Sup y’all? =) Hoodie here. Got something a bit different for you this time. My last videogamedj.com Friday Freakout (11/16) was a write-up on The Bitman & his latest chipalbum “Epic Elevator Music“. During the course of writing it, I asked him for a few thoughts, comments on the album, etc. to include in the article to give it a little extra color. Instead THIS is what I got: an hour’s worth of quality chat & awesome stories. Too much to use in the FF write-up, but way too damn cool to keep to myself. Enjoy~ \m|♥|m/
Brandon Hood aka Hoodie: Mostly, just give me some thoughts on this album in general. How you feel about it as a whole, the tracks, what inspired it, etc. Talk about it a bit. I’ll grab a few of those thoughts and stick ’em in there as they work. =D
Max Dolensky aka The Bitman: Alright.
Hoodie: More or less, talk about your music a bit. More informal than an interview. Just whatever you think/feel. =D
Bitman: The first tracks for the album started in late March. I had just banged out a decent EP for Noisechannel after “owning up to my stupid newb claim” that i could write 10 good minutes of music in 10 days. I took a three week hiatus from writing, and reflected on that EP. I was disgusted by it for a while. I said to myself “it’s not melodic enough, the chord progressions are boring, it’s too… plain…”
So I started the song that became “Southern Shuffle Scuffle,” mostly just nailing down the atmosphere with the string-bass style WAV and noise channel being a detuned pitch for musical effect.
Next up was “Blue Beat,” seeing as the last song I had produced with a Latin feel “Let It Slide, Humbug” from my Nimbus album was a bit of a failure though it showed so much potential. It, like the other songs, wasn’t strong or had a catchy hook but not much else.
So I strode to make a funky bassline, and then slap a cool syncopated Latin line on top of it. I’d say it is almost as simple as my earlier works, but overall the atmosphere and sound design lend themselves well to the simplicity.
At this point in like late April, the noisechannel crew was throwing some sort of streaming/show your WIP’s party. I played these two songs, in chunks, and was greeted with praise from the likes of Mikee and Freque, as well as Awesome Force and Nic (later to be known as Protoflight). That was the first bit of the catalyst.
Then, for a brief 3 month period, I bothered to freshen up my skills in Ableton Live, and continue producing tracks in LSDJ. In Ableton I played with lots of rock and dubstep sort of things, as well as hip hop and jazz. I wound up making a conceptual track “Mourning Glory” that was very doom-esque in atmosphere, featuring instrumentation by myself on euphonium and trombone in addition to my chip roots.
During this time, I was home from college for the summer working at a children’s summer camp by day, and DJ’ing by night. Occasionally I would visit the only open mic open to under-21’s in my part of Alabama – a bluegrass open mic. This open mic inspired me to write a sort of blue-grassy track called “Boom Shakalaka,” drawing upon my Southern upbringing. I remember going onstage and playing the track for the 25 or so people, and getting a few jaws to drop. It’s hard competing against greybeards who have been playing fiddle, guitar, and mandolin for longer than you’ve been alive, but I feel like I held my ground okay.
Hoodie: hahaha That’s awesome!! Sorry, man. Just the thought of that. HEROIC STATUS.
Bitman: I was very moved by the lovely scenery here in Alabama, the mountains and forests, etc. This song started the small trilogy within the album.
Then, I worked on a few other tracks, most of which I have backed up and left to rot on my hard drive for now. I was hoping to pump out some fresh tunes for BRKfest.
BRKfest was a curious thing – I basically had to plead for shanebro to come so I could bum a ride off of him. I had contacted Solarbear countless weeks before I even dropped 10 Day EP, promising I’d have better music, and he put me in on the roster. My parents were not thrilled. haha Unfortunately, we both had overprotective mothers, who were concerned that we would go partying/getting drunk/have public sex/smoke pot/never come home, or whatever. So Shane’s mom and grandfather went with us to Lexington, Shane’s family leaving from New Orleans and picking me up in Birmingham.
We went to BRKfest, and apparently this is where I made a name for myself. In these two days I grew up more as a person and musician than I had in my whole life.
Shane and I talked a bit about LSDJ, Gameboys, and music theory (something Shane still isn’t strong in formally, but he has amazing ears, I dare say better than mine) for the long 8 or so hour drive. Shane was one of the first people to comment on my tracks back when I first started chiptune. There’s nothing better than feeling like your travel companion is like your biggest fan. He and his family were kind and made the trip extremely nice. :)
We got to Lexington, and I stand alongside the likes of SMILETRON, Nestrogen, and Kitsch at his table outside Al’s Bar, the venue for the first night. It’s like getting to be backstage at a rock concert, to a degree.
I went to Kitsch’s table, and bought a bunch of gear (including the first clear cases to be formally sold, he signed my battery cover :3) We discussed the quint, Gameboy programming, and even his upcoming projects. He was floored by what I knew (apparently), and we made sure to talk a lot. We still message and email a few times per month.
The first night I did not play, but instead I was blown away by artist after artist. The next night, I had to follow Saskrotch. Of all artists, one of the thrashiest dudes ever. I was all like “Oh crap, what do I do? I know, Saskrotch is such a troll on chipmusic.org. I will write a parody of Eye of the Tiger, and totally diss chipmusic.org since I don’t like the site.”
This is where I finally grew up.
I didn’t know all the words to my parody by heart, so I grabbed my trombone and played along after failing through the first verse verbally. So I just kind of opened with Eye of the Tiger Possibly the funniest thing to do after following a massive artist.
Hoodie: hahhahhahha You ARE my hero for that!!
Bitman: From there I played some songs, and my stage fright was getting the best of me. I was playing songs I wasn’t too fond of, from my older releases. Then, my soul sister PANDAstar got onstage. She and I danced, and got the crowd moving. I finally believed in my music a bit because someone else really did.
Hoodie: -grins and listens-
Bitman: It was then I said “Screw it. I’m playing you guys some new material. It will blow you away.” And this is where, according to Kitsch, I made chip history:
I played “Mourning Glory” live.
Hoodie: Oh shi-
Bitman: Mic’d trombone, everything. And no one saw it coming. A flat 109 beats per minute doom-jazz-ballad. Booming out of the ridiculous rented speakers.
Bitman: People were confused at first.
And then, they began to sway.
Then, the drunk couples made out.
Then, so did the sober ones.
Bitman: And there I was, serenading them with my greasy trombone tone (I am more of a New-Orleans swing guy than I am bebop or classical, in terms of sound and style). It was then I had balls, and they were eating out of my hand.
Hoodie: I can tell! I *LOVE* that style of jazz. Christian Scott = my favorite jazz artist. A trumpet player, but still, similar brass style
Bitman: So, it only made sense. I was in Kentucky. The blue grass state.
Hoodie: Uh huh.
Bitman: So I booted up Boom Shakalaka, the song I had played at the open mic earlier.
Bitman: And I said to the crowd that this was a bluegrass-dub tune. And I left the thing in song mode, having fun, and stealing every glance at the dumbstruck smile on Roboctopus’s face. I regret nothing. Seeing the approval of one of my 3 idols (the other two being Danimal Cannon and Zef) gave me immediate gratification.
And then something else happened. Everyone started getting on stage. Like, Hunterquinn, andarugo, a very drunk datacats, and Mikee. And Curtis told me I had one song left.
So I played my one “banger” Joel the Cube master, a slow-thrash at 160 BPM, taking the audience through power rips and rumbling wubs. At that point, shirts were off, and even Curtis was a bit speechless.
Bitman: Literally, Pandastar, Curtis and I were the basically only people onstage with shirts.
Bitman: And I asked Curtis if I could close with a 1 minute singalong. So, I booted up my cover of Party Rock Anthem.We had fun singing through the first segment of the song, and I cut to my super-secret dubstep drop. Then all the shirts should have been off (Curtis and Pandastar remained modest) and hunterquinn threw his, and it got caught in the rafters of the bar.
Bitman: Mikee got my trombone and used it to fish the shirt down (I had to pick him up, poor dude is super short). Video evidence of hunter’s shirt being in the rafters is on Youtube here. After that, it occurred to me that these people really cared about my music, theirs, and really everyone.
Later that night, around 3AM, BRkfest’s sound guy had an afterparty at his basement. So Shane and I went. We were due to leave at 5 AM to head home. So, KKrusty played this epic cover of “The Final Countdown,” and I was there with my DMG and my trombone. We made eye contact. He nodded at me, I put the horn up, and took a solo in C blues, matching the song’s key of C minor. Apparently it was really good. I don’t remember much of it. xD People went ape for it, I was barely lucid, sleep wasn’t something they had a lot of at BRKfest.
Then it was my turn to play. So, I booted up my last unplayed song of the whole festival, my thrash cover of “The Pretender” by the Foo Fighters. I played along on trombone, soloed, hit the high notes. I had time to shake hands, pack my horn up, and hoof it to Curtis’s in time for Shane’s mom to pick us up. I fell asleep before we left Lexington, and I woke up 15 minutes away from home in Birmingham. After that, I took a songwriting break until I moved in to college.
Within a month I had laid foundation for all my other songs, and I was contemplating releasing an EP with horns. What ended up happening was me getting involved in two pep bands, the marching band, a jazz group, all while balancing basically 18 hours of classes and a girlfriend. So I decided to milk a single LSDJ release for all I could, since one Gameboy was all I could carry with me around campus and use at any time. I was listening to tons of Danimal Cannon’s “Roots” and Roboctopus’s “Victory Lapse” at this time.
Hoodie: Excellent releases! A couple of my favorites, no doubt.
Bitman: By late September, I had finished all the songs except for Roboctocephalopod and Appalachian Wanderer. Those two were special. I originally wrote Robo’s song as an attempt to emulate Robox’s style. Instead I made a similarly atmospheric piece to his tracks with a rich bass solo and simple Pulse channel accents and melodies. It reeked of his influence, so it was named after him.
Hoodie: Yeah, I can totally hear the nod to Michael, but you still made it yours just the same.
Bitman: The other song, Appalachian Wanderer, was my attempt at envisioning Robox making dubstep.
Bitman: I wrote it in about 4 hours on a bus while I was in Tennessee with the marching band, and I again got to see the Appalachian mountains and all the lovely Fall leaves that I had seen in July on my way to Lexington for BRKfest.
Hoodie: Absolutely beautiful part of the country, especially in the fall. Very striking, inspirational scenery, no doubt about it.
Bitman: The hardest thing about the album though – was labeling it with a name and a genre. Or genres.
Hoodie: It isn’t one! haha Wildly varying styles! Part of what makes it great.
Bitman: I settled on “Epic Elevator Music” because it plays off of “common” elevator music stereotypes – easy listening latin, bluegrass, jazz, and electronic ambience. From there, it was a matter of dealing with the fact that all of my releases sound wildly different. Nimbus was very “my-first-album-09-glory-days-like” for chiptune, while Ten Day EP was grungy WAV-tastic stuff like what was “cool” in the chipstep-sort of area, but lacking in melodic movement for the most part.This release, I feel is a bit ahead of itself. It all fits in terms of general sound design, attention to detail, and duration.
The one song I left out – Solemn – is very special & is included on the album almost by accident. Shanebro and I have been working on a collaborative 1xLSDJ project called “Ikalyde”. Much like how Frostbyte and Kedromelon joined forces to make iamclouD, we are literally building upon each other’s works to make a tag-team album.
Hoodie: Love shanebro. Definitely approve of this pairing
Bitman: We had talked about this long before “The Sky Is Ours” saw release, probably a whole 7 weeks or so (which is actually a pretty long time in our work). We basically worked on two songs in quick succession, trying to produce a theatrical chip album telling the story of two aliens coming to earth in the early 1910’s.The styles starts out aggressive and synthy, but when their space ship is knocked off course by something unknown, they hurtle through the universe towards earth where they are greeted by organic things represented as acoustic instruments, and swing, which will be featured in the EP. The aliens then change mankind’s perception of music with a jamming radio broadcast, exposing man to electronic unce. From there, we track the progression of rock and roll, blues, bebop, metal and trance in man’s attempt to replicate the music of the aliens. Eventually, the aliens leave, and man almost forgets about the music, until one day earth’s electronics receive interference, and receive the music once more. Given the technology we have today, the humans literally are called and respond with their simple electronic music (chiptunes). Our dream is to eventually have it animated as a 18 minutes short or something.
Shanebro included “Shut Up and Fight” on his EP, so I decided to include “Solemn” on my release to complement it. From there, we have no more finished songs, but it is up and coming.
Here’s what you can look forward to from me in the future – an almost-exclusively Ableton EP with doom jazz and chip, a collab on a chipstep tune with Ballooonbear, and Ikalyde will come back strong this spring and possibly appear as a joint act at BRKfest. I also have a Christmas song in the works. I’m a busy guy. haha Sorry if I typed way too much. xD
Hoodie: NO. Apology not accepted. haha
To be honest, we need a full BRKfest writeup. So much epic.
Hoodie: I would give you a fucking bear hug right about now if I could. hahahah Good stuff man! My adventures & experiences within both the VGM and chipscenes the past few years are filled with similar goodness. I won’t even get started on that because then we’ll be here all night and I’ve gotta finish these writeups. hahaha
Bitman: I’m a bit frustrated with myself for being in this scene for a year and a half, and just now starting to get some real traction, but it’s good to see I’m moving into the scene a bit more. Currently I am getting ready to take a song writing break for a few months after I am done with this stuff.
Hoodie: I’d say you’ve figured out a really good pace for that. Should work out just fine.
And that sums it up! Hope you enjoyed the read as much as I did! I have a feeling it won’t be the last of them in this style. ;)
Also, if you’ve yet to check out The Bitman’s chipjams, here’s a solid bevy of links to help you fix that pronto: