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WT: How did you first come into contact with the chiptune scene?
bryface: This is interesting to me because of how the popular definition of chiptune has evolved over the years! I can identify two distinct phases in my life where I "discovered" chiptune, and both phases are equally formative.
The first phase occurred in the early 90's when I was about 10 years old - this was when my older brother and I were discovering the world of dial-up BBSes. It turned out that some of these bulletin boards' file collections had sections for .MOD files, which was really intriguing to me. I mean, the very idea of something as intangible as music being encapsulated inside a digital file?? say what?? Anyway, I went ahead and started downloading.
I actually remember the very first piece of non-game computer music I ever listened to - it was "Phantasmagoria" by 4mat. My 486 PC at the time didn't yet have a soundcard, so the tune was playing at pretty terrible quality through my PC's internal speaker. Yet the song completely blew me away! And I don't just mean the technical feat of playing executable digitized sound, but 4mat's intricate synthpop melodies and chord progressions was unlike ANYTHING I had heard before. It wasn't long before I delved deeper into tracked music of all kinds, particularly the chiptune-style tracks being written by the likes of Purple Motion, Radix, and Loonie among others.
My second "awakening" to chipmusic happened sometime during 2006/2007 when 2Player Productions released their Reformat The Planet documentary. I was already aware of hardware-oriented chiptune as a Thing That Exists, but my idea of it mainly stemmed from a couple of videos I stumbled across where some dude would awkwardly toy around with primitive bleeps and bloops on a Game Boy in front of an audience of six at the occasional demoparty in some remote European country. Reformat The Planet singlehandedly redefined the whole taxonomy and culture of chiptune for me. No longer in my mind was it some obsolete bedroom technofetishist hobby doomed to obscurity - it was growing, and there was even a global community where people all over the world actually go through the trouble of meeting in person to share their nerdy music! This was absolutely earth-shattering to me. At around the same time I came across 8bitcollective, which had been getting more popular; that quickly became my defacto oasis for all things chip for the next few years.
In the last couple of years I made a conscious effort to step out and meet more of the global chip community at large, and it has been hands-down one of the most enriching experiences of my life. When you have a hobby as obscure as this, there's no better affirmation of life than traveling potentially halfway around the world and knowing you'll be hanging with people who absolutely share your passion and just know you on a wavelength that few others ever will.
WT: What goes into your writing process?
b: Most of my songs start out as a single pattern for the longest time, until I'm completely satisfied that I’ve first sculpted the soundscape into something evocative and memorable.
But every song I write is usually driven by a single core idea that I want to explore. Most times, that Core Idea takes the form of a particular feeling, or kind of imagery, that I’d like to evoke in the listener. Other times, the Core Idea takes the form of a technical curiosity - for example, "is this kind of a sound possible on this platform?" or "what kinds of things am I capable of with a weird time signature?" In any case, I'll try to implement the Core Idea as quickly as possible, and if I like the result, I expand on it and write musical structures that exploit the Core Idea in different ways.
In any case, my highest goal for my music has always been to tap into something deeply human and stir some kind of emotional response, be it intrigue, melancholy, nostalgia, or even laughter. So every musical decision I make is viewed through this lens.
WT: Where did your moniker originate?
b: In school I adopted the annoying habit of affectionately appending the suffix "-face" to friends' names, like "Chrisface" or "Jenface", so on and so forth. That's about it really, it's a pretty stupid nickname in all honesty, but oddly it's also become a handy reminder to maybe not take myself too too seriously as an "ARTISTE" or whatever and just have fun.
WT: Where do you find influences for your music?
b: Besides the obvious video game influences, a lot of my work tries to pay tribute to the high degree of musical literacy and attention to detail that a lot of older demoscene musicians were really, REALLY great at: people like Lizardking, Purple Motion, Skaven, Elwood, Necros, Hunz, Radix/mosaik and others. These guys were all undisputed masters of intricately woven melody and harmony.
My list of "more contemporary" chip influences consists of people with a strong demoscene pedigree, as well. Zabutom's avant-garde progressions and airtight production amaze me every time. Nagz so effortlessly cranked out a huge collection of amazing progjazz-experimental chip .XM's that demonstrate such a sense of total abandon, and I’d love for my music to be that carefree someday. cTrix's tracks have such a fun, effusive vibe to them that it's inspired me to try harder at imbue my music with a certain infectious quality.
As far as non-chip musicians go, I draw inspiration from composers who are versatile and evocative. Ryuichi Sakamoto manages to access something almost primal in his music. Yoko Kanno is such a stylistic chameleon yet each of her works taps into a deep reservoir of emotion. I also really like whenever Michael Giacchino does something unexpected in a film score, it's quirky and original and literally makes me go "heh" out loud. Again, these are all reminders for me to strive to write music that tickles something within the human psyche.
WT: What’s your opinion on playing chiptune live from trackers? Is this something you’re interested in or otherwise?
b: You mean, playing a tune off of a laptop via something like Milkytracker or Famitracker? I personally don't have a problem with it. If the artist performs as if he/she truly believes the music is amazing, and if he/she is actually right, I could care less about the particular method of delivery. I saw the aforementioned 4mat play at Blip Fest 2011 off a laptop and I could tell you that no one in the venue was complaining. Same thing with any of the Amiga musicians that played there, too.
That said, I think that finding ways to augment/personalize a live experience, whether through live effects or even just clever muting/soloing, is always a wise decision.
WT: What specifically went into creating your WeeklyTreat entry?
I guess aesthetically what that particular style entails is a focus on lyrical melodies, thick synthpop-style chords / progressions, and pulsing synthbass riffs. The game boy obviously isn't suited to replicate the sound of synthpop samples you'd find in an early 90's protracker MOD release, so it was actually a really fun challenge to see if I could still capture the aesthetic.
About halfway through the song is when I decided to transition into a sort of disco breakdown, which was one of those detours I hadn't originally planned for, but it sounded like a nice twist when I was playing around with it =)
Generally for my game boy tunes, I aim for an organic, humanized style that doesn't sound "overtly chiptune", and I specifically try to avoid what I think are clichéd "popular chiptune" tropes. I hope that ethos comes through in this track as well.
WT: Have you got any concrete plans for the future of bryface?
b: I have an all-gameboy album called "Various Topics" in the works, and I’m aiming to finish and release it sometime within the next month. Really proud of the work that's on it and I hope you guys will get a kick out of it when it comes out!
I also have a bunch of KORG DS-10 works-in-progress that I hope to release in the summertime. This new album will be a follow-up to my first album "How To Dodge Lasers" which was all DS-10 tunes as well.
I'd love to ratchet up the quotient of live performances this year - I recently did a couple of underground shows back home in Vancouver and so far the response has been great! My goal is to do more shows in the West and East Coasts of North America, and later in the fall I plan to make it out Japan to party with the folks running Square Sounds Tokyo. You guys should all come out if you can; it's going to be off the hook!