China's Chiptune Maestro Sulumi Comes Out With A Mixtape Bespoke For Summertime [Q&A]

One of China’s most prolific electronic musicians and a pioneer of the nation’s 8-bit scene, Creator Sulumi has been manipulating gaming chips and squeezing the sweetest sounds out of them since 2008.

Aside from performing live and DJing at music festivals and parties, he continuously releases music, creating mixes for his series Do Hits, and collaborating with talented electro musicians from all over the world. Last year, he released a remix EP, Call Black White Remixes, under his own label, with contributions from Marseille, Polymorphic, and Covox. Last week, Sulumi dropped his newest work, a mixtape bespoke for summer weather. In The Summer is an hour of techno and electro house tunes that brings together the sounds of Sulumi and jams from artists he loves.

We caught up with him to find out more about this soundtrack to summer, as well as his plans for touring Japan later this year.

The Creators Project: On your latest EP, Call Black White (Remix), many international electrionic musicians remixed your work. Can you tell us a bit more about these remixes?
Call Black White is the original track of this EP. Three musicians made remixes of it. Covox, my old buddy and partner, is a chiptune master from Sweden. He is always at the forefront of chiptune music. Polymorphic is an up and coming musician from Russia. He shares a studio with Proxy and makes remixes for a lot of European and American electronic musicians. The third one is by Marseille, who is also from Russia. He is an artist under Mako Records, which belongs to Proxy. They broke down my song, rearranged, and reappropriated it. What came out was eye-opening to me in a “Wow, you can make music this way?” kind of way.

You’ve also done quite a few remixes for other artists yourself.
I just finished a pretty sweet remix for Howie Lee. It’s also made using a Gameboy and Nanoloop, but 90 percent of the sound isn’t 8-bit anymore because the hardware has been upgraded. For me, this is a personal breakthrough. Techno? House? Genre isn’t important to me. I wanted to add a little dark element. A “fallen” sense of power.

Fallen? This is quite a departure from your previous musical vision, isn’t it?
Recently, I heard a phrase that flicked on a lightbulb in my head: “The rise of the fallen.” In this day and age, young people experience a sense of fallenness as a side effect to promoting oneself. Even though I feel those people dancing in the club are quite down, I still want to give them something positive.The chiptune music that I made before was quite superficial. Now I want to go deeper. Not only will the music be stimulating, but it will also energize the audience.

What exactly is this positive emotion? Can you interpret it for us in your own words?
I like refined expressions. In my opinion, positive spirit means being able to find yourself in your surroundings. Knowing what is joy, anger, sadness, and pleasantness. Knowing how to counterbalance desires and anti-desires in a material world. Reflecting on oneself sincerely and simply. I want to express these ideas and emotions through my music. From the title of the song to its content, such as the tempo, the intensity, whether to include vocals or a message. In the end, it’s not important whether or not your audience can agree with your ideas. It’s the process of self-reflection while listening to music that is important.

You have been DJ-ing more for your live shows in the last couple of years. Can you tell us how you feel about the change?
Doing a DJ set allows me to understand what dance music is, how to arrange my own set, how to deal with all kinds of situations in the club, and how to make better dance music. I want my music to be danceable.

Tell us about your new mixtape In The Summer. What was the creative process? Do you like summer in Beijing?
I like Beijing, but am not a big fan of Beijing’s summers. I took the cover photo last winter. Even though I’m in summer now, it would be better if it was a bit cooler. The songs I picked are mainly popular future techno tunes and some electro house. This is all cold music, not very passionate. That’s what I have to say about summer.

So you are going on a tour in Japan this October, and playing at Blip Festival in Tokyo. Tell us about that.
Blip Festival is an 8-bit themed music festival that started in New York in 2006. Now it’s an international event happening in Europe, Austria and Japan. I was invited in 2008 to participate in Blip Festival in New York. I was left with very fond memories. The atmosphere was really chill. Most of the visiting musicians just crashed at the local musicians’ homes. Every aspect of the festival was organized nicely even though they didn’t have much staff. When the last act went up on the last day, everyone went onto the stage. Blip Festival, Tokyo is in its third year, and is similar to the US event. But the main difference with Japan is that there are so many local chiptune masters. It’s like a Xiangsheng (Chinese cross-talk) artist going to Tianjin to perform.

Check out Sulumi on Soundcloud.


Image courtesy of Sulumi