I wanted to add this as an post as we’re hoping to be working with Anthony in the future. He’s been modding since 2011 and has already made some excellent contributions to the chiptune and modding scene.
“My name is Anthony Hom and I am U.S. chiptune modder from Southern California. I first got into the chiptune scene after watching the documentary “Reformat the Planet” in early 2011. After being blown away by the work of 2 Player Productions, I dug through my old shipping boxes from Japan for his old soldering iron, ordered a DMG from eStarland.com, an 1/8” prosound kit from Nonfinite Electronics and never looked back.
I had to open and re-mod my first DMG six times in order to get my first prosound mod to work properly. The Gameboy shell didn’t even close properly. I showed all my friends at school and I didn’t even know how to use LSDj.
I remember back when you could still browse forums at 8BC and order Bleep Bloop carts with flashing LEDs in the cartridge case from Nonfinite. Backlight kits with 2 LEDs were still available for anyone to purchase. At that time the commercially available backlight kits weren’t the “slim-type” which all backlight kits are now. You had to snip off tiny component legs sticking out of the PCB from behind the Gameboy LCD to keep them from making pressure points on the screen when you closed everything up. Backlights were much thicker, didn’t run any built-in resistors that were optimized for different colors, and had metal legs sticking out of them from the LEDs. The backlights weren’t evenly lit, you had pressure points in the corners and it was really hard for perfectionist modders to deal with.
Back in 2011 Thetris and Capcomposer were still painting console cases, TVDeathSquad was still active on the forums, NeX was still modding Gameboys. NeX is my biggest inspiration as a modder. He’s a really humble guy and his work just blew my mind. I poured over his blog, photos and build posts just drooling at everything he was able to shove into a DMG, GBP, GBC and GBA SP. It was insane.
For a few months my only exposure to the chiptune scene was strictly via online forums. I posted on 8BC, a once active forum where chiptune musicians and enthusiasts worldwide would log into, and asked if there were any chiptune artists in San Diego. Jesse Escobar (Auburn Kitsune) informed me that Mike Charak (Bleeds) and Patrick Trinh (Space Town) were based in San Diego. Soon after finding them on social media, Mike contacted and invited me to a local artists show at the Che Café at University of California San Diego.
That night I met a group of people who would turn out to be some of my best friends and friends for life. Mike and Patrick played chiptune sets and I was floored listening to sounds that were coming from Gameboys and being spit out through PA speakers. If you ask them about that show, I’m pretty sure they’ll tell you that it wasn’t the highlight performance of their lives, but I was entranced and blown away. You always remember your first chiptune show and how exciting it was listening to something so different and so familiar.
I remember back in the day there were very few and obscure resources online when it came to modding Gameboys and accessories. A webpage that I frequented for reference was http://blog.xero.nu/gameboy_prosound_mod for prosounding a DMG. Michael J. Moffit’s (Bibin), NeX’s, and Low-Gain’s blogs were also resources I used for information on how to mod different types of Gameboys. Those were some of the only resources we had, and a lot of the tutorials weren’t fleshed out or explained completely. There was a lot of time for innovation back then. I wish I took a few pictures of some of my prototype accessories. I had made an external prosound attachment with link capabilities housed inside a Gameboy Advance Wireless Adapter. I was also making an ultimate DMG inspired by NeX that housed a Mega Memory Card coupled with an N64 Transfer Pack connector inside a DMG.
I had started a youtube page a number of years ago with the purpose of showing how I do my mods and educating others. It has since not been updated since I have moved overseas. The link is www.youtube.com/willworkforric3.
When I started modding, I wanted it to be a side gig where I could earn a little extra money. One December I made US$1400 in sales from buying/modding/selling Gameboys on eBay. After being in chiptune scene and meeting the people, I changed how I looked at modding. I started modding for cost of parts and I didn’t charge for labor. I felt that if I really wanted to contribute to the scene positively and if I really believed in what chiptune stood for, I needed to get these Gameboys into the hands of up and coming chiptune artists. I started taking commissions from 8BC and CM.o and I only charged for parts and shipping.
I went through 3 different revisions of what wires to use and 4 different revisions of what audio jacks to use. The chiptune scene is full of people who use Gameboys to make music. I saw sellers on eBay trying to sell backlit and 1/8” prosound DMGs for US$140+. It was ridiculous and I felt that these people were trying to make a buck off of decent people. I fought back with giving high quality mods and equipment back to the scene at cost. I have modded Gameboys for Bleeds, Space Town (Savior), Wizwars, Dasid, Computeher, Jiffypop23, chiptuners in South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. I felt that during the time that I was very active modding for the scene, that I did contribute positively to it.
My Chiptune Modder Senpais include NeX, Bibin, Trash80, Xero, Low-Gain and Simon Schäfer. Thank you for paving the way and inspiring me with your innovations to chiptune and encouraging me for my own modding journey. Please notice me.
I currently work as an English teacher in Taiwan. There really isn’t much of a retro gaming scene here for a number of reasons, but I will get to that in a future article. Trying to find a good condition Gameboy at a local 2nd hand store here is as hard as trying to find a Gameboy Micro at a Goodwill back in the USA. Due to the lack of access to Gameboys and a non-existent chiptune scene here in Taiwan, I have since stopped modding actively. I do mod Gameboys from time to time for friends who are local to me, but it has all but come to a grinding halt. I am currently focusing on composing LSDj tracks, going under the name of Bananasan, and contributing to Mikee’s and Max’s project. I have a number of tech articles I am planning on writing for this site. Stay tuned.
You can find me on CM.o under the screen name katsumbhong, and I have made Gameboy related posts around the internet as soondubu, bananasan, willworkforice or willworkforic3.“
I was cruising Facebook the other day and stumbled across 2xAA’s video of a pitch control that stepped neatly instead of speeding or slowing an ungodly amount. Mind blown! Asking 2xAA about it, gwEm was the creator and it had existed a long time. Naturally, I wanted to know more about, because presumably you all want to know more about it. So I asked him. With my brain words.
MT: Hallo! Thanks for agreeing to do an interview.
g: Hi Mike! No problem, I thought it would be fun.
First off. I was pretty stoked to see this in action. People have been talking about such a thing for a long time. Then to hear you have built it back in 2003 blew my mind a bit! How did you come to the conclusion to build one and what was the catalyst? Who was involved?
When I first got started with electronic music it was as a drum’n’bass DJ using 12″ vinyls. I wanted a way of mixing in my own 8bit effects into the set, the Gameboy was a nice a portable platform.
Previously I’d designed a similar device for MIDI and Roland Sync24. I’d also done a basic LSDJ MIDI interface. I could see it would be pretty easy to combine and simplify the two projects and get what I wanted.
I did all the work on it myself and used the lab equipment at the University where I was studying.
How did you go about building the device and what experience do you have in electronics?
Johan Kotlinski, the creator of LSDJ, was a mate of mine and had already explained the tempo protocol used over the gamelink cable for LSDJ. Since it was very simple – just a constant stream of zeros I just needed a clock with variable rate. After doing some maths, I put together a basic 555 timer circuit with coarse and fine adjustments to make it possible to get a wide range of tempos and precise adjustment. If you’ve ever tried beat matching a drum machine with a tempo control you’ll know its tricky. Once I had the prototype built from veroboard I tweaked the values of some components to improve the usability a bit.
I have two degrees in electronics – a Masters and a PhD, plus my day job is the leader of a microchip design team.
Have you used this in any specific tracks?
Yes, but none of them have been released. In fact I sold much of my Gameboy rig to concentrate on my Atari ST projects. I used it in a few live performances in 2003/2004, including the one where I met Malcolm McLaren(!).
How much roughly would it cost to build one myself, on estimate?
Always in these projects the most expensive parts are the case and the knobs. If you can improvise these yourself then you can really save money. If not, all the components are available in Maplins or eBay. You can build one for less than £20. Getting the 6 wire gamelink cable can be a pain in the arse.
Are you interested in making a revamped one?
Yes, I’d like to add switches for push and pull similar to a CDJ. It should be very simple to do. They aren’t strictly needed for beat matching, but they would make things alot easier.
We’ve been a long time updating, so I’ll fill you in.
We’ve been sat long term on a large project. That is, Scott and I have gone back and forth sourcing components for something special, exciting and affordable.
Scott has had a few components he built that we wanted to spend time packaging and creating a tutorial. As we want to lower the barrier of entry of modifying Gameboys, we spent time trying to create tutorials for some of the products. Because I’m not very au fait with electronics. (I’m more of a, you-hum-it-I’ll-play-it kinda guy) I asked 2xAA (Sam Wray) to help out and what a job he did! Check it out here. Forgive the formatting, that’s still a task we need to get onto. For now, we’re pleases as punch with the quality of the images.
The quality of both the images and the build of the mod are perfect. Everything is in high-res and we’ve worked to make sure the mod is nice and simple to follow. Check out the HLK_CLK kit here. Note that this kit completely replaces the original oscillator on the board, meaning that when you use the half clock, it remains in tune still.
In addition we have our own Silicone buttons made by Kitsch that we’ll make available once we’ve used them for something exclusive.
We’re going to try to branch out the Wiki in 2015, with artists and more complete mods. We’re mostly working on our own thing at the moment, so if you want to help, get in touch with us on our Facebook page.
So we’ve been quiet for a bit here at ONN. There’s a reason for this. Our large project has hit a stumbling block in that we are trying to get a custom drill piece created so that we can manually repeat precise drill locations over several beta devices that we’re testing. Unfortunately, Scott has been trying to get a metal jig cut in California and is hitting a wall on each turn. The problem is that we need a small and quick job performed: a small metal shape drilled for us so that we can use it as a template. Unfortunately, likely due to the nature of fabrication, nobody wants to make the device, because it’s a single item. Most workshops are modernised and are kitted out to make thousands of products so won’t touch it, even though we’re hiking up the money we’re willing to pay. A machine shop in Canada declined because ‘it would cost more to mail than make’ – which sounds quite a lot like an excuse for ‘we can’t be bothered’
Not having out own workshop is a pain and so far acquiring components when we’re in different locations has been pretty simple so far. Once we get the jig fabricated, we can get the betas complete alongside packaging and get them tested so that we can write the instructions for the full-fat released products.
If you haven’t heard about Google Cardboard it is because the INTERNET IS MADE OF HEATHENS. The Page for Google Cardboard states “David Coz and Damien Henry at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris built a cardboard smartphone housing to prototype VR experiences as part of a 20% project. The results elicited so many oohs and ahs that they inspired a larger group to work on an experimental SDK.” it’s basically VR on your Android phone.
So why haven’t we heard of these oohs, or indeed aahs? Perhaps the DIY approach is mostly something for the modding scene; the creatives. I like building things myself. But I also love buying low-cost products from independent companies. I didn’t have to measure it up, or pick up an NFC Tag – I just ordered my kit from DODOcase. Assembly took 10 minutes.
The list of components to make your own Cardboard VR headset includes the exact magnet pieces and lenses, so if you want to make your own, you’ll want to do it with some sagely advice: It is fucking awesome. No hyperb. The VR effect you get is pretty mindblowing. I tested this on a Samsung S4. I was concerned there would be too much light leakage, like some kind of Lomo effect with it held to my head. It is nothing like that. The simplest ideas are the best. Standing in the middle of my living room, I watched YouTube videos on a screen in the centre of a virtual cinema and scanned my head around a floating auditorium where I could pick videos to watch with the tug of a magnetic ring. My right-hand was outstretched like a victim of a triffid attack. Flipping the magnetic ring to make selections.
I walked around a sample Google Street, visiting a location in virtual reality. Imagine taking the walk to a job interview ahead of time? Or visiting places you’ve been to and have fond memories of. I’d like to see how this could be coupled with augmented reality.
I viewed artifacts in 3D, which ironically would have been a better place to show off a 3D design recently than my own cardboard maquette and certainly would have saved my integrity.
I’ve found myself packing it in my bag to show off to people. The price is low and the assembly is simple. If you have an Android phone, are handy with a scalpel and some double sided tape, you need to get on this now.
ONN’s writer and editor, Stephan introduced me to BASTL a few weeks ago and I was incredibly impressed at their range of instruments. What they do and do rather well is create instruments that snap together, as a kind of modular music unit, yet the devices can be used as stand alone items. The larger flagship piece seems to be the microGranny. BASTL are pushing it as their main instrument, above the expected entry level MIDI and SQNCR units, which kind of speak for themselves without having to go into too much detail. For the purpose of keeping things linear, we’ll talk about the microGranny and expand on the article later and where the MIDI and SQNCR units fit in to the Trinity line. This article is a collaborative effort as we both road-tested the microGranny 2.0 (hereafter know as mG2) at the same time.
What is the Granny, and what does it do?
In short, the mG2 is a monophonic granular sampler, capable of playing back samples from an SD card on the press of the 6 buttons on the top, or recording 8-bit samples using the onboard mic or input. It appeals to people who like to keep their samples and/or playback simple, gritty and lo-fi.
Mikee: “As the appeal to own one was too much for Stephan and I, we both purchased one from Error Instruments, receiving them at the same time, even though they both shipped from Amsterdam, mine arriving in the UK. As a big shout out to them, they sent us a pair of headphones , a spare cable and the 9v battery and MicroSD needed to use the mG2. I can’t rate that kind of service high enough. The communication was fast, the product was packaged brilliantly and the ‘gifts’ were a lovely touch. No greater generosity is appreciated.”
What we’ll both aim to do is cover 4-5 of the main features together and our opinions on this, to give you a round view of the instrument and what you can do with it.
Mikee: “The microGranny reads samples from the SD Card. When I purchased mine, the card came with the product. I picked up a read, the Kingston MicroSD Reader Gen 2 for under £2.00 online.”
Stephan: “The SD Card came preloaded with a number of interesting samples, ranging from the usual bells and drum fare to a whole bank of Slavoj Zizek samples (who, admittedly, has a very sample-worthy voice). Recording new samples to the SD card is easy via the on-board mic or line in. Just press record, pick a bank and you’re good to go! I did a little of piano and some voice recording via the mic and it sounded very nice. The microgranny also features an input gain, allowing you to record from various sources without experiencing too much harmful background noise. All samples are stored on the MicroSD card in .txt files, which also allows you to use the recorded samples somewhere else. It is worth noting that the Microgranny supports both 16- and 8-bit samples playback but only records 8-bit samples.
The Microgranny has a peculiar logical structure, which can be confusing when you start playing with it: the samples on the SD card are stored in banks. Each samples can be manipulated in various ways to form a preset. Every button can hold one preset. This decoupling between samples and presets allows you to, for example, take different ‘slices’ from one longer samples and play them on the buttons, MPC-style. Another consequence of this structure is that the original samples can never be changed in the Microgranny itself, which ensures your recordings are always saved.”
Mikee: “Introducing your own samples is fairly simple and I managed to cut and edit a few samples easily in Audacity and drop them onto the mSD Card. The actual re-sampling of the device is suprisingly good quality despite the lo-fi credentials. Beats and bass remain big, whilst clarity is not lost. In terms of what the microGranny does, it’s very slick and modern feeling in functionality. It’s hackable too.”
The Microgranny features 4 potentiometers which get different controls depending on the page you’re currently on. The Green page contains the following parameters:
Sample Rate: allows you to speed up or slow down the sample in semitones or cents, from +6 semitones to -36. The upward range is a bit disappointing for me, and does not allow for ‘hip-hop’-style pitched vocal stabs in most cases. The downward range is often too much: any sample tuned down -36 semitones is reduced to a low growl or hiss.
Crush: A distortion/bit-crush effect, this one really destroys your samples. Very nice to make heavy basses and to warp sounds beyond recognition. One downside of the crush is that it also amplifies the background noise, which makes it very hard to use on noisier samples.
Attack: This setting is self-explanatory. Increasing Attack increases the time for the sample to reach full volume when you play a sample.
Release: Also self-explanatory. Increasing Release increases the time for the sample to return to 0 volume when you stop playing a sample.
The blue page features parameters related to the actual sample playback. Before we dive into the settings it is worth noting that each sample is cut up into 1024 individual slices:
Grain size: controls the size of each grain, where a grain is defined as a collection of slices. If this setting is 0, no grain effect is applied and the ‘shift speed’ parameter will have no effect.
Shift speed: This setting controls in which direction the grains are played if the grain size is > 0. Shift speed controls the speed at which the microgranny travels through different grains. The shift speed can also be negative, which means the granny will playback samples slowly. The shift speed setting is the real gem in the granny, it allows you to play samples very slowly and ‘timestretch’ samples without changing their tuning, getting you some really weird sounds.
Loop start/end: These parameters are controlled by 2 separate buttons but are quite similar in usage. As said above, every sample is cut up into 1024 separate slices. Loop start controls which of these slices is played first and Loop end controls the last slice. Loop end can never be smaller than loop start, for obvious reasons, but otherwise these function as expected.
Mikee: “The display can be confusing at first, but the display has a ‘key’ on the instructions that help understand this. I found some older instructions that made this more apparent, so some understanding has been lost in design there. But it looks crisp.
The packaging that the mG2 came in is simple and clean. It matches the actual product itself and it comes with a lilac ‘seal’ – as the devices can be kit bought and resold, build quality can vary.
The whole ‘feel’ of the product is high quality and satisfying.”
Stephan: “The feel of the product is great, although not all the buttons feel as consistent. I agree with Mikee that the instructions on the Microgranny are a great help as the display by itself simply doesn’t offer enough information. I also agree with that it looks very crisp. It’s sure to turn some heads or get some questions from audiences if that’s your thing.
One word of warning is that the devices are handmade and that build quality may vary. Of course all parts are machine cut, but I can imagine that not every granny is as pristine as the one I got.”
Mikee: “There’s always some. I’m going to mention the obvious problem with being a kit as, my device is not powering with a charger right now. I’ve triple checked the voltage and it will not stay on. My solution I suppose, is to either talk to the supplier and see their policy on a fix, or open the unit and try to fix it myself. The latter is something I’m not always confident on unless I have a spare device knocking around. While it stands, if you want an mG2, you’ll need to consider building it yourself or relying on the supplier to do this for you. This is a boutique product so don’t be frightened to get your hands dirty.
Relying on battery. It really is a fun portable device but I personally wouldn’t use batteries in the live environment. The only place this works is for on-the-fly-sampling. The machine starts to bug out when running low. Classic signs are that the settings on one pad are automatically applied to others. You can tell the battery is running out because the SRCH function kicks in but finds no samples on board.
There seems to be a problem with storage, as in, you can ‘overwrite’ samples with effects and have to recall them every time you turn on. I believe this is actually a problem with battery power as this stopped happening once I’d put in a new one.
My feeling is that the microGranny 2.0 comes across as a really nifty toy sampler and that’s OK. It’s fun, powerful and well, sometimes a bit problematic, but it sits very nicely in small micromusic sets. For me, dropping in samples into a 2 x Gameboy set was a lot of fun, particularly with the time-stretched vocal samples and crushed effect.” The only downside I can see to this is that it’s difficult to switch through samples quickly between songs, so you’ll have to adjust the sample names accordingly. As your schematic is two characters (o1, 48, FG etc) you can order the samples into alphabatised names.”
Stephan: “CHARGER STUFF”
“One of the major gripes I had with the microgranny is the behaviour of some settings. Specifically, the loop start and end settings make a sample replay from the start when they are changed. This is a good thing, as it would cause inconsistencies if the sample wasn’t forced to replay. However, sometimes one of the potentiometers gets ‘stuck’ between two values, which makes a sample get stuck because it is retriggered continuously and instantaneously. This happened more often than I would like (but might be a construction error in my granny?).
Another thing which makes the product harder to use than necessary is the lack of a well-written manual. The granny is very intuitive, but a good manual would go a long way to explain some of the design intricacies.
One of the great features of the granny also turns out to be one of its greatest vices for me. As said above, you can’t really edit the original samples on your SD card. This is great, because it allows you to do whatever you want to your samples and not ruin them in any way. The downside to this is best illustrated through a real word example: At one point I recorded a friend singing some vocal line, which went well. Unfortunately I also recorded myself saying “1,2,3 GO”. There is currently no way to delete the “1,2,3 GO” from the sample itself. That is, every time I want to use that sample I have to go to the blue page and change the loop start to not include my own voice. If the Microgranny had included native resampling this would be a non-issue. As it stands now I have to record the samples to a DAW and then cut off the undesired parts and reload them on the SD card, which is quite a hassle.
Ultimately I feel the granny is a great device with a limited scope. If you want a full workstation/sampling solution you are better off using something like a SP-404 or an MPC. I’m very satisfied with it, although I’m not sure if it’s worth the money for most people.”
Ahead of BRKfest 2014, the tri-states third annual three-day Chipmusic festival, we caught up with Bertrand. a huge supporter and cog in the wheel of the Chipmusic scene. He hopes to raise enough to help himself and fellow journalist Leah Oakes make it out to Cincinnati, Ohio to document and enjoy the growing festival. In support of this, we offered to talk to Betrand and what he’s working on. You can help with their GoFundMe if you’re feeling generous. Every small amount, counts.
Tell us about your journey that brought you into writing chip music.
For Christmas in 2008, I somehow convinced my parents to buy me a CycloDS Evolution, the best DS flashcart on the market at the time. Some time in 2009, I found Nitrotracker on one of the many DS homebrew repositories that ran back then. I had wanted to start making music for a while back then after hearing my brother’s band, so I threw some terrible, free samples on the cart, and started making some horrendous music.
One of the free set of samples provided on Nitrotracker’s site was nitro2k01’s chip samples pack. I hadn’t started listening to chip at that time, but, with those samples and a rather limited sense of musicality, I tried to emulate the sound of the Gameboy games I had played when I was younger. They were so terrible, I quit making music until two summers ago when I finally caved in and bought LSDJ and a pre-backlit green Play-It-Loud DMG. The first song I made on that was so terrible, I put making music on hold again for a few months until I relistened to Auxcide’s of Atoms and Stardust, played the songs on the 2 carts and 2 SPs I’ve kept since I was a kid, and tried again to make music. Since last summer, I’ve been slowly but surely learning LSDJ and how to make (listenable) chip on 2xLSDJ.
What do you feel are your biggest strengths for writing chip?
I like to try different things with my music. Though I’m most comfortable writing 4-on-the-floor, songs with sidechained bass lines, I try not to stick to one genre for an entire song. I tend to do that, because I spend a few hours creating one section for a song then transition to another the next time I sit down to write again, creating a sort of patchwork style. That’s probably something I could work on, but I like the kind of tension that slapdash sound can create. I also spend a long time polishing songs, and when I find that one song in my mind that inspires me, I have to finish it and chip away at it until I think it’s ready.
Favorite and least favorite pieces of gear you own?
Honestly? My least favorite piece of gear is my mixer. If I had paid 50 bucks more, I could have bought a mixer that would support 2xLSDJ, an effects pedal array, and whatever else I wanted to add in (like another set of 2xLSDJ for anything live). You should have seen the ridiculous set-up I had for the song I played MAGFest 14 open mic. In addition to the two stereo channels I had my GBA SPs plugged into, I had two mono channels panned left and right respectively for a third SP, and a fourth SP plugged into my Aux Return.
My favorite “gear” is something I don’t even use in my recorded music: my family’s upright piano. It’s where I come up with the skeleton for all of my songs or flesh out a melody with chords behind it. If you listen to my music (and the music I’ll be putting out in the future) and try to play it on a piano, you’ll see just how much I write for that instrument. And I don’t even know how to play it. I just like sitting there when I’m starting a song and playing chords until something sounds good, then I record the progression(s) all the way through once, break down the chords into their individual notes (since I work best with sound, not theory), and sprint upstairs to start working on the song in LSDJ.
What projects are you working on right now?
For music, just today I actually solidified the concept for an EP I want to release this winter. It’s gonna be 3 or 4 tracks focusing on compound time signatures and time signatures other than 4/4. I’m using it to work on the repetition in my music. I also have a few tracks started for a concept album I’ll be putting out later summer/early fall next year. In true chip fashion, it’s about space.
I also write for chip, too. I’ll be posting my first review for a monthly series on The Waveform Generators’ blog next week, and I have a GoFundMe running right now to raise funds so that Leah Oakes (of Chiptunes=WIN) and I can go to and cover BRKfest 2014. I’ll be doing daily recaps with her, and interviews for ChipWIN and another, unnamed site. ;3 We’re also trying to get Glenn Dubois (founder of Clipstream) to BRK if we get enough donations over the original goal. If I can’t make it there, then I’ll be giving one of those ChipWIN interviews for a write-up sometime in the near future.
I’m also an admin at LGBTune and their Midatlantic Coordinator, and we’re currently in the process of curating tracks for the compilation (which is still technically accepting tracks: see details here.
Where do you see the most obvious signs of self improvement since you started making chip music?
Since I started to write music again last summer, the one thing that had been a major stumbling block was taking the music and sounds I was thinking up in my mind and translating them into something listenable on LSDJ. I actually I had become so frustrated that I couldn’t get the sounds I wanted out of LSDJ that I had a huge creative block for about two months this winter. After skimming through the LSDJ save files I had accumulated over the past couple years and talking with Bryan (Auxide) and Sean (Awesome Force) about the program, I really started to be able to crank out the sounds I wanted.
What music training/experience did you have prior to writing chip?
I finished my 11th year in a school/college band on alto saxophone last May. I’d never really received much music theory training beyond scales, key signatures, and the basics in band. I think the things that really influence the way I make music now are not so much the theory, but the nuances you’re taught about over the course of practicing and performing in front of others for so long: how to shape notes, how a whole ensemble can work together and what typically creates weaknesses in their sound. Those lessons translate almost directly into my music today. What other music theory I know, I taught myself earlier this year then almost immediately forgot. I rarely use theory unless I’m covering a song, and even then I use it sparingly.
How many chip shows have you been to? Is there a particular show that’s been your favourite?
I’ve only gone to 8 so far, actually. I really want to say that Blip Fest ’11, my first chip show, was my favorite, and it’s certainly up there on the list, but BRKfest ’13 was definitely my favorite. Not only did I get to meet some cool new people there, I actually felt more involved in that show and with that group of people than any show before or after. The energy that weekend was ridiculous, and wasting all of my money on bar food and alcohol was totally worth it.
When did you first hear chip?
The same year I started writing on Nitrotracker, actually. It was during summer PE (fulfilling all of the nerdy, chipster stereotypes here) when someone heard the crap I was writing and asked if I had heard of chiptune. They didn’t actually listen to much but had heard some days before and suggested I look it up. The next day, I had the 8bit Collective’s jog/exercise compilation on my iPod and played it every day when we ran the mile and got hooked on nonfinite’s Northbridge not long after.
You have been writing your own chip for a while. How’s that going?
It’s been pretty tough, actually. I never imagined I’d just “get” making music, let alone making music on LSDJ, but I had hoped it’d come to me sooner. It’s been a humbling experience seeing just how much I still have to learn. At the same time, it’s been an incredibly gratifying experience. Submitting to Chipwin for the first time two weeks ago certainly felt rewarding. I take forever to write my music, though. It took me a month and a half to finish up that song. Remixes and covers usually take me a week to complete, or a few days if I’m really into the song/adaptation, but original songs are something else altogether.
It’s become annoying to me how slow my writing process for original songs is by contrast. I typically sit down at my family’s piano and just plonk out chords until a series of them sounds good. I’ll also find some progressions that are similar to the original one or otherwise work with those in the context of a song. From there, I’ll either think about them for a while or just throw them into LSDJ (which is nice, considering I use 2xLSDJ) and come up with a melody to go with the progression. I’ve come up with the melodies and general structure of the past three songs I’ve made or am making by zoning out in the shower or at work when things are slow. When I actually get around to writing and iterating on a song, I usually just go with what I think sounds good rather than worrying about what’s “correct”. Then I spend probably entirely too long listening and relistening to what I’ve made at every stage of its creation, shoving each version at Bryan and Sean until they tell me it’s alright (both of them have endless patience for this process, at least, I hope they do. I’m infinitely grateful to them for their help every time) and then I tweak a few more things until I think it’s fine, and a month later, I’ve got a song.
This is your 3rd BRK. Who are you looking forward to seeing? What are your favourite memories of previous years?
That’s just an unfair question considering the lineup this year. I finally get to see Glomag and Ricky Brugal live, and I’ve been wanting to see Tri Angles live after the change in direction he announced at last year’s BRK. There are some new faces and ones I’ve only seen briefly this year that I’m excited to hear; Corset Lore and diode milliampere just to name a couple. I’ve also always wanted to see the same musician live 5 times in the span of a year, so it’s great to see Trey Frey getting stage time at BRK again. ;3
As last year was my favorite chip/live show, I’d say it has the most fond memories, but losing Sean in a Walmart has to be one of the better ones. It’s where I met Bryan in-person for the first time, which was pretty awesome. Dissing him for so long to get there the first second I could talk to him was also pretty swell.
Seriously, though, the first BRK was the first real moment that I felt connected to the scene as a whole. It felt so great to see a show basically thrown together by one guy turn out so damned well and draw so many people. With the death of Blip Fest that year, it felt even bigger the next year to see how popular it had become and the fact that artists were being flown in from all over the world to play it was great to see and be even a small part of. Just meeting and talking to all these people far outshines any other experience I’ve had with the scene. No matter what chip show I’ve been to recently, I tend to enjoy hanging out with my friends more than being at the show itself, which I think says more about the people in this scene than it does about the quality of the shows.
You’ve traveled quite a lot to get to chip shows. What’s your local scene like? What’s the furthest distance you’ve gone for a show?
The farthest I traveled was to New York City by way of Washington, D.C. for Blip ’11. That bus trip actually wasn’t so bad with a few video game podcasts and 8bc songs stocked up.
My local scene is, to put it bluntly, almost dead. We have a few shows every year: Trey’s shows in the WV/western Virginia area, MAGStock, and MAGFest. Sometimes the Maryland chip folk put on shows, but, because of our close proximity to Philadelphia, and the fact that all the musicians in the Midatlantic scene are scattered across the three states in our area, any show besides the MAG shows/events typically get little to no draw. I’ve been trying to plan something to change that, but I just haven’t had the time or money to fully commit to it. With Daniel Davis (aka an0va) moving to Richmond, maybe that’ll change sometime soon, but for the time being, our local musicians remain fairly isolated, sadly.
Tell us a little something about yourself that people don’t know.
I like to talk a lot.
Wait, things people don’t know. Damn, that’s a bit tougher. That question has been the bane of my existence every time it’s been asked of me, because I typically wear my heart on my sleeve (and say way too much). That said, one aspect of my life that I typically never talk to others about is my family; specifically: my parents.
It might sound strange to mention them here, but they’ve seriously helped and inspired me throughout my life. As much as we piss each other off on a daily basis (and, oh dear GOD do we piss each other off), they’ve been the only ones in my corner during some of the roughest, loneliest parts of my life. They’ve taken me around the world, they listened to my brother and I when considered whether to adopt (three times), they’ve been there for me financially regardless of if it was smart to back me in the end.
That’s not to belittle my siblings, though. Those many times my parents just couldn’t deal with me, my older brother was always there to kick my ass and set me straight. Being jealous of his guitar playing was what led me to start writing music and is often times the force driving me to get better (mainly so I can just be better at something than he is). My three younger siblings are the harshest critics I’ve ever had in my life. My family is pretty tenuously held together at times, but they’re the things, the people I keep close to my chest, because without them, I wouldn’t be here and certainly wouldn’t be the same person I am today.
The Raspberry Pi has quickly gained a cult following over the past few years, and this mod is not the first to squeeze the board into a Gameboy case. What really sets this mod apart is the fact that it is crammed into a Gameboy Pocket case and is an excellent compromise between aesthetics and function.
The build, created by Travis Brown, features original Gameboy Pocket buttons driven by a Teensy 2.0 board to output button presses as if it were a QWERTY keyboard which interfaces with the Rasp Pi. The 2.5″ backlit color screen is suitable for emulating many consoles (NES, Gameboy Color, Master System, and Game Gear) and even playing games such as DOOM. Other aesthetics carried over include using the original headphone jack and AC adapter, as well as the volume potentiometer and power switch. Borrowing from its younger brother the Gameboy Advance (SP), the power indicator LED is two-colored to indicate charge level and charging status. The mod uses very little original code, just what was written for the Teensy to work with Gameboy buttons. Otherwise, everything made use of existing code created by the Rasp Pi community. The rechargeable battery provides about 3 hours of uptime per charge, but it can also be played while charging, extending its playability considerably. A brilliant application of thoughtful design and resourceful repurposement of parts that easily could have been discarded, this mod can be bragged on for authenticity as well as innovation. Check out the full build log here, and to see a the beginnings of a Raspberry Pi – Gameboy build in progress by OhmNohmNohm’s very own Michael Television, check out this post.
Overall, this thing looks really really good. I have a passion for hobby programming and retro games, and the pair of broken Gameboy Pockets in my closet make attempting such a project myself look very feasible. In the build log linked above, the parts list helps prove just how possible it is to do this mod on a tight budget. Perhaps one could be for gaming, the other a portable pirate box or music station. Let me know what you think! Please like, comment, or share!
Expect to be hearing more from me in the near future.
I met Alex McClay during our sophomore year of college in a special studio class, awarded to outgoing freshman the previous year for exemplary work. We gravitated towards each other because we follow a similar philosophy when it comes to creating– we are both very passionate photographers. Alex just graduated recently from the University of Cincinnati with a BFA and a minor in Psychology. In her work, she focuses in book-making, sculpture, and photography and uses her knowledge from all three to create dialogues between traditional and contemporary formats and aesthetics, as well as between “objects” and “art objects” .
When it comes to the shift towards the digital era of technology and creativity, an artist must ask themselves why they choose the material or medium in which they work. Sometimes we may find ourselves magnetized by the appeal of digital formats, moreso because the artist can make a prolific amount of work. Alex is a very talented book maker; in fact, she traveled to Italy this past year to perfect the craft of hand-bounded books. This is a very “analog” and traditional method in crafting a book and lends an insane amount of detail to the final piece. Alex explains that although this task may be tedious and often difficult, the long and intense process is very meditative for her.
However, she asked herself what more could be done to a book. What could show the shift in how a book is made or what a book is made out of? Or more importantly, how we interact with books now that digital media has eclipsed how we even relate to a book. Alex answers these questions in her plexiglas book sculpture series by using her traditional knowledge of book-binding and a Rapid Prototyping Machine. The machine cuts the design into the plexi-glass and Alex binds them together in order to emulate the traditional idea of a book, yet still giving it a new context to exist. The result is an uncanny version of a book, still tangible yet transcendent from “object” to “art-object.” It may have pages, but the way in which we read the text has changed entirely: it is difficult and sometimes impossible to read these books, lending them useless in the traditional context. This could be interpreted as a commentary towards how we relate to reading in an almost purely digital-only format; therefore rendering making bound books useless.
The constant upward curve of technological advances indeed makes aspects in our lives easier through communication, documentation, and even creating. But what it also does is propel a movement back to the old school, but not out of spite: to breathe life into something that may be considered “kitsch” to most and make it new. Traditional and old methods can now live in a new context within our technologically-centered society, rendering them somehow both ironic and sentimental. Nostalgia is not just for geeks, but for people who simply enjoy resurrecting the obsolete in a world where easy can be redundant.
To see more of Alex’s works, including her newest series featuring obsolete machines “In Media Res,” check out her website.
If you would like to purchase a one-of a kind artwork from Alex, you may reach her on Facebook .
“A tannin is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.” (Wiki)
Behold the Tannin! An awesome Midi controller that is made from a grip of potentiometers, buttons, LED’s and an arduino! The project was released on Hackaday.io and the project can be found HERE. The Tannin midi controller demo can be viewed HERE.