It’s been a rough couple of days on this side of the Pacific – I’ve been jumping from one place to another trying to make ends meet as UC Berkeley enters its finals week, and I’m still getting over my birthday weekend – and it’s only now that things are slowing down for yours truly that I have time to really post up my latest interview!
Anamanaguchi (http://www.dawnmetropolis.com) is an 8-bit punk band based out of New York that plays some of the most innovative sounds you’ll ever hear from a NES. I got a chance to ask their lead guitarist and programmer Peter Berkman a couple of questions about the band:
So…Anamanaguchi. That is the most awesome name I’ve heard in a long while. Why Anamanaguchi?
Peter: It means nothing actually haha. When I started making music on the NES I just wanted to come up with something that fit and wasn’t gimmicky, so a nonsensical fake Japanese word served that purpose 100%.
Can you tell us a little bit of how you guys got together? I’m just assuming it involves a NES…
Peter: I actually began it myself in 2003. I heard about this website 2A03 through my friend Jon Baken and we downloaded this software called Nerdtracker II that let you sequence music for the Nintendo. We would send songs back and forth to each other and get a little better at it each time. Earlier stuff sounded more like video games, but as I kept writing, my actual musical voice started to seep in and the compositions began to sound more like something influenced by the music I actually listen to. I decided to start putting guitar in it late 2004, since I played in bands all throughout high school it only made sense. Eventually in order to play live I needed more musicians so I asked my friend James to play bass. Then when I got to college I met some other dudes and we became a full time kinda band.
As an 8-bit punk band and part of 8bitpeoples, you have a really unique sound. Do you think the type of music you play caters to a really select audience?
Peter: I would say that a lot of 8 bit music caters to a very specific niche audience; but while we cater to them as well, we also have fans that have nothing to do with the 8 bit world that just enjoy fast, high energy pop music. We never want the technology to be the focus, certain people do and that’s cool too. For me though, I’m much more interested in conveying this idea of epic adventure through composition – and simple idea that brings about a pretty wide audience from different worlds.
Your music is an eclectic yet very accomplished mix of genres. I’m really interested to hear what your answer to this question would be, since it’s not obvious off the bat: who are your favorite artists and influences?
Peter: My favorite artists are kind of all over the place haha. The ones that never seem to get switched out of rotation are The Beach Boys, Weezer and Goblin (an Italian horror soundtrack band from the 70’s). In general, I’m a fan of catchy simple melodies, anything that can create an atmosphere, old electronics and that kind of thing. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and pop-punk (the good kind), my tastes kind of evolved from then but the attitude remains a huge influence. The concept that I’m in love with is recontextualizing two totally disparate things in a way that on paper seems insane, but works (in this case; video games and pop music).
So what were your favorite NES games? I was a total fan of Pinball, Tetris, and B-Wing.
Peter: The obvious ones I suppose, Mega Man 2, Contra, Castlevania et al. It’s also interesting to look back and see what games had amazing music – Silver Surfer is an awesome one. It’s composed by Tim Follin and puts anything I’ve done to shame. It’s too bad the game is so hard most people would throw it out after 10 minutes haha.
So if you’re going to introduce Anamanaguchi to someone, how you describe yourself in one sentence? And what song would you give them to listen to?
Peter: We make loud, fast, pop music with a Nintendo from 1985. RECOMMENDED LISTENIN’: Blackout City
Any last words to everybody? Any shows you guys are doing soon?
Peter: Thanks for reading I guess! We’re going to be on tour in August all across the country so we’ll be posting those dates up soon. In the meantime check out dawnmetropolis.com where you can stream the entire record for free with a bunch of rad videos made by our visualist friends in NYC.
Check out Peter and co.’s music at (http://www.myspace.com/anamanaguchi) or (http://anamanaguchi.muxtape.com) – whether you were a child of the 80’s or just a child a heart, I guarantee you’ll enjoy Anamanaguchi’s stereophonic videogame music!
If this topic interests you, please give a shout out in the comments section of https://nojuanhere.wordpress.com and tell me what you think as well as if you’d go watch Anamanaguchi if they come to San Francisco!
Keeping you posted!