Hey y’all! =) For this month’s interview, I’m reprising a 2014 blog chat that I had with a very talented Norwegian friend of mine whose music you’re very likely familiar with. Unsurprisingly, the man has accomplished more than enough in the four years since then to warrant yet another sit down with me here on the blog.
Everyone welcome back to the blog, Vegard Kummen aka Kubbi!
Hoodie: Heya, Vegard! Welcome BACK to the blog!
Kubbi: Hey man, feels good to be on here again. Happy, hungover greetings from my hotelroom in Aarhus, Denmark. Hope you’re all enjoying as nice weather as our side of the pond. 🌞
Hoodie: IT’S ALREADY TOO DAMN HOT HERE. (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┴─ ҉ ─┬
Kubbi: Well that can only mean one thing: ’tis the season for cold beers, warm grills, fishing and blasting micromusic to my neighbors’ disdain.🐬
Hoodie: This is why we are friends.🐬
Before we get started in earnest, give me the briefest of rundowns of who are you are and what you’re about!
Kubbi: I’m Vegard, but I’m better known as Kubbi outside the Norwegian border. I spend my full time writing music of various styles, mainly with a synthetic palette, but with an obsession in bridging the gap between traditional, analog and digital instrumentation.
Hoodie: Not to mention one helluva bassist.
Kubbi: Cheers! The bass has certainly been at the core of my musical endeavors since the beginning
Hoodie: Let’s talk about that a bit, because we never have! If for no other reason, I, as somewhat of a bassist myself, would like to know. How’d you even get started on the bass?
Kubbi: That must have been around 2008 when I got into heavy music. Funny thing was, I initially wanted to play the drums, but I don’t think my parents liked the idea of me tearing down the house with Tool and Rage Against the Machine. My brother and father had already been playing the bass for as long as I could remember, so once I picked it up I was just like “okay fine this will do”. Turned out that the bass obviously was way cooler.
Hoodie: Oh wow! A family a bassists! Never would’ve guessed.
And yes, bass is very cool. Obviously. We play it after all. ♪┏(⌐■_■)┛♪
Kubbi: Right on haha! I had my fair share of mentors throughout the years and bass has always been my tool for performing live music. I also think it must have impacted me greatly as a writer. It is just as melodic as it is rhythmical and in later years I have really enjoyed going beyond that. Playing chords, utilizing guitar effects, etc.
I just think the bass has been the perfect tool for me to revolve my work and learning around.
Hoodie: That’s awesome. Was bass actually your first instrument? Or were you playing around with electronic music at the same time?
Kubbi: I actually played the violin for a few years in elementary school, but that wasn’t based on interest in music. I do think it must have done some groundwork for the coming years though. Electronic music didn’t become an interest until way later though. I was all about the band music.
Well… way later is a bit of an exaggeration; it just felt like a long time ’cause I was so deep into music once I got started.
Hoodie: Yeah, time is sorta immaterial where music making is concerned. At least on a personal level I think.
Kubbi: For sure! In many ways it feels similar to learning a language.
Hoodie: I’ve always thought of music as a language myself, albeit a somewhat universal one.
Kubbi: That is a big part of why I dedicate myself to music to this degree: music has no borders. I also see it as the only language able to discuss and express parts of our lives that rarely surface in everyday conversation.
But I guess in some ways it has clear borders and once you get in to the business side of things, it ain’t no picnic. In my band VIAN we sing strictly in Norwegian and because of that we will most likely never “make it” outside of our country.
Hoodie: “Business” always complicates matters, especially in music. But outside of that, spoken language and culture are definitely secondary aspects in how music is communicated. Factors, sure, but that’s it. A goodly number of my favorite artists I couldn’t speak to without Google Translate, but I enjoy their music regardless. Part of the magic in my mind.
Kubbi: That makes you one of the few golden enthusiasts. I just wish there were more of you. 97% of the world only want what they instantly understand. I like to think I write for the remaining 3%. Either way, the power of music to bridge cultures is undeniable
Hoodie: You think that statistic is accurate? I do live in and among some niche music cultures where that’s not true, but maybe they’re the 3%, ay? hahaha
Have definitely observed that truth to a large degree. I think most folk are simply casual music listeners. It’s just background to their lives. Which isn’t good nor bad offhand. It just is. Weird to me personally, though. haha
Kubbi: Oh it wasn’t a proven statistic. More of an estimate. I base it off my talks with industry people; label owners, A&R, booking, playlist jockeys. They run the market and feed the none-enthusiasts, but it’s not like you can’t break the odds. Lots of bands shouldn’t have “made it”, but did so anyways.
But I mean, it’s all about what you want. I have decided to write music for those that I feel have the similar mindset as me. I write the music I want to hear, not the music 97% of the world wants to hear.
Hoodie: It shows in your music and sets you apart by a wonderful margin. Might not be for everyone, but those who get it GET IT.
Last we chatted about VIAN was shortly after the album released. How’s that going now?
Kubbi: We’re trying to find our place while also working on new material. It’s nice to finally have time to play shows again after being busy in the studio, writing my thesis, or working on other music. We are really focused on improving as a band and I think we’re getting better and better both as a team and as creatives every week now. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work that we enjoy.
Finding our place can be frustrating and hard though. It’s a balance between art and business that isn’t always so easy.
Hoodie: Is VIAN with a label, or does the art/business issue have more to do with the fact that the band, of course, involves multiple members vs. a solo project like Kubbi?
Kubbi: We’re not signed yet, but we hope to be at some point I guess. The biggest difference from Kubbi is that it costs me very little to record a chiptune album. VIAN is a much bigger investment and requires a lot of time from 4 people as opposed to just me ya know. It is nice to have one of each though. They are both very ambitious projects; just in two very different ways
Hoodie: Absolutely. And happy to hear new material is in the works. Everything on ‘Diafon’ is lovely, and I’m looking forward to more!
Kubbi: Me too. We can’t wait to make more music. =)
Hoodie: Speaking of new music, how are you feeling with ‘Taiga‘ (via Kubbi) having been released into the wilds for awhile now?
Kubbi: Honestly, it’s been a blessing to finally get it out of my head. It was incredibly demanding to write and my expectations were very high. However, it’s been doing good and the feedback has been excellent. These days I’m just happy I can finally work on music that isn’t in the Taiga-world.
Hoodie: Hopefully you met (or exceeded) your expectations? Certainly did mine!
Kubbi: I don’t think it could ever meet my expectations. I could work on that album forever, but at some point you have to be like “okay this is it, lets wrap it up”. I’m just always expanding and building on this world. It was a method that worked for me before, but with my expectations always increasing I’ve decided to learn a couple of lessons from this one. At some point you might be doing more “fixing what aint broke”-ing and wearing out your ears than actual production.
Hoodie: As a fellow perfectionist, I am very familiar with this concept. It can be very problematic at times. haha
Kubbi: It’s funny, the music I’ve been working on now is such a counter reaction to the ‘Taiga’ and ‘Diafon’ stuff…. I am very eager to show people what I’m working on these days.
Hoodie: Now THAT sounds interesting! Can you talk about that a bit, or would you prefer to keep it secret for now? 😉
Kubbi: Haha well. I think I work like a pendulum. There isn’t much to say yet, other than there will not be any accordions.
Hoodie: Well damn.
Kubbi: Sorry, bud.
Hoodie: Oh well. I’ll deal.
Kubbi: But I can actually say…
Kubbi: …without pulling another 3 years of ‘Taiga’ production…
Hoodie: Well hot damn! Alright then! #Excite
Aside from Kubbi and VIAN, is there any other music that Vegard Kummen is working on that’s publicly discuss-able?
Kubbi: For sure! I’m trying to get more soundtrack gigs for the summer so I’ve been sharpening my video game/film music skills lately. There are also lots of side projects with new friends; some might see the light of day, some will stay in the studio.
Hoodie: Awesome. Will keep an eye and ear out for any of those that surface.
Let’s talk about live performance a bit. I believe you’re currently gigging with VIAN, correct? And Kubbi was recently announced for a little chipfest called SQUARE SOUNDS TOKYO. Good glob, I wanna swim the pond for that this year!
Kubbi: Square Sounds has been on my bucket list for years. When I got contacted I just dropped everything in my hands and cleared my calendar.
These days I’m on the road with VIAN. We’ve just played Spotfestival in Aarhus, Denmark. Next up is a Kubbi show in Kristiansand which I’m performing with a five piece band. It’s going to be ridiculous. I’ve never worked with such a production before. Everything is rearranged and adapted to instruments and synths.
That festival is called UiArt so if anyone is in the area I’d strongly suggest checking out the many great shows going down next week. Other than that I’m playing with a couple of other bands like Marion Woodseth. There are so many gigs on my schedule, at this point I’m just letting my calendar control my life.
Hoodie: Holy crap. Five piece Kubbi band, ay? DEETS PLS.
Kubbi: For sure! We actually did this two years ago with a four piece. It is actually my master’s examination concert, but I mean, fuck that, it’s mainly a Kubbi show. This is the kind of format I’ve always wanted to perform my tunes with. I’m incredibly blessed with my musicians, some of the most talented folks I know. I’ve been spending the last few days stemming out all my tracks and removing whatever can be performed live. Turns out, we can play almost all the elements now and it’s starting to sounds really good. It’s still got that electronic charm, but it lives and breathes like a proper concert. Having musicians add their sound and style to my compositions just gives an extra 5 dimensions of musicality. Hopefully I’ll be able to take this show on the road later on.
Hoodie: Your “master’s examination concert” is as Kubbi…. Fucking ay, man.
I swear but only a few moments ago (or maybe it was a few years; I’m old; I forget) you were sure that Kubbi would only ever be a recording act…. ಠ‿↼
Kubbi: Yeah I kinda wanted to keep it like that for a while. It’s just really nice to have a project that’s low key and stays simple…. but I just can’t help it, man. When I have an opportunity to expand on a project I gotta take it.
But I will admit, it is much thanks to you and the opportunity I was given to play MAGFest. Both times were some of the most influential shows of my life, if not the most influential.
Hoodie: You’re incredibly welcome. And thank YOU (and your talented friends!) for being crazy enough to take on an opportunity to fly halfway around the world to jam with a bunch of similarly crazy nerds. And not once, but twice. Definitely a highlight of my booking career with MAGFest as well. ♥
Kubbi: Hopefully to be repeated sometime soon…. no pressure.
Hoodie: None taken. ಠ‿↼
Kubbi: But holy fuck that was fun.
Hoodie: A G R E E D.
And like I told you both times, you earned that opportunity with your hard work and dedication to your music (+ a bit of insanity), and delivered both times with flying colors. Keep it up!
And in the meantime, try to get someone to get good A/V of the 5 piece Kubbi concert. I NEED TO SEE THIS.
Kubbi: It is very difficult to play chip shows with a band like that with the way the market is, but we are able to scale it down and it should be 100% doable to cross the pond with at some point. 🙂
Hoodie: Get the dragons back in shape. Make it happen.
They could provide free pyros at the concert too.
Kubbi: Yes, fortunately our airlines are fairly cheap. We only pay for feeding the dragons.
And exactly. Our pyro situation isn’t too bad. Also works great as security.
Hoodie: And if someone gets too out of line, free meal for the dragon!
Kubbi: Free meal, free trip.
Hoodie: You damn Norwegians have it made, I swear.
Kubbi: Well, we pay for it with months of very little sunlight and white walkers but meh. It ain’t too bad.
Hoodie: Yeaaaaaaah, I’m definitely visiting in the Spring/Summer.
Kubbi: haha You got it.
Hoodie: With the requisite dragon talk out of the way (IT’S IMPORTANT), let’s talk a little more about Square Sounds Tokyo. What’s the plan for that gig? Or are you keeping that under wraps for now?
Kubbi: I can’t say too much for sure, but the way it looks now I’m bringing a couple of band members. Even though I enjoy the DJ-gigs I’ve done in the past, I feel like my music belongs in a different format. Square Sounds Tokyo will be the first place to see what I’m working on. I suppose it’s meant to be more of a rave style night, but I think this will fit in just fine. I also think it’s going to make for a much more interesting show than me with a Game Boy and a Laptop.
So if you wanted to see that, it’s time to start swimming.
Hoodie: Yes. Yes it is.
To double back a bit, earlier in our chat you mentioned your thesis, which I’m aware that you only recently submitted. I’m also aware that the hot damn thing is about CHIPTUNE. I think maybe, probably we should sorta, kinda talk about that a bit. haha
Kubbi: Yes absolutely! I mean, I wanna be really humble about that piece. It is to be strictly read as my perspective on the chipscene, using the tools of previous research. I wanted to find out where we were. When reading academic work on chiptune, I just feel like my part of the scene is left out.
It’s mainly based off the work of Anders Carlsson and Marilou Polymeropoulou, who have done amazing work at defining the culture and music. Carlsson, of course, being Goto80, who also makes incredible chip music.
I do hope my thesis will be read by those interested in the genre and scene though. It could make for some more… interesting discussion on what chiptune is and who we are.
Hoodie: I have high hopes for the resultant discussion as well, but I suppose we’ll see what happens. haha I feel like the current chiptune community might be more receptive to said dialog and the thought experiment.
Kubbi: Yeah, even though it was a much needed breath of air when the debates died out, I do feel like it’s important for us to create shared aesthetic values.
It doesn’t have to be about authenticity which everyone was so obsessed with; just actually talking about what it is that brings us together.
Hoodie: That’s a very good point actually.
And it’s a concept that’s been a big part of how ChipWIN operates. It’s in our mission statement even. haha
Kubbi: I really do appreciate the role ChipWIN has played. I have heard different opinions on ChipWIN from various artists, but it is one of the few places where the culture is accessible and welcoming to the public. I think that is invaluable.
Hoodie: It did literally start out as a simple fan group for chipmusic enthusiasts, and then only later (albeit rather quickly) developed into a fuller, more open community for artists to also interact and collaborate within. Kinda inevitable to be honest, since some of the most ardent chipmusic fans are also artists. haha
But far, far from all of them. Even today, the larger percentage of group members (5000+) and newsletter subscribers (nearly 12k) are fans, not artists. It is a different dynamic altogether.
But don’t let me digress too much on this topic or this’ll turn into you interviewing me. hahaha
Kubbi: Those numbers blow my mind. Really proud of you and the fans and artists. It all comes back to what we talked about: music being a universal language. Chipmusic unites creatives all over the world and ChipWIN is just such an awesome place with its community and endeavors. I still believe the chipscene is the most healthy and positive music scenes today. Doesn’t matter if we’re 0.0001% of the market, the dynamic and closeness of the fans and artists is unique.
I’m curious, what kind of stuff do you wanna pull off this year? Unless your plans are as secret as mine. 😉
Hoodie: It’s been quite the endeavor to both maintain and expand over the years, but the endless inspirational feedback loop of both interacting and working with members and artists on different projects has made it fairly easy to endure and stay deep into it. It’s WORK at times, but I truly love it. Don’t see that changing anytime soon.
As far as future plans, hmm… Well, for starters, we finally got both a ChipWIN Patreon and Discord server up and going last year, which have been great! The Patreon in particular is going to be key to some of the plans moving forward; there’s quite the lengthy list of goals listed on it that we’re working on.
Anything from turning ChipWIN into a legal nonprofit to opening a side netlabel for individual artists releases as well to developing and promoting ‘Chiptunes = LEARN’, a multi-faceted chip-education focused outlet.
As always, it’s all just a matter of time and money, and, of course, having available hands on deck. Working on it, though, and that’s what matters.
Kubbi: Absolutely! That’s all exciting news. Can’t wait to see what’s coming up next. Also can’t wait for the new compilation, which I’m sure is going to be just as mind blowing as the last one.
Hoodie: Definitely already getting excited about Volume 7. As of exactly today, there’s only two months until the submission deadline! #ShamelessPlug
I would legitmately like to increase the number of compilations we release in time as well. And I believe the key there (outside of cloning myself) is to entrust other project managers and curators to help wrangle some of them. Just gotta formalize that process and get it started.
But enough about that. On to more important matters! Such as…
What are we gonna name Chip Castle™? We haven’t discussed that yet.
I mean, we have the currency name figured out: “Dragons”, which’ll have a dolphin on one side and a polar bear on the other.
Our main export will be “ridiculously awesome ridiculous ideas”, which we honestly have a massive surplus of, so we should be rolling in the Dragons in no time.
Kubbi: Naturally, it must be Meadhaven Keep.
Hoodie: That’s a solid choice. Situated among the Fields of Cherry Wheat.
Kubbi: We just need the bricks, property and manpower. I’ll look into the paperwork. It’s going to be a place of absolute lo-fi wonder.
Hoodie: I envision integrated chipmusic software and hardware worked into the actual construction of the keep, with bluetooth speakers and stages everywhere for both enjoying and performing chiptune anywhere, anytime. Naturally.
And a Cherry Wheat dispenser in every room.
And a pod of actual dolphins in a huge dolphin pond somewhere. We can make that work somehow I’m pretty sure.
Oh! And friendly polar bears for all the children (and adults) to ride. That’s crucial.
Dragons, of course, for both transport and defense.
Yeah, it’s a pretty solid plan if I do say so myself.
…you should probably stop me now, because, as you well know, I can go on about this for hours.
Kubbi: ONE DAY.
Hoodie: ONE. DAY.
Kubbi: As for now, I guess my Cherry Wheat thirst is quenched and chip cravings are satisfied with MAGFest, SST, EINDBAAS, etc. and the endless tracks and albums being released these days.
Hoodie: It is a damn good time to be involved in chiptune right now. Whether as an artist, a project manager, or a fan, lots of good times to be had with lots of good people.
Kubbi: It is, absolutely. Here’s to more sweet sweet chipmusic and parties. 🍺
Hoodie: Cheers to that indeed! 🍺
And on that note, have you any final thoughts to share before we wrap this up?
Kubbi: Just a good old thanks for all the support. I’m extremely blessed to have listeners and followers that I look up to. Can’t wait to show everyone what I’m working on and I hope to see my international friends soon. 🐬
Hoodie: Right back at you, my friend. Until the next adventure! 🐬