WT: First off, how and when did you first come into contact with the chiptune scene?
Decktonic: Years ago I discovered a few chiptunes artists via 8bitpeoples. I remember listening to a lot of David Sugar and little-scale on my iPod. The song that really stuck with me was "Come Back To Me" from little-scale's Error Repeat EP.
WT: Have little-scale and David Sugar been a large influence on your work, or do you draw inspiration from elsewhere?
D: little-scale and David Sugar just got me interested in the scene. My work has been heavily inspired by Daft Punk, Danger, Shinichi Osawa, Henry Homesweet, HarleyLikesMusic, Anthony Seeha, Disasterpeace, KODEK, Cheapshot, ???, Lone, Akufen, Machinedrum, and Strip Steve.
WT: You also do DJ work, what inspired this route of output?
D: I have wanted to be a DJ since I was a teenager. This was an interest of mine long before I considered producing. Growing up in Miami, DJ culture was very prominent. I always dreamed of being a club DJ. I guess the two factors that attracted me are the influence a DJ can have over a crowd and being considered a tastemaker for making good song selections.
WT: Could you take us a through a brief overview of your past releases please?
D: I'll just cover the major EPs and albums that I've done in the past few years. On December 7, 2011, I self-released my first EP, "Dark Mode." This was a follow-up to a single of mine that was included on the Pxl-Bot singles compilation earlier that year. All 5 songs were made entirely with the KORG DS10. It was the first attempt I made at establishing my own sound as a producer; raw, gritty dance music with a lot of bass. The response was a lot better than I expected, which encouraged me to continue working with the DS10.
On March 3, 2012, I released my second EP, "All My Robot Friends," on NoiChan. This was a heavier dubstep & electro EP, all 5 songs again made entirely with the KORG DS10. Admittedly, this was one of my weakest releases; while I had managed to develop some cool sounds with the DS10, the songs were unpolished and lacked the finesse that I think good dance music actually requires.
After All My Robot Friends I was lacking direction for my next project until a series of unfortunate events motivated me to write a very emotional album "Stars" which I self-released on June 27, 2012. This album featured a mix of styles using mostly the DS10 and also introducing Nanoloop for iOS. At the time I was writing Stars, I was dealing with a lot of anger and frustration and I chose music as my outlet. Most of the songs are extremely angry and I usually have a difficult time listening to them since they remind me so much of that time, but the last few songs represent a turning point, with the title track "Stars" being a positive, even optimistic closing song.
After Stars, I took a break from producing original content until I saw Henry Homesweet's Lo-Bit Bassment series. I was inspired to do a continuous house/techno mix written entirely with the DS10 in a straight, "stream of consciousness" approach. I ended up with a 12 minute mix made up of 3 songs which I called "Union Square." Towards the end of 2012 I wrote an album with this raw techno style, including 2 tracks from the Union Square Mix, which I called "Forgotten Machines" and released on 56kbps Records. While Stars had a story behind it, Forgotten Machines was a concept album written for the sole purpose of making a dance album with a unique sound. I tried to merge the classic analog synth sounds of the 80s with a modern "future techno" aesthetic. The result is my favourite work to date. It is also probably the last pure "chipmusic" release that I will have, since I am now incorporating or exclusively using Ableton Live for all my work.
WT: Could you tell us a bit about Love & Tonic, what it is and how it came about?
D: Love & Tonic is a netlabel that I started in 2011 to release & promote my own lo-fi dance music along with releases from other artists. At the time, not many U.S.-based netlabels were actively promoting lo-fi dance music made with something other than a Gameboy. Things have changed since then, but Love & Tonic has momentum now and I'm still releasing music on a regular basis. Jake Allison, iNanoloop extraordinaire from Oklahoma, has been a key player in helping bring great releases to the label, and this month two big releases dropped: a joint album from Jake Allison and Strong Suit, and the debut album from Ricky Brugal.
WT: Could you tell us a bit more about these releases?
D: Jake Allison informed me months ago that he was working on a split album with Strong Suit. Jake has been helping me run L&T for over a year and we've collaborated on some projects, including one track on my first album Stars and a collection of remixes all made with Nanoloop for iOS (including one from Strong Suit). Jake also helped me get tozo's debut album on the label, which I consider to be the gold standard for iNanoloop production. Jake and Strong Suit are both diehard iNanoloop devotees, besides being a couple of underrated young talents in the chip scene. Their combined effort, titled "Summer In The States," is 14 tracks of hard-hitting bass music. Their styles work very
well together and I think they have crafted a perfect example of just how intense iNanoloop can be.
Meanwhile, Ricky Brugal was sending me demos of his debut album. I've known Ricky for years, since his days as "Da Pantz," and while I've always been a fan of his work, the new material he was sending me definitely solidified for me why this is a new direction in his musical style. Ricky's new work is like cyberpunk reggaeton, and if that doesn't get you excited then I don't want to associate with you. Plus, the composition is more mature and the tracks are just all around fun to get down to. The album is called "Assorted Women" and it's a perfect fit for the L&T catalogue.
WT: Could you tell us a bit about what went into creating your WeeklyTreat?
D: Any Time Any Place was inspired by two songs: "Los Angeles" by NNNNNNNNNN and "Moe Moe Kyunstep" by chibi-tech. Each of these songs pushed their respective hardware / software in unexpected ways to create powerful dubstep sounds, and I wanted to do the same with the DS10+. Armed with a patch from Anthony Seeha, I set about modifying it and layering it until I had a mid-range dubstep lead that I was happy with (what you hear at 1:26). I ended up writing a song on top of a work in progress that I had started shortly after my first album, Stars, and I decided to go for all-out unapologetic dubstep. It's really a combination of a lot of composition and sound design techniques that I learned since I started working with the DS10, and I think it's a good example of what can be done with the software.
WT: Talking about your flagship use of DS10, what about the software made you choose it over other methods of chiptune production?
D: When I first picked up the DS10, I had no expectations. I had just heard about the software and I figured I'd try it and see what I could make with it. I eventually realized I wanted to explore the software as much as possible and try making dance music with it, but it wasn't like I went in comparing it to other software. If I didn't like it so much I probably would have dropped it for something else. I've also done a few songs with Nanoloop for iOS, which is fun but I don't like it as much as DS10, and I've taken up working with Ableton Live on my laptop, which is actually my favourite platform for music production. These days I'm mostly working with Ableton Live, incorporating plugins like Plogue Chipsounds, Razor, FM8, Massive, and a few others, and in some cases even sampling the DS10 for my Ableton productions.
WT: What have you got planned for the future of Decktonic?
D: I am currently working on a techno / electro EP with a couple collaborations featuring radionarcotix. I also have a few remixes lined up. All the production work I'm doing currently is in Ableton Live. I am also playing live shows with a dual DS10 setup running into a classic KORG KM202 (a mixer with a built-in kaoss pad) and I'm DJing a variety of styles with Traktor 2 and a Novation Twitch. I think in the future you will see more remixes and collaborations from me.