Sup, ChipWINners, and welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column where I break down the highs and lows of an album, then give you a numerical tl;dr to help you determine if something’s worth the bang for your buck. This time around, I have two very unique albums for you coming from opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. One is an experimental noise album that shifts between groovy, funky, and haunting. The other is a highly polished concept album that aims to soothe, please and inspire as it constructs a vision of a progressive not-too-distant future. If both of those sound intriguing, hop on in and take a ride with the big bear, as we explore music from Corkscrew No. 4453556 and 01100001 S.T.A.R.D.U.S.T. Subsidiary.
Welcome back, ChipWINners! This time around on Raw Cuts we have someone that I’m very proud to have had the chance to interview! A highly popular contributor to Chiptunes = WIN who’s made a name for himself on the west coast, this artist boasts infectious dance rhythms and club beats that blur the line between chiptune and electro with spectacular results! Without further ado, here’s my interview with Jack Waterman aka Electric Children!
Kuma: Cool, so lets get things started shall we? First things first, I haven’t asked this question in a while of any of the artists I’ve interviewed, but I’m actually quite curious about your artist name. What made you decide to use it?
Electric Children (EC): Aha! I like getting this question! You’d be surprised how seldom it comes up. The name comes from the album March on, Electric Children! by The Blood Brothers, a now broken-up grindcore band from Seattle. Its a themed album so there’s all this stuff about what Electric Children are and stuff and I was like 16 and I thought, “Yeah I wanna name a music thing that someday.” So I did.
Kuma: Really? Nobody really takes the time to ask you about that? I figured it’d come up more, but considering how kick ass your music is, I guess it goes right to the back burner. That being said, lets talk about your music. I wanna hear how you got involved in all this chiptune business.
EC: Well, I had started to make really basic electronic music with a drum machine and a keyboard for awhile, then a friend introduced me to a couple of local artists who played chiptune music. Our sounds worked well enough together, so we started performing together on a pretty regular basis. I was exposed to it so often that it became pretty irresistible and I added to my music. Over time, it ended up taking precedence over everything else for a variety reasons, and before I knew it, I was full-on Chiptune artist by the end of 2008.
Kuma: Nice! I’m relatively new to the scene in comparison to you, having only been in it for a little over a year now, but I know the west coast has some strong artists out there to keep the scene going. Back when you first started, which chip artists were you exposed to that helped you get into the scene and define your sound? I’m also curious to know which ones help to define and inspire it now that you’ve been doing this sort of thing for what sounds like at least 5 years.
EC: Well the two artists who I was performing with frequently at the time were Kids Get Hit By Buses (founders of the internet-infamous CrunchyCo netlabel) and Fighter X (who just recently became active again). Aside from them, the early chip artists I was exposed to were Sabrepulse from the UK and USK from Japan. From there I learned about like 5,738,216 more chip artists from 8bitcollective, and the story goes on.
Oddly enough what has always influenced me over the years of producing is non-Chip music. It’s really fun for me to try and make chiptune versions of the sounds I hear in popular club music, and be less oriented towards video game sounds. I like a lot of music by Madeon. I’m a huge fan of She. My dubstep is heavily influenced by Flux Pavilion, and I’d probably say Sabrepulse continues to be one of my biggest Chiptune influences. I draw little pieces of things from all sorts of people around me, but those are the big ones, I think.
Kuma: Very nice. She and Flux Pavilion are definitely understandable influences, as is Sabrepulse. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still listen to First Crush on a daily basis. That being said, as time has progressed, while I know you mentioned that the chip sound has slowly become more and more the focus of your work, how much of what you do is chip vs what you may do to enhance and compliment the sounds in FL studio? I know everyone has their preferences, and it’d be cool to know what yours is when it comes to producing music.
EC: The new album’s main material is made using only 2 gameboys running LSDJ, but quite a few songs have small instrumental compliments (such as a short synth or a guitar riff), and many of them have vocals over them as well. While the instrumental tracks aren’t necessarily enhanced with effects, there are small parts that fill out a few spots in the frequency ranges that I couldn’t always hit with LSDJ the way I wanted. Though to be honest, I am planning on having FL Studio be the core of my next set of work, with songs composed mainly of sounds recorded from LSDJ, but sequenced, mixed, mastered in, and complimented more by FL Studio.
Kuma: That’s understandable. For as amazing as some of these micro programs like LSDJ and LGPT are, there are def times when it takes that little something extra to give a song that final polish it needs.
That being said, since you brought up the topic of your new album, let me just say something about it first: your solo work as Electric Children has been amazing. I loved it since I first heard you and boaconstructor throw down via Frost Byte’s album release party on LIvestream. I thought you just killed it. But this new album, man. Dude, this is your Discovery, your Fat of the Land, man! How proud of you of Year Long Hangover, man?
EC: Extremely! Haha! YLH has (ironically enough) been in production for over a year now, and undergone so many changes in sound design, composition, concepts, lyrics, and just about anything else you can think of. It had so much work put into it because I wanted to release something that shows what LSDJ is truly capable of: music that stays faithful to the genre while still being very listenable to a non-Chiptune fan.
Kuma: I definitely have to say you reached your goal, because the first thing I thought when I was listening to it was: “God, I can use this to explain to all the people at my job what chiptune is without sounding crazy!”
EC: Yeah Chiptune is definitely a genre that needs to be shown instead of told about.
Kuma: It really is, and while I’ve had some success via sharing Br1ght Pr1mate and Bit Shifter, most people still look at me like “I’ll believe it when I see it”.
That being said, lets talk about some of the major differences between YLH and your other work, particularly the vocals. What made you come out of your shell this time around to lay down those lyrics? What about the lovely young lady who contributed to the album, as well? Was it daunting recording and incorporating vocals of yourself and close friends?
EC: It had its challenges, sure. When I first started writing music it actually all had lyrics, and evolved into instrumentals over time, so this was something I’ve always wanted to come back to. Writing lyrics is never easy though; you have to keep in mind that your voice is an instrument in itself, so the words can’t be too busy or lack rhythm. But it gives the songs a whole new dimension that is easy for people to grab onto and remember for a long time. Plus singing is very fun.
The two(!) other female vocalists on the album were very easy to work with and did a fantastic job, as well. While putting the vocals together was difficult at times because it involved a lot of back and forth sending song files around, in the end it was a fun experience that turned out to be totally worthwhile.
Kuma: I’m certainly glad it was worthwhile for you, because it’s been worthwhile for me as well as all your fans! People have been eating this album up like crazy and after a wildly successful album release party to promote it, I’m curious what comes next for you? Aside from the aforementioned future project involving more FL work, of course. Any shows or concerts we can expect to see you at over the course of the year?
EC: In the short term, I’m performing with A_Rival in Seattle on the 27th(!), so any locals should come and hear some crazy good chip jams. In the long term, I’ve been talked to about a couple big things, but nothing I have confirmed yet. I’m also working very closely with A_Rival now that he’s moved to Washington, and he’s got some cool stuff in the works as well!
Kuma: A_Rival is legit on all levels, and having partied with him at MAGFest, I can say its always a pleasure to be around him! I’m definitely looking forward to whatever comes of that. With that said, Jack, it’s been a pleasure conversing with you. You’re talented, kind and thoughtful and I’m honored to have had the chance to interview you. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing to your fans and anyone who might be reading this?
EC:Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts and ramblings on chiptune music! Please check out the new album, Year-Long Hangover, and tell me what you think! Thank you Adam and ChipWIN for letting me do this too, it’s been awwwwwwwesooooommmeee!!!
Kuma: Thanks again, EC. I definitely hope we get to do this again. Good night.
EC: Good night!
Thank you once again for checking out Raw Cuts! Be sure to click the links bellow so you can Like, Follow and Subscribe to Electric Children on your favorite of social media outlet(s)! Also, don’t forget to check out his music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, as well as checking out his upcoming show on the 27th with A_Rival, Dire Hit and WMD if you’re out in the Seattle Metropolitan area!
Tune in next as I sit down with Roboctopus as we discuss his musical versatility, BRKFest, and a deep dark secret he’s been keeping from us all! (I’ll give you a hint: it’s one Hoodie is keeping, too!) Peace!