If you don’t already know the name Simon Curtis, you need to. Some of his younger fans may know him from his role on Nickelodeon’s Spectacular!, and a spot on a little known Disney show called Hannah Montana. But since earlier this year, the 24-year-old has focused his multi-talented efforts on his first album, titled 8Bit Heart. Released in March, the 13-track electronic collection contains tunes that range in topic from Simon’s Atari-playing days, to an Android love affair, effortlessly flowing from bass-driven pop, to sweet love songs. With the occasional voice-over track laid over chiptunes to serve as narration for the audio adventure, 8Bit Heart ultimately is a cohesively crafted piece of musical perfection. And did I mention the entire album is free off Simon’s official website? If there is any new singer/songwriter/performer to keep your eye on right now, it’s Simon Curtis.
I had a chance to interview the self proclaimed “Boy Robot” to talk about all things gaming, tech and of course, his upcoming album:
Jason Leavey: So Mr. Curtis. What’s it like being the original “Boy Robot?”
Simon Curtis: Haha, I must admit it’s a lot of responsibility. Lots of games to play, lots of gadgets to oogle over, electronic music to make, etc. It can be a lot to handle!
JL: What inspired the album’s [8Bit Heart] apparent technological theme?
SC: The entire project was inspired by my love for 8-Bit video games, science fiction, and 80′s fantasy movies (The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, etc.) We used old Commodore 64 sounds to create modern electronic pop tracks. Once I had the idea for the concept I was totally enamored.
JL: So I take it you would classify yourself as a techy?
SC: God yes, I live for gadgets. I spend way too much time obsessing over gadgetry (mobile devices are my forte and primary passion- none of my friends will ever purchase a new phone without consulting me first! ha). The amount of time I devote to [websites] Gizmodo, Engadget Mobile, and Boy Genius [Report] is slightly ridiculous.
JL: Mobile forte? Okay, so iPhone or Android? What do you choose?
SC: I had a first generation iPhone and grew out of it after almost two years. Jumped ship to a Palm Pre, and now I have my eye on the Samsung Epic 4G… ready to be an Android boy
JL: Great choice,… Android is the future! Your track “Joystick” is the ultimate gamer anthem. When did you first fall in love with video games yourself?
SC: I’m glad you caught on, the song is so… subtle. I was writing a video game inspired album, so I couldn’t resist including a song called “Joystick.” I’ve always loved games, I grew up on Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis… everything. I think the first time I genuinely fell in LOVE with a game was when I finally beat [The Legend of Zelda] Link’s Awakening in fifth grade… I got so swept up in the story and the music that I started crying. I couldn’t believe a game was affecting me like that, but when I saw Malon disappearing into oblivion and Link waking up in the sea… I just lost it. I knew then that games could be just as an effective way to tell a meaningful story as a book, movie, or song.
JL: I have to ask; do you have a favorite video game of all-time?
SC: [The Legend of Zelda] Ocarina of Time, not even a question. It’s addictive, was so innovative for its time, completely beautiful, and just perfect in every way. I don’t think a game will ever be able to beat it.
JL: Couldn’t agree more! So back to music — your style is pretty unique. Do you have any modern influences?
SC: I’ve always been heavily inspired by Swedish pop; people like Max Martin and Kristian Lundin who made Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys and crafted the sound that influenced my childhood so much. Britney, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga – they’re all huge influences to me. I love pure pop and the engaging popstars who make it.
JL: Any interest in doing a duet in the future,… say with Britney?
SC: Yes and Yes. Please.
JL: What’s it been like being on stage performing your own material?
SC: Truly the most exhilarating feeling in the world!
JL: Does your love for all things “8-bit” mean you prefer retro gaming, or do you consider yourself a next-gen console gamer?
SC: My favorite game of the past decade could very well be Geometry Wars, so I think it might be safe to say that I have a penchant for nostalgic gaming. I love retro-stylized games that are quick and simple, yet deceptively deep and rich in gameplay. Artistic gaming – that’s a good way to describe what I’m into these days. I am still upset that I never was able to get my hands on a single one of the special Gameboy Advance mini-games that came out several years back as exclusive Club Nintendo treats in Japan. There was one called Lineracer or something of the sort that I would still KILL to get my hands on today. Sigh, the one that got away! Haha.
JL: Are you playing anything fun right now, or have your eyes on anything coming out soon?
SC: I was able to go to the big E3 Cirque du Soliel launch of Kinect and I have to admit I cannot wait to get one in my living room – it was so effortless and promising. Halo Reach has my eye, and Animal Crossing is always a favorite.
JL: Now I know you like Pokemon. So in the heat of the battle, what’s your Pokemon of choice?
SC: Well, as a proud Pokemon fiend (I clocked in over 300 hours on Red, 250 on Silver, 250 on Yellow… it was a bit touch and go there for a bit, not gonna lie) I would have to say Mew. I always had a bit of an obsession with the unobtainable Legendaries, and since Mew was the first (and not to mention rather adept with Psychic abilities- my favorite), she kind of stole my heart early on.
JL: Why did you decide to offer 8Bit Heart for free via your website?
SC: Offering my first album for free was a great way to show the online world what I do, what I’m going to do, what kind of artist I’m going to be in my career, and it accomplished that goal rather well. To date I’ve had well over 300,000 downloads and been a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, twice. It definitely accomplished all of the goals I set for it
JL: Since you’re a techy at heart, are you planning on taking your follow up album in a similar direction? Any hints on when we can expect it?
SC: I will admit that the new album is continuing with a science fiction theme, but the video games are being somewhat left behind. Release date is yet to be announced, but I’m about halfway through recording it, so it will be just a little longer. The first batch of songs for it are incredible, better than anything on the first album, if I may say so myself
JL: We can’t wait for it. Okay, last question! What’s something crazy your fans don’t know about you?
SC: I am obsessed with fat housecats and Gnomes.
-For more information about Simon Curtis, including a link to download his full debut album 8Bit Heart, visit the official Simon Curtis website.
-You can also follow him on Twitter @SimonCurtis
[Image by Tyler Shields]