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A Guy Has Re-Recorded An Album by Tom Waits Using Gameboy Sounds

It's the computer game and gravelly old man collaboration we've all been waiting for.

Our favourite records can occupy us in inexplicable ways. They change our lives forever, fascinate us to a point where we know them better than some of our closest friends, and sometimes turn into things we want to imitate at the expense of all subtlety. The process of covering an entire album is the domain of the super-fan; the person who owns more than the CD, T-shirt and sticker bundle. This includes Beck’s cover album series, Dev Hynes and Florence Welch’s Green Day cover album and whoever thought it was a great idea to make Dub Side Of The Moon.


Thanks to Nu Rave and Nintendocore, you can listen to many of your favourite albums like Nevermind and Pinkerton in 8-bit form. Their pop-friendly melodies make the transformation into gameboy magic pretty easy, but what about the people who like Tom Waits? Not “Closing Time” piano ballad era Tom Waits, but Batman with a throat infection rasping over arrangements that sound like a million typewriters falling down the stairs era Tom Waits. Well, Nick Budd is here to help.

Inspired by his love of the husky-voiced genius and computer game nostalgia, Budd has reworked Wait’s least accessible album Mule Variations as an 8-bit tribute - Donkey Kong Variations: A Tribute to Tom W8s.

I chatted to Nick about being the guy who turned “What’s He Building In There?” into a chiptune anthem.

Noisey: What's your musical relationship with Tom Waits and his music?
Buddy Peace: I started with Tom Waits somewhat late, around the mid 00s or so but rapidly got sucked into the middle of it. I found an internet trail from one album to another, filtering one and moving onto another and absorbing as much as I could. Which album got you though?
Mule Variations was the one that really hit me. I'd heard “What's He Building” and thought, holy shit, "THIS is Tom Waits?" it was such an amazing track. The album hit me at a perfect time, and from there I made the journey around his discography and watched his films again and read the books he talks about. It was such an enjoyable quest. I felt very ignorant for having ignored most of his output all that time, but trawling through it was a real pleasure. The Bone Machine album also kicked my ass for a long time. What in particular held you onto Tom Waits?
A huge part of it as well is the percussion and the rough and rugged tapey sound. Just the sound of an animal thrashing it out in a garage somewhere, it's so visual as well as being so primal and heavy, but also tempered with the softness and sweeter tracks too. With a sinister undercurrent though. I remember reading in an interview as well about how his son was into Sage Francis, Aesop Rock and loads of other hip hop artists which endeared me even further to him. How old were you when you got into him?
I was about twenty five, so more or less a full grown adult at that time. I think personally I was at that stage where I was prepared for his style and persona, kind of in a place more ready to appreciate him really. What do you think of 8 bit albums as a concept?
I find the 8 bit scene fascinating and it comes with a built in nostalgia element as I grew up playing computer games with that sound, and spent many hours with these tones as my musical backdrop. So when I hear albums in this style or covers my ears are immediately drawn to them as it brings back memories as instantly as a sense of smell for me.


What do you get from them?
Covers in 8 bit style can bring out hidden elements too, which I realised from making this. I loved the originals but hearing them after I'd keyed them in layer by layer in these digital tones made me enjoy them in a whole new way. What inspired you to do the cover record in the first place?
I had the music book for the whole album and I knew I wanted to do something with it, whether I actually taught myself how to play it from scratch and unearth the demons of 25 years having not played piano. I figured well music’s not going to happen, seriously. So I thought about ways I could adapt it to my own interests and suddenly the 8bit sound sprang to mind, along with the Tom W8s name, and how I could change Mule Variations to Donkey Kong Variations and I fully committed to the idea from there!

Was it quite a challenge?
It did take quite a lot of time. making sure I had everything correct and authentic, and then mixing it and whatnot, but I'm really pleased I followed through with it. If not to create something interesting for listeners then to satisfy my own needs and desires.

How do you go about 8 biting an artist’s work?
With this album I had the music book and I basically keyed in everything (not in real time) and made sure the notes were the same values, everything was in the correct key, all that. I then mixed everything and made sure the levels were straight without getting too wild with edits (I wanted them to be quite linear and still straight up songs) and that was it really.

And what was the hardest part?
The most time consuming part was the checking stage, making sure it was faithful to the originals. Also resisting throwing beats underneath everything! I was tempted but this wasn't about that. I work with beats and drums all the time so this was a very refreshing getaway from that to be honest. Are you planning on 8 biting any more artists?
I have a few up my sleeve - one I'm definitely doing but will take some time so I'm keeping that quiet for now, but I will unveil things as soon as I have them more finalised! I'm really excited about one in particular, and I can't wait to hear that in this style but yeah - word will be announced in due course, for certain! Thanks Buddy!

Follow Dan on Twitter: @KeenDang