Hello everyone. If you haven’t heard I’m yet again organising Chip Bit Day and it’s in its 4th year. I never thought I’d do another one after 2016, but here we are. As with all my Chip Bit Day articles, I will be showcasing each artist who is playing whilst picking a track that I think properly defines them. If you are interested in donating to Chip Bit Day you can do so by following the link here.
By the time you read this, everyone should be home and happy, well rested, without the MAGFlu and otherwise readjusted to real life. While I’m WRITING it, however, I’m drowning in posts from people in transit back to the dark corners of the world they crawled from so that they can go heal themselves. While this year’s MAGFest might have been the biggest one so far, it also seems to have taken the most from us in terms of bodily health, but only because everyone was incapable of having any degree of chill. Everyone basically just kept going until they were physically unable to go anymore, and even then they just kinda propped their bodies up in chairs so they could at least look like they were still going like some kind of knock-off ‘Weekend at Bernie’s.’ It was amazing. But enough talk – let’s have at this highlight reel!
Many a ChipWINner will recognize the Cheapbeats netlabel, not just from their co-release ‘Cheapbeats = WIN‘, but also interviews with James York here on the blog, and, of course, their slew of impressive releases within the chipmusic community. Now celebrating their ‘two point seventy three anniversary’, they’ve released a compilation featuring previously released songs from every single artist who’s ever released on their label and entitled it ‘All Stars’. The album is one hell of a ride from start to finish, and I really do wish I could give each track its proper recognition; that would, unfortunately, make for a VERY long review. As a result, I’m going to give you a rundown on my five personal favorite tracks. Let’s take a look at some of the amazing sounds this album has to offer! (more…)
Sabrepulse is, arguably, one of the greatest pioneers of chipmusic. Two of his earliest albums, 2005’s ‘Famicom Connection‘ and 2006’s ‘Chipbreak Wars‘, can be considered as two of the foundational pillars for the chipbreak subgenre. Over the years, Sabrepulse’s style shifted slowly to a more drum ‘n bass influenced vibe, and with the release of ‘First Crush‘ in 2011, a much more modern influence could be heard in his music. Now, with ‘Blood Eagle’, his first of two releases in a three-and-a-quarter year hiatus, Sabrepulse shows us yet again just how well he can adapt to the modern music scene while showcasing his roots as a chipmusician. (more…)
‘Sup, chipWINners! Its your boy Kuma back with another interview! This time around, I managed to get something super special with not one but two awesome chiptune legends who talk to me about their creative process, how they first met, and a few other unexpected topics! Without further ado, I present my first interview with a duo on Raw Cuts: xyce!
Kuma: It is a pleasure to finally be able to get to sit down and talk with you guys!
How are you two doing?
Tom Offringa (xylo): Good!
Roel Heerspink (cerror): Great! You?
Kuma: Not bad, thanks! Let’s get started, shall we?
cerror: Yes sir!
Kuma: I’m especially excited as this will be my first interview with more than one person at a time, so this should be very exciting!
xylo: Haha it’ll work out!
cerror: Hope it’s not confusing!
Kuma: So, first question: you two both have solocareers as electronic artists, but you definitely seem to have been most prolific as a duo. How did you two meet in the first place?
xylo: I heard a keygen from X-Men and the name cerror came by. I was pretty active on a dutch forum those days and I saw cerror his name across there as well, so I asked him if he was actually the same guy. And he was!
cerror: Yup! So he contacted me and said he wanted to make tunes as well and I started to teach him some stuff.
cerror: And that way we started making music together. That was in 2006, I think?
xylo: Somewhere around 2005/2006 I guess yeah!
cerror: He lived in Groningen and I lived in Meppel (hour away by train) so it was via internet at first.
Kuma:Very cool. That being said, Roel, since you seem to have been doing this longer than Tom has, I’m curious as to just how long you’ve been doing this before, especially since, in your equipment lists on your albums, you seem to be one of the chiptuners that prefers the sounds made with consoles and computers made in the early and mid 80s, compared to a lot of other folk I’ve interviewed who stick to Game boys and such.
cerror: Wow, well I started like everybody else: with gaming. First thing I gamed on was a commodore 128 that belonged to my nephews. And later on I was a big Sega Megadrive (Genesis) fan and also old PCs, of course. That was around ’92 or so. I used to be a drummer and I saw a guy at school making music with Fasttracker II. I got that one online and started to look for music to learn from. I saw this site named traxinspace and it had like breakbeat and trance stuff but also chiptunes made by Zalza! This was around 97.
Thus, I started to learn and remembered the good old days. I also started research and learn and also purchase machines while learning the trackers. I lost 1 hard disk with 800 bad tunes, but I just kept on doing it until today. Only got pretty decent at chiptunes in 2003/2004 I think.
xylo: Our choice of old computers like the Amiga and Atari instead of the Game boy is pretty much based on the sound it makes. The trackers work great, we’re used to them and the chips in both those computers sound awesome.
cerror: Exactly! Of course, I’m heavily influenced by the demoscene (I’ve been a member since 2001) and crackteams I’ve been in.
Kuma: Oh man, that’s awful about that hard drive you lost! I’m sorry about that, but at least those tunes helped you become the artist you are today! I’m glad you mentioned Zalza, as I’m listening to Mosaik right now!
Now Tom, I’m sure it was already exciting for you to work with Roel as it was, but I couldn’t imagine how you must have felt when you got a chance to work with Zalza and RADIx, as well! Does it ever hit you out of the blue that in the…8 or so years you’ve been in chiptune that you’ve come so far and have had a chance to work with so many awesome artists?
xylo: Working with Roel became very smooth. As he taught me pretty much all the basics of Modplug and I was inspired heavily by the same kind of artists Roel was our styles mixed in pretty flawlessly.
cerror: Yeah I have to quickly come in between and I must say that that was an incredibly coincidence . Our styles were pretty much the same. Love for the same type of tunes. Now I shall shut up.
xylo: As cerror was already a pretty known name by those kind of artists and we visited some demoparties it was easy to connect. We talked to Zalza when he was planning on doing a Chipdisk with artists from back then. So because of he mainly knowing cerror and we were working a lot together, he (Zalza) asked xyce to do a track with him. We met him on Revision where the Chipdisk was released!
Working with RADIx was a true blessing, as well. With social media coming up it was suddenly a lot easier to quickly get in touch with someone (asides from irc and stuff). So we talked a bit about chiptunes and the idea came up to do a track together.
cerror: I came in my pants when I got the news from Tom that RADIx wanted to work with us. And not only once, but TWICE! [RADIx has a] New album, too.
Kuma: You have no idea how hard that made me laugh!
cerror: Hehehehehe, it’s true though! I mean, I’ve started making tunes since 2000 or so, RADIx since 92! I am a 3rd gen chiptune guy.
Kuma: I can only imagine! It definitely sounds like the way i would react if someone like 4mat ever said he wanted to make music with me! I’d just….spaghettis everywhere!
xylo: Working with guys as RADIx, Zalza, Malmen, alk and more feels incredible. It’s amazing to work with those that inspire us daily musically and them taking the time to work with us and enjoy making music makes us very happy!
cerror: Whahahaha, I would too if 4mat would ask us! He’s also a demoscener, btw!
Totally! Although I’ve made tunes for a while, I am not as famous as 4mat, RADIx or Zalza. So it’s a super honor for me.
Kuma: Damn! It certainly sounds like you guys have been afforded a lot of opportunities in the scene and that, in particular for you Tom, that most of your career musically since having met Roel seems to have just naturally unfurled for you! It’s pretty amazing! Is there anything either of you wish you would have done that maybe you haven’t had the chance to do or something you wish to do differently artistically? Such as maybe take up more on the visual side in the demoscene or experiment more with your sound? I’m really curious.
xylo: Well, experimenting is something we generally do. cerror’s got his VST music which is pretty different. But when we make music together and try a different approach (for example some doskpop, italo or drum n bass) the happy chords and vibes seem to come magically back in to our songs, which makes them instantly recognizable for most.
cerror: Yeah, I really want to make tunes on more different types of machines. Like the ZX Speccy, Atari XL, Sega, Nintendo (NES, SNES and Gameboy, in particular) and so on. But it’s really hard to learn new trackers. Don’t have the patience/time for it. And I can’t step off the melodies. It’s just hard coded in my brain
xylo: Concerning machines I agree with Roel. Expanding our horizon with more machines would be great.
cerror: I have a lot of machines. Just no time or sd cartridges/transfer thingies. I’ve got a list here of machines I have.
Kuma: Yeah I really have to agree there, Tom: I can spot a xyce tune out of a Coachella sized event on a single mp3 player, but there’s nothing wrong with those happy chords. I think it just adds to what makes your music–and chiptune as an instrumentation and/or genre–unique. Hell, that’s why I fell in love with it in the first place when I went to Blipfest last year.
That being said, one thing i have noticed with your music is the Sega sound and influence in what you produce. It’s almost funny to hear you say you want to expand your horizons more but that sound, or sounds akin to it, are already there.
cerror: Well style-wise it is yes. But the real sound though is missing. That’s what I want in the next album.
Kuma: Is that intentional or do you think that just comes out subconsciously and you haven’t fully realized that its there yet?
cerror: Not really recognize it although now that you say, I can see what you mean. The basslines and chord hits definitely stand out.
xylo: It’s the experience making music on those machines that is really important, as well. Our Amiga Mods and Atari snd’s have a very distinctive sound. Our Fasttracker II tracks (XM) have a bit of clash sound with different kind of sounds, samples and stuff.
Kuma: Since you bought it up, lets talk about your future projects, both together and individually. What do you guys have up your sleeves for the next album? What sorta hardware and software did you use this time around? Did you stick to your guns or did you expand a little more?
cerror: Didn’t really talked about it to be honest.
xylo: Although it sounds like some other machines, making music on the machines alone makes it that songs have the very distinctive sound the machines produces, as the Atari and Amiga do, as well. That’s the main difference between FastTracker II tracks ‘sounding’ like Sega tracks, and tracks actually made on the machine.
cerror: Yup. Sound is important. The feel, etc. That’s why I dislike commodore style VST. And stuff like that. We do it hardcore
xylo: No expending this album with other machines than the usual, but the album has a lot of variety in styles (some easier, some loud etc).
Kuma: I can tell. I don’t even think Radlib/oxygenstar/what’sCarlsnamenow? does it quite as hard as that.
xylo: We used the Atari 1040ST, Amiga 500 and PC just as the other 4 albums.
cerror: We want to do more types of machines, but as I said: it’s hard to learn new trackers. I can make a tune on an Atari blindfolded. But a Sega tune? Hard hard work!
I am 29 now so when I was 17 I had the time.
Kuma: That’s very true. I’m nowhere near even half the guys on cm.o, but I can at least make a little melody or drum beat on piggy tracker or sunvox in a couple minutes. I couldn’t figure out FamiTracker or Schism Tracker for the life of me, though. Also, I have to agree: it does seem–outwardly, at least–like Sega tunes are hard work. Sega guys definitely seem to make up one of–if not the–lowest common denominator of what you see in chip. Hell, outside The Duchess, the only other person I know that does Sega stuff is The Flight Away, and he does samples through his laptop as opposed to working with the hardware directly.
cerror: Coda, for example, is what I want to achieve on the Sega. Unfortunately it will take years and years to get there sound wise.
xylo: Experiencing is always a good thing, but as some other trackers feel way more comfortable and known it’s easy to gripe back to those when you want to push out some inspiration in to notes.
cerror: I’ve already made some patterns with a Sonic 2 drums and bass sound but now we need to make an entire tune. And what Tom says is true: we can still make compelling music on the platforms we know, so why quit? It’s just the wish to make on other machines, but that will come gradually I think. Takes time.
Kuma: Exactly. Thank you for reminding me of Coda, by the way. I came across his work briefly when I was first getting into chip about a year ago. I forgot that this man was just a music making machine.
Cerror: He is marvelous, I adore his stuff. Also a good coder!
Kuma: I’d imagine so! You spend as much time making tracker music as he does or you guys do, and picking up coding seems to become second hand, as well. That being said, when can the public expect your new album, and will you be doing anything to promote it? Go on tour? Radio show listening party? Anything like that?
xylo: We’ll try to get it released somewhere in the next few weeks. Hopefully sooner than later. Promoting not really. We’re discussing a listening party and, of course, yell some around on gigs.
cerror: And, of course, Facebook and gig whore-ing.
xylo: Besides Social Media spamming we don’t do a lot of promoting. The previous albums seemed to go around the internet without a lot of effort (thanks for doing so people/listeners/fans!!!!!!!) so hopefully it’ll work out this time as well!
cerror: And this album is a little bit more high profile, so we hope more people pick it up.
We have help now. From the awesome people at cheapbeats.
xylo: We’re releasing it under the Cheapbeats label, so hopefully a little bigger audience than the last album will pick it up as well.
[Edit: An online listening party has since been squared away on June 8th for xyce’s upcoming album via 8 Bit Power Hour on 8bitx.com. Click HERE for details on that!]
Kuma: I’m glad to hear it! I know your devoted fans, as well as new ones, will definitely be excited to hear what you two have produced! Although it is interesting that you two are relatively quiet about what you make but have found such success in doing so. Were you two always that way or was their a time you pushed harder to be recognized? Or does the recognition simply not matter? Do you guys just not give a damn?
Cerror: Well it’s nice, of course, to get recognition, but it’s not our first priority. We make the music because we like doing it.
xylo: Well I guess recognition is always fun, and to hear people liking the music we make but it is definitely not a priority.
cerror: And live gigs are the awesomest because we get to know new people, get drunk and party while showing our prides and joy!
xylo: That is definitely true! And I don’t really know how to get more known. Talking on social media seems to work. I guess it’s still a niche market and people liking our style will probably come across it some time.
cerror: I have no idea how we got so pretty well known. [It’s a] Mystery to me!
xylo: It’s very fun and actually makes me very happy to see people opening threads about our new works on reddit, for example, without any effort from our side.
cerror: Plus youtube videos and the occasional Facebook ad. It’s good for my fragile ego, but I still don’t see why people like us. Well, we are pretty cool dudes.
Kuma: Yes, that you certainly are! That being said, I thank you both for your time, gentlemen! This was truly a pleasure getting to interact with both of you! Do any of you have anything you’d like to say before we wrap this up? Advice you’d like to give? Promotional, ego stroking goodness? Drunkfest stories you guys wanna share before this all ends?
Kuma: Nice! What about you, Tom? Do you have anything you’d like to say?
xylo: Well, there was one time where we went to Belgium to play with Men of Mega and RoccoW where some girl walked around being extremely drunk. She was on a Facebook picture a few days after and if I recall correctly Roel called her a name on that post. It came to be she was tagged and she didn’t really liked being called that! Hahaha! Awesome keyboard-hero goodness!
cerror: Almost forgot about that! Whahahaha! It wasn’t nice of me but she was acting like a bit of a whore. And we have a lot of good anecdote’s about men of mega guys almost falling offstage and falling on slippery road and drinking too much! Stories like that. Typical gig stories. Hehehehe! Thank you Adam for this interview! Such an honor.
xylo: But to wrap it up! Visit a gig if you’re nearby to experience those in real life! Keep our Facebook and Twitter in mind the next couple of days/weeks for updates on our new album and upcoming gigs and releases! And thank you for having us! Great opportunity!
Kuma: Thank you for being with me!
Hope you guys enjoyed that article! Don’t forget to follow Xyce on Facebook and Twitter so you can keep up with updates about their soon to be released album! Join us next time as I take the time to talk to sleepytimejesse, a chiptuner and music composer who’s making quite a name for himself as a solo artist as well as with an increasingly popular indie rock band called The Zou!
Ahoy, ChipMateys! It be time for the next batch of album writeups. Yarr.
“Don’t ye go grabbing me booty!” – Bikke, pirate captain
In case you forgot, we’re doing these in chunks like this now so that we can prepare for the glory that is Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 2! So here goes!
ChipWin Track 24: Nebulae by KymAz
So first up we’ve got KymAz, another one of those guys like Vince Kaichan and Frostbyte that have done more musically before graduating highschool than most of us have at all (dang whippersnappers!). Based in Malaysia, he has a tendency to do some tunes that sound slightly detuned to most Western audiences, but if my music minor has taught me anything (it probably hasn’t), it’s probably using a different scale set. Which is cool! Musical diversity = win! And this track is really neat, since I feel like it does a very good job of musically conveying the sort of swirly blobby cloudness associated with nebulae.
ChipWin Track 25: No Particular Reason by MONODEER
Oh heeeey. You guys remember MONODEER right? I talked about him a little while back. It’s still that fat, punchy sound we heard in Glitch Pop, and quite honestly, much of what I said before still holds true – this makes me think of something like Shadowrun, or maybe the big city clubs in Samurai Jack (I can’t find a picture, but I know you watched Samurai Jack, we all did). This song makes me want to punch things – definitely in a good way, mind you, but punching things nonetheless. According to his Facebook page, MONODEER has some tour dates lined up, but nothing posted officially, so keep an eye out!
ChipWin Track 26: Africa by Decktonic
No, not THAT Africa, silly. This is a super cool track that isn’t TOO low energy, but not so energetic you’re bouncing around the room. It’s got a nice balance, good music to just bob your head to. And you know, I almost forgot Decktonic had a track on here? He’s a totally cool guy, though – I got phở with him at PAX, in the roughly twelve seconds he wasn’t doing crazy DJ stuff in the Jamspace. But anyway, the man, the myth, the legend Christian Montoya, AKA Decktonic AKA Miami Slice AKA the guy behind Love & Tonic Record, this guy’s been busy lately. In addition to PAX, he was at the POW POW Bonus Round in California, and his been mixing until his hands bleed (probably). He also holds the title of “only other person to be as excited for me about the Daft Punk’s Get Lucky single dropping.”
(Special bonus note: This track was composed with the Korg DS-10 software! It might be the only one on the compilation, I’m not terribly sure, but it’s still an underrepresented software in a world where LSDJ reigns supreme.)
ChipWin Track 27: Assault At The Front Door by Iron Curtain
I actually really enjoy this track – it’s like Galaga and Punch Out!! had a musical baby. Our buddy Sam here has been quite busy, having just dropped an album about a month ago. Apparently, he’s also been out and about, having performed at a live thing featuring comedian Janeane Garofalo of all people, so that’s pretty neat. And finally, it turns out that if “The Ultimate Chipmusic Weekend” gets funded, you can see Iron Curtain live! (Seriously though, go fund that shiz. KEEP THE SCENE GROWING.)
ChipWin Track 28: On Stolen Time by Jay Tholen
And finally we’ve got this piece by Jay Tholen. Look at him, being all fancy, bringing “real instruments” into the chipmusic scene. And vocals? Who does he think he is, anyway? (Answer: He thinks he’s Jay Tholen, and he does what he gorram wants.) This is a really neat track, compositionally-speaking, since you’ve got the mashup of surf guitar and lighthearted happiness up next to a progressively rougher guitar and chip sound. If you happen to be in Orlando, Florida today, you can catch Jay live! If not…well, I guess you’re probably out of luck aren’t you?
That’s it for this week! Relevant artist links below.