This Month in The Overworld: Cinematronic

- Posted April 18th, 2019 by
Cinematronic's portrait by Pixel Syndrome.
Cinematronic’s portrait by Pixel Syndrome.

Ciro Mendoza is, in his everyday life, a 37 year old Information Technology professor, Software Developer and a Student of Multimedia and Sound and image careers. From the bowels of the west of Buenos Aires, Merlo, he can never stay still: he has also worked as a columnist for the video games section at a local culture mag known as ‘Los Inrockuptibles’ (a branch that previously existed in Argentina, that stemmed from the french magazine ‘Les Inrockuptibles‘) and participated in a project (that never came to fruition) trying to develop a game based in the popular argentinian comic book “El Eternauta” (The Eternaut).

With his chiptune project, going by the name of Cinematronic, all of this geeky exterior explodes into a punkish rage of noise, as I realized when witnessing his live shows. He is everything but meek. He sometimes makes me wonder what would have happened if The Stooges had incorporated chiptune music created to go alongside to the beats of Iggy’s frenetic and contorsionated stage moves from the 70’s.

Everybody talks about Chiptune like a consolidated genre, but for you, personally, what is Chiptune and what is the first image that comes to your head when you think about Chiptune?

From what I gather, Chiptune is not a genre but an aesthetic, and from that musical aesthetic is where a lot of genres are coming from. What’s cool from that is the amount of diversity that can be found in these genres that come from Chiptune as a concept. The first thing I think of when I hear the word chiptune is, beyond the obvious, of thinking about video games and their distinctive sounds, I think about this very punk attitude of doing music with old instruments and even garbage. I even have some computers that I’ve salvaged from trash that people had thrown out, and to be able to make these machines work again and be able to make music in the local scene with sounds derived from them, I think it’s a very cyberpunk thing, at least from my perspective. There’s an interview from early 2000’s where Malcolm McLaren (who was a Visual Artist, Fashion designer and former Sex Pistols manager) championed 8-Bit music, calling it the punk of the future, and I definitely share that opinion. I see Chiptune as the maximum rawness that electronic music can offer.

Cinematronic smoking, holding a salvaged piece of equipment.
Ciro Mendoza (Cinematronic), Photo by Ferny Kosiak.

What is your favorite Chipmusic artist/band right now and why?

Right now my favorite Chiptune artist is Coke and Aspirin, who has an amazing energy, and I’m super happy that we are both a part of the same collective (BlipBlop).

What is your favorite Chipmusic artist/band of all time and why?

I guess it’d be Covox, since it was one of the first ones I’ve seen live and made truly an impact on me as an artist when I was starting out, therefore making it one of my all time favorites.

What kind of influences do you carry to your music that come from outside of the Chiptune genre?

My inspirations to create music that come from outside of Chiptune are: internet culture, cyberpunk, designer drugs, my own rage and unresolved frustration and my emotional outbursts. All of that is in my music, it’s like a sort of discharge.

What do you think makes your Chiptune shows memorable?

I never do the same set the same way. I go to “play” with my tracks live and thus everything is different on every show I perform. I give it my all and being there, you could say it’s also the audience’s response to the sounds coming from the speakers, and bouncing with the energy of my set, that makes it memorable.

Cinematronic performing live with his gameboy.
Cinematronic performing live, Photo by Hernan Saez.

How do you promote and participate in the local Chipmusic scene in Argentina? Have you found any unlikely collaborators to promote your music locally?

I think that in that sense, one of the best things that we as artists could do was to unite ourselves, to be able to work as a collective presence, that was great since together, we could accomplish so much more than what we would be able to do alone. In the first years that I started doing Chiptune, I came to Buenos Aires to play and there’s where I met the ones who would be my partners on the group, and with only four people, founded the BlipBlop Collective in 2010 out of shared passion towards chiptune. These other three artists that were present in the beginning were: Coleco Music (a.k.a. Pablo Vertical/CoMu), the Pat Moritas (Naku Berneri) and Random Select (Matias Brunacci).

One of the ways that we have always nurtured the local scene is to share what we do, to help others. We always shared tips and advice to newcomers, and we made a habit to do Chiptune Workshops on the places where we went to play when we were on tour. I think that was great because it allowed a lot of new artists to get ready to hit the scene, for instance a great budding artist that came from these workshops is Replicant, who is from Parana, in the province of Entre Ríos, and is very active in the local scene. I really like his work, and invite everyone to check his newest tracks, to see an example of an artist that learned his stuff from these workshops.

Do you think Chiptune is slowly making its way into mainstream, or do you feel that this is something opposite to the essence of Chipmusic?

I don’t know if the mainstream is something that’s opposite to the essence of chiptune or not, but what I think mainstream stands opposite to is to the countercultural character that the scene in Argentina had in its beginnings. I think that’s one of the reasons why I do what I do with chiptune, besides of the fact that I love the sound of it and I love video games, and I think that I’m also driven to the politics of it since it resonates with my ideas and I think that’s a cool thing to channel them through my music.

This is my personal opinion, but I’m not in the scene for either the money, the fame or to be a rockstar. All my ways of expression in general are not to convince anyone from anything but to connect with people that views the world similarly, as it’s related to a human basic need to connect with others. I have not much interest in a massive audience that would listen because of the hype or trendiness, therefore I don’t take it very well that the scene has started to get massive, because that’s not something I’m interested in.

Within the BlipBlop collective, in these later years we started to get more exposure and I think we didn’t know how to be responsible regarding where it’s going, since some of us want to be more condescendent to that audience, and some others want to have our ideas always evolving, and that’s a personal decision too. Basically what I care about chiptune is the experience around it, but if that is lost giving a way to the representation of what it is, the passion and the blood in your veins is lost, and it transforms into wanting all the audience to like you.

In the society of the spectacle it seems that everything gets to a point, sooner or later, where you either become a parody of yourself, or you keep reinventing yourself to stay true.

What is your preferred way to compose Chipmusic?

For software, I’ve always used LSDJ, at least in the music I’ve published, and at home I like to experiment with some other trackers with those salvaged computers, but I haven’t released a track using them just yet. For hardware, at home I like to use my SNES with the Supergameboy cartridge, that enables me to see my LSDJ track building on a bigger TV screen, and when I’m on tour or on a trip, I take my PSP with a loaded gameboy emulator to work on my songs.

What is your favorite type and model of console to play Chiptune live and what is it about the timbre of that instrument that you like?

That is definitely the Gameboy model DMG-01, the first model a.k.a. “The Brick”, that, even though the differences may sound subtle the first time you hear it, you will notice it when it’s connected to a large system of speakers, specifically on the low-pitched tones in contrast to the Gameboy Advance or the Color models, and this difference is even more clear with the Pro sound modification. 

What is your essential live gear?

My essential live gear is: a Gameboy Classic DMG-01, a Gameboy Color (both with the Pro Sound mod) a cartridge for each, and the PSP portable game system. I take all three so that if there’s a technical mishap while I play live, I have the chance to complete my live set.

Cinematronic playing chiptune live at CCK (Buenos Aires, Argentina).
Cinematronic playing live at CCK (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Photo by Jose Diaz.

What is the new album all about, and how is it different to your previous work?

Something that happens to me whenever I release a new record is: that if your music is alive and you feel it’s evolving all the time, when you publish a new album then in a very limited amount of time that sound no longer represents you or has something to do with your present.

Thus, this new album in a way is a synthesis of the tracks that I used to play live in these past years, and has nothing to do with the album that I released in 2016, because this is not a record that I will repraise live, instead I will play new songs live from the moment I am releasing it. Therefore is a sort of clearing that stage and giving a feeling of closure to my older sounds.

It’s different from my previous work in that it is faster, it has more rawness, it is blunt, more direct, it has no metaphor, and it’s name is also a representation of my previous years, from a personal perspective. 

When I think about it, I don’t know if as a listener, for example, I’d like to define things for someone else, since I like for everyone to give their own meaning to it when they listen to it. It’s a very personal record.

Can you tell us more about your latest single, “HEADCRSH”?

It’s a track that helps you firstly, to remove all the freaking gloom you have on the inside, and secondly, goes a long way to help you to shake your body like monkeys do. 

¨HEADCRSH” – Single by Cinematronic.

Cinematronic’s Overworld Map: 

Cinematronic's Overworld map by Pixel Syndrome
Cinematronic’s Overworld map by Pixel Syndrome
  1. Industrial products” a record by Tentenko(テンテンコ)
  2. Ghost in the Shell” movie by Mamoru Oshii (based on the manga by Masamune Shirow)
  3. William Gibson (American-Canadian fiction writer)
  4. Juana la loca (Argentine pop rock band)
  5. Bill Hicks (American stand-up comedian)
  6. Ricky Espinosa (Argentine musician)
  7. Another World (a.k.a. Out of This World) a videogame by Éric Chahi
  8. Sonic Youth (American rock band)
  9. That Poppy (American singer and Youtuber)
  10. The Eternaut (El Eternauta) a comic book series created by Héctor Germán Oesterheld

Ciro Mendoza a.k.a. Cinematronic
Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp |Youtube

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