August 24, 2013 2:30 AM | jeriaska
Photo by Marjorie Becker for Chiptography
When last we heard from chip music VJs Outpt and Paris, they were touring with Anamanaguchi and designing an indie game to give you power over improvisationally generated sprite art imagery. For the past year, the New York-based multimedia artists have been running their own netlabel called Audio Visual Algebra, whose debut release is Drum and Space. More recently the team began surreptitiously releasing Commodore 64 seapunk tunes, as well as 8bitoperators remixes, under the handle Sea64. Electronically manipulating their vocal performances, they've gone undetected by the savviest of their fans in the chiptune scene. We caught up with Sea64, aka outpt+paris, to find out: Why the subterfuge?
In designing a concept for the game you had prototyped, how did you see what you do onstage being translatable to a gameplay experience?
Outpt: You can lose yourself in a performance, when music and video are flowing through your fingertips. It's like a gameplay experience. You are quickly reacting to the circumstances like you would in a game environment.
What are the game consoles and controllers that you are gravitating most towards in your performances, suiting both the portability factor and chip-compatible imagery of your visuals?
Outpt: As far as traditional game hardware goes the Xbox 360 controller has always been my favorite. When I wrote Orbitr [custom VJ app] during the time we were touring with Anamanaguchi that was the software [XNA] I was using that is directly tied to the Xbox controller.
Starpause (Jordan Gray) running Piggy Tracker on PSP and Outpt manipulating Orbitr with an Xbox 360 controller
Paris: Occasionally I will run custom software using a netbook and a Logitec game controller. Our biggest focus lately has been experimenting with mobile devices, because it's everywhere. She's on iOS and I'm on Android. For my last few gigs I've been using the GP2X [Linux-based handheld].
As far as open source mobile devices, like the GP2X or GCW Zero, these are useful for VJs interested in coding their own homebrew applications for use in live performance?
Paris: That is part of the appeal, and friends of mine are similarly into Raspberry Pi development. GamePark Holdings has since put out other devices that are more powerful than the GP2X, but it's still fun for me.
Chip musicians like Anamanaguchi and Minusbaby are known for having contributed music to indie games like the Bit.Trip titles. Your music is now being featured together on the 8bitoperators compilations reinterpreting the Beatles, Devo and other pop music groups. What can you say at this point about the next compilation in this series, the "Enjoy the Science" Depeche Mode album?
Paris: We're really looking forward to it. It was cool of Jeremy (Kolosine) to include us on the Devo comp. We wanted to keep it completely chip, so "Freedom of Choice" which ended up in the megamix, and our solo track "Going Under," are entirely Commodore 64. It gave me a different appreciation for Devo's music in doing covers of their songs, because there are really subtle things that I had never noticed just listening to them, as opposed to deconstructing them.
Having been very active in live visuals, what led to making music, first for Audio Visual Algebra and now Sea64?
Paris: Beside the chip scene, Mary Ann and I have done visuals for pretty much every major DJ on the planet. I had been thinking, "Wouldn't it be kind of cool if we were to do a completely integrated AV set, ourselves?" What resulted was so tightly coordinated. When there was a drop, there was a direct change in the visual.
It's been over six months since the Sea64 debut album went up on Bandcamp. Was your identity kept a secret in order to build a kind of a mystique, or was there another motivation?
Outpt: We had gone for a walk one day and were throwing around names for bands when "Sea64" came up. There was something about it that we liked. That name, and the idea of what it would sound like, marinated for a few days. Making that music and not saying who was behind it was freeing, a litmus test for what kind of reaction it would get.
Paris: It allowed for some authentic assessment, because we are fairly well known in the chip community. Whatever feedback we were getting felt very real. Of course the name was a play on the Commodore 64 and the seapunk movement, and it turned out that the first community that jumped on it was the younger seapunk crowd. They gave us great feedback on SoundCloud.
Did the vocals have to be distorted in order for you to evade detection?
Outpt: That was an interesting process. When we were throwing around ideas for who would sing for Sea64 and wanted it to be unrecognizable, we had the idea of going for a more abrasive punk sound, the kind of music that I grew up listening to. No one mentioned that they thought it was me, so I think we were successful.
Paris: I overloaded the mixer so that it was a little tinny and distorted, in order to capture that grungy sound. But there was no other distortion going on.
How were you looking for Sea64 to integrate the chiptune aesthetic, seeing as Drum and Space did not have the kind of low-fi sound that one associates with the chip scene?
Paris: All of the basslines and most of the melodies on the Bandcamp album are using the C64. Just to round it out, a friend of Mary Ann's gave us a 707 drum machine from the '80s and someone else had given us a Casio CZ-1000 for the chords, so everything fit the time period.
Outpt: In our minds we had these alter-egos who would be younger and interested in this hardware, but not because of nostalgia. They didn't experience it the first time around. The thinking was, if these were the instruments that happened to be available to Sea64, here's what they'd do with it.