With a shared interest in gaming, chiptune music production and utopian beliefs of world-building, Tokerau Teokotai Brown (Big Fat Raro, Fanau Spa) takes us on a journey through the practice of E-Kare, the artist duo consisting of Jos van Beek (Fauxhound, T.A.B) and Piupiu Maya Turei (PMT). Tokerau leads a fluid yet interwoven conversation around early gaming histories, influences and experimentation. The interview also threads ideas on indigenous gaming, alternative futures, and subversive technologies as well as cataloging the unofficial history of chiptune music in Aotearoa. The interview was conducted kanohi ki te kanohi, at their home in North East Valley, Ōtepoti. Also present are their two pēpi, aka Bubs.
EARLY GAME INFLUENCES
Tokerau – I guess my first thing was just that memory of Beck on MTV, getting interviewed by Thurston Moore and he would do weird stuff, like throw a shoe across the room. It was an MTV show. And it was a really simple question, “what’s your music process?” And Beck would pull off his shoe and throw it. And then they cut to a song, and it was just like, sort of a stupid vibe. So I kind of want to do this interview like that, but I need to have some serious questions that you can like, totally not answer.
Jos – What about, how far can you throw a shoe?
Tokerau – I think a good idea could be the interview is us coming up with good interview questions because too many interviews have bad questions. And people who are famous, they’re always annoyed, because they always get asked the same dumb questions.
Piupiu – I like this question; What was the first ever memorable game experience that you’ve had? My stepdad is a computer programmer. He takes apart and puts together computers. We had this one room that was just full of all these bits of different old computers. We always had Linux. So I was like, playing Tux Racer.
Tokerau – What is that?
Piupiu – Tux Racer is an inbuilt game on Linux where you are a Penguin and you race down a mountain and you collect coins. You don’t race against anyone. It’s just like, your own timing.
Tokerau – Yeah?
Jos – Yeah and you’re the Linux mascot, which is Tux.
Piupiu – Yeah. Which is a little penguin. So it’s like playing that, being surrounded by like, bits of computer. That and then watching my mum play Doom and getting really, like really, really scared and having to leave. I wanted to watch it because it looked like a cool game, but not being able to watch coz it was scary.
Tokerau – Doom is awesome.
Piupiu – What about youse two?
Tokerau – My first game… my mum, she was like, oh, computers. I should get a computer. So she bought a computer that was like an Amstrad 64. So the screen was green and black.
Jos – Oh yeah
Tokerau – It had this game, Batman, and it was like an isometric game. I was in heaven. It was like the world melted away. I was just obsessed with this game. It was really, really hard to play. Because if you touched things, if you went like one pixel over, you would explode. It was called Batman but it was almost like, an Italian monster retro kind of room design. And so it was just very visually pleasing. And then it was like, left, right. Up, down and jump. And you know how Isometric was like 3d before there was 3d? It was really, really crazy exciting. So, I got really far and I had to draw maps to try and figure out the whole map, ya know. I got obsessed eh. and I think it inspired me to get into stuff for sure. Like, I reckon it’s why I do certain things now, like animation and stuff.
Jos – Drawing your own guides…. before the days of the internet.
Tokerau – Using maths paper. This was crazy, you needed like four or five pages and a side page to get all the map.
Piupiu and Jos – WOAAAAH!!
Jos – My first game was playing Command & Conquer. I remember, my uncle sold me a disk for $15. Hahaha, and then I would play it like whenever I was allowed because I wasn’t allowed that much computer or TV time. We also lived on an orchard and I’d play in the summer, but whenever the cool store turned on, it would power surge and the computer would switch off, and you’d lose all your stuff. But I’m a huge RTS fan after that.
AN (UNOFFICIAL) AOTEAROA CHIPTUNE HISTORY
Piupiu – We used some vocal samples from that game [Command & Conquer] in some of the first music we made, eh.
Jos -Yeah, that first E-Kare release. It was all just because you could download the game and it had the lossless audio files included – so I sampled them.
Tokerau – oh my god!
Bub – Muh muh muh muh!
Tokerau – That’s really interesting. When I started flatting, me and my flatmates would make music and we would use the Mega Drive, with all the sample sets. We would literally press record on the four-track and then go “Eah Eah!”. We chose samples we liked, and would basically be recording it live from all the games. It ended up being pretty good, ya know. It was pretty fun.
Jos & Piupiu – Hahahahaha
Tokerau – I quite love four-track. How did you start recording your stuff? What was your preferred type of recorder when you started recording E-Kare?
Jos – I used SunVox, but you could run that on a normal PC, like Ubuntu. It’s kind of like a modular tracker. I only did a little bit of it.
(Bub) – Hmmmmmmm!
Piupiu – We recorded in the room with a Tascam. I think we borrowed one from Chris Wratt. Like, because they did music at Massey so they had all these fancy recording things. I think we just borrowed one and it just sat it on the windowsill eh?
Tokerau – oh that’s cool.
Jos – Yeah, yeah. and then we just played it and then recorded that, just a room recording, because I just kind of want to avoid mixing. I kind of hate mixing. So it’s like, just do it. Like, it’s fine how it is! Haha!
Tokerau – Haa! Yeah, raw.
Piupiu – Sounds good
Jos – Same with mastering. Don’t need a filter.
Piupiu – Hahah
Jos – Probably do, but…
Piupiu – I reckon it’s nicer without a filter if you’re using a Game Boy and DS and stuff, because then you actually get the sound, ya know? But! That’s a bit chiptune purist of me to say, which is not cool. Sometimes people are like, “If you don’t make music on an actual Game Boy, you’re not actually playing chiptune. I dunno, when that discourse happened. But I remember you talking about it, Jos. I was like, that’s stink! And he was like, “That’s real stink!”
Tokerau – I don’t remember the timeframe, ‘cause youse were doing chiptune, but it wasn’t widely known in New Zealand really, but it would be super popular in Japan or something, right?
Jos – It was big in Australia. It’s always been like, a few people have been doing it, and it’s never really formed a community.
Tokerau – I was just trying to think of what else was going on because I remember when seapunk was a really quick music genre. It didn’t last that long, but it was a really cool one. I’m just trying to think of it in terms of the timeframe of genres popping up and down. Coz chiptune would have been around elsewhere. It wasn’t really a thing in Aotearoa, right?
Jos – Nah, I only learned about people afterward who were making it at the same time. I think Luke Rowell kind of was kind of doing stuff like that. I know Fraser Austin was doing Commodore stuff. But this was all before me. I got into it through, Dove Bailey and Zach Doney from Bang! Bang Eche! They just put in an order, like for a flash cartridge and I just went in on it.
Tokerau – True!
Jos – Yeah. It’s always kind of like, ebbs and flows. But when seapunk came out, like, it was quite big in Australia, and in New Zealand a little bit. But now it’s all in a bit of a lull. So we’re all just kind of waiting for it [chiptune] to come back. I’ve just been like going back on the forums, and there’s no one there. Well, there are a few people there.
Tokerau – Right. It’s really big in Japan, I know because I follow John White’s brother, Lexaloffle, aka Joseph White. He runs Lexaloffle Games and he’s always at game events. He does, what’s it called, where you make a graphic, and then it’s just like, you’re really good at programming a graphic with very little megabytes (The Demo Scene). People compete to make like a six-megabyte insane moving graphic and they will play the graphics at these chiptune shows in little pubs in Japan. The chiptune scene there seems actually to still be going good. I guess it’s ‘cause genres can kind of survive in a vacuum in Japan. Because they keep having bands and there’s enough of a population to keep it rockin…
Jos – Yeah, Yeah
Bub – UoooAhh
Jos – I think, uhm, what’s his name? (Chris Mylrea) cTrix, in Melbourne. There’s still a reasonably big enough scene just because there’s enough people. Whereas in New Zealand, It’s kind of like maybe one or two people you know are doing it. But you know, other people are doing it, but they’re just not posting it online.
NEXT GEN GAMERS [INTERMISSION]
Tokerau – (at Bub) Ohhh you’ve locked yourself in the whare iti, hahahahahah – You are the rogue element in this interview.
Piupiu – Oh, she is!
Tokerau – What’s her name? Sorry, because I just didn’t…
Jos – She responds to pēpi, most people call her pēpi.
Tokerau – Yeah, we made friends now. So yeah, it’s all good.
Bub – uh uhhhhhh
Tokerau – Yeah, (to Bub) what was your first game?
Piupiu – Yeah, Bub really likes Mario eh, she’s always like, “Mario, Mario!”. She’s real into Pokemon as well. Our mate Zoe’s kid, he comes round and just plays Switch, and she just watches him for hours playing those games.
Jos – Kind of just getting into it because she can’t really do the controllers yet. She plays a little bit of Mario Kart though.
INDIGENOUS WORLD-BUILDING AND ALTERNATIVE FUTURES
Tokerau – Thinking about games and world-building, I’m trying to envision what the future could be, with Māori getting the land back, like, how could that happen? Or, how might things be with pollution in the future? How can travel be less environmentally harmful in the future? I swear that petrol and electric car barons now are probably cruising around assassinating free energy inventors. Just shutting it down. Because there has got to be the knowledge out there, how to actually have near-free energy, you know, so vehicles didn’t cost anything to run. But what do you both have any visions for? Like, how the future of different things that are kind of just cooked right now could be, because I love thinking about that. Sorry, it’s a pretty wide question.
Piupiu – Nah, nah I’m real into the question. If you were, like, “Oh, there’s a massive island of plastic in the sea…”, like, yo, that’s gonna be fuel in the future. We will be mining that. People will mine that for fuel. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that there’s plastic everywhere. But like, the kind of doom and gloom of it all gets really boring! I think especially if you’re indigenous, then you’ve already survived an apocalypse that was colonisation. And so in a way, we’re kind of primed for it.
Tokerau – but it could work out…
Piupiu – Yeah, things are not as terrible. Well, maybe they are terrible..
Tokerau – But like, a big meteor could hit the earth at any point. Or back in the day, a massive cataclysmic thing could happen at any time, including nukes or whatever. So what’s different now? Can we still find solutions? We could still fix shit.
Bubs – BRRRRRRrrrrrrrr!
Piupiu – Yeah, hard. I reckon this is one for Jos, cause like, Dutch people have engineered their waterways, how do you feel about this kind of thing, “The water is coming!”?
Jos – Well, that’s what they think, and a lot of the people in the Netherlands are like, we’ll just get away, we’ll just engineer our way out of sea level rise. There are some people being like… well, you can’t cause you’re gonna have to give up some of these polders (low-lying land enclosed by embankments . In the Netherlands 20% of the landmass has been reclaimed via polders). It’s like, you know, goodbye Urk (A town in the Netherlands that used to be an Island).
Piupiu & Tokerau – HAHAHAAHA
Piupiu – that’s kind of like making music as well. I go, is this gonna work? And then sometimes it works really well, but most of the time making concessions. Jos engineers his way through the shitty programming that I’ve done.
Tokerau – So maybe I’ll ask one more question around that. Did you have any cool futuristic ideas of things that you could see would be cool, a different way to do things in the future?
Jos – All right. Having an expiration date on money, so money expires. Money is then more of an energy token, and you have kind of no point sitting on it. You have to, use it for something productive.
Tokerau – Riggght like, coz currently, rich people can just sit on the money.
Jos – Yeah, like, they’ll just find other ways. And they’ll just probably end up sitting on resources, like, gold or whatever, stuff that doesn’t expire, so there are definitely holes in it, but I thought it was quite funny.
Bub – aaaaaaaah (musical)
Piupiu – Like they’ll wait til a certain date and you’re like, oh shitt, I’ve gotta spend all my money it’s gonna expire. Hahahahahah.
E-KASINO: BACKROOM GAMING
Tokerau – I didn’t get to go to your cool exhibition with the pokie machines, E-Kasino at Blue Oyster. I know there’s definitely a problem with pokies and addiction. People spend all of their money. Not paying the rent, not paying power or whatever. It’s insane.
Piupiu – Nah, it’s like definitely! Even like, the way that they’re designed to ssssuck you in. So you lose track of time. No clocks, no sunlight. It could be three in the morning. It could be two in the afternoon. There is no way to tell, none of the attendants have watches, like, and so they kind of set it up to like…
Tokerau – The science of it.
Piupiu – Yeah, there’s a whole science around making you spend money. And the bad thing that buzzed me out, the research for that was, there were two things; One was a story about money that someone money laundering, that was really fucking weird and the other one was that they build these, organic landscapes inside, with water running, and these big forests and stuff. That’s like, your brain resets?! So you’re on the pokie machine, and then you see the trees, you hear the water, your brain resets, you go back on the pokie machine. They specifically make these beautiful, natural spaces that are really calming. But the whole point of it is to make you keep gambling.
Tokerau – Oh my god. Kind of like nice elevator music.
Piupiu – Yeah, like it was really really insidious. Yeah. Yeah.
Jos – And then all CNZ money is from…
Piupiu – Pokies.
Tokerau – because actually, I think with some of my other projects, we’ve looked at lotteries and people are always like, “you should get money from lotteries.” Yeah, you should do another one (E-Kare exhibition) that gets funded by lotteries.
Piupiu – It was real interesting aye, cos that exhibition felt like a casino.
Tokerau – Like, Inception. Because it’s never about getting the money, it’s the rush of gambling.
Jos – Coz in the end, a near miss gives the same feeling as a win. So like, you get the same rush just to get a near miss, when actually you lose out.
Piupiu – Really fucked up.
Tokerau – Oh my god. It’s crazy. It’s an addiction, you can’t stop doing it. But then even if you win, you’re wondering should I go again?
Bub – OOOAAEEE!!!!
Tokerau – So was that E-Kasino work like a… project, right?
Piupiu – Yeah, I think people thought that we were just making a casino for the fun of it, but we’d actually, talked quite a lot with the Problem Gambling Foundation. Had like quite a bit of input from them. Like, I remember, we were almost finished installing, and I called one of them because it was in the backroom of the gallery, the pokie room, and it felt like the gaming lounge bit in a bar. It felt like a fucking casino. It felt yuck. Yeah. Which was cool, it should feel really yuck. I called her – I said – “I think this was gonna like, trigger people. I think this is not… I don’t know if this is… I think maybe we’ve taken it too far.” And like, she’s one of the higher-up ones for the South Island. And she’s like, “Nah, people need that, like, this is part of it. Because if it’s not seen, it’s not seen. It means that you need to make sure that people like that people are experiencing it. And that was actually okay.
Tokerau – Yeah.
Piupiu – But I was like, Y’know, some people turned out, a couple of people. And a part of me was like, “Don’t go back there! Don’t go back there!” (to the casino around the corner from the gallery.) “Don’t go back there.” Y’know, Because I didn’t want them to then go to the casino. But they didn’t. And they both of them came out like, OHHH FUCK! OOOooooo.
Tokerau – So how was, I guess, the viewer’s experience? Like, if you were walking me through, as though you haven’t made the art. What was the buzz?
Jos – At the entrance, we made a lounge and a zine-making space with a photocopier and there was fruit. You can draw and so like you could relax and sit on the couch there.
Tokerau – Oh cute! Friendly…
Jos – Then it went into this kind of, all dark space that had the video works that we made with Joanne Francey which was kind of like, an information overload. At the back of the gallery, you would go into the pokies room and you would play on the pokies. They weren’t really pokies though, they were just card-matching games, kind of. You could figure it out. It wasn’t just like, I know the pokies is just kind of like a roll the dice three times, you know? Yeah. And so then all the money was just like, an honesty box system. Because like, I was ooh, it’s too much work to figure out a coin thing. The honesty box, it’s kind of like, you know, a bit tongue in cheek.
Tokerau – That’s good. I like the honesty box (laughs), yeah, that’s funny.
Jos – At the opening, we got bouncers and like, what was it? One of them? One person was like, they won the jackpot. And they were like, “I won the jackpot! What do I win?”
Bub – WaaaaaaAh ah ah!
Piupiu – When he (the bouncer) comes in, he’s like really big, he was like, 17.
Jos – He just grabbed the honesty box and like, tipped it on the floor and was like, “pick it up!”
Piupiu – Yeah. So she’s like, I walked in there. I was like, Woah, what’s going on? Because this person was like, on their hands and knees.
Jos – (Laughs)
Piupiu – With tiny bits of spray-painted cardboard. Because they had won the jackpot. And it was like, at first I was like, Whoa, like, there was a lot for him to do, like, to just be, like, “pick it up!” That actually it’s perfect. Because that’s like, that’s the vibe, you go up to a little counter and you give them your thing, and they give you money back, it’s just, it’s gross and grotty and weird. And like, they were fine with it too. Like it was kind of funny, but..
Jos – The currency was worthless, pretty much right? So like, there was no prize if you had 50 coins. It was just kind of like, yeah, like little tokens. That’s kind of what money is. Yeah. You know,
Piupiu – Although If someone came up to us at a show and was like, I have these two tokens. What do I get for? I’d give them something?
Jos – Oh, you definitely like, you can get a shirt or something.
Bub – Wooooooo
Tokerau – That’s cool. It’s not just debasement of self, when you are addicted to gambling, I can feel, that coming through for me.
Piupiu – Yeah. Especially because at the start, it was so welcoming and nice and like, we were putting people to work so they would make their own money, yeah. And then they would spend ages making these beautiful paper banknotes or whatever, you know, that really like, had spent time. And then they would get these like ten coins like cardboard, bits of cardboard that were spray painted. Like ugly, like really ugly. Yeah, you know, there’s this kind of like….
Jos -You do have the safe space at the front where it was nice. And there was fruit and you could draw and you could talk to people.
Tokerau – Like the Black Dog Cafe? It’s got that buzz, a nice cafe and it’s nice food and coffee but then it’s like, nek minnit you go in the back and it’s a gaming lounge. It’s like the safe space.
E-KARE TIME MACHINE
Tokerau – Let’s go back. Back in time in the time machine. What was the first E-Kare work?
Piupiu – The first thing we ever did was the ‘blooming party’. A birth, E-Kare was birthed into the world.
Jos – We had a bunch of different PlayStations. So there were kind of a lot of PlayStations sitting around the party… and you can just pick up and play while you’re waiting in the line for the toilet.
Piupiu – We started a new save file for Spyro at the beginning of the party and then by the end of the party, people had played through to a certain point, maybe like the second world?
Tokerau – I kind of liked that experience of the evolution. I guess there is a cute novelty, I felt, when gaming and art were combined. I’m trying to think… Steve Walsh once had a game machine set up so that people could go to his exhibition and then also just play games & sit on the sofa. That intersection of worlds.
Jos – It’s nice when you go to like an art gallery and you’re over talking to people. It was the same with the party, you go play the game on your own.
Piupiu – Or you can sit down and watch someone else play and you don’t have to do anything. Other than just doing that.
Tokerau – There’s that thing, similar to sporting heroes, where someone is fucking awesome at that game. Watching someone who’s fucking awesome at a game is an amazing thing. And you’re like, “You’re clocking this game. You’re at a speedrunner level, you’re so good at this game!” The heroes of my world… are like, a gamer.
Tokerau – Not trying to be all wanky artist talk, but like, that is the intersection for me and chiptune and music and gaming and, yous are breaking the fourth wall of, like music, but it was supposed to be gaming. How did you make it music?
Piupiu & Jos – Yeah yeah yeah
Tokerau – It definitely bridges and stands in both worlds.
Piupiu – I hadn’t thought about it like that. But I guess even then, doing the buzzy art projects, like we did for the Fringe Festival show with Cream Puff (Ollie Macpherson and Lydia Grigorut). We had such little information at all in the Fringe booklet, like, nothing. None. Like, this is when it is, turn up. It’s called E-Kare WUU? (E-Kare what are you up to?) Because we had no idea what we were doing! It turned into a buzzy interactive performance. People would turn up at the space and we’d be like, “Oh, welcome to the Cruise! Here’s your ticket”. It was an escape room in our shed that we made look like you’re on a cruise ship and you had to escape and steal all the money from the captain and then wire it all to us because we’re the workers and we fucking hate the captain and we hate working on this cruise ship because cruise ships are like, horrible. Then that was the escape room, it was like stealing all this money and giving it, like sharing it between the people who are participating as the workers. It was so much fun working with Lidia and Ollie!
Tokerau – I guess kind of like a Robin Hood cosplaying of sorts?
Piupiu – It was definitely cosplay but it was real funny, because no one knew it was gonna be an escape room. And then, it was an escape room! But it was also a performance hahahah!
Bub – La la laaaa la
Tokerau – Yeah, it was an escape room-based kind of thing.
Piupiu – Yeah. It was really funny. People were like, lifting the bed up, lifting the mattresses up. Someone was trying to open the can of tomato sauce to see if there was a clue.
Jos – Like we’d put a clue in the can and then resealed the can somehow.
All – Laughs ????
Piupiu – yeah and some friends have come and they were like, quite stoned. And they’re like, it’s a tiny little room. And so they’re like the two of them standing in this tiny room. With all these people around them being like, “WHATS UNDER HERE!!!! WHATS IN THERE?!! WOAH WOAH WOAHH” y’know like, it was like a really silly fun time. That felt like, um, yeah, that felt kind of like speedrunning.
Tokerau – they were trying to break the fourth wall for real.
Piupiu – Yeah, the door wasn’t really locked. So even at one point it like swung open and Lydia was the person taking them through. She had a French accent for some reason. She was like, “Oh no, ze door is open. I’m just going to shut it” or something like that, and then pulls it shut and then carries on. The whole thing was just like, fucking silly.
Tokerau – Oh that sounds really cool that show, so that was one of the earlier exhibitions..
Bub – HUUUUUUHHH AAK KHII MAAAAOAAA
Piupiu – 2021, we had a Covid tracer thing, poster for that one. Yeah, and working with Ollie and Lidia was really nice as well. That one was kinda more recently.
Jos – We did a casino in Rotterdam,
Tokerau – Awesome.
Jos – Which was like, we did a performance, which is kinda like, uhm…
Piupiu – For an album release.
Jos – Yeah, And that was kind of where we had this casino idea, because people… it was also made up currency. But then by the end of it, people were just going crazy. Crazy for the currency.
Piupiu – Jos is doing the currency exchange, and then they were ready to, like, exchange their money. They were really excited. And they were like, “What is the exchange rate?” and I was like, “I don’t know”. And i was like “Jos what do you reckon?” You were like, “I don’t know”. And then you just put the suitcase down on the floor. And as soon as Jos stepped back, they were like, BOOOF, like, straight on it and it was like, fucken money flying everywhere and like,
Bub – OOO WAAA
Piupiu – people like grabbing, and then I don’t know, it was only maybe 15 seconds and then there was this kind of moment where everyone just sort of like sat back and was like, “Ooooh, what just happened?” like “We got real like, like, real feral”, yeah, nah it was really fucked up.
Tokerau – Yeah, I feel like that’s obviously a common theme, you know, with the questioning of like, yeah, I guess the capitalist society we live in, sometimes I will think about it and I’ll be like, humans invented shit. But they never went, “All that actually created lots of problems and sucks, let’s go back to how it was before…”
Jos & Piupiu – Laughs
Tokerau – to say you can argue that working five days a week, from nine to five, (Dino? to bub) and having that kind of structure doesn’t work. Like getting paid money and then going, “Ohh I haven’t got enough money to pay for the stuff”. The whole idea was that it was meant to be an easier way to do it, I guess, go from barter to a money system. (Woooah! to bub) Yeah, I don’t know where I’m going with this, but just the whole thing of like, yeah, I guess yeah, we’re getting pretty political for a chiptune interview
Jos – Everyone’s political right. You can’t really not be political. It’s just community ya know.
Piupiu – I feel like a lot of the politics of chiptune is like, real like, like.. community-based, like Blip Fest and stuff, like seeing things like that from online forums, like, what is it, chipmusic forum, Jos?
Jos – Yeah. This is what I liked about it, was the accessibility. I grew up liking punk music, and I liked that because you didn’t have to be good. I was not good at making music. Chiptune is kind of the same as that, you didn’t have to, you didn’t need all this gear.
Piupiu – Nah, you just need a Game Boy and a cart.
Jos – Yeah.
Piupiu – Or not even that! A computer and some software
Jos – Like an emulator, you know? And the ROM you just get the ROM off torrents or mediafire.
Tokerau – Yeah, right. Yeah. I always struggle with that. Because with ISO12 & Rachel & Murdabike and my inspiration of ISO12 using hardware instead of computers, whereas, I’ve used computers, then I got into hardware. And now I have pretty much a lil copy of ISO12 setup in Onehunga. For a while, I did try to just, go back to making music on computers. So I got a crack of Ableton and started making all music on Ableton and really enjoyed it for ages. Then I guess I just didn’t add many new samples. And I kind of got weary and got to the end of things that I could do in there. I started missing hardware. It’s good that with computers, anyone can have the opportunity to do stuff. But, I realised I just love hardware. Do you find that at all with chiptune? Do you have a preference for the hardware when you play? Or would you like, just endlessly go between software and hardware and you’re happy in both worlds?
Jos – I’ve kind of collected enough hardware now.
Piupiu – It’s like, how many Game Boys have you got?
Jos – Yeah, heaps of broken Game Boys. And they also make like, rip off Game Boys now on Ali Express. When I was doing TAB, because I wasn’t that good at modern Game Boys, I just ended up buying these clones.
Tokerau – Oh yeah?
Bub – Waaaah!
Tokerau – (woohoo – to bub)
Jos – Now, do you think the hardware is the gimmick? Essentially, like that’s what people, when I do chiptune, as I like play, “he’s using a little like a DS or like a Gameboy.” You know?
Piupiu – Always someone like poking at the gear.
Jos – Yeah yeah.
Piupiu – Which is fair because you would. But also annoying as hahahha.
Tokerau – I’ve got a Game Boy SD with Yoshi’s Island 3. And that’s about all. It’s mean, it’s mean as.
Jos – SP – they’re the flip-top ones flipped up. They’re nice and backlit.
Tokerau – And just like, I just never played that game before. So it was such a cool platform to play it. And actually too, like the young nephs who have never seen this stuff, like young nephs sometimes obsess about retro. And it’s, it’s awesome. They’re literally like, “Oh, I’ve got an iPad and I’ve got like, I’ve got like an X Box and I’ve got a PlayStation, but I really want to play on your Nintendo SP.
Jos & Piupiu – laughs
Tokerau – uhm is SP the one I’m talking about?
Jos – And I think the SP is the Game Boy Advance
Tokerau -oooh yeah Game Boy Advance that’s what it is.
Jos – It’s one of those, yeah.
Tokerau – (to bub) Ohhh you’re good at untying shoelaces arent you? That’s a good skill. Yeah, I don’t need them to be done up anyway.
Jos – Yeah, those ones have a big ground hum, it’s really annoying.
Tokerau -You got me (to bub)
Jos – but the DS the DS Lite plays Game Boy Advance games.
Jos – So I recently we’ve switched to, I’ve been using nanoloop for chiptune as opposed to LSDJ, nanoloops kind of like, the fancy person’s chiptune maker. Where the LSDJ was like, you could get a ROM pretty easily and run it on an emulator. whereas the Nanoloop, you could only get like a demo ROM that you can save with. And then it only came out, Nano2 comes out on its own kind of proprietary little cart whereas LSDJ you buy the ROM for like a donation, and then you’d load onto like a flashcard. It’s way more entry-level.
Tokerau – Yeah. Because it’s got like uhm, yeah, it’s weird, these days. I love all the hybrid synths and sequencers and I guess things inspired by the past, that are coming out. And even Nintendo Switch is a great example of all the indie games that you could only play on a PC computer in the day, are all on switch. Or ya know, they would have gone to a computer platform or they would have gone to even Playstation and stuff. Uhm I was gonna say I got obsessed with Umarangi Generation, did you try that one?
Piupiu – Oii, we haven’t played it. I think we should actually buy it.
Tokerau – It’s not a hard game, but it’s just so stylish. And it’s so cool. It’s cute and shit. I literally have only played like two levels. But I just obsess about it. I bought all the T-shirts.
Jos – Chuckles. Piupiu – Yeeeah
Tokerau – They made a camera strap that I got.
Jos – What kinda game is it?
Tokerau – It’s like, um, it looks PlayStation One looking. You take photos, and the photos go ‘Kaching!’ and it has really cool music like Jungle and a cool kind of soundtrack. But it is a little bit sickening.
Tokerau – (to Bub) Oooh, oooh. That was a real fall. Hey, you’re alright. You’re alright mate. Yay.
Jos – chuckles
Tokerau – Yeah, It’s a bit boring for kids. And it’s hard to move and you kind of like, yeah, it’s a bit gammy. But I don’t care. It’s such a cool creation. To me, it’s pretty much the first Māori computer game that is creative, independent and alternative.
Piupiu – Is it made by Māori’s?!!
Tokerau – It’s made by a Māori guy [Naphtali Faulkner] who lives in Australia. Its 100% Māori! like, lit!
Piupiu – Oooi!! We should buy it then. (Nose snort) Now we have to buy it. I saw one screenshot and it was like, graffiti in the game with the word ‘Whanganui’ or something. And I was like, like, Ohhh eh!!? There’s a Dutch guy called Thor and he does these, like, kind of weird game reviews on YouTube. He can be a little bit, like, OOOOH! sometimes, so I haven’t listened to as much of their stuff lately but he also does like some quite nice, good takes. He’s got like a Dutch accent. That, you know? Is like familiar and like nostalgic now? But I think he made the music for it.
Tokerau – Oh, yeah, I bought the double LP as well.
Jos – haha
Tokerau – Love the music, just kind of snowboarding breaks and stuff like that. Just real pleasant. And I guess the thing was, with the game is yeah, it’s got Māori characters and it’s got white passing Māori and it’s got like legends that are spray painted onto a wall. But it’s kind of an oppressed feeling, like their, like the game was kind of coming from this anti-capitalist, quite anarchistic punk standpoint.
Bub – Crys
Jos – Cool.
Tokerau – Yeah. So it’s like, definitely kind of, I just feel like it links to all that love of I guess the 2000s PlayStation. And it also links to, I guess, a post-apocalyptic world where there’s a generation of youth
Bub – WOOOAHWAHHHH
Tokerau – Disenfranchised and it’s really subtle. It’s like social commentary, but it never pushes it in your face. So I think it’s probably similar to what yous do, in a way.
Tokerau – I was gonna say when we were talking about games earlier, I really wanted to make games, but I just thought it was impossible. Then I had a year with John White, (pabagames.itch.io/) who made games with his twin brother. As they grew up, they made that game, Jaspers Journeys. Have yous played Jaspers Journeys? Have yous got a um, a MacBook or something?
Jos -Yeah, is it on Steam, or it’s…?
Tokerau – Oh, nah, it’s just on the site. (lexaloffle.com)
Jos – Oh yeah.
Tokerau – It’s like the coolest because it’s like an 80s platform game, but it took them 10 years to make growing up, and then they finally released it after ten years. The dude does other cool games Voxatron and other stuff. I’ll send you a Lexaloffle link, But anyway, the other brother, Joseph White, is in Japan now, with a cafe, and like, he’s a game-making sort of genius, (picopicocafe.com).
John White and I made games for a year. I’m not great at code. But I learned how to make things move around. And then I was like, oh my god, this is just like the universe. The universe has little dots that move around. Because things happen, and they bounce. And then you’re making all those rules. I don’t mind now, because I’m doing animation. But I never got to the end game of putting out the games I made… yet. But I did finish some games as artworks. I think I put out like three or four art games. One work was exhibited as part of the group show Tainted Love at the Anteroom in Kōputai that Charlotte Parallel organised. I made a game How To Love a Robot. It was really bad programming, so sometimes you’d get stuck, and it was really gammy, trying to control the movement. Then the one I did for Piupiu’s exhibition at Thistle Hall was called Green Screen Black. That work had sort of weird controls, like cups go up, something else goes down. People couldn’t get it. They’d just go sideways heaps and be like, I don’t get it.
Piupiu – I remember Jos spending… like a good hour and a half, an hour like playing it.
Jos – What did you make that game in?
Tokerau – Game Maker. Then my exhibition Wheke Fortress at Audio Foundation, I did one where you’re a little cute duck. And then you had to get cups, and fish would kill you.
Jos – Oooooh 🙁
Tokerau – If you pecked them, you kill the fish. But it was pretty hard to get the timing right, you’d usually get killed by the fish. And then there was a wheke (octopus) up the top. And it looked really groovy. So it was like, a one screen game. Just for kids to have fun with, but it was quite hard to get through it.
Piupiu – That’s all the charm eh.
Tokerau – And also a weird thing, because it was on Windows XP and it was on an old laptop. It was like this one that would like famously, like a Toshiba 9 or something, it would famously crash because it got too hot,
Jos & Piupiu – Lauuughs
Tokerau – So I stuck it on, like, cold metal things and stuff. But it would basically crash. And then, they got sick of resetting it, hahah. And it was like one of those artworks where it’s like, the art is that it crashes.
Jos & Piupiu – Laaaughs.
Tokerau – You know what I mean? Because literally it crashes, because of being old technology.
Jos -This is my take on things, crash and break.
Piupiu – They do! It’s like nice entropy. Right? Like this indigenous curator in Canada, she wrote this thing on like, how there are objects and museums which should be taken back. The same with James Rickards, this lady went to him and was like, my pounamu has broken. Could you fix it? And he was like, “No, I’ll just chuck it in the awa and we’ll make a new one”. Things should crash, and things should eventually become completely obsolete. And that’s like working with Windows XP, working with old Game Boys that have been taken apart, changed and put back together. Doing this kind of thing reveals that an object has a lifespan, which then becomes… well ya know, it’s not planned obsolescence… it sort of lives a life, which is quite cool, like, technology having life in it.
Tokerau – Yo. I like the cruisiness of this interview. And how we’re going off-topic heaps. It’s definitely the right vibe for me!
Piupiu – Do whatever you want with it as well…
Tokerau – Yeah, yeah, I wish I’d recorded that first bit too because it was kind of meaningless ramble. But we did it fair. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you guys!
E-Kare is an art x music collective, usually consisting of Gerrit Jos van Beek and Piupiu Maya Turei. The project was brought into the world in 2016, with an installation / gig / house party at their flat in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. The Blooming Party featured the first E-Kare music set (Gameboy and SunVox) and two gaming stations – a PlayStation one with Spyro projected on the lounge wall and a computer on the landing next to the toilet.
Since the inception of E-Kare, there has been a strong focus on three things – video game technology (particularly Nintendo handheld consoles), anti-capitalism and a hardcore DIY vibe. Recent shows include: E-Kasino (2020) at the Blue Oyster Project Space, Dankfest (2020) promoted by Dance Happy Doom Crew at the Crown Hotel, E-Kare and Cream Puff present in the pit of eternal potential by Cream Puff and E-Kare (2021) as part of Tinyfest.
Tokerau Teokotai Brown AKA BIG FAT RARO is an illustrator and multimedia artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). He is Cook Island Māori on his father’s side, from Manihiki, Mangaia, Aitutaki and Rarotonga. Rawene-born, Brown was then raised in Whanganui by his mother, a descendant of the Carey line (Ingarangi). He is co-director of the experimental Māori Pasifika art gallery Wheke Fortress in Onehunga. Brown is also a musician, audio engineer and head animator of a Māori Pasifika animation house, Studio Ki’i Pili. He has been part of experimental art practices for over 20 years.