When news broke that Vicarious Visions will release a remastered edition of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 for current-gen consoles in September, the internet understandably straight up lost its mind.
One of the defining cultural institutions of the late ’90s/early ’00s, the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater series turned a generation onto skateboarding as, seemingly overnight, everyone went from trying to mimic Michael Jordan to tearing up their local park (and in a lot of cases their skin and bones), trying to recreate the styles of the likes of Andrew Reynolds, Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska, Elissa Steamer, Geoff Rowley, Steve Caballero and of course, Tony Hawk, before spending nights trying to set new high scores on Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It wasn’t just skating itself the games brought to popular consciousness though, it was skate culture too, from the clothes to the slang to the attitude and of course, the music.
The music of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series was, to borrow a slang term of the era, rather tight. A combination of new and classic alt-culture sounds ranging from the punk sounds of OGs like The Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies and Bad Religion, through to the skate punk and ska bands of the era like Lagwagon, Millencolin and Goldfinger, to hip-hop icons Naughty by Nature, to rap-rock gods Rage Against the Machine and even the iconic Anthrax/Public Enemy mosh-up ‘Bring the Noise’, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack was a bridge between musical worlds, a multi-volume mixtape that defined an era and laid the foundation for the genre-hopping musical taste of a generation.
Below we’ve compiled a playlist of 10 tracks from across the first two Tony Hawk Pro Skater titles that helped change the soundtrack of our lives forever.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater
‘Police Truck’ – The Dead Kennedys
There’s a reason this track was chosen to soundtrack the official trailer for the remake. Released all the way back in 1979, ‘Police Truck’ is an all-time great punk track from a band that is synonymous with early street skate culture, and its inclusion as the lead track on the first game helped to introduce a generation of suburban kids to one of punk’s most important bands. As Tony Hawk himself told us back in March, “For me I was just trying to keep it authentic to my experience. That was the music that I heard hanging out in the skate park as a kid. Of course, I was going to put Dead Kennedys on a skate game soundtrack, that’s what I listened to skating! Shredding the streets of San Francisco to ‘Police Truck’ is one 1999’s greatest pleasures.
‘Cyco Vision’ – Suicidal Tendencies
You can’t make a skating game without including Suicidal Tendencies. These hardcore punks from Venice, CA are often touted as skate punk genre originators – a moniker that seems to fit well, given their affiliation with both the notoriously violent punk scene and the street skate scene of early-mid ’80s California. Their music, however, is a little more technical and trash-driven than the sounds that had taken over the Cali scene in the mid-late ’90s. So despite Suicidal Tendencies having classic tracks like ‘Possessed to Skate’ and ‘Institutionalized’ in their canon, it’s probably safe to say that prior to the inclusion of their 1999 scorcher ‘Cyco Vision’ on the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater, a generation of potential fans probably wasn’t all that aware of their legacy. ‘Cyco Vision’ and THPS changed that though, exposing the band’s music to a new generation of skate punks. The thrashy pace, urgent vocals and gritty production, made ‘Cyco Vision’ the perfect introductory track to Suicidal Tendencies and the absolute best choice for a scorching 2 min session run in the warehouse. ‘Skate or die’ man.
‘Jerry Was A Racecar Driver’ – Primus
Truly one of the world’s most unique bands, funk-metallers Primus can be a bit of an acquired taste but thanks to their 1991 hit’s inclusion on Tony Hawk Pro Skater, a whole new generation got an introduction to Les Claypool’s trademark virtuoso basslines, with many acquiring a taste for the bizarro genius of Primus genre-melding sound in the process. From the funk-fueled verses to the unorthodox lead guitar lines, obscure lyrical content, complete lack of a chorus and a bonkers breakdown at the backend, ‘Jerry Was a Racecar Driver’ is definitely the weirdest track included on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, but it’s also one of the best and it no doubt led to many kids picking up a bass whenever they weren’t skating. Listen to it while you’re cruising through Burnside.
‘New Girl’ – The Suicide Machines
The ’90s were about a lot of things, but for a certain percentage of the world’s population the ’90s were about one thing and one thing only – ska, or more specifically the third wave of ska. On the commercial front this meant the rise of the likes of No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but bubbling just under the surface of the underground, a more raw brand of ska-punk could be heard blasting out of the walkmans of skaters in the states. The Suicide Machines’ ‘New Girl’ is the perfect example of this style. An absolute banger, ‘New Girl’ fuses the aggression of early pop-punk and skate-punk with the upstroke picking patterns of ska, creating a sound that is able to be skanked to, moshed to or skated to with equal enjoyment. Despite being signed to Hollywood Records at the time, The Suicide Machines weren’t on the same level of notoriety as some of their ska-punk contemporaries, well that was until ‘New Girl’ and THPS happened anyway, then stuff got wild. Blast this while schooling your crush at “Trick Attack” in versus mode on the School level.
‘Superman’ – Goldfinger
Speaking of third-wave ska, oh yes folks, the moment has finally arrived. It’s time to talk about the undisputed highlight of the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack and arguably the song that is the most synonymous with the entire series, the magical musical moment that is ‘Superman’ by Goldfinger. So hold onto your wallet chains, pull up your Dickies shorts, throw on your checkered Vans, and let’s pick it up, pick it up, pick it up! This is the quintessential Tony Hawk Pro Skater song. It’s infectious, it’s energetic, it’s instantly memorable and seemingly, endlessly re-listenable. Every single element of this song, from the D Major key to the soaring vocal melodies to the groovy bass and ska-punk rhythms, perfectly placed horns, 195bpm tempo and of course those instantly memorable and contextually appropriate lyrics, is perfectly suited to making a run at Downhill Jam.
Sure ‘Here in Your Bedroom’ and ‘Spokesman’ are good, but ‘Superman’ is Goldfinger’s undisputed finest hour and THPS gave it to the platform it needed to become their defining moment. It’s been played over 62 million times on Spotify for a reason, I dare say, it’s been played on Tony Hawk Pro Skater even more.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2
While the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack was a special moment, much like the game itself, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 soundtrack was a noticeable step-up from its predecessor, offering a more varied example of the music that was fuelling skate culture at the time. These five tracks give an idea of just how interpolated musical styles were becoming at the turn of the new millenium..
‘Bring the Noise’ – Anthrax and Public Enemy
The Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 soundtrack is all about mixing musical modes, and so it’s not surprising that they used one of the classic act slots to pay homage to the breakthrough 1991 Anthrax and Public Enemy collaboration ‘Bring the Noise’. The recipient of the 1991 Best Metal Performance Grammy, ‘Bring the Noise’ is an early rap-metal classic and one of the more enjoyable cross-genre collabs of all time. The riffs are classic Anthrax, the rhymes are Public Enemy in the midst of their artistic peak (the track is a reworking of their 1987 track of the same name) and the end result is a genuine thrill. It is the perfect track to skate the New York level too, trust me. “Turn it up! Bring the noise!”
‘Guerilla Radio’ – Rage Against the Machine
No band at the turn of the millennium exemplified the fusion of counter-cultural styles quite like Rage Against the Machine. The most critically acclaimed and commercially successful rap-metal band of all-time, their trademark brand of combustible musical activism, made them a perfect fit for the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 soundtrack. The choice to include ‘Guerilla Radio’, off of their enormously successful 1999 record The Battle of Los Angeles was a stroke of genius. (Epic records giving permission to Neversoft to use the track, is a signifier of the impact of the first game). An absolute rager of a track, the combination of Zack de la Rocha spitting fire about being a musical revolutionary, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilks funky groove and Tom Morello’s guitar artistry, gives ‘Guerilla Radio’ unique energy that just begs you to skate to it, and thanks to THPS2 that’s exactly what we did. Head to the Venice level and “turn that shit up”.
‘When Worlds Collide’ – Powerman 5000
As we sit here in 2020, it can be hard to fathom that there was a time when nu-metal was the most popular genre on earth but in the year 2000, thanks to the insane success of the likes of Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and genre gods Korn, Nu-Metal was all the rage. It’s not surprising then that a genre song would be present on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. What was, and still is, surprising though is that the song chosen was a: by Powerman 5000 and b: really good, like REALLY good.
‘When Worlds Collide’ is both a banger of the highest degree and a hopelessly dated time capsule song. In the context of both the time of THPS2 release and its fit within the game itself though, ‘When Worlds Collide’ is fucking awesome. An unapologetic fusion of the industrial metal sounds that vocalist Spider One’s brother Rob Zombie took to worldwide fame, Marilyn Manson’s ‘Mechanical Animals’ mode and the nu-metal blueprint of the time, ‘When Worlds Collide’ sounds like what you’d expect them to play at a post-apocalyptic rave, which makes it the most fun song to rip it up at Skate Heaven to.
‘You’ – Bad Religion
For punks of a certain age, Bad Religion didn’t need any introduction. Genre stalwarts, these LA punk rockers had been crushing it for 20 years already when Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 came out. However it’s fair to say that the inclusion of ‘You’ off of their classic 1989 album No Control was an act of marketing genius by both the band and game creators. Bad Religion had long been associated with skating, with their well-read anti-authoritarian ideology finding favour with certain elements. It was by no means uncommon to see a skater wearing their iconic logo shirt, for instance. What was uncommon before ‘You’ took pride of place on this soundtrack was 11-year-olds diving headfirst into their back catalogue, something that became very common afterwards and with good reason. ‘You’ is a perfect example of what Bad Religion do better than any other band on the planet, with buzzsaw guitars and a straight punk beat, providing the backdrop for a set of complex lyrics that are somehow delivered with an infectious melody and a side of three-part harmony. An anti-love song at its core, this is a riot to crank while skating the Hangar.
‘No Cigar’ – Millencolin
What ‘Superman’ was to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, ‘No Cigar’ is to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. This is the signature song. For all the genre-hopping that takes place on THPS2, there was still very much room for quality modern skate-punk and, as one of the finest examples of the genre ever recorded, ‘No Cigar’ was a no-brainer selection. Lifted off their now-iconic year 2000 record Pennybridge Pioneers, ‘No Cigar’ sits alongside ‘Penguins and Polarbears’ as a genre hallmark of this era of skatepunk. With spiky guitars, rolling bass, and uncomplicated lyrics being delivered with utmost sincerity, this track is built around a soaring, perfectly harmonized, pop-punk chorus that’ll get stuck in your head for days.
For a band that named themselves after a skate trick, to find pride of place on the soundtrack of the greatest skating video game ever made, feels like the universe finally getting its shit together. Head to Marseille and skate the streets, don’t forget to pull a melancholy or two.
Hidden level (honourable mention)
‘May 16’ – Lagwagon
I could bang on about how this is another example of skate-punk perfection, but instead, I’ll just make note of the fact that ‘May 16’ is regarded by punks of this era worldwide as Lagwagon Day. Yeah, this song cut through, alright!
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games will be arriving on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on September 4, fully remastered and including most of the original soundtracks. The two games will be bundled together in one package.