Contrary to popular belief, I DO actually listen to compilations other than ours, and in doing so I occasionally run across someone amazing. In this case, I’m referring to Mads Aasvik, better known as Kartmaze. I first heard him on the Project Chipmusic Heroes compilation last year, and his intense prog rock chiptunes melted my face. After grabbing a prosthetic face out of the stock I keep on hand for just such an occasion, I found out that he had actually released a full album. Three more prosthetic faces later, I knew this guy was someone I couldn’t wait to hear more from. With rumors on the Internet saying that we may be getting a new album from him sometime soon, I took it upon myself to hunt him down and question him, for your pleasure and mine. Enjoy!
Adam: Alright, preliminary barrage – what’s your name, how old are you, and how long have you been making chiptunes? What’s your preferred compositional set up?
Kartmaze: I’m Mads Aasvik, I’m 27 and I’ve been doing chiptune for a year and a half (since December 2012). My favorite setup for making music: MIDI programming in Reaper, note by note, using a wide array of VST-plugins with my acoustic guitar on my lap.
A: Now THAT’S interesting! You’re much more a fan of the VST method of doing chiptunes, as opposed to trackers or anything like that? That puts you in quite the minority, from what I’ve seen. What made you pick going that route as opposed to anything else?
K: That’s a really good question, actually! Ever since I (finally!) stopped writing music in the guitar tab software Guitar Pro around 8 years ago and was introduced to proper DAWs, I have exclusively utilized MIDI with VSTs in either Cubase or Reaper. To be honest, I have never touched a tracker in my life, and I wasn’t even aware of the concept until after I started lurking around in the chiptune community last year. After I’ve become aware of its existence, I have never considered trying it out as I’m more than happy with my current workflow. I’ve never cared about (or involved myself in) the chiptune vs. fakebit discussion either, which often comes along together with the VST/tracker subject. I just make music and let people think whatever they want in the process.
A: Right on! And speaking of making music, I remember first hearing you on the Project Chipmusic Heroes compilation last year. How’d you get involved with that?
K: I was approached by Travis, AKA __twc, who had this idea of gathering a few less established chiptune artists and making a collaborative album together. He asked me if I was interested, and I was.
A: A few months later, you dropped your first full length album, ‘Seven Journeys to a New Home.’ How long did it take you to put all that together? Did you know you were going to do a full album when you got The Rise of Zeus on PCH?
K: The thing with Seven Journeys was that only a couple of the tracks were written for the album explicitly. The rest of the tracks had actually been written during a time span of several years in advance. A few years prior to Seven Journeys I played guitar in a prog rock band where I did most of the writing myself, and some of the tracks on Seven Journeys were actually written to be played in that band. We never got to start playing most of them, hence they remained unused. During December 2012 I “converted” one of these tracks (‘Brownout,’ which was actually just a working title I didn’t bother to change) to chiptune after being challenged by a friend to make a chiptune track and posting it on r/chiptunes on Reddit. I got some good feedback from it, and from then on I used some of my old material as a base for some of the tracks that ended up on the album. Everything was ready for mixing at the end of February 2013. I knew I was going to do a full album when we released the first PCH album, however when we started planning PCH, ‘The Rise of Zeus’ wasn’t anything but bits and pieces of old material I had lying around, so the track was made as it is today during the time leading up to the first PCH release.
A: Other than filling out your Soundcloud, what have you been up to musically in the past year? Have you been doing any live shows?
K: Besides what you can find on Soundcloud, I haven’t been doing a lot except working on my next album. I have been working a bit with three talented guys from the US (two from Buffalo, NY and one from Houston, TX). [Adam Note: Mads lives in Norway! The more you know.] We call ourselves Megalixir and are mainly doing SNES covers (I have posted one of our tunes on my Soundcloud, but more will come). I have also started experementing with a synthwave-like genre for use in promotional videos (I have also posted one of these on my Soundcloud, and more will come on this front as well). Last, but not least, I’m currently doing a small collaboration with a fellow Ubiktune artist. We’re quite early in the process, but you definitely have something to look forward to! Regarding live shows, I’ve actually never even considered doing one. If I was to perform some of my own material live, it would have to be with a full live band with me playing my electric guitar, I think.
A: Okay, so, the real reason we’re getting down and dirty here: You’ve got a new album coming out! What can we expect from it? Are you branching out, trying anything new? Is it going to be as facemelting as Seven Journeys? Can we expect more heavy prog rock, or are you switching genres on us? When should we expect it out?
K: Yes, I have! You can expect an epic progressive concept album, musically not too far from Seven Journeys. It will be packed with heavy riffs, catchy themes and melodies, plenty of odd time signature changes, swirling arpeggios, polyrhythms and face melting synth solos! However, it will not be a pure chiptune album. It will have a more hi-fi synth feel to it with more acoustic sounding drums and more complex synth sounds. Regarding the release date, I’m very uncertain. It all comes down to me and my productivity (which is highly irregular nowadays), as I still lack about 1/4 of my planned album length. Last year I hoped to release it this summer, but that’s not going to happen. If I’m going to look realistically at it, a release before christmas is unlikely, I’m afraid. But I’ll assure you that it will be worth the wait!
A: I can’t wait! And thanks a bunch for your time!
So there you have it! If you need some proggy brain obliterating funtimes, look no further than Kartmaze! And you can join with me in counting the days until he makes an official album announcement. In the meantime, keep your eyes glued here while we continue to YELL AT YOU ABOUT CHIPTUNES because the ONLY WAY you can truly learn more is if we YELL AT YOU ABOUT CHIPTUNES.