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Who is behind Th4 D34D?
Oh man, existential right off the bat! Har har. Well, I’m a multi-genre composer who loves working with old gaming sound chips to blend modern techniques and composition with the textures generated by ‘antiquated’ hardware. I’m a music lover, and former guitarist for a number of metal bands including Skelator, Ritual Torture (formerly GutRot), Sentinel, PC Deathsquad, and many other projects. I’m also a visual artist, including everything from pencil sketches and graphic design, to 3D Modeling, animation and video editing. If it involves artistic expression, I am probably into it.
How did you get into chiptune / what is your background?
I first started getting into video game music, not surprisingly, with the Sega Genesis. Some classic tracks from the NES and Gameboy before that were really catchy, like Tetris and Super Mario Bros, but all the Sonic games, Gunstar Heroes, and Toejam & Earl: Panic On Funkotron were some of the first games where I would simply sit on screens just to hear the OST loop over and over. Soon after I found a love for other chiptune composers like Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Hiroki Kikuta, doing more RPG centric soundtracks on the SNES and PS1. In the late 90’s I found the Shoutcast feature of Winamp, which was essentially a bunch of online radio streams. There was a bunch of chiptune and/or video game OST stations, and so I used to just listen to those, or drum n bass stations, all the time.
However I didn’t get into chiptune tracking for years, as I was always playing in bands and writing music in DAWs. I would compose faux RPG classical scores in Reason, and later did some FM synth stuff with Logic Pro’s EFM1, and eventually with Aly James’s FMDrive in Ableton. I wrote a whole Sega FM influenced fakebit album I called, “Chip Lover” which led to me connecting with Rob 2612 (formerly Robugaa). He was super positive about my album and encouraged me to pick up composing in trackers. So a little less than a year ago now, I went and a downloaded the latest build of Deflemask and started tinkering away, focusing on learning the ins and outs of the software. I made a couple of silly throwaway tracks for fun with the NES and Gameboy engines. A few days later I made my first somewhat serious track on the YM2151 engine, “And Death Will Come”, since it seemed like the easiest with the most tracks available, including multiple PCM slots which could also be fine tuned, soft panned, and volume adjusted (features lacking in the YM2612 chip). I posted this up on Facebook and got some awesome positive feedback from Dya, Jredd, and some other folks. Soon after I decided to join Battle of the Bits, and started placing high in a lot of the competitions, getting tons of supportive feedback from the awesome community. Hearing some of the tracks I was writing, Dya connected me with CheapBeats and the rest, as they say, is history.
What are your inspirations for this album?
I could probably sit here listing off names all day. I took a ton influence from many different rock, metal, jazz, prog and blues, musicians on a lot of the melodies and rhythms, especially the leads. Of course classical composers like paganini, chopin and vivaldi heavily influence my lead writing as well. Having grown up in the nineties, you’ll hear a lot of new jack swing and some house in a lot of the tracks. But the largest influences came from retro gaming, the chiptune scene, and EDM. I played some Atari and Nintendo as a kid, but the Sega Genesis and PS1 were the consoles that made me into a hardcore gamer.. Composers like Norio Hanzawa, John Baker, Dan Forden, Michiru Yamane, Yuzo Koshiro, Tim Follin, Konami Club, Sonic Team and tons of others really shaped most of the chip sounds. I really fell in love with drum n bass as a kid in the very late nineties, and I’m a big fan of more modern neuro, dubstep and drumstep electronic artists like Reso, Dodge & Fuski, Teknian, Xilent, KOAN Sound influence the sound design of most of the drops, as well as some classic dnb labels like Renegade Hardware, Virus, Prototype, Rephlex and Valve Recordings. Also fellow Sega chip artists like Rob 2612, Jredd, marcb0t and Strobe definitely inspired me with pushing the YM2612 capabilities on the album. Like I said, we could be here all day if I was really being thorough.
What software did you use?
I wrote all of Future 2612 with Deflemask 0.12.0, although I used Ableton and GoldWave for creating and compressing the drum samples, and mastered the mp3/CD versions all in Ableton.
Which track was the hardest to write
To be honest, none of the tracks really gave me any great deal of difficulty. I find making music much like putting together a puzzle, except I have to create the next pieces that fit rather than find them. Sometimes I’ll have the whole song worked out in my mind before I start writing, but usually it’s a bit of an iterative process. Ring Collector probably took the longest since I had worked out the first 8 bars or so, and then sat on it for a few months. Eventually when I went back to finish the track, I reworked a couple of things in the intro, and then the rest just flowed pretty naturally.
Which track was the easiest to write
Genstep was the quickest and easiest to write. The whole song popped in my head one morning, and I ended up working on it through the day and finishing it late into the evening. It turned out to be one of the best tracks in my opinion, and is a personal favorite.
Anything special planned for this album?
Aside from having done the cover artwork myself, we have a Sega Genesis/Megadrive cart release, which I’m obviously really excited for. I did some code editing and GUI work myself to get the rom customized just how I wanted it, using the free SGDK from Stef. Somehow I managed to fit the whole album into the 4mb limit, although it is pretty much at the max.
Have you any other projects that you’d like to plug?
I have a small gaming related channel at youtube.com/c/VG Fam that has been a bit inactive lately, but I hope to pick back up with some regular new content and even have plans to do some chiptune tutorials under the name Chip Fam. You can also find me on my personal youtube channel by searching for th4 D34D (also you can just click here). I’m also working with a new Sega group called FM Rangers, as well as an upcoming project called FM-Possible 2, a follow up to the original FM-Possible, so keep an eye out for that!
Thank you for the interview and I’m stoked to officially be a part of the CheapBeats roster!