Nestor Ovilla, also known as Crab Sound, is a Chiptune music producer and the founder of one of the first music collectives in his home country of México. Interestingly enough, he is also an illustrator, writer, and experimental photographer. Born in Tuxla Gutierres, the capital of the Chiapas state on the year 1991, he was always drawn to experimental art.
On 2010, he started working with producing and programming his own EDM tracks, an activity that flourished with several projects besides of Crab Sound that he still continues up to this day. Self described as “A boy who inhabits an ice mountain, inventing sounds to make the robots and mutants break into dance”, here’s what he had to say about Chiptune.
How do you explain the concept of Chipmusic to the people who are not on the scene?
To me, Chiptune is the essence that the Game Boy’s sound chip adds to the sound. It also means fun, experimentation and nostalgia. Chiptune is sonic minimalism, another tool to compose and create, to add in our library or instrument selection, to complement and give our sound creations a different color.
At the end, Chiptune can shine by itself or can be within more layers of instruments and sound colors within a composition. And for other people Chiptune can also mean “Mario Bros”, “Tetris”, and that’s ok since by default on video games the need to create this particular method of composing sounds which had it’s sound chip limitations was used historically. They are a classic identity, nostalgic, but I think that Chiptune these days has a lot more different meanings than just it’s original identity.
Do you feel that today Chiptune music is becoming more popular in Mexico? Is there a difference between the time that you started and the present of the local scene?
I found lots of differences. For example, when I started, which was around 2009, Chiptune was present online, but it made a whole lot less noise, and I remember that there were a few limited tutorials to learn how to compose through YouTube in spanish, and everyone who was creating Chiptune in Mexico was still in their own little caves, as a lot of them still are. But I think that after 2012, which was when we started the initiative to create a collective with my friends, Chiptune music started making waves in Mexico. Plus at that time Chiptune was generating a lot more buzz, since there were a lot more festivals and showcased artists, and I think it was a great decision from our part to get on track towards showing our music and the genre to the public in Mexico, although there is still a lot to be done for Chiptune to be bigger in our country.
When was the first time you heard Chipmusic played live?
The first time I heard Chiptune live was on 2012 at México City (CDMX) because at the state where I live at (Chiapas) I was the only one who created this sort of music, and that year someone invited me to be a part of a great festival with colleagues whom I still keep in touch and are now my friends after doing a lot of projects together. The festival was “1 Lengua 8 Bits” (One Tongue, 8-Bits), and it was the first time I heard a lot of online friends play live and was amazed that I could share a stage with some great artists.
About your artistic identity, I feel that’s very interesting that you are a graphic artist and a musician. How did you created that artistic identity? Do you have any advice to artists who would like to follow that path?
Well, I am not sure that my artistic identity is completely fixed. I think that everyone who’s a creator/artist is always at constant changes and forging their identity. I’ve always been a person with a lot of interests, because I love to create and I make use of all the resources around me to express myself, whether it’s a camera, a cheap microphone, free software programs, a cellphone that has camera, an old notebook, worn out quill pens, etc. When I feel like it, I sorta throw everything onto the nearest table and I start crafting straightaway with the tools that I have.
As humans, we have a lot of curiosity, a lot of imagination, everything. We have these capacities and we are simply performing in different stages. The advice that I’d give to the people who not only wants to create Chiptune but also illustration, photography, video, graphics, poems, etc., is that they should be inspired by the first thing that they have in front of them, that they should exploit to the maximum even their most negative emotions, that even from the most sad and depressing ones can give way to interesting things. It’s important to create things from our present, and every situation and scenario have a different essence that as human beings we each feel differently and we can express it in a particular way to share it with the world.
When asked if it’s hard to balance my creative processes in music and illustration, I’d actually say “no”, because for me, it’s just time management, there’s moments in which I can focus only in creating a sound inspired by an illustration that was already pre-made, or if I had a song already inspire myself though the sound of it to create an illustration. There’s always inspiration, you only have to find the perfect space and invest the necessary time to exploit that.
What’s the local scene in Mexico like?
The scene in Mexico is great, even though very scarce. I think that we are not even in the mid point of Chiptune’s rage in our country. There’s still a lot of hidden artists that we haven’t discovered yet and a lot of people who have the necessary intensity to be founders of new Chiptune collectives, but since there’s very few people in each state they don’t manage to, and they have to showcase their work by themselves. At this moment I am working towards creating a new collective named “Cenzontlech”, which will not only have musicians but also artists that create video, photography, graphics, illustrations, people who like to experiment with toys. We are slowly building new spaces for ourselves and also creating opportunities for creators to be a part of this creative endeavor, an effort made by and for Mexicans.
How did you managed to get to the point where you could find collaborators in Mexico that were willing to create a path together? What did you see that worked, that might be useful for people everywhere that’s trying to do the same thing?
My tool was the internet, and it’s the coolest tool we could all use, not only to get to know more about Chiptune but also to explore stuff. It was how I met the people who I was able to forge creative bonds with that are alive up to this day. I mostly recommend to investigate your interests and contact people through the internet, at the end of the day if we stay there without doing anything of value is because we really don’t want to get started, because there is no shortage of options at our disposal.
What is your preferred way to compose Chipmusic? Do you have a particular space or a place to compose Chipmusic?
My favourite tool to compose is the original DMG (the brick), and even though I no longer have one and I got started with a PSP, the sound of the original Game Boy is something that I love a lot. I tend to choose the tools that I have at my disposal, but the fact that it’s a handheld makes it the more easier to create melodies and structures at any hour and anywhere.
My process to create Chiptune starts with a simple idea, and if it comes to me whilst doing something, I just pause, get to the hardware and write it immediately even though it’s a partial idea. To compose Chiptune and any other genre I tend to work mostly in early mornings and late evenings, since that lack of sleep coupled with inspiration is something that has worked for me personally.
Do you care about telling a story through music?
I love to be able to tell stories. In fact, that is one of the main things that motivated me to learn how to create music (not only chiptune music but also to get deep to experiment with different genres). I have several active projects, and each project has a different concept and stories to tell and they are made with different music genres in mind.
For instance, I have a project that’s called “Theory Person” in which I make connections with my photography artworks and the sounds that I collect in my adventures, as well as telling the story of a guy who goes photographing strange planets and reflecting about it’s memories in them and the emotions he goes through on his journey. At the same time, I have a bit more of a trashy project that involves electronic style punk sounds that’s called “LVDLV” and I’ve created characters that are part of a band and are always writing songs about memes and some other topics that are a bit funnier but also a bit sick. That project boils down to my own critique of modern trash projects nowadays that create music only with intentions of selling it, and their composers don’t care if their lyrics have empty conceptual themes and influences about human behavior. And there’s also my Crab Sound project that’s entirely Chiptune.
How was your experience releasing Chipmusic to the public?
I started, just like everyone does, publishing my tunes on the internet. At the beginning, I feared I was going to be criticised a lot by the Chiptune community, which was a bit hurtful at first because I did got those critiques that I feared so much. However, that helped me and made me stronger because there were comments that helped me get better at it, slowly, and with a lot of effort I started working constantly on my material, uploading my songs and getting better results. Up until this day I still maintain that passion that allows me to continue sharing my music with the world.
Do you have a favorite band or Chiptune artist of all time?
Ooff! I have a lot, but let me list the ones that are currently in my head and have influenced me. Chiptune artists:
IAYD, the power of his tracks from has always made me feel a lot of emotion, and I was honored to share a stage with him, also Trey Frey, another artist that I can claim to know and being firm friends with. I love Anamanaguchi (Who doesn’t?), another musician that influenced me is Henry Homesweet, a legendary Chiptune artist, and other influences are: Harleylikesmusic, NNNNNNNNNNNN, USK from Japan, KnifeCity, Kris Keyser (another colleague with whom I had the pleasure to share a stage with), J. Arthur Keenes Band, the great Meneo that holds a place in my heart, Shirobon, and a whole lot more, hahah!
What online streaming places do you prefer to go to, for either downloading or listening to Chiptune music?
My most used and dearest are Soundcloud and Bandcamp! Sometimes I also browse through my favorite pages and forums that have Chiptune from all over the world: Battleofthebits, Chipmusic.org and CulturaChip.org.
What is the most groundbreaking thing you have seen artists do with Chipmusic?
It amazes me every day that I hear new songs coming from old and new Chiptune composers, some get to up the complexity of their work, even getting to explore new genres that very few have tried to translate to Chiptune styled music, showing that there are no limits!
Do you have any particular role models as a musician, or “music heroes/heroines”?
Well, I generally admire the constant artists, the ones that search to create new and original things, a lot of different artists, but mostly people who want to show their work to everyone and who strive to put their heart and passion in each and every work they create.
On what social media platforms are you most active and how do you engage with your audience over there?
Of course! I use every social media that I deem necessary, you can find me at Facebook as “crabmusic”, at Twitter as @crabsound, at Instagram as @nestorovilla and at Spotify as “Nestor Ovilla” and also as “Espectros de Obsidiana” which is a project that I started with a friend and we just published a new EP this month!
Crab Sound’s Overworld Map
- Cats and dogs.
- The Universe and outer space.
- Analog Sound (a record player).
- Analog Photography (an instant camera).
- Enderman, a Minecraft Mob.