Superbyte size: Manchester festival ‘sticks two fingers up at Apple’ by using retro console sounds for new music

Ever wiggled your hips to Super Mario’s symphony of beeps and boops or busted out shapes to the infamous Tetris tune? Well now’s your chance to boogy with pride to these retro beats.

Superbyte 2014 is taking it to the next level this weekend, presenting Manchester – UK’s Chiptune capital – with a new wave of artists who produce music with the sound chips of vintage computers, games consoles and arcade machines.

Not only does the festival showcase the talent of this unique scene’s top artists, it also offers people an opportunity to check it out and see if it’s for them and gives back to the Chiptune community.

This is the third instalment of the event, which launched in 2012, and it will be hosted by Zoo, 126 Grosvenor St, M1 7HL.

As well as the main festival on Friday and Saturday, there is also a pre-party at Fab Cafe, Gainsborough House, 109 Portland St, M1 6DN on Thursday night.

The most fascinating feature of this project is the way it manages to combine people of all levels of Chiptune music-making ability.

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK: Chiptune turns old game consoles into music synthesisers

Adrian Thompson (known as Ady), the founder of Superbyte, 34, told MM all about the event and why it is so unique.

His Ady’s enthusiasm for Superbyte and sheer enjoyment of Chiptune music is both obvious and infectious.

He said: “Chiptune is quite punk, I think. There’s the gaming aspect but there’s also the aspect of taking old technology and repurposing that.

“Consumer culture says that if something’s old then it’s no good whereas within Chiptune there is a big thing of saying that although this console is 20 years old and the games are a bit dated, I can turn it into a synthesiser and make music on it.

“It’s sticking two fingers up to Apple culture where you have the latest version of everything otherwise you’re not a worthwhile musician or a worthwhile artist or a worthwhile person in many ways.

“Just because it’s old, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily useless. You just have to think about it in a different way.

“I think they (Apple) are a good example because they release incremental versions of products that don’t really seem to be that different. But there is a cult around Apple and having the latest Apple product is a status thing. “

What is also attractive about a festival such as Superbyte is the lack of egos that can often accompany those in the music industry.

“Everyone I’ve met via Superbyte has been a character in some way or another, everyone is really fun. Because it’s not a career for people as much, they just enjoy playing shows and travelling round,” said Ady.

“With Chiptune there aren’t really egos. One of the things I like about it is that the artists are really accessible and you’ll find, for the most part, the artists will be in the front of the crowd watching everybody else’s sets.”

Some of the bigger artists playing at the festival are Jeroen Tel and Mega Ran. Tel is an iconic video game music producer whilst Mega Ran is licensed by gaming company Capcom to use their tracks in his songs.

More mainstream artists such as Sabrepulse and Anamanaguchi, began their careers by making Chiptune music and both headlined the festival last year.

The more well-known acts will provide the evening’s entertainment and there will be workshops taking place during Saturday daytime that give people the chance to have a go at making the music themselves.

Ady said: “There’s a guy who will be teaching how to make music on a Game Boy and guy teaching how to make music on an Atari ST. There’ll be another guy giving talks on pixel art.

“We try and pitch them at entry level but we have advanced stuff as well so there’s something for everyone.

It’s the artists themselves who are running the workshops so you’re learning tips and tricks from the pros.”

This fascinating project is focused on giving back to the community and is funded by Manchester Arts Council.

He added: “Their remit is really getting people into art, producing art or experiencing art for people who maybe wouldn’t necessarily do that.

“So we applied to them for funding on that basis really as it’s a big part of Superbyte as well as enjoying the music.

“A big part of what we’re all about is pushing an art form that is very under-represented but also encouraging people to make art themselves.”

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Retro Computer Museum charity, a registered charity that preserves old video games, will also be at the event to provide further entertainment.

The charity is said to be installing a big retro gaming area with popular and rare consoles set up throughout the day on Saturday.

Ady, who runs his own record label called Analogue Trash Records, is aware that people may be unsure about the festival so thinks they should come along to the free Pre-Party on Thursday night.

“A lot of the people performing artists on the open mic night are actually international artists who are incredibly good. It’s like you get a whole extra day of awesome music,” he said.

“We found that last year that quite a lot of people came to the Pre-Party who weren’t exactly sure what to expect and then bought weekend tickets on the day because they enjoyed it that much.

“Come along and try it out. Even if you don’t know a lot about it or have never heard anything about the artists.

“If you like electronic music and video games or you appreciate a good party, there’s probably going to be something at Superbyte that you will really enjoy. “

There are 60 tickets remaining for the event, with 300 already sold. A full weekend ticket costs £30 or you can buy a day ticket for £17.

To find out more or buy tickets for the festival go to www.superbytefestival.co.uk.

All images courtesy of Ultrasyd, via Flicr, with thanks

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