Chiptune/fakebit artist mpegasus is rather partial to beeps. His sound is drawn from the 8-bit era of home computers like the Spectrum and c64, mixed with heavy bass and crunchy drums to leave each track existing in a temporal limbo between the past and the future. Maybe it sounds weird, but it’s brilliant. Strap yourself in and read on to find out a little bit more about this Cambridge-based artist.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind mpegasus and how would you describe your sound?
When I was a youngster, I had an Amiga. On that Amiga, I made music using a program called OctaMED. It all sounded very video gamey.
Now I’m a grown up, I’ve been making more ‘pro’ (or ‘normal’) sounding music for a while under the name Binster. But I still had a hankering for that old video gamey sound. A friend of mine started making chiptune music under the name _ensnare_ and back in 2011 a plan was hatched to work on an album together. This album, Binary Opposition, was the first proper outing of mpegasus (or .mpegasus if you’re not afraid to break the rules of punctuation).
Since then I’ve worked on two more albums, Quixotica and Quixotica 2, on which I have refined my sound from the straight forward chipdance of Binary Opposition into a more atmospheric menagerie of textures. There are still plenty of up tempo tracks to be had, such as the title track Quixotica and the dark pounding SIGNALost, but they’re in amongst cinematic soundscapes like Orthogony and PixlSpace.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
My Binster work has been described in the past as ‘Nintendo Nu-Skool’ so I think it’s fair to say I’ve always had video-gamey sympathies. My move into chiptune was primarily motivated by a desire to simplify my production work – I wanted to aleviate the pressure I put on myself to ‘sound pro’ and focus more on the melodies in the piece. It didn’t work out that way in the end, as I still obsess over the production 🙂
Aesthetically speaking, I often approach a track visually – for example, there are three tracks on Quixotica 2 which start feeling like a tense space horror movie (the appropriately named Nostromos) before the next track feels like being marooned in a strange off-kilter world
(Orthogony) and finishes with a track that lightens the tense mood with soothing soundwashes and up beat melodies (PixlSpace) – as a trio they feel quite cinematic and prog rock-ish. I like to balance my albums like this, with club bangerz interspersed through a more narrative tapestry.
For all the gear-heads and producers – what’s your song writing and producing set up? Do you tend to follow a structured workflow or is a bit more ad hoc and organic?
My genre isn’t quite chiptune, it’s actually fakebit – that is, something that sounds like chiptune without being restricted to particular hardware. So basically, I’m a cheat…
I use Reason, primarily the standard Subtractor synth for all instruments with the occasional FM synth when I’m after a megadrive-y 80s synthwave-y feel. I sometimes rewire Reason through Ableton for production purposes, but Reason’s where I spend my happiest hours.
Structurally, I have a habit of succumbing to a burst of sketch-idea creativity when I will quickly throw many song ideas down, before leaving them to gestate in the back of my mind for a few months while I work on existing songs. Then I’ll come back to them and see what my subconscious has cooked up for me. It’s not the most productive work flow but I find that it allows me to take myself melodically by surprise.
I know you also produce under the name Binster, how do you decide or work out which project a track’s going to fit under, or do you start writing tracks with a particular alter ego in mind from the offset?
There have been a few tracks which start under one artist name, and end up under the other. Two of the tracks from Quixotica 2 started off as tracks for my synthwave sideproject ‘echoHeart’ (which is currently a ‘Binster presents’ project but is periously close to spinning off into yet another alter ego…)
The recent Binster release, Anisometric EP, marks the biggest distance from .mpegasus yet I feel. I think earlier Binster work sat in the middle ground between the Anisometric EP and the Quixotica albums.
As for what’s next for both projects, Binster will return to the echoHeart project and complete a full 80s style album. With .mpegasus there’s a medium range goal of finishing off the Quixotica project with a third album, and due to having named the previous 20 tracks with succesive letters of the alphabet I only have six letters left to use, and it’s all the weird letters like X and Z so I’m predicting a particularly esoteric prog album for Quixotica 3… Before that, though, will be an EP of stand alone chiptune party tracks to cleanse the palette.
The past few years have seen chiptune music getting a lot of media attention and some almost mainstream recognition. How are things for chiptune in the UK right now, and who should we be checking out?
UK Chiptune is in something of a golden period. There are festivals and gigs all over the place, and many of the finest artists are Brits (and Irish). London in particular seems to be infested with GameBoy totin’ tunesters, like Chipzel, Shirobon and Galaxy Wolf. Elsewhere I’m a particular fan of Mr. Spastic who’s new album Meta just released, and FearOfDark, who has just started performing live, churns out some incredible melodic work.
What can we expect to see from mpegasus in the coming months? Have you any new material or live shows on the horizon?
No new releases for a little while from me I’m afraid – other non-music projects are taking a front seat for the moment. That said, I have a few exciting gigs lined up this year. First up, on August 13th I’ll be playing at the Computing History Museum in Cambridge alongside gwEm, then the next day I’ll be on the radio in Manchester with a few live tracks and an interview, and then on 20th August I’ll be playing the Bleep Your Heart Out festival in Bristol. Exciting times!
Photo by Chiptography.