After spending several hours on the prowl for musical talent on Myspace, Cat On The Wall came across Shonen, a chiptune artist from the UK. We liked what we heard and got in touch with Tom Reah who we discovered also runs Juciebox Records…
Cat On The Wall: For those of our readers who have yet to discover Shonen, please introduce yourself…
Tom Reah: “Shonen” is a chiptune music project I started in December 2007. I write dance music using Nintendo Gameboys with software called Little Sound DJ, which enables the user to create music using the Gameboy’s soundchip. It’s a bit of a niche genre, but it seems to have been gaining popularity in the past couple of years.
COTW: Shonen is a Japanese word, roughly meaning ‘teenage boy’. Where did you come across this word and why did you use it as your artist name?
TR: I’ve always had an interest in Japanese culture, especially anime and manga. There’s a manga magazine called Shonen Jump, so I guess I took it from there. I wanted a name that represented me, so that felt like the best way to go.
COTW: Your new EP ‘Beauty Of The Believer’ is being released for free through your own label Juicebox Records. How did Juicebox Records come about and why are you releasing your EP for free?
TR: About a year or so ago, chiptune music was really popular for a short time. A lot of people started creating net-labels to release their music on, though often they seemed uncaring as to whether the music was actually good or not. We started Juicebox Records in response to this, we wanted to make a net-label that focused more on releasing good music than being part of the chiptune fad.
Most chiptune artists decide to release their music for free, via the internet. I just followed their lead, really. I think that giving out free music is a good way of promoting yourself; someone that wouldn’t have heard my music before would feel that they didn’t have anything to lose in getting it for free, if they don’t like it then they haven’t wasted their money. Also, chiptune isn’t really a very expensive genre to follow. It’s not like I need to make money to pay for expensive equipment or things like that.
COTW: What/who inspired you to make chiptune music?
TR: When I was younger, I was really into video games. I got a Super Nintendo for Christmas one year when I was a kid, and I played that thing till death. A couple of years ago I found a chiptune artist called Sabrepulse, which is how I discovered that videogame music had it’s own genre, outside of actual game soundtracks, and I was completely sold. My dad is a musician, and he taught me how to write music using a laptop and production software, like Ableton, from there I got hold of the things I needed to start writing chiptune music.
COTW: How do you perform live? What’s your set up? Do you enjoy the live experience?
TR: I love performing live. A common conception of chiptune is that it’s “rave music”, so when people come to watch it live, they like to go mental and dance and all that. It’s lots of fun. When I perform live, I use two Gameboys and DJ my tracks, much in the way a DJ would with decks. I like to throw in a few cover versions of popular songs when I play live, as well, which crowds seem to enjoy.
COTW: Can you recommend any artists that we should be listening to? Any upcoming releases from Juicebox?
TR: We’ve just had two new releases on Juicebox Records (not including mine): “Shatter Vol. I” by Boywonder, and the debut EP from Anticlimax, called “Werecat EP”. Those are really good. “Shatter Vol. II” is set to be released soon too, which I’m looking forward to.
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
TR: On October 10th, I’ll be playing one of the Oxjam gigs in Newcastle, at Banana Studios, which raises money for Oxfam. We’re also in the middle of organising a gig for the Juicebox artists, which I think is going to be at The Shed in Leicester. Keep an eye on mine and the Juicebox Records MySpace pages for updates concerning that.
Interview by Jo Whitby