2mello - 'Chrono Jigga' full interview transcript

Chrono Jigga Read the final interview at gamentrain.com. This is the full, unedited transcript of my 2mello interview, in which questions get a bit more in depth about the culture surrounding nerdcore rap and video game music and also learn a few more interesting facts and opinions of 2mello's. Enjoy the full take (and if you already read the Game N Train article, just skip ahead to the red questions.)

Q: Did you have any clear concept or goal in mind as you worked on Chrono Jigga?

A: I was looking for something bizarre to do, something that people would go crazy over. I was pretty sure that I would take something from geek culture and mix it up with hip-hop culture, but I didn't know if it was going to be a concept album, a remix, or what. When Chrono Jigga came to me, I wanted to do it very genuinely. I care about both Chrono Trigger's music and Jay's tracks deeply, and I wanted people to be able to hear that through the music. As I created the first few tracks, I realized what I was doing, interpreting my favorite Jay-Z songs through one of my favorite games to make them even more poignant to me. From there, I started thinking about Jay-Z having this geeky alternate ego that would show everyone how much of a nerd he was by making an album of videogame raps.

Q: Beyond the clever album title, what was the driving force that sparked the idea of combining the music of Yasunori Mitsuda with Jay-Z’s lyricism?

A: I have always been frustrated with a lot of Jay-Z's production. I think that, sometimes, his rhymes are a little more poetic than they might sound over some of the beats he is provided. Sometimes, the energy of the beat might be a little distracting. I wanted to marry his songs with Mitsuda's compositions to more strongly convey the meaning of his songs both musically and lyrically. I chose the music of Chrono Trigger because nothing is more epic than the music of a wide, twisting story told through many time periods. A lot of Jay-Z albums can have radically different feels from one track to the next, and what better way to show that than to select from a widely varying soundtrack for the beats?

Q. As a fan of hip hop I have long lamented the simplified club beats of mainstream rap (including Jay-Z's). Do you believe there is a reason why hip hop lyricists fail to pursue more musically complex or interesting instrumentals?

A. My stuff has a lot more in terms of changing instrumentation and composition than you would hear in some modern beats. I think the reason why there aren't as many really cool instrumentals as there used to be is split. Partly, I think that audiences' standards for what makes a "good beat" have lowered, and that this constant lowering was forced on them by artists. The issue on the artist side, is that there are not many producers doing interesting things, and too many rappers. Some of the old faithful producers are stagnating and hip-hop production is generally in a state of transition. I think we are making a recovery from when it was getting too "clubby" and ripping off 90's techno sounds. That was just bad.

Q. Were there any tracks that you would have really loved to include from either Chrono Trigger or Jay-Z that you were unable to include for some reason?

A. I had really desired to do more stuff from Reasonable Doubt, but there were very few acapellas available for that album, one of Jay's finest works, and the ones that were available were of such low quality that they would stand out painfully. As for Chrono Trigger music, I had wanted to do more with Lavos' Theme and Magus' Theme but wasn't able to fit it in. There is always a chance that I will be able to work them in and release more "B-Sides" in the future.

Q. I know many mashup musicians are artistically constrained by the acapellas that are available to them. Did you consider this a hindrance, or a challenge when creating this album?

A: As I said above, the lack of Reasonable Doubt acapellas really hurt, but aside from that, since Jay-Z actually made most of his acapellas available in full studio quality, it wasn't too hard to find the songs I wanted. I would definitely consider this to be a challenge; I love being forced to make something special out of songs I might have not even paid that much attention to previously, because they're the only ones I have.

Q: Do you think there is a reason artists are creating this very specific type of musical hybrid?

A: I think it is mostly because remixing became most prominent after hip-hop was created, so people associate remixing most strongly with hip-hop, even though it has been happening since the start of music. Mashups are our current most evolved form of remixes, in my opinion. Therefore, if you set out to do a mashup, one of the first few genres that comes to mind to do it in is hip-hop, since this genre is so connected with remixes already. Also, mixing something as unique and pure as videogame music with hip-hop is going to be eye-catching; it's going to intrigue some and infuriate others, but either way both are going to listen. Personally, I like to mash rappers and video games together because there is a chance it will get rap fans to play cooler games, and gamers to enjoy rap music.

Q: It seems that a small niche of music/video game lovers have been especially receptive to the melding of these two musical worlds. Why are some folks in love with hip hop over video game derived beats?

A: There are some people that were just waiting for something like this to happen and maybe didn't even know it yet. There were a lot of news headlines about Chrono Jigga suggesting that this was the case. "The Chrono Trigger and Jay-Z Mashup Gamers Have Been Waiting For But Didn't Know It", etc. I discovered more people that were fans of both the game and the artist than I expected. Hearing familiar game music on the beat while listening to the artist makes it a little more comfortable for gamers who might not like hip-hop to transition into the genre, if only for the duration of a mashup album. It's bridging the gap.

Q. During the albums outro, you speak candidly about being unable to identify with Jay-Z’s lyrical content, and lamented the idea of those lyrics pushing talented artists away from a career in rap music. Why do you think Jay-Z's words could make people shy away from exploring hip hop further?

A: As soon as an aspiring lyricist or listener begins to examine hip-hop lyrics, they see that the most financially successful and well-known rap music is usually about drugs, violence, gang relations, sexual activity and male bragging. Jay-Z alienated a lot of up-and-coming rappers who had never been involved in drug trafficking or wanted to talk about what goes on in the streets, but the fact that the most successful rapper is writing about these things makes it seem like that is the only way to go. They'd think that straying from the formula will leave you unheard, and they'd be right. At the same time, listeners who might want to hear something more personal from a rapper would be turned off. A lot of press for Jay's most recent album has been backing me up on this, and it seems listeners are finally getting tired of hearing about how wildly profitable he has been and how much richer he is. I don't know what this means for hip-hop but I hope it gives more unique rappers a chance to step in.

Q: In an era when technology, video games, and the internet are so ubiquitous, why do you think that an artist influenced by these things has not entered the mainstream?

A: We're definitely getting better. Younger, fairly successful artists like Childish Gambino, XV and Danny Brown are garnering a lot of fans by taking note of the three primary geeky things that are very visible in this time--Internet culture, videogames and film/tv culture--which established rappers are somehow ignoring. Hip-hop has been threatening to go into nerd mode for years now, with the amazing Wu-Tang Clan (a bunch of Asian-film nerds who rap) getting extremely popular, and Kanye West (who started off quite poindexter on his debut album) getting to become someone that a lot of rappers and producers look up to. Things seem to be moving quickly, so the first star nerd rapper could hit any day.

Q. Jay-Z has gone on record that he supports mashups as musical endeavors, and applauded Danger Mouse's Grey Album (a mashup of Jay-Z and The Beatles). If Jay-Z heard Chrono Jigga, what do you think his reaction would be?

A. I think that he would admire it musically, but that he would be a little confused about the instrumentals and what exactly I did with them. Not being a fan of Chrono Trigger, he wouldn't know how much came from me and how much came from Mitsuda unless he listened to the Chrono Trigger OST. I doubt Jay is a fan of RPGs, let alone a specific one from the 90s. One thing I really hope he would notice was how much attention I paid to making his lyrics fit over the beat; I hope he would really respect my diligence in the repurposing of his rhythms and flow over the new beats.

Q: Has creating Chrono Jigga given you any new insight or perspective on either Jay-Z or Chrono Trigger?

A: Definitely. I often think about Jay-Z as a time traveler now. Going back in time using the Epoch not to save the world, but to right his wrongs and maybe change things he wished had gone different. If the events of Chrono Trigger were real, and happening, who knows how all of our lives could be touched by a guy like Crono, quietly passing through and nudging us here and there to reach a desired goal? When you start to apply the story framework of a video game to one part of real life, I guess you start thinking about how it would all connect. On my most recent remix album, Nastlevania, I have Nas battling Dracula and I actually had a version of Jay-Z arrive from the past, when he had beef with Nas, to the present, to help Dracula defeat Nas. It's becoming sort of a mythology, I'm weaving my favorite rappers into great video game stories.

Q. You've recently dropped your second mashup album, Nastlevania (combining the street lyricism of Nas with the music of Konami's Castlevania series). Were your artistic goals for Chrono Jigga and Nastlevania significantly different? Do you want listeners to come away with a different reaction to Chrono Jigga, as opposed to the feelings you hope to evoke in Nastlevania or another upcoming mashup album?

A. They are extremely different, though I am including them both in a "trilogy" of video-game and hip-hop mashups, of which Nastlevania is the second entry. With Chrono Jigga, I wanted to express my personal opinion that there aren't enough nerdy hip-hop artists/artists open about their geek sensibilities. Nastlevania wasn't a vehicle for my opinion; rather, I simply wanted to create my own Castlevania adventure through music. I want them to feel like Nas is actually a Belmont, and he actually defeated Dracula. I love changing people's perception of these idolized rap figures and, for gamers, giving them even more of a reason to idolize them. It's just so believable for Nas to be a vampire killer. Kind of like when you see a movie where an actor you like plays a role so perfectly you forever associate it with him. That's the feeling I want to get across. When people finish Nastlevania I want it to feel like they're walking out of a theater and having a moment like that.

Q: Do you think there is a disconnect between the audience that enjoyed this album, and those who enjoy your original music? If so, is this something you expected?

A: I remember when a lot of fans I had become friends with suddenly seemed to trail off in their connection to me as a result of this. There was definitely a moment when I saw interest shift. I guess that even though this was about as personal and original as a remix project gets, I knew there would be problems. I have always put being a producer ahead of being a rapper, though, and remixing was what my producer side wanted to do at the time. It got to the point where I could tell who came to me through the remixes and who was a fan of the rapping, but I'm always overjoyed when I find someone who discovered me through Chrono Jigga and went back into my catalog, or someone who was with me from the start. I hope that I won't lose these fans permanently and that they will come back for the original material I'm releasing again soon.

 Q. Was there any animosity or dissociation from the nerdcore community or other nerdy artists towards you, the album, or your quest to create such an album? Any specific exchanges or comments you have read?

A. There have not been any other artists directly attacking me; most of the ones I heard from were pleased by it. The community was not nearly as nice. A few people would tell me they just didn't understand what the point of me doing the album was, and didn't see the originality, I guess. A lot of folks got upset in comments sections on articles of the sites that promoted me. The worst thing I saw was very generalized comments about how rap is awful and should never be mixed with videogame music. A lot of people said I ruined their favorite soundtrack, and I think I actually got a death threat at one point from a friend of a friend on Facebook who shared my music. You know how nerd rage goes. I am very disappointed by how few nerds like hip-hop, and how nerds will both defend and attack things blindly.

Q. Conversely, were there individuals within nerdcore that commended this musical endeavor?

A. I was especially grateful to get a co-sign from YTCracker, the nerdcore artist who has done probably the best original Chrono Trigger-related project out there. Mega Ran was also very supportive, and helped me with a lot of my questions about the legalities and danger zones of doing this kind of very blatant videogame music sampling. Several artists in the community who had been watching me decided to step up and propose collaborations; can't yet go into specifics there.

 Q: Which character from Chrono Trigger is your favorite?

A: My favorite character is definitely Frog. The reason why would be a bit of a spoiler for those who haven't gotten too far into the game. Frog simply has the best backstory and arc in a game full of characters with great arcs. He was once human, a squire to a knight he saw killed right before his eyes by Magus. Before he can do anything, Magus turns him into a frog and he's helpless. He walks around that way for years, knowing that everyone can see the mark of how he failed, but ignoring it. He does his job and waits for revenge against Magus, when it seems it will never come. But finally, he realizes that he, not Cyrus, was meant to hold the most powerful sword all along, the Masamune. It's that, the moment when Frog gets the Masamune, that is the best character-driven moment in the game for me. Easy question.

Q: What's your favorite Jay-Z album?

A: Either Reasonable Doubt, which sadly lacked any acapella versions for me to use, or the Blueprint. It's tough to say. Reasonable Doubt has a young Jay-Z, fresh new face and voice, talking about real issues and giving us a streets-eye view that not too many rappers had at that time in East Coast hip-hop. The Blueprint is a little more developed, showcasing a Jay that's a little more classy and poetic than he started, a lot richer and much stronger in the music game. The Blueprint is the mix of the Jay that we started with and the one that came after that album's release, the one we are all very familiar with now. I might have to break the tie and give it to Reasonable Doubt just because the Blueprint was the first album that, while good, destined Jay to become the shallow billionaire rapper that he is now. I guess he told us all this would happen when he said he was a business, man.

Q. Anything else you would like to add to wrap up the interview?

A. Yes. I hope I haven't cast myself in a type by making such a successful video game mashup! I have original material coming this fall that all fans, past and present, should look out for. Even though a lot of them may know me for the video game remixes, I do stuff on a traditional hip-hop tip just as impressively, in my opinion, and I hope I can be one of the successful nerdy rappers I spoke of in the outro to Chrono Jigga.

Thanks again to 2mello for his time. Go check out all his music over at 2mello.com.

* Title Chrono Jigga artwork from ahoodie.com.

The Creators Project talks hardware w/ Comptroller, Environmental Sound Collapse, and A vs B

In the first of a three part series of interviews, The Creators Project talks with members of the Datathrash netlabel, looking at different set ups and styles of performing live chiptune music. The article even leads off with good pal Comptroller, and I am ecstatic to say that he uses a GP2X in his set up! I also had that strange, possibly illegal game system. I bought it instead of a PSP.

IllGill and Nameless interview August 20th on KSPC Video Game Music Show

KSPC radio's Video Game Music Show, one of the few awesome places with a dedicated game music show here in Southern California, has recently sent word that their show will play host to not one, but two awesome guests this Friday in nerdcore artists IllGill and Nameless, both rappers from Los Angeles.

The show kicks off Friday (Aug 20th), from 4-6PM PST and will feature a couple great live songs from the in studio guests along with interviews and more! So remember to tune in to KSPC 88.7 if you are near Claremont, CA, or just head over to kspc.org and tune in to the live stream!

This Week in VGM #006: PAX East special

This Week in VGM

Welcome to the sixth episode of This Week in VGM, a weekly podcast of news and music from the video game inspired music community. This week we take a look back at PAX East and all the video game music therein. We take a look at GM4A's album IWADON, listen to some classic tracks from disasterPEACE, and new ones from A_Rival. We also have an exclusive interview with the man behind Sunken Colony, an upcoming tribute album to Starcraft, and much more. Be sure to listen in!

You can check out, download, and subscribe to the podcast at Feedburner iTunes

If you would like to get in touch with news, questions, or perhaps to be a guest host alongside me in a future episode, you can email me at gamemusic4all@gmail.com

Interview with independent sound design team Audio Aggregate

Recently I had the chance to talk to two members of a collective of video game music fans turned composers. The group Audio Aggregate (audioaggregate.com) is comprised of several members from the world of video game inspired music. This includes Jace Bartet, AKA chiptune composer Prizmatic Spray, Brion Helmsman, and Luke Fields of speed running rockers Bit Brigade, as well as Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica, not to mention Mike Albanese of both of the latter groups. They also have several other accomplished musicians in Alfredo Lapuz, Coley Dennis, and Matt Weiss.

Separately this group of musicians has dedicated themselves to some great musical projects and bands, but together as Audio Aggregate have created and contributed to soundtracks such as the first true iPhone MMO Outer Empires and Geometry Wars style PC shooter Sentinel. I was able to shoot some questions at Mike Albanese and Jace Bartet about designing music as a collective, as well as a look into the indie game music scene and more. Read on, but first, get a feel for this group with a special single MP3 included for this interview.

[download id="19"] What made you decide to start a collective for game sound design?

Jace: Mike had the idea to get this thing rolling, and for me it was really a dream come true.  When I was discovering the NES around age 6, I immediately became obsessed with the music in many of the games I happened upon, especially Time Lord, Mega Man 2, and Duck Tales.  I'd just chill out in levels that had cool jams and feel the vibes.  A few years later, I figured out that the little red output on the side of the NES was an audio out, so I hooked it up to my boombox and recorded game music and sounds onto cassette tapes to listen to at my leisure. The idea of designing sound for games seems like winning the lottery, or being a "Rock Star."

Mike: Athens is 2010 America's Capital for Undercompensated Talent. The cost of living is extremely low, as is compensation for all the service industry jobs traditionally associated with a musician’s life. This is our opportunity to take something we've long since dedicated ourselves to and actually get properly compensated for it. The fact that our cost of living and general overhead is so low definitely helps keep us competitive, price wise. It is not unreasonable to believe people not living in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco should not have to exclusively make wrapped sandwiches to pursue their artistic goals.

What games have you worked on so far?

Mike: After doing some smaller projects to get our collective feet wet and learn the process, this year we've completed an Iphone MMOPRG called Outer Empires, wrote arena rock themes for a slot machine sim and delved into latin chiptunes for a short called Spanish Gold!

What games are you working on now?

Mike: At the moment we are working on music for a pilot for Nickelodeon involving wizard bunnies, cute sidekicks and a metal version of flight of the bumblebees (post-manowar if you will). We're also doing some work on an forward thinking title being developed by the NIH/SEPA program at the University of Georgia. We are busy bees, but aggressively looking for work that demands something different than "canned" faux-cinema music.

How do you decide on what projects to work on and which to pass on?

Jace: I suppose something would have to be pretty damn janky for us to pass on it outright.  We're really pumped about exploring as many game environments and music integration possibilities as we can.

Mike: Having minimal business experience before this, it’s been interesting trying to find a balance between keeping the company afloat and actively pressing developers who we want to work with at (read: minimal) all costs. Our collective is diverse enough to shine in a pretty wide spectrum of environments though.

In a collective, how do you decide who works on which song?

Jace: Mike plays a large part in this process.  He's basically our Dr. Dre.

Mike: Ya'll know me, still the same ol' G.

Jace: All project proposals pass through him first.  What has happened thus far, really, has mainly involved Mike throwing an opportunity out there to all of us, and anyone who feels that they have something viable to contribute can take a crack at it.

How do you go about writing songs together?

Jace: Many of us have worked or currently jam together in fairly involved music endeavors outside of AA.  Over the years, a synergy has been created that allows us to speak the same basic language of music.  I don't have any formal music training, but I have a very fluid relationship with, for example, Brion Kennedy, who has music training oozing out of every pore.  When we get together with guitars, things just seem to start happening.

Mike: Most of the guitar centric players are/were in a quadrophonic guitar + drum ensemble called 'Powers …. which due to the complexity of the layouts required a hybridization of collaborative and authoritative songwriting. Basically, one person is in "charge" of the melodic content of a song and has the final say on the arrangement, but anybody involved is pressed to innovate and take the lead ideas as far as possible. Generate -vastly- more ideas then we need and pair the end product down while retaining the original composer's vision via auditing. We've adapted this process pretty handily towards composing for game audio … I man the helm, studio and production wise, to ensure some semblance of continuity between tracks for a given project, but in the end, we're aggressively looking for the unexpected (and inspiring) musical moments that occur by mashing individuals with grossly different backgrounds and fields of expertise together.

Do each of you have certain strengths or musical talents and styles?

Jace: Absolutely.  I'm sure everyone has a different idea of what their own strengths are, but I can say for myself that I'm a slave to long melodic figures.  I've also spent a lot more time working with chiptunes than most of the other guys.

Mike: It's wickedly diverse. How many solo-composer-with-mid-sequencer type cats can claim they've dedicated years to learning and dissecting every krautrock band … -and- do remixes of contemporary electronic music live, -and- have a voracious appetite for chiptunes. Only by taking it collaboratively and using whoever is most appropriate/thought provoking in combination can you end up with non-derivative music in as diverse a palette as we have.

Is there a style each of you loves to or refuses to do?

Jace: I love working on basically anything that benefits from using Milky Tracker or Renoise, and anything that needs bombastic rock guitar.  I wouldn't "refuse" to do anything, although I'd have a hard time with an assignment that called for a generic "unce-unce-unce-unce" beat.  Speaking only for myself, one of my biggest dreams for Audio Aggregate is to help get video game music as far away from the ghetto of bland "orchestral" string swells and mind-numbing, flaccidly pulsing electronic beats as possible.  That's not to say that some great work isn't being done in the industry, particularly for handheld systems.  But I pine for the days when it was more common for game music to really jump out and excite the player, acting as an integral part of the game experience and not just background fodder.  I must find a way to make every assignment musically interesting for myself.

Mike: What Jace said, but in my case substitute "odd-meter drums" for bombastic rock guitar and "circuit bent electronics" for Renoise.

What advantages does having a full group of musicians bring to music creation in this game soundtrack setting?

Jace: We get to put a lot of ears on something.  If you have four guys with four different backgrounds and interests in a room listening to something and they all get a kick out of it, that's a pretty good indicator that it's strong.  Also, one of the ideas behind having a collective is that theoretically we should be able to produce solid material in just about any genre or sound set and do it with a very short turnaround.  There's probably someone to take on just about anything.

Are there any disadvantages to this structure?

Jace: Not yet, really!  Something may come up over time, but at this point it has been too invigorating, and too much fun for me to come up with any significant disadvantages.  Some may balk having to split pay up x-number of ways, but I don't mind that because I believe pretty strongly in the talents of each of us and in what we're doing as a whole.

How did everyone get involved in this project?

Jace: This guy named Rufus came to us in a telephone booth when we were hanging out in a parking lot one night and told us that the future depended on it.

Mike: Excellent!

Do you plan on releasing original music as a group as well?

Mike: Since various configurations of us play in different bands all working towards releasing records, I wouldn't say a compilation of Audio Aggregate original music is at the top of the priority list … but its -absolutely- a possibility, especially if we can release a soundtrack to a larger title that will showcase the diversity of our group.

What games and composers are you influenced by?

Mike: If we both gave our lists we would fill ten pages.

Jace: This could go on for a while...first and foremost, Iku Mizutani.  On the soundtracks for games such as Toukon Club, Shatterhand, Power Rangers - Time Force, and Dragon Fighter, he has proved himself to be a true alchemist in combining insanely catchy melodies with interesting rhythms and unconventional transitions.  I could write an essay on the importance and influence of the following composers on my style and life:  Neil Baldwin (Magician, Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge),

Mike: Imma let you finish, but Neil Baldwin is the greatest 8-bit composer of all time. Of All Time!

Jace: Manami Matsumae (Mega Man 2, U.N. Squadron), Tim Follin (Silver Surfer, Puzznic), Yoshihiro Sakaguchi (Mega Man 2, Duck Tales, Street Fighter 2), Chris Huelsbeck (Turrican), Jeroen Tel (Robocop 3, Cybernoid), Jake Kaufman, aka virt (Shantae, Contra 4, a billion amazing original chiptunes), Samuel Ascher-Weiss, aka Shnabubula (mind-altering original chiptunes).

Are there particular games or genres you like to or would like to create music for?

Jace: My primary interests are in shmups, 2D platformers, puzzle games, and anything kind of left-field and experimental that under-showered guys out there are toiling away on in their bedrooms/basements/studios.

Mike: I want to create spacerock for RPGs. It's a niche my drumming style and the guitar-ebow-is-that-guitar-or-angel-spaceships tonalities we have at our disposal are particular suited for. It also enables me to sublty work my Hum influences into something commercially viable. Life goal, check.

What do you think of the proliferation of independent games on iphone and console downloads?

Jace: It's wonderful in that real experimentation and innovation has an outlet; it's troubling in that good works may become increasingly easy to overlook, because the mountain of pointless nonsense to sift through seems to grow exponentially.

Mike: Independently motivated people + outlet for distribution = freedom from day jobs and a cottage industry built on boutique titles not suited for crossplatform, million dollar development deals. At least in theory, its quasi-utopian and very much in the spirit of how our bands operate. Itunes more or less instantly created a bullshit free internet based revenue stream for Cinemechanica (my band) and it has helped our touring and logistical needs in a not subtle way. Most of the Iphone devs we have worked with have a love/hate relationship with the submission process, but in the end, the review process will go through revisions and the strength of digital distribution with sweet user front end will emerge triumphant.

Do you think there is a large difference between large developers music creation and that of indie developers?

Jace: Budget is a big deal. Many of us work unglamorous day jobs, and making the time for an Audio Aggregate project sometimes means, or at least has for me on occasion, wreaking havoc on my sanity and wellness.  It would be cool to have the luxury of not having to murder brain cells to produce passable work, but I'm more than happy to do whatever it takes to hammer at our goals.  I am quite sure that everyone doing good work at any level of game design works long hours, and hard, to do what they love.

Mike: Our goal is to create music that we are proud of and that resonates with gamers in a way that (forgive me) "typical" music just can't. The end platform matters, of course, in terms of production execution (sample rates and what not) … but in the end, it's the difference between Movie Score X and the score to Requiem for A Dream. Could Clint Mansell have composed and executed that score for an indie? Absolutely. Would it have driven him completely insane, finding string players and local studios to record in piecemeal? Absolutely. Would he (we) have done it anyway? You get the idea. Eventually we'll get properly compensated for the somewhat over-the-top amount of time we invest … but right now, promotional bullshit aside, we want to work on great, forward-thinking games with great scoring potential … and hopefully make enough to feed ourselves and remain clothed.

Many VG inspired musicians have started to find their way into video game composition such as yourselves, Another Soundscape, Stemage (of Metroid Metal), and most recently Anamanaguchi. Do you think this is a growing trend, and possibly the beginning of a new era of game composers?

Jace: Whether or not this is a "new era" of VG composition really depends on the developers/publishers to me. virt and Alex Mauer are the only modern, active chiptune godheads I can think of who have also been heavily involved in professional VG work. But they're by no means the only chiptune artists doing incredible work. If VG developers paid any attention to websites like The Shizz or 8bitcollective, I think they'd be amazed at the quality of composition happening in those places by average joes, obsessives who know the different versions of Space Harrier based on the first transitional drum fill. It's up to developers to decide whether or not they want to push beyond generic "symphonic" soundscapes or bland "techno" pulses. The talent is out there. Anamanaguchi has had a very high level of visibility in the chiptune world for some time because of their live presence, but there is a whole universe of talent underneath the surface.

Who are some game composers and/or chiptune and VGM musicians you think we should keep an eye on in the near future?

Jace: Alex Mauer and virt (always); also, EvilWezil, Zan-zan-zawa-veia, J. Arthur Keenes, Josiah Tobin (aka Bit_Rat), Norrin Radd, Shnabubula, Wizwars, Derris Kharlan, Spamtron, and Unicorn Dream Attack. I'm sure there are tons I'm forgetting; this is just off the top of my head. Things have gotten insane and awesome in the past couple of years in the chiptune scene.

What do you have to say to those who also hope to start composing game music?

Jace: This is not pretty. Love it with all your heart and be certain of your passion.

Mike: Confirmed.

Any final things you would like to add, or wisdom to impart before we finish this interview?

Jace: Study the ancient masters, always and forever. Never stop studying.

Mike: Thanks for being so awesome and interviewing us. We are immensely appreciative.

EvilWezil appearing on KSPC Radio March 26th 4pm PST

I am preparing quickly for PAX East as of this time, but there is still lots of news to dole out in large quantities to eager listeners. I want to quickly plug this tidbit for you all! Looks like Los Angeles based chiptune artist EvilWezil (who you may know from his releases on iimusic.net) will be on KSPC radio in Claremont, CA. Full info below!

Chiptune artist EvilWezil will be a guest and live performance on ‘The Video Game Music Show’ this Friday March 26th from 4 – 6pm on KSPC 88.7FM Claremont, CA. You can listen to the live webcast at kspc.org

So be sure to tune in and support a great show! Not to mention listen to some live chiptunes courtesy of EvilWezil. If just hearing him live isn't enough for you though, be sure to set aside some free tim on April 8th, and head out to Rosemead, CA where EvilWezil, alongside Wizwars, Zealous1, and SXEZSKOZ will all be performing free at Super PIZZA and CHIPS 3!

This Week in VGM #004: Beep City Special

This Week in VGM You can check out, download, and subscribe to the podcast at Feedburner iTunes

Welcome to the fourth episode of This Week in VGM, a weekly podcast of news and music from the video game inspired music community. This episode is a very lengthy special in which we check out the sites, but most importantly the sounds of Beep City.

This entire podcast is all about the first release from Beep City, Love Songs From the Future Volume 1. You can download the album free at http://www.beepcity.com/music/beep-city-presents-love-songs-from-the-future. This episode clocks in at nearly an hours worth of music, talk, and more!

I go over all 12 tracks from the release. I also talk with Beep City founders Moldilox and Djinnocide, as well as many of the musicians from the album.

If you would like to get in touch with news, questions, or perhaps to be a guest host alongside me in a future episode, you can email me at gamemusic4all@gmail.com

Miles Davis chiptune tribute Kind of Bloop released; Zen Albatross interview with Andy Baio and DisasterPEACE


As was announced a few months back, an amazing collection of chiptune artists gathered together to pay tribute to one of the most seminal works in 20th century music, Miles Davis' album Kind of Blue. The resulting effort is Kind of Bloop, and is available for download at the very low price of $5 at kindofbloop.com right now. This is a landmark moment in chiptunes and I am proud to be able to write about it as it happens. Also to commemorate this moment I am happy to present Zen Albatross, who comes to us with his second guest article for GM4A. This time he has landed an interview with two of the folks behind Kind of Bloop.

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Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue was a landmark achievement in the history of recorded sound. It not only pioneered modern Jazz as we know it, but also refined the art of recording and completely changed the way musicians produced albums. Since its release in the summer of 1959, Kind of Blue has been consistently regarded as one of the most influential recordings of all time. In honor of the record’s 50th Anniversary, Andy Baio of Waxy.org assembled an all-star team of chiptune musicians to create Kind of Bloop, a complete re-imagining of the seminal Jazz classic, created using obsolete videogame hardware.

Go ahead and shout ‘blasphemy’ now, if you like. But take a moment to consider the amazing nature of this project and the manner in which it came about; a method which very well may be just as revolutionary as the artistry it pays tribute to.

I had the pleasure of chatting with both project organizer Andy Baio and chip musician Rich Vreeland about the ambitious plan to create the ultimate chiptune jazz tribute album. Hit the jump to discover the story behind Kind of Bloop and a new breed of fan-funded projects that are changing the way people make independent games and music forever.

The setting of the story is Kickstarter, a collaborative fundraising website brainstormed by internet entrepreneur Perry Chen. The site launched earlier this year, featuring a smattering of start-up projects. Just 4 short months later, it now hosts hundreds of prospective projects, allowing users to get funding in order to create albums, games, books, magazines, iPhone applications and pretty much any other form of media you can think of. When Andy Baio was paired up with Chen through a mutual acquaintance, he began to realize Kickstarter as the perfect platform to launch a project of his own. Shortly after, Andy was made CTO of the site.

First off, where did the idea for Kind of Bloop come from initially, and what made you decide to raise money for it on Kickstarter?

Andy Baio: It started a couple years ago, a silly idea wondering what jazz standards would sound like in a chiptune style. I went searching for more information online, but amazingly, couldn’t find anything. After Kickstarter launched, I wanted to come up with a project to try it out and the idea came back to me. So I went digging deep, looking for chiptune jazz, and found a total of three covers. So I tracked down two of the musicians that did those covers, ast0r and sergeeo, and asked if they’d be interested in covering Kind of Blue. They both agreed immediately.

What was the criteria for the artists who contributed?

Andy: I was looking for musicians that were both capable videogame musicians and jazz lovers, which was surprisingly hard. I approached Virt, whose music I’d admired for years. He came on board, and introduced me to Disasterpeace and Shnabubula, both extremely talented chiptune artists and Miles Davis fans. Once the lineup was rounded out, I started the project on Kickstarter.

How did the fundraising go once everything was in place?

Andy: I was hoping to raise $2,000 in three months, to pay the artists and legally license the songs from the original publisher. I hit that goal in four hours.

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With $2,000 raised in a mere fraction of a day, the artists involved were rightly enthusiastic about the project. One of the artists, Rich Vreeland, known also by his creative handle, Disasterpeace is a Staten Island-born musician who composes 8-bit style music for videogames and films. Rich joined us to discuss his experiences tackling the monumental task of making a Miles Davis tribute using only electronic instruments.

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Kind of Blue is considered a Jazz bible of sorts, and proponents of Jazz will usually contend that music like that can’t be replicated by machines. Do you feel that the albums music does justice to the source material? Or were you going for a looser interpretation where the new instrumentation doesn’t try to be something it isn’t?

Andy Baio: Many jazz purists will hate the album, arguing that it’s too rigid and mechanical. But that’s what drew me to the project in the first place: making art within constraints is a good thing, and what’s more constrained than making music for a 25-year-old videogame console?

Rich Vreeland: I think all five of us approached the source material in different ways, which will hopefully at the very least provide something for everyone. Kind of Blue is such a human piece of work that it’d be silly to try and transcribe the whole thing and think that it would work, so many of us decided to play to what makes Jazz so successful and incorporate original solos and reharmonizations. In trying to incorporate some of who we are into the pieces I think we also took some liberty with the form at times, and the style, but in the end I think those were necessary to keep things fresh.

Andy: If the guys had made faithful note-for-note translations of the original album, it would’ve been deadly boring and borderline offensive. But they’ve made music that is true to the fundamental tenets of jazz: highly improvisational, interpretive, emotional, and personal.

What are your thoughts regarding the funding efforts on Kickstarter and how did that affect the finished product? Did you expect to get so much support?

Andy: I was stunned by the response and happy that I could pay the artists. Getting funded that quickly meant the artists had much more time to work on their projects, which was a very good thing. The additional time really shows on the album.

Rich: I think we were all surprised at how much support we’ve gotten and obviously, we’re very grateful. Knowing that so many people were looking forward to what we were doing was definitely some additional encouragement to make this project as good as it could be.

What about the future? Do you think we’ll be seeing more chipmusic projects like this on the site?

Andy: I’d love to see more genre experimentation in the chiptune scene in general, whether on Kickstarter or not. Currently, Kickstarter is invite-only for new projects, but we’re opening to the public very soon.

Rich: I imagine that there will be more projects down the line similar to this, both in terms of concept and as far as using sites like Kickstarter which seems to have been a success. At the moment, I’m lucky enough to be a part of another Kickstarter project for an indie game that has just ended and we were able to reach our funding goal, so I can’t say enough good things about the site and its service.

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Kind of Bloop is available for download now on the project’s official website. Backers of the project received an advance copy of the album earlier this week, among other goodies depending on how much they contributed. Thanks again to Rich and Andy for answering all our questions! For more fan-funded goodness, check out Steve Jenkins’ 12-bit adventure game, High Strangeness.

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Thanks again to Zen Albatross for contributing the article to our site. Be sure to download the album from kindofbloop.com right away! You will not be disappointed!

Spotlight On UMD Gamer Symphony Orchestra


You can’t get any cooler than a group of students getting together to form a VGM orchestra that grows to be a huge success. In the fall of 2005, UMD Gamer Symphony was born on the campus of University of Maryland that only had 5 students. Few years later, they have over 80 musicians! Playing VGM varying from Tetris to Halo to Final Fantasy, the music they play is bound to please the general audience. They also just had their spring concert of 2009 on May 9th. I was able to have some questions answered by them.

How did the UMD GSO start?

The University of Maryland Gamer Symphony Orchestra officially started as a student group in the fall of 05, but the first rehearsal was in Spring 06. It started as a tiny group of only 5 musicians, and there was a lot of turbulence trying to find a direction, but under the guidance of our conductor Greg Cox, we were able to quickly grow musically to where we are today.

Did you expect it to become well known?
Yes, I think there are a lot of people that would be fans of us if they knew about us.

How many do you have currently playing?

We currently have about 83 musicians, including our chorus. Some members were in both the orchestra and the chorus, but we're asking everyone to pick one sub-group to be a part of now in order to be able to focus better.

How difficult was it to gather so many musicians who wanted to play VGM?

Not really so difficult. Once word got out, there were a lot of musicians who wanted to play with the GSO. One semester, we almost doubled in size. However, we are still lacking a bit in strings, at least proportionally. We still haven't found a contrabassist. I guess some instruments just don't lend themselves well to being played by gamers' delicate fingers.

What are your personal favorite pieces?

Given that I arranged it, a big one for me is Kirby Super Star. Having something you created performed in front of a 1000-person audience is an awesome experience. I'd say it was the proudest moment of my life. Other than that, I love our Chrono Trigger song (even though we stole it), One Winged Angel was awesome, and Still Alive is very emotional for me. Halo's pretty awesome too.

What seems to be the crowds favorite?

On the 9th, from the feedback sheets, people seemed to like Metal Gear Solid a lot. I like that piece too. Actually, I really like a lot of our pieces. There are only very few I don't; I suspect our audiences may feel the same.

How do you decide which game music to play?
Each arranger is free to decide what they arrange, and if the Music Committee decides the arrangement is good enough and we have time that semester, we'll do it. We have a lot of arrangers, probably about 10 so far. We have a listserv where we post our arrangements-in-progress and they get commented upon. It's a collaborative sort of process sort of thingy.

Any troubles when setting up UMD Gamer Symphony that had to be overcome and if so what?
Rehearsal and concert spaces were always our biggest concern. Originally, we had to rehearse in a moldy old lecture hall with no space for stands and bad acoustics. We still have to do that occasionally today, although we normally use the Chapel, which has its own problems, like not having enough chairs. So we bought some. We have to make do with what we have. Convincing the Student Government Association to give us money for these things is sometimes a pain. We also have to rent a tuba, because nobody owns one.

Any future pieces you have in mind playing/performing?
There are always a lot of ideas swimming around any given arranger's head. Personally, I'd like to arrange music from Goemon's Great Adventure, the DKC series, Metroid Prime, and a bunch of others. We may be doing SMW2: Yoshi's Island next semester, but then again, we may not.
I know arrangements are sometimes spur of the moment. Kirby Super Star happened out of the blue one day while I was trying to arrange Mega Man X music, and I just completely changed gears immediately. Greg's told me a similar story: he had been working on a Starcraft piece for a while, then just decided to do Katamari.

How did more and more people join, through advertisement or personal connections?

Most of the freshmen we get are from advertising during orientation. In the beginning, though, it was mostly friends of people already in the orchestra joining.

When's your next concert?

We have concerts at the end of every semester. Our next one is slated for some time around Dec. 12.

Lastly, do you have any suggestions/advice for those who are thinking about starting a video game music orchestra at their own college?

Err, don't wa-ri, do yah best?

We actually are very interested in helping out other orchestras who want to play video game music - we've helped support a GSO at a local high school, Magruder HS. They just had their first concert, and it went really well. We have a separate nonprofit organization dedicated to this kind of thing, so I guess my advice would be to contact us. If you're really serious, I mean. First you'll have to get some people together; we're not gonna come to your college and recruit. But we started out as a 5-person group, so that'd be enough. Anything other than that, though, we would love to help. Arrangements, planning, SGA support, that sort of thing. We love the idea of other people doing this. It'll help if we have to move in the future.

I want to thank UMD GSO again for answering these questions and playing music that fills gamers (and hopefully anyone!) with joy and passion. Definitely visit their website http://www.umd.gamersymphony.org/. One thing is for sure, I'm a hardcore advocate for campuses having their own VGM orchestra. It would bring variety to the college experience ;)

-Ma

Interview with Eirik “Phlogiston” Suhrke and Rich "DisasterPEACE" Vreeland of Pause music netlabel

Recently I had the chance to talk to two amazing artists Eirik “Phlogiston” Suhrke and Rich "DisasterPEACE" Vreeland who on top of making music and art, have collaborated to bring us the Pause netlabel which is dedicated to bringing the world amazing and unique chiptunes, and more recently incredible game soundtracks as well through their PLUS moniker. For those who have yet to check out II, head over to their site right now! I myself have downloaded pretty much every album off their site and enjoyed every single one immensely.

So read on and find out what these two hard working folks had to say about their site.


What made you decide to create your own chiptune netlabel?

Rich: Eirik and I felt like we were part of a niche of artists that didn't really have an outlet at the time to express ourselves, so we sought to address that problem by starting a label.

Eirik: Yeah - we had both been part of several different netlabels/ communities, and wanted more of a permanent home for the lot of us - so we made one.

What do you think sets you apart most from other chiptune labels?

R: I think our label seeks to associate itself with a particular type of sound, probably more so than some of the other prominent chip labels. 8bitpeoples for instance tends to have a more all-encompassing catalog with a much broader variety of artists and styles, and I think that's probably their strong suit. They're a much more active label with a larger reach and fanbase, so it's the perfect introduction to 8-bit music. We're definitely less hands-on, leaving things up to the artists a bit more.

E: I see Pause as a band / demoscene group or whatever you'd like to call it, as much as I see it as a label. I'm not sure about other labels, but we're just a small group of musicians/friends who decided to create one collective outlet for our creativity. I guess there's no point in pinpointing exactly what it is.

When you started your label, what were your initial goals and ideas for what you wanted out of your site?

R: We initially wanted Pause to be a team of musicians who exclusively released all of their music on Pause, essentially to use the site as a homepage on the web. It was going to be the place for this small group of artists to have all their music either available or linked to, blogs, and all sorts of information that people might care about. Ultimately we decided to go for a broader variety of releases and pass on the team idea, at least for the time being.

E: The idea was that we'd get more exposure if we made one website instead of as individuals. As Pause grows we get new ideas and set new goals. I guess now one of the main goals would be to find ways to generate some income, so we can treat our fans to more merchandise, gigs and what not. But for the time being, Pause is still just on the hobby level.

Have you met any of those goals? Also, is there anything that has come as a surprise in running your site, such as press, reception to certain albums, etc?

R: The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, which has been great. I suppose the biggest surprise has been the amount of work required to be serious about running a label. Our style has traditionally been pretty casual, despite being serious about the music we release. If we dedicated more time to Pause we probably would be in better shape than we are now!

E: Yeah, note that Pause is still just on the hobby level, so there's only so much time to devote to it. One thing I came up with back with the initial idea for Pause was Plus, and getting that one up there was certainly accomplishing a goal.

Has their been any runaway hit albums on your site? Any album or artist that has done surprisingly well?

R: Actually one of our PLUS releases, the music from "Immortal Defense", is far and away the most downloaded album on the site. We count over 7,000. The Pause compilation "Heartcode" is second at almost 3,000. Among regular artist releases, Animal Style's Gameboy Madrigals and iqtu's Embarrassing Triangle seem to be the two most popular releases. Naturally over time our viewership has increased to somewhere between 100 to 300 unique visitors a day, so the more recent releases are getting more downloads than the earlier stuff.

E: I was very suprised with how much attention Heartcode got. We didn't promote it anymore than our other releases, but for some reason I saw it popping up all over the place. I guess it shows that if we put together a tight release, people will check it.

It seems this site came to fruition around the time of the demise of former chiptune netlabels Megatwerp and Betamod. Did those sites have any impact on the artists on II or the forming of the label, or was it just coincidental timing?

R: I think Betamod went under after we had already started, but Megatwerp definitely had something to do with us starting Pause. Eirik and I had both released material on Megatwerp, but I think we just had different ideas about what we wanted to do and release than what they were doing.

E: Like Rich said, we had both been through a few rounds with Megatwerp, and then there was ChipCache whiich died pre-birth. I remember having alot of ideas that I contributed to both those labels, so in the wake of them it seemed like a good idea to just make my own label instead. Seems Rich had the same idea. I honestly don't remember Betamod - but the name sounds familiar now that you mention it.

How did the Plus portion of II come about?

R: PLUS was actually Eirik's idea, and I totally agreed that'd be great to have a section dedicated to releasing Game Soundtracks.

E: Having been involved in the indie gaming scene for a number of years, and having enjoyed quite a few soundtracks from indie games, I just couldn't see why there wasn't a central site for that stuff. So when we made Pause I immediately throught that I wanted a section for that as well. Obviously I wanted to do it so there could be a home for my game soundtracks, as well.

How did you come up with and decide on the name "II"? Does it have any particular meaning to you or the site in general?

R: We wanted something iconic, laconic, easy to remember, but also musically relevant. Ultimately we've decided to go with Pause though, mainly because people don't seem to be smart enough to figure out that the two II's mean Pause. It's not really their fault though, people spread the domain out as being iimusic.net (which it is) and people as a result lose the intended meaning.

E: We also had some fun ideas for plus, like having it be Play, and write it >, so it would go next to the II like on a VCR. I think we also toyed with the idea of calling it Equal, written =. Tilted II, get it? But yeah, ultimately all of this stuff is too gimmicky, and people don't get it anyhow.

For musicians wondering how to become part of your label, what is the criteria you look for in an artist and their music?

R: Our criteria is simple. Do whatever it is that you do, and do it well. And if we like it, we'll release it! Eirik and I have different litmus tests for quality and so on, so we don't always see eye to eye. But generally one of us will succumb to the other if they're absolutely in love with an album. If we both like it but aren't crazy about it though, we probably won't release it. We try to keep a high standard so that the things that we do release are really great. At least, in our biased opinions. And we ask that people send us finished or close to finished releases so that we know exactly what we're working with.

E: I always try to be as strict as possible when deciding upon what to release or not. There's so many netlabels out there, so in order to stand out I think you need to set the bar pretty high. But please do send us demos - we do get ones we really like from time to time! Our compilations are also a good way to get a foot inside. Just recently with the Sea of Ice comp we came into contact with ZZZV, which now has one EP out on Pause.

What are both of your duties in maintaining II music?

R: Traditionally I've been in charge of most of the web maintenance type stuff. I built the website, and usually post the album releases and finalize the album artwork. At some point though Eirik learned how to do that stuff too so now we both post to the blog and add releases. I've also generally prepared the releases, and come up with the track orders for the compilations. Beyond that we do pretty much everything 50/50. PLUS is Eirik's baby though, so he handles that more than I.

E: Like Rich said, he definitely used to be the boss. I was coming up with alot of ideas, and maintaining contact with artists, but Rich was doing all of that hard work. This was because he built the website, which I wouldn't know how to do anyhow, and once the site went online
I was without internet for a few months, so we got off a little unbalanced. At some point Rich decided to focus on school and his own music for a while, so I ran Pause solo for a couple of months. I guess it was then I realized how much work he was putting into it, and I think we've been equals ever since he decided to come back and do it with me again.

What do you tend to look for in artists who release albums or hope to release albums on your label?

R: We try to look for people who have their own unique voice, who would contribute something new to the catalog, at the same time, adhering to a certain level of quality.

E: Honestly, it just boils to "do I like this or not?". Sometimes we get demos that I can tell are really well made, but are not in a style that get's me excited, so we might not put it out - unless Rich digs it.

What future releases do you have in store?

R: We always have something coming up! I'll be releasing my next album "Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar" by the end of the year. We also have Nonfinite's next album coming out soon, and Eirik also has something in the works which maybe he can talk about.

E: Yeah there's some Phlogiston coming up, too. I haven't been to active when it comes to releases, because I've been trying to focus on my soundtrack work, but there should be something soon.

What advice do you have for anyone interested in starting their own netlabel or looking to get their music on one?

R: I would definitely say that make sure your label is addressing needs, whoever's or whatever needs those may be. Secondly, have fun! As far as getting music on a netlabel, promote yourself as best you can, get on myspace, twitter, all those good things. And it never hurts to send demos to netlabels of course, and/or make friends with people who run labels.

E: Like all big stars say; Just believe in yourself and keep working and you'll get there. No, what do I know.

Anything else you would like to add?

R: Keep checking in for new releases! We have a few good ones coming up and are currently working on improving the site with new/revised features.

E: A big thanks to everyone who's supported us with Pause and before that, so far!

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Once again I would like to thank Eirik and Rich for their time. I once again urge everyone to check out the site at iimusic.net! As I have been doing lately as well I would like to end the interview with a music video. This is not exactly related to II but includes music by Rich Vreeland. The video is a trailer for an upcoming game called High Strangeness, and I think the interesting artwork alongside the DisasterPEACE tune seems to fit the idea of II. so enjoy the video!

I Fight Dragons concert review and video interview: We should all Fight Dragons…

Recently my pal Brian from 8-Bit Revenge had the lucky opportunity to go see the amazing NES Rockers I Fight Dragons at a recent concert. He was kind enough to write a review of the show for GM4A, not to mention a video interview with the band alongside 8BR mate Callan! Read on to learn all about the show, and hopefully the group is coming to a town near you soon!


At first glance I Fight Dragons may seem like just another mild-mannered NESRock band plodding along the usual course of having fun making music. But if you look closely, behind those charming mild mannered alter egos lays a group of NESRock super heroes waiting to strike. A band wholly dedicated to not only making amazing music but grabbing the world by the hand and taking them on a trip to places they haven’t yet dared to dream of.

From their exceptionally well written lyrics to the pop-sensible blend of chiptune and what alternative rock should be, all the way down to their stage antics I Fight Dragons put on simply one hell of a show. IFD takes time to charm the crowd with something that everyone regardless of age, gender, or personal habits can relate to but all the while exposing them to a new and exciting method of making music. This is accomplished with the use of both retro and new age game controllers coupled with everything that you would expect to see from an alternative rock band.

It is very seldom that I can say with honesty that an event I have been to has been so overwhelming that it has left me struggling for proper adjectives to describe it. Despite that the most common method of describing anything these days is to refer to it as “epic” it truly seems to be the only word that fits. However seeing as the word “epic” is indeed overused these days I shall take this little bit of time to try and expand upon that for you.

Imagine yourself standing in a venue, lights down and a band on stage. The lead singer stands, back to the crowd in what appears to be nothing more than your average white shirt, tie, and the standard issue journalist glasses. A digital voice introduces the band slowly at first and then simply states “This is I Fight Dragons” at which point the band turns around and, as though a light switch was flipped, the energy pulsates from them. Then during the break down of the first song our mild mannered band lead transforms into super hero mode as the bassist runs insanely around the stage. All at once the all questions as to why they are wearing super hero logos are completely gone. Dancing around the stage, in the crowd, and when things get hairy and a mistake is made (like an un-cooperating computer) they compensate by simply singing a Zelda medley while Wonder Woman holds up speech bubbles asking for help, freedom, and of course beer. As if that wasn’t enough, a few moments later you are treated to the entire band taking a few moments to dance on a very well altered Track and Field pad and then finally achieving a crescendo with a power glove inspired orchestration of pure unabashed chiptune goodness.

All of this and more is what a concert with I Fight Dragons is like. It’s hard to encapsulate in mere words the energy from both the band and crowd. To make matters even more difficult for this actual mild mannered journalist the very sound of IFD is hard to describe. Seeing them perform live is a veritable monument to their actual level of professionalism. While performing songs like Heads up, Hearts Down there were moments I wasn’t sure if I was still in a bar on the north side of Chicago or in my car cruising with friends. The quality of the music only changed in the aspect that it was more enjoyable and, if possible, more energetic. So it’s with this in mind that I state: Should you get a chance to see I Fight Dragons perform live that you run, not walk, to the venue and take part in a show that you are not likely to soon, if ever, to forget. To find out when their upcoming shows are and where they’re being held make sure to check out either their website: ifightdragons.com or their MySpace: myspace.com/ifightdragons Go now! Join the fight against the Hidarites!


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Thanks a ton to Brian from 8 Bit Revenge for doing a great write up and interview. Also thanks to I Fight Dragons for their time. Be sure to check them out at ifightdragons.com! The photos in the article are all taken from their Flickr page.

Interview with UK chiptune musician Superpowerless


Recently a good friend and hardworking chiptune musician Oliver Hindle, better known by his moniker of Superpowerless won a big contest to get a music video on MTV in the UK through the MTV/Vodaphone Fast Track Competition. The video debuts on television today and to commemorate the event I asked if Oliver would want to take some time to answer a few questions for this here site. He gladly agreed and now you can read below to see what makes this musician tick!

When did you first start writing music?

I've been writing electronic music for something like 5 years, but I've only been doing Superpowerless since the start of 2006. Before this I'd been in a few pop punk bands with high school/college friends but they never really went anywhere. Mostly because I couldn't find people that were as committed to music as I was.

What was the first instrument you learned to play?

First instrument I learnt to play was drums. Since then I've learnt guitar, bass, piano and synth.

When did you first start performing your music live?

First Superpowerless gig was on May 4th 2008. I've been keeping a list on my website of every gig I've played, It's a pretty cool thing to look back at! Since the first gig the people I've played live with have changed around a lot. It's been hard to find people that are dedicated to being in a backing band as it's meant they don't get chance to write the material. It's working really well at the moment!

When did you decide to start mixing guitar with chiptunes? What gave you that inspiration?

When I started writing chiptune, I wrote the songs with the intention of playing live. Guitar was my main instrument at the time and I'm not a massive fan of instrumental music, so it just seemed logical to mix in vocals and guitar. I also didn't really want to gig on my own so I wrote parts that I could get friends to play by forming a live backing band. I don't like being limited in what music I can create, so this way I could leave my options open to try different things.

Who are some of your musical influences? Both in chiptunes and in mainstream music?

Some bands that have had a massive impact on me are: Modest Mouse (favourite band), Mew, Million Dead, Jimmy Eat World, Postal Service, Placebo, blink 182, metric... etc! In chiptunes, I tend to prefer the artists that cross chiptune with vocals/guitar/other instruments. My favourite chiptune artists are Cat Cocinelle, I Fight Dragons and Combat Dave. I have quite a lot of chiptuning friends as well, you know who you are *high five*

What made you choose the song "Wasting My Time" to be your first big single?

I didn't think I'd win the competition when I entered, so I just picked one of my songs randomly, there are quite a few that I think would have made good singles, I really like how wasting my time has turned out though.

Any American tour planned if you make it big?

Oh definitely, we'll do the biggest tour everrrrr!

How was it remaking the song professionally? What parts of the song changed and which parts stayed the same?

It was really awesome, i usually don't spend very long on a track, so getting the chance to sit down with someone that knows as much as Andy about producing was amazing. I learnt so many little techniques and ways to get things sounding as good as possible. We kept the track sounding lofi and 8bit but just really tidied it up and gave everything it's own space. We added lots of little drum fills and drops to keep the track interesting and split the different sections up more. We also put in a bit using a vocoder to break up the melody of the choruses. Really happy with it!

How did you react when you learned that your song won the MTV Contest?

I was really surprised! It's such an awesome prize, the amount of exposure it offers is insane! If you'd of told me a few years ago when I started writing these songs that I'd be at the stage where I'm filming a music video with a professional director, I'd of not believed you in the slightest. All my friends and family were really excited about it all as well, they've all seen how hard I've worked to get this far and been behind me all the way.

How did the idea for the "Wasting My Time" music video come about? How did he director contribute to that idea?

The idea for Wasting My Time was the director Luc Jannin's. He talked me through his initial ideas and I loved the sound of it and so he developed it into what it ended up being. I had no idea how much was involved in shooting a music video, and how many people were needed on day of the shoot. It was crazy that they were all their for my music!

Who came up with the idea for the Robots Need Love Too" music video and how did that video come to be?

I had a brain storm with my friend Colin Odd Greenall about what would look cool and he agreed to direct a video for us. We wanted something that would be really fun to film and also a feel-good video. The lyrics and song go with the ideas we had perfectly. We're all really happy with how it turned out!

How much money and time was necessary to create the "Robots Need Love Too" music video ?

We stole a load of cardboard from ASDA/subway took it all back to my friend colins house. Made the costumes (took a few hours!) then the day after we all met up and spent the day filming. We managed to get all the footage we needed done in 1 day, Colin spent a few weeks editing it all together. The only money we spent on the video was paying a busker to let us play the track through his amp so we could dance to it.

Are you already working on a new album? If so can you let us know how it's shaping up and what your plans are for it?

I've written and recorded about 30/40 songs, I have a habit of getting them recorded as fast as possible and then leaving them. At the moment I'm going through finding the best tracks and then spending a really long time getting them sounding as good as possible. I'm not setting myself a deadline with it, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I want to make sure it's absolutely perfect before I release it.

Any plans for future videos or any songs you would like to make a video for?

We're involved in a local project that's pairing film makers up with bands and over the next few months we'll be filming another music video, to a totally re-recorded/reworked version of an old song I did called "zombie survival plan". At the moment, we're thinking of trying to get as many people dressed as zombies as possible into Leeds train station (which is pretty big/busy) or re-enacting Ghostbusters (Be Kind Rewind style). We'll see what happens!

Are you going to forget about all of us small guys when you are big and famous?

Haha I'd quite like to get big and famous but there's no telling what's going to happen. If anything like that does happen, I'll still be contactable through myspace/msn/hotmail/facebook all of that. I'll do my best to reply to as many people as I can. I've always liked it when bands I like, reply to my messages.

Any shout outs, thanks, plugs, or mentions you would like to add now?

Massive thanks to everyone at Vodafone and MTV for the competition, it's really given me some motivation when I really needed it! Thanks everyone that listens to my music and has got in touch with me about it over the last 3 years! Also massive thanks to anyone that's bought my CDs, showed my music to their friends, wrote about it, you're all awesome! Thanks to everyone that's been part of the Superpowerless Live band, you've all been really cool to work with! I could go on thanking people for ages, haha.

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I would like to send out a big thanks to Oliver for being nice enough to answer the questions and getting them back to me so quickly. Be sure to check out his official site superpowerless.co.uk. Also I want to say Congratulations to him for winning the MTV video contest. Glad someone with such an enthusiasm for good music and video game inspired art got such a chance! You can check out his MTV music video for Wasting My Time in our older article, and enjoy his Robots Need Love Too video below!

Interview with Nicole Adams and Starla (injury) of OCReMix

About a year ago I had the pleasure of running across Nicole Adam's music via myspace and was immediately amazed by the music she had there. I soon asked her if she would like to contribute a track to the 2nd GM4A anniversary compilation Welcome to World 2. She was kind enough to agree and submitted the song Permutation for the album, and I was of course blown away by how well it was all done. Another thing I was amazed by was that she worked with Starla AKA injury of OCReMix fame who provided her amazing voice and handled lyric duties on the song verses. Together they created a sweeping arrangement of the Donkey Kong Country song Fear Factory which has been the highlight of the album for many people.

Flash forward a few months and now the song Permutation is featured on OCReMix and has been getting some great reviews. Due to the slightly momentous event I decided to shoot some questions to Nicole Adams to discuss what it is like to have her first song on OCR, and also Injury, who has returned to OCR with this song after a lengthy hiatus. I also took this opportunity to ask them about their music influences, upcoming projects and more. Check out the interview below, then be sure to check out Nicole Adams music myspace and check out Injury over at her new website!

How long have you been writing music and video game music in particular?

Nicole Adams: I have been writing music, including both original material and video game remixes since late 2003, which is also when I got into music production.

injury: I actually started because I wanted to pay homage to megaman music via remixing. Back in 2001, I downloaded a Fruity Loops 2.7 demo and fooled around until I figured out how it worked. I had learned how to play piano at a young age, so long ago i'd forgotten how - but it certainly helped me in terms of understanding music structure and pitch.

When did you come up with the idea for “Permutation”? Did you want to remix that track specifically and then decide on the style, or did you want to do something in this specific style and then choose the track based on that?

Nicole Adams: I came up with the idea for “Permutation” in January or February of 2008. I believe I wanted to start a remix of “Fear Factory” after Mustin e-mailed me a BT remix that contains a section similar to the break in “Fear Factory”. I was listening to a lot of Telefon Tel Aviv at the time so I wanted to remix the track in a style similar to theirs.

How was it writing the lyrics for the song? I understand Nicole Adams had come up with the chorus, how was it building the idea from there?

injury: The whole idea of the theme is based around oppression. This strongly reminded me of Fear Factory's CD "Obsolete." This CD tells a story throughout, of an oppressed world in a police state, and the small glimmer of hope people had. The lyrics are meaningful to me, and I took quite a bit of inspiration from that.

Any songs or projects you are working on currently? Anything we can hope to hear soon?

injury: Nicole and I are hoping to do more tracks together. I feel that we both enjoy creating a fun sound together, and plan to both create more remixes and originals.

Nicole Adams: I always have projects in the works. Some productions that are almost complete include an 8-bit-inspired remix of La Bouche’s classic dance hit, “Sweet Dreams”, my remix for the Donkey Kong Country 2 project going on at OverClocked ReMix and a downtempo Chrono Cross remix. I wish I could tell you when you’ll be able to hear these tracks, but I’m horrible at setting dates and sticking to them.

Clip from the Sweet Dreams remix by Nicole Adams and Injury

How does it feel to have one of your songs make it through the OCR panel and get posted on the site?

Nicole Adams: It feels great to finally have a remix on OCR. Like I said, I’ve been doing this for quite sometime so I knew my first submission had to be good. I am very happy that it was direct-posted and that it has received so many wonderful reviews!

How does it feel to have a new song on OCR after the long hiatus from making music for the site?

injury: I really didn't expect it after the standards had risen so high. When I had left, there was no judges panel and very little quality control. I'm a fan of listening to all good music out there, often times this means that I listen to music that my friends have not, since they are lesser known. I also listen to video game remixes from many other sites, honestly I am happy that a piece of music with my name on it was posted on any of them at all.

Who are some of your influences in the video game remix community, as well as game music composers and more mainstream musicians?

Nicole Adams: This is a tough question to answer since so much has an impact on my music. I would have to say SGX, starla, Hy Bound and Big Giant Circles are a few influential community members. Dave Wise and Yasunori Mitsuda are two video game composers whom I also draw inspiration from. When it comes to more mainstream musicians, I would have to go with BT, Hybrid and Telefon Tel Aviv. Though, they aren’t really mainstream artists. I also really dig Yasutaka Nakata’s work. His electro-heavy productions have had a big impact on my latest tracks.

injury: I've had the fortune of being able to speak with some very talented people. Early on, AE, Beatdrop and McVaffe were kind enough to offer me direct feedback on my work. Nowadays, there are so many supportive people willing to offer sound advice. I try to learn from their music itself - Virt, Suzumebachi, Shael Riley, The Megas, Powerglove, Armcannon... Their composition is excellent and I strive to be more like them.

How was it working with Nicole Adams on the song "Permutation"?

injury: A pleasure! Sometimes I have people asking me I will collaborate with them, and I get very little feedback from them on what I am supposed to be doing, what parts are to be recorded at what point, and so forth. Nicole was very flexible with me and guided me to what was the end product.

How was it working with injury on the song?

Nicole Adams: It was great working with starla on “Permutation”. She recorded quite a few takes and was always incredibly polite upon hearing my criticism. Thanks to our collaboration, I consider her a good friend and we even have more music in the works.

Any songs you hope to remix in the future that you haven't had a chance to work on yet? Also, any artists you hope to work with in the future?

Nicole Adams: I don’t have a list of video game tracks I’d like to remix since I already have so many projects in the works, but I would like to remix BT’s “The Force of Gravity” sometime. As for artists to work with, Big Giant Circles and I have been talking about collaborating. I would also like to collaborate with SGX again. We both worked on a remix of his Planet3 track, “Different” back in 2005, but we have both grown so much since then. Hy Bound is another artist who would be great to work with. (The guy seriously deserves more attention.)

injury: I would love to learn how to compose and master better so that I am one day able to release an original album of my own with no ones help. As far as video game remixes go, I'm open to collaborations, as long as they are as coordinated as Nicole :)

Anything you would like to add, or any project or person you would like to plug?

injury: Recently I have been more involved with Thasauce.net, specifically hosting one hour compos every Thursday (compo.thasauce.net). For those who dont' know, a compo is a timed composition party - in this case, you are given a theme to write a song about, and you are to have this completed within one hour. At the end, we all listen to each others songs and vote on which one fit the theme the best. This is not only a fun thing to do, but it helps improve skills by encouraging you to streamline your work and complete as much as you can in a short period of time.

That's really what all of Thasauce is about, encouraging growth and improving the community as a whole. There is also remix.thasauce.net which offers a home to remixes that may not pass other sites standards (including remixes that are too close to the original, chip covers, too large of a file), as well as wardriver.thasauce.net which is Thasauce's own netlabel. Many future releases are planned, and any member of the community can release an album on this free label.

Nicole Adams: Thank you so much, GM4A, for interviewing me and everyone who listens to my music. I may not have much available right now, but more is on the way!

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I would like to thank Nicole Adams and injury for both taking the time to answer all my questions. Once again I strongly suggest you check out both Nicole Adams myspace and injury's website. They are two very talented and awesome individuals whom I am glad to know and I can't wait to hear what they release next! You can be sure I will post about it here when they do!

Interview with VG inspired folk pop punk band Elfonso

This Month I had the opportunity to ask a few questions from the amazing UK performers known as Elfonso (elfonso.co.uk). This band is one very close to my heart, as they have been great friends of GM4A's since almost the beginning of the site (and have been on many GM4A compilations no less). They are also the first VG inspired band I ran across that was impossible to categorize under older VG monikers like VGremixer, or VGrock, and led me to come up with the term "Video Game Inspired Music" which I know use as an all encompassing term for the music I cover here.

Elfonso is also a band I have great respect for and consider one of the most original, fun, and all around great bands around today in any genre. I myself am definitely a big fan of theirs and have no qualms mentioning it to anyone I meet. So I gladly present to you fine readers our February interview with the video game inspired folk pop punk band Elfonso.


How long have you been performing music as Elfonso?

Alex: Rory and I have been playing together for about 10 years but it wasn’t until 2004 that we released anything under the name of Elfonso.


When did you come up with the idea of performing original songs about video games?

Rory: playing video games was always something very communal that brought us together as friends, and as we were all musicians it was a natural progression.

You both seem to play multiple instruments. How many can you individually play, and what are your favourites to use live and create songs with?

Alex: no one in Elfonso has a defined roll, we all just mix and match whatever is lying around, my favourite to play is definitely the ukulele.

Rory: we never have a definite line up when we play live; whoever’s about joins in with whatever instrument suits the individual song.

Alex: basically I’ll play anything with strings, except the violin and the harp and the cello and the piano.... well not everything with strings.

Rory: bass is my first instrument but I mostly play the banjo, it’s much more enjoyable.

What games would you love to work on that you haven't had a chance to yet?

Alex: were currently recording our new album and we'd LOVE to do another song about Shining Force 3.

Rory: it’s a game we both grew up with, that and Guardian Heroes on the Saturn, that’s an awesome game!

Any new songs or projects you are working on? Any games you are covering that we can look forward to?

Rory: As mentioned before were recording a new album and it’ll have a whole host of new games across multiple platforms.

Any plans to possibly tour America? Any bands out here you would want to perform with?

Alex: Yes, most defiantly, were trying to sort something out at the moment hopefully for summer 2010, we seem to be better received in America.

Rory: we'd love to do a tour with the skull kid, he’s not videogame inspired but awesome none the less.

Alex: Were always up for playing with other videogame bands, it’s not something we get to do often

Rory: there’s always such a good atmosphere when game bands play together.

What are some musicians you are inspired by, both in game music, and in more mainstream music?

Rory: the sound track to ocarina of time was one of the biggest influences in forming Elfonso, that game pretty much has the best game music ever

Alex: also twilight princess. We’re all huge fans of the Zelda series!

Rory: outside of game music, our influences are vast; we listen to a lot of folk music and a lot of punk rock.

Alex: check our myspace for the full list of all our favourite bands.

How would you describe the music you play?

Alex: video game inspired folk pop punk!

Rory: were just a bunch of friends who get together and play music and what comes out comes out.

Alex: playing in Elfonso is just a huge amount of fun!

Any chance of you guys providing the lyrics to your Tako wa chikyu o suku album (as well as your song Great Sword)?

Alex: no problem, ill post them up as a blog on our myspace page. Maybe some artists might like to cover a song...that'd be epic.

Rory: I feel slightly ashamed about great sword, it was only recorded as a joke at the end of the recording session.

Alex: great fun though, no one had learned that song when we recorded it we just all piled in the studio and had a laugh.

Rory: monster hunter is one of my favourite games of all time; undoubtedly well revisit it as material.

What are some of your favourite games? Anything you are currently hooked on or looking forward to?

Alex: the whole Zelda series! There are no finer games! everything about them is just perfect, the creators never disappoint!

Rory: we both grew up on Lucas arts adventure games and still love them today.

Alex: we also both own switched Sega Saturns, some of our favourite games ever are on the Saturn, guardian heroes for one. The sonic the hedgehog games were a huge favourite of mine, but the less said about sonic today the better.

Rory: retro games are our favourites. Whereas chip tune artists are influenced by retro titles, were more influenced by consoles of the 90's, hence why we tend to stay away from chip tune

Alex: also I tried creating chip tune once...it didn’t work out.

When you start on a new song, do you have a specific game in mind?

Rory: we normally have a specific theme in mind but usually the music comes first.

Are there any artists you would want to collaborate with?

Alex: we’ve already collaborated with the Casiokid, that was fun.

Rory: were always up for collaborations and covering peoples songs, music is about bringing people together.

Alex: I love hearing what other people do with our material, it's a little vein but I love to hear other peoples take on our songs.

Anything you would like to mention that I failed to bring up? Anything or anyone you would like to plug?

Alex: we’ve been a little quiet this last year due to us all living far apart owing to educational commitments but come this summer, we'll be back together for good.
We'll be recording our new album in July so if any bands/ artists want to play a show with us after that, we are happy to travel.

Rory: During our time apart we both started side projects, there not game related but check them out anyway.
myspace.com/historicalfiction
myspace.com/mrneedlemouse

Alex: we need more friends in the world of game music! We are currently really enjoying the music of Parry Gripp though; defiantly check out his solo stuff, its genius.

Any words you have for folks who are looking to create video game inspired music?

Rory: game music can seem quite daunting what with learning how to create chip tune, but game music can be anything game related really.
Alex: we need more game inspired artists in the UK; it’s really hard to play shows over here what with the lack of game artists.

Alex: thanks Anthony, if everyone would be so kind to check out our new website at www.elfonso.co.uk that'd be lovely.

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I would like to thank Alex and Rory of Elfonso for taking some time to answer my questions, and once again implore you to check out their music. I also want to mention I am really looking forward to that American tour!

I would also like to end with the awesome video for Elfonso's new song Retirement from Hyrule.

Game Set Watch interview with Hiroyuki Iwatsuki


Recently Jeriaska of nobuooo.com wrote a lengthy and in depth interview with Hiroyuki Iwatsuki for Game Set Watch. Read the interview and learn about a very interesting game composer who has created music on a variety of titles from the NES and Gameboy all the way to the Xbox 360. He has also done many cult classic game titles like Wild Guns and Pocky and Rocky to Chaos World and Ninja Warriors. Definitely a good read to learn about an often overlooked figure in game music.

Interview with Alex Neuse of Gaijin Games, creators of Bit.Trip

After finding out about the retro chiptune rhythm game Bit.Trip Beat coming soon as a downloadable game for the Wii I was automatically intrigued. So I immediately tried to dig up as much info about the game as possible, as is my obsessive nature. Unfortunately other than a round of short previews explaining the game I didn't find too much. So I decided to contact Gaijin Games (creators of Bit.Trip) directly and see what info I could dig up on this game which is clearly relevant to our interests. Below is the slightly fanboyish interview that ensued with Alex Neuse, founder of Gaijin Games and one of the creators and designers of the upcoming WiiWare title Bit.Trip Beat.

(click on the pictures for a fullsize view of the action!)

According to the Gaijin website, Gaijin is awesome, mind explaining why and how you are so awesome?

I’m glad you asked. Hah.

I’m actually not sure where on the site you discovered this information, but if we actually put that on there, I think it’s pretty funny.

Seriously, though, I do think that our company is awesome. Chris, Mike, and I have tried to do something that we all believe in and so far it has worked out well for us. We are three guys who like to have fun, like video games, and want to do something cool with our lives. As long as it works out (knock on wood) I will maintain my stance that we are, in fact, awesome.
If you and your readers play the game and enjoy it, I hope you will feel the same way. :)

Now on to Bit.Trip Beat. Was the idea of having an old school atari style game come first, or did you first decide you wanted to make a rhythm game and the style came together after that?

This is a tough one. I have wanted to make a rhythm/music game forever. Parappa the Rapper changed my life. I also wanted to make a game that was WAY retro. Not just NES era retro, but RETRO retro. I had a lot of ideas bouncing around in my brain, but it wasn’t until Chris Osborn, our Engineer, and I were talking about our mutual love for chiptune music that the design finally clicked.

After the main design revealed itself to me, I tried to use my designer-brain to decide on an art style and I was all like “DUDE! 2D ALL THE WAY!” And Mike Roush, our Artist, was all like “Dude. 3D, but retro-inspired.” And honestly, this game is much better for it.

So, each of us had pieces of the concept locked away in our brains, and it was through collaboration that the game became fully retro-inspired, yet modern at the same time.

How did the idea to make a chiptune rhythm game come about, as opposed to any other style of music?

Since the gameplay in BIT.TRIP BEAT is based off of what we consider to be the ultimate classic game, we felt very strongly about complimenting that gameplay with music that’s based off of classic games as well.

Classic games played with today’s hands and heard with today’s ears, though, sometimes aren’t as fun as we remember them. So our goal became to use the tools of today as a means to capture the feelings of yesterday. This led us to the chiptune-inspired soundtrack and classic-inspired gameplay and graphics that expand on the idea of retro.

How many people are working on this game, and what are their duties on this game?

At Gaijin Games, there are 3 of us working on the game full-time. I am the Designer, Mike is the Artist, and Chris is the Engineer.

In addition to the Gaijin Games development team, we have contracted out the Sound Design/Music Composition and we have a publishing team at Aksys Games who supports us with Marketing, QA, etc.

Who is composing the music for Bit.Trip Beat?

A company called Petrified Productions is composing all of the original in-game music for us. Again, we have decided to go retro-inspired rather than straight up retro. The music is very chiptune-esque, but is also slightly modern.

In fact, releasing the MP3 on commandervideo.com was a little scary for me since it’s not what I would consider “pure” chiptune. I want the chiptune community to like the in-game music, and I also want people new to the chiptune phenomenon to have an introduction to it that is pleasing to their modern ears.

I think we have struck a great balance as I enjoy the music a lot and consider myself a big chiptune fan.

Do you guys have any chiptune or other composers/musicians you enjoy who inspired the music in the game?

This is my chance to give a call out to my favorite chiptune artists!

Bit Shifter, you got me into the scene, and this game may not have even been made if I hadn’t Chased the Information so hard. Thank you for inspiring me.

Bubblyfish, your tunes are currently rocking my world with a vengence. Please keep at it.

Nullsleep, my world has also been rocked by you and your wily ways.

There are a number of other chiptune artists that I enjoy, and I can’t just fill the page with names so I’ll leave it at that.

Also, almost all classic gaming music is an inspiration to me (so long as it’s good, of course). The Mega Man series has some great tunes. Blaster Master comes to mind. You know what I’m talking about.

Who exactly is CommanderVideo and what is his mission?

CommanderVideo is only a man, apparently. I don’t know exactly who he is, but I have heard that his mission is simply to live. To experience life. That would fit with his statement of being only a man, I suppose. It certainly seems to fit with what I believe my mission to be.
I suspect that the longer we know CommanderVideo, the more we will realize about his mission.

Is there a storyline to the game? Can you divulge any of it’s secrets just yet?

There is a storyline to the game. The story actually spans the entire BIT.TRIP series. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say that it is heavily tied to his mission.

The story will be told through pre-level cutscenes as well as through the art that serves as a massive distraction to the in-game action. Only the most skilled players will be able to watch the action and the art in full.

This is a game about getting in the zone. Get in the zone, and the story will reveal itself.

Will there be any enemies or hazards in the game along with the musical pong balls?

The pong balls (called Beats) are the primary hazard/enemy. There are many different types of Beats with different behaviors that present brain-bending challenges on par with rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.

In addition to the Beats, there is a boss battle at the end of each level that serves up a beefier challenge.

How many songs do you plan on having in the game?

There will be 3 levels, each with its own original song that builds along the way based on how skilled the player is.

How will multiplayer work? The very mention sounds quite intriguing. Will there be battle and/or cooperative modes of play? Any word on online play?

Multiplayer is entirely cooperative and is local only. We would have loved to include a battle and/or online play, but being a team of 3 developers, we had to make some difficult decisions and those were features that ultimately won’t be included.

We decided that we’d rather make a solid cooperative experience than rush too many features into the game.

The multiplayer turned out to be pretty awesome. Up to 4 players can play together and each player gets their own paddle. The team then works together to earn a high score. Depending on how many players are in on the action, the paddles vary in size to maintain the challenge as well.
Working together will make getting the elusive “Perfect” score easier to achieve.

When is the planned release for the game? Any chance of a a chiptune concert to coincide with it perhaps? Or a classy dinner to celebrate?

We are madly scrambling to finish the game up as I type this. Our hopeful launch will be in mid-February, but I will not promise a date yet. :)

A chiptune concert to coincide with the release would be AMAZING! I have no idea how to arrange that. If you figure it out, you bet your butt we’ll be there.

We are planning on finding our way to the Blip Festival in 2009, and we wanted to go in ’08, but starting a company is pricey and we couldn’t yet afford it. :) If anyone out there wants to organize some sort of awesomeness for the 2009 Blip Festival and BIT.TRIP, let’s do it.

Oh, and a classy dinner would also be nice, but instead, I think we’re going to do a launch party with CommanderVideo cakes and things. Dude! I should video some of the launch party antics and post it to our site. We’re still small, though, so whatever we do it’ll only be a Gala Event in our minds.

The article on your site states that this will be the first of several Bit.Trip releases. Any plans you can divulge for the future titles?

I can divulge that there will definitely be a sequel to BIT.TRIP BEAT, but beyond that I can’t yet say. Episode 2 of the BIT.TRIP saga will continue the story of CommanderVideo’s mission and will also introduce an entirely new gameplay mechanic—still rhythm based of course, and still chiptuney.

Each of the entries in the BIT.TRIP series will maintain the style, but change the gameplay. This sets us aside from a lot of series’ because usually, it’s the gameplay that ties them all together. For us, it’s the theme of it all.

Any plans on having licensed music, or perhaps music from underground chiptune musicians in this or future releases?

I’m glad you asked. We are licensing a couple tracks for the “bookends” of the game. The Main Menu and Credits Roll will sport some tunes from Bit Shifter—our special guest star.
We are hoping to continue the tradition in future titles as well.

Do you plan on releasing the songs in the game, either for sale, or as a free download in the future? I must admit I am already a fan of the song “Desention” on the games website.

We would really like to release a game soundtrack. I’m a big fan of game music and have an extensive game soundtrack collection. I think it’s high time that the game industry got the same kind of props that the film industry gets for their soundtracks.

I’m totally stoked that you like the Desention track. If we get enough interest in the soundtrack, I’m sure we’ll figure out how to release it to the masses.

What are some of your favorite game soundtracks?

The tough questions. Hm... Here’re a few, in no particular order:
Rez
Metroid
Super Metroid
Mega Man 3
Silent Hill (the whole series)
Pixel Junk Eden

Some of your favorite games or game creators? Any game you just can’t shut up about?

Again with the tough questions. Again with a list, in no particular order:
• Game Creators
Shiggy. I mean, come on.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi
• Games
Super Metroid
Rez
Super Mario Bros. 3

For the chiptune music in the game was their any particular console sound you are emulating?

We’ve sampled sounds from the 2600 and NES primarily. Aside from that direction that we gave to the composer, we really let them run with it.

Do you hope for this game to be particularly enjoyed by the chiptune and video game music loving community? Not sure if you know but many an 8-bit music fan (myself included) has been waiting for a game like this for some time.

We REALLY hope that the chiptune/video game music fans enjoy this game. Mostly, we hope that everyone feels the same way we do about it. We really feel like this game brings us back to that happy place we lived in when we played our first games back in the 80s.

Is there anything you want folks to pay particular attention to when they play the game?

This is a funny question, because the more you try to pay attention to what’s going on in-game, I find the worse you perform. If you can get into the zone and move beyond “paying attention” and into the realm of simple perception or meditation, you do better. I’d like players to see if they experience this as well.

Anything I fail to ask that you are dying to tell people about?

Follow your dreams. It inspires people. A lot of folks have inspired me, and if our game manages to inspire ONE of you out there, I consider it a huge success. Live.

And finally. Any shameless plugs, shout outs, or self promotion you want to add?

Bill Gildan, if you’re out there watching, we hope that we’re living up to your standards.
Readers, get us some fanart and we’ll continue to post it to our fanart site.

If anyone reading this lives in Minnesota, we just LOVE Earl’s Cheese Puffs. Feel free to send some to us.
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Thanks a ton to Alex Neuse for taking time to answer all these questions! Definitely grab the game when it drops on the Wii soon! And for the still uninitiated here is the trailer for Bit.Trip Beat again below!


Also check out the official Bit.Trip Beat site for some more footage and info.

Interview with the Music and Gaming Festival CEO, Brendan "Mr MAGFest" Becker

Recently I had the chance to fire off some questions to Brendan Becker, better known as Mr. MAGFest for his organizing and running of the Music and Gaming Festival, more affectionately known as MAGFest (magfest.org). The event is coming upon it's seventh year and is looking bigger and better than ever before! Read on to find out what this convention is all about, how it all came together, and even where it is going in the future. Not to mention finding out all the reasons you shouldn't miss the soon to come MAGFest VII in January!

Why did you start this convention?

This may come as a surprise to some, but I didn't! I *did* have the idea long ago for something much like what it has become, but when I was wandering around in a dealer room at another convention, I was lured by the sounds of video games and music to a booth... "Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival? Hmm, wonder what that's about...?" And then they handed me a flyer with the word Minibosses on it, and I was sold. I had always wanted to hear them, and a 4-hour trip in the car was nothing compared to having to drive/fly to Arizona.

Anyhow, to make a long story extremely short, the chair people of the first MAGFest had a lot going on and couldn't continue running it, and when I found out (via the website) I almost instantly called up the original founder and asked him for his blessing to continue the event. I ended up driving out to his place and buying all of the rights and assets, and it's been mine for the last six years.

What is the biggest difference between this year and the first MAGFest?

Well, I guess the most obvious answer would be "the size". MAGFest started out reasonably small in a bunch of meeting rooms at a Holiday Inn in a relatively unknown part of Virginia. Now it's now four times the size, covering the entire bottom floor convention area of a five star Hilton near DC.

What are you most excited to see this year?

I could pick a guest out of a hat, but it will be so much fun to hang out with all of them that I should really say I'm looking forward to seeing this year's planning pay off. We've gotten a lot of MAGFest plugs in new places and to new people, and I really want to show them what we're about.

How did you come to decide on this years performers?

It's a secret! Okay, actually, it's not, but it IS a long, drawn-out, not-very-interesting process that involves seeing if last year's acts are willing to give their spot to others, who's in line, etc. We try to keep MAGFest's concerts as fresh as possible. New acts yearly, but just as importantly, new material from the acts that stay. Never the same experience means it never gets old.

When did you change the name from "Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival" to "Music and Games Festival"? Why did you decide the name change was necessary?

Just about everyone likes the relaxed atmosphere of MAGFest, but it became that event I wanted to start long before I had ever heard of MAGFest even more quickly than expected. Because of my long-standing interest in game music and because (by M3) the concert was already more than twice the size of the first, I knew we would need to express that we weren't just a place to play games. I mean, game music is obviously game-related, but we needed to set ourselves apart somehow. The new name was born.

Was making this the center for VGRock and VG Remixing intended? How did it come about?

Much like I said before, I've always been a big fan of game music. But one thing I failed to realise before MAGFest was how much of a community following game music had, and how talented its members are. Seeing everyone congregate in one place is nothing short of awesome, and that is of course only the beginning. After seeing the many possibilities I strive to make sure that everyone will have a place to gather each year. It's one of my primary driving forces to continue running the event.

Are there any specific goals you hope to meet this year or in the future for MAGFest? Any you have already met?

We've met a lot of goals in the past, some of them small and some of them hefty. The one thing I'd like to do this year is meet our attendance goals. Granted, we've met them before, and every year I hope we have enough staff to handle the event, but if we can do that, we can start re-investing some of the money we get (as it is, we float a bit of money from our paychecks at
times to make things happen) into the event, making it even better than before.

How many people does it take to make MAGFest a reality?

Staff-wise? We probably have a couple dozen core staff, but if you include their teams and volunteers and everyone, easily ten times that (so, 150~200 range). That said, we always make do with what we have and a number of people (you know who you are) step up to the plate when needed. To give you an idea, we're currently at about half of what we need. As you can imagine
we're encouraging everyone to sign up and volunteer as much as possible.

By the way, http://courtwright.org/magfest/staffing/signup - no, I'm not being blatant at all about this.

What sets this convention apart from others?

I think the main point where we diverge from the mainstream convention-type event -- to the point where we don't like the word "convention", really -- is that most video game events, conventions, whatever, have a very "expo" or "trade-showy" type feel to them. Don't get me wrong, these events are great! I myself love to go and pick up old games or see new things on the horizon, but in that vein there is a very "business is business" feel where you don't feel the need to stay after you've seen what you came for.

Our goal is to change that outlook. We want to make sure there is *always* something to do at our event. You shouldn't necessarily feel forced, but rather you feel like you're at a video game-themed party at your friend's place, and there's just tons of things to do with anyone you want to do them with, where-ever you want to do them, combined with the opportunity to meet
new and interesting people. We want to constantly feed you new tasty morsels of gaming goodness. Even if you did almost everything you could possibly do at MAGFest, you will come back wanting more. And at this, we succeed.

What are some of your favorite moments from past MAGFests?

One ironic thing about MAGFest is how the worst of times can become laughing matters in a matter of a day. Certain people will never live down that they were wheeled away in a stretcher -- but still managed to sing Katamari and throw up the horns -- with alcohol poisoning. He was back the next day, playing games. I've also been knocked over by fake gunfire in concert,
watched the Minibosses play their own songs in my own DDR clone, seen virt and djpretzel enjoying a drink in a time where people thought it would be impossible, and been able to meet people from overseas.

Who have been some of your favorite performances?

I really like so many of the performances it would be wrong to show any kind of favoritism whatsoever, but I will give you another fun tidbit...Last year, The Smash Brothers made bacon for all to consume during their set.

I mean, seriously. Bacon.

What events will there be at MAGFest this year?

The same as usual, with added unknown hijinks. Major goings-on include a trivia and separate name-that-tune contest, screenings of the most recent work from our film guests, exclusive concerts from our musical guests (of which there will be several artists performing each night including Wednesday for preregistrants), a costume contest that's more of a roast, 24 hour gaming in multiple rooms, meet ups with the big game music community sites (ocremix, vgmix, thasauce), and I think virt just snuck in with a "write a song in an hour" panel (a la "Kwakfest live"). There's so much more going on that I can't even list it all.

http://magfest.org/guests - don't forget, those things that say music film etc are clickable tabs.

Any new events you want to mention?

The one that pops into my mind is that we are currently working with a guy to organize a world record championship for the old school arcade snake game, Nibbler. We're going to have two really awesome players playing for probably two or three days straight, in an effort to break a record set in like 1984. Should be crazy! There will be dudes documenting it as it happens (think King of Kong here) and we're also going to have some video magic going on so you can watch their respective screens up on a projector screen.

Tell us about Jampsace. How does it work, and how did the idea take shape?

Quite simply, we have way too many people that want to play musical acts at MAGFest, and there's really no way we can possibly put them all on the main stage. JamSpace is just an extension of that with a twist. At MAGFest 5, I tried to get together impromptu music jams in our second events area, and it didn't work out so well without being in a manned area. Last year, Dom Cerquetti stepped up to the plate ahead of time and got things organized, and it was a huge success. Now we have a place that can schedule more music acts, both ahead of time and impromptu, without giving my main stage sound guys (led by Norg) a heart attack.

Any questions you'd like to answer that I failed to ask? Anything else you would like to add?

Man, I think you covered a pretty broad range of stuff! The one thing we can't stress enough is that people should stay at the hotel where the event is held. The hotel block claims to have expired, but you can still reserve at the Hilton for a slightly higher price, and every once in awhile someone will cancel their room and you can get the low rate again. So, even though we've oversold our block, there's a good chance at getting a room cheap.

Also, lots of people say "I don't have anyone to stay with" or "I don't have a ride". Fear not! On the left side of our site, you can hit "share rooms" or "share rides" and see a list of people just dying to split some costs with you. You can just click on them to contact, or create a forum account and when you're editing your profile type in your own sharing information there.

I hope to see everyone at MAGFest!
-- Brendan Becker, CEO
Music and Gaming Festival
http://magfest.org/

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Huge thanks to Brendan "Mr. MAGFest" Becker for taking the time to answer all my questions I sent his way. Be sure to check out MAGFest, the largest gathering of VG Inspired Musicians on the globe. Next year's festival takes place January 1st through 4th in Alexandria, VA. Check out magfest.org for exact details, pricing, and everything else about the show!

Also hit the link to check out some footage from last years show.

Interview with 8 Bit Artist

I very recently had the chance to chat with the ever talented and hard working 8 Bit Artist and ask him a few questions about his past, present and future artwork. A staple of the vg rock and art communities, and recently coming off of the 32 Bit Genocide show this past August, 8 Bit Artist is continuing to impress everyone with his new painting and art projects. You can check out all his amazing work, and perhaps even commission him for some amazing art at either myspace.com/8bitartist or 8-bit-painter.deviantart.com. Read on for an interesting interview as well as a short walk through some of his artwork (and be sure to click on the art for higher res shots of his work!).

What was the first piece of art you ever did in the 8 bit pixelated style? Where is that piece now?

The first piece I ever painted was just a plain mega man sprite on a single colored background. It looked like absolute ass. Lopsided. Blotchy paint. Squiggly pixels. It was a very good learning process for sure. My friend bought it off me for $10 and I joke with him to this day that the painting has increased in value to $11 since it was my very first painting. Safer investment than today’s stock market!

What was the most difficult piece you ever created? What was it that made it so difficult?

No piece is ever difficult, just more or less time consuming depending on the size of the pixels or the different color count. Pixel painting is very mechanical and anyone can do it if they really try and concentrate on it.

How difficult was the transition from 8 bit to 16 bit artwork?

It’s no more difficult. I just had to buy a lot more Tupperware because I had to save all the custom colors I mixed. I have almost 100 Tupperware containers and I’m still always mixing colors. Hahaha.

Have any new projects in the vein of the 3D goomba or Mega Man Pipes in the works?

I do have another set of pipes laying around that I had planned on painting Mario on one side and Luigi on the other. I just never got around to it yet. Painting on pipes and using the plumbers as the subjects only seems logical. As for the 3D Goomba/Para Troopa sculptures, I currently don’t have another one planned. The materials are quite expensive to buy and are very time consuming. I’d really have to stick to the smaller sprites with those because of how time consuming and expensive they are for me to make. If I was to make another one, it would most likely be a Spiny. I think that sprite would translate well to the wooden cubes.

What gave you the idea of creating a 3D block goomba?

A friend of mine bought me some little Nintendo magnets for Christmas the one year. These magnets were slightly raised up to give it a semi 3D look but it wasn’t fully 3D. It popped into my head about how cool it would be to make a sculpture that was still pixelated. Almost as if you stuck your hand into your TV and pulled out a Goomba and placed it on your floor. I was at my local art store and I saw these little wooden cubes for sale and the light bulb went off. Although they were 99 cents for 10 of them, making it impossible to build on the budget I had since the Goomba was 1440 wooden cubes. Luckily I found a website where I can buy them bulk and although still pricey, much more affordable. After gluing it together 1 block by 1 block, I sanded it and then painted it with a few coats, then clear coated it.

What about the Mega Man Pipes work, how did that come about?

I was out walking my dog Pixel when I came across all these pipes lying on the ground. A well known cable company was installing fiber optic cables in my apartment complex. I was looking for something to break up all the pixel painting I was doing and the idea just kind of hit me as my dog was pinching a biscuit in the bushes. I set my alarm for 3am to “permanently borrow” the pipes from them. The pipes were originally about 10 feet long so I had to borrow my friends electric saw blade to cut them all up to the size I had worked out. After that I had to paint them 180 degrees at a time and it was a pain. Haha, maybe that’s why I never started that Mario/Luigi pipe painting.

What game do you hope to do in the future and any reason why you haven't done that game yet?

There are only a few games definitely planned for the future and that’s Mega Man X and Final Fantasy 3. I’m also planning a Geno painting from SMRPG and I’m also doing a set of 5 Transformer paintings. Other stuff I come up with is just kind of random when I’m playing old school games. No real reason why I haven’t done those games yet. I just paint whatever ideas from to me spur of the moment. Oh I’m also planning a Paper Mario painting where he is banging Peach from behind. Hahahaha.

A while back you and Year 200X collaborated to simultaneously release a Zelda II painting and song. How did that come about? Any plans to do more collaborations like that with other bands?

That actually happened by accident. One night Tim from Y2KX and I were chatting on AIM and I had asked what he was working on and he mentioned Zelda II. Coincidentally I too was working on a Zelda II piece so I brought up the idea that we could simultaneously release our Zelda II projects to try and cross promote each other and help each other out. I wouldn’t rule out doing this again but most bands have their perspective albums out so it might not happen again for awhile.

Do you think that VG Inspired art has gained more credibility thanks to shows like Bit Genocide and I Am 8 Bit?

No doubt that the art has gained more credibility through those shows. I Am 8-Bit’s art is priced pretty high and in the art world, that helps with credibility. Bit Genocide is more of an indie DIY show put by people who are active in the scene which I embrace more.

Are there any artists whose work you enjoy or are inspired by?

Obviously the talented artists that originally made all these sprites is my biggest inspiration. What they have done with such a limited color palette is amazing in my eyes. Besides them, a few friends I have that are artists such as Daniel Fleres, Gus Fink, bLiNkY and others inspire me as well.

There seems to be a fair amount of overlap of fans in 8 bit art and VG rock. Do you find that people discover your art through the music, or perhaps find the music after seeing your artwork?

Definite over lap. It goes hand in hand which is what the Bit Genocide shows are all about. I mean, if you love my stuff, how can you not like bands like Entertainment System, Year 200X, The Megas and vice versa. We have a very tight knit community here where we all try and help each other out. A good number of us all got our start around the same time. So we all came up with each other and I consider them all brothers from other mothers. Hahahaha.

What are some of the bands and artists from the vg rock and/or remixing scene that you most enjoy listening to?

I never got big into the remixing scene and I feel bad saying that. I need to head over to OCRemix and see what they have to offer. As for VG rock though, I like pretty much all the bands, but my favorites are The Advantage, The Minibosses, Entertainment System, Year 200X and The Megas.

What paintings are you working on now?

I will be starting the Transformers paintings very soon. Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Soundwave, Starscream and Megatron. I polled my myspace fans and those 5 were the most popular.

What future creations do you have in store? Are these commissions or ones you personally want to do?

Commission wise I have a Shadowgate painting I need to do and I might possibly get commissioned to do an insane Chrono Trigger scene. I don’t want to spill more than what I have already, but I will say this... in 2009, I will be starting a series of paintings that will span to about 9-12 feet tall. Nothing will ever top this. Ever.

What's the biggest difficulty in creating your art?

Keeping myself sane from painting pieces that are nothing but squares. I have already stopped gridding a canvas and looked up at my ceiling and my ceiling was gridded, hahaha. If you add up every pixel painting I ever painted (over 150), it is without a doubt over 1,000,000 pixels painted total.

What system was the first one you owned? What were some of the first games you remember playing, and how did you enjoy them?

NES was my first system. The first gaming memory I have is playing my SMB/Duck Hunt cart with my family. Duck Hunt irritated me so I put my light gun against the screen and raised hell (like I’m sure everyone reading this has done).

Still playing video games lately? Anything you are currently obsessed with?

I have a Wii but have been disappointed with it lately. Although De Blob is a great game and I’m looking to rent Wario Land. 2009 however has me excited with Sin and Punishment 2, Punch Out Wii, The Conduit, Fragile and Mad World. Of course Mega Man 9 was getting a lot of play as well. I can beat the game in around 40 minutes now and I’m looking forward to playing it again as Proto Man.

How do you typically start to work on a painting? Any beginning steps you go through before you start painting?

I find a scene or someone emails me a scene they would like and I would work about the specs of what pixel size and canvas size I will end up using. After that I will crop the image to what I will paint, grid the canvas to my pixel size I specified and then start painting!

What are the most common tools you use to create your painted work? what about bead sprites and other work?

Emulator, T-Square, Light Lead Pencil, Paint, Tiny Square Brush, Hand, Tweezers. Haha, pretty much sums everything up.

What advice do you have for other artists creating VG inspired work?

Don’t be afraid to try it. Anyone can do this if they try and concentrate. I’m always helping people out who want to start this and ask me questions. There are other pixel painters out there that will help with questions as well.

Anything else you would like to add, or any questions I may have missed that you would like to answer?

Come say hi to me at MAGfest 7 Jan 1-2 2009. Stay tuned for 64-bit Genocide coming summer of 2009 on the east coast. Also keep a look out for a similar show brought to you by myself and Leo Camacho called Retro Revolution also coming summer of 2009 to the Los Angeles area. I’m trying to plan that anyone who attends Retro Revolution will get a free piece of art from me. Just one way I can give back to an amazing community that has supported me in the past 3 years. Also check out Dr Octoroc’s (doctoroctoroc.com) bead sprites. He is doing some amazing 3D things with them and is really the poster child for the perler bead scene. Thanks to Anthony and all the other great staff at GM4A for giving me the opportunity to answer some questions!

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I would like to extend my thanks to 8 Bit Artist for taking the time to answer my questions, and as a finale to this interview, here is a recently posted video made by 8 Bit Artist and friends about all the artwork he created for 32 Bit Genocide.

DJ Pretzel interviewed on Internet Superstars

Hey everyone, I'm a little late, but check out this interview with the one and only DJ Pretzel of OCReMix fame. Martin Sargent (The Screen Savers, Unscrewed with Martin Sargent) just released his latest episode of Internet Superstar, episode #60, in which he interviews DjP and gives a good introductory overview of OCR, and it's current and future projects.

And to talk about the interview further, be sure to head over to the proper OCR forum thread!

OverClocked Remix interview with Dain "Beatdrop" Olsen

OverClocked Remix continues muscling in on the interview racket with the latest interview of theirs. This time talking to OCRemix artist Dain "Beatdrop" Olsen. Along with the interview, Beatdrop also has a new song from the Mega Man X3 soundtrack titled Revelations. The interview looks at his OCRemix days past and present, as well as his work on Dance Dance Revolution and other topics. Pick up the track free and read the interview at OCRemix now!

The interview is available online through this link

Mega Man X3 'Revolutions' is available for streaming and free download through the link here

And if you enjoy the article, sign up for Nobuooo.com and vote for the news story.