What are chiptunes? Demo scener Dubmood explains to us this strange genre of music
What is your name or handle and where are you located?
My handle is Dubmood and i’m located in Marseille, France.
What was your first computer?
My first computer was an Atari1040ST. My dad bought it around the same time as I was born to use for programming z80 microcomputers for fun (yeah I know, what a hobby) but it ended up as a game-machine for me and my brother.
Explain chip music to the casual observer
Chipmusic as the correct definition is music made on computers equipped with old digital soundchips wich can only produce beeps and noise and that wasn’t made to replay recorded samples. For example the SIDchip in the Commodore64, the YM2149 chip in the AtariST/Spectrum and the sounds of Nintendo 8bit consoles and Gameboys. But a wider definition of the term chipmusic is to make music using small loopable samples (like a few bytes) coming from those machines but on a more modern setup in a certain sequenser called tracker like Fasttracker, Protracker, Skaletracker or later Renoise. This is done for two reasons, to maintain the cool bleepy sound and to keep the size of the musicfiles down to a matter of 10 kilobytes to be used in small compute rapplications more or less related to the computer piracy scene.
Where did you learn your craft?
My brother showed me a program called Fasttracker on the PC we shared. But since we shared the PC in question and he was bigger than me I couldnt really spend as much time as I wanted so I got my hands on ProtrackerST for the Atari and then I just watched how other people made their songs and tried to do the same. Each of theese types of songs are actaully open, and played in realtime by the program, so you can see the “code” of the music and how it works).
What is exciting about chip music?
I dont know!!! From the first second I heard the atari play thoose bleepy sounds when I was like 5 years old until know it’s still the most exciting music I know. When I was in early gradeschool I used to record the songs on my sony walkman and listen to them wherever I went and learned all the gamecomposers names by heart and learning english by reading the scrollers and greetingtexts in the crackintros that came with pirated games. I still thinks its the purest music avalible. Its so limited and still there is no limits. Its like… you have 2 different sounds, one beep, one noise, and you can use at max 3 different tones at the same time (3 channels). When you have limits like that its really fun to actually get it into a melodie. I get a kick out of it. And when listening to it on big club/concerthall Soundsystems its amazing. Its so pure and digital. The Atari Osciliators are only 4bit, its like it squeezes the sound out in every single HZ your ear can pick up and sends bassvibrations like massage on every muscle. For me, its like how it must have been when some cavemen invented the rhythm. I have been into this sound for all of my life now and I dont see any end of it.
Which other chip artists do you most respect?
Since I’m from the demoscene, I respect talent. Since the 8bit hype came along in the beginning of the new millenium a lot of cheesy simple bitpop has been released wich even a normally talented kid could compose. For me it has to be more than that to earn my respect as a chip-artist. If you can bend and twist your console to the max and get a sound nobody else do using more than 2-3 chords and 047 037 arrps then send your stuff my way. My favourite artists are Zabutom, Goto80, CrazyQ, Tempest, Tao, Mad Max, Paul Shields and WoTW.
Do you enjoy collaborating on tunes?
Yeah I love it, many of my best songs are colabs because that unites two or more artist-styles, since in chipmusic each artist developes his own style to make his sounds unique since everyone got more or less the same limited base of sounds to start with. I enjoy a lot to work with Zabutom, Goto80 and Sodamnloud.
How do you think/want other people to respond to your music?
I never thought about it, listen to it, remix it or just dance!
What motivates/inspires your work?
Always other music I hear.
What is the reaction to your live shows from people who have never heard chip tunes?
5-6 years ago most ppl just shook their heads. Today very few can hestitate not to dance. I think it has to do with the direction of mainstream music is taking sounding more and more electro.Then there is the category who talks about nostalgia and how they loved their old machines, wich kinds of bores me today since I want the music to be taken serious and not just as a nostalic phenomena.
How do you measure your level of success/achievement?
Hell I dont know, I am happy that I can live of what I do! If that isnt success then what is? =) As a kid I had set up certain levels of achievement, like getting into Razor 1911, getting my music on vinyl. Playing infront of more than 1000 people and things like that sofar I reached them all. Right now whats left is to set up a big label and help other chip-artists spread their works.
Is chip music just a fad?
For some yeah, I was here before them, and will be here when they are gone. They are fads.
Can you let us in on any trade secrets?
If you are completely new to music. Dont release your first 50 or so songs. Try to listen to a variety of artists and understand the logic of the music instead of just getting amazed by the fat sound of the gameboy and punch away C C F F D D G G basslines to eternity. Work on the details. Never punch notes on random and never try to stick to a certain model of how to bulild a song or you will just sound like everybody else.