Chip Bit Day is a chiptune music event based in Manchester UK which celebrates all things 8bit, electronic and retro with the accent heavy on music inspired and enabled by old school game technology. Now in to its third year, we decided to talk to the people behind the event, bloggers Chip Bit Sid.
First up, could you tell us a bit about the organisers of Chip Bit Day?
Chip Bit Day mainly involves me, Richard Lewis AKA Chip Bit Sid who was the one who first started up the event. Whilst everything is organised by me, some people also have an input, such as Natalie Whitehurst, Matthew Whitwell & Matthew Blake.
For those that may not know, what is Chip Bit Day about?
Chip Bit Day is about celebrating all things to do chiptune and synth whilst giving unique, talented artists an outlet to play live and show off their music. The event first started out as a small event celebrating Chip Bit Sid’s first birthday. However, after reaching out to artists to play, it snowballed and became far larger than originally anticipated. Many huge artists, such as Gw3m, Kenobit and HarleyLikesMusic came forward to play, making it one amazing night. My mum even made a batch of cakes to give for free to people who came to watch the music! All in all, it was such a great night that I decided to go ahead and make it a yearly thing.
What are the attractions and challenges of making music with heritage technology?
There are a variety reasons to get into making music using vintage hardware. One which is that it gives people who love videogames and music the ability to put them together and create something. It has always felt exhilarating to make a tune on a Gameboy with the end goal being left with a finished song.
Another is that it’s incredible cheap to make music, with many a variety of different free software to play with. A good example is Famitracker; it’s a free PC music tracker which emulates the NES soundchip to produce an authentic. If you’re looking for physical hardware, then look no further than the humble Gameboy; cheap, robust and fits in the palm of your hand, it allows you to make music anywhere.
Finally, one major attraction towards vintage hardware is the no matter how much emulation and samples are produced, nothing can be beat the original. For instance, whilst so many samples and clones have been made of the Roland 808’s sounds, none of them can hold a candle to using the real thing.
In terms of challenges one is the huge limitations that is created by using old hardware. A Commodore 64 is limited to only creating music in 8bit, whereas a laptop is much more powerful to create music, making the process easier and quicker. Another is the problem is the fact that hardware breaks due to it being old. I’ve lost so many songs due to my hardware breaking down, making me routinely back them up.
There is one caveat: whilst the limitations with vintage hardware are quite challenging, they really inspire creativity. The amount of 8bit Gameboy songs that have pushed the boundaries of chiptune is incredibly vast.
The acts performing at the event are very diverse musically. Is that important to you as organisers?
Of course, that is something I really strive to do musically. As a blogger, I research a wide variety of different artists related to chiptune, some from the hardcore electronic scene, others to the more melodic VGM based music. Whilst I pick a few artists relating heavier music like, HarleyLikesMusic and Pain Perdu, I also look into other areas such as, For Astronauts & Satellites and Mizkai. Ultimately, it is important for the music to be diverse so that everyone who attends is happy.
There’s a very international feel to the line-up for 2018, yet a lot of the acts know each other – is there a real sense of community around the event?
Yes, and it’s driven a variety of different forums and groups. A good example of that is found in Chiptunes=Win Facebook Group. Everyone is helpful and if you have question or problem, there’s always someone who’ll answer it. The chiptune community is always willing to help each other and why everyone is so close.
Do you have plans for future events – in fact where do you see Chip Bit Day going in the next few years?
I always like to think of each Chip Bit Day being its last. It keeps my passion up for the event. Each year I look at the previous one taking into account the information retrieved from surveys and think about what I can do to improve.
Looking toward 2019 however, whilst I do have plans for the future, I cannot say whether it’ll be viable. As said before I plan each event as if it’s the last one. Although I never really see CBD as a business of sorts, in order to get the funds I need to make the event what it should be, I have to use crowdfunding. This ensures that I don’t overcommit and make a huge loss.
However, I will say if I do an event next year, I won’t be using an external crowdfunding site. Instead I’ll be creating my own site and doing it internally. This is mainly down to sites like, Indiegogo dropping Paypal and causing more money to be lost to bank transfers. This is alone I lost £75.00, money that could go to paying artists or making the event even better.
Outside of Chip Bit Day, I won’t be planning any extra events. Chip Bit Day takes a while to plan, and whilst it would be nice to perhaps get a quarterly thing going, ultimately it severely reduces the hype.
Chip Bit Day 3 will be on28th April 2018 at Zombie Shack, Chip Bit Day and you can find out more about tickets, via Party for the People as well as the official Facebook event. There’s also a pre-party on 27th April at Manchester’s Twenty Twenty Two.