Friday, 11 January 2013

WeeklyTreats #02| Michael Television- Sweet Potato Queen

Week Two and we're not slowing down, this week giving you a track from NoiseChannel's own Michael Television!!!

WT: What was your first contact with chiptune as a genre or as a community?

Michael Television: Growing up in England I knew older boys who were actually coding games for the Spectrum. My first understanding of recognising there was a 'face' behind music on games was when I made a connection between old Ariston commercials and the Robocop soundtrack. I would tape my favourite 'chiptunes' and listen to them on headphones. 

Then there was a hiatus of about 20 years. I got back into it because when I was recording a gaming podcast, my partner Dr Benway had some mad Amiga love and was always playing me his favourites. I knew people were making music on gameboys as far back as when I watched DJ Scotch Egg. I was aware. I was just....doing other things. I reached out to a guy called Freque for an interview about his split with Awesome Force and he approached me because I was the only one trying to get behind the mask of the musicians in chip in that way. He literally hounded me to get on to chip and one day a prosound DMG showed up on my desk.

WT: So would you say your journey into chiptune originated from the involvement of chiptune’s community?
MT: Absolutely. It was like...I knew it was there bubbling away and never really cared until I started to talking to people and it was like being sucked in by proxy. So many fans of chiptune end up writing chiptune and so it was true for me.

WT: I’m sure most readers of this will be aware of your involvement with NoiChan. What do you do there and how did you come to do it?
MT: Anything that is asked of me mostly and anything I think needs doing. There's a lot to do for the most part. Generate content. Listen to album submissions. Judge contests. Keep an ear to the ground. Support artists. Make t-shirt designs. Assist with testing. It all really depends on what the focus is at the time. It would be nice if we could have people step forward and take on some roles for us sometimes. There's a surprisingly large amount of the mundane that needs to be done and we thrive on enthusiasm. 
As for getting involved. It's completely down to Freque. His absolute persistence and belief in me led me down this road and so far. He was convinced I'd be of some use to the scene and I hope he was right. I've met some wicked people and partied with them and heard some fantastic, mind blowing music. I'm very lucky.

WT: What artists have influenced your music from within and outside the chiptune scene?
MT: I grew up on a lot of new wave and then a little later, sample based electronica and rock music. Kind of like, Pop Will Eat Itself, Jesus Jones and the like, but I had some really open minded music friends. They showed me everything. My style is definitely eclectic because it's all just this melting pot for me, I start to sabotage it a bit if I'm caught being too linear. I'm a terrible band member. I've always had a penchant for the experimental. I approach it like a creative tool rather than an instrument because I'm simply not a classical musician by any means. Inside the chiptune scene I've been massively influenced by stuff like Jellica's PEEDEETWO, Galaxy Wolf,  Starpilot's Dye My Hair With Gasoline, hunterquinn, and I'd been given tips on drums personally by Freque and AndaruGo, which they probably don't realise I've taken both their separate advice and fused them into my own latin-style beats. I love Cheapshot too, but as you can imagine, I take these sounds and smash them all up.

WT: That’s quite a range! Could you tell us a bit about what went into ‘Sweet Potato Queen’ in terms of production and influence?
MT: Well, the thing with Sweet Potato Queens is, it went through a few processes until I was happy. A sweet potato queen is another term for a southern belle. Girls from the south of the US. Traditionally known to be flirtatious yet chaste. I originally started using traditional bluegrass chords and a weird, massively off kilter beat and I wanted to create something more driving, so I swapped it all up and drove it, again in this kind of latin beat/steel-drum and bass sound heavily influenced by Spankrock's 'Rick Rubin' I basically wanted to write an ode to southern girls that they can shake their asses to. As my girlfriend fits into that category, it's for her, basically. 
The fuzz sound is a hand-built component by a couple of guys I know who put together their own unit. We've been in talks of putting out a small line of ltd edition gameboys with the fuzz pedal built right into the unit, which means I'm gonna endlessly create a list of commissioned pieces for myself. I've put together about 7 custom gameboys and a SNES now and have a long list ahead of me. I should probably open some kind of deviantart account or something.

WT: Speaking of your customisations, would you like to tell us a bit more about what you do and who you do it for in that aspect?
MT: Well, I was encouraged early on to pick myself up a soldering iron and get cracking with backlights and pro-sounds on gameboys. It's actually the last thing I attempted. When I was much younger, I used to have a job painting prototype toys that were made from resin or really opposite colours (trying to paint something bright pink when it was originally molded in army green) so I was pretty pumped about painting some. I came across Thretris' work pretty early on and I thought 'that's amazing, but I want to be as good or better than that' which of course is the highest compliment I could ever pay anyone because I think the guy is pretty much world class at this stuff and that's like setting the precedent. I've painted three shells for NeX right now and working on a clear Kitsch shell with a clear design on the inside for AndaruGO. I'm now moving into making the mods too, but I'm into making arguably the sweetest and cleanest mods available. I'm not about just buying up some components and slamming them together and selling them. I like to sit down and design something from the beginning and work it into a piece of art. It's not a piece of art, obviously, it's a fucking painted gameboy, but I want people to at least be blown away by them.

WT: And Finally, have you got any sneak previews of what is coming next in the world of Michael Television?
MT: I fly out to the states and I'll be there when this track drops where I hope to play some and have some fun with my friends. I'm gonna finish up some mods while I'm out there, but for now, I'm just trying to line up a load of things. I was hoping to drop a pure LSDJ release of about 6-7 tracks and make a full blown record of the same tracks with vocals, guitars, drums, but of course life is something that happens while you're making plans. The idea is that the LSDJ album is free, but if you donate a certain amount I'll send you a record of the 'second' release. That's in the works, essentially. Thanks for putting out the release and of course to anyone who downloads it and listens to it.