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Cheap Dinosaurs

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Where Is My Mind?: Cheap Dinosaurs' Dino Lionetti & Paul Weinstein

- by Adam G. & Q.D. Tran

Since forming Cheap Dinosaurs following the demise of his previous band Chromelodeon, Dino Lionetti and his bandmates have been broadening the chiptune horizons with epic, spacey, transformative jams. They are able to create expansive soundscapes despite challenging themselves by using potentially restrictive tools like a Game Boy. We sat down with Dino Lionetti and Chipocrite, a.k.a. Paul Weinstein, who is performing at North Star Bar tomorrow night at 8static and plays bass in Cheap Dinosaurs, to talk game soundtracking, backing tracks, why chiptune is the punk of the electronic genre, and much more below. 
 
The Deli: Why did you name this project Cheap Dinosaurs?
 
Dino Lionetti: Well, first of all, it has my name in it, and it started out as just me, and I eventually formed the band. Also people used to call me “dinosaur” in school, and it pissed me off real bad. And it relates to inexpensive toys, old antiquated computers, and since I used a Game Boy, it’s one of them. You could call it a Cheap Dinosaur.
 
TD: Dino, you were in other bands before this one. What inspired you to start making 8-bit music? Was there a specific goal for Cheap Dinosaurs when you started the project?
 
DL: I guess when I started, it was a continuation of Chromelodeon, which is the first band I was in. Just because I was using the Game Boy toward the end of that band in the same way, I use it now in Cheap Dinosaurs, and when we broke up, I just continued making Game Boy music and eventually formed a band around the Game Boy again.  
 
TD: Can you explain, in an elementary way, how you compose music on a Game Boy?
 
DL: It’s not that complicated. It’s really just like any other music composition software. When you’re thinkin’ of e-music being made with a computer sequencer or something, you are not really limited to anything, but it is more akin to using a sequencer and one synthesizer, only to draw your power with a limited number of voices.
 
TD: Is some of the fun the challenge of working within limited parameters?
 
DL: It is a different mindset than being able to just pull in any amount of voices to stack it up and make these harmonies. It is kind of a challenge to arppegiate the sounds; instead of stacking up these sounds, you have to flip through them like an animation.
 
TD: Do you like being defined as a chiptune band, or do you find it pigeon-holing?
 
DL: I like the fact that there is a community of people doing it and paying attention to it. I guess it is not something that needs to be mentioned to everyone, because not everyone is hip to it, but I guess certainly everyone who listens to it understands that there is an influence of video games.
 
Paul Weinstein: Cheap Dinosaurs, now that we are a full band, with so many guitars and amplifiers, I think we transcend just the Chiptune label, especially the new album. It is much more of a band album. The first one sounds very much like what it was, which is just Dino and a Game Boy. So you listen to the new album now and you don’t just think chiptune or video game music, you hear a band with a video gamey synth if you don’t know anything about it, and I think that’s awesome. As a band, I would rather have that as my audience. Otherwise, you run the risk of the Game Boy coming off as too much of a novelty.
 
TD: How did you approach the making of Triangle Trash differently than your S/T LP?
 
DL: It’s more cohesive rather than being a set of songs I happened to come up with in a set of time. We all were working together to make it work, rather than I just had these song in the studio and these people came by and played on it and put their two cents in. We were all basically together in the same room together trying to figure out all the little details, and ran them by each other.
 
TD: What kind of non-musical influences did you have for this album?
 
DL: 80’s television commercials. Fractals definitely - it reflected it in album art on the cover. I kept trying to put pieces of one song into another song and insert them subliminally in each other.
 
PW: It seems to me that numbers in general are an influence.
 
DL: Yeah, math without being math-y.
 
TD: What is it like translating a finished song into a live setting?
 
PW: It’s almost the opposite for Triangle Trash. Even before I joined the band, most of the songs were being performed live, and I think of this album as kind of the definitive recordings of them. 
 
DL: You hear the sequence, and you kind of get the idea of how it should sound. And you play on top of it live over and over, and it seems like each time we played it there was something different about it.
 
PW: And that is something really unique, because most of the time you are playing with a backing track so the performance is exactly the same. That’s just the nature of it. But somehow the songs are always different, and I couldn’t even explain how we pull it off.
 
TD: What do you think are the best chip cities in the country/world? Are there any surprisingly lush/supportive cities for chip music?
 
DL: I’m just going to go ahead and say Philly. It’s the best one. It’s my favorite. 
 
PW: I don’t know what it is, but everyone in Philly has the same mindset of not using the Game Boy as just a standard electronic. Maybe because the first chiptune music people hear is just house or techno, so they think of using it that way, but for some reason, people in Philly are just more progressive. And in terms of other cities, I would say Rochester.
 
DL: Detroit is the shit. Obviously NY, they came before us.
 
TD: Do you find chip followers to be supportive of new music/new acts, or are they generally hard to please?
 
PW: As someone who came in in the middle of it, I felt welcomed right away. I went to a couple 8statics, and was like “I can do this.” So I put a few songs together, and I was ready to do it, and I talked to original organizer, Don, and he could have been like, “okay just show up with a Game Boy.” But he was genuinely interested in what I was doing. When I played the first song the next month, I got instant awesome feedback. Actually, one of my favorite artist, Bitshifter, who is probably to this day my favorite chiptune artist, he was at the show, and he said it was a great song when I talked to him about it on a message board. And if I had known he was there, I probably wouldn’t have even performed. So to get immediate positive feedback like that was awesome. And I am always excited to hear a new person.
 
DL: It’s great to find someone interested enough to actually come out and do it.
 
TD: What’s the best video game that you’ve played recently?
 
PW: Samurai Gun is like a lo-fi version of Smash Bros. All you can do is slash someone with your sword or shoot them with your gun, and you have three shots per life, and if you play with four people, it is just a non-stop brawl killing each other. I can’t even explain it, but everyone I’ve seen play it has loved it. It’s pretty rapid fire. I like that one round someone can be really good, and another round someone else is really good. I mean, you can get really good, but sometimes someone is just on fire.
 
TD: If this album was a soundtrack to a video game, what kind of game would it be?
 
DL: Hmm…I always think I should be a really surreal shoot ‘em up, like a spaceship flying through space shooting pieces of candy and lobsters.
 
PW: A non-violent shoot ‘em up.
 
TD: What’s your favorite video game soundtrack?
 
DL: Fez was amazing. Going back to Rich Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpeace.
 
PW: In terms of all time stuff, I would say Pinbot.
 
TD: Chiptune seems to have a similar DIY aesthetic to punk. Would you say that there are any similarities between the two scenes? If so, what would they be?
 
DL: I think so. We don’t have the luxury of feeling secure in what we are doing because you can find it anywhere. It’s definitely not mainstream. There are some people out there doing it that are getting into the mainstream, but you are definitely not going to find it at the Spectrum, or whatever it’s called now.
 
PW: There obviously isn’t as much of an attitude-y or political agenda. On the other hand, other people like the chip aesthetic, because it’s like, “oh, you are using a three thousand dollar computer to make your set?” Fuck you, I’m going to use this Game Boy I got on eBay or found in my basement.
 
DL: It’s the equivalent of a 50-dollar guitar.
 
PW: It still sounds awesome; it’s still lo-fi; it’s still achieving a lot, so from a tech-punk aesthetic, there is that. And there is definitely an underground comradery. Everyone doing everything they can to help it. That goes back to the punk thing. We are all in this together; we are all building something together, which is really nice. A lot of other scenes I have been a part of were really competitive, but this scene is much more friendly. No one is really competitive, and I feel like old punk scenes were probably like that.
 
TD: The game you are soundtracking, High Strangeness, looks really cool. How did you get involved with it?
 
DL: I talked to my friend Alex Mauer, who is another chiptune artist, who lives just outside of Philadelphia. He is actually a professional video game soundtracker. He doesn’t play many shows anymore, but I was just talking to him about what he does, and he said, “Why don’t you talk to my friend Steve Jenkins?” And I got involved with him, and it turns out he was part owner of the label Paws, which was the label that Chromelodeon put their last album out on, so it turns out we had already worked together indirectly, and he was a producer on this game and so we just got to talking, and we settled it then. And Rich Vreeland, who is Disasterpeace, had also worked on it, and our two styles were a little similar, so it worked out that we could use both of our music for the soundtrack
 
TD: Do you approach video game soundtracking differently than composing for Cheap Dinosaurs? How so?
 
DL: It’s really nice to be able to know what a song is going to be about before I compose it. You know the atmosphere of what it’s supposed to be, and I can just work in those confines, and I can make it sound as much like that as possible, instead of just putting stuff together and hoping it comes out okay. Most of the time, I’m writing. I’m not thinking about it aesthetically much, but focusing more on the form of the tune and making it sound more like anything, and with soundtracking, there is already a story and a script, and I can already think about what the next tune is going to be like without having written it. I can say since I put these elements of the music into this one tune, I can take this other tune and make it in contrast to that in another specific way, so it’s really fun actually.
 
TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at the deli?
 
PW: A giant tuna melt.
 
DL: Tuna sandwiches - that’s good. I actually really like Tuna Melts also.

 

 

 

 

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Cheap Dinosaurs
Triangle Trash

 

 
 
 




New Cheap Dinosaurs EP Available for Streaming & Purchase

Here's the new EP entitled Triangle Trash from local chiptune luminaries Cheap Dinosaurs. The band just celebrated its release this past Saturday at the North Star Bar, and the record is now available for purchase via 8static. You can stream the EP in its entirety below.

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Weekend Warrior, Jan. 10 - 12

It’s pretty amazing to watch how the various communities within the Philly music scene have been progressing over the last few years. In the chiptune community, you really can’t talk about what is happening locally in that genre without mentioning 8static. The monthly chip music event is returning this Saturday to the North Star Bar with a lot to celebrate. The evening will also double as Cheap Dinosaurs’ release show for their new album Triangle Trash. Started by Dino Lionetti, the group has evolved to become a collaborative effort by the 8static family, consisting of Lionetti (composer/programming/synths), Danny Tarng (baritone guitar), Patrick “Bucky” Todd (drums), Joey Mariano (guitar/circuit bending /synth), Paul Weinstein (bass), and Daniel Davis (guitar). They’ll be bringing in former Philly native and now Phoenix-based chip-hopper Mega Ran, Sacramento’s Auxcide, and Rochester, NY’s SBThree will be providing the visuals for this 8-bit freak-out. North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St., 8pm, $10, 21+ - H.M. Kauffman
 
Other places to escape from your home this weekend…
 
North Star Bar (2639 Poplar St.) FRI The Wallace Brothers Band, The City Wide Specials
 
Johnny Brenda’s (1201 N. Frankford Ave.) SAT Watery Love, Amanda X, Taiwan Housing Project
 
The Boot & Saddle (1131 S. Broad St.) FRI Mock Suns, Dreambook, Hurry, SAT JJL, Gondola
 
Kung Fu Necktie (1250 N. Front St.) SAT Far-Out Fangtooth, SUN Banned Books, GG Lohan
 
Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill St.) SAT New Sound Brass Band
 
The Trocadero (1003 Arch St.) FRI Tiny Cities
 
World Café Live (3025 Walnut St.) FRI A Fistful of Sugar, West Philadelphia Orchestra, Aaron and The Spell, Black Horse Motel, SUN Amelia Scaillies, Amber Ladd, Steve Cal Band
 
The Fire (412 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Dirty Soap Blues Band, Cthulhu Martini, Could've Been Kings, Damien Anthony, SAT Skurban Vintro, Caalypso
 
MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut St.) FRI Shorty Boy Boy, Minka, Marathon, SAT Flightschool, Spare Change, Dead Tenors
 
Ortlieb’s Lounge (847 N. 3rd St.) FRI Joey Sweeney, Heyward Howkins, Mark Lanky
 
M Room (15 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Next To None, Travia, Mesmeria
 
Tin Angel (20 S. 2nd St.) FRI Anjuli Josephine, Folly Fields, Acton Bell, SAT Paige Allbritton
 
Fergie’s (1214 Sansom St.) SAT Up the Chain (Solo), Dave Steel Blues Band, SUN Rusty Cadillac
 
The Legendary Dobbs (304 South St.) FRI Khalid Quesada, Betty Iron Thumbs, SAT Chris Rattie & The Brush Valley Ramblers, Above Connecticut
 
Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) SAT Goddamnit
 
Half Moon Bar (4228 Lancaster Ave.) FRI Chimpgrinder, Rubbish, Maniacs on Wheels, Village
 
Voltage Lounge (421 N. 7th St.) FRI Andorra, Ariables, Science Club, Mikingmihrab
 
The Grape Room (105 Grape St.) FRI Alberta’s Court, Too Hot For Sleeves, Jonathan Monument, The Donuts, SAT Matt Gauss Band, The Barren Wells, Kyle Campbell
 
Golden Tea House (Please contact one of the acts or venue for more info.) SAT Kite Party, Gunk, Vietnam
 
Beaumont Warehouse (Please contact one of the acts or venue for more info.) SAT Dopestroke
 
LAVA Space (Please contact one of the acts or venue for more info.) SUN Benefit for the LAVA Space w/Dying, Capacities
 
West Kensington Ministry (Please contact one of the acts or venue for more info.) SAT Tygerstrype, Meth Dad, Chiffon, Mental Jewelry
 
The Dog Morgue (Please contact one of the acts or venue for more info.) FRI Alex G
 
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Cheap Dinosaurs Live Scoring Liquid Sky at PhilaMOCA April 27

The inaugural Cinedelphia Film Festival is holding its closing day festivities today. This afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to view the 1982 New Wave classic Liquid Sky, which will be accompanied by a live score from 8-bit, prog rockers Cheap Dinosaurs. As an added bonus, the film’s reclusive producer/director Slava Tsukerman will be in attendance for a pre-screening introduction and post-screening Q&A. It is also the birthday celebration of Cinedelphia/PhilaMOCA’s Eric Bresler, who is truly a good dude, so swing on by and help him make it a memorable one (or even better, a day that he’ll need your help to piece together later on). Cheers to Eric and the Cinedelphia Film Fest for a job well done! PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., 4pm, All Ages - Q.D. Tran

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Tuesday Tune-Out w/Cheap Dinosaurs at PhilaMOCA Feb. 19

One of our favorite chiptune luminaries Cheap Dinosaurs will be performing tonight at PhilaMOCA for this week’s Tuesday Tune-Out, which is curated by 8static. Led by Dino Lionetti, he has banded together some of the finest forward-thinking musicians in the 8-bit community to lay down the arcade soundscapes for his psychedelic prog rock project. Cheap Dinosaurs will be performing what is sure to be a mind-altering Liquid Sky-themed set at the Eraserhood multi-purpose art space this evening. PhilaMOCA, 531 12th St., 8pm, $5, All Ages - H.M. Kauffman

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