Sunday, 14 June 2009

VORC Records Interview (TM NETWORK chiptune tribute)

Chiptune. If you're with it, you'll praise its contemporary composers for their amazing ability to increasingly knock out dazzling originals or faithful recreations with a new twist. But if you don't get it, you'll be quick to dismiss the genre as a bunch of eighties-obsessed geeks freaking out over crude beeps. Honestly this description suits me just fine, as I'll readily admit to being an old-school video game nerd anyday. But unless you're a stinking hypocrite, you just have to applaud the efforts of recently-launched VORC Records, who are working so damn hard to bring chitpune to the next level, with international collaboration albums and a major push for the budding genre to hop onto mainstream distribution channels, certainly to the joy of all artists involved.

Assuredly, this last point holds true in the case of this interview and the many other international articles spawned off from the release of their latest album, "8-BIT PROPHET - TM Network Tribute Generated by Chiptune + Vocaloid". Unlike the majority of Japanese artists and labels, VORC Records are stepping out of their insular boundaries and aggressively reaching out to the whole world, making sure no one misses out on any of their latest chiptune offerings. While you're reading this interview, you might want to head over to VORC Record's myspace page and let the audio player do its thing, as the label generously put up 10 samples for everyone to check out.

Let's begin with a brief overview of VORC Records, for the uninitiated. Actually, what does "VORC" stand for?

VORC Records is a pioneering independent Japanese chiptune label founded in Tokyo in 2006. It was originally started by hally, who is a chiptune artist himself, as well as the website manager of VORC. The acronym stands for "Video game OR Chiptune". But before it was a label, VORC used to be a news site dedicated to oldschool video game music and chiptunes, launched in 2001. Unfortunately, this news site has not been maintained in over 3 years, mainly due to a system problem, but it doesn't help that Hally is very busy with the label and his own artistic activities. You may access the English archives to get a better idea of VORC's long-standing involvement with chiptune and videogame music.

What are some of VORC's long-term objectives?

We really hope that chiptune will occupy a greater part of this music jungle in the near future. We want a lot of people to know about chiptune, to spread this original sound as much as we can. That's why we released various remix compilations in the past and want to put out more original albums in the future if our most recent release turns out to be a success. Saitone's first original album "Overlapping Spiral" and his 3D dome theater live as well as the SILENT LIVE 2008 are also some of our proudest achievements to date.

Can someone really make a living running a chiptune label in this day and age?

I think it's more and more a possibility. In fact, we released the TM NETWORK tribute album through the POSCA personal distribution system. It can be used to distribute a CD or DVD internationally, with very little work required from a label's perspective. Anyone can use this system. Furthermore, we are going to sell our MP3s through HearJapan. Again, anyone can use this service (though it focuses on Japanese artists obviously) and its circumstances are much less restrictive than Apple's iTunes. Thanks to these distribution services, we can concentrate on promoting our releases on the Internet and other media.

Now let's focus on your recently-released album "8-BIT PROPHET". Please explain how this TM Network chiptune tribute concept came to be.

We realized that TM NETWORK represents a major source of influence for this generation of musicians and listeners. One day at a club, my DJ friend played a TM NETWORK song between two techno tracks, it drove the crowd nuts! Hally and I discussed the possibility and we eventually agreed on a course of action. K-> took a leading part on this album because he just swears by TM NETWORK. Specifically, he contributed the album's title, its track list and produced 6 of the 11 tracks.

I imagine you had to obtain permission from TM NETWORK before putting this show on the road?

Yes you are absolutely right, this album would not have been a possibility without TM NETWORK's consent. We are a corporation after all, not just a fun part-time hobby. You can find the names of members, crew and publisher of TM NETWORK on the album credits, as well as Yamaha's Vocaloid copyright information.

Speaking of which, why was Hatsune Miku selected as a vocal engine?

We thought that Hatsune Miku's impersonal voice would be a perfect fit for the 8-bit sonority. Furthermore, K-> and Kyonomoti are what you'd call vocaloid specialists, so it all just fell in place, a no-brainer if you will.

Did you ever consider using real voices on these tribute tracks? Saitone's "Get Wild" cover does not use the Vocaloid.

Well actually, yes, we considered this possibility! However we concluded that it would be too difficult to find the perfect replacement to Takashi Utsunomiya's unique voice, not to mention someone who could complement our 8-bit style. Saitone's "Get Wild" cover is based on the "I LOVE TM NETWORK" cover album, which came out on AsianDynasty Records earlier this year. The vocalist's name is Reco. She is one of those few people whose voice can suit both a TM NETWORK song and 8-Bit style at the same time. It was Saitone's idea to remix this particular track.

Thanks goes out to Tsutomou Outani for this interview.

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