Chiptography: You decided to be photographed in a neighborhood park close to where you live.
Boaconstructor: It's on Capitol Hill and it's not so much a park as like a little corner that looks out over Lake Washington and it's just like a drop. Like a bunch of trees and forests. Sports were my life growing up. That was my thing. That's what my dad cared about. I was a very good athlete. When I was 16, I hurt my back playing football and made it worse wrestling. I grew up on the east side in Redmond, where Microsoft and Nintendo are.
Chiptography: Oh so you actually grew up here, in Washington State in the Seattle area?
Boaconstructor: 15 minutes east of here, just right across the water.
Chiptography: You were pretty much born and raised?
Boaconstructor: I was born in Alaska.
Chiptography: In Alaska!
Boaconstructor: In Anchorage, yeah. My mom and dad, once they graduated college, they both got jobs out there.
Chiptography: What were they doing?
Boaconstructor: My dad worked for IBM and my mom worked for Xerox, both sales marketing stuff. I think I moved here when I was a year old so this is just home-home for sure.
Chiptography: No memory of Alaska?
Boaconstructor: No. I think I went back once when I was five. I don't remember shit. So I hurt myself and luckily it was hyperextension of the ligaments that surround my spine from pretty much top to bottom and I would go to a kinesiologist two or three times a week right on Capital Hill. One day, I'm 16, I get done there and I drive my car up around the corner. I see this gorgeous view and it became my routine to grab a cheeseburger from Dick's, which is our local burger place, and just sit there and eat it and smoke some weed. Just look out over the view. It's relaxing.
Chiptography: I totally get that. I live in Brooklyn and there's Fort Greene Park which is about 4 or 5 blocks away. It is a moment of peace and serenity to just go, take my dog, sit in the grass and just let my mind go where it needs to go. That might be nowhere. Just a place where you feel safe and it doesn't have to be awe-inspiring and gorgeous and beautiful but I definitely understand that.
Boaconstructor: Consistent, clean, yeah, not your home where you have things to clean and put stuff away and all that kind of stuff. It's not too far off but you're still able to disconnect.
Chiptography: I think disconnect- that's a good word.
Boaconstructor: I've done a lot of disconnecting in my adulthood. Probably one of the key words since I turned 18 or 19.
Chiptography: When did you leave home?
Boaconstructor: Graduated high school in 2011. Got into Washington State University which is all the way east in Pullman, pretty much Idaho. It's a party school. I flunked out in the first semester. It's good that I flunked out so quickly. I wasn't there to learn anything-way too distracting of an environment. So I came back, moved back in with my mom. She got sick of me. I was 19. Moved in with my dad 'cause he had just gotten his own apartment. He got super sick of me. I was going to Bellevue College, a community college right across the water.
Chiptography: What were you studying?
Boaconstructor: Just basic, nothing in particular.
Chiptography: The core courses?
Boaconstructor: Rudimentary, yeah. Didn't care, wasn't going to class but this was also the time when I started taking music seriously. I was making friends. The chiptune community in Seattle was a crazy party scene and I thought it was like that everywhere but no. We had this hip, punk, people getting wasted 5 nights a week, house parties. At one point we had 3 monthly chiptune series that lasted for a year. I was getting into the music stuff. I've been partying since high school but now the partying was attached to something greater, like a community kind of thing. I was doing bad. My grandma and grandpa on my dad's side live in Yakama, which is central Washington. It's where they grow all the apples and hops and stuff. So I lived with them for 3 or 4 months working for my grandpa. They're old and they grew up in a non-democratic major city so we butted heads and I left. But while I was out there I planned to go on this tour. I was like, "ok, some people have recognized my music." I had played at South By Southwest, a little unofficial showcase. I was making friends and I was like, "You know what, fuck this. I don't want to go to the country. I'm going to book this thing.” The original plan was my friend, JD and I were going to do it together ‘cause we've been working on a lot of music together. We clicked, it was working. He had left to go commercial fishing in Alaska and he was like, "Yeah dude, all I want to do is music and this when I get back. If you can get us a tour, we don't have to worry about money and I'm coming back with all this." And I was like, "Cool man. Don't worry, I'll try to save but that's good to know." So I think I got like 10 tour dates but all spread out over the course of almost 2 months. We played the Seattle kickoff. He came down to Portland, we played that. And then he lied and made up some shit, and he's like, "Oh I gotta take the bus back up to Seattle. My brother, hospital.." He just, yeah, he bailed and I was like, well, I'm going to keep going.
Chiptography: So he bailed pretty early into the tour.
Boaconstructor: Like day 1. He had other priorities for sure. I was trying to go see stuff and it's the best decision I ever made. Driving across the country by myself, I mean it was hard. I was broke the whole time. This was a point when I wasn't even asking people if I was going to get paid for shows. I was like, "Oh, you're willing to book me?"
Chiptography: And this was as Boaconstructor?
Chiptography: Doing chiptune at chiptune shows?
Boaconstructor: Six years ago.
Chiptography: Ok. That's pretty recent.
Boaconstructor: Made a little bit of money. I've been on the road for three weeks, almost a month. Lexington, KY, first time I met you.
Boaconstructor: The one, yup. That was it. I was like, "ok, I'm broke, fuck. My grandpa on my dad's side, he lives by himself in St. Louis. He owns a music store, trumpets, and school music kind of stuff. So it was only 5 hours away from Lexington. He can put me to work, give me a couch to sleep on while I finish out my last couple tour dates. I ended up staying 6 months because I just didn't want to go home. I didn't have much for me here [Seattle]. Just a bunch of people that I made bad decisions with and family members that I was not getting along with so it's like, I'm going to try to stay away. Then time goes by and my grandpa had a 1-bedroom apartment so I stayed on his couch. He got sick of me and I get it. So I moved to Detroit because I had met all the Detroit Piko Piko people at BRKfest. They had already booked me for a show in Detroit a couple weeks later. I went up there, stayed with them. Made friends with Jon, he used to do visuals as "WalkinCircles" and now he DJs as "Jonnn." He got a house a few miles north of Detroit. Two-bedroom for less than what I pay for my room here. He's like, "Yeah dude, I got another room. Come on up. It's cheap and it's not your grandpa's couch." So I moved up there, stayed up there for a year. During that year I did tons more whatever booking I could get. I'd go play it.
Chiptography: Was that your main source of income?
Boaconstructor: No! [laughter]
Chiptography: What were you doing?
Boaconstructor: Delivering pizza. While I was in Detroit. I don't know if it was naivety or more of a realistic genuine opportunity, but it was like, "ok, I can turn this [music] into a source of income. There's already this much traction. I have these connections and people who I can work with. I started the record label and I put out my first EP." Working with Trey, (Trey Frey), Alex (IAYD), and Luke Silas. I had this dream and this concept. It's the people who make the chiptune that's separate from nerd-video game. It's all about trying to push the limitations of this stupid little hardware for kids. I did think that we would be able to turn it into a source of income, especially with how well certain album sales did for a couple of releases.
Chiptography: What was the name of the record label?
Boaconstructor: Thebasebit Recordings. That's TBBR. It's good times. I did think that it would be money involved with the music.
Chiptography: So you're in Detroit. You start this record label. You're living with your friend and you're still going on tours. Tell me about the Piko shows. I've never been to one of those. They don't really happen anymore.
Boaconstructor: That was before I had moved there when things were, we were still having shows and whatnot, but they were much more active probably a year before I was out there. Out here, Seattle's chiptune scene has died and come back from the dead at least three times just since I've been around and a part of it which is 10 years now. It'll be big and active and vibrant but it's a small scene. I'm sure you know how all the small scene politic shit goes and then people get angry at each other, they don't want to talk to each other, they don't want to see each other. They're not showing up to the shows. They're not booking each other for shows anymore. Then things just peter out. Then somebody will come around and put out a cool release. The internet cares and they're like, "Oh wow- life! Let's all hop back onto this." It's fun for a bit. This is like the third resurgence that I've seen and it's cool because as far as the Heat.Wav people, Anthony (Graz), he's local. He's super duper duper duper OG. He's been around the Seattle electronic music scene since I was in elementary school. So he is local and has his roots here. But Mikey and Nikola are from Michigan. Well, Mikey is from Kansas City. It's interesting to see folks, transplants, being capable of successfully bringing this thing into existence. The last party they did a few months before this one, there were a couple of out of town artists. It was a great line up, great acts but no headliner draw booking by any means but it didn't matter. The room was still packed and everyone was having a great time because they've managed to curate just a good party. It's like, "Hey, this is our brand, trust us, keep coming back." And it's working. Very open-minded, just sort of nice big, safe space, I think, largely. Super inviting.
Chiptography: It seems very different from your previous experience in Seattle.
Boaconstructor: For sure.
Chiptography: So we're still in Michigan right now. When did you move back to Seattle at some point? When did that happen? Were you someplace in between and why did you move?
Boaconstructor: November of 2014, the end of that year that I had been spending there, my best friend (he's like my older brother), his name is Yanni. He had been running the sound system at a nightclub that's up the street from here. A really nice sound system and he was involved with designing it and getting it set up. So he was there monitoring sound four nights a week while working full time at Microsoft and he just couldn't do it anymore. And he's like, "Hey- if you move back here you get to work at the nightclub." So I did that. I came back, moved in with my mom.
Chiptography: Because you were delivering pizzas, right?
Boaconstructor: Right, I mean not to mention there's more for me here. This is where my entire support system exists and so it's like, I had been away for a while. I love all my friends in Detroit and everything but Detroit's not the nicest place. Even if we're just talking about weather. That midwest shit is extreme. Sure, it rains here all the time and that makes me sad but like fucking 5 feet of snow for three months straight and swealtering heat and flash floods in the summer. Nah- fuck that shit.
Chiptography: So you're back in Seattle and you're working at this nightclub.
Boaconstructor: That only lasted for 6 months. Some political bullshit. The new creative director guy didn't like my friend who got me the job so he tried to push me out by association so whatever, I'm glad I got out of there. That's another community and industry that I don't particularly care for after getting very much behind the scenes. Nightlife communities are lame. It's this big stupid popularity contest for kids who weren't very cool in high school I think but then became adults. They were like, "Oh I don't have to be home at a certain time and I don't have to do what my mom and dad tell me to. Oh cool, I can just get drunk and do coke and listen to music and I make all these friends." It's alluring and easy to get sucked into but unfortunately I think the people who are the most consistent players who are with the highest visibility, their motives are questionable.
Chiptography: What did you do after that?
Boaconstructor: I was also delivering pizzas part-time already. Then I lost the job, then my car died so I lost my other job and I was just staying at my mom's with nothing going too good. I went to rehab after that. I was just drinking too much and while I still do drink pretty regularly, it was different and while that was not the place for me to be, I was not stuck on this. I wasn't addicted to heroine and get sick if I didn't take heroin. I have obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, stuff that had been going untreated that I was trying to self-medicate and I wasn't being safe or smart. I didn't care. I didn't give a shit.
Chiptography: What was your experience in rehab? Difficult to be there?
Boaconstructor: Going there, spending the month being like, "ok- this is terrible. I'm never ever ever going to come back to a place like this ever again for the rest of my life." Via coming to that conclusion, it was good that I went. I'm too good for this which is kind of an egotistical way to address substance abuse and mental illness but it helped me solidify the fact that I didn't want to go back to a place like that. I keep myself in check now.
Chiptography: I feel like that's a recurring theme where you find yourself in a situation that doesn't seem to fit and so you moved somewhere else, tried a different location and different job and different community. If it doesn't work, you make the choice to leave and try a different thing.
Boaconstructor: Something else, yeah.
Chiptography: Maybe at that point in your life it was just some really tough decisions and a really low place.
Boaconstructor: For sure.
Chiptography: You chose alcohol to medicate yourself.
Boaconstructor: Still do but differently now. It was more that I just had nothing going right for me in my life. I dropped out of college a couple of times. No money, no job, no car, bad relationships with my family at large. My parents were like, "hey listen, here's your chance to go figure your shit out." I went there and I did it. I'm glad that I did. That shit sucked ass but it was good. I started going to school again up at Shoreline Community College about 10 miles north of here. They have a really good music and audio program so it's like, "Ok this time I'm going to go to school for something that I care about." I was living by myself and fresh out of rehab and trying to stay sober. Doing that and school. The freedom of "Oh- I don't have to wake up if I don't want to today." No one's going to come check on me. So I would just sleep in, not go to class. I failed out again. I didn't even fail. I had great grades. I just quit going. Then from there was when I moved down to Rainer Beach, 3 years ago.
Chiptography: So you work at Microsoft now.
Boaconstructor: Two years as of a couple of weeks ago. Longest I've been at any job.
Chiptography: What do you do for them?
Boaconstructor: Specialized IT, mostly hardware support. We have tons of labs filled with servers and desktops and mobile devices. Anything that they're creating software and shit for, they push automated test runs every single day, all day long.
Chiptography: It sounds pretty impressive for a college drop out.
Boaconstructor: Ha, for sure. Yes, I'm lucky to have the job that I have without a degree. Most definitely.
Chiptography: Where did you get the know-how?
Boaconstructor: Chiptune stuff helped for sure. Having to troubleshoot all this wonky, shitty third party software and hardware and modifications and opening up boards. It actually, it really helped.
Chiptography: So you went to the school of Chiptune.
Boaconstructor: Pretty much! I excelled quickly at work with no IT or computer training background.
Chiptography: Tell me about your artist name.
Boaconstructor: My dad has a cabin about a little under 2 hours east of here in the Cascade Mountains on Lake Wenatchee. It's off of highway 2. When you're driving from over here on the west side through highway 2, just outside of Monroe, there's a reptile zoo. I have a younger sister who is 20 now. She was probably 5 or 6 and we're driving past the reptile zoo for the 50th time but we had never gone. She wanted to and she goes, "But daddy, I wanna go see the alligators and boaconstructors." And I was like, damn, sick! Boaconstructor, huh? Nice. I liked it.
Chiptography: That's awesome! I love it.
Boaconstructor: She just didn't know how to pronounce it. I think it's a cool fitting name for what I do I guess. People love to play around with the concept behind a snake and a boa and constriction and construction. It didn't mean any of that to me but I stuck with the name because it works. It fits.
Boaconstructor: When I really thought that TBBR (the record label) had a chance of being something that was going to be financially viable it's because I wanted it to be pretty much extended into a clothing line. Just merchandise for the label but a heavy on focus on merchandise for the label. Not just like, "Oh yeah, once a year we put out a t-shirt with our logo on it." No, I wanted to hire my pixel artist friends. I love pixel art. I love that shit. Sure, I had a Gameboy when I was growing up. That was pretty much my whole video game experience growing up until I got that Gamecube when I was 13. I played sports all year long. Every day after school, every weekend, I played sports. That's all I did. Doing the Gameboy when I was in the back seat on the way to fucking sports practice was video games for me. I don't have the nostalgic memories of like being on atari-ST and looking at the really cool 16-bit pixel art scenes that are in these interactive games and stuff that I see all these screenshots on Instagram now that are just amazing artwork. Once again, "innovation via limitation." All of these harsh little edges and taking the time, it creates the coolest layering that I can imagine. Drip designed my, The Zig-Zag guy, you know zigzags, the rolling papers? One of my t-shirt designs, I had her do it and yeah, I really wanted to work with all of these pixel artists that I love so that I could regularly be releasing streetwear that I enjoyed that's just really good art kinda under the guise of, "We're a record label with an ethos that's similar to, we're putting out the audio art the same way that we're putting out this physical visual art." I've always wanted to just have a clothing company but I think it made sense for them to be one thing. They can feed off of each other. The music gets more attention when the clothing is doing well. If we can't put out a release every month, we could put out a new t-shirt design every month. I think it just makes sense. I mean think about fucking craft beer companies and stuff. They're the ones that actually care about hiring artists to make beautiful can designs and box designs and stuff. It doesn't matter what your actual product is. You can always care about art when it comes to the packaging and release of it. I just really wanted to pay my friends to design clothes that I would wear and buy from these cool stores but it's just pixel art. Whereas you don't see very much of that. The pixel art streetwear crossover I think is still an untapped market. I'm not organized enough.
Chiptography: I've seen similar designs but they're based on already, like yesterday I was wearing a Pacman shirt from Uniqlo. Cost me $20 or something but it's nothing compared to what the artists like Drip are, that type of art.
Boaconstructor: For sure. Art art. Not just this nostalgia-laden like, "I'm wearing this because it reminds me of a time or it's something that I enjoy." No, it's stand-alone art. It speaks for itself. There's this clothing company that I really enjoy from Tokyo called Cav Empt and, it's funny, I only recently discovered them but the designs that they release like, this is what I always had dreams of paying my friends to do. Pixel art designs like these and releasing them onto t-shirts and sweatshirts and shit. I never really got to do it.
Chiptography: Is that still a dream of yours?
Boaconstructor: I think so. Yeah, I do think so. It's hard.
Chiptography: What are the challenges?
Boaconstructor: Time, money, believing in myself. I used to think that if I could just have somebody invest in it... I got the motivation. I got the dream. I've learned my own limitations, unfortunately, and I have lots of shortcomings. While I do think that I have cool ideas that would be viable if I really had the chance to put them out there, I also don't trust myself.
Chiptography: Fair enough.
Boaconstructor: I failed a bunch of times at a bunch of different things which, sure, that's a part of life. I do recognize the absolute value in curation. If you have a good eye and a particular taste, it's worth money for sure. It shows the best with clothing design is the most immediate place you can see it. That sweatshirt there I'm going to wear when we take pictures, it's this company called BAPE. A Bathing Ape, also out of Tokyo. I mean, high quality but nothing too special, but they're just iconic. They do these shark hoodies like the old bomber planes and stuff and obviously good attention to detail. Point of no return, that's their series this year that they're doing. Somebody just had this idea and was like, "I'm going to make these sweatshirts." They also were the first ones to do the full zip. They created that kind of. I totally recognize that if you just have that cool idea and you really believe in yourself and have the other people to believe in you then, yeah, that curation is very valuable. Mikey [Skybox] recently said the nicest shit ever to me. I was feeling introspective and I tweeted about... effectively I said my rise to chip music notoriety has been a result of tons of tons of time spent in a way that capitalist society totally disagrees with. Taking financial risks I could not afford to take and at the end of the day just believing that my taste is good. It's like, "Oh I fuck with this? It's good. I trust that." And he responded to me, "When it comes to music and clothes and food, I see you as one of the best tastemakers and curators that I ever met." And I was like, "Wow." It's weird talking about yourself in a good way or something. I'm pretty self-loathing. I guess I do still have dreams. Thanks for asking me about this stuff. I don't really think about it anymore just because life has kind of beaten me down into not thinking about this stuff.
Chiptography: Was there anything, an experience at a show or with another chiptune artist that was a life-changing moment for you?
Boaconstructor: Playing in Tokyo. Quarta 330 is one of my top 5 producers period, not even chiptune related. I was listening to him before I knew what chiptune was because I'd gotten into dubstep. It was like 2008, 2009 and that's when dubstep in America was really picking up traction. I downloaded some torrent that was like 100 really good dubstep songs or whatever and I would just listen to it in my car on my iPod. There were two Quarta 330 LSDJ songs on it. I was like, yeah this sounds different than the other songs on here, but it's dubstep. It's bass music. If you got a subwoofer it's going to rraarr rraarrr rraarrr. So I was listening to him before I even knew he was making his music with a Gameboy. I get introduced to chiptune, start making it, see his name again. Realize that the shit I was listening to a couple of years before was being made on Gameboys. [When I] get to meet him, I'm like, "Dude, I'm a huge fan. You've inspired me so much." He's a part of this label called Hyperdub which is arguably one of the more established, forward-thinking, underground bass music labels in the world. Kode9 from the UK runs it. He released LSDJ through this Hyperdub label like 10, 11 years ago and then more recently, I think it was 2017, he put out his pixelated EP. So Quarta works for Elektron which makes all the really good high-end electronic music hardware. Drum machines and stuff. So now he mostly uses more modern things but the sound is still there. He continues to be one of my biggest inspirations because he still has the chiptune-y sound, he still incorporates Gameboys but he's taking it... He doesn't need the chiptune narrative to sell his product or his music. It's just fucking good and it's grown and its gone on. I feel the same way about Henry Homesweet for sure. When I got to play with him in Melbourne and meet him for the first time, that was like another one. End of the day, closing statement, I do view myself as successful and fulfilled even if I die today and never do any more music stuff just via getting to meet my heroes and by the time that I'm meeting my heroes, they're just treating me like a peer. They're like, "Dude, what's up man? I fucking love your music." It's like, what are you talking about? I was a 17 year old in my bedroom listening to your album on repeat before bed and shit.
Chiptography: That's amazing. I mean, where else would that ever happen? I don't know.
Boaconstructor: I get to go to these places and meet my heroes from when I was a fucking kid. Ashley (Sabrepulse) he used to just like call me when he was drunk on the weekends out with his friends and just be like, "What's up dude? What's going on man?" Jules,(jddj3j) we used to talk on the phone all the time. He would talk to me while he was riding his bike to work. Just like, "How are you man? What's going on?" Which is so cool cause I mean, cTrix will just hit me up and be like, "Oh hey man, dude, you been working on anything? You got any demos I can hear? I just put a sound system in my car and I want to listen to your stuff." And it's like, OH MY GOD. I wanted this though. I wanted to be known. I suppose that's a desire that a lot of humans have. From day 1 I was just like, "I'm going to try to make the biggest, hardest, heaviest hitting stuff out of these little Gameboys that anyone's ever heard." I wanted to be the best for sure. I care much less about that now. It's just more, I'd rather just be my personal best and push forward and feel fulfilled while being able to measure my growth. Whereas early on it's like, fuck I want to be that guy. I want to be up there. I want to play shows with these guys. I want to do this. I want to do that. It's interesting how now that I've kind of gotten to that point where I get to do that it seems kind of superficial I suppose, to have that be your source of inspiration or drive or motive or whatever it is. We probably wouldn't be sitting here talking if I hadn't felt that way and tried so hard and booked that tour and spent all my money driving across the country six years ago. It's worth it. I haven't fucked anyone over. I haven't been a bad person. I haven't ever had to throw someone under the bus to get ahead. I don't feel badly about anything.
Chiptography: Your risks were purely your own.
Chiptography: That was a choice. You did what you thought was right in the moment.
Boaconstructor: It's worked out well enough I think. I got to have fun. Oh yeah, so meeting Quarta. I don't think he had actually heard my music but he's like, "Oh I've seen your name. Nice to meet you man. Thank you. Those are really nice things to say." He played the day before and because I reached out to James (Cheapshot) and I was like, "Dude can you please book 330 on the same night as me? I really want him to see my set" and he's like, "sure, I'll put him on." and he goes, "Actually he has to work on Sunday so he's going to play on Saturday and you're playing Sunday and I was like, "Damn. Ok, whatever. I'll get to meet him. Maybe I'll reach out online. Send him some stuff." We were talking in the bar and stuff and some other people came up and they were like, "Quarta! No no no- you don't get it. This guy, you have to see him play tomorrow." He's like, "What time do you play?" and I was like "Later." and he goes "ok I think I can make it." He got there a half an hour before I played. I played my set and at the end of it, he was at the corner of the little backstage with a bottle of champagne and I was like, "Yo." and he goes "Oh! You say you're my big fan? No! I am YOUR big fan now!' I was like, "Cool." Those rewarding moments make everything worth it at the end of the day.