An interview with Crusher-P

chipspeech

chipspeech

For the past 15 years Plogue has been developing effects, synthesizers and sound libraries for use in the many genres of electronic music, from IDM to chipmusic.

As such, we really didn’t know what the reaction to chipspeech would be, as it was neither an effect, nor a typical synthesizer. It was a shot in the dark, a product we made because we felt we had to. Something that was a logical followup/companion to chipsounds, since it required the same sort of hardware archaeology and research.

It also felt logical to have chipmusic artists beta testing and submitting original compositions for what became the great chipspeech AUTOMATE SONGS .01 album. And to my knowledge, no one in there had ever made a song with a virtual singer before. The launch was a success, and the reaction from our target audience completely blew our expectations.

But then something unexpected happened.

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Most call it the “Vocaloid/UTAU fandom”, (in reality it also includes CeVIO, aquestone and various other vocal libraries), and it centers around the creation and appreciation of original compositions (though sometimes covers as well) along with their PVs – short for Promotional Videos.

PV gets uploaded first to Nico Nico Douga (the main Japanese video sharing site), then to Youtube, with a coded emphasis on exactly which technology and character/voice bank was used. Fans can thus search for songs featuring their favorite virtual singer or producer using special 【TAGS】.

Their reaction to chipspeech was far from unanimous, (well nothing ever is). While some of them ridiculed chipspeech for being unrealistic and robotic, others immediately understood what we were trying to accomplish, and they welcomed these new characters into their productions, along with their own textures and personality.

One of them was the much respected original song producer Crusher-P (Cien Miller). In just a few years Crusher-P has gathered a loyal fan base and nearly every video they upload usually break the You-tube counter (301+ views). In early February we sent them an early version of “Lady Parsec HD” (a more detailed variant of the original chipspeech character), and we have been quite fortunate to receive their suggestions and comments so that we could further tweak her prior to her release. To our surprise, they even used “Lady Parsec HD” on their new track OBEY.


 

Crusher-P

David Viens (Plogue): Can you describe what got you started doing Vocaloid/UTAU songs, and did you mess with any other instruments or composing software before that?

Crusher-P: I’ve been into Vocaloid since 2007! I was 12 years old, and I was pretty sad when I was that age. When I found Hatsune Miku, a character that was centered around literally ANY type of music, I completely submerged myself in anything I could find with her singing. All I knew is that she was software that anybody could make sing. I didn’t think there were actual people who made her sing, I always imagined these songs came out of nowhere until about 2009. That’s when I watched a short documentary showing the faces behind the hard worked songs that seemed to pop out of thin air and manage to consume every moment of my spare time. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a producer! All the mysterious questions about Miku I had were finally spelled out! It was MAGICAL. I’d never even considered writing music before! I had a piano but all I ever did was senseless dabble and playing songs by ear. I decided that this was something I really, REALLY wanted to pursue. This documentary showed the people who had changed my life completely, and I wanted to be just like them. I went ahead and installed my brother’s version of FL Studio 9 on my computer, opened it whilst trembling with excitement to find that the interface made zero sense to me. So I closed it and went outside. I came back to it about a year later and toyed around with stuff until I figured out how to actually use the program to a certain extent. I made a song for an UTAU that was made with my voice, and there was no going back.

 

David: The reaction to your piece “ECHO” is phenomenal. At the time of writing, it was seen by 1.6 MILLION viewers on You-tube alone, making it the most popular original English singing vocal synthesizer composition by far. WILDFIRE!! by both you and Circus-P is not far behind, either. Did you expect either to reach the sort of cult status they have?

Crusher-P: ABSOLUTELY NOT. I had NO idea this would happen!! I was shaking pretty hard when I uploaded ECHO. It was the first time I uploaded a song to my personal channel in over a year. I had no idea what to expect, what people would think or if they’d even like it. The outcome was overwhelmingly positive and it makes me tear up when I think about it! I’ve worked really hard to get to the point where I am. However, without all the people I have supporting me and without Circus-P and our other very important friend Mystsaphyr, I wouldn’t even be close. I’ve received so much fan art that I can hardly keep track of it. I print out and stick as much of it as I can on my wall, but I’m sure I’ll run out of space soon.

 

David: You have used probably every Vocaloid/UTAU voice banks under the sun. What attracted you to the purposely less realistic (and sometimes downright robotic) voices in chipspeech?

Crusher-P: That would definitely be an overstatement, haha! I have tried quite a fair share of voicebanks, but there are just so many now that I can’t even keep up. The first thing that hyped me up for chipspeech when I first stumbled the announcement of its existence was the character designs. I’m a pretty big sucker for darker themed characters, and seeing Dandy 704 right off the bat was enough to pull me in. All of the characters having such chaotic personalities was also extremely charming to me! Since I’m also very much into drawing and character design, I can say with confidence that 9 times out of 10, a majority of most characters I create probably belong in jail. I was never too good at making vocaloids sing (other than the operatic vocaloid “Prima”), and chipspeech was super easy for me to get the hang of. It’s been a very pleasant experience overall so far for me.

“I’ve had such an unquenchable obsession with robots of any sorts since I saw an animatronic at Disney World when I was 9 and with Chipspeech having SO MUCH background behind each character tickles me pink to no end.”

 

David: Your love for Lady Parsec is no secret to anyone who follows you on twitter, please tell us what it is about her you like so much?

Crusher-P: I have a thing for dictators.

 

David: Typical composers and producers on Desktop platforms can argue day and night about which DAW is best, but in the end they share lots of similarities compared to the sort of work-flow imposed by Vocaloid/UTAU, Where you either:

  • Compose your vocal melody and harmonies to a preexisting completed “karaoke backing track” (not my choice of words)
  • Compose your vocal melody and harmonies ALONE, then export as WAV and create the backing track after the fact.

Could you explain how this work-flow works (and makes sense) to a typical DAW user who is used to build up everything in once place, and edit any part at any moment?

Crusher-P: actually write the lyrics, singing melody and instrumental all at the same time. Imagine building a skyscraper, but furnishing each level as you build up and up and up. After the instrumental is done and everything is written, I export a midi of the singing melody and import that into vocaloid or UTAU, make them sing it and put the .wavs of singing back into FL Studio. If I use chipspeech, the process goes much quicker since it’s a vst! Then it’s time to mix the song. If I mix the song alone (which basically never happens), I don’t include harmonies most of the time. Circus-P makes the harmonies a majority of the time!

 

David: We would love if you could look back and give us your thoughts on your most important milestones as an artist so far

Crusher-P: I view my music as a time-line of who I am as a person, a change in my development and growth from a child to an adult.

Autumn. This was the second song I’ve ever written! It was the first song I ever made singing harmonies and the first song I wrote that was actually covered by somebody else! However, this song isn’t finished yet. I used my friend’s UTAU to sing it before he came out as transgendered to me. I intend to absolutely rebuild the song when he has reached a comfortable place in his transition to re-record his UTAU. He’s been one of my best friends since I was 14 years old and I’m so proud of seeing him change and grow the way he has. I can’t wait to hear how he’ll sound when he starts his journey through transitioning! :o)
Calalini. Boy was this song a train wreck. This was me subconsciously trying to convey my own emotions while trying to sympathize with somebody else’s, a terrible lack of lyrical filter and just a whole bunch of naivety. My intent was to acknowledge and spread awareness of mental illness and schizophrenia. I wrote it in particular about Jani Schofield, a young girl who was suffering severely from one of the worst cases of childhood schizophrenia doctors had ever seen. This song became iconic enough for Jani’s parents to acknowledge. They contacted me, and we worked together to make shirts to help fund the Jani Foundation – an organization meant to help set up programs for children that suffer from mental illness in California. The shirts are my interpretation of 24 Hours, one of Jani’s 200 hallucinations and a very good friend of hers at the time. She really liked the way I portrayed her, so we used it! (Jani Foundation ) This song was a collaboration with about 15 artists and two other musicians.
Aokigahara. This one’s kind of tough. At the base of Mt. Fuji, there lies the Aokigahara forest. Nicknamed the “Suicide Forest,” an average of 100 or so bodies are found every year from people who couldn’t handle this world anymore. I was very, very sick when I wrote this song. However, this was the first song I’d written with all my emotion in almost a year. It was me acknowledging illness and beginning to recover. I also got my friend Abby to do the art and it made for a nice piece on her portfolio since she’s studying to be an art teacher!!!
Biohazard is my fight song, my recovery song, my ultimate comeback song. After an absence for about a year and a half, I returned to the vocaloid community with a vengeance and the inability to stop fighting. Right up there with Aokigahara, this song is one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written. After I had escaped an abusive relationship, I was really really scared I’d be found by my abuser. I was afraid of recovery, but I knew I needed it. So rather than running, I fought back. To put it as honestly as I can, Biohazard is my war song against my rapist. It was me validating myself, not counting on anybody else to validate how I feel and I am REALLY proud of myself. It marks a monumental mark in my timeline in which I really began to mature and start taking care of myself. :o) This was also the first time I worked with Circus-P on a song. He did all the mixing and audio mastering!
ECHO is the only song I’ve ever written with 0 regrets after it was finished. I woke up one morning with the realization that I owe it to myself to write whatever kind of song I felt like. I did not have to force myself to do anything to impress somebody else… I did it for me! I had the critical help of Circus’s mixing and mastering and lots of moral support too! The song has no real implemented structure or basis. The song means something different to me every single day. I never expected it to get so popular, I remember my hands shaking as I wrote the description of the video. At first, there was quite a bit of hate! That diminished VERY quickly soon after it started getting popular.
On Nico Nico Douga, a Vocaloid song needs to hit 100,000 views to enter the hall of fame. The only non-Japanese producer to have a song in the Vocaloid Hall of Fame on NND was Circus! It took him about two-three years to achieve this, but it was incredible to see it happen! I had zero hope for ECHO on NND, but it reached the Vocaloid Hall of Fame in 5 days. It was much more popular in Japan than overseas, but when it caught on it didn’t stop. ECHO just hit 600,000 views on Nico Nico Douga and is getting closer to 2,000,000 views on Youtube every day. I am very proud of how it turned out and I am proud of Circus and Mystsaphyr as well.

 

Crusher-P: It took me a long time to get where I am, but I’m proud of myself. I get very discouraged but sometimes, if you aren’t failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

David: Thank you so much!


We would like to thank Crusher-P again for their precious time, and we will follow their career very closely!
Follow Crusher-P on twitter, tumblr and You Tube.