-[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.'

-'There's that nostalgic thing,' adds Tyson, 'of being adults, wanting that childhood experience and that innocence; feeling free and playful, because that's what games were about back then. For me, though, I wanted to release this kind of stuff to pay homage to what I love, and the gear I use—which I respect. Even though it's old, I still use it and I don't think its out of date because it still does the job.

Following up with, 'There was an article I read recently about retro gaming and it said other forms—like books and movies—when you watch an old film, it's not a retro viewing of the film, its just a viewing of a film. In some ways gaming should be like that, where it's not retro but it's just playing stuff from another date. That's how i was thinking about my gear. I love it and I love the limitations. That helps me and forces me to find the essence and there's a focus, a tighter focus, which helps create more original stuff.'

Digging deep into the mental images now, with, 'I wanted to make, like... robot... electro... dark... I wanted to get the dirt out of these sound chips. I wanted to get gutsy stuff which visits gaming sounds, but isn't all about them. Not all chippy. There's a handshake or a nod to it. But more like listening to vinyl [records] where there's crackle, and it makes it feel authentic and it feels like a document.'

An epiphany now.

'Yeah, a dirty document. And there's texture to it. Texture is important as much as bass and treble and rhythm and melody. And sound-wise, I really wanted to visit the 90s and touches of rave sounds and early breakdance and electro. Probably the golden era of gaming. That's what the music was when gaming was being pushed into the masses.'

-What I'm hearing, this is Tyson's take on the scene. Music for ears, theatre, film, dance and events, channeling in 8-bits through a DJ's mindset. This is Tyson being likened to Trent Reznor and Aphex Twin; his work declared as a 'manifest stepping stone in post-modern electronica history', 'the souls of lost computer consoles'.

But for the Zelda fan, for Tyson who moans with pleasure at the words Katamari Damacy, Castlevania, Okami, Colecovision and Vectrex, 'As much as loving playing the games, I love the sounds,' he says. 'I used to record them to cassette when I was young; I didn't think it would turn into something where I could DJ it out.

'I want to be an entertainer,' adds Tyson. 'I want to engage with the audience. I don't keep my head down [as many 8-bit artists do]. I'd rather take three steps back technically and put on a show. Because I work as a DJ in a club setting, I just want people to dance and go crazy, and want them to listen to something a bit different, as well. You want to push the envelope—the drunk envelope—a bit, but not too far.

'Even though there's repetition in a song structure down to beat, the kick drums, or the hi-hat or the melody, my aim with each song is to start somewhere and finish somewhere different. Stringing those songs into a set, you also start somewhere and end somewhere different. So it's all about zooming in and out, and a journey. A Polaroid photo narrative. You put all those photos together, you interpret it as something. What that is, I like to let the audience trust their instincts and let them think what they want to.

-'The stuff I perform live is very different to the soundtrack stuff I do, the theatre, dance and film stuff,' says Tyson, calmer now, more introspective. 'And my DJ-ing is different again.

'I like responding to people. I like composing for directors, choreographers. I like being given the task to respond to something and the challenge of that. By releasing stuff like Sid Vicious, by deliberately capturing that 8-bit sound, I'm trying to respond to an audience, but more in the live scene.

'For me, I think that's what it's all about; it's about bouncing off people. Even when you're DJ-ing—which is pre-recorded music—you're reacting by selection.

'It should be about being live and a one-off energy somehow. An interaction.'

Photos of Tyson courtesy www.silvertrace.com; EP artwork by Roy Ananda.

[Drew Taylor works in the games industry in Australia and writes video game culture articles for various magazines. His mobile phone ring tone is currently TiuTiu by Paza.]