OSV: You transitioned from a successful guitarist in several bands into a fully realized chiptune music performer. Tell us a bit about the differences in the style of performing between them and your decision to branch out from bands.
Danimal: There are pluses and minuses to both of them. I do love the complete level of control in performing chip music. I can agonize over one section of music for days, or leave and return to it a month later. In a band I don’t have that level of freedom. Some of my musical ideas might be shot down, or changed from my original vision. It’s a series of elaborate compromises, and sometimes it actually works out better that way. However as an artist it is admittedly more satisfying to have created something start to finish than to be part of a team.
Becoming a fully realized chip musician isn’t something I actively set out to do. It was a hobby, a side interest to have some fun on the side. However after crafting my second track “Danimal Across America”, I realized that years of experience dissecting NES music for Armcannon left me with a unique skill set that gave me an advantage when composing chip music. I shouldn’t be too surprised at the outcome though, Armcannon was originally a kooky side project to let me embrace my obscure interests.
OSV: Your first chiptune album, Roots, enjoyed great success and made you a rather well known figure in the chiptune scene. What was your influence on this particular album and its style?
Danimal: My influences on Roots can be easily traced to three artists:
First was Virt. I still consider FX3 to be one of my favorite records of all time. He can be impossibly progressive and as catchy as a pop song all within the same moment. Also his attention to detail when giving chip instruments expression is unmatched. It made me go the extra mile to make sure every note is played at exactly the right volume over a function of time, as well as the vibrato speed, width, and starting point, not to mention how each note may slide or bend when being played (and even this is simplifying it). He showed me that a simple square wave could be just as expressive as the most nuanced guitar lead, and I try to incorporate that into every sound I create.
Second was Disasterpeace. I’ve always been attracted to the way he creates a mood and also the way he approaches rhythm. His lesson to me is that less is more, while Virt shows me that more is also more.
Third was Zen Albatross. His compositions made me fall in love with the Game Boy as a medium in particular. He was able to coax sounds out of a Game Boy that I would never expect to hear in chip music. It was raw and visceral. It proved to me that chiptunes could be HEAVY. I also never gave a thought to performing chiptunes live until I saw him play. I had messed around with chip sounds previously, but never would have made the jump to performing live until after I had seen him perform.
OSV: When you create your music, what is the process like? What gear do you make use of?
Danimal: Most often, it’s just a Game Boy running LSDJ and a guitar in my hand. I’ll work out rhythms and chord progressions on my guitar and then translate them to an appropriate form on the Game Boy. Sometimes I’ll write without the guitar because it causes me to make different musical choices.
With my upcoming record, I decided to start using two Game Boys linked together to create a more complex, fuller sound.
OSV: Now, you are gearing up for the release of your new chiptune album Parallel Processing. Can you tell us about the direction you took for this new album?
Danimal: For this album I decided to team up with a musician called Zef. He’s a Game Boy musician that really caught my eye this year. He gets sounds I would never dream of, so I wanted to join forces and combine his style with my own melody-centric style. We have been trading song files back and forth for the last 8 months, editing them independently. It’s kind of a scary process, sometimes a musical idea would go in a completely new direction than originally intended. But the end result has been a very extreme record. I really think it’s going to push the boundaries of what chip music can sound like. It has more of an electronic music feel than Roots did, but it’s definitely bigger, and at some moments I would dare to call it lush sounding.
OSV: You will be performing at MAGFest 11 alongside names such as virt and Yuzo Koshiro. Are there any uncharted musical territory you would still like to seek out as you now have found success on some many avenues?
Danimal: I’ve been really satisfied with what I’ve been able to accomplish within the chiptune and videogame music scenes. However I am eager to bring my music to new audiences, ones that aren’t associated with our little niche scenes. 90% of the population still doesn’t know that people are really making music on these old consoles, or if they do, they think its some stupid gimmick. This album is no gimmick. You can put it toe to toe with any record, and it’ll sound bigger than most of them. I’m positive that chip music can really turn some heads, I just need to play in front of them.
Catch Danimal Cannon live in action at MAGFest, and pick up his new album Parallel Processing and ARMCANNON 3 there on January 3rd.Tags: 5 Quick Questions, ARMCANNON, Chip Music, Danimal Cannon, Interviews, virt