Hey y’all! =) Been a spell since I published an interview here on the blog; the final quarter of the year rarely shows me any quarter. haha That said, I’ve a really good one to kick off 2018! Featuring a cat that’s been involved in and around chiptune longer than probably most of us, and in various ways: composing his own music, performing live, modding gear, and managing various communities. Everyone welcome to the blog, Timothy Lamb aka Trash80!
Hoodie: Hey Tim! Welcome to the blog, and a long overdue welcome at that! To get this going, give us a quick intro of who you are and what you’re about.
Trash80: Hey! My name is Tim/Timothy/Trash80. I am a musician, designer, and hardware/software engineer.
Hoodie: aka Tim-who-does-all-the-things. You’re been involved in various efforts in and around chiptune for how long now?
Trash80: My involvement with the scene probably started with the Trash80 moniker around 2000~2001. Though as far as chiptune hardware I guess that started when I was a kid using Amiga Med/Octamed & Protracker back around 1992.
Hoodie: Oh damn! You go back even further than I realized! Nice job, you big nerd!
Trash80: I AM NOT A BIG NERD IT’S HOW WE MADE ELECTRONIC MUSIC BACK IN THE DAY JEEZE. Okay maybe I am a nerd.
Hoodie: You are totally a big nerd. It’s okay. We’re all big nerds here. Kinda par for the course.
Trash80: Is it a club? Do I get a badge or patch or something? Where do I sign up?
Hoodie: No sign up required. It’s automatic. Primary reward is a litany of social stigmas, but occasionally free beer and food in the chiptune sub-section of nerdery, which can on occasion be pretty sweet.
Trash80: BBS days. My dad was into it and showed me the ropes. My mind was blown when I grabbed a mod cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ by 4mat.
Hoodie: 4mat is really damn good at blowing minds with his compositions.
Trash80: Yeah he is easily my top artist pick, just from influence alone. I told him that in person once and it was a bit awkward. Haha.
Hoodie: Eh, it’s fine. When we met at Blip 2011 I told him Brendan Fraiser introduced me to his music when I meant Brendan Becker. That got a really confused look. Words are dumb.
Trash80: Oh sweet you were there too! Yeah, that’s where I met him as well.
Hoodie: Oh wow! Nice! Only Blip I made, but damn, was it one helluva adventure! After MAGFest, that fest is largely responsible for pushing me so deep into the chiptune rabbit holes.
Trash80: Awesome! I don’t recall why I was there specifically, but I did end up getting to perform a bit of a duet with Bubblyfish during her set. I think I had just completed LSDJ Midiout mode, so I experimented with that on stage. It was a bit stressful, as I was not sure if it was going to work.
Hoodie: That sounds very chiptune, yes. haha
So you got started in chiptune in the early 90s, but Trash80 didn’t happen until the early 2000s. What began that deeper foray into it all?
Trash80: I guess I don’t really think of the old days as chipmusic, as much as it was just the way to make music back then.
Before I started the Trash80 project I think I discovered an old Game Boy tracker called Music Box and the active scene of Game Boy development at a site called gbdevers. Which lead me to get some dev carts, as well as finding out about the early versions of Nanoloop and LSDJ. I was pretty well hooked into it at that point. I think that was also around the same time micromusic.net popped up, but my memory is a bit hazy on that.
Hoodie: That’s a url I’m not familiar with!
Trash80: Old school! It was pretty big for the tiny scene back in the early 2000s. Got a few gigs through there, it was the center hub of the scene for sure.
Hoodie: Fascinating! And obviously where you began getting involved in the community.
Trash80: Well… I was more of a passive observer with the community back then. (not one of the cool kids) 😉 I guess my participation really started with the discovery of the “Prosound mod” in the LSDJ yahoo group. (Thank Johan Kotlinski for coining the term).
Hoodie: Yahoo groups, however, I most definitely do remember! haha And of course he did!
Trash80: One of the great things about our community is how ideas develop and are improved upon over time. From mods and software, to the art, music and shows. The quality now a days is astounding and it’s amazing how far we’ve gone.
The Prosound mod was a must for me, I had a 4 Game Boy link cable setup and the line noise was unpractically loud.
LSDJ was really only useful on the Game Boy Color model due to lack of optimizations at the time, and unfortunately it has the worst output of the bunch. Finding out you can bypass the crappy opamp and get a better quality sound was something everyone could benefit from; sharing the hack was a no-brainer. I feel that this is a cornerstone to the chipmusic community: we all tend to gravitate heavily towards sharing tips and tricks.
Hoodie: Even I recall how horrifically noisy the original Game Boy’s headphone jack was just playing games. If you turned the volume all the way down, you could just hear the BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Potentially even worse if you had it plugged into a wall adapter; 50 cycle hum on steroids.
Trash80: Exactly! The prosound mod bypassed the buzz issue as well. Good stuff.
The original mod did more than just bypass the opamp; it also pulled ground from a different location. But I think most people don’t use that much anymore. The original mod page has been down for years. [Editor’s note: here’s the original page via the Wayback Machine!].
Hoodie: Ah! That makes sense. Clean up ALL the signal! I mean, it being noisy is okay if you’re just playing games (especially back then). If you’re producing music, though, not so much. Any noise added should probably be deliberate. haha
I assume that’s part of what pulled you in further? Because you certainly ended up diving into the community pretty deeply. 😉
Trash80: I suppose I try to help out where I can. 🙂 In 2008 I worked with 8BitCollective on improving the backend to handle the traffic. At the time I started the site was periodically slow or completely non-responsive due to server load. From there I continued to work on features and improvements until our parting of ways due to disagreements within the staff. Without getting too deep into it, there was a strong feeling that we needed to have another outlet for the community in case things got out of hand. This is when I created Chipmusic.org with a portion of the 8BC moderators. Potentially this may also be where some of the “bad blood” comes from between the two sites: it was created for the community, but the fuel that ignited the change was unfortunately through disagreements.
Hoodie: Communities generally don’t remain static. They change and evolve and grow, and sometimes it takes a strong disagreement to prompt that. Just part of it all, even if it’s rather unpleasant at the time. And a lot of damn work. lol
I think that’s a factor of community management that most folk don’t realize: IT’S WOOOOORK. Can be really damn fun and rewarding work, but work all the same.
Trash80: Running an online forum is challenging for sure. Trying to keep the trolling at bay or people from ruining each other’s experience without coming off as some sort of censoring dictator… It’s nearly impossible. Though now that everyone uses Facebook instead of some random forum I don’t need to worry about it much anymore.
Hoodie: That is somewhat of an impossible challenge, yes. And not altogether fun either, especially at first. Took us awhile to find the right balance (making guidelines, forming a solid mod group to enforce them, etc), but we finally got there. Now ChipWIN is largely self moderated by the group itself with us only acting when we MUST (rare nowdays), which is pretty much the best end result you can get to imho.
Trash80: Nice! Yeah it seems pretty friendly over the ChipWIN.
Hoodie: Well, it definitely wasn’t always that way. lol Been a process for sure. Live and learn and all that.
Trash80: I totally forgot that I also run Weeklybeats.com. It’s also pretty much free from trolling. The only moderation really is for verifying song submissions don’t use copyrighted material, and helping users from time to time.
Trash80: For readers unfamiliar with Weeklybeats, it’s a community driven site where artists sign up to create 1 song a week for the entire year. It happens every two years, and we just started the 4th edition. I have missed the first two weeks due to MAGFest and getting sick there after, but I am planning on making a track this week. 🙂
Hoodie: Actually made myself an account this time around! Zero chance I’ll make it every week, but maaaaybe will get something on there here and there before it’s done. 😉
Trash80: DO IT.
Hoodie: I’M GONNA.
Speaking of music, let’s talk about your own! Probably should do that in a Trash80 interview, I guess.
Trash80: Oh yeah Haha! Good point.
Hoodie: What are your goals when you compose? Are you aiming for a particular style, set on using specific methods or instrumentation, and/or do you just down a shot of Kraken and see what happens?
Trash80: For the most part my objective has been to use chip hardware as an instrument to an ensemble of sounds from other sources. In the early days my music was more focused on experimenting with this idea but since the Icarus EP in 2008 it’s primarily revolved around dance music. Probably because it’s just more fun to perform live.
When starting an EP my process involves picking a theme and coming up with a story. For the ‘Theia’ EP I took it a step further and actually layered multiple stories and worked out song outlines in advance. I don’t know if it showed itself in the final result but it gave me imagery to pull from when I was stuck creatively.
While working on music I tend to get distracted in wanting a certain synth sound or tool, and since I am a coder/engineer I end up spending a large portion of time developing solutions. In turn unfortunately I spend less time working on actual music, but hopefully others benefit from my work. This is where things like Arduinoboy, mGB, and my software synths come from.
Hoodie: I’m pretty sure they do. And ‘Theia’ was a very potent EP. I believe the extra work on it definitely showed. Definitely made me want more Trash80 soon. haha
Trash80: The tentative plan is to have a new EP every 6 months. We’ll see how that works out. 😉
Hoodie: I fully support this plan, and will pester you here and there if that’ll help. 😉
How do you feel about live performing by the way? I know you do it (finally witnessed it firsthand at MAG and it was glorious!), but do you enjoy it or is it just a part of it you’ve gotta do? Might seem like an odd question, but I’ve definitely encountered the latter on occasion!
Trash80: I think I primarily do this style of music for live performance. Not only is it a joy to share my music and give a live spin on the tracks, but also to meet new people and see old friends. It’s what I look forward to most for sure.
Hoodie: Live music can be magical thing, maybe even moreso with chipmusic. It’s probably the aspect most responsible for pulling me in so deeply.
Trash80: Having said that it’s super awkward playing dance music at a small gig with nobody there. 😉
Hoodie: And that’s also part of chiptune. lol
Speaking of the struggles of #ChiptuneLyfe, we all know that it isn’t the most, well… lucrative of pursuits. How do you use your nifty music nerd knowledge on the day job?
Trash80: I am Bruce Wayne of Wayne Enterprises, heard of me?
Hoodie: Holy shit. You’re Thor?!?
Trash80: Haha no but seriously I am a programmer and electronics engineer primarily in robotics / animatronics / practical effects for TV, Movies, and Theme Parks (AKA The Entertainment Industry).
Hoodie: So Thor, yes. Well, more like Iron Man I guess.
Dumb jokes aside, pretty nifty stuff! Any particular works that you’re really proud of that you’d like to talk about?
Trash80: I work for a company called Spectral Motion. You can look up some of their work online. It’s pretty amazing stuff. People may be familiar with Stranger Things Season 1 – I helped bring the Demogorgon to life – which in some shots was painted over in CGI (boo). I also do contract work with Disney for the theme parks – unfortunately I cannot discuss much of what I do, but it may involve a sword and light.
I also work on some elaborate art projects with Spectral as well. I usually tell people to Google Robot Stripper, but nowadays I have to specify the one with articulating hands. 😉
Hoodie: hahahaha It’s a brave new world, man.
Trash80: Totally! With a little luck the special effects industry can be easy to get into. Look up local companies in your area (use the Google), take your resume (regardless if you are just getting started and have no experience), and literally talk to the companies/owners and show that you are enthusiastic about working with them. They have been in your shoes and will understand where you’re coming from.
Hoodie: Great info!
Also, thanks for sharing the release date and plot details for the third season of Stranger Things via secret code in that paragraph. I’ll keep the cipher safe, I promise.
Trash80: Spoilers: Luke is the Joker.
Any other thoughts or spoilers to share before we wrap this up?
Trash80: Sure! For my fellow musician friends: Sign up to Weeklybeats! You only missed the first 3 weeks.
To everyone: if you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me. [Editor’s note: contact info via the links section at the end of this interview]
Hoodie: I’ve got a comment: thanks for taking the time to chat with me! And in general, for your involvement in and around chiptune over a pretty solid period of time. Your contributions are definitely appreciated! =)
Trash80: Thanks, my pleasure!