Chipocrite on the chip music score to EarthNight
Chipocrite (Paul Weinstein) is a chiptune artist from Philadelphia who makes music using original Nintendo Game Boys, sometimes accompanied by guitars and other synths.
The musician also helps run 8static, the monthly Philadelphia chip music event. In this E3 interview, he discusses his EP previewing the music score to EarthNight, Cleaversoft's independently developed runner for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
EarthNight takes place on the backs of flying dragons. There is a non-linearity to the way these stages are traversed?
There's some freedom to the level selection. You can see in the gameplay video, in between levels your perspective shifts and all of a sudden you're skydiving. Basically, that's a kind of level select. You could bypass all of the dragons and go directly to the end of the game, but that wouldn't be the best way of beating it. That means there's not an A to Z trajectory through the game.
There are two different playable characters, and they appear to have an apocalyptic backstory, where they are motivated to take revenge on dragons that have made the earth uninhabitable. Does the idea of there being two separate stories influence your approach to the background music?
I wouldn't be surprised if there were ultimately a Stanley theme and a Sydney theme for certain situations in the game. What I would really like to do with that is have two variations on a song that could be tailored to each of them in a slightly different way. The story is that they are both just fed up with the situation that humankind has been forced into. Most of the music, especially, towards the end, is going to be really intense, in order to reflect that frustration and determination.
The character design by Paul Davey is striking, both the personality of these protagonists and the intricacy of the art.
Paul's artwork is incredible. He mostly draws on a Wacom drawing tablet. He also has a Bluetooth stylus, which he uses to draw sketches on an iPad. His attention to detail is really what makes his work special. For example, he gives every character a unique name. The pink monster that’s on the cover of my EP, one of the more prominent enemies in the game, is called "Audrey." He comes up with all these and adds them to the file names for every single character.
How did you become involved in Cleaversoft's development on the game?
The lead developer is my friend Rich. He and I go to concerts together and have always bonded over music, which is why he wanted the music to be a really a big part of the game.
What did you have in mind when you chose Chipocrite to be your artist name?
At its heart, it’s just a silly pun. But it's also kind of an "out" in case I ever want to use the name for any other kind of music. Since the beginning I've always had in mind that I would start with Game Boy music and gradually add other instruments. But if I ever put out a Chipocrite album that had no chip instruments on it, I could say, "Well, yeah, I’m a Chipocrite."
Have you found that the LSDJ software for the Game Boy has allowed you to structure your compositions well, for instance with the tracks on your new EP?
More than any other chip music tools, I really connected with this interface and found it easy to get my ideas out using it. For instance, I sometimes tend to think of the parts of my songs as having a verse, a chorus and a bridge, even though they're instrumental. I found that with Nanoloop, which is another piece of music software that runs on the Game Boy, it was difficult to create that structure. You can come up with loops, and it's fun to edit them on the fly, but in terms of complicated song writing, that becomes very hard to do with that program. In LSDJ, it just feels more natural.
When you're performing live, do you prefer to be operating the Game Boy on stage or playing the guitar parts?
I'd say that at about 80% of my live shows I'm playing the guitar, and when there's a break in the guitar part, I'm picking up and playing directly off the Game Boy. I could just play the recordings off of an mp3 from my computer, but this way it's more exciting for the audience.
When I play live I try to find as many different things that I can tweak in the moment as possible. The song is sequenced out in advance, and you can change some instrument settings, change all kinds of parameters on each channel of the GameBoy. You can mute and solo different parts of the song, which is something a lot of the LSDJ guys do. You can even change the structure of the song on the fly, if you want.
It's not purely for the theatricality of having the Game Boy on stage, in that the software can be used to improvise?
That's really very important to me because I come from a jam band background. I hate the idea of being on stage doing nothing. When people go to your live shows to hear you perform, ideally the song is different every time.
Are there dynamic musical elements planned for EarthNight?
There is one thing where if you get an enemy combo, stepping on every enemy without hitting the ground, a melody will play that complements the soundtrack to that level, up to 32 notes. So if you defeat a whole bunch of bad guys in a row without touching the ground, you basically create your own version of that level's song. It's subtle but it's something you might notice. "Oh, that's from the song."
Since the game has been announced on the PlayStation Blog, are you or the dev team feeling any pressure to deliver?
We're definitely feeling some pressure, but in a good way. It's incredibly exciting to see the reaction so far and to know that people really do want to get their hands on this game. I think it will encourage us to work as hard as possible to get it out as soon as possible, but we're going to make sure the game is completely awesome and ready when we finally do release it.
Interview conducted by Jeriaska. Hear music by Chipocrite on the artist's Bandcamp page