from Covox’s myspace page
If you yearn for the days when video games filled your brain with the themes from Zelda or Megaman, head over to Lune tonight where Kill Club brings you it’s entire 8-bit army.
We caught up with Swedish man Covox, who performs with a Gameboy onstage. We were curious to learn just a little more about just what goes on with the Gameboy, and how he got involved with Chinese label Shanshui, where he released a special Chinese version of his album in 2007. He was happy to oblige.
So when did you first get into the 8-bit scene? Was it love at first Gameboy?
Where: Lune, 4th floor 218 Xinle Lu 新乐路218号near Donghu Lu 近东湖路
Starts: Oct 9, 10pm
I’ve been making music on computers since I was 14, using the home computers available at that time. I didn’t really think of it as a particular scene, just a bunch of kids playing with what tools they had access to at that time. Samplers and synths were expensive, so home computers were the only option if you wanted to create electronic music. The gameboy came around much later when a friend of mine developed a music sequencer for it. The benefits of being extremely portable dawned on me at that point, and since then I make almost all my music on the move. Of course the raw and dirty waveforms was part of the appeal too! The gameboy’s sound is 4-bit, so it’s even more low-tech than most people realize.
You released a special version of your last album on Shanshui records and toured Asia back in 2007. How’d you get involved with Shanshui? Why release a special Chinese version?
I was contacted by the manager of Shanshui back in 2006, asking if I wanted to release on the label. I had just finished my first album and released it back in Sweden and was in negotiations to release in Japan as well. I figured it was a golden opportunity to have fun with the release and create three different versions, with different bonus tracks and colours on the back.
What brings you back? Anything you’re looking forward to on this tour?
Touring is always tons of fun, especially in Asia. I have a lot of fond memories, meeting awesome people and having a great time playing music, so I couldn’t say no when the opportunity came about. Sometimes it feels like I’m making music just to be able to tour.
Any chance you could give us a layman’s breakdown of how you use a Gameboy to create music?
It’s not so different from using a regular computer. You lay down sequences of notes, with instruments defined from whatever parameters are available. The Gameboy is extremely limited to what you can do with other computers – you only have four channels, and one of them can only play noise of different timbers – so you have to be creative in every aspect to work around the limitations. It’s looking more arcane than it really is, with the screen usually covered with tables of numbers, but once you see past them everything’s right there in front of you.
What’s the compositional process like compared with live performance?
I never played any instruments, but I guess the process is similar. You start out by experimenting with a melody or bassline, or a rhythm. Things hopefully evolve from there into something you like. You get pretty fluent in all the commands after a while, wielding all the button combinations by heart. For playing live, I find it way more reliable to use a laptop instead of the actual gameboy hardware, which can be extremely sensitive to jolts.
For most of us, 8-bit takes us back to childhood video games like Bomber Man or Contra. How much do these games actually factor into your creative process?
Actually, none. I played tons of games when I was a kid, and most of the games had way more memorable music back then, and none of this cheesy orchestral fluff most game titles run with today. It made low-tech waveforms and melodies sound more natural than other music to me.
And of course, what is your favorite Gameboy game?
It must have been ten years since I last actually played a game on the gameboy. It’s been primarily a music tool for me. But you can never go wrong with Tetris.