Well this is great even if it is not for download.
If you have followed this website for a while you already know that I am a big fan of this documentary and did a interview with the director and a review of the film.
If not go now and check out their website and buy or see it for a small sum on their Vimeo channel...
There is a lot of Nanoloop being used by the musicians (in Gameboy format) and there is a segment with the developer of Nanoloop in the film.
In this exclusive SoundWorks Collection sound profile Michael Coleman talks with Supervising Sound Editor and Sound Designer Erik Aadahl and Supervising Sound Editor Ethan Van der Ryn about the sound of Director Gareth Edwards Godzilla.
After seeing a trailer and visiting the website of Europe in 8 Bits about a year ago it made more impact on me than would be normal and my curiosity was peaked.
The film was not finished was the information that came out after writing and asking if there was a possibility to write a review of the film. I will gladly admit that the asking to make a review was more an excuse to be able to see the film.
Some time passed and during that time there was some time spent on their website where there is a lot of Chiptune artists being represented with biography and some of the music of each artist.
Then one day the film was released and after some emails back and forth with the director we both was surprised that we actually both lived in Valencia/ Spain and as luck would have it there was a early showing of the film in Valencia on a big screen.
So happily I went to see the film and did write a review that you can read here:
Review of Europe in 8 Bits
The film has featured in a lot of international and national film festivals and events in a short time and deservedly so as it is well produced and very engaging and as a insight into the Chiptune scene this film is outstanding.
Now time for the interview!
- So the starting point was with Fela Borbone? (One of the artists in the film)
No no that happened afterwards. The first thing that we recorded it was a gig that Culomono organized. In the beginning I did not know too much about the scene and after the concert I started to research for some time considering that there was not so much information available at that time.
- What year was this?
That was three years ago, in 2011.
The first year of the project it was done pretty much by me and my collaborators, without an actual producer company. Then when we had a trailer and the website ready, Turanga Films saw the project and they became a part of the team. Since then we have been working together. Working mainly with the producer Lina Badenes, we were able to raise some money and make some promotion.
- How much did it cost?
It is hard to calculate the numbers but considering the trips, three years of work and also spending four months with an editor in Madrid…. it is quite a lot.
We did a crowdfunding and made 5300 €... But we have hopes that in the end the money spent will be recuperated.
-What was your first contact with Chiptune music in your life?
First time was four years ago when I went to see Meneo but i didn't know anything about the scene and I did not take it too seriously at the time. I was there by chance, drunk and I saw a naked guy with a Gameboy.
After this I did not think too much about it until I spoke with a friend of mine that goes under the name Culumono as a Chiptune musician. He introduced me to the scene and made me interested. He organized a meeting with Ralp, Tonylight, Vesper On and Midiman and that is the beginning of my interest in the Chiptune scene and the documentary.
Its been a very long process but now it is finished.
(Meneo the naked guy with a Gameboy. In the film you have him going wild and driving everybody to dance with his high energy tropical Gameboy rhythms, yes of course naked there to, in a small place with no stage. It looks like a concert that you would never forget.)
- Or just the beginning... as you have released merchandise and the website is a good representation of Chiptune artists.
So is there any plans to use Europe in 8 bits as a base with the website and expound on it with for example music releases and more shorter films.
I have not thought too much about it. But the website will be maintained for another three years at least. The idea would be to improve it with more artists profiles. Maybe we will do some Web episodes as we did a bit more than a hundred interviews and only included 32 in the documentary. We want to keep the website in movement every week or two with new material. But we are really hoping for a sponsor to join as it is a lot of work and I can not afford to work for free.
But in the end I want to show people every artist that got interviewed as they all have been important for the film and they all deserve to be exposed.
The soundtrack will be released and we are going to make some downloads for free and some for a symbolic fee. We also have T-shirts, DVD and Blu Ray discs for sale for a very low price.
- Tell me the craziest thing that happened during the interviews?
Yeah there has been around a hundred interviews and all of them with pretty unique characters.
For example with Fela Borbone we could have made a whole documentary about what happened during the three days we filmed him.
(Fela Borbone in action)
One of the things I remember was being chased by guards on the garbage dump where he was picking up old devices, we got away and that was a lot of fun.
Well there is too many stories to tell and a lot of good crazy experiences.
- What cameras did you use?
We used a Canon 5D. A reflex camera.
This being cheaper than renting camera which would have been too expensive.
We had a variety of lenses and being a small handy camera it was a very good option.
I would definitely recommend this camera for doing movies.
- So did Turanga films help you with financing?
More than financing I got a partner to work with. They did not put money into the project but they put work into it and it really helped to make the film better. I was more or less alone the first year and the project was going to be less ambitious. Turanga Films gave me a lot of ideas and pointed me in the direction how to improve the film. They also helped with how to go about financing the film.
We tried to raise money from Spanish and European grants but I think that the year we tried it was the worst year to try to get grants from the Spanish government any other year it would have been maybe possible. We had a little bit more success with finding sponsors, Absolut helped us with the crowdfunding campaign. We tried other things to and some of them worked and some not.
We had meetings with TV channels as well and hopefully we are going to sell the film to other countries. Lina (from Turanga Films) helped a lot to promote the documentary in different festivals that are very important so that has been a very good thing.
Yes it has been difficult to finance the film and we are still waiting to recover what we spent. It has been a big effort and it is going to be a slow process to break even.
I do not even think about making a profit out of it right now, I am just happy if it recovers the money spent.
I do get rewarded in other ways like people writing and telling me how much they liked it and how inspired they are getting or how it made them change the way they think.
There is people that has watched it and now they want to express themselves and create music.
Even Bitshifter (a well known Chiptune musician) that is in the film wrote me a long letter and thanked me for being in the film even though he had a short appearance. He told me that he was a bit negative with the scene and with the process of creation and that the film made him feel strong and inspired again. That it reminded him of all the reasons why he started doing Chiptune music in the first place.
Other people got inspired doing music some that never tried before and never heard about Chiptune music and is now looking into how to do music with a Gameboy or a Commodore 64.
That is the best reward! To inspire people or make them change ideas about something. That is better than any money.
It also makes me very excited to show the scene to the general population that probably have never heard of it before, you never know how they will react.
- In filmmaking what what were you doing before this?
Before the documentary I made short movies when I was studying in the university and also some music videos that were a very good training for Europe in 8 bits being a music documentary so it helps if it has a bit of music video feeling to it.
After the university I started to focus in commercials in parallel to shooting Europe in 8 bits. That's where you can make some money. A short film you do it because you want to tell something and that is the same with a documentary. You will not get Rich, you do it because you feel like doing it. The commercials is how I get paid but I really like doing them as well. You can also be creative there and add your own style. I try to be innovative with the ideas and change the perspective of things.
- What will be your next big project?
Europe in 8 Bits has not finished yet as a project since we are still moving the film in festivals and there are also other things around it.
I will rest some after it calms down so I can recuperate some energy,
but I have written a script for a short film.
It has been sometime since my last short film and I had a few ideas that I put together which is a comedy story that I am looking forward to shoot.
There is also a new idea for a documentary that is brewing in my mind. I would like to finish another documentary before I am thirty being 26 now. This will hopefully be started next year.
I did really enjoy doing Europe in 8 Bits and am looking forward to do another one.
It is such a learning process meeting different people with different ideas of living and understanding the world.
It is a beautiful thing.
- Yes in Europe in 8 Bits you get to see a lot of interesting characters. People that you want to hang out with.
Each one is different to one and another. Out of the 32 in the film you wonder how you do not get distracted and I think it is because each person has his/her own flavor and each one is in the film because they deserves to be. Even though they share the same passion each one is distinctive musically and otherwise. So you see the film and you do not get confused because of the difference. It also helps that the characters are from different countries, cultures and languages. When you see how the Italians are different from the Spanish or the English, French or the Swedish it makes it more interesting.
- Is there any country that you feel is more open or into the scene?
Right now it is definitively in Netherlands. There are more shows organized. Specially through Eindbass (chiptune label / organisation) that do fantastic work there.
You can also feel it in Sweden. People have more knowledge about what chiptune is there.
It could be because of a strong background in the Demo scene that happened there in the 90's and in general there are a lot of programmers and a lot of people that works in one way or another with computers, more than in any other county in Europe.
The general public seem more aware of the scene if you ask around. This in comparison with for example Spain where you could ask twenty people and nobody would know what you are talking about. There is some more awareness in Finland and Norway as well but in Sweden it seems like it is more ingrained in the culture when it comes to programming, hacking and suchlike.
But then you find people in Spain like Fela Borbone that takes it to the next level.
Maybe because in Spain there is less shame picking up something from the streets that is considered to be rubbish.
- You included some people from outside of Europe as well...
Yes, Bubblefish, Bitshifter, Lautaro and Meneo.
How come that you decided to include them as well?
In the beginning it was focused on Europe but after a while I also wanted a perspective from the outside of Europe.There was also an interview with an Japanese artist Aonami that in the end did not make it to the final cut.
Anyway Chiptune is a universal, worldwide phenomena.
The name Europe in 8 Bits was given to the website as well. The idea was to unify the European scene in some way. Now I guess the name is a little bit misleading but we decided on the name three years ago and did not know that there was going to be artists from other countries as well.
The idea was like I said before something less ambitious... but the thing got bigger and bigger.
Was you ever in contact with the creator of the documentary Re-Format the Planet (another Chiptune documentary)?
Yes "Paul Ervine" which was the director. I emailed him and explained our project and asked for a bit of footage when Bitshifter was performing in N.Y and he was very kind and let us use the footage that we have included in the film.
Our films have different perspectives. We did not try to make a European version as a contrast to Re-Format the Planet being the American version. It is just a different appeal and approach and I do think that they complement each other nicely.
- Yes I agree and then there is a difference in time as well...
GOTO80 wrote an article trying to explain why this and that happened. As the scene has grown since the late 90's and early 2000's and now with the distance of time you can study the movement better than if you did it at the moment it was happening. (Link to the article-http://chipflip.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/wider-screen-authenticity-in-chipmusic/)
There is some important points in history. Micromusic.net was an important influence in the development as was the programs for Gameboy LSDJ and Nanoloop. There was also a Grammy nomination that brought Chiptune music to the attention of a wider public.
But yes distance in time to the subject is necessary to study it properly.
- What do you mean with the Grammy nomination?
There was a Swedish musician Tobias something.
I can not remember his full name but he got nominated with a song made with a Gameboy in 2008 I think. We did not mention it in the film but in my opinion it is something important. There is also other recognized artists that started using Chiptune sounds in their music like Beck who used some 8-bit sounds for some of his songs.
It is getting to be heard more and more in commercial music or in the music on the radio and in publicity all because of the scene that has kept it alive during the years.
What is in your experience the most used hardware/software used for Chiptune music?
The most common hardware is the GameBoy without a doubt. There are a few reasons for this. One being that there were sold around 200 million units around the world. Second being portable and small and not taking any space made the people keep it, they do not get thrown away. With Amiga and Commodore 64 they took space and was sooner seen as rubbish in comparison to the newer computers that came out.
And yes, LSDJ and Nanoloop being the most prevalent software in conjunction with the Gameboy.
Political / Social messages in the film?
Apart from the passion that people feel for the machines there is a rebellion against program obsolescence and the massive consumption for many Chiptune musicians.
They really try hard to create a different present and future. To build from something that was not supposed to be used for the purpose of music making. To use it as an instrument.
I would really like to point this out as I found it incredible that they are able to create music from something that's considered to be rubbish for the rest of the society. It is something that is changing what is music and culture. It becomes deep with a lot of message which I think is something that appeals to our generation.
I see parallels with cyberpunk, using cheap outdated technology and using it to do innovative things. Building a future that they want and that is remarkable and brave.
There is of course a lot of other reasons to as you can see in the film. Some people is involved because of the political or the philosophical side. Some because of the sound or just because the idea of using these type of machines or just the idea of recycling obsolete technology.
Different reasons but in the end some sort of rebellion against established norms. To see things in a different perspective. To hear that these machines are limited when they are not limiting at all. For me there is no limitation and it is shown in the film. You can go as deep as possible with just an 8-bit sound chip that is supposed to have no use anymore. But look it got thirty years and it is better than a lot of new things!
Do you feel that it is a lot of overlap with DIY circuit bending?
They share a lot of things in the way they view life. Making music with toys and things that are rejected by the mainstream culture. Some do both like Lautaro that uses both circuit bent toys and 8-bit sounds. The scenes go together like cousins, part of the same family.
Do you think that the Chiptune scene would have happened without the Demo scene?
That is an interesting question. The Demo scene really helped in some ways. For me the Demo scene was more competitive regarding technical abilities / skills. Suddenly it started to turn into art.
When Chiptune came it was an art from the beginning where you could express yourself. I find that the Demo scene was necessary for making the Chiptune scene possible, it is like a grandfather.
It created the tools so you could express yourself and when people started to express themselves thats when chipmusic was born.
There is people like GOTO80 that was part of both scenes but this is not too common, most people belongs to one scene or the other.
I do not find the Chiptune scene community competitive at all. It is very friendly and has no egos. People share their work for the love of music. It is very human and honest. This is something I hope gets expressed in the film.
I do think that it is something that really comes through and you can feel that it is something that you would like to be part of after seeing the film.
How do you see Valencia? Is there any Chiptune scene here?
There is Toy Divixion that makes some workshops and around 3-4 gigs a year. Which is not bad considering the situation.
Then there is Fela Borbone but he is doing his own thing these days, he was very active some years ago. It is not going to be something massive but it is alive. There are collectives in Sevilla, Barcelona and Madrid as well and they do work together. So there are events every three months or so.
So how many people would you say is involved in Valencia?
Around two or three people but hopefully it will grow. Maybe some more young blood will be attracted to it.
As mentioned GOTO80 straddled the Demo scene and the Chiptune scene but he also are part of the fine arts world doing exhibitions and working with galleries and museums. Is there any other Chiptune artists that have gotten into the fine arts world?
Raquel Mayers as well. Tony Light was performing with a violinist together.
Then you have people like Ralp, Snail or Degon that make a lot of installations and live soundscapes.
Around 2008/09 there was an exhibition in Gijon and in Brussels regarding video games, music and sounds.
Myself would like to make a bigger 8-bit event over a weekend in Valencia or in
Madrid / Barcelona. With the film, workshops, installations and music.
Yes! To spread the word as the scene is alive and make it last forever!
So a big thanks to Javier Polo for taking time to talk with me and share with us all.
There is two ways to see the film unless you are lucky and it gets a screening in your town.
You can rent it directly over VImeo or order a DVD/BLU Ray disc for a very agreeable price-
The DVD for 5€ / 6.80$ and BLU Ray for 9€ / 12.20 $
If you have any interest in music it is one of the more interesting documentaries that you can see. Think that it is intriguing even for people that have no interest in music as it gives you an insight into something that is still a relatively unknown phenomena.
Here is links to Vimeo and to the Website that you should check out and it is also where you can buy the DVD / BLU Ray... T-Shirts and soon the soundtrack.
Europe in 8 Bits Vimeo
Europe in 8 Bits Website
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