Archive for June, 2013

Andrew Kilpatrick: Whilst I Was Gone

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Due to my (at the time of writing this) extended period of absence from reviewing, I decided to do some sort of wrap up; a review of ten releases that had come out in my absence. So, here are all ten, assembled into a single blog post for your viewing pleasure! Originally written for my Blog (TWG, links found here), it’s my pleasure to be cursing Chiptune=Win with it too. Enjoy! PS, links to the releases are on the titles!


Having started releasing EPs January of this year, DESUMATE is a bit late to the chipthrash party. Moreover, as the genre has surpassed its peak of popularity, the releases of last year from titans such as Kool Skull and shitbird have long cemented a certain bar of quality to be aspired to and judged against.

DESUMATE is, overall, almost a definition of chipthrash. Focus on drums, dissonant warbling melodies, glissandos into the deepest recesses of pitch and capital letters. However, whilst DESUMATE does get a lot right, for instance the drums are frequently brilliant, especially on ‘COMBO BREAKER’, he’s yet to achieve full effectiveness through his apparent inability to sense when boredom might set in. The three tracks total nine minutes, but the release would be far harder hitting if it were cut down to five. ‘MAXIMUM THRASH’ and ‘GRANNY BASHER’ just never seem to end, made further painful by the truly disgusting melodic instruments.

Overall, whilst the drums are outstanding (the beats on ‘GRANNY BASHER’ are truly remarkable too), the release falls flat due to a trait all too familiar for new chip composers; a lack of eclecticism. Some focus and meticulous attention to detail and DESUMATE’s next release could quite easily reach the bar of quality set by his forefathers, or, if the quality of track ‘COMBO BREAKER’ is anything to go by, even surpass them.


Dark Oyster- Wizard EP

The words ‘LSDJ’ and ‘debut release’, when put together, strike fear into my heart. With that dangerous combination usually comes an excess of connotations; badly produced, blandly written, and weakly melodic, all wrapped together in a sound as thin as a squashed cracker. Luckily Dark Oyster raised a middle finger to this norm.

Relief washed over me within the first seconds of ‘Something is Amiss Pt. 1’. The melodies throughout this entire release are, honestly, gorgeous. ‘Something is…’ creeps along like a cut from Infinity Shred, ‘Short Break’ has so much melodic swagger KODEK would be jealous and ‘Let’s Go To The Graffiti Festival’, mixes beautiful croons with Russian melodies to form what the offspring of a Solarbear and Dorothy’s Magic Bag collaboration would sound like.

It’s not all plain sailing of course. Final track ‘The Machine’ is expendable, some of the instrument choices, most of note the sliding instrument in the opening track, are weakly conceived, and sometimes staccato is used in such abundance the pace slows to a stuttering halt. That being said, if this is a debut, there can only be bigger on the horizon. I predict we have another Auxcide on our hands.



Prolific rarely holds as much meaning as it does when being applied to Smiletron. Known as much for his frequent and quality output as the chilled EDM expanses within these expulsions, Smiletron has become a staple figure in the chip scene. With so many releases under his belt and the recent announcement of dissolution, is this a fitting tribute, as one of his last exports, to his vibrant career?

Apollo’ is nothing revolutionary, though that never felt like the point of his work. The first thing you’ll notice is familiarity. ‘High quality chilled chip-tinged EDM jams are the manifesto, and it’s one he’s been preaching for years. As such, by now not a second feels forced; it’s like music flows from Smiletron’s fingertips at the will of his psyche. He manages the ludicrous task of making electronic music sound genuinely organic.

The title track is gorgeous; the familiar mixture of memorable micro-melodies and huge beats over warm analog tones settles the atmosphere quickly. ‘Eclipse’ follows a familiar pattern, and ‘Yours’ mixes an 80s vibe with modern day EDM and some relaxed breakbeats. The three tracks coast along without force; sometimes with too little force in fact (moments of ‘Eclipse’ are SO dynamically flat the song almost disappears if you’re not paying attention). That tiny qualm aside, this is another fantastic Smiletron, another notch in his great discography. At least when he leaves us there’ll be a surplus of tracks to remember him by.


EGR- DeathMurderGo

EGR, aka Arnie Holder, is the owner of Datathrash Recordings, THE home of chipthrash. When he releases something the chipscene should take notice; this man played a huge part in shaping one of the scenes most recent stylistic explosions. He’s chipthrash’s godfather, if you will. He also doesn’t release much, so his few expulsions should be lapped up with haste, and his most recent, ‘DeathMurderGo’, is by far his most destructively brutal.

‘DeathMurderGo’ was recorded through a microphoned practice amp and sounds as such. Raw as fuck. If Kurt Ballou produced a chiptune album, this is what it would sound like, a bludgeoning mixture of aggression, understated groove and noise-distorting walls of sound. ‘Death’s beats hit like a charging bison, ‘Go’ sounds like the death of an albatross and ‘Murder’ blends the two atmospheres into a forebodingly swaggering cement mixer of noise and violence.

The production really is perfect for this release. Whilst it may not be for everyone, anyone even remotely interested in noise or chipthrash genres will find themselves captivated by the concrete slabs of produced perfection (through nonchalance). Whilst moments of ‘Murder’ and ‘Go’ could do with being opened up a bit (they tend to dissipate into pure sound experiments, but that might be a bad thing), this is still a fantastic release. I think, for the good of chiptune, we should collectively sign a petition stating EGR must write a full-length. We deserve it, and he has clearly got the talent for it.


Xyce- papillions

Cheapbeats, the Tokyo based label/ event organiser, recently released their third offering, xyce’s ‘papillions’. Xyce are an amalgamation of Dutch chiptuners xylo and cerror, and this is their 5th release to date. Picking up where their previous works left off, ‘papillons’ continues the xyce tradition of using Atari, Amiga and old PC sounds to create demoscene styled chiptune with a huge focus on melody, whilst delving slightly into multiple other genres.

The first thing that jumps out from ‘papillions’ is the melodies throughout are absolutely fantastic. ‘avonture au japon’ sounds like a beach personified in audio, the motif for ‘ombres’ is pure sublime, as are the arps that speak it, and ‘grecque’ sounds like hyperactive plush; marshmallow dripping from speakers.  Also, the demoscene theme expands to include collaborations with demosceners Radix and Malmen. Malmen’s contribution takes place on the title track, with twinkling instruments and melancholy in abundance. The Radix collaboration ‘rainbow dash!’  is the albums real highlight however, towering over surrounding tracks with a ferocious sense of dynamics and melodies, dipping into modern house and EDM with unrepentant ease.

Such a focus on melody comes at a price however. The notion of dynamics and timbre are often glazed over, and as such a few tracks, like ‘samedi’, ‘bequille’ and ‘feuilles’, stumble by inoffensively and forgettably. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t bad tracks, they just get lost in the crowd. Less a detriment on xyce’s composing as on their awareness of effective album structure.

That being said, with tracks like the aforementioned ‘rainbow dash!’ and the Miami-house and polka swag-rife ‘subsonique deux’, xyce have another hugely successful release under their belt. Whilst it doesn’t sound like their definitive statement quite yet, it is still another example of chiptune’s continuing statements of quality. And when their definitive statement does come, and it will, we can be assured we’ll have the European 4mat fully realised.


Peaches The Wale- Lovely

Godinpants’ alter ego/ nautical hand puppet Peaches has released ‘her’ third EP recently. Featuring the familiar Peaches sound, sampled glitched up breakbeat with drill n bass, jungle and dips into seapunk, ‘Lovely’ cements this alias as one of the highest quality ‘jokes’ the scene has ever witnessed.

The title track has an infectious hip hop gleam, ‘Australia Exam’ uses samples to form a party-rife rave cyclone and ‘Jungle Jungle’ features a formidable fall into jungle mayhem which is, in two words, fucking astonishing. Also, moments of ‘Grumpy Wombat Tantrum’ go full Aphex Twin mode, and when it does it’s captivating.

‘Grumpy Wombat Tantrum’ is nowhere near the quality of the other tracks though, and the Taylor Swift cover is diabolical (though there is definitely a sense of purposeful awareness attached), but apart from that the faults in this 5 track opus are insignificant. I regularly found myself dancing statically and throwing my hands up like it was Detroit. Long live Peaches, both the best animal and the best jungle producer in chiptune.


Blitz Lunar- Triptunes

Produced in Logic and utilising sounds from various trackers, released on Ubiktune and with fantastic cover art by the hugely talented ‘ui’, this had all the markings of pure quality.  It doesn’t disappoint. I often steer away from making comparisons between chiptune and VGM, as to do so feels descriptively weak and lazy, but Blitz Lunar’s debut full length honestly encompasses a soundtrack to the last 20 years of video game history.  The industry is doing itself a disservice by not coaxing a soundtrack from this fantastic composer.

The first three tracks, ‘You (and a prefix)’ sound exactly like the releases’ title implies; insane psychedelic chiptune melding elements of 80s electronica and breakbeat into jazz prog; Zan-Zan-Zawa-Veia crossed with C-Jeff through Dillinger Escape Plan. The end of ‘You Universe’ leads nicely into the rest of the album’s calming embrace, spiralling into psychedelic ambient space jams at the drop of a hat, a further manifestation of Blitz’s incredible composition prowess. ‘Honest Truth Zone’ flirts with more familiar chiptune sounds whilst displaying hints of Flying Lotus, and ‘Hidden Heaven’ and ‘Comfort Zone’ have a contemporary Nintendo vibe about them.

There is dip in the album’s quality between ‘Comfort Zone’ and ‘Ego Bubble Zone’ though. Whilst all the tracks sound fantastic (I’d like to in particular note ‘Holyday’s audio personification of cute quaintness), there isn’t much that keeps the tracks memorable; they flitter by with incredible grace but with little emotional substance. But there is more than enough to keep fans of chiptune, video game scores or electronic music in general ecstatically happy. One of those debuts that really was worth the wait. Nintendo, take note.


Ralp- Petaxer

Known as much for his huge back catalogue of chip as for running Spanish label Low Toy, Ralp returns with another bruising manifestation of club-ready tunes and complex LSDJ/Nanoloop programming, this time in the form of the 24 track progressive monster ‘Petaxer’.

Following the similar trait of previous albums, ‘Petaxer’ almost plays as a single, uninterrupted song. Couple this with the fact the release is only 30 minutes long, those swayed by the huge track count should not let themselves be put off, as what lies within is a tour de force of bite sized LSDJ and Nanoloop mastery.  Ideas are dropped instantly at their peak of quality, flitting to something new , giving the release an unmatched urgency and pace. There is also a huge amount of diversity; ‘Lubra’, ‘Utoh’ and ‘Mitical’ all explore swaggering hip hop beats and melodies.  ‘Psudasco’, ‘Oblea’ and ‘Pungo’ are all gut punches of bass, Monodeer via KODEK, and every track from ‘Toeph’ onwards cranks up the melodic mastery leading to a euphoric and urgent climax on ‘Statoplax’.

You’d thinks with so many tracks there’d be a fair few undesirables. There aren’t. There is nothing but quality here.  Whether you want driving dance floor destroyers like ‘Daxa’ or glitched out melodies in tracks like ‘Virtua’, ‘Petaxer’ shows quite efficiently how versatile both LSDJ and Nanoloop can be in the right hands. One of the best releases of the year, if not ever, in chiptune.


shanebro – When Hearts And Minds Collide

Relatively new to the scene, LSDJer shanebro recently put out his first full length and second release overall, ‘When Hearts And Minds Collide’. With a fantastic track on last year’s ChipWINter compilation, it was with enthusiasm that I began listening. However, it quickly became apparent that shanebro would have been much better off releasing another EP or two before tackling a full length.

The theme seems to be balance, as every moment of euphoria is almost instantaneously marred by bad composition or instrument choices. The build in opener ‘The Ballad of the Electric Tigers’ is tense and thick, but the peak is half-hearted and limp. ‘Hakai’ has some wonderful orient-tinged melodies, but they feel underdeveloped, and when the track does find its feet it’s abruptly ruined by a horrid bridge.  Also, both ‘One World, Two Different Axels’ and ‘Semopnume Kashiwazki’ have great melodies but suffer from over-repetition, and ‘Our Final Moments’ is just an exercise in blandness.

It’s an honest shame, as the guy clearly has a shed full of talent. Moments in ‘It’s Happening’ are brilliant, the staccato semi-quaver sections especially, and after the track speeds up it’s highway cyberpunk at its very best. ‘Akarin Is Love’ and the title track are both rife with great melodies and the track featuring Auxcide, ‘Threat Level Midnight’, takes the best of both artists and blends them into an emotive whirlwind of melodic nuance and killer beats. That being said, for a release titled ‘When Hearts And Minds Collide’ there isn’t much heart or apparent thought gone in to detail. There is so much potential here, it’s just unfortunate it hasn’t been fully realised yet.


Yerzmyey- Brutal And Aggressive

ZX Spectrum powerhouse Yerzmyey is returning after 6 years to 8bitpeoples to deliver a collection of Spectrum tracks. His 2nd release this year, and another chance for Yerzmyey to prove again to the newer generation who were enlightened by the success of last October’s ‘Strange Light Under My Bed’, that there is a reason he’s still around.

Opening with the epic ‘Dark Galactica’, a string of brilliant melodies and slow-shifting atmospheres, made only more effective after being considered in retrospect. Album closer ‘Alone’ also delivers fury with borderline metal melodies, staccato and kicks the size of houses. The opening of ‘IM35’ swiftly moves from Tubular Bells homage to crunchy, thick bass thuds, sounding like a sledgehammer being dragged along concrete.

Elsewhere however, the mood is starkly different. ‘Get Mad’ tastes oddly like Europop (cheesy trance influences and all), and ‘STandard Crap’ is an 80s dance number heaving under the weight of its own percussion and melodic interplay. There are some duller moments; past the two minute mark ‘IM35’ gets nigh-on unbearable due to jarring instrument choices, and ‘Get Mad’ and ‘Haunted Mansion’ constitute a dip in quality over other tracks, but overall? Another Yerzmyey release, another slice of chiptune gold and another example of how he is one of the few from the ‘2006-8’ generation that has managed to stay relevant, interesting, and dazzlingly exciting.

Favourite track: Alone

Raw Cuts with Kuma #8: shanebro

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Hey guys! Welcome back to Raw Cuts!  You ready for another dose of interview goodness?  Well you better be because this week I bought Shane Banegas along for the ride, and he’s here to talk about whatever the hell I ask him about, because in Raw Cuts, I’m the man in charge!  So without further ado, here’s the self proclaimed generalissimo from Louisiana, shanebro!

Generalissimo Shanebro: great leader of the people's republic of moe

Kuma:  First off, lets talk a little something that’s been bothering me.  If one were to look up chiptune on SoundCloud and stumble upon your work, they will see a little snippet from you: one that claims that you’re just starting out on your journey into chiptune.  To that I say, bullshit, good sir.  Do you know why that is?

shanebro:  Why is that!?

yes, why is that?!

Kuma:  Because you’re clearly much too talented to have just started out with this, sir!  Do you have any idea how good you are?  It’s really quite extraordinary.  Tell me, prior to chiptune, do you have any musical experience or training?

shanebro:  D’aww Kuma, you’re making blush.  I honestly have so much to go before I achieve what I REALLY want to sound like!  As far as prior experience… nope.  I have a few good friends that are musicians themselves, so I guess I’ve always been around music, from classical to death metal and everything in between.  Training?  Nope, I played the saxophone in elementary school, that’s about it.  Everything that you’re hearing is me saying in my head, “Hey this sounds good”.

Kuma:  Shane, you’re rustling my jimmies with how good you are, especially because when I look at your SoundCloud, the oldest song on there is only a year old, and its quite good too.  Although I notice its in FamiTracker, where as now you predominantly use Game Boys.  Lets talk about that for a bit: your transition musically in hardware and software, such as what you like and dislike about each, why you made the transition, etc.

shanebro:  Ahh yeah.  my old stuff… oh gawsh.

Actual photo of shane while reflecting on his earlier work

That stuff was rough, and I love going back and listening to the stuff I started out with and comparing it to what I do now.  I’ve learned so much!  Yeah, I did start out with FamiTracker.  When I first heard ‘Helix Nebula‘ by Anamanguchi, I went to Google and searched “How to make 8-bit music” and FamiTracker popped up.  I managed to find 8bc back then when it was getting ready to die, unfortunately, but I did find some great help!
FamiTracker seemed easy enough for me, but I noticed most of the “popular” chipmusic sounded way different, so I searched the depths of the internet once again and found that it was made on a program called LSDJ with a Game Boy.  The rest is history, really.

Straight up, I love LSDJ.  I can do so much [more] in a tracker program than in a DAW which I frequently messed around with previously of my chipmusic adventures, but it never stuck.  So to answer your question of why I made the transition, well it felt perfect to me! The fact that I had a toy that a lot of people discarded that could make beautiful sounds, although my sounds were hideous back then, lol!

Kuma:  Its funny to hear other people call their older work hideous, but when I listen as someone from the outside looking in, I can only hear amazing things and progress.
That being said, lets talk about some of your influences musically.  Obviously, you mentioned Anamanaguchi, and I can’t think of many in the scene who aren’t or wouldn’t be impressed with them or what they represent in terms of an ideal of success, especially with their recent triumphs with their kickstarter for Endless Fantasy and all the attention they’ve garnered since. Tell me, what and who inspire you to make the music you do, and why do you personally do it?  Is this all just for fun for you or does making music resonate on a deeper level for you?

shanebro:  Ah yes, Anamanaguchi pretty much started it all for me, and I have so much respect for them, and can’t wait to see them next month!

As for influences, well early on I listened to a TON of Chipzel!  Like all day every day!  And I would have to say Fighter X and his chaotic yet awesome way of writing really influences me, too.  Space Town Savior is also another MAJOR influence of mine.  He actually inspired most of my upcoming album.

I make chipmusic because prior to this I really haven’t accomplished much, in my opinion, so I saw this as a way to express my self in a good way.  To think people actually enjoy my music really makes me overcome with feels.  Seriously.  If you would have told me a year or so ago that I would be having my OWN set at a major event, I would have called you crazy.  It really surreal that all this is happening right now. I really love the chipmusic community.

Kuma:  I’m glad you do make this music, and I’m glad you’ve become a part of this community.  It’s certainly been a pleasure conversing with you, hanging with you, rooming with you at MAGFest.  That was fantastic, btw.  We are doing that again next year.  But getting back to the topic at hand, I can definitely hear the influences you mentioned in your music.  Especially in the song you did with softRESET, Celestial Bodies.  Tell me: of all the people you’ve worked with in chip, who have meant the most to you?  We know the ‘guch and Chipzel mean a lot to you, but of the people you’ve met and interacted with personally, who has been the biggest influence on you?  Who do you feel you owe the most to?

shanebro:  Much <3 Kuma.  MAGFest next year is gonna be awesome!
Well I’d have to say Max (The Bitman) is one of those people who I enjoyed interacting with the most.  We met last year, and road tripped to BRKFest ’12.  He sort of became my “coach” back then.  He’s been nothing but helpful whenever I had a question about LSDJ or whatever.  The chipmusic community is awesome, but there is still a tiny bit of an “elitist” in it, which is totally understandable.  Bitman and I will be working on getting an EP down with our power combined sooner or later!

I’d also have to mention Curtis (Solarbear), too.  I remember last year at BRKFest we were riding back to his house from Taco Bell, and we were talking about stuff, and I was explaining to him how nervous I would be if I would be playing at something like BRKFest.  I wondered if I would even get a chance to do that in the next 5 years or something.  He pretty much gave me some uplifting words, which obviously translated into me getting a spot for this years BRKFest, which I am just so humble to be playing at.

Kuma:  That’s awesome.  I’m glad to hear that in so short a time you’re finally getting that chance to shine.  You deserve it.  That being said, come BRKFest, your fans will definitely be expecting to hear stuff off your new album.  Let’s talk about Where Hearts and Minds Collide for a bit, shall we?  When’s it coming out?  What kinda gear did you use to make this, and was there a certain mindset, sound or emotional theme you were looking to capture while making this?

shanebro:  Yeah, I’m super pumped for this opportunity!  Where Hearts and Minds Collide will be out on June 17th for free, and I will be making a package that will include a physical CD, Poster, and shanebro sticker, so look out for that!

I used one Game Boy for the majority of the tracks, and a couple using two Game Boys in which I am totally new to, but I think they came out really well!

The mindset for this album when I had envisioned it was simple: This is my chance to shine (like you said previously).  After my first EP, I felt like I could elevate my understanding of LSDJ and certain ways to make certain sounds.  I had a bunch of help from guys like Auxcide, softRESET, and some others.  I wanted this album of 12 tracks to be something that I could be proud of, and despite at this point listening to it over and over again to the point where I want to throw my speakers out, I really think I accomplished this goal.  I want people to see that you don’t necessarily need to be Hanz Zimmer to compose music.  If you really set your mind to it, and observe what people like–and what you like, mainly–you can achieve anything.

As for an emotional theme, it would have to be euphoric.  Most of my stuff is really upbeat with a mix of really dark stuff if that makes any sense at all!

Kuma:  That certainly is an inspiring message, and considering the quality of your music thus far, I have no doubt that you’ve succeeded in this endeavor.  Will you be throwing a listening party or a doing a live performance to help promote the album?

shanebro:  There will be a a release party on 8BitX on the 17th! Otherwise, who knows? I don’t want to give it all away yet.

Kuma:  Not a problem, but I’m glad our readers and your fans will have something extra to look forward to with the release of the album.

That being said, Shane, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk shop with us.  You’re amazing, your music is amazing, and I expect only great things for you in the future no matter what you do.  Do you have anything you’d like to say to your friends, fans and our readers before we go?

shanebro:  Thank you so much Kuma!  I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who has helped me or encouraged me or even told me that my stuff is crap, and it needs to be improved.  If you want to get into chipmusic, just do it!  This community is the best, and I can say it has really changed my life since I’ve been introduced to so many people.
Much love to everyone!

Thanks for dropping by to check out this interview.  Don’t forget to like/follow/etc. shanebro at his various social media outlets & to scoop up his pay-what-you-will album from his Bandcamp on June 17 (links below)!  Tune in next time for another quality interview with another quality chipartist.



communist shane

Relevant shanebro Links:
Bandcamp | SoundCloud | Facebook | Twitter

Raw Cuts with Kuma #7: sleepytimejesse

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Hey what’s up, Chipwinners!  Welcome back for another installment of Raw Cuts!  This time around I managed to get a hold of a young man named Jesse Martin, a musician who not only makes chipmusic, but also plays in an increasingly popular alt rock band called The Zou!  Without further ado, enjoy my interview with the chiptune artist called sleepytimejesse!

pic semi-related


Kuma:  So, lets be straight up: you’re quite a force to be reckoned with in the chiptune/vgm scene, as well as in the indie rock scene.  You’ve put out albums under Ubiktune, you’re in a kick ass band and you’re a rather prolific musician who lives and breathes his passion. Where did it all start for you, Jesse?  What made you want to start making music?  Lets hear your story.

sleepytimejesse (stj):  Oh man, that’s a lot to live up to!  Haha!  Well really, it started around maybe [age] 12 or 13.  My parents were getting a pretty nasty divorce and I broke my arm really bad skateboarding.  So I kind of picked up guitar as a form of rehab and to try to connect with my dad.  Music became more of an escape than anything and I kind of knew I wanted it to be my life from then on.  You caught me off guard with your awesome question, haha.

I can't help being awesome

Kuma:  I’m glad.  Now, lets take it a step further.  Making music with a guitar is one thing, but making chiptune is another.  Was there a certain experience that made you decide that this was something you had to do for yourself?  A game soundtrack that touched you or a song you came across that turned your head?

STJ:  Yeah, eventually I got frustrated with only writing for instruments I could physically hold.  It felt like there was more out there to do.  So I started working with VSTs and soundfonts and the like.  Probably around like 2006-07.  This, coupled with a love of video game music and hoping to some day write for games, sort of started to manifest itself into music for imaginary games.  Over time I got more and more interested in the actual limitations of scoring for games, and inevitably found my way into FamiTracker.  Which I then just obsessed over for like three months straight.

Kuma:  Praytell, was one of your many albums the fruits of this three month obsession? Also, regardless of whether or not that was the case, as a person who transitioned from acoustic guitar to DAWs to a tracker, were you pleased with your results?  Did it come naturally to you with your experience prior in making music in other forms or was it a more daunting experience than you expected?

STJ:  Yeah, I had most of an album of covers (which I titled, “CVRS“) by the end of my sort of head first jump into 8-bit.  A couple of the originals either ended up on 8bc or, but most of them have been getting touched up here or there over the years.  I have another chiptune album in the works that includes these and some new tunes and collabs, but honestly the transitions through work spaces wasn’t too bad.  I’d say the move into trackers went pretty smoothly.  I love to focus on the microscopic details while composing and that’s really what a tracker is best for anyway.

Kuma:  That’s really quite wonderful and unexpected to hear, as even a few of my friends now who are just getting into chiptune for the first time after years of guitar or drums are just like “Welp! I seem to have made a terrible mistake!” and are comparing the process of making a song in a day in guitar to maybe doing the same in a month on something like lsdj.  It is rather entertaining.

mmmm!  so tasty!  so amusing!

That being said, you mentioned your new album.  Lets talk about that.  What can we expect to hear on it?  Will it be anything like some of your more recent releases, such as what you put out for the Yoshi’s Island tribute album or the Earthbound tribute album, or should we expect something darker?

STJ:  I wouldn’t necessarily say darker.  To be honest a lot of it is inspired by jazz tunes. So there’s maybe some moments of bittersweetness but nothing downright depressive.  At least not yet.  And a couple of tunes on those albums weren’t all cute.  I think I titled the one “Brimstone’s Bone Cavern”.  hahaha!

Kuma:  True, your album Tending the Mines, while it does have a few dream like songs, also feels dark not in the sense that it feels foreboding, but that it has a lot of emptiness to it, enough for the listener’s imagination to play around with the space between notes to fill in the void.

That being said, while I’m sure you’ll always find time for chip as it is something you generally love, lets be honest: there is another project you’re a part of that is becoming more popular. Lets take a moment to talk about it, shall we?  The Zou.  How did it start, and considering how popular the band is becoming, where do you think it’ll go from here and how will that affect what you’re doing as a chip artist with aspirations to compose for video games?

STJ:  Ah, thank you.  Tending is some of my favorite music I’ve ever written.  I’m really flattered when people say they’ve enjoyed it.  You’re spot on, empty is what I aspired for.  The Zou is a band I joined about three years ago and it’s been an amazing three years. They’ve always been pretty established and when I moved back to Ohio after high school they were in need of a guitarist.  They knew of me because the singer, Khaled, is my cousin and once he showed the other members my online stuff I was offered the gig. We’ve toured each summer and I’ve met some of my best friends while on the road.  The people you meet, crash at their houses, eat at Steak and Shake with at four in the morning, these people don’t forget you and you don’t forget these people.  Not to mention you learn so much about interpersonal communication, about crisis aversion, about working under stress.  Our new album, “Kills, Part 1” just dropped on iTunes and who knows where it goes from here?

Kuma:  That’s awesome.  I take it that those skills are what allow you to balance both your music and the bands, then?  It’s never been an issue balancing the two then, has it?

STJ:  Haha we used to have a strict “no side projects” rule but with my music being work related I partly obscured that hard no.  But the cool thing about composing so frequently on your own and also being in a band is you get to bring what you’ve learned to the table and apply it to songs what will be played and recorded by a group of actual people.  Really cool to hear what subtle changes take place to these moments which were once purely electronic.

Kuma:  Nice!  Any chance of seeing and hearing those subtle changes live this summer, as per tradition?  And will you tour for your individual project, as well?

STJ:  Ah, plan on maybe doing some touring circuits in the next two years but not quite yet.  But for now I think the best way to hear this process is to listen to the new album and its subsequent follow up Part 2 with some headphones on.  “Soon! Okay?” and “Ain’t There an Easier Way” are pretty good examples of this for now.

Kuma:  Awesome!  I’ll definitely listen to it after I get through listening to all your other amazing shit!  Seriously, man: both individually and with the band, you’re an incredible talent.  That being said, I think this is definitely a good place to wrap things up for now, but I do look forward to hearing more of your music, as well as interviewing again in the future, should circumstances permit.  Do you have anything you’d like to say in closing to our readers?

STJ:  Thanks!  That’d be lovely.  For now, if people want they can follow me on Twitter and maybe follow the indie game studio I just joined–rawrsoft–for some future happenings. We’re working hard behind the scenes, some big announcements in coming months.

Kuma:  Awesome! I’ll be sure to help pimp you out to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, as well!  With that being said, Mr. Martin, it was a sincere pleasure.

Thanks again for tuning in with us here at Chiptunes = WIN!  Tune in next time as I interview shanebro and we talk about his upcoming new EP, BRKFest, and things we regret doing at MAGFest maybe!  Peace!

sleepytimejesseRelevant sleepytimejesse Links:
Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | The Zou | Rawrsoft (Twitter)

Raw Cuts with Kuma #6: xyce

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‘Sup, chipWINners!  Its your boy Kuma back with another interview!  This time around, I managed to get something super special with not one but two awesome chiptune legends who talk to me about their creative process, how they first met, and a few other unexpected topics!  Without further ado, I present my first interview with a duo on Raw Cuts: xyce!



Kuma:  It is a pleasure to finally be able to get to sit down and talk with you guys!
How are you two doing?

Tom Offringa (xylo):  Good!

Roel Heerspink (cerror):  Great!  You?

Kuma:  Not bad, thanks!  Let’s get started, shall we?

cerror:  Yes sir!

Kuma:  I’m especially excited as this will be my first interview with more than one person at a time, so this should be very exciting!

xylo:  Haha it’ll work out!

cerror:  Hope it’s not confusing!

Kuma:  So, first question: you two both have solo careers as electronic artists, but you definitely seem to have been most prolific as a duo.  How did you two meet in the first place?

xylo:  I heard a keygen from X-Men and the name cerror came by.  I was pretty active on a dutch forum those days and I saw cerror his name across there as well, so I asked him if he was actually the same guy.  And he was!

cerror:  Yup!  So he contacted me and said he wanted to make tunes as well and I started to teach him some stuff.

Kuma:  Nice!

cerror:  And that way we started making music together.  That was in 2006, I think?

xylo:  Somewhere around 2005/2006 I guess yeah!

cerror:  He lived in Groningen and I lived in Meppel (hour away by train) so it was via internet at first.

Kuma:  Very cool.  That being said, Roel, since you seem to have been doing this longer than Tom has, I’m curious as to just how long you’ve been doing this before, especially since, in your equipment lists on your albums, you seem to be one of the chiptuners that prefers the sounds made with consoles and computers made in the early and mid 80s, compared to a lot of other folk I’ve interviewed who stick to Game boys and such.

cerror:  Wow, well I started like everybody else: with gaming.  First thing I gamed on was a commodore 128 that belonged to my nephews.  And later on I was a big Sega Megadrive (Genesis) fan and also old PCs, of course.  That was around ’92 or so.  I used to be a drummer and I saw a guy at school making music with Fasttracker II.  I got that one online and started to look for music to learn from.  I saw this site named traxinspace and it had like breakbeat and trance stuff but also chiptunes made by Zalza!  This was around 97.
Thus, I started to learn and remembered the good old days.  I also started research and learn and also purchase machines while learning the trackers.  I lost 1 hard disk with 800 bad tunes, but I just kept on doing it until today.  Only got pretty decent at chiptunes in 2003/2004 I think.

xylo:  Our choice of old computers like the Amiga and Atari instead of the Game boy is pretty much based on the sound it makes.  The trackers work great, we’re used to them and the chips in both those computers sound awesome.

cerror:  Exactly!  Of course, I’m heavily influenced by the demoscene (I’ve been a member since 2001) and crackteams I’ve been in.

in an alternate universe, cerror fixes homes damaged by earthquakes

Kuma:  Oh man, that’s awful about that hard drive you lost!  I’m sorry about that, but at least those tunes helped you become the artist you are today!  I’m glad you mentioned Zalza, as I’m listening to Mosaik right now!

Now Tom, I’m sure it was already exciting for you to work with Roel as it was, but I couldn’t imagine how you must have felt when you got a chance to work with Zalza and RADIx, as well!  Does it ever hit you out of the blue that in the…8 or so years you’ve been in chiptune that you’ve come so far and have had a chance to work with so many awesome artists?

xylo:  Working with Roel became very smooth.  As he taught me pretty much all the basics of Modplug and I was inspired heavily by the same kind of artists Roel was our styles mixed in pretty flawlessly.

cerror:  Yeah I have to quickly come in between and I must say that that was an incredibly coincidence . Our styles were pretty much the same.  Love for the same type of tunes.  Now I shall shut up.

their styles were so similar, you'd swear you were seeing double...

xylo:  As cerror was already a pretty known name by those kind of artists and we visited some demoparties it was easy to connect.  We talked to Zalza when he was planning on doing a Chipdisk with artists from back then.  So because of he mainly knowing cerror and we were working a lot together, he (Zalza) asked xyce to do a track with him.  We met him on Revision where the Chipdisk was released!

Working with RADIx was a true blessing, as well.  With social media coming up it was suddenly a lot easier to quickly get in touch with someone (asides from irc and stuff).  So we talked a bit about chiptunes and the idea came up to do a track together.

cerror:  I came in my pants when I got the news from Tom that RADIx wanted to work with us.  And not only once, but TWICE!  [RADIx has a] New album, too.

Kuma:  You have no idea how hard that made me laugh!

xylo:  Hahaha!

cerror:  Hehehehehe, it’s true though!  I mean, I’ve started making tunes since 2000 or so, RADIx since 92!  I am a 3rd gen chiptune guy.

Kuma:  I can only imagine!  It definitely sounds like the way i would react if someone like 4mat ever said he wanted to make music with me! I’d just….spaghettis everywhere!

xylo:  Working with guys as RADIx, Zalza, Malmen, alk and more feels incredible.  It’s amazing to work with those that inspire us daily musically and them taking the time to work with us and enjoy making music makes us very happy!

cerror:  Whahahaha, I would too if 4mat would ask us!  He’s also a demoscener, btw!
Totally!  Although I’ve made tunes for a while, I am not as famous as 4mat, RADIx or Zalza.  So it’s a super honor for me.

Kuma:  Damn!  It certainly sounds like you guys have been afforded a lot of opportunities in the scene and that, in particular for you Tom, that most of your career musically since having met Roel seems to have just naturally unfurled for you!  It’s pretty amazing!  Is there anything either of you wish you would have done that maybe you haven’t had the chance to do or something you wish to do differently artistically?  Such as maybe take up more on the visual side in the demoscene or experiment more with your sound?  I’m really curious.

xylo:  Well, experimenting is something we generally do.  cerror’s got his VST music which is pretty different.  But when we make music together and try a different approach (for example some doskpop, italo or drum n bass) the happy chords and vibes seem to come magically back in to our songs, which makes them instantly recognizable for most.

cerror:  Yeah, I really want to make tunes on more different types of machines.  Like the ZX Speccy, Atari XL, Sega, Nintendo (NES, SNES and Gameboy, in particular) and so on. But it’s really hard to learn new trackers.  Don’t have the patience/time for it.  And I can’t step off the melodies.  It’s just hard coded in my brain

xylo:  Concerning machines I agree with Roel.  Expanding our horizon with more machines would be great.

cerror:  I have a lot of machines. Just no time or sd cartridges/transfer thingies.  I’ve got a list here of machines I have.

Kuma:  Yeah I really have to agree there, Tom: I can spot a xyce tune out of a Coachella sized event on a single mp3 player, but there’s nothing wrong with those happy chords.  I think it just adds to what makes your music–and chiptune as an instrumentation and/or genre–unique.  Hell, that’s why I fell in love with it in the first place when I went to Blipfest last year.

That being said, one thing i have noticed with your music is the Sega sound and influence in what you produce.  It’s almost funny to hear you say you want to expand your horizons more but that sound, or sounds akin to it, are already there.

cerror:  Well style-wise it is yes. But the real sound though is missing. That’s what I want in the next album.

Kuma:  Is that intentional or do you think that just comes out subconsciously and you haven’t fully realized that its there yet?

cerror:  Not really recognize it although now that you say, I can see what you mean.  The basslines and chord hits definitely stand out.

xylo:  It’s the experience making music on those machines that is really important, as well. Our Amiga Mods and Atari snd’s have a very distinctive sound.  Our Fasttracker II tracks (XM) have a bit of clash sound with different kind of sounds, samples and stuff.

Kuma:  Since you bought it up, lets talk about your future projects, both together and individually.  What do you guys have up your sleeves for the next album?  What sorta hardware and software did you use this time around?  Did you stick to your guns or did you expand a little more?

cerror:  Didn’t really talked about it to be honest.

xylo:  Although it sounds like some other machines, making music on the machines alone makes it that songs have the very distinctive sound the machines produces, as the Atari and Amiga do, as well.  That’s the main difference between FastTracker II tracks ‘sounding’ like Sega tracks, and tracks actually made on the machine.

cerror:  Yup. Sound is important.  The feel, etc.  That’s why I dislike commodore style VST.  And stuff like that.  We do it hardcore

xylo:  No expending this album with other machines than the usual, but the album has a lot of variety in styles (some easier, some loud etc).

Kuma:  I can tell. I don’t even think Radlib/oxygenstar/what’sCarlsnamenow? does it quite as hard as that.

I have a feeling Carl doesn't even know what he calls himself anymore.

xylo:  We used the Atari 1040ST, Amiga 500 and PC just as the other 4 albums.

cerror:  We want to do more types of machines, but as I said: it’s hard to learn new trackers.  I can make a tune on an Atari blindfolded.  But a Sega tune?  Hard hard work!
I am 29 now so when I was 17 I had the time.

Kuma:  That’s very true.  I’m nowhere near even half the guys on cm.o, but I can at least make a little melody or drum beat on piggy tracker or sunvox in a couple minutes.  I couldn’t figure out FamiTracker or Schism Tracker for the life of me, though.  Also, I have to agree: it does seem–outwardly, at least–like Sega tunes are hard work.  Sega guys definitely seem to make up one of–if not the–lowest common denominator of what you see in chip.  Hell, outside The Duchess, the only other person I know that does Sega stuff is The Flight Away, and he does samples through his laptop as opposed to working with the hardware directly.

cerror:  Coda, for example, is what I want to achieve on the Sega.  Unfortunately it will take years and years to get there sound wise.

xylo:  Experiencing is always a good thing, but as some other trackers feel way more comfortable and known it’s easy to gripe back to those when you want to push out some inspiration in to notes.

cerror:  I’ve already made some patterns with a Sonic 2 drums and bass sound but now we need to make an entire tune.  And what Tom says is true: we can still make compelling music on the platforms we know, so why quit?  It’s just the wish to make on other machines, but that will come gradually I think.  Takes time.

Kuma:  Exactly.  Thank you for reminding me of Coda, by the way.  I came across his work briefly when I was first getting into chip about a year ago.  I forgot that this man was just a music making machine.

Cerror:  He is marvelous, I adore his stuff.  Also a good coder!

coda. coder.  don't think that slipped by me, Roel

Kuma:  I’d imagine so!  You spend as much time making tracker music as he does or you guys do, and picking up coding seems to become second hand, as well.  That being said, when can the public expect your new album, and will you be doing anything to promote it? Go on tour?  Radio show listening party?  Anything like that?

xylo:  We’ll try to get it released somewhere in the next few weeks. Hopefully sooner than later.  Promoting not really.  We’re discussing a listening party and, of course, yell some around on gigs.

cerror:  And, of course, Facebook and gig whore-ing.

xylo:  Besides Social Media spamming we don’t do a lot of promoting.  The previous albums seemed to go around the internet without a lot of effort (thanks for doing so people/listeners/fans!!!!!!!) so hopefully it’ll work out this time as well!

cerror:  And this album is a little bit more high profile, so we hope more people pick it up.
We have help now.  From the awesome people at cheapbeats.

xylo:  We’re releasing it under the Cheapbeats label, so hopefully a little bigger audience than the last album will pick it up as well.

[Edit: An online listening party has since been squared away on June 8th for xyce’s upcoming album via 8 Bit Power Hour on Click HERE for details on that!]

Kuma:  I’m glad to hear it!  I know your devoted fans, as well as new ones, will definitely be excited to hear what you two have produced!  Although it is interesting that you two are relatively quiet about what you make but have found such success in doing so.  Were you two always that way or was their a time you pushed harder to be recognized?  Or does the recognition simply not matter?  Do you guys just not give a damn?

Cerror:  Well it’s nice, of course, to get recognition, but it’s not our first priority.
We make the music because we like doing it.

xylo:  Well I guess recognition is always fun, and to hear people liking the music we make but it is definitely not a priority.

cerror:  And live gigs are the awesomest because we get to know new people, get drunk and party while showing our prides and joy!

xylo:  That is definitely true!  And I don’t really know how to get more known.  Talking on social media seems to work.  I guess it’s still a niche market and people liking our style will probably come across it some time.

cerror:  I have no idea how we got so pretty well known. [It’s a] Mystery to me!

xylo:  It’s very fun and actually makes me very happy to see people opening threads about our new works on reddit, for example, without any effort from our side.

cerror:  Plus youtube videos and the occasional Facebook ad.  It’s good for my fragile ego, but I still don’t see why people like us.  Well, we are pretty cool dudes.

xylo:  Hahaha.

Kuma:  Yes, that you certainly are!  That being said, I thank you both for your time, gentlemen!  This was truly a pleasure getting to interact with both of you!  Do any of you have anything you’d like to say before we wrap this up?  Advice you’d like to give? Promotional, ego stroking goodness?  Drunkfest stories you guys wanna share before this all ends?

cerror:  Well Monodeer and us are releasing a little remix of each other’s tunes on soundcloud!  He remixed our Atari track called Ses Seins on his gameboy and we did his track Syntheseur on the Atari!

Kuma:  Nice!  What about you, Tom?  Do you have anything you’d like to say?

xylo:  Well, there was one time where we went to Belgium to play with Men of Mega and RoccoW where some girl walked around being extremely drunk.  She was on a Facebook picture a few days after and if I recall correctly Roel called her a name on that post.  It came to be she was tagged and she didn’t really liked being called that!  Hahaha! Awesome keyboard-hero goodness!

cerror: Almost forgot about that!  Whahahaha!  It wasn’t nice of me but she was acting like a bit of a whore.  And we have a lot of good anecdote’s about men of mega guys almost falling offstage and falling on slippery road and drinking too much!  Stories like that.  Typical gig stories.  Hehehehe!  Thank you Adam for this interview!  Such an honor.

xylo:  But to wrap it up!  Visit a gig if you’re nearby to experience those in real life!  Keep our Facebook and Twitter in mind the next couple of days/weeks for updates on our new album and upcoming gigs and releases!  And thank you for having us!  Great opportunity!

Kuma:  Thank you for being with me!

Hope you guys enjoyed that article!  Don’t forget to follow Xyce on Facebook and Twitter so you can keep up with updates about their soon to be released album!  Join us next time as I take the time to talk to sleepytimejesse, a chiptuner and music composer who’s making quite a name for himself as a solo artist as well as with an increasingly popular indie rock band called The Zou!



xyce fun

Relevant Links:
Xyce:                                                      Xylo:                                            Cerror:
Bandcamp                                             Bandcamp                                  Bandcamp
Facebook                                               Facebook                                   Facebook
SoundCloud                                           SoundCloud                               SoundCloud
Twitter                                                    Twitter                                        Twitter

EDIT: Check out the new album below!!!