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Ten Thousand Free Men, Their Families…and their Game Boys

Written by Jessie Smith on September 11, 2008

PA – DING!!! It is a well-known fact that 19-year-old boys are notorious for playing with themselves – but musician Tom Gilmore, under the epic guise of “Ten Thousand Free Men and Their Families” has taken this concept to the next level. Bored of being let down by band members who were not prepared to put in as much effort as he was – he gave collaborations the middle finger and decided to push all his own buttons; by making tunes using the greatest baby sitter ever invented – the Nintendo Game Boy. Anyone can play guitar, but it’s not like they teach you how to play video games at the Con – so Music Feeds decided to ask him, how the fuck does he do it?

“I use home brewed programs made by people a lot smarter then me. They are called ‘NanoLoop’ and ‘Little Sound DJ’. NanoLoop is a 16-step sequencer, similar to a drum machine, so you can make notes of what ever you want within the frame of a Game boy sound chip. It lets you write a loop live, trigger and pre write loops and fuck around with them like that. The first time I heard it, it felt like half of my life summed up in a sound.”

Nintendo first released the Game Boy in 1989, a year before the lad who was to become ‘Ten Thousand Free Men and Their Families’, was born. Since then, the hand held thumb exercisers have evolved to having colored screens, being more compact and been re-packaged from the plastic mute grey that was synonymous with their name, to being available in a variety of colours – they even went and got themselves cameras, which have a secret music sequencer inside, known as Trippy-H, which is what is used to create this live sound.

Unfortunately, these units are no longer available in stores, so Gilmore started to import blank cartridges and hunting for Game Boys and cameras on eBay. The way that the technology was developed at the time meant that unless you took another photo after you deleted one, your old photo would stay in the camera’s memory. “All these people delete their photos before they send them to me in the mail, but they are actually still there. The first thing I do before I use the camera is see what photos are on the cartridge. Man, some of the shit you find on there is just not right, some people are pretty fucked up.”

“It is hilarious how many drunken 20 to 30 year old men get excited when they hear I am making music with Game Boys – They are all like, ‘WOW. FUCKING… WOW!” But Game Boy music has a following in Europe and the US.” Christ –  There is even a festival paying homage to this concept in New York called the ‘Blip Festival’. “People will make their own opinions of what I do, but as long as they know what it is, then there is a possible plausible future in it. But you have to go to the people – I once played a gig in a UTS lift. We went up 26 floors and pressed every button on the way. I played every floor until we got to the top. Eight people came with me and then there were all these old people getting in and out of the lift. It was amazing.”

You can see what it’s all about for yourself when Ten Thousand Freemen and Their Families take to the stage at the next Birds Robe Collective night on the 25th of September at Herman’s Bar Sydney Uni.

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