[Jump Button is a weekly column by Drew Taylor, written specially for GameSetWatch, that focuses on the art and substance of video game culture. This week – the first in a series of interviews that explores Australia's emerging 8-bit music scene.]
Even before I've asked my first question, 30-year-old Tyson Hopprich—aka DJ Tr!p—is squirming around on the outdoor cafe bench seat like he's jacked up on four cans of energy drink; his mind and body tapping into a full-blown DJ set no-one else can see or hear.
On the outside he's all black Nintendo tee, nose ring, short hair, dark jeans, arthritic limp in his leg when he walks. A mad energy—shooting out through hands and fingers that play and tweak thin air—just waiting for me to work through my introductions and segue into Tyson's place in the rise of the 8-bit music scene in Australia.
Not quite there yet, words about his new 6-track EP Sid Vicious still spilling from my lips, I imagine this is how he prepares for a gig: eyes closed, muscle memory kicking in, rehearsed katas of DJ-fu rippling outwards.
Enthusiastic 'Yeah-yeah's hurry me along, but I'm there now, and Tyson opens his mouth to answer my first question.
It's an awesome pause.
Barely 20 minutes later and music flows out over the audience in thick, meaty, 8-bit waves. It's sad and heavy in parts; the opening of a murder mystery adventure. David Cage's Fahrenheit, it's electronic pulse fading with each loop; Tyson easing the rhythm into a body bag, only to suddenly jab it back to life with a nightclub adrenaline shot to it's digital heart.
He starts buzzing then, feeding off the beat as Prodigy-style riffs mix together with a Matrix soundscape. Spins, tweaks and flicks of the deck come deftly, with no hint of the pre-performance twitchiness. A master of electronica.
Seated somewhere in the middle, I think to myself, this is how all premiere screenings of Marcin Ramocki's 8-bit documentary should begin.
The auditorium fills rapidly, like Tyson's sending out some pied piper effect, until people are having to be turned away. Not that Tyson would know. He's in the moment, suspended in distortion, grooving; fully into his beats and riffs so intimately that he can poke and punch the air at all the emphasis points.
Mouth still open, back at the cafe, Tyson making a different point.
Saying, 'I've been making music for about 10 years with my Amiga; using the Commodore 64, and bits and pieces with my PC and Game Boy. For that period, I treated the music I was making with that old technology as just music. That was my medium. They were my instruments. Just like some people use Moogs, and other people use just laptops. But finally seeing there's an 8-bit community beyond Australia that's active, I thought I'd recognize it and make it a bit more literal. With all of my previous stuff, even though it was 8-bit, I was trying to make music which didn't sound 8-bit, even though it had the edge.'
Tyson, trying to explain himself more clearly, adding, 'There are all these lovers of the demo scene, of the Commodore 64, sid tunes, chip tunes, that stuff. But they keep it to themselves in the bedroom, and there's no celebration.
'I wanted to do the sid stuff a long time ago, and there was some other friends who were making that stuff back in high school with me, but it just didn't feel like it was music you could release. It felt too weird.
'Now it feels right.'