I’m back again for the second time this month, though this time, I’m here to talk about the last ever regularly held I/O. Held unexpectedly in the back of a busy bar in Bushwick full of the everyday mid-twenty Brooklyn inhabitant, nobody would suspect a chiptune show to roar from the back room of Pine Rock Box Shop. Reminded of a NYC version of Diagon Alley, I watched the room fill at 8:45PM, and I had the opportunity to meet so many kind people I only know from collecting records or from chatting online. Working together to create a creative and interactive environment for those around them, people danced, looked onto the artists’ setups, and most of all, stood as a collective with a strong love towards a vast genre, as the last monthly I/O came to an end.
Jessen Jurado, the show’s director, brought back original veterans of the first ever I/O to close out the last monthly one, hinting that, maybe, an I/O festival may be in the future. Starting with an excellent set of artists owning the open mic (Delphiki on Gameboy and drum pad in a skillfull and on point performance, Iron Curtain with two tracks on Gameboy [one being a birthday tribute to Radlib], Hedonism Bit showcasing Renoise chops, Flow Mein returning yet again to showcase Gameboy knowledge, Hunterquinn expertly running LSDJ, and Card Party amping up the audience even more with more intricate Gameboy beats). Goferboy, Kris Keyser, and Radlib all gave standing ovation performances (I mean, how could the crowd sit when we couldn’t all help but dance?), while diy_destruction and NO CARRIER provided excellent and interactive visuals. Better yet, this I/O landed on Radlib’s birthday, and seeing friends and fellow performers hop on stage and carry him around mid performance is solid proof that while we all want to create and have fun, it’s better to do so when you’re around the people who matter most.
So, without further ado, let’s hear more about the visualists and headliners of Friday’s event.
Starting first, we have visualist NO CARRIER.
I heard you started off in Philly. How is NYC different than life in PA for you?
You know, NYC’s a hustle. Lots of audience here for gigs, but lots of competition, too. I’m not as active in the chip scene anymore, but even the scene itself has slowed down. But I’m DJ’ing a lot here, because the roots reggae scene is just too good here. We didn’t have that in Philly. But don’t get me wrong – Philly rules! When I started 8static with Brana back in 2008, their were lots of talented acts there — but there wasn’t a strong central scene, so to speak. We (meaning the early 8static crew: Dino from Cheap Dinosaurs, Joey from Animal Style, Alex Mauer, etc) started putting on these events and it really picked up. I attribute it mostly to the workshops we ran before shows and the open mic, as well as the all ages / DIY vibe of the shows. It felt really great to throw big parties and be able to pay your friends from all over the world to come play. There isn’t much better than that, right?
When did you start creating?
Well, if we’re talking about creating chip stuff, I started coding for the NES around 2005, but didn’t play out until 2007. I was always a fan of chip music, but when I started seeing in live in 2004 or 2005, that’s when I realized I wanted to start doing live visuals. A lot of people were VJ’ing at the time, doing stuff with video clips. Notendo (Jeff Donaldson) and Voltage Controlled (Paris Treantafeles) were doing their thing with hardware and software they created, but nobody was actually coding for the NES, so I figured I would go that direction, as I love that machine so much.
What are your favorite parts of live performance?
I love working with so many different musicians and bands. Even within just the chip scene, there is such a wide range of diversity when it comes to sound, genre, setup, and instruments used. And I love traveling. I feel so lucky to have made it around the world doing stuff that I love. Massive respect to all the people throwing big festivals, like Square Sounds Tokyo and Melbourne, and of course the 8static folks. And when Blip was happening, it was always my favorite time of year to get together with everyone and just enjoy the music, art, and good vibes.
What do you use to create?
I was joking at I/O the other day that no matter what I use, it all comes out looking the same. And I think that either means I’m wasting my money on more gear or I have a really tight aesthetic. Hopefully the latter. But seriously, after doing live visuals for almost a decade, I look for things that resonate with the vibes I’m already feeling. If I have an idea, I want to make sure I have the hardware to make it a reality or the platform on which I can code it and make it happen. Although I don’t use them as much anymore, I’m still really drawn to the NES. It’s such a great machine and colors and sounds it produces are so pure and clean. And that’s why I love video synthesis, too. I like working at a low level and really getting my hands dirty with signals and code, with not much in the way. I like low resolutions, high contrast, simple shapes, and bold colors. The longer I do this, the more its about a feel and a vibe, and less and less about logos, representational imagery, or anything like that. I move in a more simple and abstract direction all the time.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working with a publisher to get a bunch of my NES artwork into a book dedicated to the art of NES games. I’m really excited about that and hope to be able to talk about it more soon. Besides that, the usual cycle of endless ideas flowing through my head coupled with trying to find the time and energy to devote to them! Like I said before, NYC’s a hustle. As much as I love it here, I do feel the pace of life makes it hard to devote as much of my time to my work as possible. That’s why I like doing live gigs, as it centers me and gives me a focus and reason to practice and make new stuff.
What’s your live setup like?
Right now its a mix of video synths and NES consoles. I used to use more NES consoles, but now just one. On the synth side, I have a modular case of LZX and brownshoesonly stuff, as well as a couple of smaller synths designed by Gieskes.
How did it feel to be present at the last regular I/O? Is this an event you frequented?
I haven’t been to as many over the last year or so, but I’ve been attending them since they were being held back at Niagara. The best thing about the event series is that Jessen is always on top of stuff, from the promotion beforehand to the sound and video day of the show. He always takes care of the performers and gives attendees their money’s worth.
Where can we stay up to date with your projects?
Check my website.
Next up, we have visualist diy_destruction.
When did you start creating visuals?
I Started around 2009 under the name of invaderbacca, using Arkaos and some introductory software and circuit bending my own Nintendos. From there I made my own loops and started to mess around with PD in 2013.
What other ways do you stay connected to the chip scene?
I hang out with everyone from IO and Pulsewave pretty regularly or as much as I can.
I thought, at first, that you were using Max/MSP/Jitter. What do you love about Pure Data?
I love Pure Data because it’s very, very basic, free and the user community around it is VERY DIY and small.
How did you learn about creating live visuals?
I learned from Paris Treantafeles and Antonio Roberts (hello cat food). Both are amazing pure data programmers and visuals artists who literally wrote the book on using Pure Data for video art.
I saw you walking around with a controller. How important is interactive visuals to you?
I just love having a touch controller because it allows me to have my patches be very, very complicated but still allow for quick response triggers. Having it be wireless helps me to be able to set up my gear somewhere and allow me to get a better view from anywhere in the venue I want. It also allows me to get myself a beer which is usually really hard for a visualist to get himself.
How did it feel to be a part of the last regular I/O?
I/O has been a very steady part of my life since 2009. Jessen gave me some of the best and some of the first shows I ever had the privilege of being a part of. After going to a few shows, I started to try to work with him to get shows together and bounce ideas and help in anyway I can. I love I/O and I love Jessen and the whole family.
Where can we stay up to date with your work?
Up next, we have the Gameboy performer known as Goferboy.
How did you start creating music? Was it always with a Gameboy?
There has always been an interest I’ve had with music, before I could even have some cognitive abilities to make memories. I was a hyper, manic little destruction of a toddler, but I heard when it was music time at pre-school, the music teacher would come and play on the school piano, and all my focus would just be on them. I would walk up just to play the piano to hear its sounds and the pitches it could make. It seems pretty simple, hyperactive toddler liking something that makes noises, but I like to think that moment speaks about me in a fundamental way. I wasn’t just into the melodies and harmonies of sound, but of the actual sound itself. So through the years, I took private lessons, would be in rock/jazz class for high school, take some music workshops, and play in basement bands, always with a keyboard/piano. But after hearing about chiptune, and getting into that process of how the hell you work this crazy thing, I think from there I found more creative voice of my own. While before I felt I was creating music as much as reciting other’s music, working with LSDJ brought out a creative voice, where I felt like I was actually creating something.
Your performances are very interactive and positive! Do you feel comfortable going in the crowd mid performance in general, or because you know the regulars so well?
I always felt that performer has to connect with the audience somehow. I always want it to be a shared experience with the audience; I want to be entertained just as much as the audience wants to be. So I try to give some interaction with it, changing variables as I play, sometimes try to improvise if I’m feeling adventurous with my setup, but also make it fun and silly. I’m nervous at times, in fact, maybe more so with regulars. I usually have a higher opinion and care what they think more than I do with an audience I’m unfamiliar with. But sometimes putting yourself in those somewhat vulnerable and exposed moments can be really fun and fulfilling.
Who are some artists that you love?
What artists don’t I love? I’m almost afraid to answer this because I don’t know where I’ll end! I’m just going to list some of the artist from my last.fm scrobbles.
Chiptune Related: Bit Shifter, Stu, 4mat, Virt, cTrix, Goto80, Chibi-Tec, USK, Knife City, BSK
Non-Related: Four Tet, Scott Walker, Dead Milkmen, Boredoms, Magnetic Fields, Born Gold, Sparks, Depeche Mode, Eluvium, Digital Leather
Are you working on any upcoming releases?
I’ve just decided to go back to college again, so between that and work I really haven’t planned too much. I have more than enough material to make a release, but to make the time to record and release something hasn’t been planned yet. I would like make a release of some of my classics though.
How would you say your music has evolved throughout time?
I’m not really sure, because there was a few years where all of my equipment was broken, with damaged carts and broken Gameboys, so for awhile it was just nothing. I was able to recover and fix some stuff, so hopefully I get back into it. Pro-tip: Back up your carts often and put the files in a Dropbox or Google Drive, or whatever. Not just the .sav files, but any LSDJ kits or modified LSDJ ROMS as well, and label them. Doing that helped saved the majority of my work over the years.
What’s a day in the life of Henry like?
My job is a massage therapist so I touch a lot of butts.
Where can we stay up to date with your work?
My facebook page is likely your best bet.
There was a LOT of Game Boy magic at this show. Next up, I talked to Kris Keyser.
You’re a good public speaker! Do you have much experience in it outside of occasionally MCing chip shows?
Thanks! I used to be way worse at it but my day job involves talking to people all day so I think that’s helped a lot. I’m one of the co-runners of a chip series called Kick.Snare along with NOTE! so MCing those has also given me a great way to practice public speaking. The biggest thing I’ve learned about public speaking lately is that slower is better – I used to speak too quickly and whatever nervousness I was feeling at the time definitely showed.
Was there ever a time you were without a Gameboy in your musical career?
Oh, definitely. I started on piano back when I was little, then moved on to saxophone (alto and eventually tenor) then picked up Guitar, bass, drums.. and I used to sing too. I was in several bands back before I started working with the Game Boy. I was in an acoustic guitar/vocals project, several rock bands, an improvisational jazz group, and I was on an mtvU show for a long-distance electronic collaboration back in college.
Describe life in Brooklyn to those of us who don’t live there.
That’s a tricky one – I’ve only been there a few years so I don’t claim to be an expert in any way, but it’s a pretty cool place. It’s a bit more relaxed in comparison to Manhattan, and I can feel a shift in mood when I cross over the bridge. It depends on what part of Brooklyn you’re in – areas like Williamsburg and Park Slope will have a distinctly different look and feel to, say, Prospect Heights or Bed-Stuy. I will say that I feel really comfortable in Brooklyn. Some of my favorite venues and places to hang out are here, and of course it helps that most of my friends are here too.
Your tracks are known for their beautiful and distinct melodies. Do you find these come to your head before, during, or after adding other compositional elements to your music?
Aw, thanks! It’s different for every track. Some of the melodies come first, popping into my head so i have to rush to get them recorded/tracked out. I do think many of my best ones come from first establishing the chord progression and beat, then figuring out how best to lay a melody over the existing foundation. Many of my newer songs have started out as sketches in an app called Figure that I have on my phone. It’s basically a super-quick interface for building a drumbeat, bassline, and lead. I see it as a parallel to the Game Boy since you’re limited to just three sounds at once, so if those three parts don’t work it’s immediately obvious. That’s helped me to really focus on the melodies to make sure they work on their own.
I saw you posted a new track on your Facebook. Is there a new Kris Keyser release on the horizon?
Yeah, there’s a new release coming. Honestly it’s way overdue at this point. That seems to be how I operate – write songs, sit on them for far too long, and eventually release them. There may also be another release this year under a different name – some completely different stuff from what people are used to from me.
How did you feel playing the last I/O show?
It’s bittersweet since I played the very first one as well. Not many people know this but I actually gave I/O its name. It’s great to see how long the series has lasted and how it has evolved over time, moving from venue to venue and borough to borough. Playing the last one was a nice reminder of how far I’ve come over the years as well. I know the I/O team has plans for a few independent events in the future so I’m excited to see what they come up with.
Where can we keep up to date with projects of yours?
And finally, we have MS DOS extraordinaire, Radlib!
How did it feel to play the last I/O?
It was a really nice thing to be a part of! To be called back for the last I/O was much appreciated as well as the previous events I performed at. Thanks again, Jessen; you rule!!
Sam Abram played ‘Happy Birthday’ off his Gameboy, and lots of people came up to you and wished you a happy birthday. You’ve got some good friends in your life! Have you known this crew a long time?
NYC rocks! I have been playing in the New York area for about 8 years now. The people I have met over the years have been nothing but the absolute best bunch of folks in any musical scene I have experienced. I look forward to many more years!!
February 5th marked the release of a different project of yours – Warez Waldo. What do you like about being able to switch from that to Radlib?
I like to bounce around some different styles. And unique names help me organize it a bit. It’s fun to categorize what you create, and there can be times where inspiration occurs off the specific character I have already created.
Word on the street is that there is a new Radlib album coming out…! Did you give the audience a feel of it?
Aw yes! All the “new” songs I have played at I/O should be on the new Radlib album. It will actually be the debut album for Radlib in terms of original tracks. But also including a remix I did of Trey Frey and boaconstructor’s song, “Blvck Lvng’.
When was your first NYC show? What artist name did you perform under?
It was actually under the name of “MyTwoRoboDads,” where I played with Glomag, 8GB, Minusbaby and DJ Big Wiz, and Bit Mummy. A name I haven’t done anything with in a long while!
Did you play any of the same tracks as you did then?
It was an entirely different medium and sound. So, a different set altogether.
What do you love about New York?
The people and their hospitality, passion and positivity.
What’s your setup like for Radlib?
I play live with two Compaq Armada laptops from the 90’s running MS-DOS/Impulse Tracker. It’s configured like a traditional “dj setup” where I can go right into the next track from laptop to laptop. It’s all manually synced in real time, baby! All the songs were “created” on an old Pentium II computer and a Sound Blaster 16 card, but I use the matching laptops for live use.
Where can we keep up to date with your work?
You can check out my main web site here, which pretty much will categorize and follow all the musical things that I do. Or the usual social media sites:
It was a really great experience to be able to be present at the final monthly I/O, and I have my fingers crossed for a future festival. Thank you to everyone who constantly keeps the love in this scene, and I hope to see more of you at shows in the future!
Till next time,
The Unicorn Princess