This story begins back when I was a junior at Radford University in 2002. I used to write funny rhymes with my buddies in high school, and make beats on the desk with my hands (or the counter at McDonald’s where I took customers’ orders).
As a college student, I decided to start rapping under the name Optimus Rhyme (yes, I love Transformers). Turns out like 5 other bands or rappers had that name before me but I thought I was original.
Soon enough, I met up with Roger Rap-It and DJ Tanner, and we formed the Cold Cutt Trio – named after our favorite Subway™ sandwich at the time. My tastes have since upgraded to the Roasted Chicken breast, but that’s another story.
We wrote 3 songs, made (horrible) beats for them using Cakewalk, and began performing at coffee shops and open mic nights around Radford.
(Prior to this, I enjoyed going to Poetry Readings and reciting lyrics to Grandmaster Flash songs about growing up in the ghetto with a straight face. About 1/4th of the audience would get the joke and chuckle. Everyone else was getting into it and getting misty-eyed! LOL…I can be a bit of a troll).
Anyway, here’s a press clipping of Roger Rap-It and I at the time from the Radford student newspaper…
Well, we ended up pulling an all-nighter and recording our three songs in Roger's room at the last minute before I graduated. Seriously...I literally left his house at 7:00am, put on my cap & gown, attended graduation, and got the hell out of Dodge.
Our lyrics were witty, but the delivery was cringe-worthy. I won't humiliate myself by sharing it, but if one were so inclined I'm sure they could find our shit on the now-defunct MySpace.
Fast forward 9-10 years or so, and I found myself in my thirties looking back at my life since graduation day. I had started a business, worked my ass off, grew it, gotten married, and had two beautiful little girls – but subsequently experienced a business failure, lots of debt, divorced, and living by myself far away from any friends and family. Life sucked.
Looking back at where things went awry, I realized that I had abandoned my dreams of making music to chase the allmighty dollar. Not to say you can’t do both. I just chose to focus too much on one aspect of my life, to the detriment of others.
Having recently watched the Jim Carrey movie “Yes Man,” I felt inspired to start performing again. If you recall, his girlfriend in that movie had a super-eccentric and bizarre band that wore dinosaur heads and played the key-tar to a crowd of 6 loyal fans.
I thought to myself, “I’d like to make something that ridiculous. Even if I only have a handful of fans it will still be worth it.” And that’s how you know when you’re on to something that truly excites you…if you’d do it for free as a passion project.
But what? How? I didn’t know. But as they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Catching the Video Game Vision
One day, I saw an ad for Rockage: a video game music festival in San Jose, CA (where I lived). Video game music! That’s a thing?! Damn right it is. There’s a whole scene for it. I just didn’t know.
But you better believe I love playing video game music. I learned to play the piano in college, and after a few years I decided that classical music wasn’t my thing. So I put down the practice book and got sheet music for all my favorite themes and played them instead – video games, TV shows, movie themes, etc. I don’t know why but I really, really love playing those.
At Rockage, I saw performers like Bit Brigade (a rock band that plays video game music live, while their band member flawlessly completes the game on a screen behind them), and Mega Ran (a teacher-turned-rapper who began making beats inspired by Mega Man music and rapping over them).
Needless to say, I caught the vision! I decided then and there to start making music again.
For that reason, it ended up being a pivotal day in my life…and also because I won 2nd place in a Street Fighter II Turbo contest, as Zangief, no less, before losing to Apollo Ono’s doppelganger:
Back in the Game
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve had the privilege of making friends with dozens of artists in this music scene, performing at such venues as the DNA Lounge in San Francisco and various video game festivals, including Rockage – the event that started it all.
I professionally recorded and produced my debut LP, “Big Album,” thanks to support from my fans, who covered half the production costs through their donations.
And, since moving to Richmond, VA, I changed my style up a bit, to focus on mashups, scratching the turntables, and putting on killer house parties for my friends. And changed my name from Big Al to the 8-Bit Mullet you now know.
But as gratifying as it is to come up with a new arrangement of old classics, or put on a wild show, or get attention or whatever as a Z-list Internet Celebrity, it’s not what keeps me going.
It’s watching people smile…seeing their eyes light up at a new mix…partying with friends both new and old at festivals and shows…
And it’s a million other little experiences that define what it means to be a musician. At least that’s the way it’s been for me. It’s knowing those things first-hand that makes me a musician and makes all the effort (and costs) worthwhile.
It's all for you!
But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, it’s YOU, the listener, that makes all of it matter.
I look forward to many more experiences along this musical journey - sometimes hard, sometimes ugly, but always worthwhile. I hope you’ll continue to join me on this fantastic voyage.
If you'd like to see a recap of my musical journey, the best way is to see the montage of crazy clips in this video below. (I made it for a kickstarter campaign a year ago, so ignore that part at the end. Unless you want to help support my music, in which case there's a page for that here).
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter!