Done out of pure reverence for the great late Miles Davis, musician Andy Baio recorded an inspired 8-Bit reinterpretation of Davis' jazz classic Kind of Blue, in recent months. Aptly titled Kind Of Bloop, journalist/musician Baio writes of the inspired composition on his blog, "I've always wondered what chiptune jazz covers would sound like. What would the jazz masters sound like on a Nintendo Entertainment System? Coltrane on a C-64? Mingus on Amiga?"
Baio says that in his extensive research of such jazz classic 8-Bit covers he was only able to find four jazz covers ever released: ast0r's version of Coltrane's Giant Steps and Charlie Parker's Confirmation, Sergeeo's own Giant Steps cover, and Bun's version of Coltrane's My Favorite Things.
Portland, OR based Baio, who describes himself as a journalist/programmer and the CTO of Kickstarter, then invited the aforementioned Ast0r and Sergeeo, along with the chiptune artists Virt, Shnabubula, and Disasterpeace, to collaborate with him on a track-by-track remake of the classic Miles Davis album. The Amoeblog recently caught up with Baio to ask him about the project and the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
Amoeblog: How did you first get the idea to reinterpret Kind of Blue?
Andy Baio: I think it first started when listening to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," a jazz classic in 5/4 time, and I couldn't help but wonder what the technical, melodic feel of the song would sound like as an NES track. I went looking for chiptune jazz online, but could only find a total of three tracks ever created. That seemed like a shame, so I decided to do something about it.
Kind of Blue is my favorite jazz album of all time, and the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue's release was only a couple months away, so it seemed like a perfect fit. It seemed especially challenging, considering the mood and emotion on the album. I encouraged the five chiptune musicians to convey the feel of each song, and I think it was very effective.
Amoeblog: Due to the trendiness of 8-Bit productions -- often thrown together as mere novelty interpretations -- how have you distinguished yours from the rest of the pack?
Andy Baio: I think that's inaccurate. I never got the impression that the other chiptune tributes were "mere novelty interpretations." By nature, making videogame music is a time-consuming and tedious task. You'd really have to love both the chiptune genre and the source material to spend the time to do it right.
That said, I think Kind of Bloop took extra care to treat the source material with reverence, while still creating something completely new that stands on its own. I've heard from people who've said it's broadened their appreciation of jazz, and that makes me smile.
Amoeblog: As a Miles Davis fan, how you list (in order) your picks for Miles Davis' Top Five Albums?
Andy Baio: So tough, it changes all the time. I'd say:
1) Kind of Blue
2) Porgy and Bess
3) Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud
4) Bitches Brew
5) Sketches of Spain
Amoeblog: On your blog you wrote about how you long wondered, "What would the jazz masters sound like on a Nintendo Entertainment System? Coltrane on a C-64?" Have you done any Coltrane reinterpretations yet or do you plan on doing any?
Andy Baio: No, but I encourage other people to try! I'd love to hear A Love Supreme.
Amoeblog: For those who don't know, what is Kickstarter all about?
Andy Baio: Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, which lets people raise money for their projects directly from their friends and fans, in exchange for goods and services. If you want to raise money for an album, film, book, or anything else, you set a financial goal, a deadline, and the rewards people get for each pledge level. For example, $5 might be exclusive updates and the digital download, $15 gets the CD, and $100 gets an autographed copy and a phone call.
If you hit the goal by the deadline, everyone pays out and you make and deliver the goods. If you fall short, nobody pays and you're not stuck with the burden of finishing a project with only half the money. In exchange, Kickstarter takes a 5% fee only if your project's successful. Kind of Bloop hit its $2,000 goal in the first four hours, and raised $8,400 by the time the deadline hit. It was a very welcome surprise.
Amoeblog: As any sample happy hip-hop artist can attest, licensing music can be a very tedious -- not to mention costly -- experience. How has your first licensing music experience been?
Andy Baio: Licensing cover songs is much easier than licensing samples, which requires permission from the copyright holder. Fortunately, you can buy a license to record a cover song without any involvement from the publisher. In the case of Kind of Blue, the entire album was available for licensing through the Harry Fox Agency, which charges a flat fee per song and a $75 transaction fee.
The bad news is that it's completely illegal to release free cover songs online without tracking and paying for every download. I wanted to release this legitimately and pay the artists, so I was forced to charge for the album.
Amoeblog: Anything to add?
Andy Baio: Anyone interested can buy the MP3/FLAC digital downloads for $5, and a very limited number of physical CDs for $30, from the official homepage at kindofbloop.com.