We started out talking about the prehistory of chiptunes. I talked about one of the two most important computers ever made: the Commodore 64, which took computers from those all-knowing superbrains of Colossus: The Forbin Project to "that thing you play games and do homework on" in 1981, and how it did for computer sound what the Amiga did later for graphics1 in changing the way hackers thought about it. We talked about the demo scene of the mid- and late 80s and early 90s for a while after that, and how that led to things like the gameboy, and how that became a musical instrument.
Then MC-3P0 and C0splay talked a lot about the history of hiphop - of MC Hawking, of MC Frontalot, and how a lot of people had started coming in from liking hiphop and rap but also being geeks, and, "you rap what you know," and how that turned into the roots of nerdcore. And they talked about how the humour was important from the start, which reminded me of KOMPRESSOR, the German industrial/techno and later hiphop alt-identity of Drew from Toothpaste for Dinner and Married to the Sea.
We also talked a lot about the DIY aesthetic that connects most geek music (and, not incidentally, punk) and the Lo-Tech Resistance and the 8-bit Collective, the people who hang out in front of the convention centre at PAX jamming out music on Game Boys with custom mods and carts, and the rest.
We talked a little about some bands who are kind of premodern geekmusic or geekmusic outside any category - arguably a fair chunk of metal (seriously, lots of those people are serious geeks), Za Frûmi (orc opera - no lie, sung entirely in Black Speech), Devo (absolutely geeks), Jonathan Coulton (of course), The Laziest Men on Mars, I totally forgot Joe Sparks and Devil Doll, OMG! I just remembered I should've mentioned them, They Might Be Giants, and and and and...
And I'm spending more time on chiptunes and everything else than nerdcore, which isn't fair but I don't know the nerdcore history as well, and I didn't take enough notes. But we started talking a lot about specific bands and playing samples right about them, so here's some list action for you, complete with links:
- The Megas. "Mega Man Cover Music" doesn't begin to describe these people. They're writing the soundtrack to the SF themes underlying the games, which are deeply fucked up if you give them more than three seconds thought and as such are awesome.
- Fighter X
- she, who are unbelievably awesome and I don't know why "Coloris" doesn't start Norwescon dances every goddamn year. Welcome to the future.
- Circles, who used to be with CruncyCo and I think are now with 8-bit Collective.
- Unicorn Dream Attack, out of Minnesota. Go listen to "4l0n3." Now.
- Anamanaguchi, who have played PAX a couple of times - I've seen them live there and their sonic and visual attack is a force of goddamn nature.
- I Fight Dragons. The player's in the upper right hand corner of the page. Play with it or die.
- Nullsleep. Gods, nullsleep. You like hardcore raw sound? You like Nullsleep. I like their higher-BPM stuff in particular. Watch them in Tokyo at the Low-Bit Playground.
- Kids Get Hit By Buses, Seattle locals! Check 'em.
- Death*Star, our guests and my co-panelists, who rawked the haus on Saturday night.
- Beefy, out in Richland!
- YT Cracker, actual gangsta hiphop in that he was in serious trouble as a kid for hacking into other peoples' computers.
- MC Lars's post-punk laptop rap, and the first nerdcore artist to chart, having done it in 2006 in Australia, with "Download This Song."
- MC Chris, who was also Hesh in Sealab 2021, and yes, that really is what he sounds like omg.
- MC Frontalot, who did not invent nerdcore, but did name it.
- Optimus Rhyme. The name alone earns a listen.
- Supercommuter, 8-bit hiphop! Also local.
- Billy the Fridge
- Infadread is another favourite of C0splay's, and they've got a couple of tracks online.
- Jesse Dangerously, nerdcore from Nova Scotia! Fuck yea mudkips!
- UltraKlystron, aka Karl Olson, from Kirkland.
- Kirby Krackle and their comic book pop rock.
- Paul and Storm, comedy nerdpop with songs about Frogger and nun fights.
- Crime and the Forces of Evil, elfmusic that is so not into you2 and comes pre-loaded with RAEG.
- Which is to say: before the Amiga, people hadn't been focusing on number of colours but number of pixels in order to get realistic images; it was a print-like approach. Increase the resolution enough and you only need three colours, maybe four. The Amiga inverted this and gave you now-low-grade-but-then-astounding photorealism at 320x400 at 4096 colours; it changed how people thought about graphics in a fundamental way. Similarly, the C64 before it had gone from one simple voice that you'd try to change very very often to get sound to three voices with some complexity. The Amiga continued this, of course, but the C64 laid the groundwork.
- Except when it is. Also, MC-3P0 actually did plug me on the panel, so I have a right.