Sup y’all? =) Pres Hoodie here, somehow still alive post-MAGFest 2016 (damn, that was a crazy, wonderful adventure!). In the aftermath of such, I’m bringing you an interview with a cool cat that I’ve been acquainted with since my very first MAGFest (MAG 9). It also happens to be the event where he got his start performing live chipmusic. There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of him and his imminent sophomore album, ‘Lunaria’. Yup, of course I’m talking about Dan Behrens aka Danimal Cannon! Enjoy!
Your pulse quickens… your eyes begin to dilate. Your breath becomes labored…faster and faster. Your palms sweat—knees weak, arms are heavy (MOM’S SPAGHETTI). What could it be?! Anaphylactic shock? Nope. Someone slipped you something? Nah. Steam sales? Praise Gaben, but it’s not that either. With that said, that can one mean one thing:
Saran wrap those loins (wait, what?), hold on to your butts (don’t let go), and bring a plate for all that spaghetti you’re going to be spilling all over yourself…. oh, and don’t forget the parmesan cheese. MAGFEST 12 IS COMETH.
With all this excitement spewing from the tips of my fingers, you’d think I’ve been rockin’ the Gaylord since MAGFest 10? Think again. MAGN00b here! However, this professor right here has her Pokédex on hand to catalog all the nerds, her personal trading cards to share, and Nurse Joy on speed dial should she catch the MAGPlague. While it’s been an eight month process—the first three spent deciding whether or not MAGFest is worth the trek from Los Angeles—it all became a reality when I booked my first solo flight back in November and I haven’t looked back since. Preparing for MAGFest, on the other hand, is totally out of the question. With my only solidified plans being my transportation to and from the event, a floor to sleep on, friends to FINALLY meet, and cash to spend, I’m letting the MAGFestivities take me on my own journey.
Not going to lie, writing this article has me feeling a little jittery, as I’ve caught myself daydreaming about the adventure that awaits: dancing the night away at MAGProm to The OneUps and Love Canon, playing a mad game of Cards Against Humanity in my hotel suite, playing some free vintage arcade games, and cuddling in the middle of the Chipspace floor. However, my excitement for the amount of quality chip acts performing at this year’s MAGFest can never be expressed through words on a screen—such quality, such chip, such A+++, wow.
On top of all that, there’s also PLENTY of weekend chip performances that I KNOW will blow your socks off. My top four do not miss picks (among so many excellent chipartists!) are as follows:
A_Rival: Performing January 3rd at 1:30 p.m.
Bay Area based chip hop producer Luke Esquivel, also known as A_Rival, launched his newest release ’Truthcannon’ on May 21, 2013. With cameos made by bLiNd, Abducted By Sharks, and TRASH80 on the latter half of the album, ’Truthcannon’ is a fantastic, fist-pumping album infused with dubstep drops, dreamy chip melodies and lovely Trance-like vocals to transcend its listeners on a ride through a 16-bit space shooter game.
Auxcide: Performing January 3rd at 12:00 p.m.
Having just dropped two consecutive 8static net label releases on December 18, 2013, Bryan Dobbins, also known as Auxcide, has captured my heart (Morgan and Kilpatrick’s as well) with ‘Speck’ and ‘Pixel’. Auxcide’s ability to produce not one but TWO danceable albums reigns from his precise electronic underscoring accompanied by the harsh soundchips of his Gameboy AGS and DMG running LSDJ. Created using a plethora of hardware including Roland Gaia, Yamaha PSR-500, and Arturia MiniBrute, ‘Pixel’ is the calm predecessor I imagine to soundtrack the victory of war, where ‘Speck’ is an explosion of energy that can’t help but grab your attention. The cool thing about these albums? Auxcide covers ‘The Moon’ from Ducktales Remastered (released by WayForward with music composed by Jake ‘virt’ Kaufman) and ‘Fire and Ice’, the Game of Thrones title sequence track.
Danimal Cannon: Performing January 3rd at 2:00 p.m.
Zef: Performing January 5th at 4:05 a.m.
With a recent TEDxBuffalo appearance about chipmusic, Dan ‘Danimal Cannon’ Behrens is making his way to MAGFest 12 to rock your faces not once but TWICE. Performing under both Danimal Cannon and ARMCANNON this year, Behrens released ‘Parallel Processing’ alongside Zef on January 15, 2013 under the prior. (NOTE: One of the two artists will be releasing a new track on the upcoming MAG=WIN comp! Listen to the teaser HERE to guess who!) With that notable progchip sound, ‘Parallel Processing’ is another stellar Ubiktune release, and is an album quite like none other. The two technically skilled artists combined forces, smashed their noggins together, and went to town to create an album whose INSANE level of musical engineering is accompanied by their love for Gameboy processors.
That’s all for this month’s Chip Treatment! I’ll be seeing all you Carbon based lifeforms at MAG! If for whatever reason you can’t make it, be sure to tune in to clip-stream.net as my awesome friends Casshern and Glenntai are manning the livestreams so you don’t miss out!
Hey everyone! Welcome back to Raw Cuts! Before we get started, last time I know that I promised you all that I’d be dropping a Solarbear interview next time I posted! That baby is still on its way, but due to conflicting schedules surrounding BRKFest, that interview’s been postponed to a later date. That being said, I’ve got an awesome interview for you with a rising star from Virginia! Taking a cue from Danimal Cannon, this dude combines sweet guitar skills with precise LSDJ composition and is definitely someone you should pay attention to you! Without further ado, I present my interview with Jason Doss aka Square Therapy!
Kuma: So tell me, Jason: I don’t know everything about you, but what I do know is that you’ve been making music for quite a while. Furthermore, you’ve shown yourself to be quite an eclectic artist. What first brought you to chiptune and how long have you been musician in the first place?
Square Therapy (ST): Well, if we’re getting technical, I started playing piano around three or four. My mom and her side of the family have always been musicians so I kind of fell into it by default; but, as far as chiptune/8 bit music goes, a lot longer than I make it out to be. I remember when I was about 10, I asked for this specific keyboard for Christmas because it had a “square wave” tone on it. I would sit and “write” what I thought to be music for my own little video game for hours. Though it wasn’t much more than me playing simple chords that I knew at the time haha.
Kuma: That’s rather cute, actually. I can see little you on a Casio just playing simple stuff at that age. That being said, your “own little video game”? Was it something imaginary you were doing or were you at the time planning on making a game? Do you still feel like that sometimes when you’re making music? Do you still approach it with that sense of childlike wonder?
ST: Haha It was a Casio, actually! And well, my dream ever since I was a kid was to write and compose music for video games! Which is also still a goal that I will continue to push for the rest of my life. In every little solo project I’ve done it has always contained a sense of chiptune, even before I knew what chiptune actually was.
Kuma: Have you had any luck pursuing that dream so far? I know guys like Jay Tholen, James Therrien of Br1ght Pr1mate and virt seem to have found success, or at least opportunities, in making music for games. Have any come up your way yet?
ST: Actually yes! Nothing major, but I’ve written for some college students that needed music for their projects and other small indie developers just for fun. It’s nothing I ever really plan on making money off of. Just a passion I really want to pursue.
Kuma: I’m actually glad you mentioned money, because money is always an issue that comes up eventually when it comes to music, or any form or artistic expression. When it comes to your music, your craft, are you passionate enough about it that you don’t care about making money off it or is it something you’d love to make your life professionally?
ST: Well, I will never charge for my music. I will stand by that no matter what. Every album that I produce will always be free for a digital download. Always. Now, for other formats such as vinyl and tape, then yes: that’s something I would charge for. And as far as writing music for someone else, I would say you would be paying more for my time than my actual work. Everything I write comes from my heart, and it’s something that I feel I’m just thankful for someone to listen to, money or not.
As far as shows go, a little gas and food cash never hurt anyone, but playing in front of a crowd is like a drug to me. Every time I get on stage it’s like getting a fix. So if I have to dish out cash for that fix, I would be willing to do that if it meant getting to play for people.
Kuma: Thats friggin beautiful, man. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone describe their music making or performing experience in that way in my interviews. Its quite touching.
That being said, you’ve been making music for a long time, and I remember you’ve been in a few bands before, particularly Zatsesuken (am I spelling that right?): a djenty, sorta metal band you were a vocalist for that was pretty damn awesome. Is making and performing chip compared to, say, metal like comparing a happy drug like E to a hard drug like Coke? Is each musical genre like a different high for you? And is there one high you prefer more than any, if so?
ST:Zantetsuken! ;D and actually yes! I’ve played/toured with metal bands more than anything else I’ve done, so it really is a different world and emotion. Playing metal is much more aggressive and anger focused, which is really not me at all. But then again, I have metal influenced songs that I write as Square Therapy, as well, so I guess I still go back to my roots from time to time. I never try to limit myself to any specific genre, though, which is why I love electronic music so much. I can do anything I want to with it.
In fact, I’ve already started working on my second EP which will contain many different genres. Some of what you’ll hear will include orchestral, rock, and ambient electronica, as well as singing in most songs. I’ve always felt that limiting yourself as a musician is one of the worst things you could do to yourself. It would be like living off nothing but pizza. Sure, I fucking adore pizza, but if I had to eat it every day and night, my body would hate me, as I would hate myself for never knowing anything other than pizza.
Kuma: It certainly would; although, if it were space pizza, I think I might be able to get by for centuries!
Kuma: Speaking of space pizza, let’s talk about your track you submitted for ChipWIN! First off, congrats for being one of the chosen artists to be represented on our second volume! How did it feel knowing you got selected out of nearly 150 entries?
ST:I can honestly say it was extremely rewarding. And after hearing the other tracks, I feel even more fortunate. I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed with a collection of artists before. So many different influences and styles as well as production. You can really hear a lot of personality in each song and I feel thankful to be a part of it! Also, on a side note of the whole Chiptunes = WIN community, I’ve never felt more welcomed in my life! A lot of music “nerds” can really come down heavy on you as a newbie to a community, but not at ChipWIN. I felt like everyone was instantly a friend, and it’s awesome to be a part of such a welcoming community, even if we are nothing but a bunch of shitty dickbutts!
Kuma: Hey hey hey! Dickbutts are not shitty! Butt tacos are! And they’re delicious!!!
ST: Okay, okay! I’m sorry! You’re completely right
Kuma: You’re forgiven…but I won’t forget. *salutes* I’ll never forget…
ST: It’s okay Kuma: I could never forget you, either! Not after MAG XI at least…
Kuma: Shhhhhh! Those are things people must never find out about!
ST: AND THEY NEVER WILL!
Kuma: Getting back on topic, though: the song you contributed was definitely full of energy and wasn’t anywhere near the angry or aggreissive energy you had with your metal at all. If anything, a lot of us were joking and complimenting at how Anamanaguchi the song sounded! Was that what you were going for at the time or was this just based on a fun, happy feeling inside and you decide to let it spill forth?
ST: Haha Well, even though I am a fan of the older Anamanaguchi, I wouldn’t say that was really a focus while writing the song. That song changed so much through out the writing process that I honestly don’t even know where the original idea came from. I wanted to bring out a lot of my personal feelings with 8 bit, as well as my love for other styles like post rock, as well. Which in all honestly, I probably listen to post rock and emo more than anything else. That and video game OST’s. But I am very pleased with the way the song turned out. I really wish I could go back and add guitar to it, which there is guitar on all the tracks in my upcoming EP except for an interlude. But I put a video up on YouTube of that song with guitar so I feel a little more content now. haha.
Kuma: Oh did you? I’ll definitely have to check it out! That being said, lets talk about your newest album, shall we? How long have you been working on this baby?
ST: That’s a funny question, actually. This EP is really some songs that I’ve written in the past 2 years and just brought back and added to. I was tired of releasing song by song and not having an actual product out there for people to download and listen to. But since I’ve decided to make it a release, I would say a couple months.
I’m also lucky to have been able to make the songs flow as well as they did with each other. I’m a firm believer in writing an album/EP as an entire piece or work rather than random songs on a track list, which is why I also feel that I will never release a full LP. I am extremely A.D.D., and find myself getting bored with my own work at times. So I figured the best thing for me is to just constantly release 3-5 song EP’s, each being a nice piece in its own. It will help me stay involved with my own music, and hopefully some listeners as well.
Kuma: Of what I’ve heard so far, I think its a good gamble. You know yourself well enough to keep yourself going and when to stop, and both are important. I must say, I do appreciate your view of wanting to make albums that flow and have a shared meaning to them, even if its not a concept album. That means a lot to the listener, and I think of what I just heard, not only have you done that well, but your post rock influences definitely shine brilliantly in this EP. Is there anything you, in putting this together, felt was a maybe or an almost you’d still like to put out there, but just weren’t ready to do yet?
ST:I think this EP is a great kick off to whats going to be an awesome chapter in my life. I’m very happy with this release, but I know there is a lot more that I am capable of on a personal level that will be featured in future EP’s. As I mentioned before, my next one contains a lot more elements than just chip and guitar. I also plan on doing a few remix EP’s, as well. I love to cover material as much as I love writing my own. It’s a lot of fun to take someone elses mind of music and turn it into your own little creation.
Kuma: Speaking of covers, should I take your love of chip and guitar as a hint at a possible Danimal Cannon cover? Huh? Hmmmm?
ST: Haha as much as I would love to do that, I don’t think I could ever be as satisfied with recreating something as awesome as he does. It’s funny you mention him actually, because I would honestly like to extend a shout out his way. Danimal Cannon has probably been one of my biggest inspirations in not only chiptune, but music in general. A lot of chiptune tends to run together for me, as I am not particularly a fan of dance; so when I happened to stumble upon him, I was blown away. He made me want to do what I do now: play guitar over chiptune and make it sound fucking bad ass. I still see him as a huge inspiration and look up to him very much. I’m a Danimal fanboy all the way. Consider him my chiptune Justin Beiber. In fact, I think my biggest goal for this ep would be to hear his personal feedback on it haha.
Kuma: Hopefully he gets around to reading this and is able to let you know. That being said, regardless of what comes of this album, I know we can expect great things from you. Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers in closing?
ST: First off, thank you! Thank you thank you thank you! If you ever decide to listen to even one minute to any of my songs, thank you! On that note, my new, self titled EP is out now! Name your price on Bandcamp and all that jazz. (EDIT: Scroll to the bottom of this interview to listen to it! =D ). This will also be followed by a livestream show I am having on 08.16.13 for my birthday!! It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun and I hope everyone tunes in for the party!
Kuma: I hope they do, too! Jason, Square Therapy, it was a pleasure getting to interview you, my friend! I hope we get to do this again sometime! Peace!
Thanks again for tuning in with us here on ChipWIN! Don’t forget to keep up with Square Therapy on your preferred method of social media, as well as listening to his tunes on either Bandcamp or Soundcloud! Tune in next time as I provide you guys with a very special post BRKFest interview with some very cool people you all know! Ciao!
Welcome back to the blog, fellow ChipWINners! As I’m sure you’re largely aware of at this point, we here at Chiptunes = WIN have taken the time to release another EP to hopefully sate your undying gluttony for music that is, quite frankly, awesome yet monstrous.
While our next colossal compilation will be here before you know it, I’d like to take the time to talk to you about this little amuse-bouche we’ve put together. Because it needs to be understood just what an epic undertaking this was.
You see, we here at ChipWIN pride ourselves in putting out some high quality music. We also take great delight in being part of a community that–along with other net labels, internet communities and artist collectives–has helped foster growth in our little corner of the world and has brought us all a little bit closer together. It is with this spirit of collectivism in mind that we are proud to have reached out to some of the most well known and promising artists in the VGM community and asked them to interpret some of our work as their own.
The results of this ambitious undertaking are absolutely astounding. Don’t just take my word for it though: take the time to listen to the fruits of our labor as I reflect upon why these artists live up to their titles.
Track #1: Tommy Did The Walkin’ by The World is Square feat. Sam Mulligan & Ryn
The first song on our EP was originally done by The J. Arthur Keenes Band (feat. Crayona and the Colorettes) and has quickly become one of the most popular and beloved songs released by ChipWIN thus far. Between the catchy lyrics, funky blips, classic west coast guitar tone, and vocals that sound like a they’re coming from a car radio, the song invokes memories of 60’s surfer and jukebox rock that would make even fans of the Slime Girls giggle with glee. It’s really no wonder this song caught on like it did. It’s one of the biggest departures from traditional chiptune we have ever been presented, and it’s these qualities that prompted a few very special people to do a cover of this song for us when asked to step up and help out with this compo.
Enter The World is Square: a video game cover band that’s made a name for themselves by specializing in acoustic and folk instrumentation of classic video game soundtracks by SquareEnix. Nick, Josh, Lauren, Dave and Joe make up this motley quintet of multi-instrumentalists from Massachusetts who have taken their love of the games this incredible company has produced and turned it into a successful, well recognized act in the VGM community, and in a relatively short amount of time at that!
Since the release of their premiere album in 2012, No Phoenix Down Can Save You Now, the band has gone on to play numerous shows, including notable events like MAGFest 11 and PAX East 2013. It’s been during their shows that the band came to make friends with a couple special people who would lend their talents to this cover: namely Sam Mulligan and our very own Chip Mama, Erin “Ryn” McQuisten!
Chip Mama makes everything better! waitaminute…
The combination of this amazing band’s instrumentals, Sam Mulligan’s pure awesomeness (the guy plays 6 instruments, sings, plays in multiple bands and DJs his own radio show: Nerd Rock Radio) and Ryn’s surprisingly smooth vocals (the result of years of competitive ensemble and church choir singing) culminates into an interpretation that not only embodies the catchiness of the original, but bottles the combined enthusiasm these people have for this song as well. The incredible energy everyone brings to the table helps turns this funky jukebox tune into classic TWIS goodness with vocals (a first for the Squares). The song comes across as a combination of drum circle hippydom and an almost bardic retelling of the epic tall tale of Tommy, whom you really shouldn’t mess with lest you end up a chalk outline at the scene of his crimes. It’s practically a tease to adventurers passing through his town who happen to hear this jaunty crew, warning them of the ultimate tough guy, and that they best just pass through if they know what’s good for them; but if they don’t, at least they can’t say no one warned them. Warned them about Tommy.
Tommy: a man who, in his later years, would legally change his name to Samuel Gerard and redeem himself by hunting fugitives such as Han Solo and Simon Phoenix.
If this song tickles your fancy, you should definitely check out TWIS’ debut LP, as well as work by Sam Mulligan such as Big Hand Band Van Man, and NickelPunk’s All I Could Do: a heart breaking, powerful and deeply personal EP which features a track with Ryn called “The Longest Two Days”.
Track #2: The Lunar Whale by Tim Yarbrough
Speaking of tall tales, no one song strikes as a tall tale, or better yet, a myth, than The Lunar Whale. Originally composed by Danimal Cannon, a man who really needs no other introduction, because, c’mon, he’s Danimal Cannon! The Lunar Whale isn’t so much a song as it is an invocation of this intense being of myth that simultaneously strikes awe and fear into those who bare witness to its glory.
Wind Fish, Lunar Whale, poTAYto, poTAHto.
With it’s deep, punching bass line, pulsing tri-waves, and intense, syncopated melody that continually builds against some incredibly slick drum rolls, The Lunar Whale is like listening to a wizard summon forth an unbridled force of nature & attempt to control it, only to be dumbstruck by the majesty and sheer power of the creature he’s called forth in his failing struggle to become its master.
So what do you do with a piece of music like that? How does one take a song that’s essentially an invoking spell and turn into something of their own? Well, in Tim Yarbrough’s case, the answer was simple: take it, strip it down to its most basic components, and focus on the melody underneath the complexity that is The Lunar Whale. And what better way to do that than with Mr. Yarbrough’s weapon of choice: the acoustic guitar.
Sexy, beautiful acoustic guitar.
Having played the guitar since he was 14, Tim has since gone on to become one of the most recognized figures in the VGM scene. A member of multiple bands, including The Altered Beasts, Space Camp, Another Place in Time, and–most notably– The OneUps, Tim has made music his life, as he not only performs in several bands and at several venues, including MAGFest and PAX, but teaches guitar as well. This intense skill and passion shine through in his interpretation of Danimal Cannon’s song, as Tim’s playing goes back and forth between styles such as classical guitar, western, and even Spanish guitar, sounding at times like a flamenco guitarist’s homage to the great beast in the sky. The result is a song that produces the opposite effect of the original, in that it comes across as a song meant to lull the cosmic behemoth to sleep beneath the calm waves of a silent sapphire sea.
Tim’s work is nothing short of amazing, and while I highly recommend checking out all of his acts, if his acoustically driven sound is one you’re especially drawn to do not miss The Altered Beasts. Their recent LP, Transfiguration, features a delightful selection of jazz guitar duo VGM arrangements.
Delight like a… a werewolf baby…
Track #3: The Hearts of Everyone by Jameson Sutton
The Hearts of Everyone is a dream like farewell of a synth lullaby composed and performed by Dmitry Zhemkov, the musician better known as C-jeff: founder of the Ubiktune record label. A keyboardist and composer by trade, C-jeff has helped turn his label from a site that specializes in micromusic to one that encompasses numerous genres within the VGM & chipscene. Furthermore… I just gotta gush a little bit. I don’t know what it is about Russians and their synths (seriously, Dmitry is among some good company with the likes of Alexander Zolotov and Mikhail Ivanov), but when you put the artificial ebony and ivory at their fingertips, magic just comes spewing forth like a water miracle from a Judeo-Christian Prophet.
If Russia could turn their synth music into miracles, they’d all be highlander jedis.
So how does one take the musical equivalent of a water miracle and turn it into something even more special? Simple: take that water and–with the help of some classical piano and string orchestration–turn it into wine. In the case of this cover, our miracle man is Jameson Sutton: a deftly skilled pianist, composer and singer who goes by the name Shadix. A man who would turn the simple, clean melody C-jeff constructed and convert it to a fine, cool climate merlot. One with a deep, barely translucent plum color which is sipped slowly while lounging pensively in a throne, pondering what a man is.
Dracula has a theory revolving around secrets. It’s based on a song by Sam Mulligan.
In all seriousness, what’s perhaps most touching about this piece of music is how well it embodies what Mr. Sutton seeks to create as a musician. Jameson, having been inspired by the Xenogears soundtrack as a child (a gift his father sent him from overseas while on tour of duty in Korea), decided that he wanted to make music that moved people the way he was by the game’s score. Taking that into account, it becomes abundantly clear as to why he chose “The Hearts of Everyone”. Making a cover that’s an arranged version of an already beautiful song not only allows Jameson to pay tribute to C-jeff’s incredible musical ability, it also allows him to pay homage to composers such as Yasunori Mitsuda: the man who created the soundtrack that inspired him (and many others, including TWIS) to make music in the first place. In doing so, Shadix creates an experience that resonates as deeply as any piece of music that Yasunori has produced. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day you find Jameson’s name on the cover of an album featuring arrangements of the next big RPG.
If Mr. Sutton’s music has had the desired effect, I highly recommend you check out his Soundcloud for more of the same.
If you aren’t moved by Jameson’s music, you’re obviously a shoggoth.
Track #4: Papercut You Into Little Pieces by VikingGuitar feat. Cory Johnson
That being said, even if you are a heartless, unloving, Lovecraftian monstrosity (bastard), or you’re just a badass who prefers his music have a little more ooomph to it, we do have something may be right up your alley. See, there’s this song called Papercut You Into Little Pieces. It was made by a chiptune duo named Marshall Art–which is comprised of Jeffrey Roberts aka jmr from Canada and Mikhail Ivanov aka Streifig from Russia.
Taking their name from an inside joke that refers to something having to do with a supposedly racist drawing of Eddy from Chromelodeon as a wild west sheriff, the duo’s combined 21+ years of musical experience has made slow progress putting out music together, due to both time and distance constraints on both their behalves. However, when the two do find the time to produce music together, the result is awesome. “Papercut You Into Little Pieces” resonates with the excitement of exploitation film tropes such as the classic Mexican Standoff, as well as Mikhail’s “intention of turning it [jmr’s original song that became Papercut] into a Pink Floyd jam from the very beginning”. The result is a song that sounds a lot like something you’d hear in a film by Quintin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez or Quintin Dupieux, such as Rubber: a movie that makes fun of and indulges in said tropes as a tire gains sentience and psychic powers, which it then uses to kill people.
You thought I was making that up, didn’t you?
In short: it’s an awesome song. So awesome, in fact, that when Erik Peabody chose to cover the song, he knew he couldn’t do it alone. So he summoned the help of another awesome musician by the name of Cory Johnson to help him do this cover justice. Now you have to understand something, Erik Peabody isn’t just anybody. He’s the man known as VikingGuitar: a musician who’s made a name for himself doing incredible metal covers of some of video gaming’s greatest music, including Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Megaman X2, and Cave Story. He’s also the founder of the Viking Guitar University, an entity which allows Erik to give back to the community that made him famous in the VGM scene by teaching people through video lessons how to play guitar and record from the comfort of their own home. So when Erik decides he can’t do it alone, he really can’t do it alone.
Enter Cory Johnson, a man who’s made only…one album? Yeah, that’s right: Cory’s only made one album, but that album is the result of years of music and a degree in audio engineering that came together to make one of the coolest interpretations of classic Zelda music to have ever been made. An album so cool, in fact, that not only is he going to another post rock album covering other Zelda songs, but he’s also working on an Earthbound postrock album, as well.
So what happens when you combine these two titans in a musical collaboration? The answer is a cover that sounds like an audio summer blockbuster to the original’s exploitation film origins. The difference is like comparing the first Terminator film to the second: the first may have established an awesome story, but the second took it over the top and just makes you go “Whoa!”, like watching a badass walk away from an explosion. I really don’t think I need to say anything more because seriously: WHOA.
Even children look awesome walking away from explosions
Track #5: Bahamoot by Stemage feat. Travis Morgan
We all know walking away from explosions can’t be the only badass thing a hero in a summer block buster does. That hero’s gotta fight. They gotta grit their teeth, give a dirty look, and when someone or something comes along that actually can knock them on their ass, they gotta ball their hands into fists and beat the shit out of the monster that thought picking a fight with the hero was a good idea.
Just Like this.
That’s exactly what happens when we’re talking about a song like Bahamoot by Stern Fucking Zeit: a chip metal duo out of Germany who kick as much ass as Blade does in a vampire nightclub. Having made a name for themselves in their home country and abroad by performing at over 70 live venues, these guys make music that combines the best aspects of multiple genres to craft a sound that’s as unique and refreshing as listening to Abducted By Shark’s Ronin. As such, it’s only fitting that some of the most amazing people in VGM get the opportunity to cover a song of this magnitude.
Grant Henry. Travis Morgan. Two of the most well renowned artists in the VGM scene and some of the most respected names in metal as well. Grant Henry is the artist most well known as Stemage, the multi-instrumentalist who founded the VGM beast that is Metroid Metal. The band features some of the best musicians in VGM/chiptune, including Danimal Cannon, and have become so legendary that they’ve become a regular feature of several gaming related festivals over the past 5 years, including PAX East, Nerdapalooza and and the last five MAGFests.
The Last. Five. MAGFests.
Not to be outdone, the partner in crime he chose to work with, Travis Morgan, is also a beast of a multi instrumentalist, as well as a singer, with 10+ years experience under his belt. If that’s not impressive enough to blow your skirt up (you jaded mothafu–), Travis has also had the profound distinction of having performed in over 14 countries world wide, and with multiple bands, including Atheist!
Yeah. Zombofriggin’ Atheist!
The by product of this collaboration is a song that manages to stay very faithful to the original but still kick ass in its own way. If the original Bahamoot by SFZ was about watching the tireless hero fight his one true nemesis, the metal cover Stemage and Travis whip out is the equivalent of watching said hero look out on the horizon after that battle, only to realize that his next fisticuffs session isn’t so much a battle as it is a one man war against a horde of the undead. A war he’s going to fight with his bear hands, at that.
And you thought that “bear hands” was a typo.
Track #6: Midnight Snowflake by Cory Johnson
Regardless of how you chose to fight the zombies, whether it be with bear hands or bare hands, you’ll find that somehow you’ve survived, and it’s suddenly…Christmas? Yeah, that last battle lasted so long, it’s time to forgive and forget all the bad things that have happened to you and find peace within yourself as we approach what is both the end of this ambitious album as well as the year, apparently.
Yippee ki yay, mother fucker, and a happy new year.
And what would Christmas be without our very own Vince Kaichan: a young man who’s become well known for being disproportionately talented for his age. Having been classically trained in piano and violin for 11 years, Kaichan took to composing his own music about 4 years ago, and has since gone from making ambient trance to chiptune and performing before a worldwide audience through Glenntai‘s monthly web concert series, Clipstream. So when a teen of this immaculate talent and skill makes a Christmas song so lovely that it transcends that holiday season, what is one to do to make it their own?
Well, sometimes when someone covers or remixes a song, they slow it down slightly, extend it, and turn what is a meditative moment into a journey. One that allows you to breathe, take everything in, and even enjoy the small, beautiful things all around you. Who better to do this than Cory Johnson.
Cory’s ready for the holiday season. are you?
Wait, wasn’t he on the list before? Didn’t he do that thing with that guy who does the badass covers of the Cave Story stuff? Yep. Cory made a comeback on this album and in a big way. Remember when I said that, despite having only released one album, that he was an amazing musician? You really couldn’t tell just how skilled he was while he was working with VikingGuitar, could you? No, it’s okay. I don’t blame you: that was primarily Erik Peabody’s song so it had his signature sound. But now it’s Cory’s time to shine, and let me tell you: if Kaichan’s original composition makes you stop by the woods on a snowy evening, Cory cranks up the existential factor and turns it into a fork in the road as you decide if you should walk the road not taken. Through this piece’s gradual build up, Cory proves that road is worth taking, because you’ll be amazed at where you end up. As amazed as reading Robert Frost while looking at photographs by Ansel Adams.
As you walk off on that seldom beaten path, this EP comes to an end, and you may be wondering whats next. Well, what does come next? Before you continue on your journey, I’d like to take to a step back and say something. The release of this EP marks a very special moment for us here at Chiptunes = WIN. Approximately one year ago, a young man named Brandon L Hood fell so deeply in love with chiptune that he too decided to walk the road not taken by starting not only what would become a netlabel, but one of the fastest growing and supportive communities in the chiptune & VGM scene.
Over the course of the past year, we’ve released four albums, with a total of 94 original songs having been released through our label. We’ve also been involved with several festivals, been featured on numerous internet radio shows, and have grown to amass 875+ members in our Facebook Group, 1150+ likes on our Facebook Community page, & 760+ followers on Twitter. We’ve been sponsors to numerous album releases, had some of the most in depth and also derpiest conversations in the chiptune community at large, and have become a respected name in entertainment.
All of it is thanks to you. You have made ChipWIN what it is today. You’re the reason we blog, promote, and travel as far and as often as we do to not only enrich chiptune and VGM as genres, but as communities and forms of artistic expression as well. To say thank you for reading our articles, listening to our albums, and generally supporting us Chiptunes = WIN is an understatement, but it is the only right thing to do. Brandon may have taken the first steps bravely on his own, but it’s because of you guys: the fans, illustrators, musicians, promoters, bloggers, gamers, visualists and DJs, that we even exist, let alone thrive, and have even become an extended family for one another.; a family I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of.
Since having joined this community, I’ve been witness to incredible acts of artistry, creativity, hilarity, thoughtfulness, charity, humanity and humility. I’ve seen people who have been on the verge of homelessness get help in the form of album purchases and donations through the page. I’ve seen younger fans get advice from their older chipbros and sistas on how to deal with bullies, liars, and the struggles that come with growing up. Most importantly, I’ve seen people come together and share their ideas, creativity and passion for what we do and what we love in ways others can only dream of.
In short: you put the “WIN” in Chiptunes = WIN. To that, we say thank you, and ask you to stay on this journey with us. There are great things in store for Chiptunes = WIN. We’d like to continue to be a part of your lives, as well as have you as a part of ours, as we make those great things a reality.
Thank again for reading and listening.
Kuma, Chiptunes = WIN
Amazing album artwork, as always, by Nate Horsfall.
Straight from the mouth of MAGFest’s very own Nick the Newbie:
“What in the ever loving shit is “Jamspace”? Jamspace is music all day every day during pax. We’ve got chiptunes, live video game cover bands, DJs, and even open jam time with provided instruments. We’ve got guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard for playing, or you can even bring your own instruments! Follow @MAGFest on twitter for updates of what’s going on all weekend.”
Boston8Bit is once again bringing a KILLER chiptune lineup to the PAX East Jamspace. In case you can’t read the SUPER SEKSAY flyer just to the left there, here’s the full Friday 3/22 & Saturday 3/23 11:30am – 2:30pm EST lineup!
Seriously y’all, if you don’t get enough VGM/chip jammage in & around PAX East this year (including the AWESOME PAX East main stage lineup HERE) IT’S NOBODY’S FAULT BUT YOUR OWN.
And if you can’t come, don’t be a sad panda about it! Just tune into geekbeatradio to catch the livestream of the FULL SCHEDULED JAMSPACE LINEUP (chip & VGM shows)& as much of the CHIPstage as they can grab! There’ll be *SOMETHING* PAX East broadcasting on the UR Fest channel throughout the whole party. GOOD TIMES.
I mean, srsly gaiz, THIS IS AN EPIC F*CKTON OF STUFF. We’re all probably going to survive PAXE 2013 this year, but JUST BARELY. 8) In other words…