Welcome back, ChipWINners! It’s good to be back at the blog after a short hiatus. That being said, I hope you’re ready for another interview! This week, I managed to get a hold of one of the most versatile talents in the scene! Using a bevy of tools over the course of his career, this artist took the time to sit down with me to talk about his new album, weapons of choice, and his recent performance at Toy Company Festival! So without further ado, here’s my interview with Canada’s very own bryface!
Kuma: So I got to listen to a large part, if not all of, your musical catalog, and I have to say, you are one of the more versatile talents I’ve ever had here on rawcuts! How’d you get your start in all this? Where does your journey begin?
bryface: Good question. I like to begin the story at the age of 9. It was the early 90’s, my brother and I just recently got a modem for our 486 PC, and we had started foraying into the world of dialup BBS’s (which served as the precursor to the internet). Some of these bulletin boards held collections of all kinds of files, including 4-channel and MODs. Somehow I stumbled onto one written by 4mat, and I was blown away by his style of composing! That’s pretty much the earliest influence I can recall on my style.
bryaface: Haha not quite that old! Those guys had lives and careers to live while I was still trying to learn how to do long division. But I’d consider myself maybe just above median age as far as the current chip community Is concerned, if that means anything at all. Too young to be oldschool, old enough to be cantankerous about juvenile chip tastes.
Kuma: Ah, so you’re Kuma age. Good. I thought my brain was going to explode again, the way it did when I found out Glomag has a 17 year old son.
bryface: Anyway, fast forward a few years and I find myself writing tracker music in impulse tracker. Then, I stopped writing in that program because I found it too unwieldy and couldn’t finish anything. It wasn’t until 4 years ago that I got started again, via a copy of KORG DS-10 and focused on short little ditties.
I think all the while, I found myself really connected to the demoscene/tracker chiptune aesthetic because of its uniqueness and focus on melody and harmony more than instrumentation, so stylistically I try to champion that ethic as much as I’m able to.
Kuma: I’m glad you have, and I’m especially glad you’re doing it with DS10, because while there certainly talented DS10 people out there, I find the ones I’m most familiar with don’t carry that aesthetic the way you do. kloudygirl makes noisey, dank industrial, and decktonic focuses on using it it the way a club DJ would use a synth to make disco, so when I got to hear your work, especially on “how to dodge lasers” I creamed my pants a little.
bryface: That’s very kind and horribly disgusting of you to say. But yeah, I mean I _could_ do music on those styles, but I feel like it’s a waste of time to trod where others can tread easily, you know? (not that it’s NECESSARILY easy
but yeah I like a challenge.
To clarify, I feel like, ‘why waste time covering territory that others are covering ably already?’. What excites me is the discovery of new things, and that desire is best met by me doing composition that is challenging.
Kuma: Very true. There’s nothing wrong with making similar music, but I definitely enjoy that, as far as DS10 is concerned, you’re walking your own path. That being said, the Korg isn’t the only program you use to make music with. Tell me, of the tools listed on your WAVEFORMTOWN page, which is the one you like most outside of DS10?
bryface: Impulse tracker, Famitracker, Sunvox, korg m01 and LSDJ all have their strengths and weaknesses as far as sound shaping is concerned. The DS-10 was a great portable platform as far as portability and control over sound is concerned, but over time I felt it was too restrictive compositionally. 16 notes x 16 patterns was not enough for the complexity of the songs I really wanted to write. I hate to be cliche, but LSDJ has become a favorite because it combines the familiar tracker interface with portability and a degree of sound control. (at least, control within the confines of the hardware)
Portability is super important to me because I can’t stand sitting down at a computer to write music anymore. too solitary, and too remote to capture musical ideas that flicker to life in a short moment. I haven’t touched a DAW in years lololol
Kuma: Really? That’s surprising, as I know a lot of artists, even if they’ don’t perform using DAWs, they’ll use them to refine and touch up their songs for album releases. Are you saying you don’t master your music at all? That all the stuff I’ve heard is raw DS10 or LSDJ?
bryface: All the DS-10 and LSDJ stuff i released before this newest album has not been enhanced with a DAW. I simply lacked the knowledge/perspective to consider post-production a big deal. ‘VARIOUS TOPICS’ marks my first use of a DAW (Reaper) for legit EQ/mastering.
Still though, the post-production is quite minimal as far as altering the spectral content of the music is concerned because i believe in maintaining a kind of verisimilitude whereby i didn’t resort to underhanded tricks to make my music sound unnaturally impressive. I want to be more or less on the level with how i present my music. It’s more impressive that way.
Kuma: I respect that. I respect that a lot, especially because it’s clear how much effort you put into making a high quality production. So much so, that it seems to have paid off for you in a big way, seeing as you got to play at Toy Company Festival earlier this year! Talk to me about that, man! Were you nervous? Excited? Was this your first time playing a large scale fest like this?
bryface: It definitely was my first experience playing a multi-day show on that kind of scale! As far as the “exclusive opportunity” of getting to play the show was concerned, I do want to clarify that by pointing out that there aren’t nearly as many chiptune artists in Canada, even less so in Vancouver where i am. So when i heard about the festival, i figured, hey, if ever there was a +30% chance of me getting involved, why not?? So I got in touch with XC3N and the Toy Company guys and they were like, ‘yeah let’s make it happen!’!
I was definitely excited to play. I wasn’t really nervous though, because i believed that my music was worth sharing, and also because a lot of the artists I had met previously at other events (Blipfest 2011 being the first of them).
To me it was more about the excitement of getting to hang out with all these awesome peers/heroes/brothers-in-arms again (which doesn’t happen often at all for me, given how remote I am).
Kuma: Oh c’mon! You’re not that remote! Vancouver may be far, but it’s not like you’re in the middle of nowhere like jmr in Newfoundland!
Regardless, I do get that feeling. Festivals are often the only time a lot of us get to see each other in person, so being able to take advantage of the opportunity to attend means a lot beyond just being able to play. Was there anyone in particular you were happy to see?
bryface: Haha i feel for that guy, being where he is. On a related note, jmr was hanging out at Toy Company Fest too, so i got a kick out of meeting him in person and seeing the same thrill he had in meeting IRL peoples! (previously only knew of him in IRC channels and whatnot).
Hmm… in general it was great to see some artists from the Ontario chip scene, and the Wuebec chip guys, all in one place. Twofer! Saved me a bunch of flight money for sure. Btw, I gotta hand it to the Quebec artists: I was really impressed with how they banded together to make this show happen, and it was evident that they’re genuinely excited artists who are able to put personal ambitions and politics aside to have a good time. They deserve praise and continued support.
bryface: I wanna offer kudos to Danimal Cannon. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him play live several times and I’ve always wanted to return the favor to him and many of the artists that were at TC fest. We always seem to run into each other a lot, too, and for a guy who has every reason to be all “pssh i don’t need to talk to you” chip star style, he’s always been very generous with his time and attention. I’m thrilled that we’re labelmates, but more so that I can just call him “Dan” and not by some contrived pseudonym.
Kuma: Huh, that’s cool, but honestly that’s the first time I’ve ever heard such. That being said, let’s talk about your new album, ‘VARIOUS TOPICS’. What were you looking to create when you set out making it? Was there a certain sound or change within yourself you were looking to make when crafting it? What was the bar you set for yourself with this LP?
bryface: Well, I originally had never set out to make an album proper, but as more unfinished music became closer to being done, it seemed a more viable goal. But no, there was no “thematic core” or imagined story behind the album. The music’s album is basically me going, “what’s the kind of music that I personally would like to hear more of from the chipscene?”, with the added guiding principle of “try not to do anything that’s been done before.” So the music I’ve written is very much my reaction to trends and norms that I see in chipmusic today and trying to challenge them.
If I’m to be honest, I kind of feel that the average person’s interest in chipmusic could stand to be less myopic, stylistically. Sometimes I feel that “current chiptune” is more about recreating mainstream music tropes rather than carving out unexplored territory, so my goal here is to try and provide some demonstration of what that unexplored territory could look like.
Kuma: While I’ll admit part of why I fell in love with chip was because I was initially blown away with how lush and similar to traditional instrumentation this music could be, I have to admit I do admire your creativity in wanting to venture off in the other direction. It takes dedication to do so, even in a scene as small as this. Will you be doing anything special to promote this EP? An album release party or a concert?
bryface: Oh yeah! Of course I’m not knocking anyone’s taste in chipmusic per se, but if there is any statement that I would want for my album to make, it’s that there is indeed even more headway to make in this territory! One thing I’ve tried to do specifically was to imbue an organic/human quality so as to almost make people forget they’re listening to chiptune. I’ll be interested to see if this actually ends up ringing true with the general public.
While I suspect this conversation will get published after the fact, this Thursday (Sept. 19th) Noise Channel Radio is hosting a Listening Party! I’ll be chatting it up with TrueStar and anyone else who happens to be on IRC at the time about the album.
I don’t really have any other plans for a release party, as there aren’t many people I’d celebrate proper with here in Vancouver. It’s more likely that i’ll get right to sharing the album with people, maybe making supplementary content for it, BUT, a mere week after the release, i’ll be heading to japan to party with the Square Sounds crew in Tokyo! I also have a few shows lined up there, in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka! So that’ll be my “release party” so to speak! Hard to top that!
Kuma: God damn, that sounds awesome! I’m incredibly jealous, but I’m sure you’re bound to have a great time! That being said, I’d like to thank you for your time, bryface. It was a pleasure interviewing you and getting to know you better, as well as listening to your music. Do you have anything you’d like to say to our readers before we wrap things up?
bryface: I would just like to ask for you all to listen to my work and to share it with others. But to be clear, I wrote this music not because I necessarily want to be “known” or anything. I wrote this music because I have a love for the process and for the result. I wrote this music to continue and celebrate a proud tradition of being invested in your craft and finding fellowship with those who similarly understand the relationship between sweating technical details and the creation of a product that is more than the sum of its parts. That is what I feel is at the heart of the chipmusic community, even all the way back to my days as a nine-year-old, and it’s important that we continue to cherish that.
That and, if we meet in person, and you tell me you like my music, you get an automatic beer.
Thanks for doing the interview, Kuma, this was indeed super fun. I also wanted to give a shout out to C-jeff for allowing me the opportunity to continue Ubiktune‘s fine tradition of musicianship and hopefully not run it into the ground!! (tugs at collar nervously.)
Kuma: Run a netlabel into the ground? I doubt anyone could do that, especially someone as talented as you! bry, once again, it was a pleasure talking to you. Take care and good luck with your future ventures. I look forward to doing this again with you.
That’s it for this week’s edition of Rawcuts! Don’t forget to tune into NCR tonight to be a part of bryface’s listening party for his new album, as well as heading over to bandcamp to not only pick up his new album, but to check out his older stuff, as well! ‘Til next time!