Cigarettes After Sex on Videogame Music
Videogames will never be sexy, so naturally videogame music doesn’t stand any kind of chance.
However, as someone who writes exclusively about love & sex to the point where the word sex is in my actual band name, it’s interesting how much videogame music has informed my taste & style over the years & how it’s also related directly to sex throughout the course of my life. It’s been a deep obsession of mine for as long as I can remember, though one I can rarely speak about due to its unpopularity or apathy in so-called artistic circles.
When people think of game music maybe they think of the theme from Super Mario Bros. or something like the Russian folk song “Korobeiniki” that’s been used in various versions of Tetris. Those are both great songs of course, but to get my point across here I’m going to talk about the music that usually only videogame enthusiasts know anything about.
The first piece of game music to really affect me in a profound way was from the game Metroid. I remember watching my older brother play the game on a small television set he had hidden in his dresser lying under a Nintendo Entertainment System we had received for Christmas the previous year. I was 6 years old & watched in awe at the strangeness & mystery of the game as it unfolded before me, though it wasn’t very long before that excitement changed into something overwhelming. He soon reached an area named “Kraid’s Hideout” which was accompanied by a bizarre & haunting melody. This melody terrified me & in an attempt to escape the feelings it was causing I recall frightenedly hiding behind his bed at that moment, not from the visuals, but from the music itself.
Time moved forward & systems upgraded as they do, going from 8-bit to 16-bit, like the transition from grade school to junior high. I had always been interested in girls from a young age, but now that had moved into actually watching softcore porn VHS tapes in secret. I also noticed some of the softcore soundtracks resembling some of the Super Nintendo ones. The soundtracks for Donkey Kong Country & Virtual Desire blurred into one another. Two of my favorites. I also found myself fantasizing about the female characters from certain games: B. Orchid from Killer Instinct, Chun-Li from Street Fighter II, Kitana from Mortal Kombat II, Mai Shiranui from The King of Fighters… Sex & games were beginning to ally themselves in a certain way. They were things done in solitude behind closed doors late at night with only the glow of the television lighting the room.
One weekend I rented a game titled Final Fantasy III for the Super Nintendo from a rental store called Major Players that I used to walk to after school. I came home, inserted the cartridge into the system & as soon as the “Opening Theme” came on I had already found myself deeply in love.
I loved the music so much in fact that I found a way to record it onto blank 90-minute Maxell cassette tapes with a home stereo in my bedroom. I listened to these tapes endlessly & took them everywhere. I took them on a camping trip where my cousin & I broke into a stranger’s cabin & smoked pot inside while listening. I used them to drift off to sleep when my mind was restless & found they somehow always did the trick when everything else failed. I took them to 7th grade on my Walkman & when I nervously showed them to a girl I liked in class who asked what I was listening to she said, “this sounds like elevator music.” I soon acquired the official 3-CD soundtrack by mail order from Japan for the odd, symmetrical price of $56.65 & it rarely left my stereo for years. In high school my friend Ray & I would take acid & listen to it in his room most weekends after band practice & in college it would occasionally be on when my girlfriend & I made love into the early hours of the morning.
Needless to say videogame music has meant as much to me as any other music. It can be primitive, it can be seen as just a caricature of other “serious” music, it can be dismissed due to its associations with a medium viewed as entertainment primarily for kids, but there’s no changing the personal experiences I’ve had with the music & how it’s defined me as an artist up to this moment. If you listen to the music of Cigarettes After Sex you are hearing this influence whether you can spot it or not & if you come to any of our shows you’ll be listening to videogame music interspersed in the playlists I’ve selected to set the mood before we go on stage every night.