Sup y’all? =) Pres Hoodie here, back with another mental health focused interview with yet another involved activist in and around chipmusic. This creative cat is the founder of the recent Chiptunes 4 Autism non-profit collective, a moderator in our It’s Still You mental health support and awareness group, and a chipmusician who goes by the alias Asperkraken.
Everyone, please welcome to the blog Gustuf Young!
Hoodie: Hey Gustuf! Welcome to the blog!
Gustuf Young: Thanks Brandon. Glad to be here.
Hoodie: Before we get started, could you give our readers a quick intro of who you are and what you’re about?
Gustuf: My name is Gustuf Young and I write music under the name Asperkraken. I run a fundraiser called Chiptunes 4 Autism that raises money through Bandcamp and other digital avenues for various nonprofits.
Hoodie: As you mentioned, you’re the founder of the Chiptunes 4 Autism group. Let’s talk about that to start off.
Gustuf: Chiptunes 4 Autism is a collective of musicians and other creatives. What we do is make music and use the profits to raise autism awareness, empower people on the spectrum and promote neurodiversity. We released our first compilation in October called ‘Volume 1: Potions of Awareness’.
Hoodie: Was a solid debut effort. Congrats on that btw!
Gustuf: I can’t recall a particular moment when I decided. It was something I had to work up to.
I had been doing electronic music for a while but had taken a pretty long hiatus because of my family and having to relocate so much over the last decade. I had wrote this song called Asperger’s Beat using trackers and synth freeware back in 2011 but never did anything with it. I had learned of my autism around when I learned my son was on the spectrum, but was scared to talk about it to anybody. I work retail these days and there’s this guy who comes in. Older guy with an autistic child he takes care of that was dropped off at his doorstep. This kid is nonverbal. Can’t communicate with people and can hardly stand being in places. So I begin having conversations with this older gentleman, sharing some things me and my wife learned while raising our son. And one day he comes in and tells me he had taken some of my advice and put him in occupational therapy. And he tells me this kid is starting to talk. That kind of made my heart grows two sizes bigger.
I had been wanting to put together a nonprofit cause for a while. I made a small bit of money off my music, mostly just spare change to be honest and was wanting to do something else. I had written stuff for the sake of being artistic. There is nothing wrong with that, but most of that crowd was real critical. It’s more fulfilling an ego if anything. And what’s a craft if you don’t enjoy it? Then there’s the side that does it for the money. I had tried being that guy. Didn’t fulfill me. It felt forced. And any musician can tell you that trying to do it full time involves way more hustle than anyone wants to admit. I’m not a hustling sort of guy. I was really getting along with the chiptune folks. I had dabbled in essentially fakebit back in 2003 and lots of FM synthesis, but I won’t say I was part of a scene whatsoever.
This venture had been on my mind a long time, along with this desire to contribute to the world something besides some service to get a paycheck each week. Then I remember Stephen Patterson (aka Stig) learning of his own place on the spectrum. What a revelation it was for him. That was brave and so I decided to just throw it out there. I expected a few people to maybe contribute a track or so. What I found was a lot of people in the chiptune scene with whom I shared a lot in common. The outpouring has been phenomenal for the effort. I am more proud of this than anything I have ever done.
Except perhaps make my kids and marry my awesome wife.
Hoodie: Holy wow. ♥
That’s quite the collection of stories, man. Amazing stuff. I definitely remember Stig’s revelation. Didn’t realize it struck you quite so powerfully. That’s the power of sharing sometimes: you never know what it’s going to do to folk. I mean, it’s often good for US to do no doubt, but it can impact others as well and it’s good to be mindful of that.
Gustuf: I think it makes you realize what a big part of you that can be. That sense of empowerment. Seeing yourself for what you are rather than what others expect is incredibly liberating.
Hoodie: It really is!
Gustuf: I’ve been around autistics my whole life. My sister is autistic and nonverbal and only recently qualified for assisted living. She actually has a better social life than me now. Anyone on the spectrum can achieve that and deserves that. And in high school we actually attended the same school, but she was in special education. We actually graduated the same day and the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported on it. She would be called a r****d behind her back sometimes to her face. People can be disgusting like that. And my other oldest sister would let them have it, which is funny because she is half my size. But I have an autistic nephew and my brother has had to learn to take care of him. Then I had my autistic son and he got called a retard to his face in public by some guy at a tire shop. Oh, I wish you could have seen my wife lay into him. He’s lucky he left. I don’t want my son to ever feel broken or handicapped. I want him to know that he has the power like anyone to do anything he dreams.
Hoodie: And with great parents like you and your wife, he probably will. ♥
Gustuf: Thank you for that. We hope to help other autistics have that sort of support network too.
Hoodie: Thank YOU for that.
This is exactly the kind of thing that makes the world a better place. Whether to 10, 100, or 100,000 people. And any of us can do it if we will. I think that reality gets lost way too easily. There’s so much we CAN do on a one-to-one basis. The most maybe. Then multiply that we the internet and it goes a lot further. It’s not all there just for getting into arguments about video games after all, as surprising as that notion is to many. ಠ‿↼
Gustuf: This is true. The great thing about the internet and gaming is that it has given a lot of people who may have not had a voice a positive outlet. Takethis.org for instance talks about how gaming can be a tool for socialization for people with anxiety, fear, depression. It’s interesting how much we see mental health and gaming intersect. But it is important to embrace the positives. Anxiety Gaming, for example, one of our nonprofit recipients, has many games who need help but are afraid of the labels that entails. Promoting neurodiversity means you embrace the fact that you may be wired differently.
Hoodie: YES. Both of those charities are awesome.
Thanks for being a part of our new effort in the It’s Still You mental health awareness and support group as well. After my “year of mental health” so to speak, I just want to see people more comfortable talking about it all.
Gustuf: The chiptune community in particular has made me feel like I am not alone. And It’s Still You is a fantastic group. Very casual and open. I think being heard is sometimes the first step but you need an environment where it’s comfortable to talk as well. We all create that. We all are responsible for that. I think efforts like this is proof that social media can be used for good and not just Lolcats and memes. So in the end, we can has open conversation on mental health
Hoodie: We. Can. Has.
And chiptune is a rather bizarre collective, and largely what you make of it depending on who you are and who you encounter. As with any creative collective, it comes with its ups and downs. That said, it genuinely has made me a better, more understanding person, if for no other reason that I’ve encountered so many different type of folk than I would otherwise. And the line of kindred spiritedness in our enthusiasm for chiptune makes it all stick a little harder I think.
Gustuf: There really is a good 8bit glue holding us all together. Our compilation came together so quick and with so much enthusiasm I was honestly shocked.
Hoodie: The enthusiasm and determination of folk in and around this collective (and related collectives in VGM, nerdcore, djs/remixers, MAGFest, etc. tbh) is something to behold. And then if you take it and focus it on a cause beyond just creating for the joy of creation and collaboration (which is always worth it in of itself!), it gets really crazy, really fast.
Gustuf: I think that neurodiversity is like having a really glorious box of paints. It’s impossible not to be colorful when you have so many hues.
Hoodie: Apt description is apt. That word (neurodiversity) is actually rather new to me, but I’m digging it. “Mental health” and/or “mental illness” in particular is very stigmatized. Shaking that is always hard. Neurodiversity gives it a more positive spin perhaps. Anything to help really!
Gustuf: Neurodiversity is a term you will hear more about. You know I recently heard of a public school where a special needs kid was having a meltdown and they handcuffed him to a chair. And with political climate in the US changing as it is, it’s going to cost more for therapy for anyone not neurotypical. Not 100% but highly likely that the coming overhaul of our health care system is going to make more complications for anyone needing real help.
Hoodie: Yeah. I’d be a damn liar were I to say I’m not concerned about that. I hope things don’t get as bad as we fear they might, but either way there’s all the more need for us to talk about it, both to support and encourage each other and to keep it a topic on folks’ radar.
Gustuf: But that’s what we can do. We can be a support system without even knowing it. Even just being a textbox on Facebook can help somebody. Mother Teresa said that all she could do was cast a stone but it could create many ripples.
Hoodie: Another thing we lose sight of easily, yeah. It’s really not that hard most of the time to do some good for your fellow folk. I don’t know exactly when and where in our culture/society that it became chic to be a dick (LOOOOL), but fuck that noise. Not about it. Never have been. Don’t ever want to be either. See too much good done when folk actually give a damn, even just a little bit.
Gustuf: And it really restores your faith in humanity when that happens. Seriously still humbled by all the interest still. I think I casually mentioned recently a volume 2 and already had someone messaging me about it. And i get people like that at my job too. I function pretty well in society, especially at work but I took years of theater and speech classes just to get there. And I still Don’t look 99% of people in the eye. I actually got passed up in a promotion for it once. I remember them saying it made me untrustworthy. So sometimes when I have to, I’ll smile real big and close my eyes, hoping the smile negates the fact I am not giving them eye contact. It’s working within your limits. And let’s be honest, everyone has a limit. Doesn’t matter what sort of mental state you are in. That’s not weakness. That’s called humanity.
Hoodie: 1000%. It’s not weakness to learn your limitations and work in and around them. It’s strength to be that open and honest with yourself and others if anything.
Gustuf: Empathy is something I struggle with on the spectrum. But I feel all of this discussion has really helped me relate to a lot of people more than I ever have in person. Put yourself in another’s shoes. If anything, just ask them how they feel. That’s all it takes to start a good discussion.
Hoodie: Well said. And it really is that simple sometimes, even just attempting to give a damn. Can make someone’s day at minimum, change their life at max.
On that note, any plans you can share for the future of Chiptunes 4 Autism?
Gustuf: Well I think it is safe to say that a second compilation is coming. The next one will be talking about empowerment or some of the “superpowers” of autism since our first album was awareness. We also want to host live benefits as well and have discussed doing livestream benefits as well. Lots of ideas and a lot of potential. But for now, if you haven’t, you check out the compilation at chiptunes4autism.bandcamp.com – and we’re also on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.
And thanks in advance for listening and spreading the word.
Hoodie: Haha You’re welcome in advance, and thanks for keeping this going. It’s a great effort that I only hope to see grow and help more folk moving forward!
Gustuf: Thanks Brandon.
It’s been a pleasure Hoodie.
Hoodie: Same to you, man.