Greetings, readers! It feels like it’s been quite sometime since I posted a pre-show hype article, and what better time to do it than this summer season? Whether it’s keeping busy by reviewing rad albums that come across my radar (here’s my latest!), doing visuals for shows that have transcontinental coverage by Chiptunes = WIN’s very own Adam Seats, or attending MAGFest’s first West Coast expansion event, MAGQuest, there’s certainly never a dull moment in the life of the Prof.
As 8bitLA’s two year anniversary has passed, the cohesive team composed of Kevin “Wizwars” Martinez, Jesse Avila, Rob Duffy, Terence Calacsan, Tim Abad, Jamie Cristal, Calvin (redacted) and myself, have smashed noggins together in the height of the Freq.Fest era and will be invading San Jose, CA with 8bitSF to present the inaugural edition of Freq.Fest.NorCal, taking place September 11–12 at SLG Art Boutiki & Gallery!
Through my stay here on the ChipWIN Blog, I’ve written many album reviews about a handful of talented musicians, and thus a plethora of eclectic coverage has emerged. Through this journey, where I once started as a novice but passionate listener, I feel pretty confident in my ability to decipher the thoughts in my head as to why I think something sounds great. While I am not a classically trained musician, or studied music theory, or even identify as a musician (…yet), I have become much more constructive when I listen to an album. Leading up to this very album review today, I tend to gravitate toward releases that satisfy a minimum of three requirements: Personality, Composition, and Mixing—and I can very confidently say that these very three things are ubiquitous throughout ‘Ghost Stories’, Together We Are Robots’ first studio album released through Bandcamp on March 11, 2015. (more…)
While I’m sure many agree with the sentiment that their musical taste fluctuates often (and sometimes very rapidly), mine is especially the case when it comes to chipmusic. Due to the wide and oversaturated market filled to the brim with talent new and old, I’m always looking for new and exciting releases that push the boundaries of what these small (but mighty) sequencers and instruments are able to produce—as my article archive can attest. With releases sprouting up left and right, it’s quite a grueling, difficult journey to sift through them in order to find one in which I connect with on more levels than I can explain. However, when that does happen, I feel like I’ve hit a gold mine, and this is especially the case with with The Mineral Kingdom, Oakland’s first chipjazz/doom metal/bluegrass/
chamber music band, and their self-titled first EP. (more…)
crashfaster. You know them as that rockin’ Bay Area quartet with unforgettable stage presence, and you know that pseudonym through association of high quality releases that do anything but disappoint. Every. Single. Time.
If you recall my last crashfaster album review, which you can read HERE, ‘further’ was an album that emerged from ‘the ashes of discarded technology’ in a thoughtfully composed narrative arc. As a whole, ‘further’ is a metaphor for the never-fleeting feelings of isolation, numbness, and emptiness that one may encounter throughout their life, and is largely an autobiographical commentary by Morgan Tucker, crashfaster, 8bitSF and monobomb records’ frontman. Envisioning an explorer, Tucker remarks that the entirety of ‘further’ is a metaphor of the contemplation of his life and eventual journey to find the truth by ‘casting aside his former life and shedding each layer of his humanity.’
Transpiring from the personal anecdote alluded to throughout the course of ‘further’ is ‘superchroma’, an EP whose energetic presence and masterful evolution from the album prior is one that can’t go far from unnoticed. Released fresh on Bandcamp on July 22, 2014, ‘superchroma’ pays homage to what crashfaster had been, but also sets the stage to what the band WILL become. Despite what such a busy man he is, Morgan was very gracious to answer a couple of questions that I had about the evolution of the band, the transition from ‘further’ to ‘superchroma’, influences, and the future of crashfaster—because I love all of you, read on for the interview with the man himself!
Professor Oakes: Hey Morgan! Thanks again for being able to do this!
Morgan Tucker: No, thank YOU! I really appreciate you interviewing me!
PO: Psh, I do all the easy lifting ;) But seriously, thanks again for taking the time. I know how busy you are with being a father, frontman of crashfaster, 8bitSF and co-founder of monobomb records! You certainly sound like you never take a breather.
Can you tell me a little bit about crashfaster and the significance in the pseudonym?
llustrations courtesy of Phylissa Li, 2014
MT: crashfaster is meant to infer to both technology (ephemerality) and physicality. I’m fascinated by how much we rely upon technology to feed our souls. I believe we must strip away distractions and excess in both the physical and spiritual realms in order to discover our true nature. crashfaster is a call to action – destroy both your digital and physical selves to reveal the truth that lurks beneath the surface.
PO: I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and I was very excited to see you evolve from a single-person band into a quartet. Can you tell me how the transition from a single act to a full-man band means to you? Are you happy with the sound now that you have extra hands (and friends) on the team? How did you meet one another, anyways?
MT: There are two aspects of working with a band that have had a significant impact on crashfaster. In the studio, songwriting possibilities multiply exponentially. Each one of us has distinct and disparate musical tastes and influences. This has made our sound more rich and varied. In a live setting, there’s a lot more energy on stage to play with and off of. It’s hard to be one guy behind a Gameboy and keep the crowd’s attention. There’s a lot more for people to connect with when there’s four of us thrashing away. crashfaster was always intended to be on the dancey side of things, but something interesting happened when we began writing as a band.
On “further” we each naturally fell into a rock mentality, and the music became more aggressive and a little less beat-oriented. On “superchroma” we’ve pulled the sound back towards something that will make you move. I think we’ve found the right balance in our new material.
As for how crashfaster formed into a four-person band, it happened by chance, mostly. A few years ago I wanted to start stepping up the impact of my live performance, and I thought the single best way to do that was to introduce live percussion. I met Devin through a mutual friend of ours (The Glowing Stars’ Lizzie Cuevas), and we had an instant bond. We both saw eye to eye on where the project could go and shared the determination and work ethic that could make it a reality. A little while later, we got a shot to open for Anamanaguchi, and I wanted the band to sound even bigger.
The man, the myth… the Ryan Case. Photo by Lester Barrows
I asked Ryan (who was a coworker at the time) if he thought he could learn our songs in a week. He said yes, and he did! We met Keiko at the farewell show for our old singer. The rest is history.
PO: Wow! What a history and inspiring happenstance. While I certainly love the sound of old crashfaster, I love the direction you all have been going in now that there’s four of you. However, I especially LOVE the direction you went in this EP, and it has to be one of my favorite crashfaster releases. With that said, can you tell me a little about the transition from ‘further’ to ‘superchroma’ as a whole?
MT: “Superchroma” was meant to be more of an evolution than a departure. We wanted to both pay homage to what crashfaster had been, but at the same time set the stage for everything that we could become. Our musical influences are deep and varied, and I want the band to reflect that moving forward.
Working at Different Fur with Patrick Brown and Sean Paulson opened our eyes to new workflows and songwriting possibilities. As soon as we finished up “further”, I was ready to get back in there and do it all over again, but this time we’d be armed with new ideas that the studio experience had spurred. “Further” was very much a protracted labor of love…from concept to completion, the project was in development for more than two years. While this allowed us time to refine lyrics, hidden meanings and aesthetic synchronicity, it didn’t let us experiment much while recording. The album was more or less what we came into the studio with. It was only afterward that we realized how much this held us back.
On “superchroma”, we decided to come in sans preconceived notions. We had about 20 rough sketches of songs that Patrick immediately whittled down to 10. From there, we started messing around with each of them until we found the voice the track. We knew we had 10 days from start to finish, and the goal was to get as much done as possible, while reserving the right to chuck things out that just weren’t working. This process was incredibly freeing, and allowed for many happy accidents, serendipitous guest appearances and just more…fun. I think that really comes through in the recording.
PO: Now that we’re talking about production and the gift of group collaboration, what hardware and software do you use?
MT: crashfaster uses a Gameboy loaded with LSDJ, a Gameboy mGB (midi), a NES with midiNES, a SIDstation, sammichSID, a Commodore64 with MSSIAH, Plogue Chipsounds 707, 808, 909, VP330, a Juno 106 & Ableton Live.
PO: Such sweet, sweet tunes for my ears. This hard and software you use—do you have any formal training as a musician? The rest of the band?
MT: I don’t have any formal training as a musician. However, I went to art school for Audio Production. I worked on Foley/SFX/Sound design for several indie films before I started crashfaster. Devin is classically trained and the most experienced musician in the group. The rest of us are pretty much self-taught.
PO: If you could categorize crashfaster’s genre and place a finger on what the band sounds like, what would it be?
MT: Electronic/Industrial/Synth/Rock. Or something.
PO: I’d say that’s pretty accurate! No reason to have to straddle one genre! What would you say influences you all? Music? Movies?
crashfaster performing ‘GO!’ live at the DNA Lounge, 6/22/14. Photo courtesy of Lester Barrows
PO: Oh, definitely! I feel like “GO!” is straight out of an actual anime—IT’S PERFECT and incredibly energizing! Would you say you have a favorite track on ‘superchroma’?
MT: It’s hard for me to pinpoint a single favorite, because I’m really happy with how the entire thing came out. But if I had to pick, it’d probably be “lost”, because I think we were able to pull off the emotional intent of the lyrics in a way that hits me every time.
PO: I’m curious of the conception of the album name. Does it signify anything in particular?
MT: We were playing with these visual concepts that were heavily inspired by early 90’s rave/cyberpunk culture and anime, and we wanted the music to *feel* colorful. When we were coming up with names for the album, we tried to find something that felt as hyper-kinetic as what was in our heads. Thusly…superchroma!
PO: This colorful and kinetic mood… it’s totally off the spectrum than that of its precursor ‘further’. Would you say the birth of your child had any affect on this newest album and your artistic vision as a whole?
MT: Yes! The idea for “further” was something that preceded my child, and I had been suffering from a loss of purpose and feeling in my every day life, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to find happiness. The construct allowed me to explore the concepts of duty, destiny, assimilation, isolation and self-destruction both lyrically and sonically. Once my daughter was born, I was overcome by a new feeling…not one of numbness, but a crushing awareness of time. I feel, now more than ever, that time escapes me at a pace that I find…unsettling. After all, my biggest fear in life is that I will have regrets (would’ve, should’ve, could’ve), and now I am extremely conscious of the fact that I don’t have forever to do all of the things I want to do while I’m here.
PO: Would you say there’s an overall theme of ‘superchroma’?
MT: Looseness. Ultimately, I wanted this album to act as a “mix cd that you’d have on in your car as you drove around at night in San Francisco.” This lighter construct allowed me to explore more varied types of music…things that I’ve been a fan of but never really found a way to make work within the context of crashfaster.
On this EP, we’ve got everything from a funky synth-pop tune to a faux anime theme song to an industrial club banger. Though the styles are seemingly unrelated, with the help of Patrick Brown, we were able to tie them together aurally in a way that works surprisingly well.
‘superchroma’ by crashfaster. Album artwork by Phylissa Li, 2014.
PO: Now that your album is wrapped and now live, what does the future hold for crashfaster? Tour? What does it mean to you since you were the founding vision?
MT: More music, and more shows! Through crashfaster and 8bitSF, we’ve built up the community in the Bay Area to the point that I believe it’s one of the most vibrant and diverse scenes in the US. We recently joined forces with LA artists who formed 8bitLA, and we’re working together as sister organizations to bridge the physical divide in California chipmusic.
As far as crashfaster, we’re going on tour with Everything Goes Cold in late August, which will take us from San Francisco to Chicago. After that, we’re hitting the East Coast to play 8static Festival in Philly in October.
PO: I’m looking forward to your Los Angeles stop. You never disappoint! Just thinking about touring the country and doing what you love sounds so incredible. With that said, before we depart, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
MT: Oh, absolutely! Be humble. Be persistent. If you’re in it for the music, you’ve got to be prepared for the long haul. Destroy all excuses. Stop talking about why you can’t do things…make do with what you have.
PO: Excellent! Thank you so much for providing those nuggets of advice—I’m sure our readers can relate. Anyways, that just about wraps it up for our interview. Again, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon!
MT: Absolutely! Take care.
That’s all for this (special) edition of Chip Treatment with Professor Oakes! Don’t forget to check out crashfaster’s music, and follow 8bitSF on ALL THE THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA for future events. Also, if you have some time, be sure to check out the series of music videos for ‘GO!’, ‘goodbye‘, ‘hi‘, ‘lost‘, ‘photograph’, and ‘tonight‘ created by Gabriel Roland, 8bitSF’s resident visualist and mastermind behind Noukon Films.
Anamanaguchi. To some, that would mean nothing, but to the crowd at the 8BitSF show last Sunday, it was enough to create a line around the block to get in. I’ve been to many shows at DNA Lounge here in San Francisco, both in the big room and the space above, but never have I see what amounted to a solid mass of people, all jamming out to the sweet sweet tunes being played on-stage. This was easily the biggest crowd I have ever seen in that space, so much that I had some trouble finding a place to watch it all. Of course, this was 8bitSF’s 5th anniversary show, which also marked 5 years since Anamanaguchi played their first show in San Francisco.
OMFG 5 Years indeed!
Since then 8bitSF has grown tremendously, to the point of having monthly shows complete with open mic every third Thursday of the month, featuring artists from around the scene such as virt, Danimal Cannon, Dj CUTMAN, Mega Ran and Metroid Metal, to name a few. And, as such, there was no better event to be my very first Anamanaguchi show. Since I’ve never had the pleasure to catch them live, I still need help with titles from time to time, but rest assured that I’m not completely clueless about the songs themselves. I can also tell you how the show felt, the atmosphere, the feeling, and the massive levels of hype and energy present at the scene. But that’ll have to wait, because there were other acts that performed too. Kicking the night off was crashfaster, debuting their new album ‘superchroma‘, which releases next month. ‘superchroma’ covers a broad spectrum of feelings, ranging from joy to anger to bliss and everything in between. A highlight of this fresh batch of music was the self-proclaimed attempt at writing an anime theme song. A rather successful attempt, I might add, because it was very well executed and the audience was quite into it by shouting GO! at the appropriate times. This was a perfect example of the high-energy style crashfaster has going these days, and the rest of the album followed suit, even if the energy was utilized in different ways fitting the varying styles of each song. After the stupendously superb superchroma section stopped, crashfaster finished their set with ‘collapse‘ from their last album, ‘further‘, and topped that off with the always-popular ‘time‘ from their first album, ‘disconnect‘.
During their new song GO! As evidenced by the screen.
After a short break between sets as is the norm, Una took the stage. This was her first ever show in America, and it was quite a memorable debut performance here. The crowd had swelled between sets, and every person in it was obviously enjoying her happy and bubbly style. She also had fantastic stage presence, utilizing every inch to her advantage. Admittedly, I didn’t have the best view of her set, but even from my less-than-ideal vantage point the high levels of energy were quite infectious. Overall, it was a quite solid set, and came to an end rather quickly… It was a full set, but it was so good and so engaging that it felt rather short.
Una using the stage to her advantage as a captivated crowd looks on.
Even if I wasn’t interested in Anamanaguchi at all, this show would’ve changed my mind instantly. I found my way atop a subwoofer in the corner, and had a view of the whole stage. And I’m glad I did, because that was one of the best shows I’ve been to in some time. Lots of people were into it, lots of people were crowdsurfing, it was insanely fun. There was even a guy in a flying squirrel suit crowdsurfing; I guess that’s as close as he was going to get to flying. He did that several times, and I hadn’t really seen a show where crowdsurfing was actively encouraged. I even got in for a bit of crowdsurfing during what was seeming to be their last song, and it was rather exhilirating. As the crowd chanted one more song (or five more songs) after this, the request was granted. The drummer, Luke, came down after the chanting to buy time for the rest of the band to take a short break and, after a failed attempt at a joke, the show was back on for two final songs. It was a rather amazing experience, I must say, and I can’t wait for the next one I get to see.
Anamanaguchi in the midst of Meow as a giant kitten surveys the area.
After that, some 8bitLA folks (including our very own Professor Oakes) came on-stage to throw giant inflatable bananas to the crowd. Because that is the logical follow-up to a great Anamanaguchi set, apparently. Grimecraft also DJed for the remainder of the night, playing a great set including selections from his release, PokÉP. As usual, he was very engaging, talking to the crowd and generating hype in those who remained. All in all, it was a fantastic show, and definitely made me want to follow up on Anamanaguchi. Until next time, rock on!