Blip On: Anamanaguchi
Hawkins: First off, how did you find out about chiptunes, and how did you get involved?
Berkman: I found out about Chiptunes from some friends in my hometown. We downloaded nerdtracker II at the same time and started making a ton of songs back and forth. I eventually found this community in New York City & online (at 2A03.org) of people who were creating a ton of stuff that was amazing me. I started writing music and asking questions, entered some tracks into NSF competitions, and then ‘da rest is hist0ry’.
Hawkins: How did the band come about? Did you all find each other at the same time or along the way?
Berkman: Well the band’s gone through a lot of lineup changes in the past. I met James in high school, Ary in college, and Luke we met just by playing shows with cool kids in Los Angeles. Slowly things have transition from something I did in my basement by myself to something we’re all contributing to in ‘very meaningful ways.’
Hawkins: What’s been the biggest influence as it pertains to your work?
Berkman: I don’t have one biggest influence really. The project is very much a crystallization of disparate things that I love. I grew up playing in bands and playing video games, I think there are a lot of conclusions that people can draw from just that fact alone really.
I feel like whenever I mention an influence it colors peoples perception of the music too much – For instance, something could’ve influenced one minor detail in a song, but people would try to call the whole thing derivative of that influence which it isn’t necessarily. I don’t have the attention span to be influenced by one thing for too long [laughs].
Hawkins: Other than music, can you site anything else that has been a considerable impact?
Berkman: Sure. I love the sense of adventure that gaming provides, a comic I just read by Yuichi Yokoyama called “Garden” really encapsulates this concept for me. Basically the idea that everything is fascinating and anything is possible through an adventurous spirit.
Hawkins: Do you therefore see the music that Anamanaguchi produces just a part of the “project” per say?
Berkman: [laughs] Maybe. I mean we’re just trying to have fun and create a nice aesthetic soundscape that we can party under.
Hawkins: What tools do you use to create your music? Can you describe the process?
Berkman: Well I used to use exclusively Nerdtracker II. Then I moved onto Famitracker. When Ary or Luke contributes, they’ve used Milkytracker or LSDJ. Basically the tools aren’t the most important things to me at this point in our development; I’m more concerned with best illustrating this fantasy world thingy.
Hawkins: Describe the difference between creating and performing your music in a studio or relatively isolated space and being on stage, in front of a large crowd.
Berkman: Nothing really beyond the obvious I guess; one is very private and personal, and the other is sharing what you’ve come up with by yourself. I try not to think about it too much as it gets harder to write the more you think about a potential audience that’s over two people.
Hawkins: Well, I’d imagine that on a basic, technical level, it’s kind of hard. I mean, after-all, some of the basic tech was not meant for performance aspects per say.
Berkman: Oh! Yeah, well… Not really so much for us. We kind of just start the song and play along [laugh]. Only difference is that it’s a Nintendo and not a computer. There’s nothing we really have to be working at live except at sound check really. James built the rig that we’re using now and it’s pretty reliable. When it messes up we know how to fix it. Basically writing = software, live = hardware.
Hawkins: Back to writing music, at what point did you decided to accentuate and augment your chip compositions with guitars, drums, and the like?
Berkman: Very early on I decided in incorporate guitars and stuff. I was writing music that didn’t sound like ‘video game music’ to me so much, and I wanted to put it in a live band context. I wanted a way to ‘play the music live’ so to speak. And because I didn’t have a sick lazer MIDI guitar yet, that seemed like the best option.
Hawkins: Chip music seems to have really gone far in the past few years, especially the ones with you and the rest of the gang being active… What do you think of the current state of chiptunes? Are there any challenges and milestones ahead?
Berkman: I think this year of Blip is going to be incredible. Basically the community is acknowledging at large that it is OK to party. Everyone is continuing to carve out their own unique niches of the chiptune community, what I think is important is bringing those elements out into their own respective worlds outside of chiptune. That’s why we play shows with bands that have the same feel as us but don’t have any 8-bit stuff going on whatsoever.
Hawkins: Who are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Blip?
Berkman: Henry Homesweet, 4mat, Talk To Animals, cTrix, Knife City, Noisewaves, 10k, It’s pretty much just gonna be insane.
Hawkins: Do you have a favorite moment of Blip period? Just in general.
Berkman: Seeing Bodenstandig was something I never thought i’d be able to do though; that was fucking amazing… I had watched them on youtube 590125902095 times before so to see them do their thing in person kind of blew my mind. They were like this totally mythological thing.
Also Huoratron breaking the stage at blip 2007 was pretty fucking epic. CONDOM at blip 2010 was fucking amazing too… total surprise. Playing “kill me sweetly” with USK at blip 2009 was maybe my own personal fondest memory.
Hawkins: Do you guys have anything special planned?
Berkman: We’re going to be playing pretty much an entirely brand new set that will show where we’re kind of headed. Some classix’ here and there, but for the most part, all new.
Anamanaguchi play Thursday night at 11:20 with visuals by Party Time! Hexcellent!