DJ Ali Reza talks about retrogaming and DJing
DJ Ali Reza is going to be spinning some 80s inspired electronic music at the late night opening of the Retro Gaming Weekend on Friday January 29.
Seb Chan spoke to him about his memories of the 80s and the connections between gaming and music.
Q – What is the connection between 80s videogames and electronic music? What sounds or ‘sonic aesthetics’ connect the two?
One connection was that sampling ‘traditional instruments’ in this era was prohibitive so the electronic hardware – sound synthesis – in gaming machines was used to generate this incredibly exciting new form of music. The music was such a huge attraction and reason I loved these games so much. Just play the Galaga theme to most 80s arcade nerds and in all likelihood they will get excited.
The sounds created by these gaming machines were made by Japanese electronics companies who were creating the hardware (electronics boards such as the Yamaha YM2151 and 3012) and also the electronic synthesisers sold to musicians, therefore lots of the sounds would often come from the same place. A significant number of the 80s children who grew up with computer game music generated on the Amiga or Commodore 64 – especially in the UK – would go onto create or DJ electronic music that was directly inspired by these computer game tunes.
Q – Tell us some of the tracks you’ll be dropping. Are they all from the 80s or are you sneaking in some that ‘sound like they are from the 80s’?
I’ll be playing tracks such as Bodenständig 2000 – In Rock (8-Bit), Computer Rockers – Galaxy Defenders, Cylob – Living In The 1980s, and some computer game themes sampled directly from my own arcade machines. This is in addition to some ‘proper’ 80s pop electro classics like Paul Hardcastle – 19, some Saturday morning cartoon theme snippets and a little 80s Italo disco. I will definitely be sneaking in some tracks that sound like they are from the 80s; it’s some of my favourite music. For example DMX Krew wrote a whole album that was supposedly created in the 80s under the name David Michael Cross – Cold War, though we know it was really created in 2003.
Q – What are your favourite memories of old arcades and consoles? What made that era such a golden age?
I remember going to Parramatta bowling club with my dad most Thursday nights. He would bowl in his comp and my friends and I would play in the arcade, $5 worth of 20c coins would usually last the whole night.
Double Dragon, Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Heavy Barrel were some of my favourites. It was always so exciting seeing which new games they would bring out each month. I also have fond memories of playing Ultima V on the PC, and numerous Commodore 64 and Amiga games. I can’t really say what made it such a golden age; perhaps it was the hardware limitations that forced the creators to come up with innovative games.
Q – Do you still hear a connection between music and contemporary video games?
I do and I think that connection between electronic music and video games will be around for a few more decades at least. So many electronic music producers are gaming nerds or at least like computer game music, but I think it depends on what kind of music scene you are talking about. I’m a big Burial fan and also a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, but I wasn’t aware of that one Burial sampled Metal Gear Solid in one of his best known tracks, Archangel. I’m a retro game freak but Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is probably the best computer game ever.
Q – Favourite music of the 80s? Ten tracks?
Some of my favourites but in no way a definitive list:
Kid Frost – Terminator / Atari Battlezone
Strafe – Set It Off (Original Club Remix)
Charlie – Spacer Woman (1983)
Vangelis – (Blade Runner) Main Title
Public Image Ltd. – Order Of Death
Kraftwerk -Numbers/Computer World
Public Enemy – Miuzi Weighs A Ton
Man Parrish – Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop)
MODEL 500 – No UFOs