This month’s chiptune artist is Synnoske Matsumi (マツミ シンノスケ), also known as Breezesquad! He is a creative and multifaceted artist that comes from the field of illustration, working as a cover artist for other established acts such as YMCK.
Straight from the lands of Fukuoka, a western city of Japan, Breezesquad started creating chiptune music specifically for his bachelor’s degree thesis, which questioned the relationship between music and visual design.
What is your earliest memory of Chiptune music?
I was born in 1989 (yes, it was like a few months after the first release of the Game Boy) and I grew up with lots of changes to the video game culture. As early as I can remember, my first experiences were playing with the Family Computer and the Game Boy when I was 5 or 6. I still remember the music from Yoshi’s Cookie when I played it (my childhood fave).
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about Chiptune?
To me, Chiptune is not merely about the sounds from the real “chip” inside the console, but it is also any aesthetics related to video game culture, I think. Anyway, just simply one word “pico-pico” (ピコピコ – piko piko) comes to my head first. Appropriately, a plain and simple Japanese onomatopoeia. I like how it sounds.
Is there a graphic counterpart to your music persona? If so, how was it created and where does your inspiration for it comes from?
Yep, music and graphic design is totally relative for me. Sometimes visuals come first, then music follows them to make it complete as a piece of artwork. My main interests and influences in recent years are: ethnology and traditional folk art such as cross-stitch needlework and fabric patterns. They really inspire me to make a firm connection between pixel art and chiptune music.
Do you feel that your day job influences you, creatively speaking?
Yes, working with local museums for exhibition layout design is interesting. It’s always good to know and have a curiosity about arts, culture, and history.
What is your favorite Chipmusic artist/band of all time and why?
YMCK was my first chiptune band as I’ve bought their first album “Family Music” CD back in 2004. Later on, “Magical 8bit Plug” led me to start making chiptune music. And now I work with them to make cover art for their works – “Family Swing”(2017), “Magical Galaxy Tour EP”(2018) and “Family Book”(2018). They’re one of the biggest pioneers in Japanese chiptune scene, definitely.
I see. And what is your favorite Chipmusic Album? (I know this question is though!)
Good question. Okay, besides YMCK, let me pick three. They are:
- Meneo / Santa Nalga (2008)
- Thermostatic / JoyToy (2006)
- mind.in.a.box / R.E.T.R.O (2010)
Interesting choices involving electric appliances and body parts! Tell me, Breezesquad, when was the first time you heard Chipmusic played live?
Blip Festival Tokyo, the year was 2011. I can’t remember so much about that night, although I might have surely enjoyed it, I danced on my own and was slightly drunk.
What is your take on the local Chiptune scene in Fukuoka or Japan as a whole?
Actually, I’m not sure about the local chiptune scene in my hometown Fukuoka. I know there was a chiptune community called FUCKOKA but I had no connection with them at all since I’ve been active only online for a long time.
Recently, I have the impression that the chiptune scene (and any relative field like the pixel art scene too) in Japan is now apparently already updated, like there ain’t nostalgia anymore. I’m feeling old, but at the same time I’m expecting brand-new relationships with promising youngsters.
Are people open to the concept of listening to chiptune music?
I enjoy making chiptune, but generally I’m not particular about music. I do DJing sometimes and play any kinds of music, from J-Pop to Latin music. Chiptune is still often known as a “niche genre” to be separated from any other musical genre, but I’m happy if people enjoy chiptune same as they do with other types of music too.
What is the most groundbreaking thing you have seen artists do with Chipmusic?
That would be what I experienced in the BlipBlop party at Buenos Aires, Argentina. I joined and played at the party when I visited South America and it was a great experience. Firstly, I was so surprised there’s a such big community of chiptune and video game culture in the country. People there have a genuine respect and love and all the artists have their own unique style such as using KORG DS-01 and LittleGPTracker with PSP. So impressive! I love it.
What is your preferred way to compose Chipmusic?
I’ve started making music with GarageBand first, in 2009. It was just much easier to compose for me. And yeah, I don’t care about any arguments over the “authenticity” of chip music, lol.
What are your views on thematic Chiptune albums?
I like it. Each of my albums has its (hidden🙊) theme too.
Is your music inspired by other types of artistic expression?
Absolutely. Visual sources are everywhere. I always try to appreciate any kind of artistic expression and digest my own interpretation from some of them to put it into my music. Some of my tracks I’ve made are actually inspired by fine art pieces, such as painters like Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. Somehow I feel a lot of connection to painting works about solitude and being lost, like these artists.
Speaking of albums, could you tell us more about your last album, “Fantasma” and how it came to be? Love the Peacock pixel art on the cover, by the way.
I started making the album in early 2017 and this album ended up being my travelogue to South America. Although the concept behind it is more fictional, since I’ve just been only in a limited area during 2-weeks stay and there’s still so many, many places I’ve missed. The title “Fantasma” means to me something like “phantom nostalgia”. The peacock in the cover art comes from a random embroidery book. I like how it looks like an ancient imaginary monster.
Breezesquad’s Overworld Map
- Latin America
- “Nighthawks”, painting by Edward Hopper
- Buying CDs + DJing
- “Powers of Ten” a film by Charles and Ray Eames
- The Designers Republic (graphic design company)
- Perfume (music band)
- “The Family Jewels” an album by Marina and the Diamonds
- Traditional arts and crafts
- Going out into the countryside