Week 40: And so our final quarter begins! The first of the 'Last Thirteen' is GameChops owner and VGM remixer DJ Cutman! Grab the track here and see you next week!
WT: How did you first become aware of chiptune?
DJ Cutman: 8bitcollective.com, I went to the site almost every day. I loved the fact that there was a weekly top 10 chart; it made it easy to learn who were some of the best chiptune musicians and track down more of their music.
WT: Why Cutman?
DJ C: It was a nickname I got while working in a recording studio for cutting audio tracks by eye. It was only after I started DJing that it developed into the video game reference that it is. To this day my workflow is still consists of a lot of editing and "cutting."
WT: What prompted the DJing aspect of your output?
DJ C: My first DJ gig was a favour to my friend who was having an 8-Bit art show. He knew I collected video game music and chiptune, so he asked me to play a set at his opening party. I spent 2 weeks with ableton building a set, went out, and stressfully played what I had prepared. After that, I was hooked. As scary as it was to get up there, I've always loved sharing music with people, and DJing is a time-honoured way of doing that.
WT: You play live often, could you give us a rundown of your favourite gigs and why?
DJ C: MAGfest was the first convention I went to, and really the single event that set me on this path. It's when I first realized that there was a big group of people who liked the same kind of music that I did, so it will always be close to my heart. Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) was the first con I where I attended and just DJ'd in the hallways for hours. I've got a lot of experience performing by just playing at conventions for hours in hallways and hotel rooms.
WT: How did GameChops come about?
DJ C: GameChops started as the title of my first remix album, because I was literally taking small samples or "chops" of game music and making beats out of them. It wasn't until 2012 when I had made a lot of musician friends that I realized the need for a group who produced high quality video game dance music. I had originally planned for all GameChops releases to be free, but when Triforce of Bass hit #1 on Bandcamp, I knew the demand for this kind of stuff was real, so I began to license our remixes as cover songs. Now you can find all GameChops releases on iTunes!
WT: Could you talk a bit about your involvement in the World 1-2 project please?
DJ C: Mohammed Taher of Koopa Soundworks reached out to me with an idea; he wanted to create a video game remix album that also encompassed original work by video game composers. And not just American composers and remixers, artists from all over the world. The whole gamut of video game musicians. I helped Mohammed develop this idea; I provided feedback on song and artist selection, facilitated licensing, auditioned mixes and masters, and did a ton of promotion for World 1-2. The success of the album was so great; Koopa Soundworks is now its own independently running label. It's very humbling to help with an idea and then see it grow so rapidly into its own entity. I'm very grateful that Mohammed chose me to help develop World 1-2, it was an awesome experience.
WT: You also have ties to the Chiptune=Win project, could you give us a background on how that came about please?
DJ C: BRANDON L. HOOD, we've been friends since we crashed in the same hotel room at Blip Festival 2011... I think. I don't remember how the professional relationship started; it's all a blur of punctuation and capital letter enthusiasm. But basically, I undertook the tremendous task of mastering of Chiptunes = Win Vol. 1, and since then I've been President Hoodie's go-to mastering guy. It's been an honour to have the opportunity to master some of the best chiptune artists in the world, thanks to ChipWIN. \m| <3 |m/
WT: You have a fair few albums, which of these was most enjoyable to create and why?
DJ C: I would have to say Wii U Grooves was my favourite album I've put together so far. I bought the WiiU on launch day, and I get it home, power it on and (of course) there's a 2-3 hour update. So in that time, I'm listening to the little Nintendo jingle that’s playing while I clean my studio, and I think "I should sample this". So while it's still updating, I set up my Pro Tools rig and sample the shitty RCA output on my old, giant CRT TV. The signal was noisy and there were weird buzzing frequencies from the tube in the TV. I was able to get it into Ableton and notch out the buzzing, which left these sonic holes that fit perfectly with my drum samples. Before the update was done, I had made a beat that I was now playing instead of the built-in jingle. Since the WiiU had virtually no games at the time of launch, I went through the rest of the menus sampling, and spent that entire week making beats out of it. The whole album was completed in roughly 6 days. I set up a special checklist of instruments to use in each track so it all sounded cohesive. I theorize that because the whole album was done in such a short time, I didn't have the time to nit-pick or second guess any of my mixing decisions. It was a very fluid experience, and I'm still happy with the results today.
WT: What did you use to create your WeeklyTreat?
DJ C: I used Magical 8-bit as my primary synth in Ableton. Drums are a simple 808 kit (not the 4-bit LSDJ version though ;) The noise you can hear in the background is a field recording of my studio with the windows open, compressed to hell and EQ'd. I thought it added a nice "spaciness" and helped filled out the Magical 8-Bit sounds. The arpeggios are automated, and note order changes throughout the song. Lastly, the piano that comes in at the end is a sampled Rhodes MK I, which turns out sounds beautiful alongside fake-bit arps. Who knew?
WT: What musicians, from the chip scene, VGM scene and outside, influence your music?
DJ C: Just about everybody who either gets up on stage or posts music online. I'm particular in awe of people like UltraSyd, Chibi-Tech, and Electric Children for making such accessible dance music with a chiptune medium. I also love chilled out stuff like Smiletron and Breakbeat Heartbeat.
WT: What does the future hold for you?
DJ C: More music!