Welcome back to SYWMAC, guys and gals! It’s great to have you joining me again. Now last time I posted an article, I focused on showing the highs and lows of tone matrix apps, got some positive feedback, and also received some insightful criticism that I’d like to reflect on a bit before beginning this article in earnest.
Sup boys and girls, it’s your man Kuma! You know, one of the things that I love about the scene is how curious we are about new hardware and software. People of all ages and skill levels are constantly pushing themselves to be more crafty, finding new ways to create music and visuals. It’s really cool. But with new tools being released and updated constantly, making the choice of what to use can be rather daunting. Furthermore, a lot of what’s on the market isn’t worth your time or money. That’s where this article comes in. So You Wanna Make A Chiptune is a column in which myself (and possibly other artists on the blog, as well) will help shine a spotlight on the weapons worth adding to your arsenal, as well as advising against the ones you should avoid! With that said, let’s get things started!
If you’re like me, you’re probably on your phone or tablet a lot. Checking Facebook, listening to Soundcloud, sharing hentai pics of chiptune artists on twitter. Fun stuff, for sure, but did you know you can compose music on your mobile device, too? It’s true! There is a huge gallery of resources at your disposal for music composition on the go, and while there are a lot of different ways to do it, the kind I’m gonna be focusing on today are tone matrix apps.
Tone Matrices are programs that allow you to create music by pressing on buttons within a grid (16×16 is the most common ratio) to create musical patterns that can be played in a sequence for song creation or can allow the user to improvise easily during live performances, much like the Tenori-on by Yamaha. Think of it like a Lite-Brite that makes music. Why am I focusing on these kinds of apps in a scene that focuses heavily on trackers and DAWs? Because not only are tone matrix programs simple, easy and fun to use, but they’re also arguably the most intuitive and unintimidating programs to use.
Starting things off in our article about tone matrix apps is…Tone Matrix. Yeah, that’s what it’s called. Based off the tone matrix program of the same name by Andre Michelle(a Polish producer who created the PC version for use with the online DAW Audiotool), Tone Matrix is exactly what it says it is…and nothing else. Lacking the multi instrumentation, pitch control, scale shifting and pretty much everything that makes the version Andre Michelle made that works as a stand alone browser sequencer (as well as a plugin for Audiotool), Tone Matrix is the most barebones tone matrix composer you’ll find, and honestly, it sucks. With jarringly loud tones that increase in pitch way too much the higher on the scale you go, a dull design, and only two options in the menu available, Tone Matrix is an app to generally stay away from. It’s free, and takes little to no memory, so if you want to play with it just to get your feet wet with the idea of what a tone matrix is, feel free to use it for that. Beyond that, this app is gross and a major disservice to Andre Michelle (whose music I highly recommend listening to).
Breakdown: Functions & Features: 1/5 UI: 3/5 Bang for Buck: 1/5 Reusability: 1/5 Reliability: 1/5 Overall: 1/5
Moving on from Tone Matrix is a program near and dear to my heart called RollingTones. Also inspired by Andre Michelle’s program, RollingTones is everything Tone Matrix should have been but never was. Designed by Czech designer and photographer Vit Hotarek as an homage to Andre’s program, RollingTones is one of the most deceptively powerful tools you will ever find for music creation on the android market. Taking up a measly 5mb, the program features a 16×16 grid, numerous instruments, and several playback and editing options all neatly displayed on the main screen. There are also several other features available within the program that are made available upon pressing the menu button. RollingTones features over 40 different instruments, fully functional saving options (limited only by the amount of space on your device), the ability to insert, copy, paste or delete patterns on the spot, octave shifting, single pattern or full song playback, audio quality output control (all of which save as highly versatile .wav files), tempo shifting ranging from 60-220bpm, a comprehensive help menu, a snappy demo song and 35+ scale types to compose in! The best part of all is that it does all this for free. No ads, no bloatware, no microtransactions. 100% Guile loving, cheeseburger eating, ‘Murikan free. It’s a very versatile program, one that I’ve enjoyed using to perform on Clipstream with, but it certainly isn’t without its problems.
While each song allows you to have up to 99 patterns in it, this total is mathematical and not theoretical, meaning that whether your song is composed of 99 unique, individual patterns, or maybe 10-12 patterns you’ve repeated, as long as that total equals 99 THAT’S IT! Song’s done! Trying to exceed that amount causes RollingTones to crash and can lead to file corruption. Furthermore, while there are numerous options available to you for instrumentation, RollingTones lacks pitch control and modulation for individual instruments, and also doesn’t allow for mixing of different types of the same instrument in a song file. What that means is that if you start composing a song using a square wave, you not only can’t add a triangle wave to the song to add different sounds to it, but trying to do so changes all the notes you inputted using the wav instrument from square waves to triangle waves. It can be a pain in the ass, but exploring limits and finding ways to circumvent and push against them is what chiptune is about, and with RollingTones, it’s definitely possible to do so. Furthermore, while he’s slow to implement changes, Vit Hotarek is a programmer that listens to his audience, and updates the program with new features whenever possible. This leads me to believe this will be a problem of the past with RollingTones given time. Regardless of when this happens, RollingTones is a fun app to use, and I highly recommend playing with it, cause you just might surprise yourself with what you make while using it.
Breakdown: Functions & Features: 4/5 UI: 5/5 Bang for Buck: 4.5/5 Reusability: 4/5 Reliability: 4/5 Overall: 4.25/5
Nanoloop 3.0 for Android
Created by Oliver Wittchow, a programmer and musician based out of Germany, Nanoloop has long been the undersung little brother of the big 3 portable trackers (those trackers being LSDJ, LGPT and Nanoloop), but don’t be fooled: just because it’s been underutilized doesn’t mean it sucks. Whether it’s one of the classic carts or the newest version for Android (and I products, as well. This is the one program on this list that doesn’t discriminate against mobile platforms), Nanoloop is truly a powerhouse to reckon with. Taking the already established simple and powerful design of its predecessors and combining it with the ease of use touch screens offer, Nanoloop is more than just a tool for chiptuners. Between its intuitive 4×4 tone matrix grid, editing options such as pitch, lfo, cutoff and volume control for each instrument, and the ability to use both native instruments and samples for music creation, Nanoloop 3.0 is not only the most powerful option available on this list, it’s arguably now the most versatile of the 3 big trackers, as it’s capable of everything previous iterations of the program could do as well as almost everything RollingTones can do and more. While I will complain that, compared to RollingTones, getting used to the symbols and song creation in NL takes a little bit of getting used to, once you’ve learned how to walk with this bad boy, you’ll be up and running faster than Sean Monistat can put out EPs. If you have $3 US dollars to spare and have even been slightly curious about this program, I’m telling you: take that leap of faith. It is money well spent.
Breakdown: Functions & Features: 5/5 UI: 4.5/5 Bang for Buck: 4.5/5 Reusability: 4.5/5 Reliability: 5/5 Overall Grade: 4.85/5
That does it for this edition of “So You Wanna Make A Chiptune”! Tune in next time as we take the time to review some classic, demoscene style trackers and help you determine what tools will work best for you! Also, don’t forget to check out articles from all of our other amazing talent here, Including Adam Seats, AutoRemi-PK, Professor Oakes, Viridian Forge, Chip Mom, Hoodie, R. Morgan, and all the other talented, wonderful staff here at ChipWIN. Last but not least, regardless of what you do, how you choose to express your creativity or who you choose to share it with, remember, Kuma loves you.
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!
Yo, welcome back ChipWINers! This week I managed to get a hold of a very popular artist from the Philly scene, Chris de Pew, aka, Storm Blooper. Having started out doing open mics and quickly becoming an anticipated and often booked live act over the past year, this young man is a force to be reckoned with! So without further ado, I bring you my interview with this talented, charming and amiable artist, Storm Blooper!
Kuma: So, lets start with something I noticed shortly after we first met. One night after 8static, you, Doppel-Gengar and Shyabeetus let me crash at your place after of night of partying. While I was at your humble abode, I noticed a keyboard and plethora of other music equipment, belying how long you’ve been making music. Tell me, where did Storm Blooper get his start in all this musical hoo ha? How did your epic journey begin?
Chris de Pew (Storm Blooper): Well I guess I’ve been involved with music and everything since I was really young. There was always a piano of some sort in every house I grew up in and so I just naturally gravitated towards that wherever it was. Although I didn’t start really making music until about 2006-2007. I taught myself everything, so I can’t really read sheet music or anything like that.
Kuma: I can respect that. It seems self taught instrumentation is a lot more common that I first gave credit to the scene when I started doing these interviews. That being said, did you have any early music projects prior to chiptune? Anything on Newgrounds or OCRemix, for example, or did you not start sharing anything until much later in your musical career?
SB: Yeah, it’s really kind of nice to see that in this scene. I always thought for years that I was alone in that aspect. As for earlier music projects, yeah I had this silly “band” called Sub-Woofer Special where I made music in FL Studio. It was really terrible stuff. Like, really terrible. You can find that project on the internet in a few different places if you just search for it. Other than that though I was in a ska band called Castro Fiasco in high school where I played trombone (again, self taught). That was a fun time. But as I spent more and more time with the Sub-Woofer Special project I began to add different instruments that tried to emulate chip sounds. Then eventually, I decided I wanted to focus on making chiptune music, even if it was “fakebit”.
Kuma: Very cool. Now, during that time, when you were SWS, was there a particular artist, song or moment that gave you that spurred that catharsis? The one that made you realize that chiptune was what you wanted to do?
SB: Well for years I had watched this online animated series called Bonus Stage by this guy Matt Wilson and he did all of the animation, music, and voices for it. A lot of the backing tracks to his epsiodes were chiptune sounding (he makes his music under the name SAVESTATES) and that’s what initially made me want to start incorporating some chip elements on top of some of the orchestral instruments I was using. Then a few years after doing that I just ended up using more chip instruments than string instruments.
Kuma: Was the transition from VSTs to trackers on Game Boys like LSDJ difficult for you? Were you surprised by how much Game Boys were capable of when you finally got your hands on one for musical purposes?
SB: Oh, I was blown away! I had been listening to people like glomag, Bit Shifter, Sabrepulse and all of them for years before, but I just never knew exactly what their whole setup was. So I was always under the impression that there was more than just the Game Boy going on in their tracks. I tried a demo version of LSDJ when I was still in high school, and when I say tried, I mean I basically opened it up, stared at the screen, moved the cursor left and right, put in a 00, then turned it off. Then when I actually sat down and tried learning it about a year ago, I was just proud that I was able to get to the instrument screen and change the duty cycle.
The great thing about a piece of software like LSDJ is that I can continue to learn and do so much more every day, whereas a VST just has these set parameters for the most part and that’s that.
Kuma: LSDJ is certainly a beast of a program, but I think a lot of us have that moment with trackers at one point or another, no matter how much we want to try to make music. I remember before getting into Piggy Tracker, I tried making music with Milky Tracker. I opened it up, looked at it, was liked “cool!” and then I tried using it, and I was like “nope” and I never used it again.
SB: Haha! Yeah I never thought I would be able to get a handle on any type of tracker at all. I haven’t looked at Milky or anything but I’m sure I would do the same thing
Kuma: That being said, lets go back a bit to what you mentioned before, about being inspired by Bonus Stage. Now, recently, in fact very quickly after coming onto the scene as Storm Blooper, you found popularity through another group of internet celebs called Continue?. Let’s talk about how you first met these guys, the song they used in one of their videos, and your feelings about that song now that it’s out there.
SB: Oh god! God damn it! I knew this song would be brought up!
Kuma: What’s wrong Chris? You sound as if there’s some intense emotion towards the song.
SB: Haha. MANY intense emotions.
Kuma: Well…why don’t you tell us?
SB: Okay, so I used to be a teaching assistant for Nick Murphy for his film course that he used to teach at UArts for high school students. I’ve known him for a few years but I didn’t meet the other guys until MAGfest actually. Anyway, the song that they used was the second song I wrote in LSDJ. The song that people seem to love for some reason (I think it’s pretty terrible myself).
Kuma: Well while it’s very cool you’ve known Nick for a while and they chose to use one of your songs for their video, I still don’t understand why you dislike that song so. I suppose to each their own, but you gotta admit: aside from being semi-youtube famous for it, now, it’s also seen it’s fair share of remixes in the scene, particularly by a few good friends of yours who are rather talented. Does it bother you that they chose to remix that song, or are you indifferent towards it?
SB: You know, I don’t think I’m anywhere near as good as him, but Josh Davis (Bit Shifter) said in an interview with andaruGO (I believe) once something about “Reformat the Planet” and how he feels about everyone loving that song and requesting it. I think he said something to the effect of “it’s like the chipscene ‘Free Bird’ ” and that he kind of just wants it to fade away or something like that. I think I know exactly how he feels now.
Haha… I’m sort of indifferent to the whole thing now, I guess. They’ve remixed it and covered it in so many different forms it’s a little ridiculous. You have to give them a lot of credit for that. Mainly Shyabeetus, who will find any way possible to cover it…even in Mario Paint.
Kuma: You know it’s funny you mention that song and Bit Shifter. While I certainly understand it’s popularity and that sort of vibe it has in the scene, for me, personally, “Reformat the Planet” was never that pinnacle, Free Bird song to me. For me, it was always “Strange Comfort”. But hey, what do I know: I didn’t get into chiptune until Blipfest 2k12.
That being said, I’m glad you at least feel indifferent to the remixes and requests for “Someone Stole All of the Ice Cream”, especially because one of those friends who helped remix it is also someone you’ve performed with fairly often. Lets talk about your relationship with DJ McGranaman for a bit, such as how you two first met and what made you guys want to work together, as well as any impact musically you two may have had on each other.
SB: Strange Comfort is A+. Ah, yes, DJ Bananahands. We actually met at 8static. I want to say it was my second or third 8static. I had seen him play open mic the first time I went back in May 2012. Actually before that, I saw him at this presentation I attended about music in video games. Dain Saint and Chipocrite held that during Philly Tech week. But I didn’t speak to DJ McGranaman then, I just noticed that metroid hat he had.
Kuma: Ah yes…that hat that he no longer has and now he cries every time it’s mentioned because he is without it.
SB: Jeffery was a special boy. RIP.
But we started performing this hour long combination set thing at MAGfest. It was a weird idea we came up with I think to save time on the chipstage that Piko Piko Detroit had set up.
Kuma: Was it? It seemed like you two had planned it a little more than that. It worked pretty well.
SB: Yeah I think we did maybe like 5 minutes worth of planning before we actually went up and did it haha! We would just do back to back songs so there wasn’t a whole bunch of dead time and instead constant music happening. We just kind of guessed which songs would flow well right into the next, and luckily for us it worked the first time.
Kuma: Well enough that you guys performed together again a couple months back in Philly. Tell me, how did that performance go? Did you actually prepare for it?
SB: Yeah! We’ve performed a couple of times as that duo since MAG. We played a set down at T-MODE and a few other places. The performance at TooManyGames went really well! We prepared a bit more before that show, yeah. Haha and by that time we had been playing so much together already that we sort of knew what to expect, although we constantly communicate just to give each other updates on what songs are coming next and such.
Kuma: I’m glad to hear it! That being said, lets get back to your solo career. You have an EP coming out very soon! Lets talk about it! What can we expect to hear on it? Is there anything new musically you experimented with when making this album? Will it have that definitive Blooper sound or can we expect to be surprised by this new baby of yours?
SB: There’s definitely no “Someone Stole All of the Ice Cream on it.” I can guarantee that. But yeah, there’s some weird different sounding things that I tried out on a few of the tracks
Kuma: I’m definitely looking forward to the album. Are you doing a listening party for it, by any chance?
SB: No listening party for this one (the next one though I promise!). And I don’t know if I have a certain sound at all. To me everything on the album sounds like it was written by a different person or someone with a multiple personality disorder. It’s kind of all over the place really.
Kuma: Wahhhh! No listening party! That feels so naked, so raw! But I’m happy to have something new to listen to soon. That being said, I think here is a good place to wrap things up, my friend. Before we go, is there anything you want to say in closing to your friends, fans, readers, or the chiptune/vgm community at large?
SB: I’d just like to thank anyone and everyone who’s possibly interested in my music in the first place! It’s really amazing the amount of people that actually care about what I’m doing, and in such little time! I honestly don’t think my music is that great, but for whatever reason there are people out that still want to listen to it and support me. So really, thank y’all thank y’all! Especially the Philly chipscene,Bryan Dobbins, Chris Burke, Josh Davis, you, EVERYONE!
Kuma: Thank you for making the music you do, and for being the cool cat you are, as well. it’s been a pleasure seeing you perform, hanging with you and being your bro since joining the scene. I definitely look forward to interviewing you again. Peace!
Thanks for checking out this week’s interview. Don’t forget to follow or like Storm Blooper on your preferred social media and check out his new EP, Jawn-Dis, which drops this weekend on 8static’s bandcamp page, as one of the first albums to be released under their new record label since joining foces with Dj CUTMAN!
Also, check us out next week for the long awaited release of next monster LP, Chiptunes = WIN Vol. 2, as well as another (possibly even two) awesome new interviews!!!!!!!!
Welcome back to the blog, fellow ChipWINners! As I’m sure you’re largely aware of at this point, we here at Chiptunes = WIN have taken the time to release another EP to hopefully sate your undying gluttony for music that is, quite frankly, awesome yet monstrous.
While our next colossal compilation will be here before you know it, I’d like to take the time to talk to you about this little amuse-bouche we’ve put together. Because it needs to be understood just what an epic undertaking this was.
You see, we here at ChipWIN pride ourselves in putting out some high quality music. We also take great delight in being part of a community that–along with other net labels, internet communities and artist collectives–has helped foster growth in our little corner of the world and has brought us all a little bit closer together. It is with this spirit of collectivism in mind that we are proud to have reached out to some of the most well known and promising artists in the VGM community and asked them to interpret some of our work as their own.
The results of this ambitious undertaking are absolutely astounding. Don’t just take my word for it though: take the time to listen to the fruits of our labor as I reflect upon why these artists live up to their titles.
Track #1: Tommy Did The Walkin’ by The World is Square feat. Sam Mulligan & Ryn
The first song on our EP was originally done by The J. Arthur Keenes Band (feat. Crayona and the Colorettes) and has quickly become one of the most popular and beloved songs released by ChipWIN thus far. Between the catchy lyrics, funky blips, classic west coast guitar tone, and vocals that sound like a they’re coming from a car radio, the song invokes memories of 60’s surfer and jukebox rock that would make even fans of the Slime Girls giggle with glee. It’s really no wonder this song caught on like it did. It’s one of the biggest departures from traditional chiptune we have ever been presented, and it’s these qualities that prompted a few very special people to do a cover of this song for us when asked to step up and help out with this compo.
Enter The World is Square: a video game cover band that’s made a name for themselves by specializing in acoustic and folk instrumentation of classic video game soundtracks by SquareEnix. Nick, Josh, Lauren, Dave and Joe make up this motley quintet of multi-instrumentalists from Massachusetts who have taken their love of the games this incredible company has produced and turned it into a successful, well recognized act in the VGM community, and in a relatively short amount of time at that!
Since the release of their premiere album in 2012, No Phoenix Down Can Save You Now, the band has gone on to play numerous shows, including notable events like MAGFest 11 and PAX East 2013. It’s been during their shows that the band came to make friends with a couple special people who would lend their talents to this cover: namely Sam Mulligan and our very own Chip Mama, Erin “Ryn” McQuisten!
Chip Mama makes everything better! waitaminute…
The combination of this amazing band’s instrumentals, Sam Mulligan’s pure awesomeness (the guy plays 6 instruments, sings, plays in multiple bands and DJs his own radio show: Nerd Rock Radio) and Ryn’s surprisingly smooth vocals (the result of years of competitive ensemble and church choir singing) culminates into an interpretation that not only embodies the catchiness of the original, but bottles the combined enthusiasm these people have for this song as well. The incredible energy everyone brings to the table helps turns this funky jukebox tune into classic TWIS goodness with vocals (a first for the Squares). The song comes across as a combination of drum circle hippydom and an almost bardic retelling of the epic tall tale of Tommy, whom you really shouldn’t mess with lest you end up a chalk outline at the scene of his crimes. It’s practically a tease to adventurers passing through his town who happen to hear this jaunty crew, warning them of the ultimate tough guy, and that they best just pass through if they know what’s good for them; but if they don’t, at least they can’t say no one warned them. Warned them about Tommy.
Tommy: a man who, in his later years, would legally change his name to Samuel Gerard and redeem himself by hunting fugitives such as Han Solo and Simon Phoenix.
If this song tickles your fancy, you should definitely check out TWIS’ debut LP, as well as work by Sam Mulligan such as Big Hand Band Van Man, and NickelPunk’s All I Could Do: a heart breaking, powerful and deeply personal EP which features a track with Ryn called “The Longest Two Days”.
Track #2: The Lunar Whale by Tim Yarbrough
Speaking of tall tales, no one song strikes as a tall tale, or better yet, a myth, than The Lunar Whale. Originally composed by Danimal Cannon, a man who really needs no other introduction, because, c’mon, he’s Danimal Cannon! The Lunar Whale isn’t so much a song as it is an invocation of this intense being of myth that simultaneously strikes awe and fear into those who bare witness to its glory.
Wind Fish, Lunar Whale, poTAYto, poTAHto.
With it’s deep, punching bass line, pulsing tri-waves, and intense, syncopated melody that continually builds against some incredibly slick drum rolls, The Lunar Whale is like listening to a wizard summon forth an unbridled force of nature & attempt to control it, only to be dumbstruck by the majesty and sheer power of the creature he’s called forth in his failing struggle to become its master.
So what do you do with a piece of music like that? How does one take a song that’s essentially an invoking spell and turn into something of their own? Well, in Tim Yarbrough’s case, the answer was simple: take it, strip it down to its most basic components, and focus on the melody underneath the complexity that is The Lunar Whale. And what better way to do that than with Mr. Yarbrough’s weapon of choice: the acoustic guitar.
Sexy, beautiful acoustic guitar.
Having played the guitar since he was 14, Tim has since gone on to become one of the most recognized figures in the VGM scene. A member of multiple bands, including The Altered Beasts, Space Camp, Another Place in Time, and–most notably– The OneUps, Tim has made music his life, as he not only performs in several bands and at several venues, including MAGFest and PAX, but teaches guitar as well. This intense skill and passion shine through in his interpretation of Danimal Cannon’s song, as Tim’s playing goes back and forth between styles such as classical guitar, western, and even Spanish guitar, sounding at times like a flamenco guitarist’s homage to the great beast in the sky. The result is a song that produces the opposite effect of the original, in that it comes across as a song meant to lull the cosmic behemoth to sleep beneath the calm waves of a silent sapphire sea.
Tim’s work is nothing short of amazing, and while I highly recommend checking out all of his acts, if his acoustically driven sound is one you’re especially drawn to do not miss The Altered Beasts. Their recent LP, Transfiguration, features a delightful selection of jazz guitar duo VGM arrangements.
Delight like a… a werewolf baby…
Track #3: The Hearts of Everyone by Jameson Sutton
The Hearts of Everyone is a dream like farewell of a synth lullaby composed and performed by Dmitry Zhemkov, the musician better known as C-jeff: founder of the Ubiktune record label. A keyboardist and composer by trade, C-jeff has helped turn his label from a site that specializes in micromusic to one that encompasses numerous genres within the VGM & chipscene. Furthermore… I just gotta gush a little bit. I don’t know what it is about Russians and their synths (seriously, Dmitry is among some good company with the likes of Alexander Zolotov and Mikhail Ivanov), but when you put the artificial ebony and ivory at their fingertips, magic just comes spewing forth like a water miracle from a Judeo-Christian Prophet.
If Russia could turn their synth music into miracles, they’d all be highlander jedis.
So how does one take the musical equivalent of a water miracle and turn it into something even more special? Simple: take that water and–with the help of some classical piano and string orchestration–turn it into wine. In the case of this cover, our miracle man is Jameson Sutton: a deftly skilled pianist, composer and singer who goes by the name Shadix. A man who would turn the simple, clean melody C-jeff constructed and convert it to a fine, cool climate merlot. One with a deep, barely translucent plum color which is sipped slowly while lounging pensively in a throne, pondering what a man is.
Dracula has a theory revolving around secrets. It’s based on a song by Sam Mulligan.
In all seriousness, what’s perhaps most touching about this piece of music is how well it embodies what Mr. Sutton seeks to create as a musician. Jameson, having been inspired by the Xenogears soundtrack as a child (a gift his father sent him from overseas while on tour of duty in Korea), decided that he wanted to make music that moved people the way he was by the game’s score. Taking that into account, it becomes abundantly clear as to why he chose “The Hearts of Everyone”. Making a cover that’s an arranged version of an already beautiful song not only allows Jameson to pay tribute to C-jeff’s incredible musical ability, it also allows him to pay homage to composers such as Yasunori Mitsuda: the man who created the soundtrack that inspired him (and many others, including TWIS) to make music in the first place. In doing so, Shadix creates an experience that resonates as deeply as any piece of music that Yasunori has produced. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day you find Jameson’s name on the cover of an album featuring arrangements of the next big RPG.
If Mr. Sutton’s music has had the desired effect, I highly recommend you check out his Soundcloud for more of the same.
If you aren’t moved by Jameson’s music, you’re obviously a shoggoth.
Track #4: Papercut You Into Little Pieces by VikingGuitar feat. Cory Johnson
That being said, even if you are a heartless, unloving, Lovecraftian monstrosity (bastard), or you’re just a badass who prefers his music have a little more ooomph to it, we do have something may be right up your alley. See, there’s this song called Papercut You Into Little Pieces. It was made by a chiptune duo named Marshall Art–which is comprised of Jeffrey Roberts aka jmr from Canada and Mikhail Ivanov aka Streifig from Russia.
Taking their name from an inside joke that refers to something having to do with a supposedly racist drawing of Eddy from Chromelodeon as a wild west sheriff, the duo’s combined 21+ years of musical experience has made slow progress putting out music together, due to both time and distance constraints on both their behalves. However, when the two do find the time to produce music together, the result is awesome. “Papercut You Into Little Pieces” resonates with the excitement of exploitation film tropes such as the classic Mexican Standoff, as well as Mikhail’s “intention of turning it [jmr’s original song that became Papercut] into a Pink Floyd jam from the very beginning”. The result is a song that sounds a lot like something you’d hear in a film by Quintin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez or Quintin Dupieux, such as Rubber: a movie that makes fun of and indulges in said tropes as a tire gains sentience and psychic powers, which it then uses to kill people.
You thought I was making that up, didn’t you?
In short: it’s an awesome song. So awesome, in fact, that when Erik Peabody chose to cover the song, he knew he couldn’t do it alone. So he summoned the help of another awesome musician by the name of Cory Johnson to help him do this cover justice. Now you have to understand something, Erik Peabody isn’t just anybody. He’s the man known as VikingGuitar: a musician who’s made a name for himself doing incredible metal covers of some of video gaming’s greatest music, including Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Megaman X2, and Cave Story. He’s also the founder of the Viking Guitar University, an entity which allows Erik to give back to the community that made him famous in the VGM scene by teaching people through video lessons how to play guitar and record from the comfort of their own home. So when Erik decides he can’t do it alone, he really can’t do it alone.
Enter Cory Johnson, a man who’s made only…one album? Yeah, that’s right: Cory’s only made one album, but that album is the result of years of music and a degree in audio engineering that came together to make one of the coolest interpretations of classic Zelda music to have ever been made. An album so cool, in fact, that not only is he going to another post rock album covering other Zelda songs, but he’s also working on an Earthbound postrock album, as well.
So what happens when you combine these two titans in a musical collaboration? The answer is a cover that sounds like an audio summer blockbuster to the original’s exploitation film origins. The difference is like comparing the first Terminator film to the second: the first may have established an awesome story, but the second took it over the top and just makes you go “Whoa!”, like watching a badass walk away from an explosion. I really don’t think I need to say anything more because seriously: WHOA.
Even children look awesome walking away from explosions
Track #5: Bahamoot by Stemage feat. Travis Morgan
We all know walking away from explosions can’t be the only badass thing a hero in a summer block buster does. That hero’s gotta fight. They gotta grit their teeth, give a dirty look, and when someone or something comes along that actually can knock them on their ass, they gotta ball their hands into fists and beat the shit out of the monster that thought picking a fight with the hero was a good idea.
Just Like this.
That’s exactly what happens when we’re talking about a song like Bahamoot by Stern Fucking Zeit: a chip metal duo out of Germany who kick as much ass as Blade does in a vampire nightclub. Having made a name for themselves in their home country and abroad by performing at over 70 live venues, these guys make music that combines the best aspects of multiple genres to craft a sound that’s as unique and refreshing as listening to Abducted By Shark’s Ronin. As such, it’s only fitting that some of the most amazing people in VGM get the opportunity to cover a song of this magnitude.
Grant Henry. Travis Morgan. Two of the most well renowned artists in the VGM scene and some of the most respected names in metal as well. Grant Henry is the artist most well known as Stemage, the multi-instrumentalist who founded the VGM beast that is Metroid Metal. The band features some of the best musicians in VGM/chiptune, including Danimal Cannon, and have become so legendary that they’ve become a regular feature of several gaming related festivals over the past 5 years, including PAX East, Nerdapalooza and and the last five MAGFests.
The Last. Five. MAGFests.
Not to be outdone, the partner in crime he chose to work with, Travis Morgan, is also a beast of a multi instrumentalist, as well as a singer, with 10+ years experience under his belt. If that’s not impressive enough to blow your skirt up (you jaded mothafu–), Travis has also had the profound distinction of having performed in over 14 countries world wide, and with multiple bands, including Atheist!
Yeah. Zombofriggin’ Atheist!
The by product of this collaboration is a song that manages to stay very faithful to the original but still kick ass in its own way. If the original Bahamoot by SFZ was about watching the tireless hero fight his one true nemesis, the metal cover Stemage and Travis whip out is the equivalent of watching said hero look out on the horizon after that battle, only to realize that his next fisticuffs session isn’t so much a battle as it is a one man war against a horde of the undead. A war he’s going to fight with his bear hands, at that.
And you thought that “bear hands” was a typo.
Track #6: Midnight Snowflake by Cory Johnson
Regardless of how you chose to fight the zombies, whether it be with bear hands or bare hands, you’ll find that somehow you’ve survived, and it’s suddenly…Christmas? Yeah, that last battle lasted so long, it’s time to forgive and forget all the bad things that have happened to you and find peace within yourself as we approach what is both the end of this ambitious album as well as the year, apparently.
Yippee ki yay, mother fucker, and a happy new year.
And what would Christmas be without our very own Vince Kaichan: a young man who’s become well known for being disproportionately talented for his age. Having been classically trained in piano and violin for 11 years, Kaichan took to composing his own music about 4 years ago, and has since gone from making ambient trance to chiptune and performing before a worldwide audience through Glenntai‘s monthly web concert series, Clipstream. So when a teen of this immaculate talent and skill makes a Christmas song so lovely that it transcends that holiday season, what is one to do to make it their own?
Well, sometimes when someone covers or remixes a song, they slow it down slightly, extend it, and turn what is a meditative moment into a journey. One that allows you to breathe, take everything in, and even enjoy the small, beautiful things all around you. Who better to do this than Cory Johnson.
Cory’s ready for the holiday season. are you?
Wait, wasn’t he on the list before? Didn’t he do that thing with that guy who does the badass covers of the Cave Story stuff? Yep. Cory made a comeback on this album and in a big way. Remember when I said that, despite having only released one album, that he was an amazing musician? You really couldn’t tell just how skilled he was while he was working with VikingGuitar, could you? No, it’s okay. I don’t blame you: that was primarily Erik Peabody’s song so it had his signature sound. But now it’s Cory’s time to shine, and let me tell you: if Kaichan’s original composition makes you stop by the woods on a snowy evening, Cory cranks up the existential factor and turns it into a fork in the road as you decide if you should walk the road not taken. Through this piece’s gradual build up, Cory proves that road is worth taking, because you’ll be amazed at where you end up. As amazed as reading Robert Frost while looking at photographs by Ansel Adams.
As you walk off on that seldom beaten path, this EP comes to an end, and you may be wondering whats next. Well, what does come next? Before you continue on your journey, I’d like to take to a step back and say something. The release of this EP marks a very special moment for us here at Chiptunes = WIN. Approximately one year ago, a young man named Brandon L Hood fell so deeply in love with chiptune that he too decided to walk the road not taken by starting not only what would become a netlabel, but one of the fastest growing and supportive communities in the chiptune & VGM scene.
Over the course of the past year, we’ve released four albums, with a total of 94 original songs having been released through our label. We’ve also been involved with several festivals, been featured on numerous internet radio shows, and have grown to amass 875+ members in our Facebook Group, 1150+ likes on our Facebook Community page, & 760+ followers on Twitter. We’ve been sponsors to numerous album releases, had some of the most in depth and also derpiest conversations in the chiptune community at large, and have become a respected name in entertainment.
All of it is thanks to you. You have made ChipWIN what it is today. You’re the reason we blog, promote, and travel as far and as often as we do to not only enrich chiptune and VGM as genres, but as communities and forms of artistic expression as well. To say thank you for reading our articles, listening to our albums, and generally supporting us Chiptunes = WIN is an understatement, but it is the only right thing to do. Brandon may have taken the first steps bravely on his own, but it’s because of you guys: the fans, illustrators, musicians, promoters, bloggers, gamers, visualists and DJs, that we even exist, let alone thrive, and have even become an extended family for one another.; a family I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of.
Since having joined this community, I’ve been witness to incredible acts of artistry, creativity, hilarity, thoughtfulness, charity, humanity and humility. I’ve seen people who have been on the verge of homelessness get help in the form of album purchases and donations through the page. I’ve seen younger fans get advice from their older chipbros and sistas on how to deal with bullies, liars, and the struggles that come with growing up. Most importantly, I’ve seen people come together and share their ideas, creativity and passion for what we do and what we love in ways others can only dream of.
In short: you put the “WIN” in Chiptunes = WIN. To that, we say thank you, and ask you to stay on this journey with us. There are great things in store for Chiptunes = WIN. We’d like to continue to be a part of your lives, as well as have you as a part of ours, as we make those great things a reality.
Thank again for reading and listening.
Kuma, Chiptunes = WIN
Amazing album artwork, as always, by Nate Horsfall.