“Dam-Funk is just a class act.” That's according to Benedek, an upcoming L.A.-based producer who just so happens to have Dam's vocals lavished all over the title track to his debut EP, the jubilant, cowbell-embellished funk work-out “That's My Jam!” The hook-up came about after Benedek approached Dam at one of his Funkmosphere nights at Carbon in Culver City, left him with a demo, and soon managed to persuade him to bless a song with his vocals.
But long before Benedek signed up for a role in Dam's modern boogie movement, he honed his production skills toying around with the sonics of Nintendo's Game Boy. This production heritage is maintained on “That's My Jam!” thanks to a Knife City remix that you can take an exclusive listen to after the break. With the EP out today via Proximal Records, read on for Benedek's take on his 8-bit years, the chiptune scene, and what he considers to be the funkiest video game theme song ever.
Is it true that you first started making music on the Nintendo Game Boy?
Yeah, I got my start making electronic music that way. I was playing guitar when I was nine-years-old, but then I got into producing music on the Game Boy Camera, which was an old game for the Game Boy. There was a sequencer built into it, but it was like an easter egg so it was hidden. I started making my own little beats with it, like short 16-step loops — I mean, it was only one loop, you couldn't even go to other sequences, so it was pretty simple.
How did you find out there was a sequencer hidden in the Game Boy Camera?
I was a little kid messing around with that game, you know, so I'd use it to take pictures at first but then discovered every facet of that piece of software and kinda stumbled across the sequencer one day.
Can you remember what you had to do to unlock the sequencer?
I think it was under a menu titled “Games,” but it was kinda hidden, so you had to press a couple of buttons in order to get to it.
So were you inspired by video game soundtracks at that time?
Yeah, I grew up loving all kinds of music but I think the soundtracks to video games were my first exposure to electronic music. I mean the Sega Genesis actually uses the same sound chip as the Yamaha DX7, which is one of the famous digital synthesizers of the mid-'80s. There's definitely this link between video game audio and electronic music that I think people don't always think about. It's not always chiptune, which is a modern thing — there's this link between the two areas which goes pretty far back.
What were some of your favorite video game songs during those days?
Sonic The Hedgehog is one of my favorites as it's this real melodic, hummable tune. There's a lot of funk influence to the Sonic theme tune as well; it's sort of really danceable. Sonic is a big influence.
Were there any video game songs that you found really annoying?
Yeah, man, on Super Mario 64 there's a song where you're on a slide and it's based around this horrible synthesized whistle sound. It's funny for a couple of minutes but after a while it grinds the hell out of your ears!
Have you ever sampled a video game soundtrack?
I haven't sampled one for a finished song. I've tried and experimented a bit, especially early on when I was messing around with Reason about seven years ago. But I don't think any video game samples have made it into my tracks.
Would you ever consider releasing anything you've produced on the Game Boy?
I'd love to. It's a different way of working with music, with sequencers and trackers and not using a whole digital audio work-station and playing all the keyboard and guitar parts myself. I'd love to get back into that at some point. And actually, one of the remixes for “That's My Jam!” is by this artist Knife City who produced it on the original Nintendo Game Boy, the one made in 1989. It uses this piece of software called Little Sound DJ, which is like a sequencer that uses the Game Boy sound-chip. It's a cool remix, especially how he got such a rich sounding mix from the software.