This month’s featured artist was born and raised in East Fresia, Germany. Which is a small coastal region, very close to the border with the Netherlands, and famous for its tea culture. Keno, a.k.a. Vault Kid has a long record of creating EDM jams that goes back all the way to 2012, and through his college years this habit remained strong. Suddenly, in 2016, the event of finding out about Chiptune changed his creative path forever. Let’s hear what this producer of catchy tunes has to say about our beloved music style.
What is your earliest memory of Chiptune music?
The very first one was this Youtube Video where I saw Tronimal at Rocket Beans TV.
After watching the video I remember I went on reddit and found an album recommendation list, including the “First Crush” album by Sabrepulse and Saskrotch‘s “I’ll Have You Naked By the End of This ROM” which were the first chiptune releases I listened to and downloaded on my phone as mp3s.
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?
For me, chiptune is a scene that creates music that incorporates the sounds of old video game consoles and home computers and sometimes is even composed on those devices. I think of 8-bit sounds a little bit like guitars. Since an indie guitarist and a metal guitarist can create totally different styles of music, but they probably gonna hang out on the same guitar forums, check out the same new interesting pedals and they can appreciate each others guitar playing on at least on a technical level. But hey, maybe I’m totally wrong, since I can’t play guitar myself.
The first thing that pops into my mind when I think of chiptune is a photo gallery of chiptune liveshows I visited, ranging from Kubbi at Eindbaas, gWem at the last Chipwrecked and Pain Perdu at Chip Hits the Fan this year (s/o Chiptography btw). I was never aware about it before, but I guess chiptune for me right now is very live show driven, and having these three images as my first thought also shows, whatever the country and party I visit, and whatever the hard- and software the music is composed on, chiptune can be fun and memorable.
Do you feel that you carry any aspect of nostalgia when creating Chiptune music?
For sure, especially when I use LSDJ to compose music. I used to play Game Boy and other Hand Held Consoles a lot, and composing on a Game Boy and using a D-Pad and A/B Buttons to compose music is a pure video game feeling to me. And even when I use an emulation or just a random Square Wave Synth in in Ableton, I use chiptune sounds because they feel like home and are the right thing to add for me.
How is the Chiptune music scene on Germany like?
It’s nice, I guess. I feel like I can’t really compare it with other countries, but we have a couple hands full of active artists, we have 5+ events each year including Chip Hits the Fan in Nuremberg (where we also have international acts playing) and we have the demoscene here including a bunch of musicians using home computers (even though the chiptune scene and the demoscene somehow don’t overlap as much for some reason).
Actually, I feel it’s a little bit more active right now since guys like Klirre, Hardcore Softboy and I started to be a part of the scene about 3 years ago.
We did remixes for the people that were already established in the scene, organized shows, released compilations on our tiny netlabel Chiplove and also gave workshops and talks about chiptune. The only thing I worry about is the lack of newcomers and having next to no female acts here.
Did you feel that you had to create your own spaces, or that the road was already paved by other artists that came before you?
That is an interesting question, since I came into chiptune “very late”, after the glory times of 8bc. Even though I would have loved to experience how the scene was 5-10 years ago, I’m really happy to make music in the here and now.
Especially because the music I ‘m influenced by was not there back then and I think that’s what sets me apart from other chiptune artists the most.
Listening to Dubstep, Future Bass, EDM Trap, Moombathon and J-Electro-Pop and combining these styles with chiptunes creates my own space automatically. And also listening to the stories of the old guys and playing and attending already established festivals is very fun and comfortable too.
What did you found to be effective when promoting your music locally on Oldenburg?
I didn’t really promote my music much locally. I let some of my university friends know and posted on the local musicians’ Facebook group a little bit.
Also I have some rough plans for organizing a show here.
Where do you go to discover new Chiptune music in Germany?
Either through the couple of live events we have here, or through the German chiptune Facebook group. I found some nice german artists through ChipWIN compilations though, that are not active in either of those.
What is it that you don’t like about the local or global Chiptune scene?
In Germany we have very few newcomers, at least as far as I know since my friends and I hit the scene roughly 3 years ago, and we had no new artists joining the scene here. I hope we will not be the last ones to do so!
Globally, I would say the lack of big name female artists and the lack of female artists on lineups, but that is a problem of our overall society I guess.
Also the “fakebit” hate, even though it’s not as common anymore.
What do you feel makes your take on Chiptune personal in terms of music production?
Like I said before, I take a heavy influence of bass heavy EDM genres and try to incorporate these in my music, which I feel like is kinda rare in Chiptune. Also the fact that I dusted off my Ableton license last year and started to dig into the hybrid chiptune field helped a lot to separate the music I create right now a lot more from the classic LSDJ Game Boy sound.
Btw if you are reading this and do EDM influenced chiptune, DM me your music! ^^
What kind of influences you carry to your music that come from outside of the Chiptune genre? (I’m specially interested in this one since I can totally hear so many influences in yours!)
I used to be super deep into Future Bass since 2014 when it started to get big with Marshmello and such, and also listened to a lot of Major Lazer and EDM Trap when I started picking up LSDJ.
In the last couple years since then, I rediscovered Dubstep again for myself, which I want to incorporate more into my future music, and also started listening to J-Pop and Kawaii music like Yunomi, CY8ER, Snails House and Moe Shop where I love the melodies and chord progressions.
The one red line that you can see though all my music is the classic A-Part->Build-Up -> Drop structure I have in almost every song and which is omnipresent in Dance Music, but not necessarily in chiptune (and I honestly think I should change my arrangements up more, lol). Also I feel like a lot of chiptune has 4-to-the-floor drums, while I often use more complex, half time drum patterns, that are common the music I listen too.
What drives you as an artist to compose Chipmusic?
Chiptune and its scene is what made me a real musician. Before I discovered LSDJ, I never released music, never played a gig, and had next to zero musician friends.
Working with the limitations of LSDJ and being in this super wholesome and helpful community allowed me to get to all these amazing achievements and friends and even though I could work on other EDM music genre (which I also do from time to time) I feel at home in the chiptune scene. Also, on the other hand, the borders are blurry, and guys like Bossfight or Nitro Fun who are successful EDM people have their origin in chiptune, and use these sounds still. So I guess why not do both?
What is your preferred way to compose Chipmusic?
On the Game Boy, LSDJ (always newest version). On a laptop, Ableton Live and Serum with Shirobon‘s Game Boy Wavetables. The Ableton Wavetable has amazing sounding squarewaves too! When I want to use “real” Game Boy sounds in my hybrid chiptune music, I write and record the sounds within BGB.
Do you have a personal stance on incorporating vocals to Chiptune?
I loooooove music with vocals! “Pop it” and “Prom Night” by Anamanaguchi are perfect examples how amazing a chiptune song can sound with vocals and I hope more people will do it in the future.
That’s the one thing I missed the most at Chipwrecked this year as well. Listening to almost only instrumental music for 3 days straight was a little bit exhausting for me. I personally don’t sing, but I play around with Vocaloid from time to time to create my own vocals too, but havent used it much besides for my Triac remix and a trap tune I made some weeks ago.
Is there any bit of musical theory that you feel is so vital for composing Chipmusic that you find yourself using it all the time?
Not really, but since in chiptune the lead sounds usually sound very similar, the melodies you write have to be very good and unique, so I invest time in that a lot.
What do you feel is the most powerful weapon on a Chipmusician’s arsenal?
Being forced to work with limited sound choices and instruments. These make you super creative and don’t cause you to have choice paralysis, like many people who are starting with DAWs have. Also when you are working with hardware, you are forced to learn to write good melodies, since you can’t do many interesting stuff sound design wise compared to what you can do with a computer.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of playing Chipmusic live and how do you manage to work around it?
For me the most challenging aspect of playing chipmusic live is the performance aspect of it. I have a background playing in the orchestra and in bands, so standing on stage and just pressing start on a gameboy without something to do feels weird to me.
I figured out using a Kaosspad, doing soloing-effects and changing instruments settings works okayish for me, but finger drumming or playing keyboard to my songs felt more ‘right’ to me, and that’s what I try to do with my hybrid chiptune stuff.
What is your essential live gear?
Game Boys, sometimes an Arduinoboy, Laptop, Ableton Live and a Midi Figther 3D. I also use a Novation Launchkey Mini most of the times for playing keyboard and triggering the songs.
Do you think the visual aspect of a Chiptune show is important?
The visual aspect of all live shows is super important! You can make a party so much better with good lightning and live visuals, and it alone can make people have a good time. So please think about LJs and VJs when organizing parties!
What tools do you use to create your own visuals and what are they inspired by?
I VJ with Resolume and use a lot of free VJ loops from archive.org and gifs from giphy.com. I am still a newcomer regarding visuals, but I do try to use a lot of video game console gifs and outrun-ish clips. I really want to get into live coding at some point, though.
Could you share with us your favorite live experience?
My favorite live show was Chip Hits the Fan (2018) in Nuremberg. It was the first big festival were my artist name was on the poster, the crowd was really amazing.
I hung out with a bunch of chiptune friends that also played there, I gave my first LittleSoundDJ workshop, we had delicious catering in the backstage and I think it was the only time I ever had a hotel room booked for a show so far.
Overall it felt ultra professional and very surreal, because I attended the Chip Hits the Fan one year before and that was my first chiptune party ever. Big shoutout to Hannes, Stephanie, Cyanide Dansen, Klirre, Hardcore Softboy, gWem, nordloef, back to newc45le, Saxy Trump, King Ludi and Kantor Weiss for the amazing weekend last year! <3
What is your favorite Chipmusic single, band and artist of all time and why?
- Sabrepulse – “First Crush” (one of my first chiptune songs and I still love to listen to it today).
- Anamanaguchi & Run Run Jump Punch (there are not a lot of bands in chiptune, are they?).
- Trey Frey (showed the world how freaking amazing musically and well-sound designed music you can write on two game boys).
What is the most groundbreaking thing you have seen artists do with Chipmusic?
Trey Frey pops to mind (see above). Also Trash80 and other modders for developing cool hardware for Game Boys.
Do you have any particular role models as a musician, or “music heroes/heroines”?
Skrillex for pushing genres, Silkersoft for his balancing act doing music for the funniest video games ever and also producing my favorite german rappers on the side, and Shirobon for being a weird ass cool dude and down to earth despite being a chiptune legend.
Do you feel that your day job influences you, creatively speaking?
No, studying computer science is so hard and time consuming, I wish I had more time for music. :D
On what social media platforms are you most active and how do you engage with your audience over there?
I use twitter the most and there I just tweet everything I find funny or important to share. I don’t post on instagram much, but I have it and I also want to start to create some youtube videos next year.
What do you feel it’s the future of Chiptune music?
Either EDM-inspired hybrid chiptune (with vocals) or a chill, ambient stuff like Kubbi does. Maybe even in a math rock kinda direction. But that is probably just what I want to hear more of.
[Pixel Syndrome] Hey constant players! It’s 2020, so let’s keep it sharp with a new format for the column’s illustrations: this new format shows the featured artist within a visual throwback to our beloved 90’s inventory systems! Without further ado, here’s Vault Kid’s inventory:
Vault Kid’s Inventory
- The country of Japan.
- Scott Pilgrim, a comic book by Brian Lee O’Malley.
- Handheld Console Video games.
- Silkersoft, a musical artist from Germany.
- Hip-Hop music from Germany.
- Dubstep, musical Genre.