Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here. After taking a month off for MAGFest craziness, I’m back with a brand new edition of my interview column, Hoodie Highlights! This one features a fun & informative chat with a lovely couple of bracketheads who just rocked faces at MAGFest 13 & released a killer new album!
Of course I’m talking about the dynamic duo of jmr & streifig of Marshall Art! Enjoy!
Hoodie: SUP Y’ALL? To get this moving along, give me a quick rundown of who you both are and what you’re about.
Mikhail Ivanov aka streifig: Превет? I’m streifig, I go by Mikhail Ivanov in real life and by “that guy from Russia” at MAGFest. Tired of the “In Soviet Russia” jokes btw. Also, don’t ever mention Ivan Drago to me or I must break you. In Marshall Art I’m the bad one, always making that screechy noise on the guitar and whatever I plug it into.
Jeffrey Roberts aka jmr: Heyo! I’m jmr aka Jeff Roberts aka that tall Canadian guy. I’m the yin to streifig’s yang and I handle the NES chiptune duties for Marshall Art.
Hoodie: What pulled you both into the magical world of music making? And eventually, collaborating together in Marshal Art?
…that’s a lot to ask right off the bat, isn’t it? SORRY.
jmr: You’re not really sorry, are you?
streifig: You are gonna be after having to edit everything we’re gonna say here.
Hoodie: Only editing out the boring parts. When I’m done, your story will be an ascension to chiptune godhood through a series of bloody, yet glorious battles with space zombies, robot overlords and angry hipsters.
streifig: Make sure to add romancing hot NPCs too.
Hoodie: Of course.
streifig: Awesome! Let’s deal with the boring stuff real quick. I started playing guitar at the age of 15 (dang, more than a half of my life is spent with that thing) because I heard that’s how you get girls. Later I found out that you do that by being a decent person but THE HARM WAS DONE.
Anyways, I spent my final high school year learning Metallica riffs on a cheap acoustic guitar. I got my first electric much later, when I moved to Moscow to study in university. I played in different bands over the years; the first one was some kind of nu-metal, then there was a rapcore band, several noise projects, and a indie pop band called Love & Robots that I still play with now.
Hoodie: Please tell me that footage of the rapcore band still exists. Video preferably.
streifig: Not many videos, beacuse back then people didn’t have those fancy pocket computers you kids call smart-phones. You had to bring a video camera to actually film a show. Can you imagine that?
Hoodie: Not in my wildest dreams.
jmr: -posts link to following YouTube video of said rapcore band-
streifig: That video was made before I joined the band. =) We had an album out though: https://acidumbrellas.bandcamp.com/
Hoodie: This is amazing on a completely different level. Definitely listening to it soon.
jmr: I got my start making crummy little video game music covers back when I was in junior high school. Cringe-worthy midi-rip stuff that thankfully no one remembers (I know I’ve tried really hard to forget). These covers gradually evolved into more complex arrangements, the best of which are available on OverClocked ReMix.
Sometime around then, I got the silly idea to try writing original music. I found myself wanting a medium where I could focus on the song writing and not worry about having triple-A production value and overpriced sample packs, which led me to fakebi-, err, I mean chiptune!
jmr: And as for how we both met and formed Marshall Art? I think we can boil that down into three crucial elements: THE SHIZZ, the band Chromelodeon, and MAGFest.
streifig: Namely, Jeff messaging me on THE SHIZZ:
“Is it true that Chromelodeon played a secret reunion show at MAGFest?”
jmr: Haha, I had forgotten about that. But yeah, our initial bonding experience came from our mutual love of Chromelodeon, and mutual sadness for not having been able to see the band perform live.
streifig: I will never forget about that! “The beginning of the beautiful friendship”. ;)
jmr: Yep! =) That friendship was cemented at MAGFest 9, where we met for the first time. Mikhail, being the MAGFest veteran, acted as the guide for me, the shy Newfie who had never experienced such marvels.
streifig: MAGFest sophomore schooling a freshman. Oh, MAGFest 9, the last one at Hilton. ;__;
jmr: Not counting MAGFest 8.5, which neither of you poor suckers attended.
streifig: That’s not a real MAGFest, but mere imitation. :P
jmr: It felt real enough to me! You’re just jealous that I went and you didn’t! =P
Hoodie: I’m definitely jealous. :3 8.5 looked like a grand damn time! Minus the elevator issues, of course. No one misses that….
That said, MAG 9 was my first as well. Seems like a LOT was started at that magical gathering. More than anyone knew at the time, as is usually the case. haha
jmr: Yeah, MAGFest 9. I had just released my first full length chiptune album and was handing out CD copies to pretty much anything that moved. I think it might have been then when we first discussed the possibility of making music together?
streifig: Well, after sharing the bed we definitely could discuss something.
jmr: Shhhh! People don’t need to know about that!
jmr: It wasn’t long after that that I started sending Mikhail demos and sketches of songs I had started. I remember sending him a collection of like 5 or 6 NSFs, one of which was a film score cover.
In fact, I still have the actual chat log of that fateful moment!
streifig: And this, son, is how Marshall Art was born.
jmr: Well, conceived at least. I wouldn’t say it was born until July 1st, which was when we completed our first song and decided on the band name. I have that log too. =)
streifig: Framed on the wall, I guess?
jmr: Next to my university degree.
Hoodie: As it should be.
streifig: Now I’m trying to remember what depths of my apartment contain my university degree. Oh boy.
So hey, what were those rejected band names again?
jmr: The ones we talked about were:
- The Voders
- Heartless Sawdust
- Marshall Law
And my personal favorite of the rejects: The Goblin Ass Hats
Hoodie: I would totes play bass for The Goblin Ass Hats.
streifig: Pop-quiz: what thing do most of them have in common?
jmr: Goddamnit Brandon.
Hoodie: Hey, we’re even now for that almost “fakebit” comment earlier. :3
jmr: By the way, VS meant something very different in that context. ;)
But we’ll leave that as a secret between us and those who remember the Chromelodeon song.
Hoodie: Mmm… Chromelodeon… Even if I always spell it wrong. :3
streifig: Sigh… Chromelodeon.
Hoodie: So I guess it’s safe to say that I know at least of ONE of your musical influences. ;)
streifig: Pretty much, and another one is obvious from the title of our first ChipWIN submission. ;)
Hoodie: hahahha I didn’t actually get that reference at first, but it hit me out of nowhere one day and I LOLED.
streifig: Pink Floyd made a big mark in both our songwriting and my guitar playing. We’ve been getting some positive feedback on a russian social network vk.com, and “pink floyd” is often mentioned. One dude even called us “8-bit pinkfloyders”.
Hoodie: hahaha NICE. And legit influence for pretty much any music project.
streifig: Most of my influences come from western music anyway. Before I became obsessed with chiptune and VGM I had a lot of different phases: classic rock, metal (ranging from ‘tallica to Mastodon), hardcore (ranging from Minor Threat to Converge), indie rock, avant-garde (John Zorn is god) and noise (Mersbow is god). Also there was a long-time obsession with Mike Patton and his numerous projects. Thanks to him I find it totally normal to jump between styles within one song every 2 minutes.
If I’m to name my guitar influences it would be a pretty diverse list with the people like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Randy Rhoads, Tom Morello, Graham Coxon and Johnny Greenwood, to name a few.
One of my latest additions to that roster is Annie Clark, who performs under the name St. Vincent. Amazing guitarist and songwriter. Saw her live twice last year and both shows were pretty much life changing for me. Some things I did on the album were really influenced by that experience. So yeah, that Grammy is well deserved I must say.
Hoodie: Pretty damn solid list there for sure. What about you, jmr?
jmr: My list of influences is like a Katamari, continuously growing as I hear new music.
Hoodie: +10 internets for that reference. & +10 likes for LRS.
jmr: But the key ones that stick out in my head are Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Fucking Champs, Yakuza Heart Attack, Claude Denjean, Masashi Kageyama, Jean Michel Jarre, and whoever composed the music for TMNT III: The Manhattan Project for the NES.
streifig: The names are Yuichi Sakakura, Tomoya Tomita, Kozo Nakamura. You can thank me later.
Got any local/regional influences, say some artists from your own countries/cultures?
This is not a question I get to ask during most of my interviews, but then again most of them don’t feature two artists from varying lands! haha
jmr: A couple come to mind. I lived in St. John’s, Newfoundland while I was getting my university degree and that place has an amazing and diverse music scene.
There was this solo act called Errand Boy. He had sorta a downtempo electronic sound. It was the first time I had ever seen a solo live musician doing something other than the standard singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. I think he’d go over well at a chip show, actually. No idea if he’s still active.
The other act that comes to mind is Roundelay. They were a four piece hard rock band with some progressive leanings, and some of the nicest guys you could ever meet. I remember giving them a copy of my album at one of their shows, and Brad (their bass player) asking me if I was ever gonna play a live chiptune show. My answer then was “Naaah, I don’t think I could ever do that.” LOOK AT ME NOW, BRAD! =D
streifig: hahaha You never told me this story! It’s awesome!
Among numerous russian bands I’ve been listening to and seeing live, two are especially dear to my heart. One of them is Tequilajazzz, an alternative rock band with a really unique sound, great lyrics and stunning live shows. Their 1998 album “Celluloid” is definitely among my top-10 all time favorites.
Another one is called Silence Kit, the best russian post-rock band, hands down. (And yes, that’s a Pavement reference in the name). I’m pretty sure I ripped off their album “Pieonear” a bit on the Marshall Art album.
Hoodie: Speaking of a different influences, I love how Marshall Art is also a combination of both the VGM and chiptune scenes. I’m all about that kind of thing.
streifig: We all have to thank TheShizz (a.k.a Minibosses Message Board) for that. That place unites so many amazing chiptune and video game covers artists, it’s hard not to be into this kind of diversity. Actually, my first experience of doing a chiptune/post-rock combo wasn’t even Marshall Art. It was the track I did with spamtron for TheShizz’ annual compilation.
Also, being in both worlds is cool, you can hang out with twice as many awesome people.
jmr: Besides, what did you expect from a band made up of an OC Remixer and the current head of Dwelling of Duels?
Hoodie: Exactly as much. Care to talk about that btw?
jmr: I kinda already covered my side of that story. You’re up, Mikhail!
streifig: Well, I’ve been following the monthly game covers competition Dwelling of Duels since 2007, and when I started going to MAGFest the DoD listening party was always a must attend for me. A couple years ago I started running a Russian online VGM community, educating people in good music and helping the artists find their audience. Naturally I started to push the russian VGM dudes to enter DoD, and that didn’t exactly go unnoticed when they started winning like crazy. It was obvious who was behind that coup, so when Crimson, the founder of DoD, resigned from his admin duties, he invited me to take over.
Hoodie: -avoids making “In Russia…” joke-
Only because I <3 you, though. That was the best opportunity ever for one. :3
streifig: Sorry, Bran. You can’t make a better joke then the one Nate did:
streifig: This year’s MAG listening party was one of the best times I’ve had ever. I’m just happy to work with so many amazing VGM artists and hear their songs first-hand. I hope I do a good enough job to make DoD fun for them as well.
Hoodie: And just like that, a perfect segue to talk about good times at MAG. I think maybe y’all might have another story or two to tell about that… ;)
streifig: Remember that time when we played a main stage show? It was good, I guess.
Hoodie: Yeah, sorry. I skipped that to go get burgers with Grant. Oops.
streifig: Me too!
Hoodie: Oh right! I forgot you were there! That was a good lunch.
streifig: Very nutritious.
jmr: Mmmmm! Elevation burgerssss!!
streifig: But seriously, MAGFest is nothing but 3 days of non-stop good times. My only complaint is that I always miss some of the good times because of having good times elsewhere!
jmr: Don’t get me started on that. I’m still bitter about being torn between seeing virt and Autoscroll at MAGFest 10.
Although I’ve gotta hand it to whomever did the concert schedule for MAGFest 13. Not having the chip showcase competing against a “second stage” was amazing, and I know we’re both grateful for that.
Hoodie: Thanks, man. It’s something Emily and I have been pushing for since we got involved. And we were both really happy to see it happen universally this year at MAG, because it worked SO GORRAM WELL. To the best of my knowledge (and abilities), the plan is to keep it happening that way for the indefinite future!
streifig: How about that secret Chromelodeon reunion show you missed because of seeing Sammus this year?
jmr: Don’t play with my emotions like that, Mikhail.
streifig: We both know that’s never gonna happen. :'(((((
jmr: At least Cheap Dinosaurs is still kicking and keeping that sound alive. Dat string quartet performance. -insert heart-eyed emoticon here-
streifig: That string quartet performance they practiced IN OUR GODDAMNED HOTEL ROOM.
jmr: That might have been more magical than the show itself!
streifig: It totally was. I have a video to remind myself it wasn’t my imagination.
Hoodie: That collaboration WAS a thing that happened. And it was badass.
streifig: Should I mention that having Dino from Chromelodeon on stage with us playing his classic song feels so surreal too? If someone told me 8 years ago that that was gonna happen…
Hoodie: That collaboration was ALSO a thing that happened. And it was also badass.
streifig: Quick shout out to Pixelseed for making our set even more magical with his badass visuals. During the set I was often peeking back to see him work, which
was making my head spin.
Hoodie: He’s a fucking wizard, no doubt about it. And yeah, that’s a pretty typical reaction to his work. Don’t know how many performers who have jammed with him live have said that to me. haha
While I’ve got the chance, allow me to tell you both again that you did a great damn job. Was really proud of the show you two put on. Even moreso than at your debut at M12 Chipspace.
jmr: Dawww, shucks! Why thank you, Mista Hoodie!
streifig: Thanks, Brandon! Though we know you booked us only to lure the album out of us.
Hoodie: WHATEVER IT TOOK, DAMMIT.
Speaking of that album…. ;)
jmr: We know, it sucks.
Hoodie: And this concludes today’s interview with Marshall Art.
jmr: What? It works for both Primus and Solarbear.
Hoodie: hahaha Does it ever!
jmr: Don’t make me register that domain, Mikhail.
Hoodie: Maximum suckage aside, tell me more about this album. How’d it (finally) come together?
jmr: It’s been in the works for a long time. A looooong fucking time.
streifig: To think of it, more than a half of it was written and recorded within a month though.
jmr: Yet there are elements on the album which go back as far as June 2011, before we had even decided on a band name.
But Mikhail’s right, a large chunk of the album was done under pressure of the self-imposed MAGFest release deadline.
Hoodie: Sometimes that’s what it takes (a hard deadline) to finally finish up a project. haha
streifig: Amen to that.
jmr: Honestly, I was worried that because we were putting things together at the last minute that the album would be sloppy and not cohesive.
We really owe a lot to Cory Johnson for making the album sound as polished as it does.
streifig: He also was a factor in keeping us focused. It was hard to slack knowing that there is that dude over there that’s waiting for some new material to mix.
Hoodie: That was definitely a good call. That dude is THE BEST. Was great to finally get to meet him at MAGFest this year as well!
jmr: I know! I’ve been a fan of his for years (since his Zelda demos hit the internets). He’s incredibly talented, yet such a nice, down-to-earth guy. I hope we get to hang out again soon!
Hoodie: Yeah, man! That’s when I discovered him! And moreover at that listening party you held for his full length Zelda release!
streifig: I’d been listening to Cory’s Earthbound album for a month non-stop, and we also worked together on that Aquatic Ambience track in September, so I started thinking that his approach to guitars and electronics could work well on our music. Initially I was a bit hesitant to spell out this idea because Jeff usually mixes our tracks. But I’m glad he was down.
jmr: I’m glad he was down for it too. I can’t imagine tackling all 20+ vocal parts we used in the final song.
streifig: Yeah, Cory was like, “How many vocal partss? 20? Piece of cake. Do you need choir or gang vocals?” #likeaboss
jmr: I love his idea to use some of the random little bits which people included in their vocal submissions in other parts of track, too. МАРШАЛ АРТ ДУБЛЬ ДВА! МАРШАЛ АРТ ДУБЛЬ ДВА! МАРШАЛ АРТ ДУБЛЬ ДВА!
streifig: Dmitry totally lost his shit when he heard that. =)
Hoodie: I know a couple of special guests in particular who were happy to be included in that fun! haha Right, Erin? ;)
Erin McQuisten aka Ryn: Haha Yup! Though some were more reluctant than others!
Brandon and I had to do a little convincing, but we finally got my mama, Mary, to contribute a bit to the mayhem. =D
Hoodie: The wine did most of the influencing.
Ryn: Wine always helps!
jmr: Liquid courage!
Hoodie: That and I may’ve sorta, kinda pretended that it’d just be a scratch track for fun. heeheehee….
Ryn: We also didn’t make her leave her chair. We just kind of hollered at the microphone. Stepping up to a recording mic can be intimidating!
Hoodie: I know what I’m doing. 8-)
Ryn: Well, we didn’t really think it would end up being such a prominent part of the mix.
jmr: You guys inadvertently provided the perfect closing touch for the album.
That was all Cory’s idea, and he was on the fence about it at first. Once Mikhail and I heard it, we were like “Perfect! It stays!”
streifig: Typical reaction to Cory’s ideas.
Ryn: And now I have the best nerd cred ever: my mom was on a Marshall Art track!
streifig: Speaking of collaborators, there is another person we should give a shout out to: spamtron!
jmr: Yeah! Spamtron totally saved us and got the creative juices flowing again on the song “They’re Like Locusts”.
I started writing that one when I was in the middle of a bit of a dark, depressing patch of my life. When I came back to expand on the song awhile later, I honestly didn’t know where to take it because I just wasn’t in that mindset anymore.
We sent the draft Famitracker file to Guerin, and he filled in the gaps in my demo with some fucking incredible leads and backing parts, very different than anything I could have wrote but at the same time very fitting with the concept of the song. That was enough to kickstart both of us to finishing it.
Hoodie: Cool how that works out sometimes!
jmr: Spamtron can be a bit of a character, but he’s an incredible composer. The dude can crank out everything from catchy melodies and dance-able tunes to abrasive noise and ambiance. I still listen to his D-PAD album regularly.
streifig: Same here. One of the greatest albums ever. I hope spam’s ok. Haven’t heard from him in a while.
Also, we owe a lot to my old friend Andrei “Baron” Karlin who made that beautiful cover art. The cool thing is I didn’t give him much to work with and he still nailed it. When I contacted him, we only had two songs and a couple of demos. But in less than two weeks Baron got back to me with this picture.
And the only thing we asked him to fix were some letters in the title! I think the cover art really influenced our songwriting on the newer songs. Now that I think about it, the album would go really well with an alien invasion story; in the vein of “War of The Worlds” or “Independence Day”.
Hoodie: I’d say he definitely nailed it. It’s pretty gorram fitting!
Any other thoughts about the album worth sharing?
streifig: I gotta say, the last two weeks of working on the album were absolute bliss. Russia has a long 10-day holiday after the New Year, so i was spending every night till 6 am writing and recording guitar parts, and then waking up the next day to see new chips from Jeff or a new mix from Cory in my Dropbox folder.
jmr: At one point it was like we were taking shifts. Cory’s apparently a night owl, so I’d be talking to him until like 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning when I’d call it a night. Mere minutes after I’d shut off the Facebook chat, Mikhail would wake up and take right over. I’d wake up the next morning to see conversations that kept going until 4:00 AM my time.
Hoodie: hahaha With the time differences between the three of you, it makes sense.
The internet is such a magical thing sometimes, particularly regarding these sort of collaborations.
jmr: We should probably get in touch with Dropbox and Facebook to see if they’ll endorse us.
Hoodie: And Bandcamp.
streifig: Yeah, I’m so grateful to the internet for Marshall Art. It’s not every day that I can find a music project where I can fulfill all the dreams I have about making music.
jmr: Agreed. I’ve been wanting to make music like Marshall Art for years, and I’m so glad to have found the best collaborator I could have ever wished for in Mikhail.
Hoodie: The internet’s been pretty good to all of us, it’s true.
streifig: Can I record country guitars? Yes please. A 6-minute ambient section? Yup. A crazy song with ascending tempo and dissonance that is inspired by the current political situation? Of course! A chaotic noise part? Eh, I’m not sure aboot tha… Ah fuckem, bring it on! Jeff is basically a Yes Man to all the nonsense I bring to the table.
jmr: I know. I’m an enabler.
But hey, you gave me opportunities to keyboard mash in famitracker and record improvised harsh NES noise. I’ve never had so much fun making music in my life!
streifig: I’ve never had so much fun making music either. And I’m older. ;)
Hoodie: Before we wrap this up, either of y’all have any parting words to share?
jmr: I suppose this is a great opportunity to thank everyone for supporting our weird little prog rock chiptune band. The response to both our MAGFest performance and our album has been nothing short of fantastic.
streifig: And overwhelming, to be honest. I’m really happy to belong to the scene where everyone is so excellent to each other. We have really exciting plans for this year so stay tuned, everyone. We’re not gonna stop here.
Hoodie: Forever onward and upward, my friends, in all things.
Pleasure chatting with both of you as usual!
jmr: Likewise! I’ll forgive you for bringing up dickbutts during this interview, I guess.
Hoodie: And I you with the fakebutt, I suppose.
streifig: Well, this is what we signed up for in the first place, so all’s cool. Thanks for having us, Brandon! Is this chiptune, btw?
Hoodie: …GET OUT.