Continuing this enjoyable ramble-fest (for me at least!), today we’re on to Year Three of ChipWIN comp story-time! If this is your first read in the series, feel free to check out parts 1 and 2 and then continue after the break.
Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie back again with another of my Hoodie Highlights interviews! Due to crazy life happenings (i.e. getting MARRIED <3 ), it’s been a few months since I’ve had the time to manage one of these enjoyable talks. And what better way to bring the feature back than with a follow-up chat with my good snarky Brit friend & initial Hoodie Highlights focus, Andrew Kilpatrick? Read along as we talk all retrospective-like, as Kilpatrick brings his 5+ years of awesome chiptune contributions to a close. Enjoy!
You might’ve heard of The Laohu through the grapevine, or via his track from ChipWIN: Volume 3, Bash of the Kaiju, or maybe you’ve just been a long-time fan of his since he started releasing music back in 2012. Regardless, it’s been almost three years since he last released an album through Bandcamp. In mid-March, he put out his latest musical endeavor through the Pxl-Bot label entitled ‘FROgs’, and the result is an eclectic mix of genres spanning progressive rock to electro. Without further ado, let’s take a look at The Laohu’s latest piece of work! (more…)
Some of the most successful and inspiring musical endeavors are concept albums, more narrowly defined as albums with a specific message to deliver, story to tell, or idea to convey. One of the most recent chiptune concept albums, Spaceman Fantastiques’ prog-rock-chip amalgam entitled ‘C.O.M.P.A.S.S.’, was released through The Waveform Generators just this past September. Admittedly, I missed the debut of this album, but discovered it not long after its release, and loved it so much that I decided that it absolutely had to be the topic of my monthly column. So let’s see where ‘C.O.M.P.A.S.S.’ takes us!
As with many concept albums, the first track – the introduction or exposition to the story – can be considered the most important song in establishing the theme behind the project. ‘SSW’ opens with a cascading flow of different sounds; cymbals crash, chip voices sweep through octaves, and white noise builds up mysterious vibes before a cadence reminiscent of a transmission of sorts. From here, the track decrescendoes into nothingness and leaves the listener with a sense of awe before its silent transition.
‘C.O.M.P.A.S.S.’ spans an enormous number of different moods as it tells its tale. The second track, ‘SW’, is a near perfect example of how seamlessly these different emotions can flow into one another. The opening guitar strumming and quickly decaying chip voices provide a sense of wonderment and feelings of exploration and curiosity. Percussion enters, and more voices build up tension until the track peaks for the first time, energetically and brimming with excitement. A simple yet memorable chip riff segues perfectly into a secondary calming segment, just before ‘SW’ climaxes with dueling guitar and chip solos into a phenomenal ending.
Different musical influences throughout the album and entirely unique sounds span far and wide, as well. Calls to the symphonic and choral can be heard in combination with progressive overtones through the almost vocal-sounding instruments present in ‘NE’, for one. In contrast, it’s difficult to place a specific genre onto ‘WNW’, and that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. Spaceman Fantastiques sculpts a track that has me imagining the reversal of time; ‘WNW’ sounds almost like a track being played backwards for an alternate piece.
Avid chipmusic fans may notice that in a majority of the pieces on Spaceman Fantastiques’ latest work, chip voices take on a rhythmic role in order to let organic melodies shine through. This isn’t always entirely true, however. For example, in ‘W’, the first half of the song has chip take on a majority of the melodic element, while Spaceman Fantastiques’ guitar work is more rhythmic in nature. Melodic focus is slowly transitioned from chip to organic around the midpoint of the track flawlessly; shifts in melodic focus are something I rarely hear done well, and Spaceman Fantastiques really nails it with ‘W’.
I’ve only covered about a third of this phenomenal piece of work, but describing the entire album the way that I do with my other reviews would be almost too deconstructive and detailed in nature. This album is truly an experience that needs to be had in order to be fully understood in all of its glory. In order to fully comprehend the purpose and motivation behind this ambitious album, we have to be able to understand the meaning of ‘C.O.M.P.A.S.S.’ from the eyes of Spaceman Fantastiques himself. So without further ado, I present to you my wondrously fruitful interview with Spaceman Fantastiques on his latest masterpiece. ______________________________________________________________________
Aydan Scott: What ideas or themes are being expressed through “C.O.M.P.A.S.S.”?
Spaceman Fantastiques: The main theme of the album is exploration. It’s about a man who is looking for direction in life. He learns of a fabled artifact called the C.O.M.P.A.S.S. and goes in search of it. The problem is that anything he reads about it tells him something completely different in terms of finding it. So he sets out on a journey to gather more information and hopefully find what he is looking for. After a journey around the globe he talks with someone who tells him an introspective that changes everything. All the things he was looking for and all the things he has done ARE the C.O.M.P.A.S.S. He finds out that it is not an object but a journey in and of itself. a Collection Of Many Paths Altering Self Synapse.
That being said, the album is really about exploring life and trusting yourself, no matter where your travels take you.
A: What different genres did you take influence from with regards to composition?
SF: When I started this project it was actually much smaller in terms of songs. It was only going to be 4 main songs and 4 intermediate ones. I really just wanted to have 4 different styles of songs and then blend them in between. What I ended up with was much more grand. I drew inspiration from a lot of places. For the main songs I wanted them all to be epic in their own ways, from well thought out rock solos to sporadic stream of consciousness solos…from [me being] completely obsessed over note placement to one night of me messing around on the keyboard. Specific influences are hard to nail down as there are often several within the same track but I will do my best. In no particular order: Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Aphex Twin, The Sound of Animals Fighting, Nobuo Uematsu, the music from Hotline Miami, the Braid sound track, Mystic Quest, post rock outfits like MONO and Godspeed You, math rock like LITE and Jizue, chill stuff like sleepytimejesse, aviel, and Lifeformed, crazy arpeggios from Makeup and Vanity Set, Miles Davis, Tool, The Protomen, Queens of the Stone Age, Smashing Pumpkins… the list is much longer than that, but those are the main ones that I can think of at the moment.
A: What does your creative process entail?
SF: The creative process… this is something that is so strange for me. Initially it happens very fast. Most of the main songs were almost completely written in a single day (each). Then came the perfection. Once the main track structure was down came the obsessive listening and re-listening, losing myself in the music only to find one extra hi-hat hit or a bass fill. The main songs were something that, even with [them] being mostly completed so quickly, it could [take] months or years in between the tracks. They almost all started with me sitting in bed messing around on guitar and once I recorded that riff the writing took over. For some songs the progression was effortless (W for example); [for] others it was far more tedious (E). Even with both of those songs switching time signatures, one was far easier than the other. I can’t really say why. I think a lot of the composition depends on mental status. When writing W I was happy and healthy, and when writing E I was sick, the weather was shit, and it was hard to stay focused (which is kind of appropriate considering the directions).
As for the notes themselves, I have many ways of composing. The most common way is with guitar and a loop. I loop what I have, and then just noodle on guitar. When I find something I like, I transcribe it into MIDI or record it. A lot of it is just feeling expressed through strings. A lot of the songs have large gaps between them in terms of when they were composed. The first song I made (not even knowing it was for this album at the time) was SW. I went home on a Friday night, got a beer from the fridge, opened it and never finished. I started recording and got so lost. I had just found an old Moog synth on the side of the road and was so excited to use it that I couldn’t stop messing around. I worked for about seven hours and that is SW. It did change a little, but the structure is the same as the night I wrote that song. The problem I find with this writing process is that I get so into it and then I have no other ideas. I put everything i had been storing up into a song. This is absolutely why this album took so long. I wrote songs based on experiences I had…and those take time.
AS FOR THE INTERMEDIATE SONGS: Most of these were made while sitting at [a] local coffee place on my lunch break. I wanted these tracks to be more simple…things that were nice little slices amidst the epic cardinal and secondary directions. I made rules for these songs. No changing parts. Under 5 instruments. Nothing fast or intense. They are meant for resting between the other tracks.
A: Why did you choose to release this on TWG?
SF: I have known Andrew for quite a while now and he was one of the first people I talked to about the album and the idea behind it. He asked me to release it on TWG and I absolutely agreed. I actually think I was asked when he first started the label… and then I released as it was closing. haha. At the time, I wanted to branch out from solely chiptune, and my talks with Andrew led to a lot of excitement and ideas. He is a really great guy and is absolutely going places. I am glad I got to be a part of TWG even if [it was] only at the end.
A: How long did the project take to finish? Also, did you do it all in one go (was it your one and only focus in terms of musical projects) or did you piece it together over a long period of time?
SF: I mentioned this a little previously, but the album took about 3 years to make. From the initial idea’s conception back in 2011 to writing songs that ended up being used for other things (‘The World According To Mr. Meleon‘) or walking away from it completely to write different stuff (‘[sleep]‘), it has been a looooong journey. I think that really helped with it all. The first song that was written was SW (back then Song 1), [which] was followed by the first 30 seconds of NW (originally Song 2). Song 2 was abandoned until this past summer, where I was able to pick [it] up effortlessly and turn it into what it is now, NW. In that time I wrote a few different things. A few one-of tracks, a lot of b-sides from ‘tWAtMM’, ‘[sleep]’, and ‘a thousand days and a day‘. I think making all the other stuff while still working on this helped immensely. Using my experience from ‘[sleep]’ and ‘aTDaaD’ I was able to refine a lot of my writing process and boil down ideas a lot stronger. I also discovered several new techniques in Logic along the way that helped.
A: Are you pleased with the way this project turned out? If not, is there anything you’d change now if you had the opportunity?
SF: I really am pleased. I make music firstly for myself. I make things I want to listen to over and over again. It can be frustrating at times, but it is almost always worth it. As with most art, there are always blemishes that maybe only the artist will notice or care about, but…I call [them] something I like to just have that be part of the project’s charm.
There are things I could have leveled out, or fixed some sloppy notation, but the way I released it is something I am more than happy with.
A: What’s next for Spaceman Fantastiques?
SF: This is something I have been asking myself since I realized I was done with the album… Hm… I do have some things I am working on, but nothing I can really mention at the moment, but as always… it’ll be something fantastique. ______________________________________________________________________
‘C.O.M.P.A.S.S.’ is truly a modern masterpiece. Spaceman Fantastiques takes us with him on his journey to find the legendary C.O.M.P.A.S.S. and shows us immeasurably beautiful sounds and ideas along the way. Priced at just under $5 USD, this is an incredibly small price to pay for the sheer excellence contained within. I’m honored to have been able to showcase this piece of work for you, and I hope that your own C.O.M.P.A.S.S. leads you to happiness. Never forget that life is a journey, not a destination.
Sup y’all? =) Prez Hoodie here. I feel like today’s a good day as any to debut my brand spankin’ new interview column, ‘Hoodie Highlights‘! As much as I’ve enjoyed writing my beer and chip column the last several months (which I do plan to continue as I find the time), a big part of what keeps me involved in the world of chip is my direct, personal relationships with artists & fans in and among it. I’m a fairly personable guy, it’s true! (provided you can overlook the occasion dickbutts…). And that lends itself to interviewing folk! Mostly, though, I enjoy it, and think that just maybe y’all might too!
On that note, let’s get on with this first interview. Featuring none other than the snarky Brit that everyone hates to love (but generally does anyway), Andrew Kilpatrick!!
Brandon L Hood (Hoodie): So we’ve “known” each other for, what? Around a year now? In that period you’ve pretty much (in my mind) gone from beiing “that snarky Brit on cm.o who did that cool cover of the Wintersun track” to “that snarky Brit who does ALL THE THINGS”. hahaha
Andrew Kilpatrick (AK) – haha, yeah, I think it’s like a (torturous) year and a half now? It’s been too long (￣□￣) . Originally it was just Pxl-Bot but then I flew the coop to set up TWG before rolling back and working on both. Then WeeklyTreats and eventually NTWRK came out of what we viewed as holes in the scene which could be doing with filling by dedicated peeps. and voila, all the things.
Hoodie – That’s… a *LOT* of projects. And that admission is coming from ME. haha I realize it’s a bit of one thing leading to another, but why so many things? Or rather, why so much involvement in and around the chiptune/chipmusic world?
AK– I can’t remember how I actually got into chip to begin with. I think it was something to do with little-scale links on a free album blog site. Anyway, eventually I got two releases for the oldie label Betamod together. Around then Alex Kelly and I were super pals at college, and I told him about it all and it turned out he was interested in chip too. Eventually he floated the idea of doing a label and about 2 months later we launched Pxl-Bot! After about six months of Pxl-Bot, often releasing between 2 and 3 times a WEEK, I was exhausted. I eventually left the label in the hands of Alex and went off to figure out what I wanted to do. TWG came out of this, out of a want to start blogging along with a set of releases which were more eclectic, as with Pxl-Bot in the start we were both a bit young and dumb and just released shit for the hell of it, like MONODEER’s debut alongside some piece of shit 1-day famitracker EP I spat out. Young and dumb.
Anyway, TWG started doing releases, I then began blogging in what I guess is now my trademark ‘blunt fairness’ style and the mission statement of TWG slowly became tied to experimentalism in chip.
I came up with the idea of WeeklyTreats in a shower…
Hoodie – Best ideas ALWAYS happen in the shower.
AK – …phoned Alex Kelly, and then about 3 hours later we were in a Subway fleshing out what is now WeeklyTreats 2013. With artists, we wanted a mix of the ‘big guys’ we’d not worked with before, ‘smaller guys’ we thought were talented and a bunch of people from the TWG/Pxl-Bot rosters (in fact WeeklyTreats often opened doors to label releases!).
And then NTWRK is us being older and dumb I guess. realizing that these three ideas were disparate enough we decided to give them a ‘conglomerate’ name. NTWRK isn’t a fusion of the three at all, really it’s a ‘name tag’ to Alex and I as a production/curating team, and an arm of promotion that links the three for better synergy. The mixes are as promo for people from the three projects and beyond AND something to prepare people for NTWRK’s end goal; live shows.
Hoodie – Yeah, I see that now (regarding NTWRK). And it makes sense! Almost a way to “brand” the collective of projects so to speak.
More or less, this.
AK – Ps Aviel Brown says hi.
Hoodie – Hi Aviel!!
You referenced something you’ve become a bit infamous for via your album reviews & Volume 2 judging: as you said it, your trademark “blunt fairness” style. It’s stirred up some flak here and there, sure, but all in all I think most folk have appreciated the honesty. I know I have!
AK– I’ve been ‘blessed’ with a headstrong belief that my opinions matter or are in some way objectively ‘right’. They aren’t, obviously, but when it comes to being critical in my opinion there is absolutely no room for compromise, or to consider any work-relationship context when looking at another’s stuff. TWG was never meant to be a PR blog, it’s a critical blog through and through because that’s the type of journalism I want to do, and what I’ve learnt from writing on TWG has been invaluable to me from a career’s point. Not only that, but it’s that type of critical outlook that actually benefits the artist; if you’re only being told you’re great, you aren’t going to move forward as fast as when someone is telling you what’s wrong, and I’ve had many people come to me privately after I’ve reviewed and panned their release thanking me. As long as you’re not being critical as a means to get personal, I think there should be far more of it going on in the scene.
Hoodie – Honestly, from what I’ve observed the artist responses from some of the more “harsh” reviews seemed to be more appreciative than even those of the positive reviews! I think most folk do appreciate the constructive criticism when it’s delivered in such a manner: straightforwardly and without bias.
Outside of that, it *IS* ultimately just one man’s opinion after all. Grain of salt and all that jazz. ;)
AK – ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ yh but 1 well boss man yo
Hoodie– ｡◕ ‿ ◕｡
Regarding NTWRK transitioning to it’s end goal of live shows, anything to report on that yet?
AK– Yes! We’re sponsoring a gig in Southampton in the end of June! More info on that will be around soon. Also we’re planning a very special opening to the NTWRK live shows hopefully for the end of this year!!
Hoodie – Now THAT’s exciting! And I knew it was only a matter of time until y’all started getting involved live. haha It’s a fairly different creature, but a real blast to be involved in. Particularly to me, since live chiptune is what really pulled me in anyway.
AK– Yeah, it’s a fucking travesty it’s taken this long for us to knuckle down and go for it. Super huge big ups to Connor Fowler who asked us to help and sponsor the Southampton gig, as without him I don’t think things would be moving as fast as they are. I mean, at this point we have contacts from 3 years of Pxl-Bot, 2 years of TWG and the countless WeeklyTreats too, it seemed like such a waste not to exploit those in a live setting!
Hoodie– I can relate with that 100%. It’s one thing to rock some bombass projects (…did I really just say “bombass”…?) on the intertoobs like a BAMF, yet completely different to bring it IRL. And rather intimidating! Although I’ve found the transition isn’t quite as jarring as you might think, especially when you have other BAMFs to work with for the live shows. That makes *ALL* the difference in the world. And it looks like that’s the case for y’all too!
So best of luck pulling that off, and growing that venture into the next big thing! Will be yet *ONE MORE THING* for me to jump across the pond for. ;)
AK– oh yay. <3
Hoodie– Seriously, teleporation nodes, man. I NEEDS ‘EM.
AK – I want a jet so I can fly to all the gigs.
Hoodie– I suppose owning a jet w/limitless fuel would also suffice. :3
Or a dragon. Maybe Kubbi could lend us a couple? Pretty sure they have those in Norway.
AK– They’re not quite as practical though. Where do you park a dragon even? Can you valet a dragon?
Hoodie– Hmm… Clearly, you’ve thought this through a bit better than me.
AK– You don’t get 4 projects on swole without some overthinkin’ yo.
Also, MAGFest 13? You’re coming, right? COMMIT TO IT. RIGHT NOW. IN THIS GORRAM NTERVIEW. PINKY PROMISE IT. OR WE’RE GETTING A DIVORCE.
AK– No I wanna go Pax South. hur hur hur
Both will be damn good times, no doubt about it, but still… WE’RE THROUGH, BUB.
…after the interview is done. :3 Continuing on with such, tell me a bit about how y’all choose artists for/curate your releases/compilations/etc?
AK– First off talent. Obviously. From here it depends on the project. Overall Alex and I have always been really pro-newguys, Pxl-Bot’s main aim was always to put really new people and debuts next to more established people (Monodeer, AndaruGO and HunterQuinn and probably countless others all released their debuts with us on Pxl-Bot!). For TWG they’ve got to have that experimental edge, that ‘TWG sound/style’, but also because the site doubles as a critical blog they’ve also got to be as close to perfect as possible, hence TWG’s roster is entirely hand-picked. And then with WeeklyTreats they’ve also got to be reliable, especially last year, as it’s one of those projects that can really fall apart if an artist we’re working with isn’t into it 100%. I consider myself really lucky to work with the people I have though, ESPECIALLY on TWG were I consistently get the chance to release music by people I respect immensely. Also, this year on WeeklyTreats and NTWRK I’ve been able to work with Sebastian Tomczak aka little-scale aka the guy that got me into chiptune, and it’s been an overwhelming honour to do so (not to mention the TOMES of other incredible talent we’ve put stuff out with this year or curators that have helped out with WeeklyTreats!)
Also sending pastries helps.
Hoodie– If sending pastries fails, send beer. #NeverFails
AK– Not that cherry shit doe. Who wants to drink bread-like cherry? Why?
Hoodie– -shrugs- MORE FOR ME.
Outside of your other ventures, what’s up with Andrew Kilpatrick: the chipmusician? Anything planned?
AK– Yes actually! Minus the two recent releases under my ‘spaceaser’ alias, ‘Tangelo‘ and Singular, I’m working on a third ‘colour’ EP for the aforementioned Betamod label! Beyond that: a few more comp tracks, planned split with Vegas Diamond, continuing WeeklyBeats (managed every week so far!), hopefully putting together a super trippy live set and also Alex Kelly and I have been talking about doing a collab project for years… so watch out for ‘yumikumi’ too! ^_^. Also another alias called ‘thrones’ which is apparently cursed is making a move…
Hoodie– hahhahhahha Real secret to your success: you just get bored too damn easily, right? ;) <3
AK– hahahahaha so unbelievably close to the truth. If I had an xbox or a nice guitar then WeeklyTreats probably wouldn’t have happened.
Hoodie– I’ve said it all before, but I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention yet again how (last year) you were also both instrumental in helping me successfully reboot The ChipWIN Blog and contributed a good deal on the judges panel for Volume 2 (your “blunt fairness” definitely helped me open up and be a bit more… honest haha). Pxl-Win was a damn fun side-release too!
AK– Thanks, working with the blog was a lot of fun and an absolute ton of useful experience for me, and while I was soppy to have to leave to focus on other things I think it was for the best and the blog is still growing! Pxl-Win turned out surprisingly well I think! The Pxl-Win release sounded oddly like a compilation Alex and I would have put together anyway, and that plus the incredible mastering by S.P.R.Y made it not sound like a mixture of ‘rejects’ and ‘oddities’ And, to be honest, most of my favourite entries were on Pxl-Win, and it opened the door to work with some incredible artists too, I really enjoyed the experience and I think it went better than it could ever possibly have gone! As with the Vol 2 judging, yeah, I loved it, but it was such hard work. Part of me is sad I won’t be able to do it again this year, but then again, I know I’ll be using the effort to focus on less stressful things and my place is being filled by some INCREDIBLE talent, so, probably for the best for everyone. ;) (Also working for Brandon for another summer? EWW).
Hoodie – Ima gonna miss u 2, bby. :*
Any other thoughts, plots, shenanigans, dickbutts to mention before we wrap this up?
AK – Got a plethora of releases out on TWG soon including new stuff from barbeque and Love Through Cannibalism, Pxl-Bot is going to re-launch sometime in the nearish future and WeeklyTreats is gunna keep on trundlin’!
Thanks for having me you dick. butt.
Hoodie– Awesome. Looking forward to pretty much all that. Almost as much as I’m looking forward to being done talking to you (j/k ilu bby 5evar <3 ).