Dot.AY interview with Sm0hm

We just posted our second in a five part series of chiptune interviews by Dot.AY, who seems to be establishing himself as a premiere journalist in the chiptune community. This time the interview is with Swedish gameboy artist Sm0hm (formerly Småm) in where they discuss gameboy preference, the swedish chiptune scene and more. Read on for the informative Sm0hm interview.-------

Alex: What gear do you use to compose your music? (software and hardware)

Sm0hm: I always use Game Boys, but tend to play around with most stuff I find, like sequencers, trackers and some music games like Electroplankton and Gupey, but when I do serious composing, that I release it's Game Boy. On Game Boy I use the tracker Little Sound Dj and the step sequencer I do most of my music with Little Sound Dj

A: cool so do you have various gameboys? do you do any of the fancy MIDI sync-ing etc. or just solo gameboy per track?

S: I have four Game Boys, but I usually just use one. I have synced two game boys on some tunes, but I think that the charm of this kind of composing is the limits. It's really fun and cool to see how much you can push it. I don’t have any midi syncing devices, and I don't need one at the moment, but we'll see what happens in the future

A: Just on a side note which gameboy sound do you prefer?

S: I prefer the Dot matrix aka Greyboy. The sound is undoubtedly the best

A: OK so have you done any of the Pro-Sound Mod stuff for colour gameboys?

S: No, I'm pretty lost when it comes to stuff like that. The only thing I've done with my Game Boys so far is exchanging some of the back shells.. But I'm going to try to do the mod sometime

A: So did you make music before the Game Boy and LSDJ?

S: Not really. If you call mixing in Ejay and Garageband making music, so sure. But I would say no. I've been interested in music long before, but never really making anything. I've always dreamed of a portable music maker like LSDj. actually, I've always dreamed for it to be on the game boy console dunno why really.

A: I assume from Garageband and Ejay etc you knew about some music theory (scales etc) that you now apply to the Game Boy? or not?

S: When I started with LSDj I had absolutely no knowledge what-so-ever haha! When I used garageband and stuff like that I just dragged loops you know

A: Yeah right, cool that’s awesome, so has using LSDJ broadened your musical knowledge? Not just in a music theory sense but knowing what sounds good through trial and error etc?

S: Yes, very. You learn alot by making music yourself. Of course, there's much I don't HAVE to know, so in musical theory I guess I'm pretty lost. But now I can more easily hear the errors and faults in music and point out what they should do. My pitch hearing is perfect according to a test. Dunno if that have something to do with LSDj, but I guess that would be the most logical.

A: That’s awesome, Do you play live?

S: Yes, I've done it once.. Really twice, but you can't really count the last time, it was in my living room playing for some of my close friends haha! The neighbours called us the next day and asked if it was us that played the loud music. The first and only time I (really) have played live was at a New Year’s Eve party. It was a very fun experience.

A: So that was just Game Boy, were you playing back songs or using LSDJ's live function?

S: just playing songs and acting like I’m really doing something! :D, that's pretty much the live standard, but I'm planning to do more advanced live stuff in the future

A: Yeah that’s what I gathered but I mean it’s a gameboy on stage for most people that’s cool enough.

S: yeah, true =), no one will guess that you can squeeze out amazing melodies and rhythms from an old video game

A: How big is the chiptune scene in Sweden?

S: people say that the chip scene is the biggest in Sweden, and I think that can have something to do with us all being addicted to video games. For instance, if you play a game like counterstrike or WoW, and say "Is there any Swedes here" you get spams of "yes". Though it's still not many that have heard of the term chip music, but many have encountered it.

A: Do you feel there is a kind of generation gap between the demo, mod scene programmers and people like you making music on Game Boy but without technical programming knowledge?

S: in a way, yes... I know many modders and demo sceners that laugh at my ignorance, but we're still the same in heart, really. This kind of music is there because the artist thinks it fun, there's no money involved, just strict fun and games. I think that's the line you can draw trough the demo, mod sceners and chiptunists like me, we're all doing it for fun.

A: You mentioned earlier that it’s great playing with the limitations but is that what makes it fun or is it the idea of making game music? I think it’s the sound, maybe? I don't really know but it is fun.

S: If I’m going to talk about everything that's fun with chip music I’m going to be stuck here all day! But, I just mentioned the limitations, because that it one of the most noticeable features when you compose for this format, except the sound of course. Yes, the sound is great fun too, to see how much you can do with it.

A: What chip artists do you listen to?

S: Woa, alot.. But the ones I have listened to most is Bit Shifter, Nullsleep, Quarta330, Xinon, USK, Role Model, Goto80, Trash80 and many, many more. but Bit shifter, Quarta and Role model are closest to my heart =)

A: What non-chip music do you listen too?

S: honestly, not much, but Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, some random house music and some Swedish reggae and ragga / hip hop can't hurt alot daft punk atm.

A: Do you play games much?

S: no, not much at all, but I used to be kinda addicted to video games as a child. I had a blue game boy pocket, my first console, that I played a lot on. I've always loved the sounds, I used to carry it around as a freestyler when I was a kid haha much N64 too much actually I’ve bought Gunpey for DS recently, it's a puzzle music game, has some chiptune elements in the sequencer, which was the main reason I bought it.. Though the game was addictive, and the sequencer was crap, so I’m now playing Gunpey like crazy.

A: Do you know about the Malcom McClaren 8bit article?

S: yes, I’ve read it, very interesting, he's playing at a festival called peace and love here in Sweden, I might go.

A: Oh really? What do you think about the whole opinion that chiptunes are a reaction against modern pop music?

S: actually, it depends.. I hate mainstream stuff and most pop music, so for me it's true in a way, but for others it may be different. I don't think it's a 'reaction' against pop music tho, I don't chip music exist for the single purpose of telling the world that we do not like pop music but I can see what he means by that, the comparison to punk. chip music often is a DIY, fuck you money craving label asshole, underground music style.

A: Do you compose with the Game Boy when you’re out and about? Do you think your surroundings affect the way you write songs?

S: I usually sit at home, but composing outside is very nice too. It does affect the way you write songs, I know many that must have good surroundings to write good music. I for one can't concentrate when there's other people around me, the only song I’ve composed when there's people around me is meet me in Cairo haha =). I always take my game boy with me though! You never know when you might want to compose some 8bit love 4bit actually...

About the Artist: Sm0hm is a Gameboy artist Simon Mattisson from Gothenburg, Sweden. For details on his regularly released new material check his Myspace.

This interview was performed by Alex Yabsley (Dot.AY).