Friday, May 7, 2010

Interview with Brian Mazzaferri of I Fight Dragons

A couple weeks ago, just days after booting 8BD out of hibernation mode, I got an email from Atlantic Records asking me if I'd like to interview the band I Fight Dragons for my site. I've never been asked to do anything like this, in fact it's usually been me on the requesting end, asking people for permission to release their music, if they have websites they'd like me to link to alongside their featured track. But it was a cool opportunity to promote a band that's working hard at getting off the ground and becoming a full-fledged professional bunch of musicians. So I agreed and sent Brian, their lead singer/songwriter/founder a bunch of questions. Here are his answers!

Did you have experience writing chiptunes before IFD was started, or did you decide to try your hand at it shortly before deciding you could work it into your band's repertoire?

Brian: Actually, it all kind of came around at the same time. When I was first working with Bill Prokopow, our first project together was making a demo of "Heads Up, Hearts Down" back in very early 2008. I had randomly thought the song would work well with an intro that sounded as if it was the song coming out of a nintendo, so we mocked one up using the internal Logic synths, and were quite pleased with ourselves. After showing it to a few people, I decided to look on the internet to see if people had done that sort of thing before, and I stumbled upon the whole world of chiptune. I was immediately hooked, got myself a copy of LSDJ and started using it on my old DMG from growing up. However, I will say my interest in chiptune was always related to how to use it in a full-band setting, since that's the world I come from, I'm not really an electronic musician by trade.

8BD: Have you ever written music for non-Game Boy trackers, or used other consoles in your live performance?

Brian: I've played around with FamiTracker and NitroTracker, which were cool but not as portable as LSDJ since I can bring my DMG anywhere with me and write. I also have a midiNES which I find to be AWESOME in a studio setting and can do a ton of things with sweeps and samples that I don't find LSDJ as useful for. I've also got 2 Pixelh8 Music Tech carts for GBA which I've used in recording settings as well.

In a live sense we tend to sample the sounds and trigger them using controllers, since the complication of mixing all of those different consoles and samples (we tend to ignore polyphony limitations) would be near impossible, and more than that I like the idea that we're triggering electronic sounds in real time, turning them into instruments in a way.

8BD: What gave you guys the idea to allow 100 people to have unlimited access to future shows/CDs/etc. for $100?

Brian: That was just out of my twisted imagination. I think it's been really cool, and the fans have really responded well too, although I will say it was a one-time thing. We might do a lesser permutation of it in the future, and we'll definitely continue to search for ways to push the boundaries of the industry.

8BD: Was it a bit of a surprise to you guys that the band took off as well and as quickly as it did?

Brian: Yes. There's no other way to put it. Yes. I mostly did it because I wanted chiptune-pop-rock to exist, and I tried to build some kind of sustainable career around it, but none of us had any clue it would skyrocket this far this fast. It's incredibly humbling and exciting all at once.

8BD: Is it true that you guys are getting some sweet custom-made superhero digs for on-stage, and if so when do you think they'll be ready?

Brian: Sort of. We've all got our own logos which represent each of us, and we just debuted our new outfits which incorporate those logos earlier this week on tour. There's some pics up from the first show here, and we'll be putting new promo shots up on our website soon.

8BD: What made you decide to wear all DC Comics shirts rather than all Marvel Comics or a mix of both?

Brian: You know the biggest thing for me is that I love Superman. I love what he stands for, I love that no one really thinks he's cool any more, and I love the mythos surrounding him. From there I just thought it would be weird to mix Marvel stuff in there, although I will say there was one photo shoot where Bill wore a Captain America shirt mostly because it's impossible to find a 6th Justice League shirt (we ended up custom making his Hawkman shirts later on)

8BD: Do you have any favorite chiptune artist/artists/band?

Brian: You know, I feel like there's a decidedly mixed reaction to us from the chiptune scene, because we're not pure chiptune. Admittedly, we've never pretended to be, it's just one element of what we do. All the same, I do love chiptune in lots of its forms, despite the artists mixed reaction to us as a band. A few of my favs are Chipzel, 8 bit weapon, Anamanaguchi, Starscream, and YMCK.

8BD: Since getting signed to a record deal with Atlantic earlier this year, do you feel as if you've had more or less time to concentrate on fan interactions? What's changed since getting signed?

Brian: Well, it's a tricky question to answer, because we've been in a big transition period that would've happened whether we signed with Atlantic or not. We've been working on our first full-length album for the past few months, as well as working on our new website and generally trying to figure out how to make it all work on a larger scale. So there's been less free music emails and fan interaction. However, we've kept up with weekly internet call-in shows, Facebook, and more, and we'll soon be relaunching our email list with lots of new material and free downloads coming every couple weeks, so I feel like ultimately we'll get to do more fan interaction on a grander scale, which excites me greatly.

8BD: What games did you bring with you when you were on tour? Are there any new games you want to play while on the road for the upcoming summer tour?

Brian: Hmm, well we've got a PS3 and an XBOX 360 on the bus. Not enough room for a Wii :P We've also got laptops with fully stocked emulators too and USB retro controllers. As far as specific games, I know last tour I played a lot of Secret of Mana, Packy played a lot of Kung Fu, Bill got Left 4 Dead 2 and started playing lots of that. I know JJ our manager has been playing a lot of Robotrek (an old SNES RPG) this tour, and I brought FFXIII to finish it although I haven't had much time yet. We played a bunch of Street Fighter 2 the first couple days, I've been playing a lot of Command & Conquer for the iPad too, so I guess generally lots of different ones. JJ and I played a round of hotseat Settlers of Catan for iPhone today :P

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