So, as MAGFest came and went, I found myself suffering from PMD (Post MAGFest Depression). The reality of finally meeting all of my friends that I’d been talking to for months face-to-face, being able to spend quality time with them, and then each going our separate ways so soon was disheartening. While it certainly felt like forever waiting for MAGFest to finally descend, it concluded way faster than I was ready for. Leaving the Gaylord left a huge hole in my heart; I soon realized that the friends I met at MAG were ones that I wouldn’t see again for another year.
….Until the final days before Frequency 3.0. Soon, my PMD was a thing of the past—I was now just days away from co-hosting one of the largest (if not only) chiptune festivals on the west coast with my cohorts (Kevin Martinez, Jesse Avila, Tim Abad, Jamie Cristal, and Jonathan Pendergrass) in 8bitLA. While months of planning, logistics, and chats back and forth on Facebook seemed daunting and tiresome, Frequency 3.0 was finally becoming a reality.My passion for chiptune soon blossomed in an almost out of control measurement after I was asked to join 8bitLA in August 2013, and it was no longer just myself being interested in the music and culture—it bloomed into wanting to represent the ‘chipmunity’ that I’ve been passionate about for so long for no payment in return other than kind words, hugs, and thank you’s for the best weekend of someone’s life.
While my fondest memories of Frequency 3.0 were certainly eating delicious food, which included ramen in Little Tokyo with Hoodie, Kevin ‘Wizwars’ Martinez, and Steven ‘The Syntax Sin Tax’ Hendren, Snap Chattingan0va before load-in/tuning in to the LONELYROLLINGSTARSlistening party on Arecibo Radio, playing the showcased indie games (‘Mega Girl.git’, ‘Keys of Rage’, ‘Dodge Club Party’, and ‘DarkEdeNight’) and the gaijin Little Tokyo ‘romaine the streets’ takeover and purikura photo booth mob, nothing can quite express the spaghetti I spilt over such quality artists that performed. While I had no doubt that Frequency 3.0 would be awesome, I still can’t get over how incredible and eclectic the music was over the span of three days. Whether the Frequency-goer wanted a mixture of electrochip and drum ‘n bass (Mike Bleeds), progchip and progmetal (Buried For A Day), or straight up shoegaze (Meishi Smile), each of the 20+ performers really outdid themselves and made the event one of the SOLE contenders for the best weekend of my life… EVER. If you didn’t go, you certainly missed out, but that’s OKAY! There is a Vimeo video of Day 1 here, and two week archived streams available here (Day 2) and here (Day 3) as it took place in Downtown Los Angeles at the Smell for you to watch until your heart’s content.
While there was PLENTY of weekend chip performances that blew my socks right off my feet, my top three acts (in no particular order) are as follows:
What can I say? I have had a soft spot for this quartet since ‘Further’ was released November 19. If you remember my previous article, ‘Further’ is an album quite unlike I’ve heard before, and the four of them very appropriately preformed a majority of the tracks from this album. Their performance was absolutely mind blowing—their LIVE stage presence was accompanied with bouncy and melodic rhythms, as well as a wide range of styles and techniques through the blend of complimentary vocals very similar to that of the album itself (seriously, they must be wizards to be able to achieve such mastery.) The coolest thing ever? The four of them are the sweetest, most humble people you’ll ever meet, and I am very delighted to have had the honor of meeting them! If you missed them at Frequency 3.0, crashfaster is making an appearance at Rockage 3.0 in San Jose on February 7, as well as at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on February 10.
2. Slime Girls
Blending a fusion of digital punk rock and head-bopping chiptune, Slime Girls (headed by ‘Pedro Invader’) from San Juan Bautista, California, combines Nintendo Gameboys, guitars and energetic drums to create fast, melancholy surf jams and danceable ska music tied very neatly together with melodic chip. Gaining influences from Bomb the Music Industry!, The Flaming Lips, Perfume, and The Aquabats, Slime Girls is anything you’ve ever dreamed of, and quite literally, personifies anime. Therefore it was no surprise that the Slime Girls had cosplayers in attendance. With visuals created by Eliot Lash, the three of them rocked the closing night until 1:10 in the morning without a single person dropping off from exhaustion (seriously, they were all too busy not trying to break something from crowd surfing or launching an anime body pillow in the air.) If you happen to be in San Jose, California around February 7, they are also playing at Rockage 3.0 and I assure your they will NOT disappoint. Hell, they’re even Danimal Cannon certified:
WOW. What a performance! I’ve seen Virt play a handful of times before, but this past performance at Frequency 3.0 was SO MAGICAL. While the dance floor was quite literally packed, claustrophobia couldn’t lay a finger on everyone who was sardined together during his set. Playing tracks from FX4 (including ‘Incident Zero’) and Mighty Switch Force 2, his performance was an absolute treat in that most of the tunes from FX4 were never meant to be performed live as some of the parts are too complex (seriously, this dude never ceases to amaze me.) Virt’s stellar performance of combining his versatile, charismatic style through’ big’ harmonious compositions left his fingers feeling the repercussions:
The greatest thing ever? That special, sneak peak, never before seen ‘Shovel Knight’ video game trailer that he wrote the music for. Oh man.. I’m excited just thinking about it!
If you were unable to attend Frequency 3.0 this year, make sure you can make it out next year (same venue!) on May 22-24, 2015. 8bitLA is already in the works of planning 4.0 with more information to be released as time progresses. Feel free to join the 8bitLA Facebook group, follow us on Twitter or Instagram, or download the artist sampler here if you’re suffering from Frequency feels very similar to how the rest of us on the team are.
That’s all folks! Until next time! Professor Oakes signing off!
Forging further into the depths that is chiptune (Oh, gee! Its up to my knee!), our intrepid Newb sets out once more to discover something new, something wonderful, something with a gooey chippy center…
“Here, you’ll like this!” Brandon exclaims as the throws a CD in my lap. “What is it?” “Chip. It’s called Stenobot. Put it in your car, trust me.”
I was not disappointed.
I’m an elementary teacher and future librarian. My favorite video games are RPGs. I asked for bookshelves for Christmas. These things in combination should indicate to you that I love a good story. The thing that grabbed me about Stenobot’s ‘Thirteen Orphans’ is that every song is a story. Opening with ‘The Green Dragon, Part 1’, the adventure begins with the story of young Maud, who rescues a young dragon only to be ostracized by her townsfolk. The childlike wonder of this first song continues throughout the entire release. From the frenetic musical highs of ‘Her Brightness’ and the melancholy mood of ‘Melora’s Song’, to the aggressive stance of ‘The Bronze Snake’, the release hits all of the emotional highs and lows that children experience on a daily basis. Layered upon lush chipsounds are guitars and vocals that somehow manage to evoke both Tom Petty and Jack Johnson in the same album. The more I listened, the more I liked it. Like many of my favorite young adult books, there is unexpected depth present in ‘Thirteen Orphans’ waiting to be discovered as the album is experienced over and over.
The industrial sounds of the opening track ‘Running and Jumping’ and the aggressive vocals present in the second song, ‘Far too Far’, are indicative of the moodier edge present on Stenobot’s first release, ‘Sink or Swim We’ll Go Together’. You might say that the feeling is slightly more Grimm’s Fairy Tales than Disney, but the inclusion of little surprises like children singing on ‘Fallen Leaves’ keep the mood from becoming too gritty or dark. The fanciful roots of ‘Thirteen Orphans’ are very present. Songs like ‘Count’ are heavy with storytelling elements, with the vocoded narrator spinning the tale of fiery dragons terrorizing the helpless countryside. The album includes more high-energy offerings such as ‘Sleeping Room’ and ‘Veil’. For low key tracks, Stenobot offers us what is possibly my favorite track, ‘Dancing Shadows part 1’, and its companion ‘Dancing Shadows part 2’. While I usually lean toward lyric heavy tracks, there is something special about the interweaving of mellow acoustic guitar, echoing chip aesthetic, and the haunting, heavily effected voice used in these tracks that grabs at me. Other addition of note include a song featuring Jen Wood (of Postal Service renoun!) on the track ‘Butterfly Wings’.
And this is where I found that the rabbit hole leads ever deeper, who is this Supercommuter that you speak of?
Turns out that Stenobot is a busy man! But that, my dear readers, is a Tale for another day. For now, use the links below to discover this amazing artist for yourself!
MAGFest 12 has come and gone, leaving in its wake the usual horde of happily exhausted nerdy folk (my newly engaged self included of course! ♥).Tho I’ll be damned if I fall prey to PMD (Post-MAGFest Depression)! Got WAAAAY too much awesome to do this year!! =D
And on that note, time to rock on with today’s most excellent beer & chip pairing:
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout &
While admittedly few in number, most of the “chocolate” brews I’ve sampled have not been much to my liking (generally a bit too chocolately, sweet and/or rich). That said there’s something about Young’s Double Chocolate Stout that gets it just right for me.
I am totes a fan. *TOTES*. #Totes
It’s a genuinely smooth, flavorful stout with just enough chocolate added to give it a bit of extra magic. The chocolate isn’t overpowering though; it’s present, sure, but it doesn’t take over the entire brew (the “Double Chocolate” part of the name is derived from the mix of chocolate malt & actual dark chocolate added to the brew). Honestly, the chocolate is more apparent in the aroma than it is the actual flavor, which is fortunate because it smells just a tad too sweet, chocolately, and rich for my tastes. When it hits the tongue, though, you get a really fair balance of pretty much all of the elements that make up this positively delightful brew.
The intertoobz are overwhelmingly approving of this tasty stout as well; Ratebeer.com gives it an astoundingly high 98 overall. For a notoriously picky group of beer nerds (and on the internet for that matter) that’s one helluva consensus!
While Young’s Double Chocolate Stout isn’t a brew that I’d want to drink everyday (would be the fast track to a solid beer gut!), it’s a sincere pleasure when I’m in the mood for it.
On the other hand, today’s equally delicious & chocolate chiptune counterpart, D&D Sluggers, is always a pleasure. #AWYEAHBBY 8) In fact, I’d go so far as to label them as one of my favorite combos of chip (LSDj & DS-10), soulful vox, guitar, & keys yet!
Bringing the aforementioned array of instruments, D&D Sluggers merges numerous musical genres with fun, solid songwriting, and an engaging & entertaining live performance. This chipact is definitely a party. See their most recent full length release ‘This Album is a Party‘ for evidence of such.
Recorded at Red Room Recording in Leland, NC, this 10 track release from mid 2011 is a mix of interactive party anthems (‘Jam of the Year’, ‘Alive’, ‘She’s Got a Job’, ‘Johnny Depp’) soulfully funky joints (‘Gloria’ [DAT HARMONICA], ‘Walk’, ‘Very Direct’) and all around danceable jams (‘Wicked Touch’, ‘I Will Not Be There’, ‘Brodown’); overall, it’s a quality set of extraordinarily catchy tunes. While I didn’t stumble across it until mid 2012, it has quickly become one of my go-to albums, period. Particularly on craptastic days; it always brings me out of a funk. It’s just too damn fun to stay bummed while jamming.
If I had to pick a favorite track, it would easily be ‘Very Direct’. Such a damn groovy, chill jam. I HIT REPEAT EVERY TIEM. Specifically at 3 o’clock.
Also, I REALLY LOVE the handful of various VGM motifs that are carefully worked into several of the songs in various forms and fashions (chiptune taboos be damned!!); sometimes very subtly, sometimes not so subtly. I’d point them out, but I really don’t want to ruin the fun. Listen closely (sometimes not so closely) and you’ll surely catch ’em. ;)
Although to clarify once and for all (or not, lulz~), where D&D was once two crazy cats (Dustin Overcash & Tim “soultron” White), the current iteration is purely the soultron show (Dustin left the act mid-summer 2013 for work related stuffs, taking his keys & LSDj with him :*( ). And to be honest, it’s this version of D&D Sluggers that I’ve personally become the most familiar with; particularly the live aspect.
I caught Tim performing live a good handful of times in 2013 (at PAX East Jamspace, twice on the “This Tour is a Party” tour, at MAGFest: Game Over Durham, and, of course, at the recent craziness of MAGFest 12’s Chipspace party). Tim’s level of hilarious banter, tongue-in-cheek humor, & general interactivity with the crowd is levels beyond that of the typical chiptune perfromer. He brings an energy, and maybe even additional level of accessibility (the ability to sing along is always a plus there), that isn’t always found at a chiptune show. & I LOVE IT.
#REALTALK: I love Tim’s soulful singing voice a whole gorram lot. Everything about D&D Sluggers is super swell, but I could totes listen to him sing all damn day long (in fact, I did today while writing this article! -swoons- ). How often does one say that about a chiptune act? ;)
Regarding new jams, don’t be surprised to see a new EP and/or full length release from the now one man party sometime this year (hopefully? Tim? TIM???). It’ll no doubt be comprised of finalized versions of some/all of the demos found via thisSoundcloud set, which is fine with me as they’re some damn good jams. Most of them I’ve heard live performances of (‘About Time’ & ‘XX demo” in particular), and they’re some of Tim’s strongest compositions yet.
To summarize, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, BEYOTCH. 8)
And thus ends my first chip & beer write-up of 2014! It’s a pretty damn good combo of tasty chocolate chiptune & beer to start the year off right if you ask me. Which you didn’t. But I don’t care. 8) Until next month, cheers y’all!!
“Outer space, Is a mystery. And I know, That we will solve it.”
Chipzel’s ‘Spectra’. crashfaster’s ‘Further’. Auxcide’s ‘Pixel’ and ‘Speck’: these are all amazing albums that have been reviewed on this very blog over the last few months. And while they vary in their musical approach, they share a common theme, that being a style of chipmusic I’ve heard fondly referred to as “spacechip”. Moreso than any other musical genre, chipmusic exhibits a remarkable ability of creating astral soundscapes. It’s a style that I’ll never grow tired of, and since my review of his album ‘Insert Coin’, PICE has been hard at work crafting his first fully space-themed album, ‘Space Trip’. It’s a beautiful trip that I encourage you take, and it deserves a place in your library amongst the aforementioned greats.
Hey, what’s up ChipWINners? Welcome back to Raw Cuts! This time around, I managed to snag a chat with super chiptune veteran whom, after years of performing and organizing shows, has pulled all the stops out for what may be his biggest venture yet! So sit back, relax, and unwind as I talk music, creativity, family life, and one of the biggest shows of the year with Kevin Martinez, the dynamic artist known best as Wizwars!
Kuma: So first off, Kevin, I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me for this interview! I know you’re a busy guy, and I know it’s not easy for you to take the time to sit down and derp it up in a convo with someone between parenthood, musicianship, and whatever else life throws your way, but I appreciate it.
Wizwars: It’s my pleasure! I even just almost broke three toes about five minutes ago and I’m still glad to have a chat with ya!
Kuma: Damn! That is some dedication! I’m honored, and sincerely hope you’re alright, man! That being said, let’s start from the beginning. You’ve been in the chiptune game for a long time, you’ve put out numerous EPs and recently put out your very first LP. What got you into chip in the first place, Kevin? What made you become the man we all know as Wizwars?
Ah yes, Virt: a man so talented and gifted with cluckies he could inspire Wizwars to make cheepy chippy tunes for himself.
Wizwars: Ever since I was a little kid, I was really intrigued by the sounds and the music found in old video games, especially Nintendo games. I was one of those nerdy kids who used to make cassette tapes of the music from games and whatnot…anyway when I was fifteen a friend of mine gave me a pirated version of the music software Acid, and of course I used it to primarily take clips from Nintendo songs and layer drum beats under them…this was all in 2001-2002. I never did anything with this stuff except annoy my mom with it. But anyway, in 2003 I think it was, I found a chiptune cover of a Dream Theater song that Virt had done (at the time Dream Theater was my favorite band, facepalm), and I was like oh fuck yes, people can make music with Nintendo sounds!
So I did some searching and found 8bitpeoples and became hooked on that chiptune sound for life. Got into tracking in 2004, finally felt brave enough to release an EP in 2006 under the name Wizards and Warriors, later shorted to Wizwars. Probably 15-16 demo EPs, 60+ shows (including a Blip Fest) and one LP later, here we are today.
I…I still really like this band’s early work. …I’m still very much 17 inside
Kuma: God damn! That is quite a journey! And so concisely put, as well! I love it! I gotta say, I’m with you in being one of those weird kids that always liked game music. My first walkman was my gameboy (I’d listen to the sound test on king of fighters 95 constantly). Also, if it makes you feel better about the dream theater thing, I still sometimes listen to 30 seconds to mars and saosin. That digression aside, lets delve into those years a little more, as well as your personal tastes and inspiration in music. Where do you draw your inspiration from to make your music and from whom? Which artists–scene or otherwise–make you keep doing what you do?
Wizwars: I listen to a lot of different music, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of both subconsciously and consciously incorporate elements of whatever I’m listening to at the time into my own music, so it’s kind of hard to pin point exactly who or what my influences are at any certain time. Within the chip scene, I’d say my biggest influences have been Bit Shifter and IAYD. Outside of the chiptune scene, damn…there’s too many to list, haha. In the earlier days I was also heavily influenced by NES soundtracks such as Wizards And Warriors, Castlevania 1-3, Mega Man 2 & 3, and Willow.
My main inspiration to write my own music these days just comes from a deep rooted love of music that is both high energy and melodic. Anything happy that can put a smile on your face just by listening to the beautiful, infectious melodies.
Kuma: Awww. That’s freakin’ beautiful. Although considering the love I’ve heard you express for groups like Jimmyeatworld, I’m surprised you didn’t just say, you know, jimmyeatworld. That aside, you certainly have done a great job of crafting that sort of sound. Hell I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m moved every time I hear “Handheld Hero”, which may arguably be your best known song. It certainly has strong emotional resonance with me being as its one of the few songs I distinctly remember for Blipfest. Which brings me to my next question: since I first came into the chipscene via Blipfest, that weekend was also very significant for you because it was the weekend you got married. Has marriage and also parenthood affected your creativity in anyway? Do you find you approach music differently now that you’ve gone home and become a family man?
Kevin: Note to anyone reading this – never plan your honeymoon around a Chiptune festival, too much stress![Note from Kuma: that means you, Hoodie. ;) ]. But yeah, I’d definitely say that taking Guile’s advice has affected my creativity in a number of ways. Throughout 2011 and some of 2012 I was part of the “Chipthrash” movement of musicians, which for those who do not know was a few people taking Game Boys and trying to push them to extreme limits with incredibly harsh, noisy and chaotic music that made you want to thrash about and punch people. Various people in that movement had different reasons for wanting to make this kind of music, but I did it because I was coming out of a really dark depression and not very happy in my life, and I vented my frustration through my music. But after I met Monique (my now wife), got engaged, and especially after we found out we were expecting and got married, I was filled with so much happiness that it made it really difficult to write that kind of music anymore. Without the anger and the inner turmoil behind it, it just fell flat, and I found myself drawn to writing more happy and melodic music because I had finally found some happiness in my life.
On the negative side, having a child has of course limited my ability to write music as often as I was once able to, as it’s rather difficult to compose when a baby is crawling on you trying to steal your Game Boy!
Kuma: Well if Bob Baffy’s song “Forgetro” is any indication, one day that lil man of yours is going to figure out that what you’ve been doing all this time is playing music and games on an ancient version of his Xbox and that he’d rather just play that instead. XD
I’m happy that you found your way out of that dark place, though, because if you were still there, I don’t think we’d have what I’m about to bring up now, or at least, we wouldn’t have it to the scale it’s reached. Let’s talk about Frequency, which is now approaching it’s third installment! Tell me, what prompted you to create it, along with 8bitLA?
Wizwars: My reasons for creating both Frequency and 8bitLA are the same – the chiptune scene in Los Angeles had become really stagnant, and, hopefully I can say this without offending people…after a certain point, most people really weren’t willing to do anything. In 2011 I was part of a large collective called Obsolete, that consisted of many of the LA chiptune artists working together to run a monthly chiptune event. It lasted for the summer of 2011 and it was great, but then we lost our space and we couldn’t really agree on a new location because everyone had a different opinion as to what the event should be like or where it should be held (warehouse party vs being at a bar vs all ages venue). And thus it kind of just died, and after that no one was really making any moves towards booking regular chiptune shows out here.
So in the Spring of 2012 I said fuck it, I’m going to throw together a chiptune festival and shake shit up a little bit in LA. If no one else was going to step up and do it, it would be hypocritical of me to complain or to talk shit about others for their lack of activity if I wasn’t putting out the effort myself. And the first one was a flop. The music was great but we did it at a tiny (now defunct) DIY spot that very few people knew of; not many people came out, but I did meet Jesse Avila of 1000 Needles there, who is the other co-founder of 8bitLA. Without him I probably would’ve never moved Frequency from a small DIY space to one of the more popular indie venues in Los Angeles (The Smell), as we did with the second edition, which was exponentially more successful than the first, and we’re hoping that the same will continue with Frequency 3.0
Kuma: Let’s talk in depth about Frequency 3.0. I take it that considering the line up you got, that this is not only the largest show the 8bitLA crew has put on to date, but it looks like you’re really looking to raise the standard of large scale shows! Tell me, do you draw inspiration from the other pockets of chiptune that have done well in pulling off these events like 8static and BRKFest, and if so, what do you feel they did that you’d like to emulate, and what sets you apart from them that you’d like the community to take away from this experience?
Wizwars: It’s definitely the biggest show I’ve ever worked on. I’m actually cocky enough to say that Frequency 3.0 is probably the largest and most ambitious chiptune event that has been held on the West Coast. As far as I know there has never been a 20 artist 3 day chiptune festival west of the Rockies, and I’m pretty proud of that! (Hopefully no one can prove me wrong :P)
I actually do not really look to the other chiptune festivals for inspiration. I have a lot of respect for people who put these kinds of events together because I know firsthand that it’s a lot of work coordinating everything, but since I haven’t been able to firsthand experience any of those festivals (being poor sucks), we (8bitLA) just kind of look inward and think what we would personally enjoy as someone attending a chiptune festival, and try to make it happen. We’ve got a line up of fantastic chiptune artists ranging from scene legends to up and coming folks you might have never heard of, but are incredibly talented. We have (in my humble opinion) the best chiptune VJ around, Tim Abad. And we’re having a pizza party, and there will probably be some video games somewhere. What more can you really ask for?
Kuma: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I really couldn’t ask for much more than that, other than I’m curious to know what’s on the agenda for you guys after Frequency?
Wizwars: Well, the first order of business will be recovering from the inevitable Frequency Flu. After that, hopefully by summer of 2014 8bitLA will usher in the return of a monthly chiptune event in Downtown Los Angeles. We just have to find a space first. There will also be random one of shows (hopefully more than we’ve done this year, now that we have a bigger and better crew) and also our soon to be legendary annual 4th of July BBQ show (which will also apparently be a pool party this year). And of course, planning for Frequency 4.0!
Kuma: Nice. I know the steady venue thing seems to be what the scene struggles with most in the various pockets it exists in, but I’m glad to hear that you’ve got a plan to keep moving things forward.
Kevin, once again, I’d like to thank you for sitting down with me and taking the time to conduct this interview. is there anything you’d like to say in closing to our readers?
Wizwars: Hey thanks for asking awesome questions and making this a fun interview! Everyone reading this should feel free to book tickets to Los Angeles over Martin Luther King weekend next month and come rock out with us in DTLA at Frequency 3.0! West Coast is the best coast, y’all better watch out for that real Cali chip!
And with that, we close out this month’s edition of RCwK! I’d like to thank all ya’ll for sticking with us here at ChipWIN and highly recommend you heed Kevin’s advice! If you’re on the west coast and haven’t done so already, snag yourself tickets for Frequency 3.0 cause not only is that show going to be awesome, but it is a wonderful substitute for those who couldn’t make out to MAGFest this year and an excellent follow up for those who did! I also urge you to check out Wizwar’s music and keep up with both him and 8bitLA on social media to not only stay up-to-date on frequency goodness, but to be in the know about the cool events and music coming out of the Best Coast chipscene.
Peace and Love to all my fellow ChipWINners. Keep on rocking.