Exploring The Past For The Art Of Today: An Interview With Bit Ripper

42 year old Corey (AKA Bit Ripper) is a musician, collector, and all around enthusiast of all things awesome. I came across his Instagram account a while back, and was immediately drawn in to whatever it is he's up to. One day he's using CRT monitors to backlight a Die Hard VHS-themed Christmas display. The next day he's making chiptunes or pixel art motion graphics of his logo. I think it's fairly evident that he's an artist of some sort - the likes of which I haven't quite been able to classify just yet.

 

 

It seems like most of us that have collections or hobbies rooted in nostalgia or dead media/technology had a pretty awesome childhood, on some level. Tell me a bit about your own, and how it’s carried over into your adult interests.

I was a child of two young rock n roll type parents. They split up shortly after I was born and I lived with my mother. She worked a lot of jobs, some of which were at night. My older cousin (which basically my big sister) would babysit me all the time. She was a big horror movie fan and I would always watch them with her or when she had friends over. My grandparents were also a big contributing factor. They were cinephiles and had a large home movie collection which at the time was not commonplace. So in short, I spent a lot of time in front of a TV. I'm not qualified to say if that is a good or bad thing.

 

How long have you been collecting VHS and what got you started with it?

I’ve always had tapes around me. Family had them and a lot of those would end up becoming mine. I was probably 12 or so when I started actually forming a “collection”. During my teens, my mom and step dad owned a snowball stand in a shopping center. It was next door to a video store. I spent every day in there and took most of the inventory when it one day closed. When the shift to DVD happened I was reluctant to switch but when I finally did I started off loading tapes. I got rid of a lot of cool stuff but still kept a good chunk. Some of my best friends all worked at a local video store and I slowly built back up what I had gotten rid of. Finally when rental stores began to close permanently I along with my friends hoarded as much as we could at the time.

 

You’ve got a bit of a focus on Elvira tapes. What’s the fascination with those?

Some of my favorite icons in media tend to be women. Ripley, Sarah Conner, Samus Aran, Lydia Deets, etc. I of course was also a fan of Elvira growing up. My dad was a fan and she was everywhere at time. There’s no better face of horror or B movie cinema than her! I had a few of her tapes forever but one day I started thinking about all these celebrity heroes of mine are starting to get up there in age. It made me want to try and get all the VHS content she released before it was impossible to find. I had a good head start and it made it more achievable. I know most of it is on YouTube but she also was a big part of VHS history so why not preserve it.

 

What are your most prized possessions in your VHS collection?

That’s a question that will have a different answer depending on when you ask it. One of them currently is called ‘Uncensored’. It’s a direct to video shot on video sketch comedy with Murray Langston (the Unknown Comic,) John Paragon, and Cassandra Peterson. It’s crude, lowbrow, and hard to come by. 

 

Do you have an ultimate goal with your collection? Like a sort of stopping point of any kind? Or are you just going for it until you run out of space?

I don’t have a goal per se. Space is an issue. I love it and hate it at the same time. I go through spurts with collecting. It’ll ramp up here and there but then sometimes I’ll downsize only to eventually build it back up. I’m sure a lot of collectors feel me on this. I would love to open a store or venue space.

 

 

How long have you been creating music, and what got you into it, initially? 

Like I said before I had rock n roll parents. My dad was constantly putting music in front of me. My earliest memory of music making me feel something was Boston’s Cool the Engines. My dad put those big over the head earphones on my tiny head and the song starts with a bunch of low ambient engine start up noises then finally explodes with that ear candy of a guitar tone. I was hooked. Taught myself guitar around 13 or so. Didn’t ever take it too seriously. When I was around 15 I got into punk rock and started a band with my friends. Since then I have been playing music regularly. I’ve been in several bands but in 2002 I got back together with those old friends and we started .justinbailey. I played with them till 2016 and then we slowed down a bit. Only playing shows every couple of years. In that down time I started learning how to chiptune. Modding gameboys and learning how to use tracker software like LSDJ.

 

What kind of gear are you using for the music you’re making now? 

For the music I’m making now I use the Dirtywave M8. It’s a handheld tracker/daw designed by Trash80. Its design is based on a gameboy running LSDJ but with a ton of modern amenities. I still use the gameboy and noodle around on hardware synths.
 
For the non chiptune stuff I use studio one. My guitar rig consists of a Line6 Helix rack that I run into computer or in conjunction with a tube head like a 5150.

 

You have two full albums right now. The first is Procrastinator, which is all original music. Then there’s a self-titled album that’s all covers of 80s movie theme songs. Both were released at the tail end of last year, within a month of each other. Was that planned, or did it just kind of happen that way?

I started teaching myself how to use LSDJ in 2012. Procrastinator is a collection of all the songs I did in LSDJ during that learning process. About 5-6 years it took for me to make all those songs. Then I just sat on em. Never released them. Just upload them on forums for critique. I played a house show under the name Bit Ripper once. After that I didn’t really do much until the Dirtywave M8 was announced and got me back into tracking. A friend suggested I start an Instagram account to show off my VHS stuff. I had no idea there was such a community. Anyway, I wanted to upload some chiptune stuff and thought doing a cover of Escape From New York theme chiptune style with the M8 sitting next to the VHS copy would be a cool post for my page. I didn’t expect it to get the response it did and it prompted me to do more. That snowballed really quickly into me making a physical release. I needed a place to host a digital download so I made a bandcamp page. I uploaded all the gameboy originals for the first time under the name ‘Procrastinator’ because of how long it had been since they were written. So it just sort of happened that way. That’s why they both came out at the same time.

 

For the album of movie themes, you did a physical release. Tell us about the packaging.

I’ve always been a fan of cool packaging. Even if I don’t care about your product I take notice on how it’s presented. Sort of like a first impression type thing. When I did releases in the past during my punk rock days it wasn’t easy or feasible to do elaborate packaging. It just made sense to make the audio cassette look like a video cassette. The dimensions are very similar. So a good buddy and frequent collaborator of mine Grant Hurlbert (@pterriblethings on IG) and I got together and came up with this design modeled after a Key Video style slipcase.

 

 

Why is physical media important?

Physical media is important because something tangible is more engaging than something digital. Holding something in your hand and interacting with it to me is more satisfactory. Also the sense of ownership. With digital media or streaming media you don’t own any of that. At any point it could be taken down or removed from a site. Also some things disappear from existence all together. It gives an additional source of revenue for the creators, allowing them to continue to take risks expressing themselves through the art of film.

 

Do you have any other projects or releases on the horizon?

I am slowly building up tracks for a Volume 2 of movie and TV show themes. I'd like to release around Halloween. I also plan to release more original material.

 

What are your top five favorite pieces of technology from the 80s and/or 90s?

Oh wow that’s a tough one.
The Nintendo Gameboy
Panasonic AG 1980 SVHS Editing VCR
Panasonic AG 500r TV/VCR combo
Sony Walkman
The Internet
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