A fine February day to one and all of my fellow Chipthusiasts! Clouds blot out the sky, and the rain is heavy, but with the Oregonian winter returning to normal, I can finally rouse myself from my torpor and stoke the forge yet again. This month, my attention is drawn to a free release from a musician with a love of arcade sounds, BitBurner!
I’ve had an ear on BitBurner’s work since discovering a few of his tracks during a random traipse through SoundCloud a few months back. His arcade sample fueled stomping beats lit up the nostalgia center of my brain, whisking me back to a place of dim lights, odd smells and empty change pockets.
Earlier this month, I discovered that he was releasing a large collection of his recent work in a compilation he calls Space Junk. Weighing in with 120 musical megs spread over 16 tracks, Space Junk is a jumbo-sized helping of arcadestep awesome. Even better, it is available to the community in a double-freely fashion. Not only free to download, but also generously licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License for community use. Simply put, this means that as long as you give the man due credit and don’t put words in his mouth, he’ll allow you to remix and use his music in your work.
This compilation is filled with so much foot-stomping, butt-bobbling goodness, its difficult to hone in on a track that gives a listener good insight to the compilation’s feel. However, I would present this now perennial member of my work-out rotation as a bloody good candidate.
This track opens tantalizingly, with a pair of energizing builds sandwiching a taste of the meat of the track. Then a digitized voice dismissively utters “Warships, dispose of this annoyance at once!”, and the game is afoot. Shmup samples pour on hot and heavy. Together, they form the auditory expression of that unique zen-like state Galaga players reach in the eye of a bullet hell hurricane. The beat relents for only a moment, before hammering hard through to the end. If you try to keep the pace, this track will kick your ass, but that’s okay by me, as its kind enough to honor your effort in its final moments.
That dear reader, is enough out of me concerning this album. Wanting to get to the root of things, I asked BitBurner if he’d be willing to answer some questions for the community. Continuing to demonstrate his devotion to the scene, he delivered and then some.
VF: So what’s your story? What is the epic of BitBurner?
BB: Well I make a lot of free music out of old arcade games sounds. I grew up in the heyday of arcades and love the way they sound and everything about them. I love shooters most of all classics like Galaga, Defender and Centipede. You will hear those sounds quite a bit in my music. Sometimes I pretend I’m having the most skillful precise game ever when I make a track. Perfectly timed shots, amazing moves mixed with some showmanship and a cheering crowd. I think I secretly still wish to be Kevin Flynn.
VF: Any formal musical training?
BB: Well yes and no. When I was in 3rd grade I went to a private school and it had an excellent music program. So at an early age I was taught some good foundations. I never really did much until I was 10 and started programming basic. One of the first things I wanted to program and was the most interested was music. I was pretty proficient at it and then trackers came along. I’ve always been interested in computer & chip music from a very early age. Then later in life I got into hand drums. Specifically African Djembe’s. I played in a couple bands my favorite being “The Quasi 3” It was a funk band and we played live around my town quite a bit. So I don’t know if anything I learned in 3rd grade stuck with me but I know that I do have an ear for music, especially rhythms and bass.
VF: What’re your tools of the trade?
BB: For DAW’s I have two “goto” apps. One is Nanostudio on my iPad. That app is pretty powerful especially if you’re sample based like me. There is nothing like creating tracks anywhere (You LSDJ fans know this feeling) The second is Ableton Live. I really love Ableton’s flexibility and power. Features like slice to midi are my best friends. But my secret weapon is a program called “M1” it is a command line utility for extracting samples from MAME roms. I have a HUGE collection of 7000+ arcade game roms (I even have my own arcade machine to play them on) I’ve been working over a long period of time extracting my favorite sounds. I use these along with my own bass and lead synth patches. A ton of them I made to emulate the sound of old types of console hardware. I love the old 8bit sound but I tend to stay away from LSDJ and trackers now days. I was into all those when I was younger and not really ready to go back. I wish I had more hardware but It’s hard to get access to real hardware for what I’m doing though I do have an Amiga500 I break out from time to time.
VF: Where’d your inspiration for making “arcadestep” come from?
BB: I’ve always wanted to make electronic/computer/chip/bass music and I’ve always wanted it to be about arcade games. I’ve created listened to demoscene and chip music forever and I wanted to do something along those lines but different. To be honest I thought the world lacked good “game” inspired songs. There was a ton of VGM but not a mix of my loves Arcades, Chipmusic and Bass. The only music I could find even close to what I wanted to do was from artists like Dragline and Mizuki’s Last Chance. But I felt like if I want to hear what I really want, I have to make it myself.
VF: Should I even call it arcadestep? Do you even care about genre-naming?
BB: I don’t care about genre’s much. Dragline once told me I was the “genre buster”. I do like to experiment with all kinds of music genres with my style in the mix. Heck I don’t really belong in any genre to be honest. I have had some say that technically I’m not chiptunes and more fakebit and I really don’t care. I’m used to living on the edge. I sometimes refer to it as “That 8bit Sound”. So out of not really having a genre that I fit into I set out to make my own and that’s how I came up with arcadestep. I use some other “self” genre’s too like “Arcade Bass”, “Arcade Soup” or VGDM (Video Game Dance Music). I mean really my sound rides the edge of so many genres that I have no real genre home. It makes submitting my music to different music services that want a specific genres kind of complicated. I’m just happy that the chiptunes community puts up with me and seems to be ones of the only genre group that will claim me.
VF: I see you use creative commons 4.0 licenses on all your work, why is that? (Also much props, unless SoundCloud changed it, all my stuff should be licensed like yours)
BB: I do use CC 4.0 Attribution for all my music. There are a ton of reasons I give it away for free. One reason is I love my gaming community and this is my way to give back to them. I know it sucks not having good music that is free to use in your youtube videos and other projects etc. I also think there is more to life than money. That there are some other currencies that are more valuable. But let’s be honest one big factor is keeping things in the fair use copyright space. There is a rule I keep with fair use. I need to have 4 things in that space in order to feel ok with using the samples. Those are: arcade samples being over 20 years old, It being trans-formative, free and is non competitive. If I change any of these requirements I’ve met for fair use I can actually put myself at risk of copyright infringement. That’s not what I want to do. I don’t want to hurt someone’s copyright or feel like I’m doing something wrong. I just want to make some good music like no one has ever heard before and I want everyone to be able to hear it freely. So the Creative Commons Attribution license has helped solve some of the fair use issues.
VF: What’s in the works after Space Junk, and where do you see your adventures of artistry taking you? I’ve seen some new tracks, a couple YouTube tutorials, and I see that you love you some Minecraft.
BB: I do love Minecraft and the gaming community as a whole. I play Minecraft with my daughters and we have been pretty active in the gaming community. I even took the name Minecrap.com so it couldn’t be used for evil. Super fan boy! This will explain why my main twitter account is @minecrap. A lot of what I do is for the Minecraft community who I feel a huge loyalty to. They have been so good to me. In the near future I will keep banging out tracks via soundcloud for sure. I’m always working on three or tracks at any given time. I’m trying to find someone to make a cool video with some pixel animation or something to one of my tracks. I’ve always wanted to see that done. I’m to a place where I’m again like I want that and no one is doing it so I might have to do it myself. In the long run I have some colabs going on with some rappers (theRealGhosttea and HojjoshMC) that are coming along very nicely. I also have some other colabs going on but can’t talk about them yet. Eventually my big plan is to tour around the US for a summer and visit your local arcade or PC or tabletop gaming place and play some live gigs, party and play some games. Maybe also do some more gaming conventions like PlayOnCon. That was a ton of fun.
With those creative and community-minded messages in mind, fair and noble readers, I am closing the forge for this month. I hope to see you all back here next month, but until then…
Get out there, multiply the win, spread the love, and make some chip!
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