Interview: Peter Berkman of Anamanaguchi
Festival Squad recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of Peter Berkman, member of bitpop ground Anamanaguchi, about their musical journey, their involvement of technology, and what “bitpop” really is. Check out all the cool stuff he has to say below, and click here for a chance to win 2 tickets to their show on Saturday, May 21 at St. Andrew’s Hall.
How did the four of you meet, and why did you decide to start working together?
We met in school, had a similar sense of humor and liked the same music. We met Luke through myspace kinda! Truly a place for friends.
How did you first get involved in music, and what attracted you to this style of music?
I went to a public school that had a really good music program that started students very young, a lot of kids in our town would form bands later on. There was an independent record shop, local concerts happening all the time, quite a bit of activity. Unlike most people we were looking up to in that world, my friends and I spent quite a lot of time on computers growing up, and we’d have fun sharing the music we’d made on them. A lot of Anamanaguchi’s start was trying to transpose that computer music to the kind of feeling of going out to one of those shows. I didn’t really have any first-hand experience of raves or DJs or anything like that, and wasn’t sure how to perform that kind of music without feeling uncomfortable. Going out to the city to see chiptune artists like Nullsleep, David Sugar, and Bit Shifter was some of my first experiences with live electronic music. it was wildly exciting and completely new.
I know Peter, Ary, and Luke are the songwriters and James is in charge of lights; do you all ever swap roles or share those responsibilities? And what tends to come first, a song or the accompanying light production?
Haha – usually for us, the song comes first but I’d be hyped to try that the other way sometime, why not.
Tell me a little bit about what bitpop is; what is it typically characterized by, and does your version adhere to that or differ from it?
I don’t think we’ve ever used that term, but I suppose it refers to music that has chiptune or lo-fi electronic elements as part of the sound which can apply to our music for sure. A word like that seems a bit sweeping and doesn’t go very far in outlining our motivations and intention in music. Who knows though, probably our bad. People want to call music a thing, and in some respects it may be an artist’s job to call it something unless they want someone else to invent it for them – and they’re forced to live with it. For me it’s always been about having fun with computers, sort of a more balanced human conversation with technology.
It sounds like your work in music has gotten you involved in the video game scene, with the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack and more recently with Capsule Silence XXIV. What lead you to those projects? And what came first, your interest/work in music or in video games?
It was interesting getting tapped for Scott Pilgrim and Capsule Silence XXIV. Sometimes a creative director sees something in you that seems to be a good fit for the environment a game is trying to present. We try our best to maintain the integrity of that connection through projects like these. I knew how to play video games before I knew how to play music but I knew how to make music before I learned how to make video games, still working on that haha.
What lead you to work with Hatsune Miku? And how do you find performing with a person who’s really a technologically created person, not a human in the flesh (cool? weird? exciting? challenging?)? How do you see technology shaping the music scenes you’re involved in, both with the Hatsune Miku project and beyond?
Hatsune Miku’s team reached out to us after a concert we did with Rorter Robinson at Anime Expo. A year later we were performing in the same theater with Miku, it’s pretty wild. Working with Miku is delightful and quite an exciting opportunity. As for how technology will shape music scenes – I suppose I can say technology shapes the world all around us far beyond anything music is concerned with, and I think Hatsune Miku has a large role to play in that. It feels very much like a natural progression in the cultural technology of the pop star.
Building off the last two questions, how do you see the changing musical landscape (touring with holograms, using video games as a listening platform instead of a traditional album, etc) affecting artists like yourselves? Easier to share your work/ideas or harder to get noticed? More freedom to execute ideas?
Everyone is a superstar and the landlord of their own virtual apartment. Right now it may be both easier to share your work, and harder to get noticed because of it.
Lastly, where do you take your songwriting influence from? Other artists? Past experiences? Places?
Strange, carefully crafted or preserved environments are inspirational to me – vacations, new experiences, dreams, a lot of things. Inspiration can be an outward or inward thing for us. Technology speaks with us all much more now than it ever has, so it plays a large part in our decision making process. In the past we’ve tended to create environments within our music, we’re trying new things now. As far as songwriting influence, I think passive soundtracks have played an especially large part in guiding how we write music.