Power Player #21: Ralp
Power Player #21: Ralp
As a relative noob to the chiptune scene, when Ralp’s entry, Yrche Vhul was submitted to the CTUK LSDJ showdown, it blew my mind. A year later and noisechannel’s LSDJ Showdown 2012 features Ralp as a judge this time around. He took some time to answer a few questions for the chan and allowed us to get the lowdown on the man himself.
- How did you first find out about chiptune and when did you start?
I guess that I discovered it unwittingly when I was a child and my parents gave me the Game Boy Camera cartridge, in 1998 approximately, then I had a Game Boy Pocket and only played Mario, Tetris, Kirby, etc, so I didn’t know that chiptune existed at all. I started creating my little experiments while I was interested in electronic music production in general, then I forgot some of the Game Boy and continued creating electronic music with other systems, software and hardware. After a few years, in 2005 more or less, I remembered when generating these sounds with the Game Boy Camera and I decided to start integrating them into my compositions, and that’s when I discovered that there’s a culture around this. I became interested more and more for this genre and found people MicroBCN and 8bitpeoples, who motivated me to buy a Nanoloop and some Game Boy DMG through Ebay, and so far I have not stopped.
- When did you get involved with Lowtoy?
After MicroBCN will taper off, we decided along with a couple of friends, Lautaro and Manu, in early 2010, set up a small Net Label to make it function as a platform to disseminate the audiovisual culture related to the 8 Bit and Circuit Bending, because at that time were several of us dedicating to this and there was no active organization that serve as a connection.
- What array of equipment do you use to write your tunes?
Well, basically I use the Game Boy and LSDJ program for composing my songs, and Nanoloop to create my live sessions, but I also like to try different 8 Bit systems like the Commodore 64 and several trackers, the Nintendo NES with MidiNES, the GP2X with LGPT and many modified toys and homemade equipement.
- What type of methods do you take to when Circuit Bending?
As I am not an electronics expert, and everything I’ve learned self-taught, my modifications are purely experimental, so I have no methodology to follow when I have to open a device, and from my point of view I think that this is where there’s the real magic, because I like when the devices suffer and when they show me unexpected results. Something I don’t like is when people doing Circuit Bending copy and follow existent schemes to connect the devices. Where is the magic of modify your own equipment if end up sounding almost like the others? It’s always good to follow some steps you can find online, especially at the beginning, but I encourage people to lose their fear to open the devices and experiment.
- You make some custom instruments. Why not tell us about a few you’re proud of.
The truth is I’m quite proud of all my little creations, because each project presents a challenge for me, especially without having much knowledge in electronics. I guess one of my favorite instruments is a 16 step analog sequencer, constructed with a turntable motor, which took me over a year to complete, as it contains about 300 meters of cable for all the internal connections, is a little archaic and the architecture a little shaky, but the result is pretty good. I use it to sequence a modified Game Boy, and the visual glitches of a Nintendo NES also modified. Now I am finishing a small random noise generator, with very interesting results, and soon will be available to buy through the Lowtoy website, in a limited edition format.
- Your graffiti is inspired. When did you first start getting into art and when to did you take it to the streets? How long have you been painting? Do you worry about getting caught?
Hehe, thank you very much! As with music, I’ve always been interested in the world of graphic and visual arts. If I’m not wrong I’ve started painting Graffiti in 2000 or so. First painting alone in my garage, and then gradually with more friends started hanging out in the streets. I never liked the idea of being caught by the police, although it happened to me a couple of times, so I’ve always tried to do it legally, or in abandoned factories where it is more quiet and nobody bothers you. The truth is that lately I don’t paint very often, because I have less time than before, but occasionally I like to go outside to paint.
- Your 8-bit art Graffiti: How do you get that sharp look to it? Are stencils involved?
Yes, just a square stencil, pixel by pixel like in a computer, but with a little more patience.
- How do you approach performing live? What materials do you like to take into your live shows?
I guess all started when I was a Hard Techno DJ, back in 2002. I gradually replacing the turntables by electronics devices and Game Boys. In fact I could say that I have two musical facets with Ralp, one of them as 8 Bit music, and the other as experimental electronic music, IDM style. Then for my performances as “Ralp 8 Bit” I just use a Game Boy DMG almost always with the program Nanoloop, because it gives me the ability to play long sessions without having to change the cartridge, apart from that I find it very funny to play with it in live mode. And for my performances as “Ralp IDM” the list of material is bigger, computers with all its peripherals, some hardware machines and even a modular synthesizer.
- What are you looking for as judge in the Noichan LSDJ Showdown?
Viewing the success, quality and quantity of songs presented in the previous edition, I hope to find a lot of artists who surprise me and to have it difficult to decide.