Yo! Welcome back to Raw Cuts With Kuma! This time around, I hit up chipmusic.org to scope out some talent to interview, and oh lawd, did I find someone special! A young man with skill to spare, this underrated chiptune artist shattered his silence to great acclaim when he popped his performance cherry earlier this year at North Door! This highly adept musician recently took the time to sit down with me and talk about his music, the people who inspire him, and the dedication he has to the craft of chiptune. So without further ado, I present to you my interview with Matthew Rodriguez, aka Star Fighter Dreams!
Kuma: So before we get started, there’s something I gotta say. I spent time listening to your music on SoundCloud and I gotta admit, not only did I like what I heard, but I’m now saddened by the fact that I missed your open mic session at Blipfest last year!
Star Fighter Dreams (SFD): oh no that one was from 2011! I was on the roster open mic 2012 but never got called. I was disapointed but no worries
Kuma: Well at least now I can say I didn’t miss an awesome set I could have made it to, ’cause god damn man! Your stuff is good, bro! It’s lively as hell, and it’s got more polyphony to it than a lot of other chip I’ve heard, but I take it that’s on account of your set up! Tell me, what exactly do you use to make your music and how’d you get into chip in the fist place?
SFD: Okay. Let’s start with getting into chip music.
I got into chiptune around early 2008. March, I think, while I was browsing around on the then relevant MySpace for electronic powerpop bands, I came across a profile picture of Sabrepulse jumping off a table.
I thought to myself “What is this guy all about?”. So I clicked on his profile and when it loaded up, some of his early chiptune works started playing. At first I was pretty meh because I had no idea of what the process was.
Kuma: I think I know exactly which picture you’re talking about. What was it that was the turning point for you? When did you go from saying “meh” to “whoa”?
SFD: There was link to the 8bitpeoples website on his profile, so I clicked on that. At the time, 8bitpeoples and 2 Player Productions had just finished their collaboration documentary called ‘Reformat The Planet’. On the 8bitpeoples website, the first page was the trailer for the documentary that was being premiered mere weeks away in Austin for the SXSW film fest.
That trailer changed my life.
In it was the framework for me to find out what kind of music I wanted to make and the ethos I had been looking for all along. It didn’t glorify nostalgia for video games, it glorified people and their creative abilities to make this technology do what it was never designed to do.
After I saw that trailer I began collecting. Information, trackers, albums, anything that could help find out more about this awesome creative force seemingly brimming beneath the surface. After much deliberation, I bought a Game Boy and my first LSDJ cartridge in late August/early September 2008
Kuma: Wow. That’s quite a story. I’m glad you took that from that movie. While, admittedly, I’ve yet to get around to seeing that documentary myself (gasp!), that philosophy behind the tech we use to make the music is one I’ve always held: that we as a disposable society aren’t pushing our tech to it’s fullest potential. Chiptune represents us pushing to the edge.
When you finally picked up that Game Boy, how did it feel in your hands? Was using LSDJ intimidating or did you have prior musical experience you could carry over into chiptune production?
SFD: I had used an emulator to run a demo of LSDJ to try and figure out the controls. Trackers have a huge learning curve, and I admittedly had no idea what I was doing most of time using the emulator, but I eventually figured out how to input notes and move between screens.
Other than that, though, I was working from a non-music perspective. I hadn’t used an instrument or read music since I was in 8th grade so it was also daunting in that respect. Luckily, I took a music theory course in college and that laid a good ground for me to experiment with music theory while also learning it
Kuma: Very nice. Now, when you first started to feel confident with what you were making on LSDJ, did you decide you wanted to play live soon after, or did you feel there was still something missing?
SFD: I had my first full set as Star Fighter Dreams this June so I guess you could say there was something missing. Lurking on 8bitcollective and CM.O, I’ve learned there were plenty of people willing to get into chip and write music but only because they thought it was cool.
I felt that my music should show respect to those that came before me and at least make people feel good, which is I have only just started playing shows and still haven’t released any proper EP or album.
Kuma: I noticed that, actually. I scoured the net for more music of yours beyond what was on your SoundCloud, such as Bandcamp, NoiChan, ucollective, CM.O, and even Myspace. Nothing. Nothing at all. But from what I did hear, it was definitely very cool.
Who would you say are your biggest influences musically? Is EDM something you were always into prior to chiptune or did it take chiptune to get into it?
SFD: I was definitely a fan of electronic music before hand, but I really got much more into it once I started making it. My biggest influences currently are: IAYD, Bit Shifter, Rage Against The Machine, Bath Aide, Saskrotch, Arcade High and many more artists.
Oh just fyi, I have song on TX Chip Compilation 1 and there is a super old song still on MySpace somewhere. That one I believe is like the third song I ever wrote on LSDJ! LOL! Memories.
Kuma: Oh, I’ll have to look up the Texas chip one, but when I went looking on Myspace, it gave me a broken link page. That, in turn, resulted in profound sadness.
Is there anything we can expect to see of you in the future? Any appearances at major festivals, or perhaps an album form you in the near future?
SFD: I am planning a few releases for the coming months and my next booked performance is going to be in Houston for LazyBit Collective‘s second show with some other chiptune dudes such as IAYD, MonsterVision, broken satellite, chalkboards and more!
Kuma: Nice!!!! After having seen IAYD recently, as well as listening to your music, I can definitely say this is a show I wish I could hit up!
SFD: It’s in December, so save up and come on down and see how we do it down here
Kuma: Oh man! December? That’s so close to MAGFEST! Oh man, don’t do that to me, bro!
SFD: Peer pressure! Peer pressure! Peer pressure! Y’know you wanna!
But yeah man, next time I’m in New York, the drinks are on me dude.
Kuma: Like wise, bro: next time I’m down south and I know you’re around, all the pabst 5 dollars can buy…I’m pretty sure that’s all of it! Anyway, is there anything you’d like to say in closing to our readers out there?
SFD: It’s Star Fighter Dreams here saying it’s three words, not Starfighter Dreams, that’s dumb.
But in all seriousness, expect some pretty cool things coming up and remember TX Chip is alive and we have some stellar talent here so don’t overlook that Lone Star State when thinking of chiptune.
Love from here in San Antonio,
Kuma: Awesome, bro! Thanks for doing this interview! This was a lot of fun!
SFD: Haha! Same here, man. You take it easy and keep being awesome.
Thanks again for tuning in with me here at Raw Cuts! Don’t forget to follow SFD on SoundCloud and like/follow Lazybit Collective so you can keep up with all the cool happenings in TX!
Til next time!