded for their creative efforts. It being a blockchain game gives us the means to do so. The community will always come first.
Where can people support your business? Other than that, thank you for your time, Brian — any final words?
Support our business by visiting our socials like twitter, facebook , joining our discord community, and of course check out our website.
Brian’s Twitter BrianNolan (@BamBamBNolan) / Twitter
And if you find yourself at an Everclear show in the near future, stop by the merch ten and say hello.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a source of investment, financial, technical, tax, or legal advice. All of this content is for informational purposes only. Readers should do their own research. The Capital is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by reliance on any information mentioned in this article.