What better way could there be to keep your creative engine firing on all cylinders post MAGFest than full faced immersion in the fruits of musical collaboration. Chip Music Heroes brings together two continents of talent to create just that in ‘Doomsday Device‘, the fifth collection released by the collective. This collection has a wide enough range of styles to have something that everyone’s bound to enjoy. So much so that I could only provide a glimpse into the damned good tunes that are contained within. Jump on in to get a peek at my favorite tracks and stick around as some of the folks behind the collective answer a few of my questions for your entertainment.
JANX and Square Punch open this comp strongly with ‘Wanna be a Mega Man‘. As always, JANX’s writing and spitting are top notch. She brings rhymes that are both fun and tug at a youthful longing for adventure. Square Punch‘s musical composition ranges from viscerally rousing to smooth and soothing. Its a stylistic mix that simultaneously lifts the spirits and will put a fire under your ass. There’s plenty that will keep your heart pumping hard, from a gorgeous break down at roughly 1:30 that hearkens back to some good old fashioned Mega Man tunes, to JANX spitting fiercely across the track. With a the final bridge to the end of the track stoking your inner fire, you’re sure to be ready to punch the day right in the face.
The pace and composition Sudstep puts into the opening of ‘ASCII Visions‘ brings to mind a film noir theme. Particularly, that sense of cold dread as it dawns upon you that something’s not right and you can’t quite put it together. A puzzle that demands solving. The break that ushers in the increase in the pace of the song serves the dual purpose of letting you know that this has gone from a puzzle to a life threatening situation. At the mid point, a break in the tension creates a false sense of security that makes the redoubled and harried tension that much more interesting. Time itself begins to strain in the heat of the moment, with notes skipping and stuttering before the tracks comes to a sudden and violent end.
Jaykol’s ‘Dark Future‘ immediately sets a mood that fits the title, thickly infused with 80s dark synth wave. The opening exudes bleakness as it rolls on, with cyberpunk dystopia inscribed into every note. An image of a vast sprawl of poorly lit empty streets and identical ten story tall buildings, terrifying in their monotonousness. The attention grabber for me was the uniquely subdued sense of tension. There is a sense of risk, but not a sense of immediate danger. As the pace increases in the middle of the track, a sense of competition emerges. It is a respectful duel of minds stretching through the sprawling expanse of cyberspace. The competition resolves just as respectfully, as the tension and track dissolve away at the close.
‘Empty Hearts‘ by Super Robotic Encounters is a beautiful mixture of loneliness, regret, nostalgia and wistfulness. At the core of the tracks’ construction is a twinkling sadness, a distance from something that once filled one’s heart with joy. As the music presses on, an energy and tempo enters the mix. Joy, happiness, yearning and drive explode and swirl around that central theme, attempting to overwhelm it but never really succeeding. This interplay between the internal and external is where Super Robot Encounters demonstrates the depths of his artistic skills. This is especially highlighted by a moment of music roughly 3 minutes in. The barrier between the external and internal wavers, revealing the cold emptiness underneath. A moment of honesty that allows a tinge of hope to begin to fill the emptiness displayed.
Ulfhed4nr‘s ‘Raindrops‘ is a perfect choice for the album closer. With an easy tempo, soft sounds, and gently rolling melody, this is exactly the sort of track that’ll send the listener on their way with a satisfied smile on their face. The way Ulf blends chip and piano would be excellent placed as the audio backdrop of credits scrolling past a large coffee shop window on a rainy day. What glued the track together for me was the addition of the smooth and warm synth sounds to balanced out the slight coldness of the piano. That’s what truly leaves that fulfilled and nostalgic smile on your face.
The Heroes are an international crew, which can make sitting down with them a intriguing challenge of scheduling. When I reached out to Lukas “Square Punch” Daum about the possibility of getting a few questions answered, he suggested I give him some questions and he’d crack the whip to get some answers.
This madness is the result — enjoy!
VF: When did Chipmusic Heroes get its start?
Super Robotic Encounters: The group was formed in early 2013 with only 9 artists. The first album Project Chipmusic Heroes released on March 1, 2013. It had enough downloads to be considered something worth pursuing, so the group invited more members and continued from there. We’re up to nearly 30 members now of various ages. Some of them are even old enough to be my kids.
swerdmurd: I’m 11 years old, and speaking as Dave’s most recent kid, I’m proud to be a part of the team. I’ve also never exaggerated before.
Ulfhedn4r: Do we get pizza with this interview? If not, I refuse to answer any more questions!
VF: Who got Chipmusic Heroes off the ground, and what motivated them to put the project together?
Super Robotic Encounters: Travis a.k.a. __twc put the whole thing together. He was like 16 at the time and a certified nice guy. He was always super positive within the SoundCloud community and I think he just wanted to make an album with some of his favourite artists.
Ulfhedn4r: The chipmusic gods of course. Who else?
Square Punch: Unfortunately, many of the original squad started new jobs or solo projects and thus, there wasn’t happening anything for 2 years until we got a bunch of new members and relaunched with Chromium. But we still hope that some of them might gain interest in the project again and come back.
VF: From the list I see on the Facebook page, you look like you have a worldwide spread. How do you guys work together in spite of the distance to make things happen?
Super Robotic Encounters: Thanks to our super secret data and communication transfer bunker (the private Facebook group) we are able to keep in touch pretty easily. We have tried to get on Skype/Team Viewer together but someone is always in bed or in work. What blew me away with the group was that chipmusic itself had such a worldwide spread. We had members from China to Canada. Canada!
Motion Ride: We use pigeons to that carry cassette tapes among us
Square Punch: Hey don’t tell our secret about those pigeons! But now that it’s out, we can also say that they wear capes.
DYAMY: Indeed, pigeons mostly. Other than that, brainwaves, smoke signals and a hyper speed pipe-post system. But sometimes other handy stuff such as Facebook, and sometimes even SoundCloud. The wonder of the internet is that it’s just connecting us, and it really does not matter where we are. I think we can proudly say that Chipmusic Heroes today IS a ‘global thing’.
swerdmurd: Wait… so I wasn’t supposed to eat those delicious pigeons? *sigh* I guess it’s back to Soundcloud and viral marketing again….
Square Punch: Not again, Dan… now we need another 2 years to train new ones
JIMJUM: I heard those scrubs over at Chiptunes=WIN have invested in a falconry. They’ve been using their birds of prey to intercept our pigeons in order to stifle the competition. It will not work. Let it be known that we will dominate the scene and later… The world.
Ulfhedn4r: My 1986 model fax machine is constantly spitting out orders from Chipmusic HQ. I haven’t slept in 5 months… please… send help…
VF: What goes into planning a Chipmusic Hero Volume? Is a theme announced before hand? Does it coalesce from the submissions?
Super Robotic Encounters: It’s been pretty simple so far. Set a vague release date 3 months away, then create a new song. In the past we haven’t had themes but since the release of Chromium, which was a mini album of remixes based on a Square Punch song, we are going to inject more themed albums between the volumed releases. We are currently deciding the theme of our next release, it’s set to be something completely different than what we’ve done before. I can’t wait!
DYAMY: Also everyone has a voice in the whole thing. By that I mean that one comes up with an idea and we just throw more and more into it and the end result is decided by a poll. Seems pretty democratic and fair to me!
Square Punch: Yes, we want to keep it as simple as possible, most of the guys are also busy with their own projects and work or school, and we don’t want them to feel like this is work, they have to do. Each hero should contribute to the project in a way that fits his personal preferences. The rest is done by a few individuals, that want to put more time into it.
swerdmurd: I’m pretty new to the squad myself, but from what I gather, it’s a rather random smattering of impossibly good tracks from a rather talented group of folks. A vague date is set, people fire rock-solid tracks into the stratosphere, one of the guys that actually understands how sound works (read: not me) masters them, and we blow the world’s mind with syrupy-sweet sonic swagger.
JIMJUM: We plan this shit?
Ulfhedn4r: Someone says ‘do this!’, and I do it. I have no idea what this ‘planning’ is that you’re talking about. ALL HAIL THE #CHIPSWAG!
CHICKENANDROFLS: “Sorry, I’m late… What’s a chipmusic? And I think, more important, what makes a heroes?”
VF: What are some things you guys would like to do in the future? World tours? Space adventures?
Super Robotic Encounters: Not much. We only hope to bring joy to every man, woman and child. You know, like Kanye West.
Square Punch: First of all, we want to continue to put much love in our music and create a few albums each year while keeping the fun and motivation up, as Dave said. Another thing we definitely want to try is to get our YouTube account running. Some of the guys are amazing video artists as well and we want to feature their work…… then we go to space HAHAHA. Last but not least, we are still waiting for the Chipmusic Villains to show up.
DYAMY: Something in that order.
CHICKENANDROFLS (Certified Doctor of Space): Definitely the space thing. For the love of space, somebody please send me to space.
JIMJUM: Well, once we’ve defeated ISIS, we plan on building a beautiful wall to keep those opposed to fakebit out. Maybe when all that’s out of the way, we should jump on that hipster cassette bandwagon and start releasing physical stuff ‘n’ that. Just putting it out there. Hey, Zuckerberg, invest $1bn into JIMJUM ideas!
Unknown Drunken Bystander: What? Are you telling me there’s an entire world outside my front door?? Keep your insane gospel to yourself! I’ll have none of it, you hear me? NONE OF IT!
Ulfhedn4r: Also, on a more serious note, you can follow us on Twitter (@ChipmusicHeroes) for frequent updates about Chipmusic Heroes and future plans and stuff.
Now that your head has been filled with the wisdom of the Chipmusic Heroes, why don’t you pop on over to their Bandcamp? Provided you haven’t been reduced into a gibbering pile of madness, you’re sure to enjoy something one of their many contributors has created. If you’re able, toss in a little to support all those wonderful people. Training new messenger pigeons isn’t cheap, and at the rate swerdmurd is eating them, the bills just keep piling up.
Either way, #EnjoyChiptune