Friday, 11 October 2013

Week #41| Matthew Joseph Payne- Quintation

Week 41: And this week we're brining you a track from Glowing Star Matthew Joseph Payne (please excuse the vile pun). Chiptune, piano and some banjo: we're going high class this week. Grab the track here

WT: How did you first come into contact with the chiptune scene?

Matthew Joseph Payne: In high school, I played way too many instruments and gadgets in a band called Formerly Bridgeway. On one song - a rap about Mega Man - I provided interludes between verses by playing synths over parts of the music from Mega Man II for Game Boy, literally by playing the game during the verses to cue up the music and SFX I needed. Someone saw me doing this and told me "hey, there's this neat thing called LSDJ…". This was around 2001, so pretty early on in the modern LSDJ era of the chiptune scene. I ordered a cart, as you did in those days, and pumped out a few tunes, including one that also involved a "Fishing for Phonics" toy that I performed live at a music camp. I then summarily forgot about LSDJ for 10 years. At this point I had no clue whatsoever that there was any kind of community or scene surrounding this stuff.

When Lizzie Cuevas and I decided to start "a band that has something to do with videogames", I dusted off my LSDJ cart and re-taught myself how to program it. When that band became The Glowing Stars, Lizzie met Morgan (of Crashfaster) and introduced us and that was literally my first introduction to the "chiptune scene" proper, in 2010 I think.

WT: What methods go into a composition of yours?

MJP: My methods are extremely haphazard. Some work starts out as pencil on paper, some from an idea improvised on an acoustic instrument (banjo or piano, typically) and others from LSDJ noodlings, which I'll sometimes keep on my "in progress" cart for years. Before any piece hits any kind of public forum, it generally sees all three of those settings.

WT: What influences, musically, both from within and external to the chip scene, have been prevalent in your music?

MJP: I'm heavily influenced by performative, song or composition based groups or artists. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Yes, Mr. Bungle and the like are big time, long-term influences. I have a soft spot for 70's progressive rock in general. Within the scene I'm seriously inspired by the likes of The J. Arthur Keenes Band, Fucking Werewolf Asso and my good friends Awkward Terrible. More recently I've been a little too obsessed with the debut albums by Seal of Quality and Crying. I wouldn't say that any of them have necessarily inspired my writing, but I'm really moved by the way they use chipmusic sounds in a greater context.

WT: How do your working relationships with artists such as Slime Girls and Ap0c come about?

MJP: Being able to notate my music has opened a lot of doors.

I met Pedro (of Slime Girls) before the band really got started, when he was asking me for advice on writing drum and noise channel parts that coexist well, based on my work in TGS. I see him all the time and we're huge fans of each other's music, so collaborations are natural. I've hopped onstage to play trombone with them a few times, and I provided a horn section for him at a GDC show on a night when I'd already hired a couple sax players to do another gig in SF. We're working on a collaboration, but progress is slow - probably a mixture of co-written songs and my horn arrangements on their tunes.

When I got booked for 8static, ap0c literally approached me out of the blue and offered to sit in with me. It was awesome! He's such a pro, I literally emailed him a dropbox link to a bunch of bass and bass trombone charts and we had about a half hour rehearsal before the show started; that was it. Now he's doing some tracking for my next record, and I'm really really excited to have him! He and I have a lot in common it turns out, backgrounds in sound design and an interest in its theory and study - not to mention a Western classical music background to boot. Most people hide behind big instruments like the tuba, but he really exudes energy when he's playing, which I just love!

WT: You play live often and in many forms, could you walk us through some of these?

MJP: My first live forays as Matthew Joseph Payne involved a variety of mixed ensembles including oboe, cello, doom guitar, brass, percussionists and rock band elements. I finally settled on LSDJ and banjo as my default core instrumentation, and from there I stack on musicians as they are available or appropriate for certain gigs. I have a pair of sax players that I call on often, I have string trio arrangements for many of my songs, and I've been really lucky to nab a couple of fantastic clarinettists who I've been working with a bunch. I keep a big score for every song and print out slightly adjusted parts depending on who's playing a particular gig. I've got a solid backing of people locally now, so I can pull off fun and reasonably organized shows with a modicum of rehearsal time.

WT: Classical music seems to be incredibly important to your chiptune output, how and in what ways has it been an influence on your output?

MJP: My writing background is academic, albeit not particularly traditional. Lately I've been enjoying a lot of opportunities to cross my chipmusic writing over into the classical world - I've done a couple commissions now for flutist Meerenai Shim and her group A/B Duo - flute and percussion - which have been getting very positive responses. I'm working on a piece for brass trio and LSDJ right now which I think is going to be a lot of fun… mostly I'm trying not to think about the genre divides involved and just write what seems right for the artist, whether it's me, or a commissioner, or a friend's group. Allow the art speak first.

WT: You also do live visuals, what are your influences there and how do you create them?

MJP: I'm coming straight out of the "nocarrier tradition" if you will, physically modifying game console hardware to generate glitches. I also use some of his software utilities for the NES to create custom graphics for most of the groups I do viz for, which has been a lot of fun. I've got a pretty consistent rig I use for shows backing up musicians, with a circuit bent NES and Genesis 3, a wireless camera and a feedback loop through a video mixer. I have some things I've built that give me either manual or automatic control over the glitches, and I try to play them like an instrument, and perform along with the band. Eliot Lash created this thing called Triggerboy based on trash80's Arduinoboy code that I use to turn my banana patch point glitches on and off in response to audio or LSDJ clock signals. I basically owe everything else I'm doing to nocarrier, but my artistic process and results are pretty different.

WT: What went into creating your WeeklyTreat?

MJP: 1xLSDJ, banjo, and a few seconds of piano. Somewhere in the piano track you can probably hear my wife washing dishes and my toddler running around. The middle section that alternates between 5/4 and 6/4 feels was written first, then much of the rest resulted from my recent experiments trying to start with simple figures (like the scalar pentatonic figure played by the banjo in the intro) and develop from there.

WT: What have you got in store for the future?

MJP: A lot! A/B Duo will be releasing my 10 minute piece for them as part of an EP soon, The International Low Brass Trio is set to debut my piece for them later this year, I have an album in the works for next year, and I have projects involving Jay Tholen, Slime Girls, Curious Quail, and a whole host of collaborators on the horizon. I'm also working on a score for a PC game on Steam Greenlight called Point Perfect. I've done some game design work before, but this is my first complete score and design for a game and I'm really enjoying it! It's definitely something I'd like to build on.