Talk Show Host: 048: The Gothsicles

In conjunction with my talk at Nine Worlds about music and geekery (Tuesday Ten: 341), I wanted to feature The Gothsicles. But rather than just talk about them, I wanted to find out a bit more about this group and their focus specifically on gaming and industrial music.

Hence this interview. I first came across the Gothsicles well beyond a decade ago, when they opened Infest one year in spectacular style, left most of the crowd with grins on their faces and a sense that they had set an extraordinarily high bar for the rest of the festival to follow.

Since then, Brian Graupner has pushed The Gothsicles further on, with more songs, more jokes, more silliness and a general sense that he’s having fun making music – which is surely as it should be.

Anyway – I caught up with Brian to talk about his music and the links to gaming culture. Photos come from my own collection. on Facebook Brian, how’s things in the world of The Gothsicles?

Brian (The Gothsicles): Adam! It’s bonkers. Very recently moved from Chicago to Boston have been kicking out remixes, guest vocals, and “festival-exclusive” tracks with a fury. Many of these have yet to be released at the time of this interview, but some are available now on the free Mechanismus Festival EP and the new Electronic Saviors 5.

I run a record label now called Tigersquawk Records. It is the best thing since sliced wavs.

Side-projects! Side-projects! Side-projects! Gasoline’s Invertebrate’s Freak Drive EP is out in the world and there is a new EP being mastered this very second for a new project I can’t talk about yet, but it’s a with a guy in a band that people like. You’ve recently released a 20th Anniversary (!) EP for Konami Code, probably one of your best-known tracks even now. Was this a way of putting this song to bed at last?

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: The Gothsicles

Brian (The Gothsicles): There was a definitely a dusting of that Headhunter 2000 intentional overload energy going into it, but as a song that people still get pumped about after all this time, I felt it was worth revisting.

Matt Fanale of Caustic ended up on vox on a lot of those wonderful remixes when a vocal take of his was discovered after excavating the remix kit from an old hard drive like a goddamn Indiana Jones movie. We’d both totally forgotten about it. Which came first for you as you grew up, gaming or music?

Brian (The Gothsicles): It’s all music. I remember just watching the cassette tape wheels spin on my mom’s Michael Jackson tape ‘cause I was too young to know what to “do” with music, but I knew I was in.

Then my sister got me Weird Al’s Even Worse for my ninth birthday and it was all over. What inspired you to write songs about gaming, though?

Brian (The Gothsicles): Write what you know, right? That and it was kind of a novel idea, way back when. Is there a “golden age” of gaming for you, and what games – and platforms – were important to you in the past, and now?

Brian (The Gothsicles): For me, the Nintendo Entertainment System is as good as it gets. It was a technological leap past its predecessors, yet primordial enough to capture the truly bizarre.

I tended to gravitate towards games that felt like a lot of intricate world building went on, but still maintained a strong element of the weird, unexplained, or, in many cases, unvetted or mistranslated. Castlevania II, for example, offers a giant world with a huge and varied arsenal, but you’re also literally collecting Dracula’s body parts, including, at one point, a fingernail. And just try to make sense of what any of the town dialogue means. I love it.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: The Gothsicles

Now I mostly play Ascension on my phone on the way home from work, although I’m currently playing through Shadowrun: Boston Lockdown on the PC to help guide me through my new city. I need to know what to do if a dragon attacks Fenway Park, ya know? Your work in the Gothsicles is well-known for being light-hearted and willing to poke fun – do you fear some take gaming far too seriously?

Brian (The Gothsicles): It’s hard to define what that might considered too serious because video games have become such an inexorable part of modern culture. Once almost synonymous with thick glasses and a pocket protector for the mark of a nerd, “What games do you play?” is now as universal a question as “What kind of movies do you like?”. Moreso, often.

To that end, if it’s okay to make both insane horror movies and sugary sweet kids’ movies, yeah, make all grimdark video games you want. It’s all good. In the two-decades that you’ve been making music, so-called Chiptune music has gained massively in popularity again. Do you see yourself as part of this movement, or doing something different – and are there any particular artists in the scene that you really dig?

Brian (The Gothsicles): I like making chiptunes a lot and have put out several under all the various side-project names (Hardcore Pong, Dinosaur Tank), but I think I’ve always been way too out to sea on my own pirate ship to be considered part of a movement.

In that vein of music, though, I really like Robots With Rayguns and Desert Planet. Also, when I was in like 7th grade, our family hosted a German exchange student with whom I really clicked and I went over to Germany years later to meet up. Found out he was writing a dissertation on the history of chiptunes and running the bleep-blop friendly label Pingipung Records. Check out his stuff under name Peter Presto ‘cause it’s awesome.

Konami Code 20th Anniversary EP is out now

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