While I’m sure many agree with the sentiment that their musical taste fluctuates often (and sometimes very rapidly), mine is especially the case when it comes to chipmusic. Due to the wide and oversaturated market filled to the brim with talent new and old, I’m always looking for new and exciting releases that push the boundaries of what these small (but mighty) sequencers and instruments are able to produce—as my article archive can attest. With releases sprouting up left and right, it’s quite a grueling, difficult journey to sift through them in order to find one in which I connect with on more levels than I can explain. However, when that does happen, I feel like I’ve hit a gold mine, and this is especially the case with with The Mineral Kingdom, Oakland’s first chipjazz/doom metal/bluegrass/
chamber music band, and their self-titled first EP. (more…)
crashfaster. You know them as that rockin’ Bay Area quartet with unforgettable stage presence, and you know that pseudonym through association of high quality releases that do anything but disappoint. Every. Single. Time.
If you recall my last crashfaster album review, which you can read HERE, ‘further’ was an album that emerged from ‘the ashes of discarded technology’ in a thoughtfully composed narrative arc. As a whole, ‘further’ is a metaphor for the never-fleeting feelings of isolation, numbness, and emptiness that one may encounter throughout their life, and is largely an autobiographical commentary by Morgan Tucker, crashfaster, 8bitSF and monobomb records’ frontman. Envisioning an explorer, Tucker remarks that the entirety of ‘further’ is a metaphor of the contemplation of his life and eventual journey to find the truth by ‘casting aside his former life and shedding each layer of his humanity.’
Transpiring from the personal anecdote alluded to throughout the course of ‘further’ is ‘superchroma’, an EP whose energetic presence and masterful evolution from the album prior is one that can’t go far from unnoticed. Released fresh on Bandcamp on July 22, 2014, ‘superchroma’ pays homage to what crashfaster had been, but also sets the stage to what the band WILL become. Despite what such a busy man he is, Morgan was very gracious to answer a couple of questions that I had about the evolution of the band, the transition from ‘further’ to ‘superchroma’, influences, and the future of crashfaster—because I love all of you, read on for the interview with the man himself!
Professor Oakes: Hey Morgan! Thanks again for being able to do this!
Morgan Tucker: No, thank YOU! I really appreciate you interviewing me!
PO: Psh, I do all the easy lifting ;) But seriously, thanks again for taking the time. I know how busy you are with being a father, frontman of crashfaster, 8bitSF and co-founder of monobomb records! You certainly sound like you never take a breather.
Can you tell me a little bit about crashfaster and the significance in the pseudonym?
llustrations courtesy of Phylissa Li, 2014
MT: crashfaster is meant to infer to both technology (ephemerality) and physicality. I’m fascinated by how much we rely upon technology to feed our souls. I believe we must strip away distractions and excess in both the physical and spiritual realms in order to discover our true nature. crashfaster is a call to action – destroy both your digital and physical selves to reveal the truth that lurks beneath the surface.
PO: I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and I was very excited to see you evolve from a single-person band into a quartet. Can you tell me how the transition from a single act to a full-man band means to you? Are you happy with the sound now that you have extra hands (and friends) on the team? How did you meet one another, anyways?
MT: There are two aspects of working with a band that have had a significant impact on crashfaster. In the studio, songwriting possibilities multiply exponentially. Each one of us has distinct and disparate musical tastes and influences. This has made our sound more rich and varied. In a live setting, there’s a lot more energy on stage to play with and off of. It’s hard to be one guy behind a Gameboy and keep the crowd’s attention. There’s a lot more for people to connect with when there’s four of us thrashing away. crashfaster was always intended to be on the dancey side of things, but something interesting happened when we began writing as a band.
On “further” we each naturally fell into a rock mentality, and the music became more aggressive and a little less beat-oriented. On “superchroma” we’ve pulled the sound back towards something that will make you move. I think we’ve found the right balance in our new material.
As for how crashfaster formed into a four-person band, it happened by chance, mostly. A few years ago I wanted to start stepping up the impact of my live performance, and I thought the single best way to do that was to introduce live percussion. I met Devin through a mutual friend of ours (The Glowing Stars’ Lizzie Cuevas), and we had an instant bond. We both saw eye to eye on where the project could go and shared the determination and work ethic that could make it a reality. A little while later, we got a shot to open for Anamanaguchi, and I wanted the band to sound even bigger.
The man, the myth… the Ryan Case. Photo by Lester Barrows
I asked Ryan (who was a coworker at the time) if he thought he could learn our songs in a week. He said yes, and he did! We met Keiko at the farewell show for our old singer. The rest is history.
PO: Wow! What a history and inspiring happenstance. While I certainly love the sound of old crashfaster, I love the direction you all have been going in now that there’s four of you. However, I especially LOVE the direction you went in this EP, and it has to be one of my favorite crashfaster releases. With that said, can you tell me a little about the transition from ‘further’ to ‘superchroma’ as a whole?
MT: “Superchroma” was meant to be more of an evolution than a departure. We wanted to both pay homage to what crashfaster had been, but at the same time set the stage for everything that we could become. Our musical influences are deep and varied, and I want the band to reflect that moving forward.
Working at Different Fur with Patrick Brown and Sean Paulson opened our eyes to new workflows and songwriting possibilities. As soon as we finished up “further”, I was ready to get back in there and do it all over again, but this time we’d be armed with new ideas that the studio experience had spurred. “Further” was very much a protracted labor of love…from concept to completion, the project was in development for more than two years. While this allowed us time to refine lyrics, hidden meanings and aesthetic synchronicity, it didn’t let us experiment much while recording. The album was more or less what we came into the studio with. It was only afterward that we realized how much this held us back.
On “superchroma”, we decided to come in sans preconceived notions. We had about 20 rough sketches of songs that Patrick immediately whittled down to 10. From there, we started messing around with each of them until we found the voice the track. We knew we had 10 days from start to finish, and the goal was to get as much done as possible, while reserving the right to chuck things out that just weren’t working. This process was incredibly freeing, and allowed for many happy accidents, serendipitous guest appearances and just more…fun. I think that really comes through in the recording.
PO: Now that we’re talking about production and the gift of group collaboration, what hardware and software do you use?
MT: crashfaster uses a Gameboy loaded with LSDJ, a Gameboy mGB (midi), a NES with midiNES, a SIDstation, sammichSID, a Commodore64 with MSSIAH, Plogue Chipsounds 707, 808, 909, VP330, a Juno 106 & Ableton Live.
PO: Such sweet, sweet tunes for my ears. This hard and software you use—do you have any formal training as a musician? The rest of the band?
MT: I don’t have any formal training as a musician. However, I went to art school for Audio Production. I worked on Foley/SFX/Sound design for several indie films before I started crashfaster. Devin is classically trained and the most experienced musician in the group. The rest of us are pretty much self-taught.
PO: If you could categorize crashfaster’s genre and place a finger on what the band sounds like, what would it be?
MT: Electronic/Industrial/Synth/Rock. Or something.
PO: I’d say that’s pretty accurate! No reason to have to straddle one genre! What would you say influences you all? Music? Movies?
crashfaster performing ‘GO!’ live at the DNA Lounge, 6/22/14. Photo courtesy of Lester Barrows
PO: Oh, definitely! I feel like “GO!” is straight out of an actual anime—IT’S PERFECT and incredibly energizing! Would you say you have a favorite track on ‘superchroma’?
MT: It’s hard for me to pinpoint a single favorite, because I’m really happy with how the entire thing came out. But if I had to pick, it’d probably be “lost”, because I think we were able to pull off the emotional intent of the lyrics in a way that hits me every time.
PO: I’m curious of the conception of the album name. Does it signify anything in particular?
MT: We were playing with these visual concepts that were heavily inspired by early 90’s rave/cyberpunk culture and anime, and we wanted the music to *feel* colorful. When we were coming up with names for the album, we tried to find something that felt as hyper-kinetic as what was in our heads. Thusly…superchroma!
PO: This colorful and kinetic mood… it’s totally off the spectrum than that of its precursor ‘further’. Would you say the birth of your child had any affect on this newest album and your artistic vision as a whole?
MT: Yes! The idea for “further” was something that preceded my child, and I had been suffering from a loss of purpose and feeling in my every day life, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to find happiness. The construct allowed me to explore the concepts of duty, destiny, assimilation, isolation and self-destruction both lyrically and sonically. Once my daughter was born, I was overcome by a new feeling…not one of numbness, but a crushing awareness of time. I feel, now more than ever, that time escapes me at a pace that I find…unsettling. After all, my biggest fear in life is that I will have regrets (would’ve, should’ve, could’ve), and now I am extremely conscious of the fact that I don’t have forever to do all of the things I want to do while I’m here.
PO: Would you say there’s an overall theme of ‘superchroma’?
MT: Looseness. Ultimately, I wanted this album to act as a “mix cd that you’d have on in your car as you drove around at night in San Francisco.” This lighter construct allowed me to explore more varied types of music…things that I’ve been a fan of but never really found a way to make work within the context of crashfaster.
On this EP, we’ve got everything from a funky synth-pop tune to a faux anime theme song to an industrial club banger. Though the styles are seemingly unrelated, with the help of Patrick Brown, we were able to tie them together aurally in a way that works surprisingly well.
‘superchroma’ by crashfaster. Album artwork by Phylissa Li, 2014.
PO: Now that your album is wrapped and now live, what does the future hold for crashfaster? Tour? What does it mean to you since you were the founding vision?
MT: More music, and more shows! Through crashfaster and 8bitSF, we’ve built up the community in the Bay Area to the point that I believe it’s one of the most vibrant and diverse scenes in the US. We recently joined forces with LA artists who formed 8bitLA, and we’re working together as sister organizations to bridge the physical divide in California chipmusic.
As far as crashfaster, we’re going on tour with Everything Goes Cold in late August, which will take us from San Francisco to Chicago. After that, we’re hitting the East Coast to play 8static Festival in Philly in October.
PO: I’m looking forward to your Los Angeles stop. You never disappoint! Just thinking about touring the country and doing what you love sounds so incredible. With that said, before we depart, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
MT: Oh, absolutely! Be humble. Be persistent. If you’re in it for the music, you’ve got to be prepared for the long haul. Destroy all excuses. Stop talking about why you can’t do things…make do with what you have.
PO: Excellent! Thank you so much for providing those nuggets of advice—I’m sure our readers can relate. Anyways, that just about wraps it up for our interview. Again, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon!
MT: Absolutely! Take care.
That’s all for this (special) edition of Chip Treatment with Professor Oakes! Don’t forget to check out crashfaster’s music, and follow 8bitSF on ALL THE THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA for future events. Also, if you have some time, be sure to check out the series of music videos for ‘GO!’, ‘goodbye‘, ‘hi‘, ‘lost‘, ‘photograph’, and ‘tonight‘ created by Gabriel Roland, 8bitSF’s resident visualist and mastermind behind Noukon Films.
Hey, what’s up ChipWINners? Welcome back to Raw Cuts! This time around, I managed to snag a chat with super chiptune veteran whom, after years of performing and organizing shows, has pulled all the stops out for what may be his biggest venture yet! So sit back, relax, and unwind as I talk music, creativity, family life, and one of the biggest shows of the year with Kevin Martinez, the dynamic artist known best as Wizwars!
Kuma: So first off, Kevin, I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me for this interview! I know you’re a busy guy, and I know it’s not easy for you to take the time to sit down and derp it up in a convo with someone between parenthood, musicianship, and whatever else life throws your way, but I appreciate it.
Wizwars: It’s my pleasure! I even just almost broke three toes about five minutes ago and I’m still glad to have a chat with ya!
Kuma: Damn! That is some dedication! I’m honored, and sincerely hope you’re alright, man! That being said, let’s start from the beginning. You’ve been in the chiptune game for a long time, you’ve put out numerous EPs and recently put out your very first LP. What got you into chip in the first place, Kevin? What made you become the man we all know as Wizwars?
Ah yes, Virt: a man so talented and gifted with cluckies he could inspire Wizwars to make cheepy chippy tunes for himself.
Wizwars: Ever since I was a little kid, I was really intrigued by the sounds and the music found in old video games, especially Nintendo games. I was one of those nerdy kids who used to make cassette tapes of the music from games and whatnot…anyway when I was fifteen a friend of mine gave me a pirated version of the music software Acid, and of course I used it to primarily take clips from Nintendo songs and layer drum beats under them…this was all in 2001-2002. I never did anything with this stuff except annoy my mom with it. But anyway, in 2003 I think it was, I found a chiptune cover of a Dream Theater song that Virt had done (at the time Dream Theater was my favorite band, facepalm), and I was like oh fuck yes, people can make music with Nintendo sounds!
So I did some searching and found 8bitpeoples and became hooked on that chiptune sound for life. Got into tracking in 2004, finally felt brave enough to release an EP in 2006 under the name Wizards and Warriors, later shorted to Wizwars. Probably 15-16 demo EPs, 60+ shows (including a Blip Fest) and one LP later, here we are today.
I…I still really like this band’s early work. …I’m still very much 17 inside
Kuma: God damn! That is quite a journey! And so concisely put, as well! I love it! I gotta say, I’m with you in being one of those weird kids that always liked game music. My first walkman was my gameboy (I’d listen to the sound test on king of fighters 95 constantly). Also, if it makes you feel better about the dream theater thing, I still sometimes listen to 30 seconds to mars and saosin. That digression aside, lets delve into those years a little more, as well as your personal tastes and inspiration in music. Where do you draw your inspiration from to make your music and from whom? Which artists–scene or otherwise–make you keep doing what you do?
Wizwars: I listen to a lot of different music, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of both subconsciously and consciously incorporate elements of whatever I’m listening to at the time into my own music, so it’s kind of hard to pin point exactly who or what my influences are at any certain time. Within the chip scene, I’d say my biggest influences have been Bit Shifter and IAYD. Outside of the chiptune scene, damn…there’s too many to list, haha. In the earlier days I was also heavily influenced by NES soundtracks such as Wizards And Warriors, Castlevania 1-3, Mega Man 2 & 3, and Willow.
My main inspiration to write my own music these days just comes from a deep rooted love of music that is both high energy and melodic. Anything happy that can put a smile on your face just by listening to the beautiful, infectious melodies.
Kuma: Awww. That’s freakin’ beautiful. Although considering the love I’ve heard you express for groups like Jimmyeatworld, I’m surprised you didn’t just say, you know, jimmyeatworld. That aside, you certainly have done a great job of crafting that sort of sound. Hell I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m moved every time I hear “Handheld Hero”, which may arguably be your best known song. It certainly has strong emotional resonance with me being as its one of the few songs I distinctly remember for Blipfest. Which brings me to my next question: since I first came into the chipscene via Blipfest, that weekend was also very significant for you because it was the weekend you got married. Has marriage and also parenthood affected your creativity in anyway? Do you find you approach music differently now that you’ve gone home and become a family man?
Kevin: Note to anyone reading this – never plan your honeymoon around a Chiptune festival, too much stress![Note from Kuma: that means you, Hoodie. ;) ]. But yeah, I’d definitely say that taking Guile’s advice has affected my creativity in a number of ways. Throughout 2011 and some of 2012 I was part of the “Chipthrash” movement of musicians, which for those who do not know was a few people taking Game Boys and trying to push them to extreme limits with incredibly harsh, noisy and chaotic music that made you want to thrash about and punch people. Various people in that movement had different reasons for wanting to make this kind of music, but I did it because I was coming out of a really dark depression and not very happy in my life, and I vented my frustration through my music. But after I met Monique (my now wife), got engaged, and especially after we found out we were expecting and got married, I was filled with so much happiness that it made it really difficult to write that kind of music anymore. Without the anger and the inner turmoil behind it, it just fell flat, and I found myself drawn to writing more happy and melodic music because I had finally found some happiness in my life.
On the negative side, having a child has of course limited my ability to write music as often as I was once able to, as it’s rather difficult to compose when a baby is crawling on you trying to steal your Game Boy!
Kuma: Well if Bob Baffy’s song “Forgetro” is any indication, one day that lil man of yours is going to figure out that what you’ve been doing all this time is playing music and games on an ancient version of his Xbox and that he’d rather just play that instead. XD
I’m happy that you found your way out of that dark place, though, because if you were still there, I don’t think we’d have what I’m about to bring up now, or at least, we wouldn’t have it to the scale it’s reached. Let’s talk about Frequency, which is now approaching it’s third installment! Tell me, what prompted you to create it, along with 8bitLA?
Wizwars: My reasons for creating both Frequency and 8bitLA are the same – the chiptune scene in Los Angeles had become really stagnant, and, hopefully I can say this without offending people…after a certain point, most people really weren’t willing to do anything. In 2011 I was part of a large collective called Obsolete, that consisted of many of the LA chiptune artists working together to run a monthly chiptune event. It lasted for the summer of 2011 and it was great, but then we lost our space and we couldn’t really agree on a new location because everyone had a different opinion as to what the event should be like or where it should be held (warehouse party vs being at a bar vs all ages venue). And thus it kind of just died, and after that no one was really making any moves towards booking regular chiptune shows out here.
So in the Spring of 2012 I said fuck it, I’m going to throw together a chiptune festival and shake shit up a little bit in LA. If no one else was going to step up and do it, it would be hypocritical of me to complain or to talk shit about others for their lack of activity if I wasn’t putting out the effort myself. And the first one was a flop. The music was great but we did it at a tiny (now defunct) DIY spot that very few people knew of; not many people came out, but I did meet Jesse Avila of 1000 Needles there, who is the other co-founder of 8bitLA. Without him I probably would’ve never moved Frequency from a small DIY space to one of the more popular indie venues in Los Angeles (The Smell), as we did with the second edition, which was exponentially more successful than the first, and we’re hoping that the same will continue with Frequency 3.0
Kuma: Let’s talk in depth about Frequency 3.0. I take it that considering the line up you got, that this is not only the largest show the 8bitLA crew has put on to date, but it looks like you’re really looking to raise the standard of large scale shows! Tell me, do you draw inspiration from the other pockets of chiptune that have done well in pulling off these events like 8static and BRKFest, and if so, what do you feel they did that you’d like to emulate, and what sets you apart from them that you’d like the community to take away from this experience?
Wizwars: It’s definitely the biggest show I’ve ever worked on. I’m actually cocky enough to say that Frequency 3.0 is probably the largest and most ambitious chiptune event that has been held on the West Coast. As far as I know there has never been a 20 artist 3 day chiptune festival west of the Rockies, and I’m pretty proud of that! (Hopefully no one can prove me wrong :P)
I actually do not really look to the other chiptune festivals for inspiration. I have a lot of respect for people who put these kinds of events together because I know firsthand that it’s a lot of work coordinating everything, but since I haven’t been able to firsthand experience any of those festivals (being poor sucks), we (8bitLA) just kind of look inward and think what we would personally enjoy as someone attending a chiptune festival, and try to make it happen. We’ve got a line up of fantastic chiptune artists ranging from scene legends to up and coming folks you might have never heard of, but are incredibly talented. We have (in my humble opinion) the best chiptune VJ around, Tim Abad. And we’re having a pizza party, and there will probably be some video games somewhere. What more can you really ask for?
Kuma: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I really couldn’t ask for much more than that, other than I’m curious to know what’s on the agenda for you guys after Frequency?
Wizwars: Well, the first order of business will be recovering from the inevitable Frequency Flu. After that, hopefully by summer of 2014 8bitLA will usher in the return of a monthly chiptune event in Downtown Los Angeles. We just have to find a space first. There will also be random one of shows (hopefully more than we’ve done this year, now that we have a bigger and better crew) and also our soon to be legendary annual 4th of July BBQ show (which will also apparently be a pool party this year). And of course, planning for Frequency 4.0!
Kuma: Nice. I know the steady venue thing seems to be what the scene struggles with most in the various pockets it exists in, but I’m glad to hear that you’ve got a plan to keep moving things forward.
Kevin, once again, I’d like to thank you for sitting down with me and taking the time to conduct this interview. is there anything you’d like to say in closing to our readers?
Wizwars: Hey thanks for asking awesome questions and making this a fun interview! Everyone reading this should feel free to book tickets to Los Angeles over Martin Luther King weekend next month and come rock out with us in DTLA at Frequency 3.0! West Coast is the best coast, y’all better watch out for that real Cali chip!
And with that, we close out this month’s edition of RCwK! I’d like to thank all ya’ll for sticking with us here at ChipWIN and highly recommend you heed Kevin’s advice! If you’re on the west coast and haven’t done so already, snag yourself tickets for Frequency 3.0 cause not only is that show going to be awesome, but it is a wonderful substitute for those who couldn’t make out to MAGFest this year and an excellent follow up for those who did! I also urge you to check out Wizwar’s music and keep up with both him and 8bitLA on social media to not only stay up-to-date on frequency goodness, but to be in the know about the cool events and music coming out of the Best Coast chipscene.
Peace and Love to all my fellow ChipWINners. Keep on rocking.