Chipocrite

Carving Chiptunes

Paul Weinstein, also known as Chipocrite, is a Philadelphia-based chiptune musician who’s carved out a specific niche for himself in that one of his primary instruments is a Nintendo Game Boy.

I first saw Chipocrite perform at the Pong on the Cira Center event and needed to know how you can get such amazing, complex arrangements from a device that’s over two decades old.


We’ll start with your name.
My name is Paul Weinstein and I go by Chipocrite on stage. I’m a Philadelphia-based chiptune musician.

How long have you been making music?
I started formally playing when I was 12 and I’m 32 now, so about 20 years. I started on guitar when I was in sixth grade.

Why the guitar?
Looking back, probably because it seemed like the most fun. Any instrument is difficult at first, but I connected to it quickly and it was quite apparent that it was going to be my thing.

It took a little searching to find the right tool for making electronic music that I connected with, but once I found this I never looked back.

Any other instruments?
In 9th grade I switched to bass mainly because of the people I was jamming with at the time, no one wanted to play bass. There’s definitely a certain type of person who becomes a bass player and I was that person. I think it’s a good type of person to be. I’m glad I did because bass went on to be my more serious instrument for years and years.

What made you get started?
I always knew that I wanted to do solo work somehow, but it wasn’t until four or five years ago that I made that happen. I’ve always been into a lot of electronic musicians despite my background in mainly funk and jazz bands.

Did you have an electronic musicians specifically that inspired you?
Probably my biggest electronic influence is Squarepusher. He’s a British artist I started listening to when I was about 15 and also a bass player so I connected on that. He has a way of making electronic music that sounds very human, almost organic, despite being made by a machine. Before I even had any idea how to make that kind of music I would listen to him and think “I’m going to do that some day.”

Take it seriously, take yourself seriously, be proud of it, and other people will do the same.

How did you decide on the Game Boy?

It took a little searching to find the right tool for making electronic music that I connected with, but once I found this I never looked back. As soon as saw how it worked I became obsessed with it. Really, without thinking about it, that’s when I decided that this is what I wanted to do.

In Philly there’s a pretty vibrant chiptune community, is it pretty easy to find people willing to collaborate?
The Chiptune scene here is amazing. I don’t feel like I would’ve gotten too far if everyone weren’t for so many other people around here who were so supportive and welcoming. I never would’ve gotten started if it weren’t for 8static, which is a monthly chiptune concert in Philly. The first one I attended has a workshop in the beginning that actually taught you how to make music on a Game Boy. I started that same night after the show and I haven’t stopped since.

Philadelphia’s Arcade at the Oval 2014, where I first saw Chipocrite perform

How do you actually arrange your songs? Is it mostly done on the Gameboy?

I’m not great at reading music, but I do have a good ear which is helpful. If I’m doing a cover, I just listen to it a million times and then find the right notes. In terms of songs that are in my own head, I do all the programming and arranging on the Game Boy itself. It’s not like I do something on the computer and then flash it over and that’s part of the reason why I love it.

What’s one thing you prefer about the Game Boy as opposed to current-day music production software?
The funny thing that you don’t really get with modern software is that there’s a finite amount of space in a song file and a couple times I’ve reached that limit where there’s nothing else I can do to get more sounds into that song file. I usually use that as the point at which I say “Okay, it’s done.”

I look at music kind of like sculpting: you have this song or idea in your head similar to a sculptor looking at a block of marble.

How long does it take to write a song?
[The software] Little Sound Dj actually has a section that tells you how long you’ve been working on a project and sometimes it’s kind of terrifying to look at. It can range anywhere from seven hours on an easy day to fifteen hours of just putting these notes in one by one. That doesn’t necessarily include the writing process in my head which can take place driving in the car or taking a shower or anywhere, really.

Do you have any other creative outlets beyond music?
The most creative thing I do outside of music is write. I went to school for journalism and English and used those skills in jobs over the years. I’m not a very visual person, I like to focus on music. I have a much better ear than eye.

How do you know when a song is done?
I find it pretty difficult sometimes to just let go when I think a song is ready. I look at music kind of like sculpting: you have this song or idea in your head similar to a sculptor looking at a block of marble. He knows, ultimately, what the piece is going to look like and it requires so much chiseling. At the beginning you’re taking away these huge chunks and by the end you’re just making tiny adjustments, it’s the same exact process as making a song.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to other musicians maybe looking to get into this genre?
The advice I always give people, and this isn’t just for Game Boy stuff, is always take yourself seriously and put your best foot forward. A Game Boy is a silly thing, it was meant to be a toy. In spite of that, of the musical opportunities I’ve had, the best, most exciting, and lucrative experiences were doing something unique and interesting with the Game Boy.

Take it seriously, take yourself seriously, be proud of it, and other people will do the same.