The new year is in full swing – MAGFest has come and gone, Chipwrecked is preparing for another great lineup, and we’ve already got a few fun 2019chiptunereleases! But such an active community also makes for a lot you may have missed, and I’d like to give the last year a final sendoff before moving onto this one. I’m proud of the work I did in 2018, but there was a lot I didn’t get to talk about as well. This scene is bursting with music to enjoy and appreciate, so while I can only cover a small portion of it, I’d like to try and spotlight some tunes that deserve the attention.
Naturally, I will be doing this in the silliest way possible.
Hey there, ChipWINners! Glad to have you back with us! This week I sat down with an incredibly talented chipartist in the scene for my interview. He’s known for being a multi-instrumentalist who makes some incredible chipfunk, and has received rave reviews for his recent EP “Disco.txt” released via the netlabel cheapbeats.net. Without further ado, I present to you my interview with Michael Allen aka Roboctopus!
Kuma: So, first question: your music is definitely very diverse in terms of style from song to song. There’s definitely aspects of it that stick out as being certifiably Roboctopus, but it does leave me curious as to your musical background. Tell me, how’d you get into chip and do you have any experience with music or composition prior to becoming a part of the scene?
Roboctopus: I have a pretty diverse musical background and play a bunch of different instruments. Mostly string instruments, guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, etc., but I can get by on piano/synths and do a bit of mediocre drumming. I have an okay understanding of music theory I guess. Took a class, read a book, haha.
As far as getting into chip, I probably got into it kind of the opposite way most people do.
Kuma: Oh? How might that be?
Roboctopus: I was into the indie/lo-fi/diy music scene in college and I was living in Texas. I heard this band called Tree Wave that had some really unique sounds. That was Paul Slocum’s band (of cynthcart fame). When I read that Tree Wave was using C64 for a lot of their synth sounds, I was amazed.
Kuma: Oh! So you were in the part of the lofi scene that lofi people consider real lofi but when they look at chip, half of them are like cool, and the other half are like “ewwww that’s not real”! okay, I gotcha!
Roboctopus: Haha, yeah! I was a big analog synth fan, but the commodore sounds were really special, so I bought a commodore and it broke!
And then I read that other people were using Game Boys, and discovered Bit Shifter, etc. This was 2006. So I ditched my junky commodore and bought LSDJ and a flash cart
Kuma: Oh wow! So you’ve been at this for a while! Wait…but…does that make you older than me?
Roboctopus: If you’re 32 or under it does! I was in grad school in 2006
Kuma: You’re 33? I…that’s unpossible, sir!
Roboctopus: Haha! I’m afraid it’s true. *holds up 30-something card*
Kuma: My god, you’re another one of those deceptively young look people like Hoodie!
Roboctopus: Bwahahahaha! Yeah, Hoodie deffo looks younger than he is!
I’m 33. #SUCKITKUMA 8)
Kuma: Speaking of whom, how’d you meet Hoodie, anyway? I’ve got this gut feeling you’ve known that derp for a while. How’d he wrastle you up into doing a song for usanyway?
Roboctopus: I haven’t really known Hoodie for that long. I think the first contact I had with him was right after I released Victory Lapse. He contacted me about doing a track for the ChipWIN expansion pack. I guess that was about a year ago.
Kuma: Yeah it has been about a year. it’s crazy how time flies. That being said, going back a bit to what you were saying before about your way to chip via lofi. Now, you’re down south, were in Texas and now you’re Alabama now, if I’m not mistaken, yes? What’s the scene like out there for both chip and lofi? Have you found it receptive? Inclusive? Exclusive? What’s your experience been like performing and making music where you are?
Roboctopus: There is pretty much no scene where I am, haha. If I made alternative-leaning bluegrass or folk I would be gold.
Kuma: I’m sure you would be, but we can’t all be Intercept.
Roboctopus: I can’t even tell if there’s an electronic music scene here, really. One thing that’s tough about the south is that we’re all so spread out here. The only shows I’ve played have been in other states, so I can’t really comment on Northern Alabama’s chip scene. I’ve played in Nashville, and there was some interest there, though. And the Lexington guys are awesome!
Kuma: Can’t go wrong with solarderp and his crew! Will you be performing or attending BRKFest this year?
Roboctopus: Yes! I’ll be playing BRKfest this year! I’m really looking forward to that, because there are some amazing performers coming!
Kuma: Definitely! I know among others SSD Engage are gonna be there again, as well as shanebro, both of whom I interviewed previously, and both of whom released new albums this year to be played live at the show!
That being said, lets talk about your newest album, shall we? Disco.txt is pretty great, man. It’s really freaking incredible. How do you feel about it now that it’s out there? Is it everything you wanted it to be.
Roboctopus: I’m really happy with how it turned out. I started working on it over a year ago and planned to release a 5-track EP in October of 2012, but I kept starting new tracks instead of finishing them, and I got to this point where it was tough finishing the older tracks. So some of the tracks I finished last were the ones I started first, haha! But I’m glad I took the time to really work on them all and polish them and get them all to a high level of detail, or whatever you’d call it. I wanted to make a headphones album of chip music, I guess. But I’m happy with how it turned out
Kuma: Well having heard all your EPs and LPs recently in prep for this interview, I can honestly say it’s definitely aural candy. That being said, is there anything about it you would like to change in retrospect, or anything the experience in making it has taught you you’d do differently in the future?
Roboctopus: Honestly, while I’m happy with how it turned out, right now I’m thinking I’d be happier sticking with more focused, shorter releases like EPs. I like it when someone drops a super tight 20-minute EP and is done, so I think I’m still aspiring to that.
Not to say I with Disco.txt was 20 minutes long, I just think I prefer an EP kind of format.
Kuma: I can respect that. If I remember correctly, I think even 4mat mentioned he prefers making and releasing music like that, as well, so it’s definitely a method that does have its fans in the community. That being said, aside from the aforementioned performance at BRKFest, what’s next for you, Michael? Will we see another EP before the end of the year? More performances? Planned appearances at large scale events next year like MAGFest of PAXEast? What’s on your plate, m’man?
Roboctopus: The future is kind of fuzzy, honestly. As far as music, I’ve been verrrrrry slowly working on a pretty laid-back chip+live instrument EP that I’d really like to get back into. I’m also working on a collaboration or two, so I definitely would like to release en EP or something before the year’s out.
As far as shows, that’s really dodgy. I’ve been working with some people to start up a bi-monthly chip show in Nashville (which is just 2 hours away from me) so hopefully I’ll be playing that by summer’s end. I don’t have any other shows lined up in the near future. It’s pretty hard to get gigs when getting to them is a considerable monetary investment! (That being said…if anyone has a gig they want me to play, hit me up, haha.)
Kuma: Fair enough. Michael, it was definitely a pleasure taking the time to interview. You’re surprisingly charming and funny. I’m still taken aback by your deceptive appearance, as well. That being said, is there anything you’d like to say in closing to your fans and to the readers?
Roboctopus: I’d just like to say a big thanks to the chip scene in general. The chip scene is so friendly and receptive, and it’s amazing that you can live in Alabama and have people all over the world interested in music you made on Game Boys, so thanks to the chip scene and everyone who has listened to my music. I hope to get to meet more of you at BRKfest and any shows in the future. I think it’s a pretty exciting time to be a chipfan.
Kuma: It definitely is a wonderful time to be a chiptune fan, especially with artists like you in the scene. Michael, once again, thank you for the interview. It was a pleasure. You have a good night and I look forward to interviewing you again
Roboctopus: Likewise, this was fun. Have a great night!
Thanks for checking out this weeks interview. As always, don’t forget to check out Roboctopus’ links & latest album, all posted at the bottom of this article. Also, if you’re in the vicinity of or can get to Lexington, Kentucky August 2 – 4, do yourself a BIG favor and hit up BRKFest, where you can catch Michael doing his thing live alongside a slew of other amazing chipartists, including next weeks interviewee: Solarbear, the very founder of BRKFest! Peace!