“PIXEL OUT” is a new digital art exhibition hosted by illustrator/art director Kazuki Takaura that opens February 25 at pixiv Zingaro. To celebrate the exhibition, a pre-party event called “ENTER BIT” was held on February 21 at Shibuya 2.5D in collaboration with chiptune artist TORIENA. Prior to the event, we interviewed TORIENA and the event’s main act, Chip Tanaka. The following is a translation of the original article on the 2.5D website.
In the past, Tanaka-san worked on the development of the Game Boy sound hardware as well as on numerous video game soundtracks, and continues to deliver new music to the world as Chip Tanaka. TORIENA is an artist who, as we know from her live performances, uses fashion and culture as part of her arsenal to inject new life into chiptune music. We sat down with these two amazing artists to find out what they think about the present and future of the chiptune scene.
Interviewed by Kazuki Takakura & Yuma IIyori
-To start out, TORIENA, could you tell us how you first met Tanaka-san?
TORIENA: I first met Tanaka-san at Square Sounds 2013. At the time, we only briefly introduced ourselves, but when I saw his live performance there for the first time, I was so amazed, all I could say was “Wow!”. And then the first time we had a proper conversation was in 2015 at Square Sounds in Australia, where we both played as guest performers from Japan.
-And how about you, Tanaka-san? Had you heard of TORIENA before you performed together at Melbourne last year?
Tanaka : Yes, I’d heard of her. I found out about her through the Internet around three or four years ago. At the time, I thought, “Ahh, finally there’s a female making chip music!”. Seeing women being interested in this kind of music was invigorating. Whenever I see her perform, you can tell her music is evolving as she’s being influenced by other artists – I get the impression that she’s…not studying them, but more like absorbing all this various talent as she rolls along and grows as an artist.
-TORIENA, what was it that made you want to ask Tanaka-san to perform at ENTER BIT?
TORIENA: Well, I believe Tanaka-san brings aspects of both the past and the present to the table. Nostalgic music and modern music oppose each other in some ways, but I believe the present chip music culture exists because of its origins. Tanaka-san has produced a lot of classic game music that everyone is familiar with, but since 2007 when he started performing under other names such as Chip Tanaka, his music has expanded beyond the realm of just being game music. His new style of chip music really fits with the concept of ENTER BIT.
Tanaka : I’m so happy to hear that. I also heard that this interview will be published on a site called Tokyo Girls’ Update, and that makes me happy too (laughs). I’m honored to be performing with and sharing an experience like this with young performers that are so full of life.
– Tanaka-san, in the past you’ve made offers to young artists like DE DE MOUSE and Seiho when you hosted events, which makes me feel like you’ve been keeping on top of current music. Is this true?
Tanaka : I’ve been into music since I was 3 or 4 years old–since before I can remember–and I’ve spent plenty of time playing in bands and such too. I’ve basically loved music my entire life, and I’ve always enjoyed dance music as well. Of course, chip music is important to me, but I’ve always had an eye on other types of music as well.
-Would you say you have a strong interest in new genres of music too?
Tanaka : Sometimes I have strong interest in new genres, and other times I look back to music from 20 to 30 years ago and discover new things I hadn’t noticed before. So it’s more like I go back and forth. One day I’m strongly interested in new music and another day I’m digging up vinyls from decades ago to listen to. But regardless of what era the music is from, one thing I’m always thinking of is which musical elements remain in music today and which fade away.
TORIENA: I also think about which elements remain and which fade away. It’s easy to come up with new ideas, but it’s not always easy to tell what’s going to stick around. Right now, chip music still feels fresh and innovative to me, but I also hope it becomes a kind of music that can live on and keep innovating in the future.
Takakura: As the modern Internet has developed, pixel art and chiptunes have come to be consumed as “game-like” art forms. But they’ve both evolved in their own way irrespective of just games. By contextualizing them through exhibitions and events like these, I think they’ll establish their own unique culture that lives on in future generations.
TORIENA: Having come from video games, pixel art and chiptunes have an image of being flashy and catchy, but I’d like to try and express them in different ways as well. Things that can be easily expressed in words can be easily forgotten since they’re only expressed superficially, so I hope that everyone who comes to ENTER BIT and Pixel Out can experience that pixel art and chiptunes aren’t only about that, but about being full of possibility and diversity.
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