January 29, 2011 5:00 AM | jeriaska
Once a year Satoshi Sakagami of the Kichijouji game culture shop METEOR hosts an all-night party entailing music performances and NES tournaments, called Fami-Mode. An 8-bit riff on the Hatsumōde festival taking place on New Year's Day at Shinto shrines, Fami-Mode celebrates the lasting appeal of Nintendo's original home console.
Stage performances for past Fami-Mode events have included music sets by developers of independently financed games. 6955, the Toronto game composer behind IGF entry Dyad, played at the first ever installment. Meanwhile, Tokyo-based band Consumers, playing this year's show, created their own retro PC game and distributed the software through their music CD entitled "D.O.T.S.(Dance Object Ten Sound)."
Other participating game-inspired musicians include Kplecraft, whose music videos are created using NES-style sprite art. Omodaka weaves traditional Japanese music with chiptunes. Sexy-Synthesizer draws inspiration from '80s pop culture and arcade sounds for their music, video and vocal performances.
We caught up with several of the event's participants in Kichijouji to hear their thoughts on Fami-Mode. To experience it yourself, drop by Star Pine's Cafe later tonight.
How would you describe the annual Fami-Mode gathering that you have been organizing as the owner of METEOR?
Satoshi Sakagami: The event takes place every year on the last day of January, featuring music and games by artists who frequent the shop. There are also booths set up at the venue where visitors can find Famicom-related design products. It's a lot of fun and it lasts all night.
You and 6955 have known each other for some time prior to the first Fami-Mode. How did it come about that you met?
Sakagami: Jason I've known since... 2001? That was when he first dropped by the store. When I first saw him perform music on the Game Boy, it was unusual to see the game console being used as a musical instrument. For me that was an introduction to the concept of chiptunes. He's been a real innovator in that respect. You notice his game music incorporates facets of rock, hip-hop and breakbeat, reflecting the spirit of contemporary forms of music. That's what makes me really into the music he creates.
6955: I came here with my girlfriend at the time to this building, to the cafe that's above here. She didn't know about [METEOR], and neither did I, but after we had coffee we came down here and... it was the greatest store ever. It's all Famicom stuff and old '80s goods. Then I came back the next week with my CDs having looked up the word for "consignment" and feebly asked him to consign my CDs. Then Sakagami-san asked me to play Fami-Mode with YMCK and Kplecraft the first year that he did it.
What benefits do you find there to be as a game composer in performing live music?
6955: Playing live is fun because you get feedback if things are going well. It's great to hear your stuff from a big, booming system. I'm not sure how much they inform each other, the live stuff versus stuff that is made to be heard in a game.
How would you describe your impressions of the event?
6955: Everyone has a blast at Fami-Mode. There's other things that happen besides the music, like game competitions between performances. People go crazy for those. As with what's going on in Toronto right now, everyone's super-positive and passionate.
Satoshi Sakagami of METEOR and game composer 6955
What pieces of hardware do you bring on stage as part of your musical persona, Omodaka?
Soichi Terada, aka Omodaka: I use a flat screen monitor, Game Boy, Playstation Portable, Nintendo DS and laptop computer. I've been performing since around 2008, and even before that I was writing songs as Omodaka, publishing CDs and making music videos.
What informed the appearance of Omodaka? Could you describe a little to those outside Japan the origins of the costume?
Omodaka: The idea behind wearing the costume of a miko began while playing as a DJ. I found it interesting, so I made it part of an onstage performance. You see women dressed as miko at jinja, as it's the dress of someone who dedicates themselves to a Shinto shrine. Putting on the costume and the wig, it gives a wholeness to the performance.
What interests you about the chip music that you play?
Omodaka: There's a lot of things that are interesting about chiptunes. For one, you're faced with clear creative limitations. Generally you're working with three waveforms and a noise channel. I find that presents a really interesting challenge. I started working in chiptunes around eight years ago, not long after hearing YMCK's music, and I've listened to all manner of chiptune artists here and from overseas.
Going back even before the Famicom and NES era, I played a lot of Xevious, Pac-Man and Dig Dug at the arcades. Those are sounds I remember fondly from arcade game centers. For me I associate "game sounds" with the arcades. I derive a lot of inspiration from it.
Soichi Terada of Omodaka
To find out more about Kichijouji's METEOR game culture shop, visit the official website. For information on Fami-Mode, see the homepage and Ustream feed. Translation by Yoko Wyatt. Image courtesy of METEOR. Photos and video by Jeriaska.