Straight from the mouth of MAGFest’s very own Nick the Newbie:
“What in the ever loving shit is “Jamspace”? Jamspace is music all day every day during pax. We’ve got chiptunes, live video game cover bands, DJs, and even open jam time with provided instruments. We’ve got guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard for playing, or you can even bring your own instruments! Follow @MAGFest on twitter for updates of what’s going on all weekend.”
Boston8Bit is once again bringing a KILLER chiptune lineup to the PAX East Jamspace. In case you can’t read the SUPER SEKSAY flyer just to the left there, here’s the full Friday 3/22 & Saturday 3/23 11:30am – 2:30pm EST lineup!
Seriously y’all, if you don’t get enough VGM/chip jammage in & around PAX East this year (including the AWESOME PAX East main stage lineup HERE) IT’S NOBODY’S FAULT BUT YOUR OWN.
And if you can’t come, don’t be a sad panda about it! Just tune into geekbeatradio to catch the livestream of the FULL SCHEDULED JAMSPACE LINEUP (chip & VGM shows)& as much of the CHIPstage as they can grab! There’ll be *SOMETHING* PAX East broadcasting on the UR Fest channel throughout the whole party. GOOD TIMES.
I mean, srsly gaiz, THIS IS AN EPIC F*CKTON OF STUFF. We’re all probably going to survive PAXE 2013 this year, but JUST BARELY. 8) In other words…
Ahoy! Welcome back to that thing I do here (writing stuff about chiptunes). You go ahead and do that thing that you do there (reading stuff about chiptunes) and everything’ll be great. Great? GREAT.
This time around, we’ve got a straight-up album review of Glitch Pop by MONODEER. You remember MONODEER, right? He did this awesome track for us on the first compilation!
The album is deceptive about its length – it appears to be fairly short, clocking in at only five tracks, but each track is fairly long, so you’re still getting a good chunk of album out of this. The best way I have to describe this album is it makes me think that it would have been a great soundtrack to a Game Boy port of the Shadowrun videogame of the early 90’s. In some parts, it’s that hard, punchy electronica that makes me think of a dance club in some sort of crazy, dark dystopian future where every third guy you see either has a robot leg or some sort of crazy eye replacement, and there’s all sorts of lasers and smoke machines and people dancing in glass boxes. In other bits, it feels more like traveling music, where you might imagine someone walking down the street looking like Adam Jensen and this is their personal soundtrack for looking incredibly tough and angsty. I’m quite partial to track 2, since not only does it exemplify the Shadowrun-yness I was talking about earlier, compositionally speaking it flows pretty well and has nice contrast between the tonal, in-key parts and the more atonal parts that follow as the song progresses.
Triangles are sexy.
It’s good times, and the whole album is right there to listen to. If you like it, it’s only four Euro, which…uh…man, I don’t know conversion rates, but I’m willing to bet it is still, in fact, worth the price regardless of your currency of choice. MONODEER also has a couple other excellent EPs to check out on his Bandcamp if you’re feeling frisky.
Win-tern OUT! Hopefully I’ll see you at PAX East this weekend! I’ll be palling around with the Boston8Bit/Geekbeat Radio crew, when I’m not convulsing like a five year old after eating an entire bag of sugar because of all the awesome stuff going on! Links below. Album further below.
So you just listened to the meditative sounds of datacats and are feeling at ease, having found inner peace through the beauty in the simple things that surround us all. However, just before you can truly ponder on that which is to come you feel yourself starting to snap back to reality! You awaken from your gentle meditation, only to find yourself suddenly strapped into the cockpit of a badass star fighter! Before you can even question what’s happening, the lights on the take off strip transition from red to green and you’re blasting off to your next destination: Titan 2!
Kedromelon is a man who knows what he wants and goes after it with full force! Hailing from Titan (aka Maryland, the homeworld of other notable artists such as Compy Core), Noah Lemen studied music technology at NYU and has since become one the many bodacious and deftly skilled chiptuners to call the city his home. Crafting aggressive, hard hitting music such as Sky Attack, Let it Glow, and my personal favorite, Recoil, Noah is a musician who composes refrain that instills vigor in anyone who listens, and keeps the pace going song after song.
As is the case with many other artists that have come before him on this compilation, Noah is capable of incredible diversity, and even took a break from making chiptune for awhile to work on another style of music that he excels at but is perhaps less known for: post-rock. While he hasn’t produced as much music in this genre as he has chiptune, his skill as a composer shines through regardless. Songs from his EP Demos and Old Stuff such as Reflections and his most recent post-rock single, Rails, reveal a sensitive, introspective and even forlorn aspect of this multi-faceted artist that many don’t seem to know about.
That being said, don’t let the hipster facade fool you: chiptune is most definitely Noah’s joie de vivre, as he has currently put aside all of his other projects to work with Tate Gregor, a fellow NYU alum and chiptuner known as PopSTAR, to form an epic duo known as CHILLBRAVE!
actual photo of CHILLBRAVE
CHILLBRAVE has yet to release a full EPs worth of music on either Soundcloud or Bandcamp, but considering what each artist brings to the table and what they’ve put out so far as a duo, they are definitely a force to be reckoned with in the scene. If you’re digging Kedromelon in any way, this is definitely the act to follow to keep up with him.
Heydily-ho, chipperinos! Now that my body has had a chance to recover from Madicon, I can finally take the time to tell you about Saturday, or “Hey, Let’s Put All The Chiptune Stuff On This Day” day.
Inverse Phase kicked off the day bright and early at 10am with his “History of Soundchips” panel, which I really recommend if you ever get a chance to go and watch it (he does this at most conventions he attends). It’s an overview of many of the different soundchips that have been involved in chiptune production through the years, from the various kinds of Atari chips all the way up through to the crazy personal computer chips like in the Commodore 64. I still can’t keep them all straight – but he’s been doing this for 20 years, so he’s had a little more time to. That panel bled into his next panel, which was a talk titled “Making Chiptunes 101”. This is the other panel that he typically does whenever he’s invited to conventions – basically, he asks for a music suggestion from the audience, and then shows you how to write it using Milkytracker, which is a fun little PC tracker which is great for making chiptunes (you DO have to have your own WAV files to give it voices for the instruments, but those are easy enough to obtain.) This time around, he did “Crash As You Are”, a Megaman-flavored rendering of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” It was hilarious!
In other paneling news, DJ Cutman gave a really informative “How To Make a Beat” panel, demonstrating how to use Ableton to funkify yo’ remixes. The panel almost didn’t happen due to both the fact that Macs hate being compatible with literally anything and that there wasn’t an HDMI port for Cutman to hook up to, but thankfully datacats swooped in to save the day and they ran the presentation from there. He ended up taking Terra’s Theme from FFVI (or FFIII, if you’re talking about the American SNES port) and added some sweet hip-hop drums behind it. It’s a really great panel – there’s a lot of basic theory that Cutman goes over that is applicable not just in hiphop but in any kind of music you want to make. As an added bonus, he explained some of the major key features of Ableton above and beyond those pertaining to simple hip-hop funkification – all sorts of fun things like how to sync your beats per minute from one piece of your music to another, things like that. If you’re looking to start doing some legitimate mixing I’d suggest you take a look here – I mean, sure, you’ve got your ProTools and your Fruity Loops and your Cubase, but Ableton is really intuitive. AND THAT’S NOT ALL – if you act right now (and by right now I mean whenever), you can actually get lessons from DJ Cutman! The panel he gave is actually a condensed version of an eight one-hour session Skype class that he teaches, so if you’re interested, shoot him a message on his Facebook!
The main events, of course, were the concerts. Inverse Phase and Cartoon Bomb did some sets during the day, which rocked as always, As an added bonus, DJs Cutman & Super Sonic, as well as datacats and Cartoon Bomb all “busked” in one of the open areas of the convention area as they were preparing for the evening. Datacats ended up DJing behind a fundraising event, followed by Cutman laying down some nice disco and house beats while the rave got set up. DJ Super Sonic took over the rave, making it all dub-tastic, but once again the room sought to thwart our fun and datacats swung in to save the day with his laptop. DJ Dr. Wily also made a brief appearance, though he managed to disappear before DJ Cutman got to the rave, of course.
So that’s it! Well, wait, no, that’s ALMOST it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Jon St. John, one of the most beloved members of the MAGFamily, was in attendance, and hung around during datacats’ set while he got his face painted by the folks at Tainted Reality (pictured below, photo credit Shawn Morgan). By the end of it he looked monstrous, which seems about par for the course if my experiences with him have taught me anything. And speaking of MAGFamily, there were many more of them rolling around the con! And many of us (myself included, of course) ending up having a miniature MAGStock at Bill Del Gallo’s house. Good times were had by all in attendance, lemme tell ya!
So basically: Do you like MAGFest? Do you like smaller conventions, where you can be a little more intimate with the guests (NOT LIKE THAT) and get to talk to them and learn from them? Maybe you should give Madicon a try next year.
WIN-tern out! We’ll be back next time with more Spotlight!
EDIT: Datacats himself caught an error in my attributions – Mike Peloquin didn’t take the Jon St. John picture, Shawn Morgan did! Mike’s actually the guy in the background of the picture. A No Prize for you, datacats!
Kicking off this Saturday, March 16th AWESOME-A-PALOOZA will be Will Strouse & JT as they debut the station-wide, two-week 8bitX Superhero Tournament! From 4-6pm EST they’ll be running down the rules and revealing the full bracket live on the air, and all hosted from the venue where Game Over Baltimore is happening later that day!
It’s gonna be DAMN GOOD TIMES.
This’ll also be the very first listening party hosted LIVE IRL AT CHIPWIN HQ (aka mine & ChipMom’s house in Arkansas) with Phonetic Hero and friends! This’ll be one for the record books in both the categories of AWESOME CHIPMUSIC & INSANE RIDICULOUSNESS.
If you’re in the area, GO TO THIS GORRAM SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!! If not, stay tuned on 8bitx and catch the livestream!! =D
And that sums up the special events for THIS particular crazy weekend. Be sure to tune into the 8bitx stream & chatroom and have some fun with our crazy asses! =D
Also, stay tuned for another post in the upcoming days regarding all the CRAZINESS happening in & around PAX East 2013!
What’s good, Chipwinners? Sorry to keep you guys waiting on this weeks edition. A change in schedule on my end threw things off and delayed me a bit, but I still managed to pull through for you! As I mentioned at the end of last week’s interview with Compy Core, this week’s interview is with Jay Tholen, an artist and musician of considerable talent who’s taken the time to talk to me about his music, art, a few upcoming projects, and even a few of the things that have come to inspire him over the years, like Earthbound.
Kuma: Let’s start with something simple. Of the many people in chip I’ve seen and interacted with, you’re one of the few that doesn’t have a stage name. Everywhere you go, you are Jay Tholen. Why is that, my friend?
Jay Tholen: Oh man, I think there’s a reason I formulated a long time ago but don’t really remember. I generally don’t like it when fellas use their real names. I always think it’s going to be some boring acoustic singer/songwriter thing. At least it isn’t “The Jay Tholen Band”!
That said, I think it had a lot to do with not wanting to present some kind of concocted image. It annoys me when musicians in bands take up a gimmicky theme and it defines them more than the actual music does. I don’t want anyone to like my music because it makes them feel like part of some exclusive club. Like the Juggalos or whoever. If they’re doing it in a self-aware way, that’s fine. Peter Gabriel was really theatrical in early Genesis, but he had humor about it.
These guys take themselves seriously? O.o
Kuma: Very true. Calling yourself that would make you sound very pretentious, and I have to admit, for all your talent, you’ve managed to avoid arrogance. You’ve been quite humble, and I admire that. That being said, your statement brings me to my next question, and that is to your “band” so to speak. Or rather, more precisely, your sister, Christine. I feel that for as much as people know you, people don’t know quite as much about her. Talk to me a bit about your relationship with her, both as a sibling and as a fellow artist.
Jay: Ha! My sister is an enormous influence on me, and I on her. We always moved around a lot as youngins, so we became each other’s best friends in lieu of having consistent peers to hang out with. We’re very alike in our tastes as a result. Both of us inherited our dad’s love for prog-rock (not subpar Dad-rock like Journey or Foreigner, I mean 70’s prog rock like King Crimson or Magma or Gong) and other wanky showoff stuff.
We also inherited his spirituality and have an unreasonable amount of incredibly strange continual in-jokes, some of which evolved their own characters in a bizarre concocted universe. We’re working on a heavily 90’s influenced cartoon right now to bring some of those things to the public. Probably a huge mistake.
Also, thanks for the compliment regarding my humility, but I’ve gotta say that you’re probably falling for my nice guy ruse. My sister and me are pretty snobby and are jerks about just about any aspect of culture you can think of. Especially big box Christianity, of which we’re constantly faced with.
Kuma: Well remind me never to talk to you again after this interview!
Kuma: But in all seriousness, you did just touch on a few other things I did want to ask you about, so lets go in order. First off, I take it a lot of our readers know you moreso for your musical talents than your visual skill. As such, I’d definitely like to hear more about your visual art for a bit and this cartoon, in particular. Elaborate, please.
Jay: Ahh, yeah. Visual art was my first love. I drew constantly as a kid, and did it instead of school work – which eventually led to my early release from high school. (That’s right, I’m the proud owner of a bona fide General Education Diploma). In 1997, when I was 10, my parents purchased our first home computer. It had nothing but default Windows 95 stuff (SkiFree, heck yes) because my dad refused to pay for the internet, so MS Paint became an early fascination. I was pushing pixels before I even know what pixel-art was.
Shortly after I found a copy of Klik & Play packaged with a copy of Sim Tower, which provided a useful purpose for my little MS Paint creations. When we finally got hooked up with some crappy dial-up, I joined the Klik community online, and began sharing my games. That community was the first place I heard about both chip music AND pixel art.
Jay Tholen makes some very nice pixel art.
In regards to the cartoon, it’s going to be a slight departure for me. The art is all hand drawn and scanned in. It reeks of 90’s MTV animation and has a really loose colorful DIY aesthetic. The ‘scenarios’ will be recorded live, edited only slightly (with accidental laughter kept in) and then animated over. Very quick and chilled out and fun. Some of the characters in the show have been around for fifteen years. Definitely us trying to return to our childhood.
Kuma: Very nice. I can’t wait to see that cartoon when it comes out, as your description of it already has piqued my curiosity both as a geek and an erstwhile animator. While you already answered what was to be another question (as to whether your art came before your music), you have led me to another one. Your description of the art style you’re going to be incorporating into your cartoon reminds me very much of the music video you did for the teaser track you released off you newest album, The Low Drone of the Earth.
In your music video for “Voice of the West”, you manage to combine simple, serene washes of color and the occasional subdued, monochromatic town portraits to create-along with the music – something that becomes a very spiritual, almost meditative experience. I’d like to hear more about your creative process with this video and what was going through your mind when you were making the video.
Jay: Ahh yeah. I hope I don’t desecrate my own work here too much – but that video was supposed to have a lot more detail in it. I wanted to branch out from the pixels and make something a bit more organic, so I grabbed this ancient set of watercolors we had laying around and painted a few pretty little sunrise/set scenes. Just swaths of color. I then doodled a few little town buildings with a grey/purple marker, scanned everything, turned the white to transparent, and slapped it all in a video compositing program. It only took one night to make. Maybe six or so hours total. I do like it, though. I was definitely going for that serene atmosphere. In regards to the song, I was heavily influenced by a few cuts on [Brian] Eno’s Before and After Science and wanted to evoke the same emotion.
Kuma: You can definitely hear it. Songs like “Here He Comes” and “Julie With” definitely come to mind when I think of that track. That being said, while your prog rock influences are very strong and very apparent, your newest album seems to be reminiscent also of some more geeky influences, as well. In particular, I must say, this album as a whole invokes musically an experience similar to Earthbound’s music, in how incredibly introspective it is. Aside from your spirituality, did you by some chance have any games or memories in mind when making this album?
Jay: Yes! Spot on with Earthbound. I just recently played through it again after being obsessed with Ubiktune’s little tribute album, and fell in love with the universe. It’s rare when all the elements in a game can come together and provide a cohesive otherworldly experience. I almost feel like Eagleland is a place I’ve lived before rather than a fabricated location. Is that pathetic? Oh well.
Monster Party has always been a big influence for me as well. It didn’t have a fleshed out world, but nothing beats fighting fried shrimp or bosses that say “Sorry, I’m Dead,” and perish before you’re even able to face them. I like stuff that wanders and jumps around and leaves you bewildered at why someone thought an Eggplant boss that tells you “Hello baby,” would be a good idea. Trying to be intentionally wacky and random doesn’t work either. It has to be unintentional. Not sure how that influences my music, but it probably seeps in somehow.
Kuma: I’m sure it does somehow. Hell, you’ve been doing this music thing for a while now, so its definitely bound to stick out somehow. I’d be almost a little worried if it didn’t. That being said, because it has been some time since you’ve started releasing music and art, I’m curious as to what you see yourself doing over the course of the next year or so.
Is artistic expression something you see as always being a part of your life, or do you think you might set it aside at one point – even if only for a bit-to pursue other goals, as well?
Jay: In December I’ll be releasing my first full length game,Dropsy. It’s a surreal exploration based adventure game that started out as a little Choose Your Own Adventure thread on Something Awful. In 2011 I ran a successful Kickstarter for it, and will probably be throwing up another one soon as I’m beginning to feel it necessary to hire an additional animator, among other things. I’ll be working a lot on that over the course of the next year.
And yes, art/music will always be a part of my life. It doesn’t define me, but it’s how I prefer to interact with the world. It communicates things more effectively than words ever could.
Kuma: Sir, if art and music could substitute every day speech and communication, let it be said that you are a grand orator. That being said, I’m greatly looking forward to hearing more from you in the future, and seeing the fruits of your labor when Dropsy is released. Before we end this interview, when can we expect to see Dropsy and The Low Drone of the Earth released, and do you have any final words or thoughts you’d like to express to your fans and friends in the chiptune, gaming and vgm communities?
Jay: The Low Drone of Earth will hopefully be out March 5 or 6, depending on when they get things together. All I can say for Dropsy is December at the moment. And as for final words, yes: I wanted to talk a little bit about My Lord and Savio – oh wait, no, that wasn’t it. I seriously just want to thank everyone who puts up with me and sinks time into listening to my stuff. I used to worry about being too ‘Christian’ for the creative types and too ‘avant-garde’ for the Christians. While that’s still definitely a thing, folks in the Chip and VGM communities have been overwhelmingly accepting. It surprises me all the time. So, yeah, thanks! And thanks for the interview, Adam.
I hope this is the lord and savior Jay was talking about
Kuma: I definitely have to agree with you there: whether it be religious differences, disparaging political views or differences in lifestyle or sexuality, the chip and vgm communities are surprisingly accepting and understanding of everyone’s differences. It’s that sense of community that drew me to it in the first place.
That being said, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to me and to all your fans, by proxy, for this interview. It was a pleasure. Although I’m still never going to speak to you again after this.
Jay: Hah. FINE JERK. Ciao.
Well that’s it for this week’s edition of Raw Cuts. Although I’m maintaining my vow of never talking to Jay Tholen again, don’t you forget to check out Jay’s Bandcamp for his upcoming album, The Low Drone of the Earth, as well as his homepage for updates on his other projects like Dropsy and his yet unnamed 90s cartoon.
Speaking of unnamed, tune in next week as I interview an as of yet unnamed artist! Seriously, even I’m not sure who I’ll be interviewing next. You’ll just have to tune in next week to find out.