Welcome back, ChipWINners! It’s time for another interview facilitated by yours truly! I’m especially excited to be sharing this one with you guys because, not only is it with a very cool group of dudes (i.e: interview with three artists at once! BOOYAH), it involves people from a very small, lesser known pocket of the chiptune scene based out in Cincinnati, Ohio! And one totes worthy of the extra hype! (Hype? At ChipWIN? Who would’ve thunk it?!?). So without further ado, here’s my interview with Narayan, Jon, and Michael, the bombastic trio known as SSD Engage!
Kuma: Let’s get started, shall we? How’d you guys first meet? What brought you three together?
Narayan (SPRY): WELL [that’s a] long story that starts in, of all places, high school.
Jon and i were in a band in high school called Bluepoint. He was the drummer and I was the singer/rhythm guitar player. We had a good time
Jon (Disabletron): And Na had the foresight to bring Michael and I together to jam!
SPRY: Michael went to the same high school as me, and Jon [lived] in the neighboring town.
Michael (sp00ked): I met Narayan through mutual friends. We went to the same high school, but a few years apart.
Disabletron: And we had a classic 120 bpm jam session in the studio. The rest is history.
sp00ked: Pretty much.
SPRY: About a year ago is when we first got together as SSD Engage.
sp00ked: Its been a year? Oh yeah!
SPRY: Yup. BRKFest was our debut performance.
Kuma: Yeah that sounds about right. Your first release as SSD came out in july last year.
SPRY: It was kind of a surprise.
Kuma: How so?
sp00ked: Yeah it wasn’t started with the whole idea being a group at first.
SPRY: sp00ked and SPRY had both been booked and I asked Curtis (Solarbear) to put us back to back so we could do a bit of colab and throw our drummer in there.
SPRY: [To] Really shake the place.
sp00ked: Just another drum fill.
SPRY: And then we decided to keep jamming afterward, and stuck together this long somehow.
Disabletron: Five albums later.
Kuma: Well you guys have been friends for what seem like years, now, so I can’t imagine you guys not being together this long as a group.
SPRY: We released our first album, Peakout, right around BRKfest. I think we got a few more albums in us, maybe.
Disabletron: We’ll see.
Kuma: I’m sure you do. You guys seem to be pretty steady in your efforts, dropping an album every season so far.
SPRY: We said we’d set SSD aside for a while after our last album and then somehow we ended up with a new one a couple months later.
Kuma: Would you say the pull to be together was…titillating?
sp00ked: Yeah, its kinda the pace you go. We are all always making music so it makes sense to keep on making more titillating ideas.
Disabletron: We always need more tracks.
sp00ked: (shares this photo on Facebook)
sp00ked: Haha forgive me. Picard was calling me.
Kuma: I totally will. Now where were we?
SPRY: I’ll be making music one way or another, and I know these guys want to keep making music. We feed off each others drives and learn new things in the process. We each have our areas of expertise, in a way.
sp00ked: Yeah we do a lot experiments on own and bring it back to each other. Makes our sound evolve.
SPRY: Jon’s got dat beat. Still our drummer, more solid than ever!
Kuma: I can tell, and I’m glad you brought that up, as I took the time to go through your catalogs of music individually and as a trio prior to this interview, and I have to say, you all have some rather unique styles going on and some really cool stuff going for each of you.
Would you guys care to talk about your individual approaches to your music?
SPRY: Michael, wanna take that one first?
sp00ked: Sure. For myself, I approach writing and performing music with my emotions. Its something I learned when was young. I notice when I put my feeling into a piece it will always get my point across. I try to make the listener not necessarily feel my feelings but their own. I try to make my music an experience rather than a tune to hum along with. I was a listener. I’m generally a reserved person. Music is where i let my feelings out.
Kuma: Nice. I can totally respect that. It definitely shows in your music, especially your solo work, even going back to early work like gangbang‘s “Miss me, don’t dismiss me”. Although I gotta say, even with what you said in mind, you retain your danciness in your music, and that’s cool.
sp00ked: Haha! Yeah, thanks! I always try to make it a funky time.
Kuma: What about you, Jon? How do you approach your music?
Disabletron: I’ve always had this thing for hip hop beats since I was a student of acoustic drums. It took a few years for me to figure out how to emulate those beats. By switching over to the drum machine, I finally figured out the west coast style approach was for me
and learning how to write these beats around my supporting cast has been the true challenge.
Disabletron: You know it, Michael. ♥
SPRY: I let these guys do most of the feeling around here. LOL.
sp00ked: Oh, c’mon! You got feels, too!
Disabletron: Feeling is fun!
SPRY: As for me, I work a lot with math and rhythm in my composition to reflect the often chaotic but structured nature of my thoughts/feelings. I’ll go on binges of writing 3-4 songs in a few days and then a few weeks on other projects, mixing, mastering, artwork, networking etc. I find strange harmony in chaotic things so my music sometimes feels overwhelming, but that’s part of the expression for me. I am sometimes overwhelmed by music so I like to be able to pass that on to whoever can handle it. I tend to do everything myself when I do a project and see it through from conception to publication. I have been involved in music in many ways and I enjoy being able to piece all the parts together myself and get better at each of the steps of the process independently and together. Sometimes I write music just to see if its possible, not really because it sounds good, but that’s why I have these two around: to keep it palatable.
Kuma: That hip hop influence definitely shows in your music, Jon. Even at the start of your EP, Roadblock opens up with this subdued bass line and steady high hat reminiscent of early west coast hip hop. It’s pretty cool that you got to carry that over into your work, especially after years of trying to emulate it and figure out how to make it your own.
As per you, Narayan, I’m glad you addressed that chaos that’s in your music, as you seem to be, from what I’ve heard of all three of you, the most experimental with your sounds.
You’ve taken some big risks and by doing things with Invisible H and have made interesting concept albums like Natural Tendencies, but I feel you found your voice with Heptagrammatron.
Disabletron: Narayan is a true technician. That’s why we enjoy his company.
sp00ked: The Technician.
SPRY: Its funny you say that because Heptagrammaton was the first real chip album I did on my own. I have yet to really make my sequel to it because it was so massive. That album was basically the first year of me making chip music and since then I’ve only done a few EPs. I am sitting on about 50 unreleased solo songs, though. I just keep forgetting to produce them!
I’ve [also] got a trash album in the works with datathrash that should be about experimental as I go, as well as a few dozen other stragglers. I’ll get to them eventually, but I just keep writing new stuff instead.
sp00ked: Yeah, Narayan does go off in periods of mass songwriting.
Kuma: Damn, 50 solo songs and a datathrash project? That’s quite a bit! Do you guys have anything similar up your sleeves? Jon? Michael?
sp00ked: I have about 15-16 songs for a LP I should be releasing it next month. Its going to feature nanoloop songs 1xlsdj and 2xlsdj songs. I’m calling it called frankincense. It has songs these guys havent even heard yet. Muwahaha!
Disabletron: I’ve got a few fresh tracks for my upcoming solo Disabletron album, but 50?! No way! I’ve been focusing on getting my gear situation str8.
Kuma: Nice! How soon can we expect to hear a new Disabletron? I’m a sucker for things made with MIDI controllers and synths.
sp00ked: MIDI MIDI MIDI MIDI freedom!
Disabletron: MIDI production center!
sp00ked: MIDI bathing center!
Disabletron: Sometime this summer as far as my album goes.
sp00ked: Yeah, Im going to work on some tracks for that dawg.
Kuma: MIDI bathing center? Is that like Guitar Center for that lonely guy who clearly has no friends in that Guitar Center commercial? The one who spends his lunch breaks playing at the store every day?
SPRY: We’ll be donating a couple melody and bass lines for that one. Its a digital bathtub that you can play naked and make colors and music.
sp00ked: Dude, I know guys like that. They jam at the guitar center. [It’s] annoying.
Kuma: Jam at the guitar center every day?
SPRY: Actually, it was Sam Ash yea?
Disabletron: I jam at rogue!
Kuma: I dunno what rogue is but it sounds respectable! Sam Ash, though…well…at least its not like those guys that used to jam on the keyboards at The Wiz.
sp00ked: I just want a Game Boy center.
Kuma: That’s called a garage sale!
sp00ked: Pretty much.
SPRY: We’ve actually bought most of the thrift stores and hobby shops out of Game Boys. They are becoming more scarce around Cincy.
Kuma: Sounds like you need to haggle some from Nikola. He sells grayboys for 10 bucks a pop.
SPRY: Naaa ive got a stock pile. I’m good for a minute haha! That’s solid, though
sp00ked: I need more! I have every color besides blue.
Kuma: I only have clear and black, but I make my music using piggy tracker on my PSP primarily, so its not like I use my game boys often.
sp00ked: Piggy is awesome. I’ve been wanting to get into that more.
SPRY: I’ve been stocking Game Boys for a while, but I still use the first Game Boy I modded and I haven’t opened it in 2 and a half years.
sp00ked: That’s true. That SPRYboy is solid. It’s funny: when we started this group, I’d been making lsdj music for only 4 months at that point.
Kuma: I’d love to see it (SPRYboy) sometime. That being said, lets get back on track, guys. You’ve all mentioned future solo projects coming out, but whats next for you as a group? When is the new album coming out? And what plans do you have to promote it? Concerts? Radio shows? Anything of that nature?
sp00ked: oooooo0ooo0 new stuffff!
SPRY: We’ve got a lot planned and its pretty much all ready to release! We’re releasing a double album, “Stereo” with 9 new tracks and 6-7 old tracks remade on july 4th. We’ve got a listening party on the 3rd right before it!
SPRY: We’ve been trying to refine our sound and production techniques with this last round and really come into a new version of ourselves. We’ve learned so much along the way that it seems almost a shame to let it go underutilized. The listening party is gonna be on 8bitx with Andrew Struve hosting! We are playing BRK, we just got off the Chip Charged show in detroit and we’re looking to play ____ (~he tells me a secret that I won’t share with you here~) which i didnt tell you about. Then beyond there, we’re looking to book outside of Cincy, but havent made any solid plans yet
sp00ked: New Yorkkkk!
SPRY: We usually just get distracted by making music in the studio and forget to play shows, but we’re workin’ on getting out there, for sure!
Kuma: Did you just say New York?
Disabletron: We need more shows!
sp00ked: I’m trying to plan a show for us there.
Kuma: Kuma will be able to see you!?!?!
SPRY: i hope so!
sp00ked: I’ve been talking to Ricardo. We might play sometime in fall, I think.
SPRY: And we played 8static in January thanks to emfed!
Kuma: That’s right you did! You played 8static and I didn’t get to go cause I worked that weekend! tearsofthesun.mpg!!!
Disabletron: It was a great show!
sp00ked: It was a hell of time! Philly knows how to party!
Kuma: Don’t rub it in my face, damn it!
SPRY: It was a hell of a time. Killer sound after we blew it out on the sound check! Hahahahaha!
Kuma: But yes: Philly does know how to party.
SPRY: I blame Jon’s bass drums.
Disabletron: It set the benchmark for our new style.
sp00ked: Yeah, it did. We made Midwest Coast like right after that.
Disabletron: Hahaha wait for the MPC-2000 next 8static! We are gonna bring it!
sp00ked: Oh yeah! Four MPCs on the the floor!
Kuma: Well if Philly and blown out speakers helped set the bar, I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got next. That being said, gentlemen, I’d love to thank you for your time and flexibility! Do you guys have anything you’d like to say in closing to your fans and anyone who happens to read this? Let’s start with you, Jon.
Disabletron: I just want to thank you first, Kuma, for giving us this opportunity! I’m looking forward to catching our true fans at BRKFEST!!!! SHOUT OUT TO FUMU BATTLESHIP AND THE CURTIS B. WARE!
Kuma: Woo Fumu! He’s my bro! I’ll be sure to tag him in this article so he knows you sent him a special shout out! What about you, Michael?
sp00ked: Thanks for all the support! I’ve never been in a scene so loving and caring like this. I think as for our sound, I feel like we are just beginning. I see a lot expanding for our next albums. Thanks for this, Adam. It was nice to reflect on what we have done. See you all at BRKFest!!!
Kuma: And last but not least, you, Narayan. Give us your parting shot!
SPRY: There’s so much I could say, but I’ll just hit a couple things quickly. We didn’t really go much into us musically as a band but that might be a good thing, lol! I’ll leave it at Jon and Michael have great intuitive sense for music and I like to use their great raw material and mold it together with my own stuff with brutal logic to make a monster that feels and thinks.
Our production has been evolving along with each of our albums toward something new and amazing, but as yet undefined. We keep looking for new and amazing sounds and techniques and as long as we can keep doing it, I’ll be pushing forward. For all the people out there who might listen to our music, I hope that this has been a brief window into our insanity!
Thank you, Kuma, for being awesome and ChipWIN for also being awesome and I want to thank all the great people and communities that are part of this spiderweb of scene(s)! I keep meeting new people and broadening my horizons through them and I hope to keep on this crazy journey for a while! See you all sometime soon, I hope!
Kuma: Fantastic. Again: thank you guys, and have a good night. I look forward to seeing you guys and possibly interviewing you all again.
That’s it for this edition of Raw Cuts! Tune in next time for yet another fantastic interview! In the meantime, make sure to follow/like/etc. SSD Engage to keep up with their latest releases, both solo and as a group! PEACE!
Edit: ***BOOM*** Teh new album!!