‘I didn’t want to be just another person pressing play and dancing’: Interview With Chiptune Artist Fearofdark
Fearofdark is a Brighton based chiptune artist who has been releasing songs for the last eight years. He recently started performing live and has played to audiences in London, New York and Philadelphia. We caught up with him to find out more about his music.
What is Chiptune?
Chiptune is music that is made on or made with sounds from old video-game consoles or video-game hardware. It’s a very nerdy but also punk genre. A lot of people are into the DIY side of music or that sort of thing because it’s very hands-on and you get to tinker around with hardware. I first heard of Chiptune about ten years ago but I only started releasing music in 2009. I found a site called 8 bit Collective (8BC) which is unfortunately down now, but that’s the website that really started introducing me to the scene.
How did you get your name?
I’ve been making music as Fearofdark for 8 years now. Fearofdark was an old username that I had when I was really young and I just stuck with it – I think it was the name I gave my Neopets! People started catching on to the name so I thought I would keep it.
What software/ hardware do you use?
The chip I like writing for the most is the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or the Famicom. Nowadays I mainly write in a piece of software called Famitracker – It runs on Windows and allows you to write music that you can then export into a NES compatible format that will play on real hardware. I also use a piece of software called OpenMPT to make sample-based chiptunes.
What is your live setup?
I didn’t play live for a long time because I didn’t really know how I would do it. I had been to chiptune events before but I never new what setup I would have. A lot of people do standard DJ sets and I didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to do something a bit different and include an instrumental element because I didn’t want to be just another person pressing play and dancing. I already knew how to play piano so I just did that. I don’t have a NES but I do plan on getting an actual Famicom with the correct kit so that I can play my stuff on actual hardware live and it’s more authentic. I play through Ableton at the moment.
Have you had any musical training?
I studied music at Sussex University in Brighton and learnt a lot of composition methods that I wasn’t aware of before. It taught me about composing for different media which was useful. I learnt about rhythmic paradoxes – I don’t know if that’s the proper name but that’s what I call them. Having a rhythmic offset or paradox means that you offset the rhythm so that it’s syncopated with the main whole but instead what you hear feels like it’s on-beat when it’s actually not. One example would be Stravinsky’s March Royale.
The melody starts in 5/8 and then continues in 2/4 and sounds syncopated, but the rest of the accompaniment doesn’t have the bar of 5/8 so it plays with your brain and tells you that the on beat is somewhere that it isn’t. It’s sometimes referred to as a paradox because what you hear as the on-beat is actually written as something else. That sounds complicated but it’s useful to me because it’s something I can use to play with the listener. I used it in a track called Losing My Sense of Direction. I have the melody begin on an off-beat but because you don’t hear anything at the start you hear it as an on-beat and then there is a point where everything sort of snaps. It gives an off-kilter effect that makes you feel like you missed a beat somewhere.
What inspires you to write?
It depends. I sometimes write about experiences. I’ve never out out anything with a narrative or anything like that but certain tracks are inspired by certain things. A lot of the songs on my album Motorway were inspired by traveling. Fast City was inspired by New York. I wrote a lot of those just before I went to uni so that influenced them too.
Who are your favourite Chiptune artists?
Someone who has influenced me over the last seven years is Kulor. I first found out about his music on 8BC and he writes these really happy and accessible tunes. I like them a lot and he has been quite a big influence on me. There is a guy called Blitzlunar who’s music I also like. Recently I’ve really gotten into a band called nmlstyl. I saw them in Philidelphia and they are very good.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’ll be releasing an album Exit Plan pretty soon and that’s hopefully going to be coming out later this month. I’ve got another project planned but I don’t want to leak too many details, hopefully it will live and chip elements.
You can find more of Fearofdark’s music on Bandcamp.