Nostalgia is a word that gets overused when describing chiptune music.
nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-] noun
1. A wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.
2. Something that elicits or displays nostalgia.
(I never understood dictionary definitions like #2. It’s like asking someone what they meant and having them just repeat their last sentence.)
Nostalgia is relative.
If you have never ridden in the cab of your mom’s (or dad’s) big rig during a cross country cargo run, you would never look at a big rig stopped beside you at a red light and feel nostalgic about it. To describe Dmitry “C-jeff” Zhemkov’s latest release ‘Big Steel Wheels’ as nostalgic is not only a disservice to the depth of the album but also relies on the fact that you’ve drenched yourself in the cartoons of the 80’s and/or the hair-metal rock ballads that served as their soundtracks. If you hear the words “hair” and “metal” together and think of this, or this, or this, then you are about to journey down a rabbit hole of awesomeness, the likes of which may add a whole new sub-genre to your musical tastes. There are those who will envy you for standing on the doorstep of their own nostalgic golden age. Cherish it. Enjoy the ride.
If you’re the kind of person who feels the warm-and-fuzzies whenever you dust off your copy of “The Transformers: The Movie” to re-experience its mind-blowing soundtrack, then buckle up because them nostalgic feels are incoming.
Film scores from the 80’s are a noted influence for Ubiktune founder C-jeff, as mentioned on the Facebook page for the ‘Big Steel Wheels’ release party, and his deep appreciation for them comes through loud and clear with a masterful display of control within his compositions. ‘Big Steel Wheels’ is much more than a love letter to hair-metal, chiptune and Rocky IV. ‘Big Steel Wheels’ by C-jeff celebrates the best of a bygone era by combining a unique blend of hair-metal, rock, and chiptune to create 13 tracks that will appeal to both the curious newcomer and the die-hard fan.
‘Black Lock’ in particular showcases C-jeff’s expert skill, weaving together inspired electric guitar riffs with a big and bold drum kit while captivating synth tones grab your attention and carry you through every beautifully intricate transition into entirely new explorations that keep you guessing right to the end (which is even more impressive when you realize that ‘Black Lock’ is an 8-minute track.) Sound effects sprinkled throughout the album guide listeners through a musical road-trip, be they big-rig engines kicking off ‘A Thousand Bridges’ or the menacing vocal additions during ‘Boiling Point’ coupled with what can only be described as “the most musical gunshots ever heard” that serve to create a borderline radio-play of desperate cat-and-mouse between riffs and silences. The result is a gripping musical experience that pulls you into the world C-jeff has created within ‘Big Steel Wheels’ that will serve as the gateway album for some, and nostalgia fuel for others.
Dmitry was kind enough to answer a few questions about his journey building ‘Big Steel Wheels’ and that mini-interview continues below:
PixelRecall: Tell me about the moment you decided to create ‘Big Steel Wheels.’
C-jeff: During the summer of last year I was watching the ‘Rocky’ series for the first time in my life. It was a great pleasure to watch it. The music was great. The movies were amazing. And then came ‘Rocky 4’. From the very start I was drawn to the music, but as soon as the training montage scene started, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing; this section changed everything. The music stylistically was so close for what I love, and combined with the montage scenes, it was just a perfect combination.
After that, I discovered Vince DiCola. Some time later, Dan Behrens (Danimal Cannon) recommended I check out ‘The Transformers: The Movie’ soundtrack, and that completely blew me away.
The music of Vince DiCola was such a big inspiration for me that I instantly started to think about my next album. I became immersed more and more into the movies and the music culture of 80s. As a result, all those influences expanded my work developing original soundtracks, building from my experience creating ‘Preschtale’.
PixelRecall: What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating ‘Big Steel Wheels?’
C-jeff: The biggest challenge was probably to keep the sound more or less consistent from track-to-track, especially when I decided to include such a wide rage of genres.
PixelRecall: Do you have a favourite piece of equipment or software that you used to help create ‘Big Steel Wheels?’
C-jeff: Native Instruments Massive was the thing I was very impressed with. It allowed me to create a huge number of patches that I used throughout the album. While ‘Preschtale’ was mostly sample-based, ‘Big Steel Wheels’ jumps on software synths and I think that it really helped improve my sound.
PixelRecall: What is your personal approach to building a track?
C-jeff: With ‘Big Steel Wheels’ I tried the technique of parallel writing. I started a number of songs, building them to a certain level, and then started another song, working on them in parallel while jumping from one to another and vice versa. For example, ‘The Path of Machines’ was the first track I started for this album, but one of the last ones I finished.
As for the songs themselves, it depends on the situation. Sometimes I just play with ideas and do some sketches, making a couple of patterns. Other times I have a theme or a scene which dictates the vibe.
PixelRecall: Now that ‘Big Steel Wheels’ is released, what’s next for you?
C-jeff: I have a number of ongoing projects. Some of them are just single tracks, which will appear on various releases and compilations. Other ones are bigger releases, such as albums and soundtracks.
We have an album in progress with my friend Megus (with whom, back in 2010, we released Around Past as Teleidofusion), that should appear sometime in 2014.
Also, I’m involved in the creation of a soundtrack for the amazing space shooter/platformer Temporus, developed by Firebelly Studios. I’m really excited to be a part of this project.
PixelRecall: Is there anything your fans may not know about you or about ‘Big Steel Wheels’ that you’d like to reveal?
C-jeff: The creation of Big Steel Wheels took me about 11 long months, so I have a lot of curious stuff to share, which I would like to feature in some kind of a diary someday in the future.
‘Big Steel Wheels’ is polished, layered, and most importantly, welcoming. Download your copy on Bandcamp for $7, climb into the cab of your big rig, and enjoy the ride.
Pixel Recall ~ (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love