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22 jan. 2020

Interview met Kemikziel

Chiptune is, net als synthwave, een subgenre binnen de elektronische muziek geïnspireerd door muziek en geluiden uit videogames van voornamelijk de jaren ´80 en begin jaren ´90. De muziek wordt vooral gemaakt met software op de Nintendo Game Boy. Het geluid is misschien dan enigszins beperkt, de creativiteit om nieuwe melodieën te maken is onuitputtelijk. Eén van de nieuwe sterren binnen de chiptune scène is Kemikziel. Ik vind het een eer om deze prachtige producer te mogen interviewen en meer te weten te komen over wat er allemaal binnen de #Chipfam zich afspeelt en hoe deze muziekstijl ook steeds meer te horen is in verschillende synthwave producties.

Just like synthwave, chiptune is a subgenre within electronic music inspired by music and sounds from video games, mainly from the 80s and early 90s. The music is mainly made with software for the Nintendo Game Boy. The sound may be somewhat limited, but the creativity for new melodies is inexhaustible. One of the new stars in the chiptune scene is Kemikziel. It´s a great honor for me to interview this wonderful producer and find out more about what is going on within the #Chipfam and to learn how this music style can also be heard more and more in various synthwave productions.

Kemikziel

Kemikziel, can you please introduce yourself?
Of course! I'm Kemikziel, but most folks call me Kemi. I use Game Boys to create original chiptune music. I've always found a special charm in video game soundtracks from the 80s and 90s, so I'm super excited to be able to use those classic sounds to make something new and fresh!

How do you look back at 2019?
2019 was an incredible year for me. Back in the Spring, I saw chiptune performed live for the very first time, and that's what started all this! It was at that show that I decided to get into chiptune and start making music of my own. Soon after that, I joined Twitter and was quickly welcomed into the chiptune and synthwave communities, both of which have been remarkably friendly and warm to me. In June I released my first-ever chiptune EP, “A Land of Tales Yet to be Told,” something I certainly wouldn't have even imagined at the start of the year. From there I kept making music, and kept putting it out there, and I've met a lot of super cool people through it.


What are your plans for this year?
Now that I have a few album and single releases under my belt, I'd like to focus on learning more about music theory, improving my skills, and pushing my music further. I recently obtained a Korg Minilogue (my first “real” synth!) and am looking forward to figuring it out, and eventually using it to add an extra layer to support my Game Boy sounds. I've also started a membership program over on Patreon, where I hope to build my own little community; and have a new album planned to release next month (oops, haven't announced that yet)!

Talking about your latest album ¨To Become a Hero LP¨, what can you tell us about this album?
“To Become a Hero” is my first full-length LP, and it's a very important album for me. The whole inspiration behind it was that feeling of playing my first video games as a kid. The first game I ever played was Super Mario Bros. on the NES, and the first game I ever owned and finished was Pokémon Blue on Game Boy Color. These two games in particular are very special to me, and their music will be with me forever. So TBaH is my tribute to those early gaming experiences, and the goal of the record was to bring back that nostalgia while also creating something new and exciting for people to enjoy!


You are creating chiptune music on a Game Boy with the music program Little Sound Dj. How does this work?
That's a good question! It's a little hard for me to explain, but at its core, Little Sound Dj is a tracker, which means the notes are individually programmed into a sequence and then played back. I find the simplest way to think of it is like a player piano; all the notes are already laid out, and as the song runs, the piano plays the notes when and where they're written. There are some fun effects you can add too, like pitch bends, portamento, delays, and vibrato; but that's essentially how LSDj works.

Where do you get your inspiration for creating new music?
Anywhere and everywhere! Much of my inspiration comes from the music in video games, both the ones I grew up with and newer titles as well; but I get a lot of ideas from all kinds of music, like metal, dance, dubstep, and of course from my pals in #Chipfam and #Synthfam! That said, inspiration really is all over the place. For instance, I might glean an interesting rhythm from the washing machine, or get a melody idea from a bird singing outside. And to be honest, I've actually been a visual artist all my life, with music being a newer pursuit of mine; so it's not uncommon for me to see a really awesome sketch or painting and then want to make a sort of soundtrack for it!

Do you still play games on your Game Boy or on other consoles? Which games are your favorites?
All the time! Although LSDj is the cartridge most often found in my Game Boy, I did pick up a copy of Super Mario Land not too long ago, and recently decided to play through Pokémon Fire Red again (a remake of Blue, surprise surprise!) and complete it 100%. My all-time favourite franchise is Monster Hunter, with the latest entry, World, taking the spot as my favourite game I have ever played. The music, world, creature and character design is top-notch, and the gameplay is ridiculously addicting and rewarding - I could honestly play it forever. Most recently though I bought Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and have been having a fantastic time with it. But now all I want to do is make pirate songs!

What do you think about the current state of chiptune and where do you think it will be going?
It could just be because I'm so immersed in the #Chipfam right now (and video game music in general), but it seems to me that chiptune is growing in popularity. What started as more of an underground, cult kind of genre is getting more attention now. I think a lot of it has to do with this generation of (mostly) 90s kids growing up and looking back. Many have kids now and are reflecting on their own upbringings. Retro-style games are huge, the gaming industry as a whole is enormous; and nostalgia and music are two things that really bring people together. And right now, we have more tools at our disposal to express ourselves through music than we've ever had before; so I'd say the future of chiptune is quite exciting. Onward and upward (but also backward)!

The merge of synthwave and chiptune is giving us some new exciting sounds. What do you think of this combination?
I think it's just awesome! Already there are numerous chip artists out there making fantastic use of synthesizers to add more depth to their music, and synthwave creators employing chip sounds to give that arcade feel to their tunes. I've even had a few #Synthfam folks showing an interest in LSDj, which is super rad! I'm stoked to see what everyone comes up with this year!

And finally any last words to the (Dutch) synthwave and chiptune communities?
Well, I want to say thank you to everyone for reading! And thank you, Sander, for this opportunity. It's cool to get a chance to talk here about chiptune, and these awesome synth and chip communities. I hope everyone has a fun year in 2020, and discovers all kinds of wonderful music! Doei for now! :)

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