The February release of Keiji YamagishiRetro-Active Pt. 1 on the Brave Wave label was a pretty big deal. Our very own Glenntai has an in-depth review if you need to get up to speed for June’s release of an amazing set of remixes. Not only did it include artists that we’re all pretty familiar with from the get go, but Brave Wave held a global contest to take the headline slot on the release. On the 10th of June, that collection dropped for the world to enjoy. I could name drop all I want, but we all know the proof is in the pudding. Join me beyond the fold for the play by play.
Hey, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Raw Cuts! This time around, I not only took the time to sit down with someone whose interview was long overdue! Hailing from Philadelphia, this man has become a figurehead in the scene, paving the way for others to perform and become noticed in the vast wave of artists in the community while simultaneously earning the respect and recognition of those he encounters. This man is truly a senpai–nay, a sensei (snesei?)– among us in the scene, and he’s taken the time to sit down with me to talk about DJing, music production, collaboration, his involvement with us here at ChipWIN and some amazing projects that are sure to electrify! Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you my interview with Chris Davidson aka DJ CUTMAN!!!!
Kuma: First of all, I’d like to not only express my gratitude for agreeing to be interviewed, but also my excitement, as well! I’ve been looking forward to this all week! So thank you very much for agreeing to have a sit down with me!
Cutman: For sure! I love sitting.
Kuma: Hahahah! I expected nothing less from you, Chris. So lets jump right in, shall we? You’ve been in the music game a long time. Between your work as a DJ, a producer, founder of the GameChops record label, mainstay performer at various festivals including MAGFest and PAX East, you still manage to be an all around swell guy. Very down to earth. Tell me, how’d you get started in all this? When and how did this journey into video game related music begin for you?
Cutman: Back in 2010 I was working as an recording and mix engineer in a hip-hop studio in upstate New York. I used to stay after my clients left and work on making my own music, mostly chopped up beats sampling video game music. That same year I attended my first convention, MAGFest 8, with my buddy MC Death Bear. MAGFest was a blast, I had never been surrounded with so many like-minded people before!
A couple months after MAGFest, Death Bear asked me to put together some music for his 8-bit art show. I had only briefly been exposed to DJing by looking over the shoulder of another performer at MAG, so I studied up for two weeks straight and built my first DJ set.
After that show, which was both exciting and super stressful, I caught the bug for sharing music. I would DJ out on the street, in coffee shops, and in convention hallways, anywhere that wouldn’t kick me out (and maybe some places that tried to).
I produced a few mixtapes, a bunch of random remixes, and posted them regularly on Soundcloud and other places. I’m still doing that, making music and posting it! Running a label is fun, now I’m collaborating with friends and other producers and DJs I admire. The workload is more intense from when I started, but it’s the same basic mission: make good music, and get it to peoples ears.
Kuma: That’s awesome, and I think a lot of us can relate to the magic that festivals like MAGFest can fill a person’s heart with. That you’re a friend and collaborator of Death Bear is something I think is common knowledge in the scene, but I never knew you were so behind-the-scenes prior to being the persona you are in the community now. Did you ever think at the time, before you decided to start DJing, that you would ever be someone who would apply his skills outside of an studio? Or was that something that never occurred to you to do til after MAG?
Cutman: Haha, in all honesty, before i started DJing, I didn’t realize what it was all about. Now that I have four years live experience under my belt, I’m starting to really understand and appreciate the artistry involved. Just about everyone has had their iTunes on shuffle and an embarrassing song has come on at the wrong moment. A DJ creates the opposite effect, choosing the perfect song. That’s what drew me in to really enjoying performing as a DJ: the ability to take people on a journey and tell a story with music, or to simply provide a brilliant moment for someone passing through.
Kuma: Hahahahaha! I really appreciate not only your response but that you’re doing part of my job for me by choosing quality memes to post in the article! That aside, I not only really like your analogy but never thought of DJing in that kind of light before. You’re absolutely right, though. Whether one carries the philosophy that DJs can also be performers or are just mood setters not meant to be seen, its that creation and enhancement of mood that matters most in the craft.
Lets go back a little bit to something you mentioned earlier, which is getting to work with a lot of people you really like over the past few years. In particular, lets talk about the GameChops crew, cause not only do you have a strong roster working with you, but a lot of these guys are mutual friends you’ve scooped up only fairly recently, I’d say only in the course of a year or so. Tell me, what prompted you to move on to founding your own label, and what do you look for when scouting for talent in the scene?
Cutman: Well, GameChops seemed like a natural progression and a way for me to grow the VGM scene. When I changed GameChops from a mixtape series into a label, there were no other labels providing high quality, licensed video game remixes. No one! I want video game music to be more accessible, so it seamed that something I could do that would bring value to the scene.
Kuma: Wait, what? No… slow up for second…what?
Cutman: Did I miss something?
Kuma: Nobody put out licensed game remixes before you? That…I’m sorry, that just hurts my head! I mean it’s awesome you were the first to do it but still, it’s 2014, you’d have thought someone would have done it sooner.
Cutman: There were a few licensed remix albums floating around, but no labels, no dedicated groups to doing that. Nothing like GameChops: a group of people dedicated to producing high quality video game music, and paying licenses to give back to the game industry.
Kuma: That’s crazy. You know with communities like chiptune, Newgrounds, OCR, you would have thought someone would have done it years ago, but that you saw it hadn’t happened yet and were able to do so first as a label is pretty awesome! That’s definitely something to be proud of!
That said, let’s talk about some of those properties your label has covered, because you guys have done a lot! Zelda, Megaman, Megaman, Donkey Kong, Bastion, Final Fantasy 7, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, and the list goes on! Yet you’ve still only barely scratched the surface of the games you can tap into and remix! Tell me, how do you go about selecting titles to remix and which projects have been your fave to work on so far?
Chris: The source is up to the producer(s) who are working on the project. So if someone has a good idea of a game we haven’t covered yet, we work together to make it happen!
One of my favorites would have to be Grimecraft’s POKÉP. The whole mixtape came together in about three very intense weeks! Also, my album, MeowMeow & BowWow with Spamtron, that features music from Zelda: Link’s Awakening, was a blast to produce. That album was the opposite of POKÉP, it took a full calendar year before it was done!
Kuma: Wow that’s insane! I had no idea you guys spent that much time making that MeowMeow and BowWow. It was definitely worth it, though. I think that album is the closest to my heart due to the sentimental value Link’s Awakening has for me, as it was the first Game Boy game I ever owned.
Also, I’m not surprised at Grime’s speed making that album. At all. Clarke is a damn beast. But for all the bangers and grooves you guys at GameChops put together, I’m always caught off guard by just how diverse the team and the sounds you create are. Tell me, how did you go about recruiting the labelmates you have now? Do you actively seek out talent, have people submit to you, do a bit of both via networking? How do you go about keeping the roster fresh and exciting?
Cutman: It’s a bit of both. I always am keeping my ear to new producers with my show This Week In Chiptune, and also going out to shows and just listening to what other people are making. When I hear someone play something that really resonates with me, or something I would play during a DJ set, I take that as a cue to see if they’d like to collaborate on an album.
Collaboration is hard sometimes. It’s not as easy as producing some tracks on your own. The label has deadlines, budgets for artwork, and plans for promotion. Some people respond well to that little extra pressure, others don’t. So even if someone’s music is great, if they’d rather keep their producing a casual activity, then they may not be the best suited to collab. So it’s a combination of taste, skills, and if we’re creatively compatible. Haha, sound weird?
Kuma: No it sounds about right. For as cool as someone may be, it they don’t work on the same wavelength as you, it probably just won’t happen. Especially someone of your energy levels, which brings me my next question: how do you have time to work with us here on Chiptunes=WIN with all the stuff you do? And how’d you get wrassled up with that dickbutt loving noob Hoodie, anyway?
Cutman: Haha! Hoodie and I crashed in the same hotel room at Blip Festival years ago. We’ve been buds ever since. I’m lucky to have music be my full time gig now, so it’s my responsibility to make time for the projects that are important for me.
ChipWIN is a blast to work on, and although it may sound weird I really do love mastering. When an album comes together it can be profoundly satisfying.
Kuma: I’m glad you’ve managed to find something you’re passionate about that you’ve made it into something you can make money off of. That said, you tend to work at a very consistent clip, whether it’s This Week in Chiptune, working with us at ChipWIN, running your own blog VideoGame DJ, and tons of other projects I’m sure are escaping me at this time. Tell me: what can we expect from you in the near future?
Cutman: The shortlist: Sonic album “Spindash” with GameChops, video streams on YouTube, and lots more This Week In Chiptune!
Kuma: That’s it? What about the long list? The black list? The secret menu list? C’mon, you can tell me, Chris. I can keep a secret. After all: this is an interview, and I’m a blogger.
Cutman: Haha alright, I got you, Kuma. GameChops is releasing an album based on the Sega game Out Run called OutRax. I’m working on an album called OldStyle with my sister. It combines early Baroque music with chiptune and EDM. I’m also working on two albums that take inspiration from the 3DS game Bravely Default. [One is] a licensed remix album REMIX DEFAULT and [the other is] a free mixtape called MIXTAPE DEFAULT.
Kuma: Oldstyle sounds awesome! Yay Out Run remix! And I know my girl is gonna eat up those BD remixes! I can’t wait for all this awesomeness! Chris, it’s been a pleasure interviewing you. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing to our readers before we go?
Cutman: Subscribe to TWiC on Youtube! I had to recreate the channel and lost all the subs. Thanks Kuma this was a lot of fun!
Kuma: This was a lot of fun, Chris! Thank you very much for joining me!
That’s it for this edition of RCwK! Don’t forget to follow GameChops for the latest news about what remixes DJ Cutman and all the other GC artists have to offer! Also, check below for links to several other cool sites, including links for DJ Cutman on social media, the awesome music blog VideogameDJ, This Week in Chiptune, and GameChop’s Youtube channel! And of course, check back with us periodically for more interviews, album reviews, and music! Peace!
Sup y’all? =) Prez Hoodie here. It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest spot here on the blog, but today we’re fixing that! A good friend of mine, Glenn Dubois aka Glenntai, contacted me recently about sharing a review via The CWB. While I was already well aware of his multiplicity of talents & involvements (Clipstream, Boston8Bit, chiptunes, Nerdfit, dickbutts, etc.), I was not mindful of his aptitude for writing chiptune reviews! Although now that I am, expect me to happily take advantage of this skillset (you asked for it, Glenn; quite literally <3 ). And on that note, let’s pass it on to Mr. Tentacle Head himself! Take it away, Glenntai!
‘Aces’, by Various Artists, via RSVP Tapes
Hey guys, Glenntai here coming at you with a review of an upcoming album set for Valentine’s Day! It differentiates a bit from the usual repertoire, but I’m sure you’ll most certainly enjoy it. After all, let’s be realistic here: I think it’s safe to say we all love chiptune/chipmusic. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here! Hell, I wouldn’t have written about it in the past, but there’s times where we stumble across great music that isn’t chip-related, or is perhaps only very meagerly chip-centric in its entirety. That’s when I received a digital copy of ‘Aces’ in my inbox with the message, “Enjoy mate!”
‘Aces’ is an exclusive compilation through RSVP Tapes of electronic music featuring twenty artists from around the globe. Compiled by local Boston-area legend Radio Scotvoid, producer and DJ of many sweet jams (and recently a new member of the father club— ‘grats again, bud;) the compilation was designed under a few, brief and strict guidelines:
These artists, or “Aces” of their trade in their own right, would create a song at either 80 or 160 BPM at roughly a 3-minute length in order to release this album on a loudly-dubbed, high-quality c60 cassette. What was produced was an hour’s worth of solid downtempo, skweee, dnb, FM and chip with enough soul, rhythm and ambience to make an hour feel like it almost instantly passes by in a bass-filled cloud of bliss.
The album’s overall mood is semi-atmospheric as a whole with plenty of hip-hop, drum and bass-centric influences. Starting this album off with ‘Kevari’by Mesak was a great decision. Simplistic basslines and a percussion line creeping slowly in and out as if you’re awaiting the lead-in towards the next big wave of sound was a fitting way to start the album. Equally fitting for the next track, Kantoripoika’s ‘Helvetti’provides all of that and more with its deep and almost ominous-feeling bass kicks.
For notable and chip-related tracks, Spunky Brewster’s ‘Invasion of the Froglomites’ is a shining example of how many people in the chiptune scene are missing out by not giving FM a chance. If you’re asking yourself, “Right, but how good is the track,” you’ve clearly yet to discover this is also made by the man behind instant-classic acts such as Oxygen Star, Doomcloud, SadNES, Radlib, Steady C and Rolly Mingwald. You have been forgiven. For the sake of explanation, however, this track brings a more dramatic form and melodically-driven tension to the album and uses some classic O2star-era leads.
ABSDRST may be focusing more on his hip-hop beats instead of his chiptune creations nowadays, but that doesn’t mean an ounce of the quality has gone down. If anything his track, ‘Little Lies’, has only shone through to show how much talent is behind him when he isn’t focusing on hardware limitations. One can only hope he comes back to produce a chip-hop album that would leave the more talented and respected linguists drooling to collaborate.
Admittedly, I had not even heard of DKSTR before this compilation, but in ‘Done & Done’ his use of SID drums and leads behind some soft synth pads not only fits but puts definition to the soulful, rhythmic vibe half-way through the album.
All in all, this album is a fantastic, bass-filled voyage through electronic sound that can be as equally engaging and enjoyable when directly paid attention to or played in the background for pretty much any occasion.
Ho-Ho-Holy Shit. If the holiday season wasn’t exciting enough, the wonderful/not-workshy/probably mentally unstable people over at Chiptunes = WIN have graced the world with the first in a series of promised themed compilations, starting with the theme of winter. Sounding like a condensed audio personification of Christmas, if this doesn’t get you in the mood for mince pies, roast dinners and eggnog (is that actually a thing or have years of US Sitcoms been lying to me?), then nothing will. You utter Grinch. So without further ado, here is where we break it down:
BR1GHT PR1MATE – Linux and Lucy
Returning for their second bout on a Chiptunes = WIN comp, James and Lydia start proceedings with a sweet and sour swirl. Delicate melodies and jazz/funk fm influences swamp the track, and coupled with sampled voices which narrate, the track jumps between sugar and spice repeatedly; the sugar hook will stay with you for eons.
Having appeared on Fox News, released the acclaimed ‘Night Animals’ earlier this year and been credited for countless game OST’s, the Br1ght Pr1mate freight train appears to be doing the very opposite of slowing. Frequent live performances and an e-performance on the upcoming uber-web-show ‘WWCW 12’, keep a look out for this duet’s fantastic live show too.
Vince Kaichan – Midnight Snowflake
Soft and subtle seem to be the thematic qualities of this compilation, and if so then ‘Midnight Snowflake’ is the template. No jarring dynamic shifts or unannounced jolts, just blissful frolicking through winter tundra and the feeling the melodies could be icicle tendrils. Harmonically robust and beautiful, this track can be added straight to Vince’s long catalogue of fantastic tracks.
With releases as VCMG on Pxl-Bot and others on Noisechannel, Vince has shed his newcomer badge long ago and has since become a well-established name in the chiptune scene. If this is your first experience of Mr. Kaichan’s work, you’re in for an early Christmas treat.
Professor Shyguy – We Three Kings
Convention frequenter and pedlar of pop rock chiptune, Professor Shyguy brings his rather nice (trying not to sound emphatically romanticised here) to a cover of ‘We Three Kings’. How Christmassy does this sound? All of the Christmas.
Not one to do things simply, the climax breaks from the mould to provide a darker and far more Pink Floyd take on the classic carol, with screeching distorted guitars and acoustic fiddling aplenty.
With a full length and a new single both released this year, you’re more than spoiled for material to keep you happy(er than you would otherwise be) over the Christmas period.
Mark ‘TDK’ Knight – Sunrise
The prolific game music composer and BAFTA winner (!) TDK is returning to grace the chip world with his masterful compositions. With a single coming out soon on the deity house that is BleepStreet Records, Mark reintroduces himself here with a chilled and icy jam that melds eastern melodies and jazz elements into a consistently surprising and enjoyable track, with frequent nods to his previous soundtrack work.
With more skills, projects and awards than I can ever hope to cover in this short passage of text, it’d be wise of you to check out the huge repertoire of this brilliant composer and sound wizard. 20 pounds if you don’t see a game you recognise.
Storm Blooper – The Stellar Dendrite
Having been around originally as Sub-Woofer Special since 2008, the reincarnation as Storm Blooper has thus far brought with it two full lengths, a single earlier this year and plenty of live performances, morphing to a more standard chiptune affair to his present day dub inspired grooveathon. And here we arrive and Blooper’s magnum opus, The Stellar Dendrite.
You’ll have noticed the emission of anything even slightly wobble-influenced (now that I’ve pointed it out) and not one to displease, Storm Blooper handles the job solo and with gusto. Whilst not a wobble track per se, the grooves and dub flirts will have you chomping at his hyper sweet bit through the pieces duration and beyond.
Glenntai – Snowfall and Snowballs
With the fondly remembered EP ‘Silly Hats Only’ from 2010 and a new EP in the works and his hands full with the planning and leader of the newly formed and already respected ‘Clipstream’, a monthly online chip festival (it is as brilliant as it sounds), seeing Glenntai’s name appear on this compilation will likely have excited many.
And here is why: complex and experimental melodic tinkering laced into an upbeat and wintery socket, carefully crafted to the smallest degree. Feeling fuller and longer than its mere four minute play time, this masterfully conceived track is a refreshing take on the hyper-happy chiptune of ye olde.
ABSRDST – Let Me Freeze
Since July ABSRDST has released the mammoth-sized ‘Home Sweet Home’, the brilliantly received and diverse ‘Sugar Blossom and the Space Cadets’ and most recently his albumette ‘Rigby Wearing Shades’. Definitely a busy fellow.
Lending his expert meanderings to chipWINter, ‘Let Me Freeze’ takes six minutes of your time to lead you through multiple genres and styles, coaxing out memorable and tightly constructed melodies at every intersection, giving the track an unparalleled flow. Building to an incredible climax with one final violently adrenaline-coaxing twist, ABSRDST sure knows how to do ‘epic’ as well if not better than most.
Daniel Capo – Frosted Over
Featured on multiple compilations including a past Chiptunes = WIN and the fantastic Perelandra Records compilation ‘Tide’, Daniel, has been carving himself a name for professional sounding and presented chilled chiptune. ‘Frosted Over’ is no different.
Mixing EQ manipulation with subtle breakbeats and sporadic melodies, ‘Frosted Over’ has an almost glitch-like quality to its wintery demeanour. The rising a falling of the backing synth’s pitch and volume help add the dreamlike qualities of the understated piano and unimposing harmonies, creating a track that truly embodies the term ethereal.
Jay Tholen – Justice Delivers Its Death
There is a lot to say about Mr. Tholen. The prolific progressive rock and chiptune connoisseur has graced labels as respected as Pause and Ubiktune, with plenty, and I mean plenty, of self-released pieces in between. With his game Dropsy in development under the Tendershoot studio name, Tholen is truly a man of many talents.
And creating catchy chipfolk is one of said talents. Backed by female vocalist(s), the slow crescendo of chiptune and acoustic builds to a tightly woven and emotional end. The lyrics, whilst at times slightly unsettling in an obviously deliberate way, work cohesively with the music to create Tholen’s truly unique and remarkable atmosphere and style.
Vegas Diamond – The Ghost Of Christmas Dance
Featured on the Spanish equivalent of 8bitpeoples, LowToy, Vegas Diamond’s bittersweet jams having begun to tease the ears of chiptune fans everywhere, and here is no different.
Scales flow over each other jumping from major to minor to create that bittersweet tinge of sweet and sour. Starscream (Infinity Shred/Whatever) influenced chords rain from this, sending astral snow into your speakers (I’ve always said the line between space and ice themed is only a contextual one). Featuring one of the most memorable melody and chord progression dualities on this compilation, Vegas Diamond has continued their thus far unblemished record for great music.
The Bitman – Next Stop, Detroit
Visitor on the release pages of Noisechannel and with two other Eps under his belt, Bitman’s dance LSDJ boogies this time go for winter’s thorax. Pulsating drums and scales carry the first half of the track gracefully, before the mid-break switches up the formula into a wide-eyed melodic call and response as scales dance around each other in a hypnotic cycle. Memorable 3/4 hooks and dragging drums help the track stand out from the LSDJ pack, and dissonant bleeps help create and uneasily sub-zero atmosphere. Apparently Detroit is cold this time of year.
shanebro – A Chipwinter Stroll
Winter drum pumps fill the space left between the rising and falling scales of the tracks beginning. Flowering into a melodic to and fro with the beats, Shanebro spends the rest of the track experimenting with constantly shifting melodies and brief motif reprisals. The mid-drum break has a real 80s ad-vibe about it, primed to tug at the nostalgia toggles on anyone’s hearts.
With the release ‘The Sky Is Ours’ over on Noisechannel and a full length in the works, look out for this up-and-comer taking over this place.
an0va – Christmas Time Is Here
Frequenting stages in the US and teasing the general populace with only one released EP thus far, the fantastic ‘The Teaching Machine’, an0va is already a well-known name and unique talent in the chiptune field.
‘Christmas Time Is Here’ starts, sounding eerily similar to a lost song from The Snowman soundtrack, an0va uses a blend of chiptune, guitar and expert atmospheric control to create an audio personification of the festive season. Even before the jazz guitar begins, the track’s slow lounge croon carries the listener, only heightened by the presence of lucid and fluid guitar playing.
Kubbi – Polar Bear Rides
Chiptunes = WIN’s very own Master Of The Tracklisteh provides another track for another compilation in the wake of his fourth full length release, ‘ Circuithead’. With a progressive twist to the melodically founded chiptune, these 80’s-esque synths bring to mind Drive during the winter months, snow drifting and cold stares. Melancholic and with the spirit of the festive months etched into its psyche with great force, this winter paradise stands out starkly in Kubbi’s extensively eclectic as another choice cut.
If you enjoyed this track, definitely check out his other release from this year, ‘Sleet’, and last year’s full length ‘Transmittance’.