Friday, 24 May 2013

Week #21| Comptroller- Stand Up! Yukawa!

Week 21 and we're in Scotland with the organiser of recent UK chip fest Ultrachip and all round nice guy Comptroller! Grab the track here.

WT: How did you originally come into contact with the chiptune scene?

Comptroller: Back in 2006 I found my faulty old NES in a cupboard and looked online for a way to fix it. I ended up finding NES Dev forums and sites like, discovered people were making new music with these old machines, and got sucked in. I remember finding a video of Nullsleep playing some European club with a Game Boy & keyboard, people dancing like maniacs, and being amazed. The NSF Archive, 8 Bit Peoples catalogue & Nullsleep's MCK/MML tutorial were my main starting points.

WT: What influences in the chipscene have channelled the direction of your music?

C: The chipscene in general is responsible for getting me into electronic music! Before I started doing this I played guitar in punk/rock bands & mainly listened to that sort of thing. Chip led me to explore more dance-y areas of music I might not have otherwise, and that in turn influenced the sort of sounds I wanted to make. 

WT: What particular influences went into, ‘Stand Up! Yukawa!’, and could you tell us a bit about how it was created please?

C: Hearing a lot of live breakcore, mainly, and trying to distill that through a Sega Dreamcast. I used a Dreamcast game called O-TO-I-RE, which was a Japan-only sequencer that was released in 1999. It uses a combination of samples and the Dreamcast's own inbuilt MIDI sounds. There's no way to import anything, but it has a pretty good selection of kits & instruments (and some really cheesy vocal samples). It's a bit awkward to use with the Dreamcast controller though, and the save files are massive - this one song takes up over half a VMU. I actually finished it a few months back and quietly shared it to a few people under a false name. Now I am taking responsibility for this monstrosity.

WT: You’ve had a fair few releases, including an EP on CDK and a single on Datathrash, could explain a bit behind what went into creating these and how they came about please?

C: James asked me in 2010 if I wanted to do a release on CDK, and the 'Baddies EP' was the eventual result. It's all LSDJ, and I spent a lot of time putting it together. Not that I don't normally make an effort, but I took this one pretty seriously. I really tried to put a lot of feeling into it, and to step things up on a technical level too. Whether any of that comes across to other people, I don't know, but I'm pretty happy with it.

With the Datathrash release I wanted to do something that wasn't an EP of Game Boy music, so I made a 2-track single of warped C64 & Piggy sounds using MSSIAH and a GP2X. I'd been listening to a lot of hyperactive Japanese SHMUP soundtracks, and wanted to get across a feeling of obscure threat with orchestra hits & slap bass.

I had a really short run of 5" lathe cut records done, since I figured that was the perfect single format. At the time I hoped people would comment on the samples used, or the fact that both tracks are named after fictional Asian street gangs, but the only feedback I got was 10 people asking me 'dude where'd you get the vinyl done'.

WT: You recently organised the Scottish chiptune festival Ultrachip, could you tell us a bit about how that first came about and any anecdotes about the actual event?

C: Ultrachip started in 2010 after me & some local chip acts were complaining to each other about there not being many live chip events in the area. I got in touch with a guy called Chris Palmer at a venue called The Forest in Edinburgh, and we ended up jointly organising a 2 day event with acts from all round the UK and elsewhere playing. It happened again in 2011, then The Forest closed down and I had 2012 off. This year I joined up with Glasgow's 8 Bit Nights crew and we relocated to the Banshee Labyrinth.

I think this year was probably the best one we've done - we had a really good turnout and there was a very positive & excited vibe to the whole event. Much dancing and whooping. Everyone seemed to have a really good time, whether they were familiar with chip or not (there were a few confused clusters staring at the gear between acts). Anecdotes: the venue was basically a haunted multi-roomed dungeon with many bars, so we had directions stuck up around the place to prevent people getting lost. One of the acts almost wasn't allowed to perform because he didn't take any ID with him. Ultrasyd flew in to Edinburgh, played, then flew straight back out again to go to a wedding because he is super hardcore. Everyone kicked ass and it was beautiful.

WT: Following on from that, do you play live often yourself, and if so what set up do you use?

C: I play live fairly often, once every couple of months or so. I usually have 2 DMGs running LSDJ, a Commodore 64 running a few different things, LGPT on GP2X plus an arduinoboy and Piggy>MIDI box to get everything connected, and a tiny b&w TV so I can see what the C64 is doing. At Ultrachip I brought a Dreamcast onstage for the first time and somehow it looked more ridiculous than everything else.

WT: What have you got in store for the future of Comptroller?

C: I'm playing SuperByte in September and hopefully a couple of shows in Europe in October. As for releases, I've got a bunch of finished & half-finished songs I need to do something with. Then I guess I'll write a Hawaiian cyberpunk concept album on C64 + ukulele, then quit chiptune in disgrace.