As technology has evolved, the sound of video games has moved beyond the arcade bleeps and bloops of the 1980s and become a viable way for bands to attract new audiences. But Peter Berkman is turning that idea on its head. He and his band, Anamana-guchi, use those bleeps and bloops to make new music.
As part of the movement known as chiptune, they tear apart the consoles of Nintendo gaming systems and bring the sounds that you remember from days in your friends’ basements to the clubs.
What makes Anamanaguchi unique among the other acts within the chiptune genre is that with a lineup that also includes guitar, drums and bass, they inject their songs with a healthy dose of rock.
“The music reminded me of ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ but still made me want to party,” says Berkman.
Berkman spent his formative years playing video games that featured more technologically advanced audio than the music he currently plays, but there was something about his early childhood that he connected with in the Nintendo sounds.
“It was something fantastic or magic that I couldn’t understand,” he says of watching his older brother play Nintendo. “At a very young age, I remember drawing on a piece of paper and taping it to the computer screen, pretending that I made a game. … It always seemed like something out of my creative reach, but I always wanted to get in there and control it.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing now. But he says future Anamanaguchi releases may move onto other gaming systems: “The only reason I’m limiting myself to Nintendo is because it’s the platform I’m most familiar with compositionally. But actually, I’m learning new programs to learn new sound sets.”
As he continues speaking about his band, he ramps up like a kid speaking about his favorite video game.
“I’m really excited about possibilities,” he says. “Our next album is going to be a wide variety and it’s going to rule!”
Getting into the zone
What does Berkman think about the sounds of current video games?
“I think it’s interesting that it doesn’t necessarily have its own
expected sound,” he says. “It opens up the possibility of emerging bands
because that is what video game music is, it’s film music to the next
degree. It’s music that has to get you into a certain zone. And if it
doesn’t, it’s failing.”