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The best kept secret in music

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"8-bit Live Review"

8-Bit
4.22.05
1160 Bar at the Ramada Inn (Los Angeles)
words: Todd Hillard
photos: Todd H. Hilliard

“I need oxygen, or I’m a be dead,” Le Frost, one-fifth of the rap quintet 8-Bit, bawls through her robot mask as she moves through the crowd at a Los Angeles Ramada Inn. Her rap, delivered in a charming nasal tone, prompts fist pumps and side-to-side waves of arms from the masses, reminiscent of an early ‘90s Naughty By Nature performance.

Never mind that the necessity of oxygen is a distinctly human one, and that 8-Bit self-righteously claims non-human classification; they are built on contradiction, and a little identity confusion can be forgiven.

Comprised of robotic lyricists Spacey-K, Robo-T, Anti Log and the aforementioned Ms. Frost, with beats and mixes supplied by There-e-Mang, 8-Bit brings the world of old school Nintendo themes and misogynistic gangsta rap together, melding them into a musical form where “up-up, down-down, left-right, left-right” isn’t instructions for a new dance, but rather shit-talk in the form of an old Contra code.

With prideful disdain for humans of either sex, they hurl the word “bitch” around as cavalierly as a Hollywood pimp. But before you call Gloria Steinem, be warned: Le Frost, the lone female in the group, says it the most. She often employs the word to follow the phrase, “suck my dick.”

Distinguishing between the four members of 8-bit is quite a challenge. Each wears a suit reminiscent of Marty McFly’s getup when he escaped into 1955, and their faces are usually completely obscured by tint on their facemasks.

During the performance of songs “I-Deez,” “Zelda,” and “You Ain’t No Robot,” Le Frost’s womanly voice is the easiest to discern, and it would be simple to say that this fact makes her an obvious favorite, but she’s also the most likeable. She often moves off the stage and into the crowd, delivering many of her verses surrounded by fans.

There-e-Mang confirmed Le Frost’s amenable presence in a post-show interview. “She likes humans and tries to keep peace and tie shit together,” he said. “She is agreeable and likeable, and is generally happy with the bullshit that this planet has to offer. She is lazy but nice to everyone.”

During the quiet moments between songs, shouts of “We love the robots!” and “8-Bit, bitch!” fill the silence, and a constant laugh-track in the crowd proves that everyone is in on the joke. The ironic part is that there is no joke.

The robots have garnered fame of late with their remix of Beck’s single “Hell Yes,” appropriately titled “Ghettochip Malfunction,” and have seen an increasing number of fans pack their shows as word of mouth expands their popularity. The Beck track was even the #1 song on iTunes for a brief period, but the adoration of fans who find it all amusing is ignored by the emotionless robots, who will continue to perform for other, distinctively inhuman - if not completely non-human - reasons.

“We hate our fans when they are dumb,” explains There-e-Mang. “We hate our fans when they get in trouble and ask us to fight for them. We hate our fans when they won’t put-out before and after shows. 8-Bit hates humans. All of them. We don’t give a fuck about any of the stupid shit. If you breathe, we hate you. We just want people’s money so we can keep up our drug and alcohol problems, and we want blowjobs to keep our spirits up. If you ain’t givin’ us money or head, shut the fuck up and stay away from us.”
- Loose Records - online


"8 Bit...Putting the GANGSTA back in Gangsta Rap "

By WAV Magazine on July 2, 2005 - 5:24am.

“8-bit is the bastard child made when a Nintendo was raped by the Beastie Boys and NWA”-Anti-Log

Comprised of Spacey-K, Anti-Log, Robo-T, and Le-Frost, the robotic foursome landed on planet Earth in 2002 and have since put out two albums: a self-titled debut, and You Ain’t No Robot, through their own label Ninjastar Records. They run the label out of their house in Highland Park, Cali, taco-truck capitol of the world and home of the famous Mr.T’s bowl, 8-Bit’s favorite venue to play. Unless you grew up around the ghetto that is Highland Park like I did, you probably have no idea what this place is, but suffice it to say that the place is good sketchy fun.

The robo-rap-crew is a throwback to the days of NES and Public Enemy. You hear the familiar Zelda theme song and you cannot help but find yourself reminiscing about your childhood…the good ol’ days…back when your only worry was kicking your friend’s ass in Donkey Kong and then eating his PB&J sandwich. But then your daydream is disrupted by “yeah, I’m a robot and an alcoholic and I get fucked up ‘til I’m catatonic!”

Lyrics like those, along with their innebriating live shows, have earned them quite the loyal following. Even Beck has manned a controller. Recently, 8-Bit collaborated with the man himself to re-mix 2 tracks off Beck’s recent Guero for a four-song, internet only collection entitled Gameboy Variations. Beck’s brother passed along an 8-Bit CD and “a messenger showed up a few days later with a CD of the vocal tracks. We had to leave for the Micromusic Invasion Tour in Europe so we knocked out the music in less than a week. We dropped off the CD at the Dust Brothers Studio (The Boat) where Beck was working on Guero” explains Robo-T.
When asked whom else they’d like to collaborate with, he responds with “50 cent, Nelly, Gwen Stefani. You know, the most talented musicians of our time.” But of course.

Though the single that 8-Bit produced for Beck, “Hell Yes,” has been more than its fair share of play on iTunes and LA’s Indie 103, and despite a recent nomination for best hip-hop/rap artist for the LA Weekly Music Awareds, the robots are still keeping it as real as only robots can. “We have been getting people writing us asking how they can get signed to Ninjastar Records. It’s funny cause the label is run out of our house and we can barely keep ourselves afloat,” says Anti-Log.

What these robots can do though is put on a debaucherous show. The crew’s alter egos take over once they grab the mics and the three normal enough looking white guys and a lil’ girl with a cute bob, turn gangsta. They walk on stage with a 12-er of Tecate dressed in what look like metallic haz-mat suits and ‘spinners’ round their necks (rims on chains, for all y’all who ain’t down). The whole experience is ghetto fabulous as Le-Frost, the bobbed bot, gets dog-piled and man-handled by audience members and boy-bots alike. “What Frank Zappa did to doo-wop, we do to rap” clarifies Robo-T.

At a recent show in Echo Park, one of the fans included the 70s porn star who introduced the band before flash-dancing along to the set. When asked what the wildest thing he has done on stage was, Anti-Log responds, “I started a bar brawl, broke my nose, drop kicked a girl, broke a whiskey bottle over my head, vomited, and hit a guy with a baseball bat” while Robo-T “invited one of our homies from Valencia to Break a 5th of Beam over my head. I'm not sure how many times he tried but it resulted in a concussion.”

Though you feel like you may be trampled to death at various points in their show, you can’t help but go nuts when you hear them. It’s like my friend Deborah says, “they just make me happy.”

Oh…and what's with the robot costumes?
“They aren't costumes, asshole. What's up with your human costume? You should get a better one.” –Anti-Log

Check out www.ninjastarrecords.com for more info on shows, merchandise, and of course, to purchase their albums.

- Music for America / WAV Magazine


"Hi, Robot! - Handpicked for Beck EP, local androids get drunk, stoked, bummed"

by KATE SULLIVAN

While working on his new record, Guero, Beck told Mojo magazine last fall: “I have no clear idea what people want from me, but I was walking down the street and some hip-hop kid yelled, ‘Hey Beck — get back on track!’ Maybe he wanted another ‘Where It’s At’ — who knows?”

Setting aside the breathtaking pathos of that scenario for a moment, let us focus on the positive side, for fans, of Beck’s apparent uncertainty: His new single — currently burning up the iTunes and getting airplay on Indie 103 — is an undeniable throwback, in a good way, with the kind of casual charm that’s virtually impossible to fake. It’s just a little bit of Casio bubblegum with old-skool video-game bleeps, an Outkasty chorus (“hell yes!”), vinyl EP packaging, and an incredibly cute animated video floating around the Web. Even the title is kinda sloppy: “Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes) [Remix by 8-Bit].”

What nobody seems to know is that Beck fans had more than a little existential something-something to do with this particular song. “Ghettochip Malfunction” was not produced by the Dust Bros. — who oversaw Guero — or by Air, Mario Caldato Jr., Dizzee Rascal, or any of the other fancy-pants types associated with Beck’s new stuff. The song — appearing on the Hell Yes EP — was produced by 8-Bit, an unsigned band from Highland Park who dress like robots and perform their own twist on gangsta rap, with song titles like “Drunk,” “Crunked” and “Eatin’ Cat.” (At one recent show, the band staged a “shooting” by a rival robot-gang.)

“Ghettochip Malfunction” is called a remix, but that’s not quite accurate, says 8-Bit’s head robot, Andy Bollas (a.k.a. Anti-Log), over the phone. But maybe he should begin from the beginning, because it’s kind of a funny story.

“Beck is really cool, but his label is a bunch of assholes,” Bollas says. (Such a gangster, yo.)

“I write a lot of shitty e-mails for our e-mail list — basically get drunk and write whatever. I get a lot of weird shit back. So [back in June] I got an e-mail from some guy named Mark, and he said, ‘Would you be interested in doing a song for Beck?’ I sent him a two-word e-mail, ‘Fuck you.’ He wrote again and I wrote him back, ‘What part of fuck you don’t you get?’ ”

Granted, as a robot and a gangsta, Anti-Log has a certain mystique to protect; what he didn’t realize was that this guy, Mark Williams, was an A&R honcho at Interscope Records.

It all worked out. Beck’s an 8-Bit fan and really did want them to work on a song or two. So, with nothing but vocal tracks to go on, 8-Bit built the song from scratch on a quick turnaround. (They also did a version of the album’s title track.) “We went down to the Boat to drop it off [the Dust Bros.’ studio in Silver Lake], and we were like, holy shit, there’s Beck! He was super-nice. We gave him the song, didn’t think anything of it, then left for tour.

“We didn’t hear anything for months and months. Then suddenly [around early February] there’s this video on the Internet, and it’s our song. Then we get a call from a friend — ‘Holy shit, I just heard your song on Indie-103!’ ”

That was all good; what sucked for 8-Bit was that no one seemed to realize they’d even done the song — and not merely remixed it, but actually produced it. Even Indie’s Mark Sovel — probably L.A.’s biggest local-band champion — had no clue when he downloaded it for airplay from iTunes. (“I never recalled seeing an 8-Bit reference,” he said.)

The whole shebang illustrates the general vibe of confusion and mystery surrounding Guero’s release on March 29 — the kind of gossip-fueling micro-dramas that, let’s be honest, make life way more fun for fans. (See also: supposedly accidental leaking of the album; Beck’s semi-secret recent club shows; numerous “remixes” by tons of famous and obscure musicians; etc.) The only genuinely sad thing is that 8-Bit never signed a contract for their work (Interscope paid them $2,000, Bollas says), and will receive no royalties, despite the fact that the Hell Yes EP was iTunes’ biggest download the week it came out. (And despite their attempt to “copyright” the song, ghetto-style, by mailing it to themselves before turning it in.)

Says Williams at Interscope: “Beck had a concept to have a lot of different people, mostly unknown or underground people, do remixes of the songs. It was done in the spirit of ‘interpret this song.’ We paid [8-Bit] a fee and they seemed happy with it — we were doing 20 or 30 of these remixes [with different producers], so we were trying to keep the fees low.”

Meanwhile, 8-Bit are on the way to South by Southwest. No, they don’t have any showcases set up — but if you see four robots beatboxing on the corner, give ’em a shout.

8-Bit headline an all-ages show at the 24th Street Theater on Sunday, March 13. Doors open at 6 p.m.
- LA Weekly


"Hello Superstar - Beck"

Q: Hey, Yo're On The "Cutting Edge" - Can You Turm Me On To Any New Bands?"

A: There's a whole lttle scene doing music with Game Boys and old videogame equipment. 8-bit from Los Angeles and Paza from Stockholm. Nullsleep is another one. They are raw and andi-technology by embracing disused technology.
- Beck - Blender, May 2005


"Air on a Game Boy"

By JONAH WEINER

Published: April 24, 2005


Beck, pop music's foremost scavenger, has dug his way through marginalized genres like lounge music, disco and bossa nova, among others. But on "GameBoy Variations," a four-song Internet-only collection released shortly before his new album, "Guero," Beck unveiled his latest, and weirdest, discovery: chip music, a new electronic genre that prefers obsolete video-game gear to the latest technology. "GameBoy Variations," which was the best-selling album on iTunes in its first week, is Beck's salute to musicians who are retooling vintage Nintendos, Ataris and Game Boys into makeshift synthesizers, squeezing unlikely, boisterous pop from primitive bleeps and blips.

"There's something about the sound that feels really pure," said Jeremiah Johnson of Manhattan, a 24-year-old Game Boy fiddler nicknamed Nullsleep. Then there's the built-in nostalgia of music that began life as "Super Mario Bros." and "Donkey Kong" sound effects. Still, artists like Josh Davis, the 31-year-old chip music luminary from Queens whose stage name is Bit Shifter, insist that their songs inspire more than fond reminiscence. "I've seen crowds dancing and flailing around," said Mr. Davis, shown here during a performance at the Asia Society. He added that not all chip music is upbeat: "It would be hard to write a tear-jerker on a Game Boy, but there are artists making sad, poignant music."

The members of 8-Bit, the Los Angeles group that performs two of the songs on "Gameboy Variations" - remixes of "Guero" tunes, with Beck's vocals - have a more prankish take. They rap, dress in radioactive containment suits and play robots whose passion for exotic dancers is exceeded only by their passion for alcohol.


For his part, Beck sees chip music as a new strain of folk. "Sometimes electronic music can get a little slick, a little overdone," he said. "These are sounds at their most crude and primal." Most artists working in the genre cherish a do-it-yourself aesthetic, have little or no musical training and say the programs they use are easy to learn, albeit hard to master. And the instruments are welcomingly cheap. When Game Boy was new in 1989, it retailed for $89. Today, you can buy one on eBay for $4.75
- New York Times - Arts and Leisure


"8-bit Invasion"

excerpt:

"8-bit approaches chip music from a different angle. Rather than using video game hardware as a platform for creating music, they spend most of their time, sampling sounds from their favorite video games and tweaking them into Reason and Pro Tools to compose original works. The members of 8-bit sucessfully combine their love for NES with musical influences (such as the Beastie Boys) to invent their own blend of music.

We asked the band how the audience responds to their creations, and they told us, "We play punk clubs, hip-hop clubs, dance clubs... It doesn't matter because in every club there are people who grew up on Nintendo, and they fall into the music." - Nintendo Power Magazine, July 2005


"LA WEEKLY MUSIC AWARDS 2005"

The 2005 L.A. Weekly Music Awards, held Tuesday at the Henry Fonda Theater, were a real love fest, with bizarre juxtapositions at every turn. Favorite moments included watching Best Electronic DJ nominee Claudette Sexy DJ laugh her ass off to 8-Bit (who performed with a video backdrop of cheesy porn), followed by the ethereal nine-part harmonies of Petra Haden’s female choir performing Who songs. Brian Wilson offered heartfelt thanks for support of his Smile project; and in his speech honoring headliners X, Flea summed up our sentiments by observing that as a native of Los Angeles, he considers X his indigenous folk music. Lady Spinderella dazzled with her mere presence (not to mention her turntable magic); and Piolín brought a little glamour to the festivities as well. It was also a treat to see Lifetime Achievement winner Rodney Bingenheimer bonding with radio great Art Laboe. And, after watching 8-Bit, Lifetime Achievement winner Jeff Barry noted that in all his years of hit songwriting, he’d never thought to write a song called “Suck My Dick.” Does have a certain ring to it, though.

Thanks to everyone who worked on the show, especially John Payne and Paul Rogers. And congratulations to all the nominees. You’re all winners in our book.


BEST HIP-HOP/RAP ARTIST/DJ
8-Bit
- LA Weekly


"Blender's 20 Songs You Should Download This Month"

#17 8-bit "I-Deez"
L.A. foursome raps about being alcoholic robots over old-school Nintendo sounds. So strange, it's no wonder Beck loves them. - BLENDER


Discography

2003: "8-bit"
2004: "Hell Yes" EP / - Beck (8-bit produced, tracked and remixed 2 of 4 tracks on EP)
2004: "You Ain't No Robot"
2005: re-release of "You Ain't No Robot" w/ new tracks, new production

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

also playing: Saturday September 17th, The Slipper Room Burlesque club -167 Orchard Street, late night after 1:00AM.

Early Press:
BLENDER – “Top 20 Songs You Should Download This Month
BLENDER – “Hey Superstar” /Beck
LA WEEKLY – Feature & Awards coverage (2)
NEW YORK TIMES, ARTS AND LIESURE – feature on Beck/Gameboy Music scene
NINTENDO POWER MAGAZINE – “8-bit Invasion”
FLAUNT - Feature in Oct. 05 Music Issue
WAV MAGAZINE –Feature
WIRED – upcoming
MTV News Online -upcoming

RECENT PRODUCTION PROJECTS:
Produced, tracked and 'remixed' two BECK tracks, including "Hell Yes (Ghettochip Malfunction/8-bit mix)" - for #1 iTunes EP "Gameboy/Variations" - currently being shot as BECK's next video & single.

8-bit VIDEOS:
“I-Deez”:
Nominated MVPA Music Video of the Year
& Music Video Wire “Video of the Week” - (see link above to watch)

Video to “Drunk”: a "Fight for Your Right to Party for 2005": copy link - http://www.bnymusic.com%20/drunk.mpeg

Album "You Ain't No Robot" out on group's own Ninjastar Records - Oct. 2005, Japanese release, Nov. 2005

For a copy of 8-bit's album, press and other humanoid nonsense, hit 'contact' link.