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Testify - Ary Warnaar of Anamanaguchi

Submitted by RamonLP4 on April 27, 2011 – 8:43 amNo Comment
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Anamanaguchi’s “Airbrushed” Art by Paul Robertson

Ah technology. We use it and then discard it for the next shiny toy that tempts us with promises of better and faster computing. In garages and in landfills there are the corpses of old gaming systems long discarded by a callous public. Yet there are some people who see this old technology as dynamic – something that can be reinvented and repurposed for other uses. Chiptone musicians are one such group. Through collaborative means, they trade ideas and software that allows them to take that old gaming system and breathe life into it as a musical instrument. The result is a sound that is both retro and modern. On the one hand those old sound chips immediately ring-in a sense of nostalgia (especially if you were around in the 80s) but, on the other hand, the recontextualizing of those sounds is wholly a thing unto itself – something that goes beyond mere gaming nostalgia.

One such band is Anamanaguchi who will be playing tonight at Fitzgerald’s [The show is free if yr over 21!!!] . Play one of their tracks and you’ll know what I mean. The new single “Airbrushed” has all the upbeat fun of the best pop-punk and the 8-bit sounds add a level that is so fun you’ll want to punch yourself! Repeatedly! We called up Ary Warnaar of the band to ask him about the band and the genre.

FPH – How did you guys meet up?

Warnaar - We had been playing in bands before and met up at NYU while studying electronic music composition and we got into the technology side of it. We started in 2004 but weren’t a real band until 2009.

FPH – What do you mean a real band?

Warnaar – Playing shows and such. (Laughs) Oh wait, I meant this year…we’ll become a real band this year. I promise.

FPH – How do people react to this kind of music?

Warnaar - People are thrown off at every end of the spectrum. On the listener side, a lot of people get it while others are confused and say “This is just video game music.” Well, no, this is actual stuff people are composing. On the industry side, the industry is scared of it because they don’t get it and many bookers can’t make out what the hell it is. Is it dance music? Is it rock? They don’t understand the genre.

FPH – Why did you guys choose to incorporate guitars and drums into the mix?

Warnaar - Initially, it’s what we knew…what made sense to us. But past that, I think it’s a really interesting sound. That square wave isn’t that far from an electric guitar and it adds a whole dynamic and sound that’s appropriate to what we do. The songs, when stripped down and you take out the NES and all that stuff, are pop-punk.

FPH – Where do you get the stuff to manipulate the old systems?

Warnaar - The stuff is all over the internet – Famitracker for the NES and LSDJ by Johan Kotlinski for the Gameboy. These and others let you do coding on the songs – you put every note and every sound and that goes on a cartridge that can play the sound chip. There are some audio upgrades you can do and we added some screens so we can see what we are doing when we play live.

FPH – You guys did the soundtrack for the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World video game. Given that some people dismiss this as merely video game music, was it more of a blessing or a curse to be involved in that project?

Warnaar - We knew going into this that it’d be crazy but there are a lot of people writing actual music and you sometimes do want to distance yourself from the video game world but, in this case, it was wildly appropriate for us and I think we did a fine job of it so it’s been much more of a blessing.

FPH – How is recording when compared to your live shows?

Warnaar - Recording is very similar to our live shows. We use the same gear live - the band and the NES – and we use that software live. The live shows are aesthetically driven and we have a lot of visuals that go along with the performance. We know lots of people hacking so what you see behind us is the work of other visual artists who come in and play live with us live. They do what we do but they are doing it with the visuals. Unfortunately, this tour is so long and involved that we couldn’t do the full-on visual stuff. They just couldn’t commit to such a long tour so we brought a lot of prerecorded stuff of their work to use instead. It’s not live but it’s still very cool.

FPH – Do you think the genre is limiting?

Warnaar - This process has been around for a long time so there is a lot of range. People have incorporated so many things over the years because there is so much room to grow. Like for our new album we’re going to be messing with a lot of different ideas and processes and we have a Commodore 64 and that will add a completely different sound.

At first it may seem to sound the same but, if you pay attention, there are different sounds out there. There are labels out there like 8bitpeoples who have so much music out there and the range of the artists is vast. Let me recommend two to you so your readers can get an idea of what’s out there. Henry Homesweet is awesome stuff; it’s very modern and he pushes it to a new level. It’s dance but it’s unlike anything else. Starscream on the other hand, has a post-rock aesthetic that’s completely different.

FPH – So what would you tell people coming out to the show tonight?

Warnaar - Just know that it’s gonna be loud and they should come prepared to party.

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Anamanaguchi perform tonight with Peelander Z and Commie Hilfiger @ Fitzgerald’s. Doors 8pm, Over 21 FREE!!!, Under 21 $7

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