WT: What was your first introduction to the chiptune scene?
EGR: The first time I listened to music that I knew had been made using video game sounds and hardware was when someone started linking Saskrotch and Sabrepulse chipbreak tracks on ihatebreakcore.com where I used to spend an enormous amount of time. I loved that stuff and started looking around for more but the easily discoverable cutesy chiptune that I found didn't hold my attention at all and I pretty much forgot about it. Later I got into circuitbending and started seeing links to modded Gameboys and whatnot and began searching around for music made with such things. This time I dug a bit deeper and found a lot of high quality chiptune that I actually enjoyed beyond the simple novelty or "tech demo" surface. That would have probably been mostly 8bp stuff, Unicorn Dream Attack, and contemporaries. I really haven't been involved with chip for all that long, 2008 is when I signed up on 8BC so I guess that would have been my "official" chip love date. :P
WT: What attracted you to chipthrash and the eventual setting up of your label, Datathrash Recordings?
EGR: After soaking myself in all the 8bp releases and the occasional great track from 8BC I started drifting back to the music styles that had gotten me into electronic music in the first place; digital hardcore, breakcore, noise, etc. I wanted my love of chiptune to be compatible with my love of electronic hardcore so I started blogging about every track or album I could find that fit into those styles. I called the blog "Datathrash" and I spent ridiculous amounts of time googling every permutation on chiptune+hardcore+amiga+gameboy+... that you can imagine! That's how I found shitbird, Kool Skull, and Wizwars and their new music they were calling "chipthrash". It was perfect timing. I started contacting them and we all just sort of joined forces under the chipthrash banner. After a while I wanted to do a compilation of my favourite hardcore chip tracks that I had been blogging about. I had no plans at all to start a label but as the compilation came together and the chipthrash guys started finishing albums it just organically happened. The push that finally made Datathrash Recordings a thing was Timeheater's return for the Pulsewave anniversary. I asked him for a track for "Mixtape 1" and he gave me his full set recording to release. That was more than three years ago. O_O Bizarre.
WT: Could you tell us a bit about Datathrash? How is it managed, who works there and what do you do?
EGR: Datathrash Recordings is a highly curated and specialized netlabel for lo-fi electronic hardcore and experimental music with a focus on the chipscene. We don't publicly ask for demos and we turn away almost as many artists as we accept. Datathrash is purely an expression of our taste in music. Chad and I have recently drafted AndaruGO and environmental sound collapse into the management team and they bring a vast and sorely needed artistic background to the table, both visual and musical. New potential releases make the rounds to all the team members and anyone can veto. That rarely happens; if an album makes it past one of us then it's pretty much in. At this point I think we all know what is a proper Datathrash release and what isn't. Evidently the general chip public does too since the amount of unrelated demo material has dropped off dramatically since the first year or so. ...all of that sounds far more organized than it really is haha; cyberpunks trying to be orderly is kind of a joke. ;)
WT: You’ve also recently released music under the alias Abandoned On Fire, what went into creating this album?
EGR: The first Abandoned On Fire album, HYMNAL, was a significant milestone for me. This was the first time I felt I was able to create something interesting, consistent, and expressive. There's a lot of self-reflection and personal emotions in that album but I don't expect anyone to be able to decipher them and that's fine. When I listen to it there's a series of memories that I go through, I hope other people can attach some meaning to all that noise as well.
As for the writing, that was done in 2 or 3 long spurts over the course of this year. I had been bouncing back and forth between lsdj and piggy tracker and taking ideas from one into the other. When I started really focusing on kits in lsdj and using the sample synthesis ideas I'd gotten from piggy tracker, the album began to write itself. I sent sav files to Chad at various stages and he ended up making a bare-bones track that fit perfectly with the rest of the album and that I could expand upon easily. I had a lot of plans for adding in non-chip elements including my little modular synth and effects pedals but as I refined the tracks and started making some test recordings I realized I already had everything I needed. HYMNAL is super raw even though it's very carefully produced. The recording process went like this: multitrack from my gbc, noise removal by Evil Wezil's inversion method, sum the channels in Reaper and add a few decibels to the low end while taking a couple decibels off the midrange. That's it. The recording levels were set so that when the channels were summed there would be no messing with the gain or normalizing or anything. I'm very happy with how it came out!
WT: Who are your biggest influences musically?
EGR: I knew it would come to this... A typical musical diet for me consists of the most recent few Datathrash releases, a healthy dose of Paul Simon, random japanoise playlists on YouTube, and my collection of Atari Teenage Riot and Alec Empire vinyl. I also idolize The Flaming Lips, The Beatles (after Rubber Soul), Violent Femmes, Led Zeppelin, and my teenage crush The Dead Milkmen (they never get old <3). Artists that I knowingly try to emulate would be Lady Scraper, Divtech, ATR, CCDM and the Radiograffiti crew... actually I just try to rip off everything about Radiograffiti just enough to not get called out on it. That goes for music, art, the label, etc. Don't tell them I said that. :P
For not-necessarily-music inspiration the work from Goto80, Nullsleep, Raquel Meyers, Jacob Remin, and all the projects and artists that surround them are the most fascinating art I've ever been exposed to. Cutting-edge got nothin' on these peeps.
WT: What software and hardware do you use in creating work?
EGR: I've toyed around with most of the classic chiptune tools including amiga, C64, dos trackers, and midi synths. For now I've settled into lsdj and piggy. It lets me work with both chip and sample synthesis without having to reset my brain for different interfaces. When the old keyboard tracker dudes say that once you can ignore the input method the music will start to flow they are totally right. God bless Johan and Marc for the work they've done! I would probably never have finished a single track if it weren't for the d-pad interface of lsdj and piggy.
WT: Is there any specific differences to the aliases ‘Egr’ and ‘Abandoned On Fire’?
EGR: "egr" has been my forum name in various places for a long time and at least in the chipscene it's assumed that that is also your artist name. So for most things that's what I've used. When I started writing HYMNAL and felt that it was going to be something significant for me I wanted a different signifier that could be associated with music I was most serious about. Abandoned On Fire is actually the name of the collaboration between Chad and I, we had planned on being a "band" for quite a while. It just so happens that the first album under that name was mostly written by me. The next one will be mostly by Chad with collaboration from me. We'll probably continue in that mode for a while and both also be releasing singles and side projects under our individual names at the same time.
WT: What went into creating your WeeklyTreats in terms of influence and instrumentation?
EGR: "ANON (Faith In The Faceless)" was made in piggy tracker and is a tribute to the hackers of Anonymous. I tried to make a track that sounded like classic amigacore which to me is the most aggressive music ever. I wanted that brutal energy to blend with the challenging and inspiring words from Anonymous to form a "call to arms" sort of anthem. Like "FUCK IT I'M NOT STANDING FOR THIS BULLSHIT LETS GO CHANGE SOMETHING POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!iii!!!&%*$@@". I feel I have succeeded. The track is really only made from one kickdrum sample (recorded from the game Pocket Music for GBC). The three other samples are the Anonymous voice, a clip from "The Royal Tenenbaums", and a cell phone recording I made when the tornado warning sirens were going off outside my house last summer.
WT: This year you’ve taken over the organisation of BRKfest, could you tell us a bit about how this occurred and what to expect this year?
EGR: I'm going to have to be tight lipped on this one, sorry. I can say that it was as simple as Curtis (Solarbear) asking me if I would take his place alongside Andrew (AndaruGO) and me saying "Of course!". Andrew and I are still planning and scheming and panicking and hoping. BRKfest is in good hands, don't you worry about that!
WT: What lies in the future for yourself and Datathrash?
EGR: More music, more art, and more awesome. For Datathrash specifically we're gearing up for wider and more legit distribution and some exciting physical releases. Also, speaking of amigacore earlier, I've been working for a long time on a re-release of some overlooked material from back in the day. Looks like that will finally be coming to fruition very soon! NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER SURRENDER.