Chiptunes are a style of music that has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, but in many ways it never really left the hearts of true fans.
As video game music from the 1980’s gets increasingly retro, the appreciation for the actual sound of this music has never really wavered. Fans that were there in the initial phases of video gaming music, for PCs such as Commodore 64 and Amiga, not to mention 8-bit gaming platforms like the NES and the original Sega Masters System, these fans fell in love with what were essentially game soundtracks, and to this day they still love these same games, as well as the music, which have taken on the moniker of being called a “chiptune”.
So, in the spirit of these old games with their particular style of sounds coming from the early days of video games, there are people making chiptunes now who are looking both forward to the future and back at the past at the same time.
Niko Igorevich of Decimu Labs (design cinemu music) is one such chiptune artist. As well as creating his own tracks, he specializes in remixing peoples’ non-chiptune songs into new chiptune compositions, using his keen ear for melody, harmony, and arrangement.
As luck would have it, we here at YTMS cornered Niko for a Q&A to see if we could grasp some of his secrets and tricks of the trade he uses when creating his chiptunes, not to mention hear about what he’s up to in the music scene these days.
Enjoy our Q&A with Niko Igorevich!
Q: How long have you been making chiptunes?
It seems this is my 6th year in chiptune remixing, haha I had to check it. I tried remixing a song I wrote for a webseries in genesis/megadrive style. That was my first one:
Q: Cool! How did you get into chiptunes in the first place?
Well, I’ve always loved video game music, specially the Sonic the Hedgehog series for sega megadrive/genesis. I’ve been a musician for about 15 years and started becoming interested in audio production and computer audio about 10 years ago.
I worked in several soundtracks for webseries and movies and eventually started investiganting about retro chiptune music, and found several VSTIs (virtual instruments) that emulated the retro sound.
First I found one for Sega, then for othere systems (nes, old computer midi or samples like the Amiga system), and SNES.
Q: What DAW do you use, and also which chiptune VST’s do you like to use?
I started working in Nuendo and Cubase, but later realized that Reaper was the best choice for music production, despite what a lot of people say about it. I work with several VSTS, my favs are Vopm and Chipsounds, but I’ve have also used others such as Peach and Toad, which are not synth but sample based (when talking about chiptunes only)
Q: Cool. So what makes Reaper the best choice for you?
I don’t know if that is my best choice, but it’s the best software I’ve found, because it allows me to do lots of things that other don’t, such as change the fx chain order, complex channel connections, etc.
Also it is really light and makes everything work perfectly. In addition, it is cheaper than other daws, which makes it a great choice, despite of what sound pros say.
Q: Cool. Sounds like a decent DAW to use. Do you use Reaper just for chiptunes or for all your projects? Also, what other styles are you working in, ie. genres?
I use Reaper for almost everything regarding music production. I have tons and tons of VST to use.
My last big project was Kirlian Ghost Radio. ( www.lafrecuenciakirlian.com.ar )
It has english subtitles if you want to check it out!, for which I composed the soundtrack. Its mostly electronic, but I’ve also composed pop and orchestral pieces too.
Q: Very nice. Do you approach chiptunes differently than other types of music when you compose?
Yes, it has to be approached in its particular way, they have special harmonies, textures, sounds and intentions depending on each console, so they are a special way of composing.
Q: Can you describe your method of putting together a chiptune at all?
The process is quite simple, obviously it depends on the capabilities of each console sound (or sometimes it can be a free version, which is quite simple). Then, it is just writing a midi (in style) and instrumenting it with the appropiate chiptune sound. After that, just some simple mixing and mastering, and that’s all.
Q; Overall, what do you get out of making chiptunes as opposed to another style of music?
The result is really different, but the feel is similar, as they all imply midi sequencing. I would say that I prefer this kind of composing/arranging over the others, as they sound more authentic than, for example, a midi orchestra.
Q: Can you link us to one of your best (according to you) chiptunes?
Wow, that would be really difficult, but perhaps my favorite (original one) is this I made for a tv program: (it is hosted in a colleague soundcloud but it is mine)