I Fight Dragons: Behind the Scenes on NES-Rock

For Chicago band I Fight Dragons, saving the world--and sounding great--is all in a day’s work. This week I caught up with lead singer Brian Mazzaferri, who explains the band’s mix of pop-rock and sweeping electronic melodies--those cute beeps and bloops from old video games.

“When I heard the distinctive waveforms and patterns of the NES soundcard growing up, it was always associated with adventure, with epic journeys,” he said. The band channels that energy into their songs, be they clever tributes to video games or just plain knock-your-socks-off rock. To play the NES components of the songs live, they use various modified video game controllers, and even a guitar from the game Guitar Hero.

To start, here’s a video of Brian demonstrating the practice studio:

For those who don’t know, how would you explain NES-Rock?

Well, I'd explain NES-Rock (as we define it) as Pop-Rock music plus Chiptune, which is music made using old video game soundcards (specifically Nintendo ones like the GameBoy and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)).

How did you get the idea to combine NES sounds with your music?

It sort of happened backwards. Bill Prokopow and I were making a demo of an early version of "Heads Up, Hearts Down," and I suggested we try to make an intro that would be the chorus as if it were coming out of a Nintendo system. After making the demo and being immensely pleased with ourselves, I stumbled across the chiptune scene in earnest.

There's tons of artists out there making original music using obsolete equipment like GameBoys, NES, Segas, Commodore 64s, etc, and as soon as I discovered that scene I started listening to TONS of it, and I knew I wanted to find a way to integrate that with Pop-Rock. So we set about to do it!

Do you have any advice for musicians who want to experiment with Chiptune?

Well, for anyone who wants to experiment, I'd say if you have some recording background check out free plugins like YMCK's Magical 8-bit and Chip32. They work with garageband, audacity, protools, etc. and make it very easy to start hearing sounds right away.

For people without the background in DAW stuff but with a mind for tweaking, some of the easiest programs are Famitracker, Nitrotracker, or Nerdtracker, all of which let you program within the restrictions of the NES sound card, but there's definitely a learning curve.

For the very hardcore, get a Little Sound DJ or Nanoloop cartridge and a Gameboy! It's very fun to mess around with, and there's great tutorials online.

Thanks Brian! More about I Fight Dragons:
on Myspace
on thesixtyone


Heartstorm is a user-driven quest on thesixtyone.com. Basically, the purpose is to spotlight old, underbumped songs. Every day, someone features 1-3 songs that need love, and the community storms them with hearts.

The quest is a great way to get the community together and discover some really interesting music. The first round was an incredible success, with many songs posting and hitting the “hot right now” page. Every participant recieved pages of notes and radio bumps from many different social groups.

Someone asked if we’re still doing it, and yes, we are. Here’s the remaining schedule for round two:

Tues, Aug 18 - gregsdumbid
Wed, Aug 19 - retardedmonkey
Thurs, Aug 20 - tedford
Fri, Aug 21 - waltdiggs
Sat, Aug 22 - jsuspect
Sun, Aug 23 - sabbides23
Mon, Aug 24 - dantheman1386
Tues, Aug 25 - whelchelphd
Wed, Aug 26 - todash
Thurs, Aug 27 - SallySilvera; special Heartstorm day in honor of sumar
Fri, Aug 28 - jtommyt
Sat, Aug 29 - Digdug
Sun, Aug 30 - ksubowler
Mon, Aug 31 - cr
Tues, Sept 1 - Ahrk
Wed, Sept 2 - circerhode
Thurs, Sept 3 - SaoPauloooo
Fri, Sept 4 - zaome
Sat, Sept 5 - Kalei
Sun, Sept 6 - tjradio
Mon, Sept 7 - gretchen
Tues, Sept 8 - daha
Wed, Sept 9 - Tesserax
Thurs, Sept 10 - daredevil169
Fri, Sept 11 - Haeretik
Sat, Sept 12 - laurie
Sun, Sept 13 - kevincobarno
Mon, Sept 14 - bmorrow
Tues, Sept 15 - madcat8

To participate, go to those users’ pages on their appointed day and, if you like the songs, heart them. It’s that easy! If you want to sign up to feature songs, just post a note on my wall.

Thanks to everyone who’s made this a success already--keep up the good work!

Edit: Updated list.

Video: First Train Home - Imogene Heap

Really cool effects. She's running inside a zoetrope, of course, I probably just ruined the illusion for you. You just have to see it. I hope the annoying ads don't drive you crazy.

let yourself feel. by Esteban Diacono

The Sixty One listener Esteban Diacono (teb34) has created a gorgeous experimental video for classical musician Olafur Arnalds' Ljosio. He uses Trapcode Sound Keys and Particular v2 to create this organic look. Absolutely beautiful work, Esteban.

Ben Harper

Really close. He's mindblowingly talented! Lots to update you on. More


The band is rockin with a bit of a psychedelic sound. I might make
comparisons to Oasis, but a bit harder. Jet? They do have their own
sound. I quite enjoyed them. The band is Lead by Dhani Harrison, son
of a Beatle. I'm sure George is here in Spirit.

Re: Lollapalooza 2009 TV Special Announced

I'm ready to hit day 2 of Lollapalooza and got this email below. I hope the whole thing posts. I had major connection problems yesterday at the show and I only got a partial posting. Here's the email.


On Aug 7, 2009, at 1:36 PM, "Carrie Lynch" wrote:

Hey - I saw your post [ http://www.maxbumps.net/2009/08/lollapalooza-weekend.html] about going to Lolla this weekend... I thought that this info would be awesome for your readers - please share!


As a continuation of their summer music festival coverage, Fuse TV has announced that they will be airing highlights from this year's Lollapalooza festival on August 15th! This year's lineup promises to ensure a continuation of the legendary festival's cutting edge acts. Can't make it to Chicago for Lolla '09 this weekend? That's ok because Fuse is bringing it straight to your TV on Saturday, August 15th with "Fuse Fest: The Best of Lollapalooza! Featured artists include: Kings of Leon, Jane's Addiction, Snoop Dogg, Rise Against, The Killers, The Silversun Pickups and many more!

Additionally, Fuse is helping music fans stay connected to all of this year's Lollapalooza '09 artists with Twt-a-palooza, a centralized online hub that lets you find, filter, and interact with thousands of tweets from the musical acts playing this year's fest! Log in with you Facebook or Twitter account to ensure that you don't miss a beat from one of this summer's hottest musical gatherings:

Wait, it gets even better... like free music? Well, Fuse has over 50 Lollapalooza '09 artist tracks up for FREE download now on their site! Free tracks from Animal Collective, Alberta Cross, Neko Case, Band of Horses, Deerhunter, No Age, Santigold and MUCH more can be found right here:  http://fuse.tv/tours/lollapalooza2009/downloads.html

Enjoy, and be sure to tune-in to Fuse on August 15th @ 9pm/8c for Fuse Fest: The Best of Lollapalooza '09.

For more information on Fuse's Lollapalooza '09 concert special, head here:

TWT-A-PALOOZA: http://fusefest.fuse.tv/a/home

VIDEO TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw3QFkEDGdM

(Please embed the video trailer on your site!)

*To find Fuse in your area:

Thanks for your time, and please share on your site!


Lollapalooza: Manchester Orchestra

Just caught Manchester Orchestras set. They sounded phenomenal. I was
very impressed with singer Andy Hulls voice, strong and clear,
sometimes gritty. Great loud guitar sound, just like I like it, with
soaring crescendos.

Lollapalooza Weekend

This post is a test of my ability to post updates from the blog from
my iPhone. I'm planning some major updates over the weekend with
quickie reviews, observations and photos. It will be like you are there!

If you are actually at the show and want to meet up, drop me an email
at batface89@gmail.com. It's going to be 92 degrees on Saturday and
Sunday. Every damn year it's crazy hot for lollapalooza. It will be a
way for me to lose a quick 10 lbs., sweating it off with the indie kids!