Electronic chiptunes guru Sulumi owns and operates Chinese record label Shanshui Records. The artist is most widely known for utilizing 8-bit tones in his music, influencing the digital production and industrial rock he is famous for pioneering. By simultaneously using a Game Boy and his computer to create beats, the producer takes something antiquated and radically transforms it into something innovative. Claiming to learn most from the collaborators on his label, Sulumi is without a doubt one of the most novel music producers on the market.
The Creators Project: When did you start making your own music?
Sulumi: In 1997, I was in junior high and I started to play guitar. A year after, I was accepted by Shenyang Music School and formed my first band. Later I went to Beijing and formed my own band. In Beijing, in the summer of ’98, we realized that there were so many good bands and that it was hard to compete, so I took that summer to think about my future and eventually decided to go into electronic music.
What was your approach?
I didn’t really know what electronic music was at the time, but I was at a friend's house, and he had installed some electronic-music software. I was really intrigued, and I asked him to give me the software to play with.
What type of music were you listening to at the time?
I listened to a lot of German hardcore trance.
When did your style evolve to what it is now?
In 2005, I thought to myself, "I have this Gameboy to use, why don’t I try that?" Now I simultaneously use a Gameboy and a computer to make music.
What is it in particular that you like about using 8-bit?
When I was little I played a lot of videogames. So it kind of reminds me of when I was little. I don’t want to make the same music I made growing up, but I want to take something old and turn it new. Something sexy, or violent, or for dancing. I want to make a more full composition. It's not just 8 bit—sometimes it's 4-bit, sometimes 16-bit. I want to make dance music.
What made you decide to start your own music label, Shansui?
At that time there weren’t that many labels. I had seen a lot of labels in Germany and I really wanted to have one of my own.
In the beginning, were all the artists on your label Chinese?
Initially, I involved my friends and family to help with production. But we had some Japanese friends join us, along with people I had met online.
When did you start collaborating with other artists?
In the beginning, when I was looking for collaborators, my first CD was a compilation of many artists. By the time I released Landscape II, we had better production because I had a much better idea of what I was doing. The first CD is more high energy—it's for dancing. By the time I produced the second CD, it was quieter, more relaxed—it sounds better, in my opinion.
What did you learn by becoming a producer?
Well, dealing with the artists, communicating with them, figuring out their habits, seeing how they worked… we performed together. This inspired me. I learned so much from the artists on the Landscape records. I'm not a systematical person; when I run into issues, I just try to solve them.
So yours isn’t a record company at all, really, but a team of artists working together?
We started as friends, just chatting on the internet, talking about what we like to do. We had similar hobbies, and we decided to publish. Since we were starting from the bottom, we weren’t picky for production. But later on we developed stronger ideas of where to publish and our experience helped a lot.
In your older songs, there's Chinese melody, but what about your newer songs? What's your direction?
Let me take this opportunity to explain my music. At first I liked drums, they were fast and noisy and that’s what I first produced. After a while I listened to more electronic, quieter music. I like fast music, but it's more melodic as a general rule. I added more melody into my music, more baritone. My latest work has slowed down in comparison to my older music. In the past it's always been very young, punkish, full of joy. Now, I like slower, blacker, darker music. Also, I like the Chinese influence. I cant explain it, I just like it. I add a little bit of Chinese music in everything.
What's your next step, from a technological standpoint?
I still have a lot to learn about technology. But for me, my new music will be recorded and mixed with computers. I want a much more electronic sound, lots of keyboards. I also want to remix some music. I bought some software online to mix on an Ipod. I got some digital-keyboard software as well. I am always learning. I always encounter new challenges. People who make electronic music like I do are the same—we use computer software to make music. We produce sounds with computers, create new sounds, and then we add live music or performance aspects. Our intent isn’t to make software, or promote new software, or show a new invention.
So your new direction is going to include more synth and electronic sounds?
With a synth, you can't trace original sounds. What I like cannot be replaced by other instruments.