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"Talking Chiptune with Machineoperator"

A while back I wrote about Chiptune, a crazy genre I had come across, I didn't know a lot about it but I liked what I had heard. My piece may have suggested Chiptune was made predominantly with Game Boys, which of course it is not. I also didn't realise just how long people have been making these energetic sounds. To educate me further on all things Chiptune, I caught up with Sweden's Machinoperatör and interrogated him.

Machinoperatör tell us a little bit about yourself...

'Hmm, you started off with a really hard question!
My real name is Björn but some of my friends call me Gustav. I'm 27 years old and work part time in a musical instruments shop called Jam in Gothenburg and freelance as sound and stage technician. So I guess the proper way to describe me is "total sound-geek". I have a lot of synthesisers, mainly old analog ones and a collection of retro consoles and computers, but I rarely play any games.'

How did you first get involved with Chiptune?

'I guess my first connection with chipmusic was back when I played cracked games on my Amiga. All the cracking groups had really cool intros or Cracktros, as they're called. They were really good music. Most of the cracking groups are still active in making intros today, but not as much for cracked games, mainly for competitions (demo compos) on nerd parties.
Anyway, I really liked the sounds and since a couple of my favorite games featured music by Rob Hubbard and Chris Hülsbeck, I later got drawn towards making music in that direction.'

What setup do you use, instruments, hardware etc?

'My main instruments are Gameboys, the old brick. Sometimes I like to fatten up the sound a little and throw a Synth in the mix, usually my Elektron Sidstation, which is built around the MOS 6581 Sidchip from C64.
My livesetup is two Gameboys connected to a Stanton DJ-mixer. That way I can mix between two songs like a DJ would in a normal electro-set. The Dj-mixer is connected through my firewire soundcard to my PC-laptop on which I run Ableton Live. It's a really nice program which allows me to put reverb and delay effects, cutoff filters and phasers on the gameboy. I also run a vocal.mic through a vocoder-plug for robot-voice. I use a Behringer midi controller to tweak the software on the computer and from it I also run MIDI to a device that turns MIDI to a clock signal that the Gameboy understands, so both my Gameboys run on the same clockspeed as the computer. This makes it a lot easier to mix between songs and allows really cool BPM-drop effects. It really is a lot simpler than it sounds when I describe it, I promise!'

Maskinoperator translates to English as Machine Operator, surely you see yourself as more than the operator of a machine?

'Well, actually I took the name Machinoperatör because the way I make music feels almost automatic from time to time!
When I start making a tune I generally don't have any idea of what I'm going to do, I just start hammering in commands and after a while it either start to sound like crap or a decent song! If it sounds like crap, I delete it and start over. In a way, it's like I just program sounds and the machine tells me by sounding good that I'm on the right track. I have a lot of respect for machines!'

Tell us about the song 'DataDisco', its a collabration with Calis and Mio right? Are the two of them a regular feature at your live shows?

'Datadisco is inspired heavily by Swiss electro duo Saalschutz. I got really into their music and special 80's kind of corny sound and wanted to try to make something like it. I think its really obvious that i copied their style for that one, so I threw in the line "everybody chillout, auf mein kommando" from a Saalschutz song, sort of a homage. We later played a show with them and they where very happy to hear it
I made Datadisco on a PC, but live it features Mio on back-up vocals.
Mio started to do vocals for Synthetical, the lo-fi electro duo I was in before I went on my own and on one tour she replaced Josefine, who had to stay at home that time. So now she usually comes along and does visuals, an occasional synth and some vocals.
Calis and I decided to do a show together in January this year and it worked out really well, so for the moment we're doing a sort of 3 people Chipshow. Me and Calis crossmixing gameboy tunes with Mio Vj-ing a Gameboy Advanced projection. Lowtech both audio and visually!'

Sweden has an impressive musical output, how do you feel chiptune music fits into the Swedish music scene? Is it a minority thing at the minute?

'A lot of people are making chiptunes or music inspired by chiptunes in Sweden at the moment. Some good examples are GOTO80, the c64-genius and in my opinion one of the best chiptune musicians in the world. Then you have Slagsmålsklubben (Fightclub) who make pop music with a lot of influences from the chip and lo-fi scenes. However there isn't really a big crowd of fans, which makes it pretty hard to play shows here, I've played more shows abroad than in Sweden.'

Where around the world have you played shows then? Where do you plan to unleash your music next?

'I've played shows in Italy, Norway, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and China. Some really bizarre places! In Sicily, it was so hot that bush fires started everywhere. If you went out to buy smokes during the daytime you had to bring a water-bottle just to keep from passing out. China was great, but so strange, I can't compare it to anything, the strangest couple of days in my life!
I'm making plans to go to the USA soon. Calis has been talking about going to the UK, he toured the UK last year on the Chiptune alliance with USK, Maru and Sabrepulse. I hope we can make that happen, but for the moment the gigs we have planned are in Sweden, Germany and Norway.'

What are you currently listening to?

'Right now I'm listening to GOTO80. I just got a record with something like 70 hours of music on it last week, so I guess I will be listening to it for a while!'

Cheers Maskinoperatör,

To listen to Maskinoperatör and find out more about him and his music, point your browser to or

Mouthy x

- Mouthly Music Mayhem


1.SYNTH SPRIT OCH CP SKADOR 2005-2009 - September 2009
2.MASKINOPERATOR EP - Release date: January 1st



Maskinoperatör translates to "machine operator,” an appropriate moniker for this cross-platform/cross-genre composer whose circuit-bending, 8-bit chiptunes are made utilizing any and all machines that come his way. But, this Swedish artist does not make your run-of-the-mill gameboy music. By using customized software, obsolete game-consoles and analog synths blended with modern equipment, Maskinoperator creates powerful technopop for the dancefloor. This is viable dance music with an experimental artist at the helm.
From his former melodic electropop duo, Synthetical, to his present day solo project, Maskinoperatör, Bjorn Heden has played stages in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and even performed in China at an official music festival celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the European Union. Heden has shared the stage with the likes of Makossa & Megablast, Front 242 and Apoptygma Berserk; a testament to his versatility and mass appeal. With an undying devotion to experiment with sound, he blends everything from traditional folk music to techno and punk to his own style of hi-energy, dirty chiprave, with the occasional rap-lyric. Working alone or with fellow gameboy-musician Calis and singer/video-artist Mio as well as performing live with Swedish Synthpop-group Auto-Auto, Maskinoperatör lives to take it to the dancefloor.