[Every now and then, Dtoid shines its Spotlight on a games-related artist, event, or place we'd like to share with you guys. Basically, we think this is awesome. Do you think it's awesome?]
This spotlight kicks off a multi-part series highlighting videogame fans and community members who make us go nuts. What better way to start things off this upcoming Blipfest weekend than with Netherlands-based chiptune artists Bart Youngsters and Dan McClay, aka Men of Mega, who'll be performing during the event? (If you're not familiar with their head-bobbin' blend of chiptune beats, you can get all caught up by visiting their SoundCloud page. My personal favorites: "Murphy" and "John Stamos On Meth".)
How did you two first meet? When did you begin writing and performing together?
Bart: Dan and I met almost 10 years ago when we were colleagues at this shitty job. It did not take long before we found out that we shared the same passion for punk rock, skateboarding/BMX, alcoholic beverages and Nintendo. We used to listen to an awful lot of .nsf files back then. However, we did not start writing and performing before 2010. Our first songs were written using Famitracker, a free tracker for PC which mimics the Nintendo 8-bit sound chip. We had our first gig in October 2010, at the open mic of EINDBAAS, the biggest chiptune party in the Netherlands. After that we were asked to join the EINDBAAS on TOUR lineup, including Kanagawa (Failotron's band) and DS-10 Dominator. We did nine shows in three months and that really got things going for us. Right now we’re performing quite a lot, and not only [at] chiptune shows, so that is pretty cool.
What are your favorite 8-bit-era games (besides the obvious one, of course)?
Bart: I know it is an obvious big one, but I have to mention that I am a huge Metroid fan. I love that game as well as all Metroid games released afterward. Super Metroid for the Super NES is still my favorite videogame ever. And also, the Prime series released on the GameCube and Wii [is] awesome.
I really enjoyed games like Double Dragon II and Street Gangs (or River City Ransom, as the NTSC version is called) both released by Technos Japan. Nintendo World Cup by Technos Japan was also hilarious. I never understood why Nintendo would license their name to a “soccer game” in which foul play is encouraged, haha! I played a lot of Metal Gear: although rather frustrating at moments, that game was really deep for its time and highly enjoyable. R.C. Pro-am is an often-overlooked gem on the NES. I had tons of fun with that title. And what I never really understood is that people seem to dislike Zelda II. Man, I love that game! It is so freaking hard! Concerning the platform genre, Kirby, Snake Rattle n Roll and Adventure Island II were my favorites on the NES (next to the obvious and utterly brilliant Mario 1, 2 and 3, Mega Man 1, 2 and 3, Castlevania, Kid Icarus, Duck Tales...)
Dan: Aside from the obvious Mario, Zelda, Mega Man and Castlevania titles, I've played a lot of games like the Battle of Olympus, Faxanadu, Wizards and Warriors; I was (and still am) quite into the whole fantasy adventure genre. I've also played the crap out of the first TMNT game, still one of my favourite NES titles, although I could never beat the final level. Same with the Ninja Gaiden titles. My affection for fantasy RPGs really started with SNES games like Soul Blazer, the Secret of Mana (and Evermore), shifted to fantastic PS1 RPGs like Suikoden, the Final Fantasy series and such, and now I really feel like playing some Skyrim!
Are there any other chiptune performers that you consider an influence? What other musical acts inspire your sound?
Bart: Concerning chiptune performers, we consider Bit Shifter a huge influence: it is unbelievable [how] he pushes his Game Boy. When it comes to real game music composers, we’re huge fans of Hip Tanaka. Furthermore, I love An0va, Kanagawa, Infinity Shred, and RoccoW, this insane talented young dude from the Netherlands...
Next to chiptune we listen a lot to nineties punk rock such as Lagwagon, No Use For a Name, Pulley, Ten Foot Pole, and Millencolin. Right now I am listening to heavier stuff such as Veil of Maya, Defeater, Carpathian, All Shall Perish, and older hardcore bands like Slapshot and 7seconds. But a huge influence and my favorite band of all time remains The Postal Service.
Dan: Chiptune influence-wise, I agree with Bart; all those acts are brilliant! Lately I've been listening to Prof. Sakamoto a lot -- his music is so reminiscent of good old video game music, I love it! As well as Xyce, another chip act from the Netherlands (shout out!), good stuff! Punk rock, as Bart mentioned, something I will probably never get tired of, but I also really like to listen to some Final Fantasy VII, IX or XII music while working, great soundtracks. Aside from that my musical interests are pretty broad, some blues or jazz now and then, classical, bluegrass, you name it!
What tools do you use to produce your sound?
Bart: We use Ableton Live and a VST plugin called Plogue Chipsounds, which mimics a lot of the classic sound chips, such as the SID chip (C64), Game Boy sound chip, and NES sound chip. These are also the three sound chips we use most of the time. We also use two Nintendo Game Boys and appropriate tracking software called Little Sound DJ (LSDJ). I also started experimenting with my Game Boy Advance and Nanoloop 2.5, but that is more for fun and until now I did not release anything. Maybe in the future.
Dan: While Ableton with the Chipsounds VST is really awesome and gives you so much control, I've fallen head over heels with Little Sound DJ. Something about creating and performing music with your Game Boy. Really wonderful! Our upcoming EP titled “The power to take into account (perplexity and consultation) and the power to arrange in rank order (hierarchy and institution): a musical study of socio-technical controversies through LSDJ by the Men of Mega” will be produced in full by using Game Boy (release date is set for June, sample track here).
Where can fans see you perform?
Bart: We’re playing two gigs in New York City in May. Tuesday, May 28, we’re playing MINT JAMS 2K12: OFFICIAL BLIP FESTIVAL AFTERPARTY @ 285 KENT, together with Knife City, Sabrepulse, Doomcloud, Smiletron, Roccow and a very special guest that is going to blow your socks off. Wednesday, May 29, we’re playing the Trashbar in Brooklyn, together with Minusbaby, Deadbeatblast, Roccow and Rioteer.
May 31, we’re back in Holland again, playing the EKKO in Utrecht. For the summer we’re working hard on some cool gigs, and not only in Holland. So like our Facebook page and stay up to date! We can also be reached on Twitter, and Bandcamp.