before his band 8-Bit Construction Set, was about to play at a Warp
records concert at Chicago's Metro. We got to chatting about, among
other things, the art of hacking, modding, rodding, retro gaming,
and his Beige
8-bit’s only release, flipped upside
down the hi score spells "beige." Beige
One thing about his band that struck me was the
fact that they were spread out over the net. Being spread out over
a network, without a central point, means being indestructible and
above all unpredictable. Having a band without a central point (i.e.
a bandleader) also meant that creativity could move horizontally
through all band members instead of from the top to the bottom.
The negative effect of not having a central point might make it
chaotic, unorganized and as a result the band might not produce
as much. So far all those things are true: 8-Bit Construction is
still together and is still quite unpredictable. Creativity is flowing
to and from all members but 8-Bit Construction Set has
still only released one album. With this in mind it's unlikely that
you'll be hearing a new albums soon -a reminder that the utopian
ideas of an more efficient society via internet technology hasn't
completely replaced the idea of practicing live, a.k.a. jammin'.
"It's really just about us being lazy", Cory reasoned.
Outside of the slowly making music within 8-bit
construction set extranet, Cory mentioned a collaboration a PaperRad,
a 'zine out of Boston.
Cory's contribution to PaperRad
'zine: 2.5 pages of hand written coded that orders
a Dominos Pizza to a specified location every 20 minute, forever, or at
least until the Dominoe's webmaster bombs your computer offline.
he mentioned that he might be writing the script for a new play
which will hopefully star all of the Super Mario Brothers characters:
Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Princess Toadstool, Goomba, and Koopa-Troopa.
When we started taking pictures of Cory for this article he insisted
that he be photographed with his favorite threads. With his visor
and Mario Cloudz T-shirt Cory began to resemble a modern day Mario
Brother's character with his low-tech style and poses. Perhaps this
is his technique for getting into character so he can write the
script. Just as I thought the interview has reached its maximum
level of lo-tech wackiness Cory slapped on a video for the song
"Dollars" that the band made in a do-it-yourself video
booth back in 2000. At that point that I began to understand where
he was coming from…
Super Low Budgets: Still
from "Dollars", an 8-Bit production. I can't imagine the
Video Kiosk in the Mall charging more than $20 for 5 minutes. Click
here to watch the complete "Dollars" video (11mb Quicktime
Juicing with lo-fi digital art with video games
we've out grown, musical influences from the vibrant Detroit techno-scene,
and thrift shop sensibility, Cory has been able to concoct a unique
and tangy artistic style. The modern world gives him new technology
and Cory hacks it back to its fundamentals. Hopefully after reading
the interview you'll know what I'm talking about and you just might
have a better picture of what kind of artist Cory is, even it does
turn out to be just an 8-bit screenshot...
hen did you make this Dollars video?
We were all in the conservatory together. This is
late, late, late conservatory year, I had just quit guitar -I went there
to study classical guitar by the way. That was our last year -we had no
idea of what we were doing. Know what I mean?
Truthfully, in my senior year I thought
I knew what I was doing and it wasn't until after I graduated that reality
set in… So you didn't go to art school?
Right, I went to Oberlin,
I majored in Electronic Music Composition with a minor in Computer Science
and Classical Guitar -"Selected Study in Classical Guitar" to
Now that you don't have the umbrella of
school, how does your band get together to make music?
Basically send bits and pieces of mp3s over email
to one another and then we chat about how we can improve them. Like when
you walked in, I was on the phone with my friend Paul and we were talking
about this one project. Work gets done over phone calls and emails. I'll
just email them and say: "hey guys listen to this mp3 I made!"
There’s stuff floating around as we speak. With the hacked Nintendo
cartridges, I’ll burn a cartridge and send it to Paul and ask him
if he can maybe can make some beats for it. Otherwise he’ll suggest
I do this and that to it to make it a bit better.
So there’s not a real bandleader
No, there's barely a band.
That’s sort of good. You don’t
have to deal with the lead singer's personality or worse- his girlfriend.
Yeah, that's right.
Can you even call this a collaboration
or is this more of an Ether Jam Session where you guys just jam over each
Most of the songs definitely feel like collaborations.
But "jamming" might be the wrong word for it. Jamming is more
like when you play with each other live -this is more like goofing off.
Most of the time we play live, we just goof. For example, someone will
stop the show to explain over the microphone how we made that particular
song. Or we might pull someone not from the band on stage to explain how
we made it. Did you see any of those performance-slash-presentations that
I saw one of your PowerPoint presentations
on the basics of hacking Nintendo.
Yeah, it’s like that. We'll do a presentation,
and right in the middle of our performances I’ll be like "O.K.,
enough of this music, let’s talk about hacking Nintendo!" Know
what I mean?
Music stops and then you give a lecture?
Yep, or I might be in the mood to play a video or
some booty bass. When we get together it's always a total disaster.
So are any of your guys nervous to see
each other in such a long time?
Oh no, it hasn't been a long time. We’re more
like "Oh, here we go again!"
In the lecture you mentioned that you hack
the chips in the Mario cartridges to make your art and music?
That's right, these EPROM chips hold binary code
in 32k files, which run in the 6502 microprocessor. All you need to do
is pop the chip in to the burner, hook it up to your computer, and burn
it. To erase the chip you expose them to light. And it copies in a second!
It’s really fun to think about how much information is in that little
So you're really into saving space!
Yeah, but not necessarily saving space but being
thorough -getting the most of what you have.
What computer do you have over there?
Oh, that’s a old phase G3 mini tower. And
I have Windows 98 machine too because that’s the only type of system
I can use to burn these chips. Luckily someone gave that one to me for
free. So now my G3 is like my normal office computer, I use it for things
like email. There's only about 128mbs of ram on it.
I suppose you're not doing anything in
Director or Premier on it then?
No, no I don’t use that computer for anything
but administration. Although I did download Future
Splash Animator on it just to see what it was like. There’s
just like little difference between it and Flash -it was weird. Future
Splash Animator is what Flash was before Macromedia bought it up in 1995.
An independent company called Futurewave developed it.
On the 8-Bit Construction Set self title
album, both sides of the albums have programs pressed onto them along
with the music??
Yeah, each side has one program but they're pretty
much the same. The Atari side has a bass, line shout out screen, and post-data
video by Joe Beuckman. Commador64 side has the Roland 303 (the synth that
gave us ACID house), shout out screen, and post-data video by Paul Davis.
Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the
programs on the album? It seems like for a while you were pulling a PR
trick, like holding back information, keeping it a mystery so people would
want to buy it?
We weren't really keeping it a secret. Not many
people would know what it is even if they buy it because they would have
to load it on to a computer with a cassette drive. There are only about
five people in the world that have really ever done that.
I would have figured there might have been
Nah, there were a couple of kids from the Netherlands
who did it, and they were like "cool!" -but that’s about
it, that’s the kind of audience for this type of thing. Who has
a Commodore 64 lying around anymore? And who has a Commodore 64 with a
cassette drive and is interested enough in obscure electronic music to
do that? You know what I mean? So that's why it really isn't talked about
in the reviews.
Did those guys email you from the Netherlands?
Yeah, we got one email from this kid out there.
We also got one mail from someone saying, "It didn’t work!"
We actually get more emails like that! (laughs)
Does it come with instructions?
Yes actually, we have instructions printed on the
insert -detailed instructions on how to load it. On top of not having
the proper equipment and the know-how of loading it, it was a very obscure
record. People didn't get to it much to actually figure it out, and half
of those who did get the album still couldn't figure it out! Which in
someway was a shame.
So what are you guys working on now then?
It's been two years now.
We have a 10" coming out with this band call
which is a German equivalent of our band. They are on Rephlex.
They are incredible!
How long have those guys been around?
Probably for about the same time as we have. Their
first record was released in '99. We got in touch with them through the
Rephlex people. The Rephlex people told us to listen to their record.
When we heard their record we were heart broken.
They made you want to try harder?
Definitely, but I have to say that their record
was the first true non-poser old-school home-computing-movement pop record.
Tell me about the
Beige World Cassette Battle.
It’s a DJ battle we are hosting this summer
but the participants don't spin vinyl, they use cassette tapes. It's the
second year we're hosting it in association with Version>03
Festival and the Museum
of Contemporary Art in Chicago
Interesting, CJs instead of DJs! What do
you need to compete?
Well, you bring your own cassettes and a tape player/records
of course -it's really up to you. Many kids modify the tape recorders,
use tape loops, etc. We even had this one kid last year that brought in
a pencil with the head of magnetic tape reader attached to the tip. Then
he laid out the cassette tape on a piece of wood and started to scratch!
We had a DJ mixing it live so it sounded just like scratching. The
movement of the pencil back and forth gave the cassette the same effect
as scratching vinyl! It sounded just like scratching- it was really incredible
but unfortunately he didn't win.
So the magnetic head pencil was still attached
to tape player with wires, there must have been wires all over the place!?
Yeah, that's one kind of a modification you might
see at the Cassette Battle.
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