Hoodie Highlights… Sam Wray!

- Posted January 15th, 2016 by

Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here with the first Hoodie Highlights of 2016! Woohoo! =D

Getting things rolling along nicely for the new year, today’s feature is with one of my favorite “doers” in chiptune. A young Brit I had the pleasure of finally working with last year, and who has already accomplished more in chiptune than he really has any right to at his age. Of course I’m talking about Sam Wray aka 2xAA! Enjoy!

Photo of 2xAA by Egor Alimpiev.

Photo of 2xAA by Egor Alimpiev.

Hoodie: Hey Sam! Welcome to the blog! To start things off, give us a quick summary of who you are and what you’re about?

Sam Wray: Hi Brandon – thanks, it’s great to be here!

I run µCollective and create digital artworks, but I’m probably best known for my chipmusic alias ‘2xAA’.

Hoodie: Introduction out of the way, let’s start with the big question:

Chiptune: what in the world were you thinking?

Framed less hilariously, what scenario(s) brought you into this crazy realm?

Sam: Ohh man. Well, back in 2008 I had been in secondary school (UK schooling) for about two years and still hadn’t made too many friends from transferring schools. I spent a lot of my lunchtimes in the computer labs on the internet as my family still only had dial-up at home. One lunchtime I came across gwEm’s “Live From Hell” and I loved it. These odd low-fi sounds mixed with a pretty nerdy sounding vocal and guitars – how cool is that? So I researched some more and found out loads of stuff about chipmusic from 8bitcollective, 8bitpeoples and woolyss.

Having already had some keyboard lessons and at the time I was also learning the guitar, the draw of writing music on the go was incredible. I’d never really been into gaming that much (still haven’t really got an interest) and I was too young to have a retro tie to the sounds. I just thought chiptune sounded awesome!

I asked my Dad a year later (I was 13) if he would buy me a Game Boy flash cart and an LSDJ licence for my birthday and he did!

So from 2009 I started writing chiptune and haven’t stopped since!

Hoodie: Another young ‘un from the non-nostalgia crew. Awesome!

Frankly, I’m down with whatever reason(s) pulls folk into chiptune (I’m a mix of many myself!), but it’s always extra fantastic when someone’s pulled in purely because of, well… chiptune!

Beyond that, what fuels your compositional fires as 2xAA? Any particular inspirations, styles, genres, etc?

Sam: No real inspirations. I mean, I have my favourite artists (Green Day, Daft Punk, gwEm, Dubmood, Henry Homesweet to name a few) but in terms of musical inspiration I kinda just go with the flow, which works sometimes (such as ‘Get Away’ which I wrote in 5 hours for ‘µWIN‘) but other times I just can’t write a thing.

Most recently with my acquisition of nanoloop 2, I’ve been trying to specifically write “House” sounding stuff. You can follow this exploration of nanoloop 2 through my WeeklyBeats submissions if you like. ;) #shamelessPlug

Hoodie: Hey, this is your interview! Shameless plug away! haha

And inspiration can be a really *weird* creature. Sometimes you can create it yourself, sometimes you have to find it, and sometimes it’s just better to say screw it and go have a few beers. haha

Sam: Haha, a few beers sometimes helps a lot

Hoodie: haha Yes, yes sometimes it very well does.

What about the visual side of your artistry? What prompted that additional outlet of creation?

Sam: In 2014 I organised my first chiptune gig. It was for YRS2014 in Plymouth, UK. I had all the artists booked and I was told there was a projection screen I could use also. I didn’t know any visualists that were free at the time and YRS is a week long programming event. So during the week I messed around making some smartphone controlled audio reactive visuals the audience could use, to add another layer of interactivity to the performance.

That went well and a couple of months later I had the idea of creating a whole VJ application from this original idea. That resulted in modV and my recent exploration into visual arts. I’ve always been into visual arts, I just took a long break haha.

Hoodie: That’s another thing you do: if you need a thing and it doesn’t exist, YOU MAKE ONE. That’s pretty cool, man. haha

And is also a pretty good transition into talking about µCollective if I do say so myself. ;)

Sam: Nice linkage. ;)

So yes, µCollective (Micro Collective) is a bit of a story.

Hoodie: -sits and listens-

Sam: Back in 2011, 8bitcollective was dying and I was part of the admin team. (for those of you who never witnessed 8bc, it was the largest and most active online chiptune community). I did everything I could to save it, but the owner was nowhere to be found and ultimately the site with > 40,000 members and 6 years worth of music uploads, wiki pages, forums and images vanished from the Internet.

During this time I started developing µCollective under the joke name ‘BRKbc’, short for ‘Break bit collective’ (chiptune in-joke) and cleared this with 8bc’s owner after it had died so the air was clean. From there on µC has grown to be what it is today. It’s gone through a whole redesign, had two birthday party url shows and its own series of irl shows called “µChip” (1-5). µC also has a shop with community designed merch and an open API so you can use data and stream music from the site for free!

The spirit of µC is to try and carry on what 8bc stood for – sharing ideas and media related to the chipmusic scene.

I think so far it’s gone well, but I’ve definitely seen a decline in activity. The plan for 2016 is to rebuild µC’s website, bigger and better. At the second half of 2016 I’d like to unveil the new site with a release party again and then plan out µC’s shows for the rest of 2016 and 2017.

We’ll be looking for volunteers soon to help out with modding the site and bringing a µCollective show to a venue near you – so get in contact at staff(at)ucollective.org if you’d like to talk.

Hoodie: Still rockin’ and rollin’. Awesome. Damn happy to see that. µC is a really cool community. I’d love to see it keep building and growing!

Can’t highly recommend enough that additional folk dive in to help if they’re able. DOO EET.

Personally, you’re a really easy guy to work with as well. I know that firsthand from your Volume 4 judging & our resultant ‘µWIN’ collaboration! haha Thanks again for that! Both projects turned out great!

Sam: Thanks Brandon – I enjoyed working with you also on those, fantastic projects. =)

Hoodie: It’s one of the things I enjoy so much about chiptune: there’s a lotta good kindred spirits in and around it, and so many of them are “doers”. Makes it really easy to do really cool things. Endless feedback loop of awesome so to speak.

Beyond that and the general sonic and artistic aesthetic, are there any particular qualities or such that you find fascinating in and around chiptune?

Sam: The weird (but completely awesome) mix of innovation and reuse within the chiptune scene always fascinates me and it’s one of the main draws I have to it.

Seeing people figure out what you can do with all this old tech and then throwing down huge parties with incredible sounds because of it – wow. That just blows me away. For example, when I saw Ultrasyd perform in 2015 with his Ataris and one Game Boy and SuperByte (and µChip 3) I just couldn’t help myself. I got right to the front of the crowd and danced to every single tune. Seeing this guy with this ludicrously old tech pumping out addictively danceable music is amazing.

Hoodie: This. This x ∞. The live dynamic is what really pulled me in. It can be *AMAZING*.

Sam: It’s so good haha. I just hope there doesn’t come a day where the chiptune tech is so old it’s falling apart and it’s *rare* to find this stuff.

 I’ve been wondering for a while if modern day clone systems will spring up. Like, 3rd party sound chips which directly emulate the older chips

Hoodie: It’s a bizarre, yet most excellent melding of old tech and unique artistic mindsets. Plus, it’s *REALLY*, really fun! hahaha

And that’s an interesting line of thought (about the gear)! Can’t say I’ve really considered that before now.

Sam: Software is a pretty good emulation, but can never really capture the real ‘grit’ of a soundchip.

Hoodie: It’s a different thing, no doubt. And now I’m curious to see what happens as time goes on! haha

Wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see you creating some of that tech at some point in the future. ;)

Sam: *shifty eyes*

Hoodie: Now for the most important questions:

What’s your favorite kind of beer & pizza toppings?

And/or beer pizza toppings? Because grammar fail. :3

Sam: This is such a hard question. There are so many good beers!

But my most recent favourite is Guinness’ Dublin Porter (on tap). Nice and light, isn’t heavy like Guinness and very tasty! ^_^

Pizza toppings though, I’m a fan of most toppings, but the classic Pepperoni pizza always goes down well with me.

Hoodie: Oh man. I love pretty much everything Guinness and I’ve never tried that. Haven’t seen it around here either. Need to keep an eye out!

Sam: If I can get to the US in the next couple of years I’ll bring some over for you if you haven’t been able to source it before then – so nice! Also their West Indies stuff, top notch. ;)

Hoodie: Interestingly enough, Guinness recently released a Nitro IPA. Keeps the general smoothness of the regular Guinness, but has the hoppiness of an IPA. It’s…. quite weird, to be honest. haha

 And ah yes! All the more reason for you to visit: BEER. #Cheers

Sam: Woah, I need to find this!

And yes, #Cheers =D

Hoodie: On that note, any final words before we wrap this up?

Sam: Only my usual message to keep the chipscene cool and lively – here’s to an awesome rest of 2016!

Thanks Brandon! <3

Hoodie: You’re more than welcome, Sam. And thanks again for chatting with me!

µC Profile | Soundcloud | Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | YouTubeLast.fm

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