What do punk rock music and geeks have in common? The Venn diagram intersects at Dan Reynoso, a veteran Sacramento punk rocker and the host of a new PBS show called “Beyond Geek.”
Reynoso teaches fourth grade, plays in multiple bands, and moonlights as a masked wrestler. But prior to “Beyond Geek,” he’d never hosted a TV show.
"Beyond Geek"'s creator, Joe Gillis, knew Reynoso from putting together a DVD for Reynoso’s band The Knockoffs. Gillis was looking for a host and Reynoso seemed like a good fit.
“[Gillis] had enough of TV-show-host types,” Reynoso said. “[He] just wanted to work with people he liked, for some reason I stood out as someone he liked.”
So Reynoso began traveling with the crew, exploring sections of a culture usually overlooked by the masses but obsessed over by the few. One of those episodes brought him to the home of Seth and Michelle Sternberger, a husband-and-wife team who make up the chiptune band 8 Bit Weapon.
What’s chiptune you might ask? 8-bit or chip music is the art of making electronic music using the sound chips from vintage computers, video game consoles and arcade games. Seth started making chip music in 1999 and it was through the music that he met Michelle, who joined the band in 2006.
When they started making music the chiptune genre was in its infancy. Since then it has expanded with new artists coming into the scene regularly. 8 Bit Weapon was featured on G4TV’s Attack Of The Show and had a write-up in the Los Angeles Times. Their music was even used in an exhibit on the art of video games at The Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Gillis wanted them on “Beyond Geek” because he liked their music and story.
“I like them a lot. I was sort of a fanboy,” Gillis said.
The fact that it’s a husband-wife team was a plus.
“There are a lot of females that are into geeky things and I don’t think that gets shown as much as the guys,” Gillis said. "Anywhere I can show the female aspect - that doesn’t hurt. I think it’s an important part of the equation."
But what makes 8 Bit Weapon beyond geek?
“These guys are actually using the old Commodore 64, the Apple II and the old Nintendo NES system to make their music. Those are their instruments and that’s what makes them beyond geek,” explained Gillis. “On top of just making the music, they actually created software to use the Apple II as either a keyboard or drum machine.”
On "Beyond Geek," Reynoso related to Seth and Michelle as a fellow musician. From the very start of the interview they were able to geek out together about making music.
Seth and Michelle said talking with Reynoso was so natural, it felt like talking with a friend. “It takes geeks to cover geeks,” Michelle said.
Reynoso freely admits to being a geek. He geeks out over the things he’s passionate about - teaching, wrestling, punk. Having geeks cover geeks was part of creator Gillis’s vision for “Beyond Geek.”
“The show’s about people who take geek to the next level,” Gillis said. “I’m treating them with respect, I’m not trying to make fun of them. It’s not a freak show.”
Gillis hopes non-geeks will find each subject as interesting as he does.
“People are going to watch it out of curiosity or they think it might be cool,” Gillis said. “Either way, if they watch it I think I can get them hooked.”
This Saturday, “Beyond Geek” wraps up shooting with a concert at The Blue Lamp on Alhambra Boulevard in Sacramento. 8 Bit Weapon is headlining, Reynoso’s band the Moans is playing along with The Devils Train and Shoujo Kitten.
“We actually prefer playing with bands that aren’t chip,” Michelle said. “[We] don’t want to get inundated with that sound.”
Reynoso said he’ll be joining Seth and Michelle to play “drums” on Gameboy for a few songs. He has played music in Sacramento since 1991 but this will be his first time performing on a Gameboy.
The series airs nationally on PBS starting in October. If you want a chance to get on TV head over to The Blue Lamp on Saturday for a free punk rock/chip music show.
Want to check out what "Beyond Geek" as a series would sound like in chip music? Gillis graciously gave us an album of chip music inspired by the series created by the composer of "Beyond Geek" David Limutau and we get to share it with you.