Week 24 and we're back in the US, getting a healthy serving of Chipthrash from Optimus Chad. Grab the track here!
WT: What was your first introduction to the chiptune scene?
Optimus Chad: I grew up with a Nintendo so playing through those games gave me a certain affection for the music. Games like Duck Tales, Batman and The Legend of Zelda had really killer soundtracks that I never forgot. I then found metal bands who covered various game tunes but that wasn't enough until I did some search on the internet and last.fm and found people who actually used the old game hardware to make the music. It was then that I found Wizwars and began listening to his music pretty heavily. Then I found Bubblegum Octopus, Kool Skull, then eventually the 8bitpeoples stuff. Wizwars' Gameboy Rock and Kool Skull's Gunk are still my 2 favourite chip releases of all time.
WT: Is that love of Kool Skull what prompted your delving into chipthrash or are there other factors behind that focus?
OC: Kool Skull's style made me feel at home with chiptune because his style is just doing whatever the fuck you want. When I first started doing this I had no reference to dance music at all and what I was hearing was a lot of dance music so I was worried that no one would really care to listen to anything that was coming from my Gameboy. So whenever I felt down about an aggressive track I would listen to Kool Skull and his limitless freedom on his music and it made me feel like I was still making good songs. I also think my background of a strict hardcore and death metal diet pushed me to have more aggressive songs. I never sat down at my Gameboy and said to myself consciously that I want to write metal music on a Gameboy and I still don't. As corny as it sounds I just start writing and let the song take me where it is going to go. I also write what I think sounds good and what I would like to hear. Bands like Pathology, Terror, Bury Your Dead, Cannibal Corpse and Killswitch Engage fuel some of my "standards" and rhythm patterns.
I think if you listen to my first 2 releases through pxl-bot you can hear the chipthrash sound and how raw it is. Fast forward to now and the Riley Rust record and I think you are hearing a 8-bit hardcore band who still very much loves Kool Skull.
WT: Talking of Riley Rust, what prompted the shift to vocals?
OC: I did a small part on the Ghost Servant's first release through Datathrash Rage and it came out awesome. Then Wizwars mentioned he was looking for vocals and lyrics for a song so I stepped up to do that. After we played that song together live at BlipFest and I got such a warm response from the crowd I figured it was time to actually do it. I have always been inspired by hardcore bands. The first song I wrote was Colors. After that it just all came together.
WT: Could you explain your involvement in Datathrash Recordings and how that came about?
OC: When I first started writing music I saw all the artist I really liked such as Shitbird, Kool Skull, Wizwars and Timeheater are on that label so of course I felt if I was any good at what I did then that is where I had to be. Pxl-bot was the first label as you know to take me in which I am forever grateful for and it also got the attention of a lot of people. So I messaged Arnie and worked on a full length album called Feedback Warrior. Fast-forward in time and all of us Datathrash homies were at blip and we all got along so well it was like we knew each other for a long time and I think it was there that Arnie saw that I would be capable to help with the label. I help with ideas for promotion and if you send in a demo chances are I have heard it. Arnie will say it his and my label but as far as I am concerned it his haha. He is the man when it comes to a true passion for chipmusic. He is far less discriminatory than me when it comes to chip music. He is also quiet the chip artist himself although he won't admit it.
As far as the future of Datathrash we just launched our first release on iTunes with Kool Skull and his new album Garbage Thrash. And we plan to have future releases on iTunes. Our ultimate goal would be worldwide distribution for the artist on the label and not for monetary gain but so artists who deserve to be listened to can be. I am also a firm believer in free music and Arnie is too so we will have options for people who can't afford or just want free chip music so keep your eyes peeled!
I am truly blessed when it comes to what I have done in such a short time of my chiptune career. I love Datathrash always will. Datathrash for fucking ever
WT: What went into your WeeklyTreat track?
OC: A love of Power Rangers and aggression. Fans of the series should get some of the humour.
WT: In your eyes, what is the state of the chiptune scene today?
OC: I think the chiptune scene is doing well. A lot of people freaked when blipfest took a hiatus but I think it is a healthy thing. Now we will hear more honest and unique music and not so much of the "I wanna get to blip so I will make dance music" . Not that blip only recognized dance. Blip was really good to the chipthrash last year. For my style of music I think I am still too much for most and I am slowly gaining ears. And I think the scene is still honest and good. Look all of the artists on the label!
WT: You’re also one half of the collaborative effort Prime Thunder, how did this come about and what are the influences behind it?
OC: Thunderface and I got to know each other through facebook. I love his music and his self-titled release so I asked him if he would like to make an album together as a "band". I was influenced by Shitbird and Kool Skull's split they did together where they made songs a minute long so I figured we could make songs 30 seconds long. His are named after Pokémon mine are named after Ninja Turtle Characters. We basically wanted to make a beatdown chip album. Fun story about the cover: The guy who has done most of my artwork I worked with at the time and I asked him to make a drawing that looked like a kid did it. He is a perfectionist so to make something look like shit took more effort for him. I stopped him before he got too detailed and took it and spilled juice and cereal on it. It took 5 minutes to get the cover done.
WT: Would you say nostalgia is a big influence in your music (from the Transformers samples to the TMNT references), or do other factors influence both your sound and your aesthetics?
OC: Early on yeah cartoons from the 80s heavily influenced my imagination for song writing and a lot of my childhood still influences me like this song red ranger but with the addition of vocals I can communicate more serious issues. Like relationships, religion and straight edge. I try to keep the message open so the songs can mean something more than what I was thinking or feeling. I am working on yet another full length that I am taking a lot of time on. This one will be more serious and after the Riley Rust record and getting to know my voice I can apply it better and some layering maybe even some clean vocals.
WT: Anymore you can tell us about the new record? Tentative titles, musical influences or release dates?
OC: It is funny because I was thinking about all this on the drive in to work. As far as a release date goes I have none in mind but at the earliest Halloween and if not then it might not be until next year sometime. I really want to make this the one where people forget I am using a Gameboy and listen to it as music as a whole. The original working title was going to be Fantasy Violence but I think this one is going to be completely serious and talk about tougher subjects and my personal reflection on society. My influences for this record would be bands like Pathology, Brutality, Skinless and I am really digging the new Killswitch Engage album so I am sure that will play a role in some of the sound. Also expect some new vocal styles and maybe some clean singing.
WT: And finally, what are your future plans for ‘Optimus Chad’ besides the new release? Any upcoming shows or projects you can tease us with?
OC: I will prob do a small amount of local shows and I got some collaborations planned to in the meantime. Until then sit tight and keep your ears peeled for some exciting brutal stuff by yours truly.
I would just like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way on this fun journey. You included Andrew. The chip scene is a beautiful place where people still care about the music and helping each other out. So many artists I look up to were really just a click away and some have become very close friends. I love chip music and it will always live in my heart.