Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here with a pretty tasty slice of news to kick off 2015! Specifically…
Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here with a pretty tasty slice of news to kick off 2015! Specifically…
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, 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!!
Hey guys! Welcome back to another edition of Raw Cuts With Kuma. Did you enjoy the last interview with SKGB? I sure hope so! That being said, this time we have an interview with a very well rounded figure in the scene (he came from a background in game design and has found a home in music production), and who’s rather well known on the east coast. I took the time to talk to Christian Montoya, the man also known as Decktonic. We chatted about his music, the state of the current chipscene, and some recent events that have shaken it up in the past couple weeks. Lets get to it!
Kuma: So what got you into music in the first place?
Decktonic: In 2009 I was making my own Flash and iPhone games and I thought I might try to make my own soundtrack music as well, and it was right around the time that KORG DS-10 came out, and I just picked it up on a whim while at my local Gamestop.
I had no intention of making dance music, I was just thinking I would make simple loops for my games, but as I started exploring the program, I realized I could do a lot with it, and that tipped me over the edge of the rabbit hole with electronic music production.
Kuma: Very cool. That being said, as you just mentioned, you did come into this with the intention of doing it originally just to make loops for games you were working on at the time. Would you say that since then, your passion for music has over taken your passion for gaming?
Decktonic: I would say the two have diverged. I still design games for a living, but music is a hobby that I like to pursue when I want to relax while still flexing my creative muscles. My style has also diverged, since I don’t do soundtrack work at all. I’ve been obsessed with electronic music for as long as I’ve been obsessed with video games (as long as I can remember) and I think music production has allowed me to get in touch with this obsession in a very deep way. It’s also very important for me to look at music on its own, not as part of another creative work but for the purpose of making songs that stand on their own as just “good music” (whatever that is).
Kuma: Hahaha. Well so far, I can definitely say of what I’ve seen [of your performances] and heard of your music that you definitely know what good is, but you express a sentiment that I’ve heard echoed a lot among people in the chiptune and vgm scene, which is this dichotomy of wanting to make music for the sake of music but also acknowledging the video game roots that this genre of music has because of the hardware and software used to make it. As someone who’s been on both sides of the fence creatively, was it easy for you to separate the two or is that something you think-even if it doesn’t particularly apply to you- may be a hurdle for the genre in general? Is it not possible for the masses to be able to separate the music from the gaming culture?
Decktonic: That’s a loaded question, so forgive me if I ramble in my response.
Kuma: I’m aware that it is, so pardon me if you feel like I’ve put you on the spot.
Decktonic: No this is good, lemme see… The way I see it, any producer under 30 grew up with video games. Their influence is present in all styles of music these days. Hmmm… there’s chiptunes, and then there’s music made with old gaming hardware. I don’t fall into either of those categories. I make music with a Nintendo DS program that emulates a classic KORG analog synthesizer that was all the rage in electronic music production before the NES existed. If there’s any nostalgia that I’m to associated with, it’s the raw underground electro music of the 80s. The early days of synth music, maybe. That’s what a lot of my work has been compared to.
At the same time, I’m totally comfortable with the EDM community and have been known to play in modern software like Ableton Live and Traktor a few times, but I do call the chip scene my home, whether I fit in or not, and I’ve seen this issue quite a bit. It’s something everyone is still figuring out.
There’s a lot I could say about it, but here’s the best way I can put it: if producers want to take advantage of that retro game nostalgia, that’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with it. I wouldn’t be afraid of that. If producers want to keep their distance from it, then chip music needs to establish it’s own culture. Not just an underground Internet counter-culture, but something that speaks to the nature of the music itself. I think chip music was meant to be the new punk, but I haven’t seen enough of that. I like getting down in the pit to some Nullsleep or Monodeer, and if that’s the culture we like, let’s put that at the forefront. Let’s wear it on our sleeves.
Oh, one last thing I was going to add to that. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I think it’s fine if some producers go in one direction and some in another. There’s this false notion that the community needs to be one scene with a common mindset. That would be a mistake. It’s a big community. Niche, maybe, but there’s a lot of potential. I like that things are going in a lot of different directions. It lends itself to more creativity and freedom of expression. We should embrace that.
Kuma: I like that sentiment. It’s very thoughtful on your behalf and I like that you aren’t afraid to tackle the fact that regardless of how chip is accepted or interpreted that its roots are what they are and there’s nothing to be ashamed of, no matter which direction we choose to take it in.
Speaking of directions, I and a few other artists have noticed that-especially with the end of Blipfest (RIP)- chip seems to be migrating out west and seems to be finding a very comfortable spot in Detroit, a state well known for producing and embracing new and cool music historically, from classic Motown R&B and Soul to Punk Rock to Acid House and D&B. As someone who’s been primarily out on the east coast, how do you feel about the focus of chip shifting towards these other states and how do you feel the shifting of the spotlight from the east coast to the midwest will affect what’s happening here in places like NY and Philly? And yes, Detroit is a state now.
Decktonic: (LOL) Honestly this is something I’ve thought about a lot. First of all, it’s great that chip music is finding more “homes” in the USA. It makes sense that collectives should be springing up in different areas, and let it be said that what’s been going on in places like Detroit or the Midwest US (see: BRKfest) is totally home grown. These are local movements that are entirely grassroots born and raised, we are talking about a bunch of young chip heroes just getting together and throwing shows however they could. It’s impressive what they’ve been able to accomplish in a short time, I look up to these guys.
As for New York City and Philadelphia, let’s face it… the music scenes here are very commercial. There are a few established chip monthlies (8static, I/O, Pulsewave) that are doing well but otherwise there isn’t much interest among promoters to do what I will call “weird music.” This is considering that these two cities have a lot of electronic music, but it’s all in the club scene and if you aren’t making dubstep, trap or dutch house and DJing all the top 40 hits then you won’t be getting much attention around here. The chip scene is still just a handful of people throwing shows when they can and usually doing it as a labor of love.
I’ve seen a lot of independent music venues and art spaces come and go in the past few years… it’s hard to make the “weird music” venue thing work when rent is so high. Now I’m not complaining… I love this area. We just have our work cut out for us in terms of growing the audience, taking on bigger risks and ultimately carving out a bigger scene around here. I’m very optimistic. And who knows? If I get a chance to take my brand of bass beats out to Detroit or Kentucky or some other corner of the globe, that would be awesome
Kuma: While I’m definitely optimistic about the future of “weird music” as well, I must admit I’m glad you bought up the idea that New York’s music scene is very safe because it brings us to a much more recent event. I’m sure by now you’ve heard through the grape vine about what happened to Oliver Hindle aka Superpowerless. While -like him- I’m not necessarily surprised by the fact that the judges on Britain’s Got Talent didn’t let him through into the next round, what I am disconcerted by is the idea that he and his friends were made to look like damn fools by the mainstream media. Do you think this recent experience will be a hindrance to the scene and act as a sort of scarecrow, keeping chip and vgm artists away from the spot light of mainstream media fame, or do you think we’ll actually break through that barrier and be commercially accepted? Furthermore, do you think -considering the fact that some of us have found relative success just by being “internet famous”, so to speak- that current main stream media success is even necessary for us to survive and thrive as scene or genre?
Decktonic: First of all I respect Superpowerless for taking such a big risk in all this. I’m kinda torn about the whole thing. On one hand, if I had a chance to be on a show like that, I’d probably jump at the opportunity. On the other, I wouldn’t expect anything different. I see it as a combination of a negative perception of electronic music and another negative perception of “nerd culture.” I don’t really have any advice in this matter, other than to say that we aren’t the first ones to go through something like this. The earliest computer musicians were looked at as a novelty and a sideshow act. For a while nobody was willing to accept synthesizers on stage. I guess all I can say is don’t be ashamed of it. I think it’s futile to try and get validation from people that obviously don’t get it. Do I expect the judges on Britain’s Got Talent to appreciate chiptunes? No. I think it’s a matter of finding the audience that does appreciate the kind of music you are doing, and focusing on them.
For a while electronic music just existed in underground clubs. It was totally separate from mainstream pop / rock / jazz. They had their own labels, their own shows, their own scene. The electronic music movement even had to do their own festivals. It was only recently that we’ve seen electronic producers and DJs sharing stages with rock and hip hop artists. Basically what I’m trying to say is, let’s build what we have and not worry about the people who just don’t get it. It’s an exercise in futility to do anything else.
Kuma: Well said. That being said, there is one last question I do have for you, and that concerns the scene itself. No outside influences or interpretations. None of that crap. It involves age, and I’m not simply talking about the age of those involved in the scene. I’ve met young cats like Chasingbleeps from Ireland who’s only 15 whipping out some great stuff for a first LP and I’ve seen guys like 4mat who have been doing the computer and chip music thing for more than 20 years now, which is astounding to me and makes me respect him and his music even more, but I digress. When I say age, I mean the lifespan of the scene itself.
While there is definitely a lot of life popping up in a lot of places, there are also little pockets, little murmurings here and there already about people concerned about how long chip will last. How long will the Game Boys keep ticking? How long do they really have until it becomes something tired, and they’re talking like it’s already on it’s deathbed. While you’re not a Game Boy user, and you yourself even stated that while you feel chip is your home that you see yourself more as an EDM artist, how do you feel about chip where it is now? Does it feel healthy to you, or do you feel it’s starting to die out a bit too, or do you think this is just the beginnings of familiarity breeding -not necessarily contempt- but perhaps boredom? Boredom of seeing the same people perform or on the dance floor?What’s your take on this?
Decktonic: Man, people have been playing pianos for centuries and I still like to hear a piano when I can! I think when people put forth these kinds of sentiments, like, “chipmusic is dead!” they need to put a big “IN MY OPINION” at the front of it. I think before you can even get the words out of your mouth, some kid you’ve never even heard of is going to come along with a Game Boy and play something that will catch your attention. If people are tired of chip music, they can go elsewhere. I’m still having a good time.
Kuma: I’m definitely glad you are having a good time, because that means a lot more music from you, as well as just the general enjoyment of your company at these venues (although, admittedly, it has been some time since I’ve seen you.) That being said, Mr Montoya, I know there’s a lot more that could be said and could be asked about you, including about your other projects such as Miami Slice (which I still don’t believe exists, just like Ricky Brugal), but I think here’s a good spot to end the interview. Before we go, do you have any closing statements or remarks you’d like to make?
Decktonic: I don’t know if that answers your question at all, but to answer it directly: “LA LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU CAN’T YOU SEE I’M LISTENING TO RICKY BRUGAL GO AWAY.”
Kuma: Hahahahaha! Wonderful! Christian, thank you very much for this interview and for a little more insight about you and your views on this wonderful scene we’re in. I look forward to conversing with you again.
Decktonic: Same! Oh, wait! I missed that last question! One sec! I’m trying to think if I do have any actual last words… Oh! Just, I’m always looking to meet more people that love chip music, so if you see me at a show, say hello! That is all.
Kuma: I’ll definitely pass it along. I have to admit this makes an amusing little addendum to our interview.
Decktonic: ha ha OK! Yeah the LA LA LA part was in response to the second to last question!
Kuma: But it worked so well for the last one, though!
Dectonic: LOL NO!
Hope you guys enjoyed the interview! Tune in next week as I take the time to talk to CompyCore, a chiptune artist and entrepreneur that’s looking to make a name for himself in fashion and in chiptune!
‘Til next time.
Hey there, chipbros and sistas! Welcome to the first edition of Raw Cuts with Kuma! What is Raw Cuts, you ask? Well, Raw Cuts are unedited, candid interviews with some of the coolest, hippest minds in the chiptune scene! From big stars to up-and-comers, Raw Cuts was made to allow for a very in depth look at the thought processes of some of the artists, visualists, designers, and promoters in the scene, and maybe even a couple lols on occasion.
This first interview is one I did a while back with an artist who contributed to ChipWin’s very first compilation album, our 51 track beast of an LP. I went into it wanting to get to know and understand this artist more, but I ended up also getting some advice from him on my road to becoming a fellow chiptuner. Best known for his unique manipulation of noise, laid back demeanor, and dat luscious freakin hair, here’s my interview with Aleister M. Williams, the artist known as SKGB!
Kuma: So, lets start with something basic. Your stage name, SKGB. What was the inspiration for that? What does that stand for, anyway?
SKGB: Well… I basically needed to change my name from SOMETHING WHICH WILL NEVER BE MENTIONED AGAIN! And I wanted it to sound “cool” I guess, so I took some words that meant something to me and I turned em into an acronym. I’m sorry, but at this time my agent, Aleister Williams, will not permit me to reveal what SKGB stands for.
Kuma: Hahahaha fair enough, good sir. That being said, what first got you into chiptune? Had music production always been something that was a part of your life or did it come later in life?
SKGB: Well, when I was five I decided I wanted to be an artist ’cause I liked cutting the little stick people out all pretty-like. For a while I wanted to be a visual artist of some sort, then I got into the art of play in middle school and designed shitty little indie games with some Swedish software. Finally, I found my way into chiptunes, listened to everything I could on 8bitpeoples, started checking out tons of circuit bending stuffs, and smoked too much weed. Why paint one painting, when i can paint a billion diff paintings in every different person’s ears?
Kuma: Very true! Your music certainly has reached a wide audience, but I do have to admit you have a style all your own on stage. It seems to me you definitely haven’t completely abandoned your need to express yourself as a visual artist, particularly when the art is you, such as during your recent show at 8static. Care to elaborate more on the inspiration for that show?
SKGB: Well, Christmas is all corporate evil now, so I just figured i’d inject some electro-pagan-witch-funk into the mix of consumerist bullshit and see what happens. Also, I jokingly put “An SKGB Christmas Special” onto the official 8static bookings a while back and Emily Feder (EMFEDEX, Chipmusic Chronicle) made me follow through.
Kuma: Hahahaha! Oh dude you’re killing me! That being said, lets talk a bit more about your music. While there are a lot of chip artists who seem to find their groove after a while and seem to fit neatly into one sub genre, your music is just everywhere! Hell that Xmas set alone had the dance floor alternating between grinding and thrashing to pop and locking faster than Saturday at Blipfest! If you had to define you as an artist, what would you call yourself?
SKGB: Well I guess basstripnoisechipthrash or something like that. My brain is constantly getting bored so I have to constantly keep doing new things to keep it occupied.
Kuma: Would you say that boredom, or a fear of it, is ultimately the driving force behind what you do?
SKGB: Not really. To be honest I don’t know what boredom is anymore. I wish I had time to know it, though. Then maybe I could have more time for a good book and pipe and some pets or something.
Kuma: That’s honestly refreshing to hear, as boredom seems so pervasive in modern culture. I regress, though. Lets back track a bit though to your personal style of music. Are there any artists in particular that inspire you to do what you do,chip or otherwise?
SKGB: Yeah. A whole lot. No but really, I guess, as a kid I listened to a lot of jazz (bebop, avant guard, swing) my mom had. I grew up listening to stuff like Nirvana and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and 1st wave ska, then a whole bunch of techno, then chiptunes, then dubstep (like 2008ish stuff). Now I just listen to a whole buncha shit.
The artists who inspire me the most now are the ones i’m in close proximity with. Dino Lionetti (and all of Cheap Dinos). The fellas on the Madwaves collective i chill with lots,
and stray chipthrashlings who make it up to Philly: Kool Skull, The Ghost Servant, S.P.R.Y.
Kuma: Very nice. Kool Skull is one noise artist in particular I’ve come to enjoy greatly, in particular for something he said to me at his last show in NYC before moving out west. He said “the one thing you always gotta remember about chip is that chiptune is about making music easy.” Would you find in your experience that sentiment to be true? That making chiptune does make the music production process easier than if you had done it by more traditional means?
SKGB: It all depends. Me and Kool Skull tend to have the complete opposite workflow when it comes to music. He likes to work on tracks real fast like, and I like to spend hours tweaking and tweaking (a song, you silly). My advice would be, don’t let anyone else tell you how to make music. I mean, personally, i’ll find any way i can to make any sort of music i can, because anything else would make me feel real sad ;_; traditional recording or tedious tracking, s’all good.
Kuma: Hey, its all good. Like you said, this is about you doing what you love and what makes you happy. You do that however you want my friend. That being said, one last question for you. You’ve been in the chipscene longer than I have. Seen its ups and downs, and have earned the respect and admiration of your peers and fans. Over the course of the year, the chip scene has seen some incredible changes, from the rise of Chiptunes=Win to the farewell of Blipfest. In your personal opinion as both a fan and an artist, what do you see yourself doing over the course of 2k13 and what do you think will come of the scene, as well?
SKGB: Well… I see myself making a whole bunch of music that doesn’t sound like “traditional” chipmusic, calling it chipmusic and pissing a whole bunch of people off (lol).
As for the “scene” as a whole, I don’t see an end to chipmusic in sight at all,
though i do believe the locus of chip hocus pocus has and will continue to stray farther from the east coast. Going to BRKfest last year blew my mind wide open to the fact that yes: chipmusic is just as big, if not a whole fuckton bigger, than it ever was. In fact, the entire midwest corridor is on hot fiyah, Piko Piko Detroit, Cartrage, BRKfest, and all the travelling artists in between are fucking shit up real proper over there. But mark my words: the 8static crew still have a few surprises on their .sav roms.