Back in 2011, before I had been formally introduced to chiptune, I listened to a lot of folk and indie artists. Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Tree People, and AJJ (then Andrew Jackson Jihad) dominated my playlists and YouTube history. I listened to that music so often that as I got older I had to start taking breaks from it because it felt too familiar. But nevertheless, those records maintained their value to me over the years, acting as my go-to answer when asked about the kind of music I like.
So what does all that have to do with ‘.--. ..- .-.. .-..’ by null? Well, there’s a special feeling you get when you hear a song that sounds enough like your favorite band to make you do a double take. When you find yourself wondering if you didn’t get the memo about their early-years alias. When you realize you’ve discovered something completely new, but so similar to what you’re fond of. It’s a good feeling – and when you hear chiptune in it, it’s an even better feeling. And here’s where I tell you all about it.
I wanted to take a break from the showcasing of big chiptune talent to put the spotlight on a lesser-known duo of soundtrack artists from Dallas, Texas. Home World is a proof-of-concept demo album demonstrating the eponymous band’s burgeoning aptitude and enthusiasm for crafting musical accompaniment to video games.
Hey, what’s up everyone?! It’s your boy BronxKuma — Kuma for short — coming at you again with another round of Quick Shots! For those of you who don’t know, Quick Shots is my sporadic album review column in which I take aim at a handful of EPs and LPs that have come out fairly recently, quick fire my impressions about them and discuss whether they’re a solid purchase for those who charge money for their work. This time around, I’ve loaded up four albums I’ve seen come out over the past month or so that are worth talking about, so let’s stack these targets up, lock em in our sights and pull the hammer back, cause its time go time!
Hello and welcome to the return of “Jredd’s Hidden Gems”! This is the first in a series of articles for ChipWIN where we take a look at some lesser known chip musicians. Now obviously, who counts as “under-rated” differs from person to person, however I tend to go by the following guidelines:
It needs to be someone who does not have a whole ton of followers on Soundcloud.
They rarely, if ever, top the charts at various chiptune sites.
Or, they have yet to release an album with a well known chip-based netlabel.
With that said, let’s get started with our first pick:
Hey there, chipbros and sistas! Welcome to the first edition of Raw Cuts with Kuma! What is Raw Cuts, you ask? Well, Raw Cuts are unedited, candid interviews with some of the coolest, hippest minds in the chiptune scene! From big stars to up-and-comers, Raw Cuts was made to allow for a very in depth look at the thought processes of some of the artists, visualists, designers, and promotersin the scene, and maybe even a couple lols on occasion.
This first interview is one I did a while back with an artist who contributed to ChipWin’s very first compilation album, our 51 track beast of an LP. I went into it wanting to get to know and understand this artist more, but I ended up also getting some advice from him on my road to becoming a fellow chiptuner. Best known for his unique manipulation of noise, laid back demeanor, and dat luscious freakin hair, here’s my interview with Aleister M. Williams, the artist known as SKGB!
Kuma: So, lets start with something basic. Your stage name, SKGB. What was the inspiration for that? What does that stand for, anyway?
SKGB: Well… I basically needed to change my name from SOMETHING WHICH WILL NEVER BE MENTIONED AGAIN! And I wanted it to sound “cool” I guess, so I took some words that meant something to me and I turned em into an acronym. I’m sorry, but at this time my agent, Aleister Williams, will not permit me to reveal what SKGB stands for.
Kuma: Hahahaha fair enough, good sir. That being said, what first got you into chiptune? Had music production always been something that was a part of your life or did it come later in life?
SKGB: Well, when I was five I decided I wanted to be an artist ’cause I liked cutting the little stick people out all pretty-like. For a while I wanted to be a visual artist of some sort, then I got into the art of play in middle school and designed shitty little indie games with some Swedish software. Finally, I found my way into chiptunes, listened to everything I could on 8bitpeoples, started checking out tons of circuit bending stuffs, and smoked too much weed. Why paint one painting, when i can paint a billion diff paintings in every different person’s ears?
Kuma: Very true! Your music certainly has reached a wide audience, but I do have to admit you have a style all your own on stage. It seems to me you definitely haven’t completely abandoned your need to express yourself as a visual artist, particularly when the art is you, such as during your recent show at 8static. Care to elaborate more on the inspiration for that show?
SKGB: Well, Christmas is all corporate evil now, so I just figured i’d inject some electro-pagan-witch-funk into the mix of consumerist bullshit and see what happens. Also, I jokingly put “An SKGB Christmas Special” onto the official 8static bookings a while back and Emily Feder (EMFEDEX, Chipmusic Chronicle) made me follow through.
Kuma: Hahahaha! Oh dude you’re killing me! That being said, lets talk a bit more about your music. While there are a lot of chip artists who seem to find their groove after a while and seem to fit neatly into one sub genre, your music is just everywhere! Hell that Xmas set alone had the dance floor alternating between grinding and thrashing to pop and locking faster than Saturday at Blipfest! If you had to define you as an artist, what would you call yourself?
SKGB: Well I guess basstripnoisechipthrash or something like that. My brain is constantly getting bored so I have to constantly keep doing new things to keep it occupied.
Kuma: Would you say that boredom, or a fear of it, is ultimately the driving force behind what you do?
SKGB: Not really. To be honest I don’t know what boredom is anymore. I wish I had time to know it, though. Then maybe I could have more time for a good book and pipe and some pets or something.
Kuma: That’s honestly refreshing to hear, as boredom seems so pervasive in modern culture. I regress, though. Lets back track a bit though to your personal style of music. Are there any artists in particular that inspire you to do what you do,chip or otherwise?
SKGB: Yeah. A whole lot. No but really, I guess, as a kid I listened to a lot of jazz (bebop, avant guard, swing) my mom had. I grew up listening to stuff like Nirvana and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and 1st wave ska, then a whole bunch of techno, then chiptunes, then dubstep (like 2008ish stuff). Now I just listen to a whole buncha shit.
The artists who inspire me the most now are the ones i’m in close proximity with. Dino Lionetti (and all of Cheap Dinos). The fellas on the Madwaves collective i chill with lots,
and stray chipthrashlings who make it up to Philly: Kool Skull, The Ghost Servant, S.P.R.Y.
Kuma: Very nice. Kool Skull is one noise artist in particular I’ve come to enjoy greatly, in particular for something he said to me at his last show in NYC before moving out west. He said “the one thing you always gotta remember about chip is that chiptune is about making music easy.” Would you find in your experience that sentiment to be true? That making chiptune does make the music production process easier than if you had done it by more traditional means?
SKGB: It all depends. Me and Kool Skull tend to have the complete opposite workflow when it comes to music. He likes to work on tracks real fast like, and I like to spend hours tweaking and tweaking (a song, you silly). My advice would be, don’t let anyone else tell you how to make music. I mean, personally, i’ll find any way i can to make any sort of music i can, because anything else would make me feel real sad ;_; traditional recording or tedious tracking, s’all good.
Kuma: Hey, its all good. Like you said, this is about you doing what you love and what makes you happy. You do that however you want my friend. That being said, one last question for you. You’ve been in the chipscene longer than I have. Seen its ups and downs, and have earned the respect and admiration of your peers and fans. Over the course of the year, the chip scene has seen some incredible changes, from the rise of Chiptunes=Win to the farewell of Blipfest. In your personal opinion as both a fan and an artist, what do you see yourself doing over the course of 2k13 and what do you think will come of the scene, as well?
SKGB: Well… I see myself making a whole bunch of music that doesn’t sound like “traditional” chipmusic, calling it chipmusic and pissing a whole bunch of people off (lol).
As for the “scene” as a whole, I don’t see an end to chipmusic in sight at all,
though i do believe the locus of chip hocus pocus has and will continue to stray farther from the east coast. Going to BRKfest last year blew my mind wide open to the fact that yes: chipmusic is just as big, if not a whole fuckton bigger, than it ever was. In fact, the entire midwest corridor is on hot fiyah, Piko Piko Detroit, Cartrage, BRKfest, and all the travelling artists in between are fucking shit up real proper over there. But mark my words: the 8static crew still have a few surprises on their .sav roms.