I'm currently in the midst of writing an article about Blip Festival and the
Chip revolution happening here in New York Citahhh. I got a chance to sit down with Kurt Feldman of The Depreciation Guild, who played on the third day of Blip Festival, and just go through the ins and outs of the growing scene and to talk about some hot babes.
CG: Gimme your name, band name, etc.
K: uh, Kurt Feldman I’m the Guitarist for The Depreciation Guild, and uh songwriter, programmer, main entitity.
CG: alright pretty good. What do you use, what are your major instruments in the group?
K: Well, The Depreciation Guild consists of two guitars, vocals, and our 8 bit setup which is basically played through our computer. We compose all of our songs on a tracker, which was kind of a project that started, I guess around like the late ninties, and was actually abandoned by 1999. So, the software that we actually use is an interface called a tracker and it outputs Nintendo code, like, authentic Nintendo code which can actually play through a Nintendo.
CG: How did you find out about this [style of music], did you find it out through friends? Or people…
K: no actually, I mean, I’ve always been kinda just drawn to Nintendo music and just, like, the nostolgaic sound that is kind of associated with Nintendo music. And I’ve just sort of been drawn to the simplistic rawness of the way it sounds. Like the pulse waves and you know all the sounds that are produced by such a simple machine and I kind of wanted to see, you know, how much you could push the machine. I had found out about micromusic.net probably around 2002, I started listening to some gameboy artists
CG: like gameboy, like people had already started re-using game boy sounds?
K: yeah, ones who were at the forefront of that scene were, you know, nullsleep,
Bit-Shifter people who were submitting, you know, kind of just random tracks to this website called micromusic.net and I was drawn to that I was really fascinated by it. I started downloading music and I remember I heard this track by this guy named halley and it totally blew my mind because he was doing things that sounded like electric guitars and sounded like really crunchy distortion but it was all being produced, supposedly, by a Nintendo and I kind of found it hard to believe.
After hearing that I was like, wow I want to do this and I want to figure out how and I really didn’t know any way so I just kind of did some web searches, typing random things into google, and I got this result for this program called Nerdtracker ii and that was this program that I just mentioned before. It outputs the code which you can actually play on a Nintendo at 100%, and you’re actually playing your songs on the hardware itself.
CG: do most of the other artists who do this, like through the game boys… I mean I saw someone using a gameboy advance the other day [at blip festival], they use this program?
K: actually for gameboy its different. There was a guy named Johan Kutlinsky who invented this program called LSDJ and you can actually purchase it through his website. It’s a totally comprehsensive synthesizer for your gameboy and basically what you have to do is you have to purchase not only that program but a writable cartridge in which you can burn that game on to a cartridge and then from there you can kind of save your data on to your gameboy itself and compose, you know, on the train or wherever you are. You actually program in the notes themselves and it reads it like a sequencer would read it.
CG: yeah I saw a bunch of the guys [at Blip Festival] blowing out their gameboy cartridges [to clean them].
CG: to what extent do you think the music, like this [chip music], has spread or is spreading? I mean obviously with Blip Festival there was a pretty good turn out which I suppose is indicative of a lot of interest in this type of art.
K: yeah, well [The Depreciation Guild] joined up with 8-bit peoples bout a year ago and I had been to a bunch of Nullsleep’s shows, he runs 8 bit peoples… well that show [Blip Festival] was set up by nullsleep and bit-shifter and actually Nullsleep’s girlfriend I think also helped organize it and Mike Rosenthal who runs The Tank [ the club where blip festival was held] um they all kind of like pooled their resources on that, but Jeremiah Johnson, who is the owner of 8 bit peoples, which is a website net label … hes the one that set that up, and since we joined 8 bit peoples a year ago I’ve watched the website grow exponentially.
CG: like message boards and stuff?
K: no not so much message boards but with like myspace and all the artists starting to join up on myspace. The knowledge of 8bit music is really spreading. And also the fact that all the music is available for free on 8 bit peoples so there is really no cost barrier preventing people from accessing this music. And its interesting because its kind of this archaic medium that nobody has really dared to touch for a while and theres a few guys who are getting really into it right now.
CG: what led you to bring guitars into the mix? And also kind of a shoegazy MBV sound?
K: um well, that’s just the music that we love. The guitars and Nintendo mix actually pre-dates this band [The Depreciation Guild] we’ve got a couple songs on our computer which, Adrian and I used to play in this other band which was just kind of a straight up “Indie-band” and at the very end of our career as a band, we were together for about 4 and a half years (so Adrian and I have worked together for a while.) But there were other members you know there was a live drummer and a bass player too, we had composed a couple of songs that were originally intended for use by that band and it was just that idea came to mind.
I started writing chip tunes and I said hey lets combine the two. I think it would be cool to add a synthesizer element to our music, and it didn’t really work because our drummer wasn’t very good. [In order] to play along with a synth you kind of have to have a metronomic sense of rhythm. And in the wake of that band I said hey lets do this to Adrian, let get rid of the drummer and the bass player its all in this code right here, all we need is us. Lets just do this together.
CG: Cool, So do you, like, to go to other peoples shows around here? Like nullsleep shows?
K: yeah Nullsleep does shows and Bit-Shifter does shows around here, actually there is kind of a like a burgeoning chip-tunes scene here in
K: Covox is from
CG: but whenever they all come over, like for Blip Festival, do you manage to catch them?
K: yeah well, actually its been a very rare occurrence for that. The only other instance for that was Aonami [from japan] who played last year and he played a set with us so that was actually really awesome. But since then, the Blip festival has really been like the first opportunity to gather all these amazing chiptune artists from around the world and put them under one roof and celebrate that which was totally mind blowing for everybody.
CG: how did Blip Festival come about, did 8 bit peoples just toss it out there?
K: I guess it was a crazy idea that just like ended up working really well.
CG: There was a lot of art as well
K: yeah, there was a lot of art involved, some of those guys who did the visuals… actually do shows at Pulse Wave, which is The Tank’s normal location in
CG: yeah, what kind of systems do they work with. A lot of the art looked like when you get dust in your cartridge but, obviously, more complex.
K: yeah more intentional. You actually kind of have to fool around with the wiring … Chip Bending, which is intentionally messing up hardware and synthesizers and stuff. It’s the same principle for those guys like NoTendo who do screwed up visuals with old Nintendo cartridges.
CG: and they do a lot of shows around the city as well?
K: they do a lot of stuff at The Tank. Actually there’s installations there, which is one of the reasons why The Tank is so cool is that it’s like a performance art space in general so its got like shows there, installations with related media, not necessarily messed up video game stuff. Sometimes it is but it could be other things with different mediums.
CG: Overall, I thought there was a pretty mixed audience at Blip Fest.
K: Yeah, some pretty hot babes there too.
CG: Seriously hot babes. Who do you think the audience is for a lot of this stuff? Where do you think they come from?
K: well some of our fans are our friends, and other ones are people who will find us through 8 bit peoples and locate us through myspace. And it kind of touches a nerve in not only like the video game nostalgia part but how that’s incorporated into familiar music like Shoegaze.
CG: how you suggest to anyone interested in creating this chip-art, how would you suggest they go about doing that?
K: theres a ton of free resources online that you can latch onto. 2A03.org is another website that Nullsleep runs and its dedicated to composing on the 2A03 chip, the rycode chip inside the Nintendo, hence the name 2A03.org. and that has a bunch of free resources for composing Nintendo stuff. But be aware that you’re gonna have to devote a lot of time. Its not really a casual hobby. You’ve got to really sit down with it and learn the software, learn the hardware. To really learn all that it takes a long time. It took me several months to get really proficient with the program. But if you’re computer savvy and you have the drive to do it then, you know, its possible.
CG: when is The Depreciation Guild’s next show?
K: December 14th at "Lit" 2 Avenue between 5 and 6 street.
CG: and you [Kurt] do a DJ set at reboot restaurant every other Friday?
K: Yeah 37 street Avenue A, yeah we do shoegaze, ethereal dream-pop sets my friend Christoph and I both DJ.
CG: awesome, well I guess that’s it, thanks a lot for letting me interview you.
K: No problem.