Low-Gain Interview, Part 5: Life After 8-bit Collective

Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

So what is Logan Erickson up to now that he’s no longer a major player in the 8-bit community?

He and I talked about his post-8bc life for a bit. He did mention that chipmusic was still a part of his life, though its role had diminished considerably since the “glory days.”

I still come back to it. I still listen to chipmusic all the time. Every now and then I’ll pull out my Game Boys and noodle on tracks that I started a year ago, or two years ago. It is nice to have the break, that’s for sure, because I view music a lot differently now than I did then. Unfortunately, I’d like to think that I was more productive when I was in the chipmusic scene. I was actually getting stuff done, versus now when I just don’t have time for anything.

At some point, I think Stefan and I are going to do another show. We’re going to do Microsound DJ. But it will be its own podcast; it won’t be an official 8-bit Collective thing. And we’re just going to play music we enjoy. And it’s not going to be 100% chip. I think there will be some stuff that’s 100%, but then there’s going to be some stuff that just [has some 8-bit sounds] mixed in.

He and I have a project called Bit’R’Chip that we’re looking at. We started in 2007, 2008. We’ve got like 7 or 8 songs, and we’re going to do a vinyl release of it and just put it out there.

And he’s working on a new record for Unicorn Dream Attack. And I’ve got another record worth that I’ll do that’s 8-bit. It’ll probably be my last 100% 8-bit or chipmusic record. I don’t know where I’ll post it, probably chipmusic.org.

And I would love to do a college tour. That’d be nice.

Of course, doing a tour with more elaborate equipment comes with its own set of problems that are absent when your primary instrument is a tiny little Game Boy.

Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

It’s funny; doing the 8-bit thing is so easy because all I have to do is bring out a couple of Game Boys, a mixer, and a couple Kaoss Pads. It can fit into a suitcase, and it can all be wired. Now, you’re bringing thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment out, [and] you have to plug everything in. That’s one thing I miss: [having] everything in [one little] case. I could put it in a carry-on and fly anywhere with it.

At this point, I asked him whether he felt he’s grown beyond the 8-bit music he had become known for. He reassured me that he’s not entirely done with it.

That’s not to say I won’t be using [8-bit sounds] again on any other release; it’s just that [this upcoming record will] be the [last of my] 100% Game Boy-type stuff.

I really miss having clear kicks. I really want to have a kick that hits me in the chest. I miss that. I need more fidelity.

[But] I’ll use [the Game Boy] for bass lines; I’ll use it for synth leads and stuff. I love the noise channel for hi-hats and whatnot. I’m known for that. I was all about the Ninja Gaiden sword slash. That was my snare. I did that all the time. I love that sound.

This brought us to the topic of video games. Of course, It would be foolish to deny the influence that the original NES had on the 8-bit musicians who grew up in the 1980s, including Logan.

The music in [Ninja Gaiden] was just amazing. There’s so many games that I loved. At one point I had like eighteen Nintendos. I don’t think I [even] have one now. I have all my games, so I’ll have to get one again. But that would require me to have a TV that you could actually use it on.

I got into collecting arcade machines. At the time I was really into it, I had eighteen arcade machines. I sold them all, because that’s just too much space. [But] we [have] some pinball machines out in the garage that aren’t hooked up yet.

And I’ll do a multi-system just to be able to have everything in one box. I don’t really care about having the original stuff. I used to restore the games. Now I want to just sit down and play them. So I’ll just get one of those everything-in-one-type machines, probably like a Candy Cab or something. I don’t know where to put it, but I just don’t have time to play.

Logan seemed legitimately saddened by the fact that he was struggling to find time to make the music he was once so passionate about. Maybe another factor in all this, though, is that the scene is no longer what it once was.

I know the community is still pretty strong, but I don’t feel that it’s as strong. At least the names of the core people that I knew — everybody that was really big in England, in New York, L.A., around the country in general. I think we’re still involved, but it’s not so much like we’re together anymore as this core community. We’ve kind of dispersed. I’m sure there’s a bunch of new names and stuff of people that are doing great things.

Of course, he’s since stopped selling LSDJ cartridges.

Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

I stopped doing that a while ago. I got tired of trying to battle with other people who were selling them. At the time, it was my ego. It wasn’t that I thought I was better than other people, [but] I felt that I was more established in what I was doing than other people. And some of that got me in trouble. But I’m more aware of it now.

Moving on, I asked Logan what it is about chipmusic that he thinks draws certain people to it.

Part of it for the older guys is the nostalgia. It’s just like, ‘Oh yeah, I used to play Nintendo. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros. Hell yeah!’ That was part of it for me. That’s most of it for me. I mean, I don’t know how I could say it’s not. It was just so cool [that] I can make music that not only was similar to the old games, but it’s even cooler because it’s music that I enjoy. It’s dance music. Some of it just sounds cool.

I don’t know if I could really understand it if I did not know what it was coming from. I think that’s part of why some people just don’t like it; they can’t appreciate it. They don’t care. They don’t know that this is being created from a little Game Boy that can only make four sounds at once, and the sound palette is [so limited]. You can do so little with it, yet you can do so much. People can’t [understand that], because they’re so used to listening to other music. But if you only knew the background of how it worked, then you could appreciate it.

But then there [are] some people that are just like, ‘Yeah, this is great! Let’s dance to it! Let’s have a good time!’ but as far as why, I don’t know. The 80s came back, and that’s part of it. And, you know, they have 8-bit beer now. I’m sorry, that has to be chipmusic-influenced. Not even joking. It has to be.

Through the years, chipmusic’s influence has been seeping into the mainstream, not only into products like “8-bit beer,” but into the music scene as well. It doesn’t necessarily make itself completely obvious, but it’s there, regardless of how subtle it may be.

Look at the pop music these days; you hear 8-bit stuff all over the place. It’s certainly becoming more popular. I don’t think hardcore 100% chipmusic will ever become pop music, but because electronic music is now cool, you’re hearing so many of those elements being mixed into pop music. And I think it’ll always be an accent piece. You can do a synth line that’s like the main lead of a chorus or something, and it’s going to be catchy and whatnot. But I don’t think you’ll ever hear something that’s 100% Game Boy [hit the mainstream]. I mean, it’d be rare. But it’s great that it’s influenced people.

And that about wrapped up our interview. Ultimately, what I took from our conversation is that Logan Erickson is a man who’s managed to get his hands into just about every aspect of the chipmusic scene. In fact, I’d venture to say that if you’re into 8-bit music at all, you’ve undoubtedly felt his influence, whether you’ve noticed it or not.

And that’s pretty damn cool.

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