Hey y’all! ( ´ ▽ ` )ﾉ It’s once again time for this month’s edition of my blog interview column, Hoodie Highlights!
April’s down-to-Earth chat features a talented singer/songwriter, chipmusician, knowledgeable curator, and all around swell guy. He’s also a lover of both sharks and donuts, so of course I’ve gotta talk to him.
Everyone, welcome Sam Mulligan to The ChipWIN Blog!
Hoodie: Welcome to the blog, Sam! Little surprised I haven’t chatted with you here sooner. Better late than never, I suppose!
Sam Mulligan: Thanks Taters. I’m beyond psyched to be chatting with you!
And yeah, I agree! I mean, I’m new around here so it kind of makes sense…
Hoodie aka Taters: The pleasure’s all mine, Sammers. And what do you mean ‘new’? You’ve been around at least as long as me.
Huh. I guess we’re both n00bs then, ay? #EternalYouthUNLOCKED
Sam Mulligan aka Sammers: Oh I think you know me well enough to know that I don’t really know what I mean, ya know what I mean?
Taters: Eye kno h’wut u meen. ಠ‿↼
But for our reader’s sake, give us a quick rundown of who you are and what you’re about!
Sammers: Of course! Hi! I’m Sam Mulligan and I’m a comedy/rock singer and my favorite things are rad guitar riffs and dope Game Boy beats!
Taters: All true. Can verify 100%.
Let’s start off with a fairly broad question: what inspired you to take upon the mantle/curse of being a musician?
Sammers: Haha The curse?! I get that, but this is definitely my favorite thing to do.
When I was 10 years old I started playing the trombone in school. I was drawn to it because it was kinda big and goofy. I quit after the first year, but was convinced in the beginning of the next year to continue by my music teacher, Mrs. Cardinali, and I’ll always be thankful for that! I later joined the jazz ensemble, pit band for the school musicals, and the pep band for the football games. Around that time I met my Best Friend For Life™, Dave Richardson, who was a percussionist in the school band, but also participated in an extra-curricular class where they wrote and played songs on guitar. I begged for a guitar for my birthday that year (1998), started taking lessons, and immediately formed a band called ‘Compost Shark‘ with Dave.
We played silly folk/punk/indie songs and played all the talent shows and had concerts in our backyards. It was a magical time. We kind of stopped when we went to college, but we both kept going with our own music. I went the way of getting further into loud, weird, silly music, and Dave recently released a masterpiece of a folk album, which I highly encourage anyone who claims to appreciate truly beautiful, honest, and great music to check out.
Taters: Adding Dave’s album to my ‘listen to this soon’ list! Please continue.
Sammers: When I was at the University of Vermont, I started playing my solo music as ‘SamSam’. It was pretty silly, and it wasn’t long before I started a band, ‘My Kids Are Jerks‘, with my pals Dan and Justin. We played silly pop-punk style stuff, and that was when I wrote ‘I’m An Idiot’, which we recorded on our album ‘Love Is A Weapon’. We graduated and all skipped town right after that, but that was another magical time and those guys were great to play with!
Taters: So that’s the origin of that ridiculous song! haha Still one of my favs btw, SamSam.
Sammers aka SamSam: Yep! I wrote it for a public speaking class, my topic was ‘How to Write a Crappy Song’! I got an ‘A’, believe it or not. I think I still have that speech on VHS somewhere… keep an eye on my YouTube channel!
Taters: Omg that’s amazing! haha I once wrote a crappy song for a songwriting class in college. It was some post-grunge crapola, but featured a nifty mandolin solo from a bluegrass cat I’d teamed up with! #MoreMandolinInEverything
Your project song is clearly better, though, even without mandolin. Also, very much yes on the YouTube upload. ;)
Sammers: Aww yeah, shred that mandolin, SHRED IT! I wanna hear it!
Taters: Sorry, but that crappy tune has been lost to time. Only shot to hear it is if you discover time travel and go back and catch it live. Imho that seems like a poor use of the ability, but who am I to judge?
Obvious next question: when and how did Game Boys come into this equation?
Sammers: Well, I was on a time traveling expedition to recover a missing post-grunge song featuring a blistering mandolin solo…
Oh wait, no, that’s not what happened. It all started with a love of the Moog sounds from the first album by The Rentals, which led me to The Moog Cookbook, and then I was heartbroken when I learned how much it would cost to get a Moog of my own. Around the same time I bought a 45 record from my local music store because the artwork made me laugh. It was a 45 by Atom & His Package; I think it was ‘“(Lord It’s Hard to Be Happy When You’re Not) Using The Metric System’. I wasn’t sure if I had the speed setting set right on my record player because Atom has a very high voice and it was my first time listening to him. This was right before Napster started, so I still didn’t have much access to computers or the internet, so this was a lucky find. Atom & His Package used a Yamaha QY700 sequencer which I learned was also prohibitively expensive, but that got me thinking about using programmed accompaniment in my own songs.
A few years later, I’m in school and stumbled upon Anamanaguchi’s ‘Power Supply’ EP, and all of the 8bitpeoples releases, and thought it was absolutely fantastic. Didn’t know where to look to find out how to do it, and figured it required ‘hacking’ skills, so I gave up pretty quickly and just listened to it all the time. Then one of my favorite bands, grüvis malt, broke up and their lead singer, Brendan Bell, put out ‘Your New Favorite Record’ under the name Jonny Classic & The Classic Johns using Nanoloop, vocals and ‘cellular flute’. I love that record and am always surprised that more people don’t list it as one of the best chip albums; I think maybe it was ahead of it’s time. It’s beautiful. Brendan (from JC&TCJ) started playing drums in a sick trio called Ebu Gogo, and I caught them play a show at PA’s Lounge in Somerville, Massachusetts. After their set, I talked to him at the bar and asked what Nanoloop was and how do I learn how to do that, and he pointed me toward 8bitcollective, and I was obsessed. My girlfriend at the time bought me a Game Boy Advance and Nanoloop for our anniversary, and I started tinkering. Initially I found it very difficult and frustrating to use. After doing a little more digging, I found and tried LSDJ and everything just kind of clicked. It was much more natural for me to use, just because of the way I think about music. And then my life was over! Haha jk
Taters: So it’s more or less the internet’s fault. As always.
Sammers: Yes, I absolutely blame the internet! I guess I really started getting deep into chipmusic as an avid listener and fan, and started doing Nerd Rock Radio on WMFO (Tufts University radio station) sometime mid-2010 and was writing my own music while doing that. I tinkered with LSDJ for a while and was having fun, but I didn’t really start getting the sounds I wanted out of it until 2011 or so. I heard ‘Roots‘ by Danimal Cannon, and ‘Computer Savvy‘ by The J. Arthur Keenes Band, and said, ‘Whoa. This is it.’ They were both gracious enough to include the song files of the LSDJ/Game Boy parts with their albums, and I learned so much from them and started putting what I learned into effect with all the songs I wrote from that point on. Not long after that, I wrote and recorded ‘Secret‘, which made it onto the first Chiptunes = WIN album!
Taters: That’s how I first encountered you! I believe you messaged me to see if your track would fit the comp or not. I was happy to have it. It was the only thing of it’s kind submitted at that point (singer/songwriter) and was a great fit. Still a fun song!
And that’s a couple of stellar inspirations to pull you further into the chiprealm!
Sammers: Thankfully there is no shortage of inspiring people who make chipmusic! I am blown away on a regular basis by the music that folks are creating, and I am so thankful for all of it.
Taters: Agreed on all points there. The numbers of inspiring folk ever inspiring yet more inspiring folk are only increasing as well. Infinite inspiration feedback loop. Best kind of feedback loop imho.
And one thing that certainly isn’t a secret: you’ve got a brand spankin’ new album out. Talk to me about this party of sharks!
Sammers: Oh yeah! Well, I just released my new album, ‘Shark Party’, on April 6. It’s a compilation of songs, about half of which have been on various compilations. The other half are songs that I’ve been playing for a long time but never fully recorded until now.
Taters: It’s about dag nabbed time! Last full release was in, what? 2013? #FiveYearsAgoWTF
Sammers: I know, right?! It’s been a dream of mine to release a compilation of singles I’ve done. I thought it would be something I did 10 years from now. Then I realized I’ve been putting out singles for the past five years and they were a bit scattered, so I decided that it should be the next thing I release. It took way too long though! A few months after I released my first EP, I got a second job on weekends and worked 7 days a week for about three and a half years. I continued to work on music when not at work, and in some ways it was motivating to have a very limited amount of time to do so. I was working 7 days a week when JANX and I started Hype $quad, and we wrote and recorded a lot of songs in a very short amount of time (and had a lot of fun with it). It was easy to get burnt out quickly though, and I was taking long breaks from writing and recording in between singles and playing shows. I’ve been playing ‘Time Warp’ since 2012, and ‘Shark Party’ since 2013 and actually recorded them in a real studio (in I think 2014?) with the help of my friend Kyle Lampe, who was very kind to me, and is a fabulous musician himself. The recordings sounded great, but I didn’t feel I nailed my performance, so I chose to keep working on those songs. I came back to them here and there for years – refining the Game Boy parts and rewriting lyrics. It was going very slow though.
Triheart approached me about putting together a mini-tour sometime in the Fall of 2016 and we called it the ‘Summer Shark Party Tour’. The goal was to have the album ready for that, so it was a good kick in the pants to focus and wrap it up. I was on track to finish recording, but then I broke my collarbone in three pieces a couple months before our first show. I worked on recording the new songs for the album during recovery from surgery. Ultimately I couldn’t get it done in time, which was very disappointing. I had already asked Grant Henry (Stemage) to master the whole thing, and he was very kind about checking in and encouraging me to keep working on it. The most challenging part for me was recording and mixing the vocals for ‘Donut Slayer’, mainly because there are a lot of takes and a lot of layers and there’s just a LOT going on in the vocals for that one. It feels pretty good to have it all done though, and I am really excited for people to hear it!
Taters: I remember that injury delay! Good grief, that sucked. O.o But hey, album’s out now and that’s what matters most, ay? haha
I read a blurb on the album release talking about a percentage of the pre-order earnings going to Project AWARE. Can you tell me a bit about that, and why you’re doing it?
Sammers: Absolutely! I have always loved sharks, since before kindergarten. They are very important to the health of the oceans, and are incredible animals. Humans kill upwards of 100 million sharks a year through commercial and recreational fishing, as well as by-catch. Sharks also don’t reproduce as much or as frequently as many other fish, and many are on the protected list. I thought it’d be great if I could do something, so I decided to donate $1 from every digital sale and $2 from every tape cassette sale of the album (from pre-orders through release day) to Project AWARE. I also signed up for a birthday fundraising request through Facebook, and we raised $232 total for Project AWARE, which I’m psyched about and I’m so thankful to everybody that contributed!
Regarding the non-profit, they say it best on their website: ‘Project AWARE is a global movement of scuba divers protecting our ocean planet – one dive at a time. Focused on the critical issues of Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris, Project AWARE empowers thousands to work together for a clean, healthy and abundant ocean planet. Project AWARE Foundation is a registered non-profit organization.’
Taters: Wow! And here I just thought you liked inflatable, remote control shark balloons! Awesome stuff!
Sammers: Hahaha Well I mean, yeah, those ARE pretty dope!
Taters: Dennis The Shark lives forever in my heart. Even if he was a bit of a dick.
Sammers: Dennis loved you. I know you probably didn’t want to hear that. I think you know it to be true, and I think that’s where your ‘hatred’ emanates from. Because deep down… you know you loved him too.
Sammers: And your heart is torn with regret, as is mine, and you are tortured with the memory of how we left him. Alone. In a bathroom at MAGFest so many years ago.
Taters: IT WAS HIS CHOICE, SAM.
HE DID THAT TO HIMSELF.
AND I, FOR ONE, WASN’T GOING TO ARGUE WITH A DRUNK FLYING SHARK IN MY BATHROOM.
And on that note, it’s time for The Lightning Round™! ⚡⚡⚡
Sammers: Because ‘they’ are ‘house centipedes’, but they do NOT belong in my house!
Taters: Did you ever find Sasquatch?
Sammers: Sasquatch was inside me the entire ti-…. wait, no, that’s not what I meant to say!
Taters: Does your Dad yet understand why you don’t wanna work on computers?
Sammers: Haha! My parents came to my album release show, and two days later my Mom sent me a picture of him smirking at his phone while watching videos that he took of me playing. I am so lucky that my parents also happen to be the greatest people I’ve ever met, and they are proud of me for being who I am. Which is convenient, because every time I try to be someone else it just gets me in trouble at the airport.
But yeah, he knows computers suck.
Taters: Do you still have big hands and a band van, man?
Sammers: My hands got a bit smaller after I stopped my ‘Circular Pastry Food Items (With Or Without Holes) Only’ diet. I sold the van to a fan named Stan back when gas prices were sky high. The next tour will be via Segway.
Taters: Estimate of how many donuts you’ve slain?
Sammers: I’ll answer this one seriously, because donuts are #SRSBSNS. Gimme a sec to do the math.
Taters: -waits impatiently-
Sammers: I estimate to have slain at least 1,456 donuts in the past 10 years. I also love to bring donuts to other people, so I believe I could be responsible for leading over 3,000 donuts to slaughter. These numbers do not include donut holes. This number would be higher, but I learned that I have ‘high bad cholesterol’ in late 2016 and have cut back drastically. I think there were a good 7 years leading up to 2016 where I averaged 4 donuts slain each week. o.O
Taters: Who WAS phone?
Sammers: Phone was dog!
Taters: Why am I Taters again?
Oh wow… I think Lydia and James Primate came on one of my radio shows back when it was at WMFO, and you Skyped in for an interview. I don’t remember the details of how it all happened, but that nickname was forever cemented in my brain by the time the show was over.
You are now listed in my contacts as ‘Taters’ forever!
Taters: Can I be a sleeping ninja at one of your performances someday?
Sammers: Absolutely! As long as you’re a pacifistic ninja. My manager made me sign a contract that I wouldn’t work with NPNs (Non-Pacifistic Ninjas) ever again.
Taters: Favorite chiptune topping? I mean, favorite pizza album? I mean, eh… Pfft, whatever.
Sammers: Hahaha! There are so many I love of both it’s impossible to choose. I had a great slice of spinach & mushroom pizza from Pizzeria Regina’s in Boston today, and some killer buffalo chicken & ranch pizza from Mike’s Pizza in Somerville the day before. I’ve been listening to chibi-tech, IAYD, DBOYD, flow mein, Rainbowdragoneyes, azuria sky, D&D Sluggers, nanode, and T-T)b on repeat for some time now. There is so much great stuff that I love, as soon as I start making a list I start thinking about what I’m going to listen to next. I’ve been really enjoying Anamanaguchi’s S/S17 Miku EP/remixes that are on Apple Music. I missed that one entirely, but then saw them play last week and heard it. I immediately looked it up when I went home, and I’ve been loving that so much. I always come back to Bit Shifter’s ‘Information Chase‘. If I’m having a bad day, I make sure I listen to THAT, because I know it will make it better.
Taters: And with that answer, you win The Lightning Round™! ⚡⚡⚡
You prize is a cessation of the interview. Congratulations!
Sammers: Haha yaaay! Thanks for chatting with me, Taters!
Taters: Absolutely my pleasure, Sammers. Thank YOU for chatting with me! Keep being your awesome self always and forever. The world needs it.
Sammers: Thanks Brandon. I really appreciate it. This is my favorite thing in the world to do, and it’s so much more fun with all of y’all here with me. I strongly believe that when people spend more time doing what they love to do, the difference and the impact of that is immeasurable. It makes YOUR life better, and the love that is created from that when it is shared with others spreads, and speeds up, and is magnified. So, I hope all of y’all do more of what you love, and do it whole-heartedly, and share it with all of us. ✌❤🦈🎉