Years ago, I formed a small gaming company with my friend Richard whom I worked with at Universal. We named it Star Mountain Studios and made fun, original Flash based games.
One of the things I did with our little company was to work at getting celebrity endorsements for our games. Celebrity endorsements are a great marketing tool, and, it can be fun meeting these folks, making the connections, and scoping out the possibilities. We’d let them play the games, then ask, if they liked them, would they write a quote for us to use.
I got a call one day from a friend of mine. She had written a review about a new hot sauce for a popular culinary magazine out of Boston.
“Oh fun, when can I read it?” I asked.
“Well, actually, I wanted to know if you could illustrate it” she asked.
“Yeah, sure. Tell me about this hot sauce, so I can get an idea what to paint.”And so, she proceeded to tell me Joe Perry, the lead guitarist and co-founder of the band Aerosmith had come up with this recipe called Boneyard Brew. It was apparently quite good.
Aerosmith! What fun! I was coming up with lots of ideas. After going through a few sketches and concepts she and I settled on this image I created of Joe, as a cute/wicked looking genie, coming out of his bottle of hot sauce. I did it in this sort-of 1970’s coffee house art look. It worked nicely with the label on the bottle.
Not long after the article came out I got a call from Aaron, Joe’s stepson, who was running his hot sauce company. Apparently, someone who knew Joe saw the article in the magazine along with the art I did and sent it to him.
Aaron wanted to know if they could use the art on their website.
In exchange, the Boneyard Brew website hosted a link to our gaming company and Joe sent me a signed bottle. Fun!
When Aaron learned about our gaming company, I discovered he was very into video games. We talked a few times, then, came up with this idea of creating a game, based on Joe’s hot sauce, that we could both use for our marketing. This was a FUN idea!
Richard and I designed this cute platform game called Genie Joe and the Axeman. You played by directing a little character named Chef Anthony around the platforms to collect power ups in the form of musical notes along with the ingredients for the sauce. Of course, he needed to keep clear of the evil Axeman and his evil blue notes who could topple him off of the platforms. Once the little chef collected all 5 of the ingredients, he could go on to the next level.
Just fyi, in the rock and roll world, an axeman is another name for a guitarist.
Joe did all of the music and sound effects for the game. He also recorded some dialogue for his role of the genie. If the player needed help, you could pull down the whammy bar on a guitar sitting on the right side of the game and Joe would swirl up out of a bottle of hot sauce in his genie form and ask, “How can this genie help you?”
Before we made the game, Aaron needed to make sure Joe knew exactly what it was about, who we were, all of that good stuff, so he asked that I meet with him.
At that time, I was living in Los Angeles, and, in just a couple of weeks, Aerosmith was going to be playing there.
Aaron and his stepbrother, Adrian, arranged for a backstage pass for me to be able to meet with Joe for a few minutes before their show and go over the game with him. Excellent…let’s do this!
KISS was the opening act, and, Joe had planned to go on stage partway through their show and play with Paul Stanley. To fit in with the look of KISS, he had his own pair of destroyer boots on, so, when I walked up to say hello to him he was about 7 feet tall, towering over me. He leaned down to look at the art and small pitch book I had brought for him and was using both of his hands to hold his long hair back, so, when he was finished looking at a section of the book, he would nod and I would turn the page for him.
Our meeting only lasted about 10 minutes, but, I knew this was going to be a fun project and Joe was very much on board with the idea for the game. I shook his hand, gave him the pitch booklet that had the art and game concept in it, wished him luck during his performance and then headed out to watch the show. I was on cloud 9, indeed, and had worked very hard to get all of the art and concept work done before meeting him, but, it had been worth it, especially seeing Joe’s reaction to the project.
Richard and I just flew through making the game, we were having such a good time. Joe really enjoyed the process and created these extraordinary sound effects with his guitar for events in the game, like when little Chef Anthony would jump, or run, or gather a power up or ingredient or get knocked off a platform by one of the evil blue notes. He created all of the original music as well.
Our game released in March of 2004 along with many press releases to gaming and music sites. People liked it, and had a good time playing it.
Here is one of the reviews for Genie Joe and the Axeman from WorthPlaying.com:
This fast-paced arcade style online (free) game features Joe Perry, famed guitarist with Aerosmith, as a dark but irreverent animated genie who can be magically summoned to help the intrepid saucier Chef Anthony. The brave little Chef dashes about fantastic landscapes scooping up ingredients to make Joe Perry’s spicey hot sauce, the Boneyard Brew, while avoiding the sour notes sent to stop him by his nemesis, the evil Axeman.
Perry is the voice for the Genie and he created the music along with many of the sound effects for this project. Family members also got in on the fun of producing an online game. Perry says, "When we put the sauce out it was really a reflection of my own taste, and then to have it inspire these fun and creative people to develop the game, my family included, was a great adventure I never expected. It's funny how it kind of parallels our own crazy lives. The game is a blast to play and I can't wait to see what happens next.
"Briar Lee Mitchell, who founded Star Mountain Studios with Richard Sternberg, created Genie Joe, Chef Anthony, and The Axeman. "This has been an amazing journey bringing these characters to life," says Mitchell, "made even more special by sharing the creative process with Joe and his entire family."
Joe and his family...all lovely people. Making this game was too much fun.