We received over 80 submissions, we narrowed it down, and it took forever. I want to thank Mikee for stepping up and running the entire event, this year. I also want to thank our awesome judges, everyone who entered the contest, and lurkers as well.
Hi guys, I just wanted to check in with you all, specifically those who submitted to the Showdown. Firstly, I want to say thank you for everyone who submitted and particularly, those who worked hard on their jams to showcase to us all. This kind of competition brings people together in a way that’s kind of impossible to verbalise. It allows everyone, internationally, to submit their jams and cut their chops. Egos are broken and inflated. Time stops. Panties are whetted and faces are melted.
Personally, it’s an absolute joy to be a part of it. What’s next? We listen to everything. It takes hours, by the way, We strip the submissions down and talk about them. Last year, I spent 5 hours back to back on this. Each judge has their own way of determining what they like and don’t like. We ask them to score so that an aggregate can be formed. We do this to avoid vote fixing. We select a group of different people to do this, specifically. We also do these at different times to each other, but please be patient. No news is good news.
Fairness is where it’s at. We don’t make rules to hinder people. We make them to try to enable a platform. I enjoy getting prizes together (thanks again to our sponsors) but I enjoy seeing people comment and rate the jams among themselves more. Once again, thanks so much to everyone who submitted and all those who stood on the sidelines showing encouragement.
We’d like to humbly dedicate this release to Peter Swimm, and thank him for all of the work he’s put into TCTD for the past 5 years. This one’s for you, buddy.
57 artists come together on this epic compilation. Judges and competitors from the LSDJ Showdown, BRKfest performers, and a ton of special guests. We’ll let you finish, but this is the greatest compilation of all time. OF ALL TIME.
I just kinda stumbled across it on the internet. I had discovered MIDINES first, and had wanted to use it in my band or something, I don’t quite remember. Somehow my interest in that eventually led to LSDJ, Nanoloop, 8bc, chipmusic.org, and all that mess.
How did it feel to win the LSDJ Showdown?
Felt good! I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, there were a lot of really great tracks entered. Seems like it ended up being pretty close. Regardless, I’m excited to mess around with that MIDIboy!
Tell me about the track you entered.
Its been in progress since the beginning of 2012. Desolate Time was essentially my first attempt at making a live mode track. I also was just kinda trying to see if I could emulate any of the sounds in mainstream hi-fi dance music. Honestly, I’m still making changes to it. I’ve started performing it live at CHILLBRAVE shows, and hopefully a final version will be available on the CHILLBRAVE release, whenever that happens. I think it fits better with the style PopSTAR and I have been trying to associate with CHILLBRAVE than my other solo work.
Any advice for next year’s competitors?
Find ways to use LSDJ its not meant to be used! I’d say try to avoid letting it sound too chiptune, if that makes any sense. I’ve been trying to do my best to make my game boys sound as little like game boys as I can.
How did you get so good at LSDJ? Tell us your secrets.
Practice I guess! Good mixing goes a long way. I’m not the kinda person that has any secret patches that are super awesome or anything. I’ve always been really, really liberal about my use of commands. When I write a melody, I’ll use try to imagine how a vocalist would sing it, then throw in L, E, W, V, P, K, or whatever else commands to try to make it sound like that. Silence is important! K and E have always been my two most-used commands. This might be getting a little out of the realm of LSDJ, and simply into composing in general, but good phrasing is INCREDIBLY important in creating a memorable melody! Silence is just as important as the notes!
Is college really better than highschool?
Yes! Especially if you study something you love. I’m studying music technology. My program only has about 30 people in my class (including PopSTAR). It is pretty awesome to have such a great source of really, really constructive criticism for music. I’ve learned a lot so far.
How did you like Blipfest this year?
Loved it! Personally, I really regret missing Blip 2011. This year had a lot of new names for me though, and I found some new artists I’m really getting into!
How did you get there?
Took the Bolt bus from Baltimore. That’s always fun…
What’s next for you?
Just gonna try to get through this summer and work. I’m back in Maryland for the rest of the summer, then it’s back to New York!
How’s the chiptune scene in Maryland?
There’s actually a decent amount of us in the MD/DC/VA/WV area, but we are so spread out that it is really difficult to get a big group together for shows. Usually we just end up hopping in on DIY shows with punk or math rock bands or playing shows with local DJs. Byte Nyte happened for a while, but I think it became difficult for us to bring in a good variety of performers. Good venues are hard to come by too, especially in Baltimore. It’s not like Philadelphia or New York where the majority of the scene lives in the city. Most of live out in the suburbs, or even way out in rural areas.
There used to be a local monthly DIY music festival called Fredrock. It started in November 2009 (before I was into chipmusic) and I went to all of them except the February 2010 one. Trey played at that one, and I remember looking up the performers and listening to his stuff and never even realized it was game boy music. Anyway, I totally forgot about all that for a long time. I got into chipmusic in March 2010, and a few months later (I think it was May 2010), I went to Fredrock again. Trey was playing, but I had completely forgotten about him and I guess I didn’t know him from 8bc at that point either, because I was completely surprised when I saw him walk up on stage with game boys. I had already done a decent amount of composing in LSDJ, and was pretty blown away by Trey’s set. I walked up afterwards, said something like, “so, was that all LSDJ?” He was surprised that I knew the program. We didn’t talk for months after that, but I kept composing in LSDJ. In October 2010, Companion <3 (now CompyCore) found Trey and I and set up the ORIGINAL BRKfest in Thurmont, MD. It was really small… Trey, Compy, and I played. 8bit_chris also showed up. He later became known as DJCATS, then Daedalus, and now Datacats. After that, Trey and I teamed up and started playing a bunch of split sets around Maryland and West Virginia. We actually just did another one (possibly our last one?) just last week at an old venue we used to play at a lot.
He seems to think he’d beat you in a fight, any truth to that?
When did you first start writing chiptunes? What formats do you use?
I started in early 2008. It wasn’t something that I discovered and immediately loved, it took a bit of time. My social group were heavily into Sabrepulse, but it wasn’t until I discovered Firebrand Boy that I decided it was something I wanted to explore. Hearing his track “The End” was my turning point. I contacted Philip briefly about joining Firebrand Boy as a guitarist, but that didn’t go beyond an exchange of e-mails. I picked up a Game Boy early on, but now, I’m using Renoise with Plogue Chipsounds. I’m not a big fan of ‘chip’ drum sounds, so I’m going for a retro sound with a modern approach. Chipsounds has been my software discovery of the year, and I’d strongly recommend that anyone reading checks it out.
Which artists do you admire? Chiptune and vanilla-based bands.
I don’t really listen to a great deal of chiptune, but the people that I admire most in the scene are local artists like Edward Shallow and Comptroller. They are so talented and proactive about their art. I was extremely lucky that I was surrounded by very original chiptune artists, and I feel that made me push harder with my own work.
Outside of chiptune, Bad Religion were my first love. I was the kid that knew all the local record store owners by name, and I’d spend my time flicking through the racks of used CDs looking for those Epitaph or Fat Wreck labels. I loved Bad Religion particularly because of their vocalist Greg Graffin, as he was a musician AND a scholar. He made me realise that you don’t need to choose between your passions, and that you can pursue them all at once if you work hard enough. That’s something I live by to this day.
You’ve made records on vinyl before. What’s the idea behind taking something digital and putting it on such a classic format?
I made the Sycamore Drive 7” record to sell at Ultrachip, the yearly Scottish chiptune festival in Edinburgh. I’d fallen in love with the format, and I found someone online that could lathe-cut records, which meant I could order any quantity I wanted – a huge saving over the traditional pressing plants if you only wanted a small quantity. It was purely motivated by wanting to do something that I thought was cool, and would excite people at the festival.
Speaking of formats, you seem to range from retro all the way up to digital distribution, contributing to iPhone and Xbox. Tell us a little bit about that and how you got into it. What experiences did you gain?
I got into writing for video games from seeing developers posting on chiptune forums looking for composers. I sent away a few demos, and people started putting those songs in their games. There are at least 4 iPhone games out this year featuring music I’ve written. I’ve kept doing it because I love supporting the indie games community, and the arts scene generally. I release all of my music via Creative Commons, so now it’s more about developers finding me than actively looking for projects myself. The work I’m most proud of was a soundtrack to a game that was never finished with a developer that works for Bungie. You can see a preview of the battle mode of the unreleased game here:
You’re from Scotland right? There seems to be quite a few chiptuners milling around up there. How does the unusually harsh climate effect your writing style?
I am from Scotland, yeah. I think I’m one of the few people that really likes it when it rains. For composing, I find that the bad weather helps, as everyone tends to go inside and be quiet for a change, and I don’t work well in a noisy environment.
Whilst hunting you down for blackmail material I notice Sycamore Drive is a location in Scotland. Are you named so because this place holds fond memories?
Actually, when I was formulating a plan for what to do next musically after my band broke up, I looked up from my notepad and the words Sycamore and Drive flashed on the little screen that tells you what street you’re on (I was somewhere between Sycamore Crescent and Lavender Drive, hence, Sycamore Drive). I’ve always liked the name, as it didn’t (to me) give away any indication of musical style, and I hadn’t decided yet as to what kind of music I was going to do on my own. There are many non-chiptune Sycamore Drive releases that I really hope you don’t find anywhere. There are purely guitar-based records, and bad electronica records online under that name.
Is chiptune all completely about nostalgia, or is is something more?
For me, chiptune isn’t about nostalgia at all. It was about convenience, and about producing music independently of other musicians and producers. As a student, I spent about 3 hours a day on public transport, and I always wanted to find new ways to use that time effectively. Chiptune has always been a shortcut, I didn’t need to sit and think about instruments, levels, microphone placement, etc. I could just sit down and write a song. That’s exactly what I needed.
Have you been busking with your gameboy? How did that go for you?
I’ve been busking a few times, including the infamous time with Tin Foil Hat Brigade in Edinburgh when that old lady stood and shouted at him until he stopped (you can watch our very different experiences in the same location – Sycamore Drive and Tin Foil Hat Brigade. My favourite busking experience was with Edward Shallow in Glasgow, when we decided to busk in the city centre. We had those little Marshall amps hooked up in stereo, and it was pouring with rain. We noticed someone banging on the inside of a window in a bar to get our attention. He then came outside to speak to us. He asked if we could “program music on those things”, then asked if we could program the song Happy Birthday on it, and then come and play it in the bar for his mate who was celebrating his inside. So, now I’m standing in the rain getting soaked, with a Game Boy without a backlight, trying to work out all the right notes to Happy Birthday. After about 5 minutes, I’ve got it down. We go in, play it, the people in the bar all cheer and clap, and the appreciative people give us loads of food to take away with us. We gave it all to the first homeless guy we could find. It was a great experience.
You talked about writing new material after placing in the LSDJ showdown finalists. What’s new in store from you? What can we expect from Sycamore Drive?
I was really pleased to make the final in 2012 with a song I wrote in 2009. I find it to be strange though, as when I originally released those songs, no-one took any interest at all; but when I had Heikki Sillanpaa (DKSTR) create some beautiful new artwork, and I remastered those releases, it was a completely different story. That made me realise that it had been quite some time since I’d released anything more than a couple of songs, as I’m still taking credit for work from 3 years ago. I’m going to make time to work on new material, but I currently have no release plans.
If you had a tartan, what would it be?
It’d be all black, so I could wear it without anyone ever knowing.
The results of the NoiChan LSDJ Showdown are in. A very special and heartfelt thanks goes out to all of our amazing judges. A complete accounting of the runners up, how the finalists were chosen, and the scoring process can be found here. All of the prizes from the Bazaar and Showdown will be mailed shortly.
The first LSDJ Showdown was before NoiChan even existed. It was held on Mikee’s old site, which hosted a videogame podcast. The site was controllerthrow.com (now defunct) and the event was known as the CTUK LSDJ Showdown.
We had 35 entries, which we narrowed down to 10 finalists. We ended up having a tie for 3rd place, right down to the decimal, which resulted in 4 winners instead of the 3 we had planned for originally.
We’ve officially done interviews with all 10 of our judges for this year’s LSDJ Showdown. You can read them by using the links above, or you can find them elsewhere online by following the links below:
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.
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.
Ralp will be releasing a new album soon, right here on NoiChan.
Today’s contest is ANOTHER MIKEE PHOTOSHOP CONTEST!! The object is to find pictures of Mikee Teevee online, and paste his face in awesome places. The winner will recieve 1 modders kit, including backlight, prosound, and underclocking kits. The deadline for submission 8AM Eastern (GMT-5), on Wednesday, May 9th (tomorrow).
This week’s contest is a dubstep contest. Contestants can use any software they want, or any effects. The idea is to just make the best dubstep (or dubstep influenced) song. Please limit entries to 6minutes or 10MB, and use .mp3 format. The winner will recieve 1 64MB EMS Cartridge. All contestants will have the opportunity to be released on a dubstep compilation on our netlabel. The deadline for submission is 11 PM, Eastern time (GMT-5), on Tuesday, May 15th.
Our main event is of course, the NoiChan LSDJ Showdown. This event will run all month. This is an LSDJ songwriting competition. We have 10 amazing judges, and 3 winners will receive awesome prizes. The deadline for submission 3AM, Eastern (GMT-5), on Friday, Jun 1st.
Today’s contest is a Mikee Teevee photoshop competition. The object is to find pictures of Mikee Teevee online, and paste his face in awesome places. The winner will recieve 1 modders kit, including backlight, prosound, and underclocking kits. The deadline for submission 6AM Eastern (GMT-5), on Wednesday, May 2nd (tomorrow).
This week’s contest is a banner contest. We are looking for Bazaar themed material. Anything involving circuses, carnivals, theme parks, performance art, clowns, jesters, showtunes, and things like that. Be creative. Feel free to include text, such as but not limited to: “Bazaar”, “NoiChan”, “noisechannel.org” or the dates of the NoiChan Bazaar (May 1st – 31st). 2 winners will be selected by NoiChan staff and announced next Tuesday. Each winner will receive 1 64MB EMS Smart Cart. The deadline for submission is 11PM, Eastern time (GMT-5), on Tuesday, May 8th.
Our main event is of course, the NoiChan LSDJ Showdown. This event will run all month. This is an LSDJ songwriting competition. We have 10 amazing judges, and 3 winners will receive modified gameboys. The deadline for submission 3AM, Eastern (GMT-5), on Friday, Jun 1st (one month from today).
Bubu was a finalist in the first ever LSDJ Showdown and will serve as a judge in the second. Now Bubu takes us through the wall, to lands of cotton candy clouds and peppermint rainbows, with this emotive and heartfelt release.
On Tuesday, May 1st, NoiChan will be kicking off a month long birthday celebration. There will be contests, prizes, raffles, multiplayer gaming, movie nights, webshows, and a whole lot more. We will also be hosting the 2nd annual LSDJ Showdown, with bigger prizes than last year and an all-star line-up of judges. We are calling this event the NoiChan Chiptune Bazaar. More info on the LSDJ Showdown can be found here.
Everything kicks off one week from today, Tuesday, May 1st, and will continue through the entire month of May.
Events like this are made possible by your donations. We are still very much in need of funds, for 3 more years of NoiChan, and for all sorts of exciting prizes and features. Please take a moment to donate some funds, every cent will be spent on NoiChan. We still have a while to go before we reach our goal of $1000.