This time of year is special; everyone affected by winter’s chill thaws out with the earth once warmer weather hits. Every year at this time, I always try to listen to a new playlist to compliment being able to spend more time outside and enjoying nature. This month’s review is a special new release by DjjD (who was previously part of the ChipWIN staff!) called ‘Divergence’.
This album makes you think, it fills the silence in car rides spent driving through repetitive scenes, and it expands roots by using chip elements complimented with more atmospheric textures. DjjD not only demonstrates his compositional technique, but also showcases solid production chops, the gorgeous voice of Parvarthi Gopinath and live violin played by Jeff Ball. Taking these elements and creating it into one solid project, this album
flows cohesively and reminds me of the perfect score for an advertisement.
One thing I appreciate
about DjjD’s production is how the synths and sounds he uses compliment the live elements (voice and violin). Everything worked well together, which is half the battle of creating music. How many of us have sat around trying to find our sound and trying to find the RIGHT sound with a solid melody we don’t want to change? ‘Divergence’ clearly side stepped this issue and demonstrated tracks that just sound “right” together. For instance, take a look at ‘Gotta Have Faith’ and ‘Calm Equilibrium’. Both tracks are different, but Jacob’s stamp of individuality is marked deep within them. DjjD leaves space for each lead to have its place in the mix, lets Jeff’s violin have a big room reverb sound to it, and the airy choir pads compliment Parvathi’s beautiful vocals.
The track ‘Building Blocks’ is what made me want to look into DjjD’s career a bit more. This track would work perfect for a car advert. There is so much room for voice over, and enough melody to keep the listener focused.
To learn a bit more about the album, I managed to interview DjjD for the blog. Here that is:
Jamie: I wanted to start off by asking if you write music for visual media, like games or adverts? Much of the music in Divergence seemed like the perfect score for it.
DjjD: I’ve gotten a few commissions here and there, in fact, some of these actually began as paid work. But sometimes you know how it goes, projects get cancelled. I actually did do an original orchestral soundtrack for a short student film called “10” but other than that, I’ve not really dabbled in film music. Granted, I’ve always been really interested in film/orchestral soundtracks; with roots coming from John Williams, James Horner, and Thomas Newman.
Jamie: What inspired the release?
DjjD: I kind of pondered what the “next step” was for the past 4 years. After I released my first two albums, “Technical Collision” and “Uprising”, music life just kind of turned to video game remixing. Flip the pages four years into the future and 10-15 remixes later…churning out originals came more naturally. I don’t know how to measure or in what way getting better at music is quantifiable, but if I had to guess a definitive way of knowing that you’ve improved I’d say: If you can translate what’s happening in your head and organize it in your DAW of choice accurately.
Then something changed. Something clicked.
I wanted something new to release, and given I’d never released a physical album before, all the thoughts of change and evolution kind of condensed into what you hear in “Divergence”. Abstract as f***, but I’m an artist…not a rocket scientist.
Jamie: How did you meet the featured artists on your record?
DjjD: Amazingly enough, both of them began as online friends. Jeff Ball, is a veteran composer and video game remixer. I got into his music a while ago (maybe 3-4 years ago?). I’d heard his music on OverClocked ReMix, and soon after, listened to his original violin work and accompanied work on other OCR members. Finally when I was living in Los Angeles, I met up with him and a few others from the OCR community and brought up the idea of him doing a solo for one of the tracks I wrote. Really great guy, and an awesome person to work with.
And Parvathi Gopinath, well, we’ve been in a relationship now for almost 5 years. She’s my better half, and what started as a few harmless conversations on a Conan O’ Brien fan IRC channel in an effort to promote my rambunctious trash can drumming… Turned into one of the best connections in my life.
I recently visited India last May to see her for the first time ever in our 4 1/2 year relationship. Yeah, I’m a pretty lucky guy.
Jamie: What got you into writing music?
DjjD: Back in 2009, my migraines became incredibly severe and routine trips to the hospital became a mainstay of my youthful life. I had difficulty focusing on course work and because of that, I was eventually placed in several online courses to continue studying my topics of choice. I wanted to focus on a creative outlet, but when writing seemed tedious…I’d end up listening to video game remixes. Several days would go by and I’d end up looking at random shit on the internet. Suddenly my attention became split between two different sites: Video Games Live and OverClocked ReMix.
I was hooked.
Pretty soon I was following forums on both, reading and managing what I can only imagine looked like ASCII art in my head. Production techniques, DAW comparisons, VSTs, sample libraries, and a ridiculous amount of YouTube tutorials explaining the most complex methods of achieving beautiful, rich sound design. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was incredible and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Jamie: I read you mainly use FL Studio. What hardware/analog synths/softsynths/hardware did you use on your record?
DjjD: I use a lot of 3rd party software plugins. The major ones are usually: Zebra2, Nexus, Omnisphere, Trillian, Massive, and tb_peach. There’s a ton of drum samples that I’ve just picked up over the years. Like on “Strange Incident” you’re hearing a lot of Omnisphere in the intro, but then when the lead comes in, that’s Zebra2.
I also try to utilize sample libraries via Kontakt when I can. “Wavy Things” features a glass marimba in the intro, along with a dulcimer as a backing melody because sounds are fun. Most times, I’ll plug in my Novation Impulse and play out a simple melody but as time goes by, the setup will just turn to a mouse clicking frenzy.
Jamie: What I enjoyed about this release was that you incorporated other sound elements in with chip. Do you use trackers like LSDj for your chip sounds?
DjjD: Honestly, I’ve never really used LSDJ. I’m totally gonna have to set aside some time to learn it one of these days! I normally just use tb_peach and tb_toad.
Jamie: What instruments do you play?
DjjD: I played drums for a long time and I mean, I guess I still do. But not nearly as frequently as I used to. And as I mentioned before I pretty much just noodle around on the ivories until I hear a melody I like.
Jamie: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had with music?
DjjD: I think one of the coolest things that’s happened to me in the past few years, was actually getting on something published by Capcom. “For Everlasting Peace: 25 Years of Mega Man” was the first commercialized album by OverClocked ReMix and it was really cool just to be a part of something like… brand spankin’ new.
Aside from that, last year I finally got my first DJing gig @ Saboten Con, an anime convention in Phoenix, AZ. All in all, good things abound.
Jamie: What are your upcoming projects?
DjjD: Well, I’ve got a couple projects coming out soon. To name a few, I’ve got a Killer Instinct remix coming out and an original house track featuring a solo by Toni Leys.
Jamie: Where are some links to keep up with your music?
Jamie: Do you know any upcoming projects for your featured artists?
DjjD: I know Parvathi is trying to get some work in as a freelance singer, so I’d definitely be on the lookout for her name appearing in various locations! As for Jeff Ball, hmm…well, I know I recently saw him put out a Sound Design demo for 2016 which you can find here. But the latest thing I saw him release was back in March, with his ‘Bells of Yggdrasil’ EP on iTunes.
Really good stuff.
Jamie: Anything else you want us to know?
DjjD: Honestly, just really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to do this interview! Thanks to everyone who’ve either helped me come to a decision about a piece of music, helped me determine a general mood for the artwork…or just listened to anything I’ve done in the past 7 years.
Speaking of artwork, I couldn’t leave without thanking the guy who did the artwork for the album, Alex Kelly. Friggin’ awesome person to work with, totally professional and pretty much nailed what I had in mind before I could even use words to describe it. Check his stuff out here.
Hopefully, this release will keep encouraging chiptune creators to push their boundaries. I’m constantly impressed with the quality and diversity I keep finding with so much of what the artists in this community create. Take the time to support this release; besides DjjD creating an exceptional playlist of easy-flowing tracks, he has a lot of appreciation for the supporting talent that helped bring this album together, which is something I greatly respect in an artist.
Till next time,
The Unicorn Princess