Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blogger Interview: TRAVIS VALOIS

Interview with TRAVIS VALOIS (Nintendocore Lives)

Tell Autoeroticasphyxium’s readers about how the Nintendocore Lives blog first got started, the first bands you featured there and so on.
I have been running the blog since August of 2014. When I first got into Nintendocore there were a couple of blogs that posted music in that style. My inspiration for the blog was a defunct blog called Piranha Party and another one called MusicNES. Piranha Party was the real driving force. When I first started posting my project Are You Afraid Of The Dog, it was in 2009. Everyone from the Nintendocore scene; which was basically all on Myspace, everyone submit their released to Piranha Party. The first band I featured was my own. I posted my beat tape Life’s A Mitch. That album was actually not 100% Nintendocore, it was a beat album with Nintendo noises and other synths. I had a couple of guys from the Nintendocore scene write a couple of reviews. I posted in a couple of Nintendocore groups of Facebook and told people to submit their music to me and I would post it. If I saw a Nintendocore album somewhere on the internet I would post it as well. I made the blog because there was no avenue for people to share their Nintendocore in 2014.

How many Nintendocore bands were featured on Piranha Party and MusicNES? How much background information did those blogs have on those bands? Why is Piranha Party no longer active?
A ton. I can't get the exact number from Piranha Party because of how the blog is set up, but I can from MusicNES. From 2009-2011 it looks like they posted 534 different bands/projects. At that time I'm fairly certain most submissions were done in the form of an artist emailing the blog owner. Most of the entries would link back to a band's Myspace and have a Mediafire or some other file hosting service link to download the album. People didn't have Bandcamp to release on back then, it was all hosting files on platforms like Mediafire. Piranha Party and MusicNES were not heavy on reviews, it was a posting of the album art, artist info (country, genre, etc) then the mandatory link to a Myspace and link to an album download. I'm not entirely sure why either of those blogs ceased to operate. My main guess would be Myspace dying out. The whole community was really glued together and driven by Myspace Music Pages. During the Myspace days you could post your music and get other people to listen or comment pretty easily. The bands may have stopped releasing when that dried up? Maybe that is what killed the sites, I'm not entirely sure.

Perhaps what killed Myspace was its “upgrade” to version Beta. I could understand the upgrade to 2.0 and could work with it. But when it was taken over and given the Beta treatment I just couldn’t make sense of it. That was when I switched to Facebook. Was your experience similar?
I believe that switch you speak of is what killed it. I had a Facebook in 2007 but only got one up and running for Are You Afraid Of The Dog in 2010. I didn't need/couldn't run my music page from Facebook for a long time. When Myspace fell it fell hard. It was around that time when I feel the Nintendocore scene really fragmented, It just wasn't as centralized and easy to find people on Facebook. It is weird though, like in theory Myspace was not really centralized, but over the years of running a page you could build up friends who had those contacts. Migrating to Facebook was basically like starting over. Myspace was people just flaunting whatever music they were into and such with some level of anonymity (on personal pages). Facebook was so much more like... Linked up to your high school friends, classmates, etc; not as many people were flogging their pages with the music they like. I miss the old days of the internet, haha.

Myspace did seem a little more personable when it came to networking between bands. Facebook generally does the same but there is also a lot more drama in some areas. Do you avoid the latter?
I just found Myspace was less sterile for band pages. I have not really been involved in too much drama. You see guys getting into it sometimes or beef here and there but I steer clear of it. There are good people and bad people in every scene. I pretty much just lay back, kick back, stay in my own lane. I make my different types of music, help assemble the compilation albums, run my blog, I never get into it with other people.

How many Nintendocore bands did you know from Myspace when Are You Afraid Of The Dog was active?
When I started making music with Are You Afraid Of The Dog there were tons of bands. Big players like iamerror, Insert Disc, I Shot The Duck Hunt Dog, Dinotrax. Those were some of the big bands. There were tons of smaller bands though. I managed to release a split with Quick Hookshot The Skull Kid! and Ephemeral Dreamer. I knew a guy named My Sunday's Best who remixed one of my songs and now plays in a sick band called Skyburial. They play some heavy music on 8 and maybe even now 9 strings. There were a ton of bands. There were Myspace accounts that simply existed to repost people's Nintendocore music. I met a guy who released music under the moniker Kangaskhan's Baby who bought one of my shirts off Myspace many years ago. He now runs a label called Nog Records that releases cassettes. I met many friends back then who I either still talk to or bumped into again on Facebook. When I started finding Nintendocore people again on Facebook they would be like "Oh you’re Are You Afraid Of The Dog, I'm the Limit Does Not Exist!" So yeah. There were a ton of bands kicking around back then. To be honest I think the Myspace ‘top eight’ system made it really easy to find bands. It was just a simpler time on the Internet.

How would you describe Nintendocore to someone who was unfamiliar with its characteristics?
Nintendocore is many different things. Some of it is really heavy, some of it is reminiscent of JRPG soundtracks from the 1990's, video game music. To me the defining characteristic of Nintendocore is the use of synth to emulate or use the noise of the NES, SNES, Genesis etc. Some people use the program LSDJ which runs on Gameboys and utilizes the sound chip on that specific hardware. So essentially it can be many different kinds of music that incorporate the sound of video game systems from the past.

What was your initial reaction to hearing of the genre before you heard any of the bands?
The name of the genre probably makes some people cringe but not me. I was into metalcore, deathcore, and post-hardcore at the time I discovered Nintendocore. The name is shocking. I grew up with a NES, SNES, and an N64 so I was in some ways open to the genre. I just thought "Wow. What is Nintendocore?" Then I explored and thought it was cool that all these people were making music mostly on their own. A ton of Nintendocore bands are one person operations. I was amazed that you could make music without the frustrations of dealing with a band or not having like-minded musicians at the ready.

Do you think Nintendocore gives more musicians a chance to work independently and create their own material?
I think it opened my eyes to seeing what a one person project could do. There are tons of one-person musical projects now with the development of technology. Lots of guitarists can get songs going on their own, but when we were doing Nintendocore on Myspace I'd say we were ahead of our time in the one person department. I would say Nintendocore definitely gives a person a chance to make music independently. Using a computer and being familiar with DAW's just speeds up the process for whatever style of music you are trying to make.

How much potential for originality does the technology offer? Can it enhance originality while keeping music organic?
It really depends on how you use it. I think no matter what the technology improving has helped people to record "real" instruments. To me it is all about the composition. Two people could take identical notes, put them into a DAW, run them through VST's and come out with two very different pieces of work. To me the music can still be very organic and full of life even if it is "programmed".

What brand of synthesizers do you think best emulate the video game sounds you mentioned?
I believe iamerror used a Yamaha motif. A ton of the music is made using VST's. Some people emulated the sound really well using 3xosc in FL Studio. There are wonderful plugins such as Magical 8 Bit Plug, Famisynth, Monomate, Peach, Triforce, there are a ton of really good VST's. Tons of people... They don't even emulate the sound, they literally make music using a tracker program LSDJ which runs on Gameboy hardware. Korg synthesizers have been used by different bands. You can download a Soundfont player and get sound banks actually utilized in SNES games. It's hard to narrow it down because if you asked another artist they might give a different answer. I have really always liked the tone from Famisynth.

How much have you been able to work with Famisynth to get the sounds you are after?
I used Famisynth a fair amount for synth leads. I can get the sound I'm after with it. If you tweak the settings a little bit you can get a nice sound for low or high notes.

When did the first Nintendocore bands you heard of get started? What attracted you to their overall sound?
iamerror is the first Nintendocore band I really fell in love with. I believe he began around 2005/2006. I discovered the music in 2008. I know this because I just looked up when Trout Yogurt was released, an album by iamerror. I still remember the day I first heard the song Do A Br00tal Roll was when I fell in love with the music. I was simply blown away by the track. It was a fast paced, intense, grindy song with screamed vocals about Star Fox. I just loved the composition, chaotic vibe and intensity of the track. That song was my true introduction to the genre.

What was it about iamerror and Nintendocore’s varying use of programs and sound effects; that attracted your interest?
iamerror just made these wonderfully chaotic songs. They sounded better than the other projects at that time. I Shot The Duck Hunt Dog was another really strong group from that time, Dinotrax, 100 Dead Rabbits. For me iamerror and Insert Disc just worked and I loved those projects the most. For iamerror it was the screamed vocals working so well with the synth and the guitar. The lyrics were awesome too.
We, the cocky little freaks, unite
(Good luck) Good luck against Uncle Andross
We fly tonight
Those are the intro lyrics to "Do A Br00tal Roll". For anyone who played Star Fox they probably remember an enemy yelling that at them. The whole song is about Star Fox but if you had never played the game you wouldn't know and would just think it was a cool song. iamerror made a release "Demo 09". It was much of the content that eventually went onto "Grand Battle" which he released under the moniker Monomate. "Demo 09" didn't have vocals and was still amazing. I just really loved the compositions and how everything sounded.
Insert Disc's music was just really well done and really unique. He never utilized vocals but it didn't matter. Some nintendocore has vocals some doesn't. Insert Disc opened my eyes to instrumental music in some ways. He just made really cool songs.

How would you describe the instrumentals of Insert Disc? What directions are they taking Nintendocore in?
Insert Disc hasn't been active in years. He name changed to Dr. Drank, released a couple of songs. People are always asking what happened to him in Youtube comments, even back on Myspace people were wondering.
There was a rumor going around that he did some jail time and then went to Mexico. I don't know what is true. Insert Disc featured lots of climbing up and down scales with synth, rapid drums. He did not feature guitar; it was all made on a computer. Insert Disc had everything sound beautiful and chaotic, and like iamerror/Monomate, I found he really stood out "back in the day" because of the production on his songs.
Now in relation to taking Nintendocore forward or in a certain direction... That is what is so impressive about the songs people are releasing in this time period. The songs being released now have such a higher level of quality than in years past. I had two different people help me on my next release. Well that’s partially true, more if you count people who listened to some my demo songs. But yeah, Chris of Polygon Horizon reviewed all of my mixes, and Chase of She Want's The D-Pad mastered my album. More people seem to know how to handle audio or are more willing to help then in years past.

What is Chase Fincher and She Wants The D-Pad doing these days? Did you read his interview on this blog?
Chase made a bad ass song for the Smash 64 comp, mastered my album Prisoner Of Conscious (coming out August 5). He is currently working on a song for the next compilation album we are doing. He always has stuff on the go. I read his interview, you also interviewed my buddy John from Unicorn Hole.

How much information were in the interviews with She Wants The D-Pad and Unicorn Hole? Do they offer enough background for readers to be well acquainted with them?
I feel like the interviews provided a good amount of detail about the artists. You don't often get to learn a ton about artist from their pages, it was nice to see long interviews that provided additional and personal information about Chase and John.

How many Nintendocore bands have you reviewed altogether? Are your reviews of N-Core bands generally favorable?
Personally I've probably reviewed five to ten. I mainly post submissions on my blog, I occasionally review. My reviews have been favorable because I wouldn't review something I couldn't really get behind. The interesting thing about Nintendocore is it's typically a lot better now than it was. A bunch of Nintendocore artists are all in a group on Facebook, a bunch of us message very regularly and help each other out. I think technology just makes it a lot easier to do things now. My song on the Smash 64 comp. I made it with another one man project, Starcutter. We exchanged Facebook messages, sent a GuitarPro file back and forth, sent each other midis, rendered synths, we were constantly exchanging files. I don't even think we could have done that as quick if it was 2006. Internet is faster now, communication is easier. The funny thing is when Nintendocore was the most popular the music quality was not the highest. The good bands really shone through back in the day because there music was so superior in terms of production value. What really blew me away when I met the new wave of artists was how good the music was, how willing these guys were to help each other get better. I think a lot of people have a negative opinion when they here Nintendocore because so much of it back in the day was bad. I mean... My music I made back then... Looking back a lot of it was kinda bad. But I tried, I kept making music, and now my music has become a lot better. Harking back to the internet getting faster, I think it is easier to problem solve now. If you want to figure out how to do something musically, if you are reasonably intelligent, have some sort of will or driving force that motivates you, you can figure out how to make music easier now.

How are your musical projects helping you make better music?
Music is definitely a life-long learning experience. My main musical project Are You Afraid Of The Dog has released a wide range of material over the years. Last year I released Twilight City which sounded a lot like video game music, an album sampling old K-Mart muzak, and two beat albums. I also have an unreleased album I made utilizing my seven string guitar and Nintendocore elements. I redid the album twice, re-recorded all the guitars, but I kept learning more about music production and song writing and realized the album had some good riffs but wasn't where I wanted it to be. I still want to make a really heavy album. I am always chasing that perfect album. Recently I made the song I previously mentioned, Dreamland Symphony with Tyler of Starcutter. The guitar playing Tyler put over some of my synth ideas was really inspiring, it really showed me how synth could be utilized with guitar in a way I maybe couldn't have figured out myself. Tyler is an incredible guitar player. Nintendocore features a ton of work on your own, but when you start collaborating with others it can really give you new ideas or help push your material to another level.

How much of a balance between guitar effects did you find making Dreamland Symphony?
I found Dreamland Symphony had the perfect blend of synth and guitar. We threw ideas back and forth, I started the foundation of the song by making synth riffs then Tyler built these amazing guitar parts off of them. The song has a great guitar tone, great riffs, we used the synth to compliment the guitar. It was really fun layering the synth into the amazing guitar work, it was definitely my favorite song I have worked on. Working with Starcutter on that song really inspired me to try and incorporate guitar into my releases again. I play guitar all the time, I have a seven string and an eight string, but I have not released anything with guitar in quite some time. I am inspired to now.

When was the compilation you mentioned earlier released? Are there other new projects in the works?
Smash 64 came out July 16th, it got featured on the Alternative Press website as well as some other music websites. My new album "Prisoner Of Conscious" is coming out August 5th. The next Nintendocore Lives compilation should be coming out on Halloween. We are trying to release four compilations a year or one every four months. We released a compilation in July, April and November over the past twelve months.


-Dave Wolff

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