Of the many unique bullet hell shooters available to players of this niche, arcade-style genre, none are more iconic than ZUN’s completely self-published, long-running Touhou series. Lovable characters, simple controls, and phenomenal boss fights are just a few things that make these games so popular among their thousands of players. However, almost more iconic than the characters themselves is the music. Over time, many tracks have made their rounds through the ears of countless listeners and have become beloved by many. Chiptuners such as Kommisar and HertzDevil have covered a large amount of Touhou music on LSDj and FamiTracker to great success. However, +tek takes these covers to a new realm by porting the music over to an FM synthesis chip and putting their own twist on it. So let’s see what all the fuss is about this phenomenal new release!
Let it be noted that these tracks all loop once; at about the halfway point of each song, you’ll notice that the song restarts smoothly. I suggest that the tracks be listened to in their entirety. During boss fights in the Touhou series, the music would continue looping until the very end of the stage. Keep that feeling and hold it close!
Reimu poses for ‘Highly Responsive to FM’s’ album art…how sweet!
The UK may have Superbyte, the Netherlands may have EINDBAAS, but here near the United States’ capital, we have a little thing called MAGFest, and we like to think it does alright. While many of you came out and attended MAGFest with us from all over the globe (attendance surpassed 17,000 people this year!), I know there are many of you who were not able to. And if I’m honest with you, even those of us who DID go couldn’t have gone to everything that there was to do there unless the Ministry of Magic had given out Time Turners to the lot of us. That’s where this post comes in – I’ve done my best to assemble all the links, videos and pictures of the most happening happenings to have happened. Those of you who remember my Post-PAX PAX Post should be familiar with how I’m going to format this: As this was the Music and Gaming Festival, we’re going to have a #Music and a #Gaming section as well as a #Closing Thoughts, tagged as such for easy navigation within the post.
Sup y’all? =) It’s President Hoodie here again with yet another edition of my Hoodie Highlights interview column! Today’s an extra special version (to me at least), as I’m interviewing both one of my favorite people and closest friends in this crazy amalgamate of different, yet related scenes. In all honesty, he’s pretty much the primary reason I’m involved in any/all of this delightful insanity(thank or/and curse him appropriately). Everyone welcome to the pages of The ChipWIN Blog, Mr. Grant Henry aka Stemage!
Grant “Beer Bottle Slide” Henry
Hoodie: HEYA GRANT! To kick things off, give me a quick rundown of what/how/why/where/when/who you are. And… GO!!
Stemage: WHAT: I’m Stemage – a yo-yo enthusiast that dabbles in music production, arranging, and songwriting.
HOW: Coffee and beer – one usually followed by the other.
WHY: I HAVE NO IDEA HELP ME.
WHERE: I live on the west coast, but my music lives mostly on the internet. So, EVERYWHERE.
WHO: I go by Grant Henry in real life. I want to be a chip musician when I grow up, but I only know how to play guitar and drums. That doesn’t help my cause. Or, I’m lazy and new instruments scare me.
Hoodie: hahahah Perfect.
And welp, guess that wraps things up! Great interview btw. See you next time!
Stemage: THANKS HOODIE! Always a pleasure!
That would actually be hilarious (to end the interview now). But not so informative
Hoodie: ….don’t give me good/bad ideas like that. :3
Stemage: Start by stating your name: John. Well thanks for stopping by! lol
Hoodie: Start a new interviewing fad. I LIKE IT. Makes my column a helluva lot quicker to prep too. (y)
Maybe next time, though. People might actually care to read what you have to say. ;)
Speaking of that, music, video games, Metroids, MAGFest, wut? How in the spaghetti-os did you get involved in all of these crazy worlds and/or become a wizard at music/audio engineering/beer?
Stemage: Well, you start arranging metal Metroid music on a Tascam 8-track.
Then all these conventions start happening, and I meet so many musicians that are better than me at everything. As a bonus, it turns out they are all nice people. Then you get inspired and push yourself. Then you start collaborating, and things will spin out of control.
Years later, I’m still writing, arranging, and offering my services (yo-yo if required) to people and their projects.
I’m still working on the whole “stop time” thing, so I can finish all the pet projects that are in my head.
Hoodie: Was about to say. You forgot something. ;)
Can I admit that none of what you said sounds crazy anymore? It all sounds absolutely, perfectly reasonable. haha Kinda, sorta everyone/everything within all of this is inspirational.
Stemage: The years and events are all sort of jumbled in my head, but here we are. Ya know?
Hoodie: Yeah, I do (I think?). o.O
Any particular highlights worth sharing/reminiscing here? And I realize this question is terribly unfair, because there’ve been a lot, lot, LOT of them at this point. haha
…seriously, I ask this thinking that it’s WAY more fair than a quick timeline request, but on second thought it may be even harder. Sorries. :3
Stemage: – Playing Metroid Metal with Chunkstyle at MAGFest for the first time (never thought that would happen)
– Writing a soundtrack for a video game (never thought that would happen)
– Feeling confident enough to arrange the entire TRON soundtrack by ear (never thought that would happen)
– Writing a song with Manami Matsumae, the composer of Mega Man (never thought that would happen)
– Mastering a chiptune album containing some of my favorite songwriters (never thought that would happen)
– Never thought that would happen (never thought that would happen)
Hoodie: I dunno. Never thought about it.
Metroid: “OMNOMNOM” Grant: “Wuh happun?”
Hoodie: Obviously, you’re still going strong & there’s more highlights to come.
New IRL location, but as busy as ever from what I hear. Even mastering chiptunes nowadays. WTF!?
Stemage: WTFN? (why the fuck not)
I LOVE CHIPTUNES. I’m not in a place to learn a new instrument, so mastering some makes me feel like a part of the scene. It’s in innest of the in crowds. Ya dig?
Hoodie: I DIG. And WTFN is a good a reason as any in my book!
Had a feeling the Solarbear gig would open doors for you there (& what a way to open it; HELLUVA ALBUM!!). Just made all the sense.
Stemage: Solarbear is my familiar.
He goes with me everywhere now.
He won’t leave.
But he’s charming.
Hoodie: And that makes even MORE sense.
But seriously, it does. Prog is basically, like, your essence, right?
You don’t have to answer that. I already know it’s true.
Stemage: I’ve never been to Prague, but I love their music yes.
Hoodie: See, I didn’t see that one coming. Mostly because I’ve always pronounced the place as “Prayguh”. I’m southern. It happens.
Stemage: Like the spaghetti sauce? YUM.
Hoodie: No, that’s “praygoe”. Typing things out phonetically is kinda tough.
Stemage: keighnda tuff
Hoodie: Keira Knightley?
Stemage: Yes she makes great Chiptunes.
Hoodie: And spaghetti sauce.
Wears the V.2 shirt so well. Almost as well as the TMNT bottoms
Is the yo-yo thing legit?
Because that shit is haaaaaaaaard. I tried learning tricks as a kid. Only ended up breaking things in the rooms I was practicing in. Bad times.
Stemage: I have a few go-tos, but yeah, I can yo-yo. Like an old man though, not the new kids. The latest generation of yo-ers are NUTS.
Hoodie: Yeah, they’re basically martial artists using yo-yos as their weapon of choice. I wouldn’t fuck with ’em. Nosirree.
Stemage: I admire them, but I do plan on killing them all.
Hoodie: You… should probably stick to music. Because they would eat you alive.
Speaking of music, what’s in the pipeline? Anything you can talk about? Or is it all classified “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you” kinda stuff?
Stemage: Everything I’m working on is classified CIA KGB shit, but I don’t have a problem being fired. I’ve actually been doing lots of contributions recently. I just recently moved into a new place, so the full studio is still being set up. But I’m playing guitar all over Keiji Yamagishi’s new album (Ninja Gaiden composer) as well as some guitar projects for Cartoon Network. I’ve also got some original music in the works as well as other collabs, oddities and arrangements. I’m also curating a new album – something I’ve always wanted to do! That is finally getting started.
I also just finished restoring a cocktail pinball machine from ’89, and I’ll be dammed if those late 80s pinball sound chips aren’t the best damn thing. They sound like variations of the FM chip. PINBALL HAS CHIPTUNES TOO YA KNOW.
I really need to quit playing The Crew and get my new website up. Dammit. I feel like “life” is a WIP at this point.
Hoodie: But life is a WIP, right? I mean, nobody really wants it to be finished, yanno? Or perfected. That’d be boring & stuff.
BOOM. DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL SHIT RIGHT OUTTA NOWHERE.
Stemage: BRANDON WHY YOU GOTTA GIVE ME A HEADACHE
Hoodie: Now you sound like Erin. :*(
…and now I’m in trouble. O.O
Nah. She never reads this stuff anyways. haha
(damn, I think I pulled this gag last time; I need to get new material.. :/ ).
Stemage: Would you excuse me for a moment? I have to go reach enlightenment.
Hoodie: REACH FOR IT.
Stemage: I also just bought an acoustic guitar, so maybe I’ll do a Hootie cover album. *spoilers*
Hoodie: No. Sixpence None the Richer. Obviously.
Stemage: HAHA! Three ‘C’ chords you better believe it. Who knew?
Hoodie: That’s all it takes to Kisssssss Meeeeeeeeeee~
I always really liked the harmonica in that song.
…that song had harmonica, right?
Stemage: I think you’re thinking of the Rosanne theme song. Talk about PROG!
Hoodie: Something relevant to the blog before we wrap this up (I guess that’s important, right?):
What did you think about working on the chipWINter Wonderland project? Was it fun to master? Are chiptunes fun for you to master, and/or something you can see yourself doing more of?
Stemage: It was SO much fun to master. There’s a wintery theme across all songs, but it’s a pretty wide collection of chip subgenres. Some of my favorite people are on this thing.
I love to contribute to the scene in any way possible.
Hoodie: Well, you did a stellar damn job, that’s for sure. Unsurprisingly, of course. You good-at-doing-things jerk, you.
Stemage: Thanks Pres Hoodie!
Hoodie: You’re welcome, Cowpie Henry.
Hoodie: So when’s that taking off anyways? I want my country music millions. And cheap lager sponsorship. I want the beer sponsorship mostly. That’s how I’ll let everyone back home know I made it. It’s how it works in the South.
Or you make it in Nascar.
Stemage: I bought an acoustic guitar didn’t I? Working on it.
Hoodie: Right. Good man.
Aside from imminent country music stardom, any parting thoughts before we wrap this chit chat up?
Stemage: I just can’t wait for everyone to hear the album. It’s definitely one of the strongest ChipWIN releases. I’m proud to be a small part of it – even though there isn’t a lick of country twang therein.
Hoodie: Happy to hear you say that, man. I feel the same way. It really turned out quite magical, even moreso than I expected (as usual haha). And I’m really happy that you were a part of that, even if there’s no yeehaw in it. Maybe next time.
Hit play on ‘Macro’ below and prepare to dance. Welcome to ‘Monochrome’ by tiasu.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is an eight track chip-dance album that knows itself inside and out, expressing high-powered, strikingly danceable beats with a confidence that demands the attention it deserves. Labyrinthine amalgamations of familiar chip sounds and welcoming dance rhythms work in tandem to ensnare your attention immediately, with the above track ‘Macro’ being a remarkable example of tiasu’s artistic execution of electronic music.
‘Monochrome’ is a solid chip-dance album of eight tightly cohesive tracks ordered to deliver a satisfying night on the dance floor, which this album provides in spades.
Savvy employment of familiar chip sounds fused together with welcoming dance beats blur the lines between traditional electronica and classic chiptune, allowing fans of each genre a dynamic album everyone can embrace, exposing listeners to the highlights of both music categories. Breakdowns within ‘Spectrum’, for example, delve into a dub-step vibe that benefits greatly from the particular chip sounds tiasu has chosen, creating a unique “lighter” dub-step riff that melds fantastically with the album’s established tone.
The final ‘Monochrome’ track ‘Focus’ takes the furthest departure from the album’s dancebeat themes with the integration of a grunge bass through line, experimenting with a dark and gripping electronica sound moulded around a melody more akin to the rest of the album.
With a presentation as strong as ‘Monochrome’, insight into tiasu’s creative process is invaluable. Fortunately, tiasu was kind enough to spend some time sharing his experience constructing ‘Monochrome’, and that interview continues below:
Pixel Recall: How close is Monochrome to your initial conception for the album in terms of composition, theme and tone?
tiasu: Monochrome developed very organically – I didn’t start out with any specific preconceived ideas of what I wanted the album to sound like, but after I debuted two tracks at a gig and saw the reaction they got, I knew I had a direction & sound I wanted to keep!
Pixel Recall: What’s your live set-up like? Do you have a favourite piece of hardware?
tiasu: My live setup is very minimal – I use a gameboy for one or two tracks, and the rest is all in Ableton, controlled with a launchpad and korg nanokontrol. Oh and there’s also a – quite frankly, ridiculous – bat onesie, which is critical to the whole setup!
Pixel Recall: It’s been less than a year since your release of “mission control”. What do you personally feel has been your largest growth piece artistically between last December’s “mission control”, and this year’s “Monochrome”?
tiasu: With every release (Monochrome is number 7!) I’m getting better at creating something more cohesive, for lack of a better word. Mission control is 9 cobbled together tracks, and the album’s track order is the same order that I wrote them. With Monochrome, there were a whole bunch of rejected tracks (some of which I’ve released elsewhere), that I didn’t include because they simply didn’t fit with the sound of the album. Technically, the mixing, mastering & overall production is getting better too – which is always nice, it can sometimes be hard to listen to the old tracks, the production value… Some of it is shocking!
Pixel Recall: Do you have a specific plan of attack when it comes to composing a new track, or do you find each track comes to you in its own way?
tiasu: Each track comes about very differently – sometimes you can sit there banging your head against the wall hoping to get some workable idea, other times you might start humming a tune and suddenly there’s a 5 minute track sitting there!
Pixel Recall: Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring artists looking to perform live electronic music like yourself?
tiasu: Tips and tricks? Honestly, just keep doing it – have fun, enjoy the process of writing it, enjoy performing it. One of the best things I’ve ever done has to be a challenge called ‘Weekly Beats’, writing a track every week for a year. Not every track is good, in fact the majority of mine are done in a very short space of time and complete rubbish, but that’s half of the fun!
Pixel Recall: Open mic: Any last thoughts, shout-outs, advice, or tour dates you’d like to make sure to share with your fans?
tiasu: I’ve gotta thank Derris ‘Nine-finger’ Kharlan, GZom, Biko, Loubanging & Sean ‘Birdball’ O’Dowd for putting up with me, Cody Hargreaves, Chris De Cinque, cTrix, aday, Pselodux & Claire Plunkett for being awesome, Belinda Haas for all the good times, the amazing SoundBytes/SquareSounds crew for putting on awesome shows (and being such rad people), and of course Chiptunes=WIN! I’m 100% sure I’ve forgotten about a million people I should thank, sorry!
I’m playing at the SquareSounds ExpansionPAX gig on the 2nd November at Forgotten Worlds in Melbourne, and I may or may not have a sneaky new track to play too…
‘Monochrome’ is cheerful, industrious, self-assured, and frankly music to groove to.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is available for download right now on Bandcamp, with pay-what-you-want pricing. ‘Monochrome is a must-listen, and if you can afford it, remember to support the artists you love so they can keep creating more of the music you love.
Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~
Howdy folks! You know the deal – we’re running down all the songs from the latest release (as if you hadn’t already downloaded it and put it on repeat for the last week), giving credit where credit is due to the amazing folks who dedicated their free time to make something fantastic. I must say, I truly appreciate all the people who freely give their time to this group – people who just made music for the love of making music and to keep the scene hyped up. It’s refreshing, lemme tell you. So let’s jump in!
No story is complete without encountering something a little darker, a little more sinister. An adventure just wouldn’t be an adventure without something to send tingles down your spine. For that, my dear readers, we have the newest chapter in our story… (more…)