In the past year, the word “dubstep” has been on the tip of many music lovers’ tongues as the popularity of artists such as Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Bassnectar has skyrocketed from the electronic music scene to the mainstream.
Meanwhile, from his home studio on the outskirts of Philly, Pixel8ter has been working tirelessly to perfect a style that combines as many kinds of electronic sounds as he can get his hands on. From drum loops and bass drops to old school video game soundtracks, Pixel8ter is using a little bit of everything to turn the expectation of electronic music on its head.
Blake Colello, better known as Pixel8ter, 30, said he grew up during a time when Run DMC’s drum machines were the closest thing to electronic sounds in music. He quenched his thirst for computerized tones by listening through the sound options on his favorite video games. After spending his formative years playing guitar and video games with comparable enthusiasm, he began tinkering with electronic music.
He went to St. Joseph’s where he focused on investing in synthesizers, quality software and a laptop that could handle it all with the intention of creating his own music. At the end of 2010 he performed in his first laptop battle, and the overwhelmingly positive response encouraged him to continue playing live at venues in Philly, Baltimore and New York City.
After a string of successful gigs he was inspired to begin recording. Countless hours later, the three-track E.P., “Mega Air” is finally ready. It was available April 3.
The Temple News: All the electronic lingo can be confusing. How exactly do you define your sound?
Pixel8ter: Chiptunes is referring to the instrument, which is music played on any game system. I get a lot of inspiration seeing people do chiptunes because they work with so many restrictions. I don’t have the attention span to spend hours practicing on a Game Boy and staring at a little screen, so I get game samples and 8-bit plug-ins and put effects in to create a similar feel.
Dupstep is known for mid-paced steady beats with lots of low-end frequencies and drops. It is important to build up to some sort of feeling in a song, but I don’t feel the need to put in a drop every five seconds. Most of what you hear today, and what my music falls under, is electronic dance music, which is the general umbrella for anything with electronic sound.
TTN: There has been a lot of criticism of electronic artists for being disingenuous in their performance. What is actually possible to do live, and how do you make performing with a computer engaging for the audience?
P: If your music is so good you just have to hit play that’s pretty impressive. You can’t really know unless you’re watching it from behind if they’re just hitting play and jumping around, but I think you have a lot more of an opportunity to make your music dynamic by playing with it live.
There’s always something I’m actually doing live to drive the energy of the crowd and the music. Since I started out playing an instrument I want to play an instrument on stage, which is why I have the keyboard hooked up. My laptop is my instrument – I don’t just want to stand there and wave my arms around.
TTN: How do you feel about electronic music gaining so much momentum so quickly?
P: I’ve been listening to electronic music since it was created. Right before the world started saying the word “dubstep” I was already trying to incorporate those kinds of sounds, but the fact that a lot of people listen to electronic music is certainly not a bad thing. I’ve been waiting for people to do that – in America anyway – since the ‘90s.
People are so obsessed with the stupid stuff in music like when you heard it or where. It just matters if you like it. I just want to connect to other people with my music. It’s about taking stuff that you work on in your room day and night by yourself and practice to the rest of the world and seeing if they get it.
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at email@example.com.