Now that that’s out of the way (Mariano says reporters get it wrong all the time), let’s wish 8static a very happy fourth birthday.
Mariano, who’s known on stage as Animal Style, is one of the musicians that helped found 8static, a monthly chipmusic showcase, back in 2008. Last weekend, in honor of 8static’s anniversary, the crew threw their biggest show yet: 30 musicians performed. Mariano, 31, says some people called it “a spiritual experience.”
We caught up with Mariano to talk about 8static’s history, chiptunes haters and how if it weren’t for Myspace, 8static might not be around.
(If you’d rather listen, listen to snippets from our interview with Mariano, mashed up with his song Cyboshellfish.)
Check out snippets from our talk with Mariano below, mashed up with his song Cyboshellfish.
Lightly edited and condensed.
How’d you get involved with 8static?
It was Don Miller (stagename No Carrier) and me and my buddy Dino [Lionetti of Cheap Dinosaurs] and this other guy, Alex Mauer. We were the only chiptunes guys in Philly, basically. We met each other on the Internet. Don had the idea to team up with The Hacktory and get a little sponsorship going. We wanted a monthly event [to perform at] and we wanted to bring in people from New York, Baltimore, the local areas.
I actually hated the name 8static because I was like, what if I wanted to do 16bit, Don? [laughs] But people do do that.
You were the only chiptunes guys in Philly? So what were the shows like when 8static first started?
Well, there weren’t many people coming to see the shows, so we were doing a lot of our own personal promotion. It’s nowhere near the size it is now, which is pretty cool. A lot of people didn’t know about the medium in general, you know? It was really relatively new. A lot of the uber nerds knew about it but not necessarily everybody else. But it’s been getting so much press little by little, even a lot of bad press, actually. [He’s referring to when reporters think chipmusicians are just playing video game music and calling it their own.]
I feel like a lot of musicians from other scenes are starting to make the choice to come to the chiptunes scene. It’s not a genre, it’s a medium, more or less, so anybody could show up and play whatever style they want. I see guys playing punk rock with Gameboys, but then you see someone coming up and doing a classical song on a Gameboy. It’s not really genre-specific.
Yeah, the crowds were pretty small at the beginning or they were laughing at what we were doing, saying it wasn’t a valid musical form.
Because you’re using a toy. They don’t understand that there’s an analog synthesizer inside the thing that’s just as good as what they’re using.
Below, a video from 8static’s fourth anniversary show.
So you were just making chipmusic on your own before you met the other 8static guys online?
[We met] on Myspace actually. There was a huge circuit of chipmusicians that came up there. There was actually a chiptune music forum on Myspace. I met some guys there but that’s how we were hearing each other.
The chiptune community has a really old tradition of: you’re done writing a song and so you throw it up on the Internet for everybody else to hear. Guys just freely put up their music all the time. Other artists download it and check it out and maybe get some ideas from it. It just kind of works like that. It’s very opensource. That’s how I look at it. That’s why I was really into it.
A lot of chiptunes musicians even in the 90s did this. It’s called the “demo” scene, where hackers would take Commodore 64 games and crack them, put them on these BBS boards or on the worldwide web eventually, and people would put “cracktro” intros at the beginning of them. Crack the game and write a new song at the beginning of it. That’s kind of what the chipmusic scene grew out of. Basically, illegally pirating music and/or video games, pretty much, and the hacking aesthetic that went along with it. I was seeing the tail end of that and then I was like, hey, let’s bring this to the club.
When it comes to our local chiptunes scene, is there a distinctive Philly sound?
Yeah, definitely. The people who are coming out of this scene have a very, very different sound than most other cities for some reason. I don’t really know why. Maybe we exchange ideas more? Or work together better?
8static is purely a pet project, right? There’s no real business or profit side to it?
8static is not profitable, I’ll tell you that much. For me, I feel like the city needs it. There are a lot of people who have come up to me and they say, if it wasn’t for 8static, I don’t know what I’d be doing.
You don’t need physical ability to play the instrument, really, you just need mental ability. It levels the playing field. It makes music less of a sport and that’s what I like. And all nerds could probably get into that, too.-30-
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