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BlipTalk with BIT SHIFTER


New York City’s Bit Shifter weighs in with a blitzkrieg strike of semiautomatic pixel fire, delivered from a twin Nintendo Game Boy assault rig. Exemplifying a bracing distillation of the less-is-more philosophy, Bit Shifter embraces limitations and eschews overstated indulgences in favor of the streamlined environments of the Nanoloop and Little Sound DJ home-brew Game Boy musicmaking programs. Armed only with two 20-year-old handhelds, Bit Shifter leaves high-end computer music choking on his exhaust, bringing twice the rock with 0.002% of the processing power.

Bit Shifter co-administrates the 8bitpeoples artist collective, co-curates the annual Blip Festival, has released music on 555 Recordings, Hymen, Mirex, Ketacore, and Astralwerks, and has performed over a hundred and fifty shows worldwide.

Blip: Before you got into making chip music, what type of music or art where you into?

As a listener I was mainly into punk / hardcore / indie rock / indie pop, with an ear for electronic music but not a lot of knowledge about it, so I was sort of fumbling around buying records haphazardly trying to figure out what sort of electronic artists I liked. As a musician I’d been playing guitar & doing vocals in punk-ish bands, while also doing a lot of solo four-tracking & home recording, experimenting with drum machines, sequencers, and synths. In retrospect, the four-tracking was kind of an interesting precursor to working with the Game Boy’s four channels; it was a similar experience in working within limitations.

Blip: How did you first become aware of the possibility of chip music?

For me it was a happy accident; I’d stumbled upon the Nanoloop website at some point in 2001 or 2002, and after staring dumbly at the site for a while, an understanding of what I was looking at finally sank in: a pretty unconventional way of making music on a device that was very conventional (although for different reasons). Awareness of the software triggered an immediate curiosity about what artists might be out there already using these tools, and what music was being made with it; and I quickly discovered that there was a small but global community at work, using Nanoloop, using LSDJ, and using other software for other platforms; and that chipmusic had a pretty deep history.

Blip: How does your background influence your current work?

I think the impulses behind my earlier non-chipmusic projects are pretty much the same as the ones behind my current Game Boy stuff — an interest in some selection / combination of speed, melody (and/or the absence of melody), energy, and music that in some way tries to be “hard-hitting.” Whatever that means.

Blip: Who are you most excited to see at blip? Why?

Tough question — I’m really looking forward to seeing Rainbowdragoneyes (after months of planning this thing, some frantic spazz-out in-your-face hyper-pop is going to be really cathartic); Albino Ghost Monkey (actually the same can be said for him); the J. Arthur Keenes Band (an under-recognized master whose performance secrets I am hoping to quietly observe and steal); David Sugar (it’s been too long) — the list goes on and on.

Blip: Where do you see your progression as an artist heading? Deeper into chip music, or perhaps something different?

At the moment I’ve been in a (year-long) lull so my short-term projection is pretty straightforward: to get off my ass and start making some more music.

Bit Shifter is playing Saturday at 11:20pm with visuals by outpt & Enso

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