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Rock Band 10th Spotlight: Nick Gregoire

I guess I should start with who I am. My name is Nick. Some people call me Greggles. My position here at Harmonix is Audio QA Lead. What does that mean? Well, in regards to Rock Band, it means that I’m responsible for all of the song content that comes out of the studio. And I’ve been here since February of 2009, so that’s a lot of songs. But before I get into too much detail about my relationship with Rock Band, I should probably give you some of my backstory and how I ended up here.

I’ve always been way into music. Everyone in my family is musical. I started playing the drums when I was 8. By the time I got to high school, I had taught myself a handful of other instruments and was a full-on band geek. Marching band, band camp, the whole thing. My high school didn’t have a football team, and our marching band was one of the best on the east coast. So being a band geek wasn’t seen as a negative thing in my town.

All throughout high school I knew I wanted to do something with music as a career. That was my plan. I planned on going to Berklee College of Music, since it was in Massachusetts and one of the best contemporary music schools in the world. But first I wanted to hammer out some cheap general courses, so I went to CCRI for a few semesters. If I had done my research ahead of time, I would have found out that those credits wouldn’t transfer over. Lesson learned. After CCRI I went right into Berklee. I had received a scholarship, so I wasn’t concerned about the cost, but I wasn’t living in the city. I was commuting to school and it took over an hour and a half each way to get there. Why didn’t I just move to Boston? Well, let me pause the college story and tell you why.

I had joined a rock band in middle school. Throughout high school we mostly just wrote songs, got our chops up, and played at friends’ houses or the VFW, since none of us were old enough to get into bars, let alone play one. After high school, the whole band thing really picked up. We started renting out a practice space that was located in an old mill on the river. There were several other bands renting out spaces as well. It was a great environment. College during the day, work during the evening, go the practice space at night, play gigs every weekend. Looking back on it, I have no idea how I did it. Just typing that was exhausting. Oh to be 20 again.

It was during this era that I was first introduced to Guitar Hero. Another band in the building had a living room type setup with a TV and couch and everything. One night they were having a party, so we stopped by. That’s when I got my hands on the original Guitar Hero. I had grown up loving video games, so finding this perfect marriage of rock performance and gaming melted my brain. Later on a friend of mine got Guitar Hero 2 and then the original Rock Band. We played the hell out of them. Seriously.

So anyway, that’s why I didn’t move to the city while I was at Berklee. I was in a moderately successful band and enjoying every second of it. But needless to say, the band eventually fell apart. Around this same time, I became disenchanted with Berklee and music as a career. It wasn’t great, people. Since music was what I had always wanted to do, this was a crushing blow. I took a year off from school and worked in a warehouse. I don’t recommend it. Then I decided to go back to school, but this time for something 'more practical': Electrical technology. So I did, and got my degree. Only problem was by this point it was 2007 and finding a job of any kind was very difficult. After a year of searching and just working random jobs here and there, fate decided to slap me in the face.

I ran into a Programmer from Harmonix at a cookout. I had no idea there were game developers in Boston, never mind a music game developer. He said I should apply for a job, so I did just that. Not soon after, I was brought in to interview for an Audio QA position. They were particularly interested in my drumming background, so I told them I was very familiar with Rock Band drums. I wasn’t. I had actually never played drums in Rock Band before. But it worked. I was hired and I spent my entire first day playing drums. By the end of the day I was nailing “Everlong” on Expert. Good thing I’m a fast learner.

I started working on drum authoring for DLC. That evolved into guitar/bass authoring, then vocals. I’ve seen a lot of Rock Band charts. The Beatles, Green Day, LEGO, Rock Band 3, Rock Band 4, tons and tons and tons and tons of DLC. Probably more projects I’m missing. Blitz? Track Packs? It’s hard to remember everything.

It’s honestly a dream job. Being able to utilize my love of music and video games is extremely rare.

So what’s the moral of this story? It’s that Rock Band fulfilled my dream of working with music long after I had completely given up on it. My teenage ambitions were all but forgotten when Harmonix came around. When you spend most of your life listening to, playing, learning, obsessing over music, and then get to use those skills every single day and get paid for it...I can’t think of anything better. I look forward to getting up every morning and going to work. All of the Rock Band songs are like my children. I help create them, develop them, make them as good as they can be before sending them out into the world. I still go through forums, watch live streams and YouTube videos, just to see players’ reactions to new songs. [Editor: He totally does, and brings it up to me all the time.]

I hope all of you love the games we create as much as we love making them for you.