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Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Thompson Tran the Game boy

Thompson Tran the Game boy

Listen to Thompson Tran talk about how he makes music with his gameboy



Thompson Tran may be an electrical engineering major, but his true passion is music.

With no formal musical training, Tran relies on ingenuity to create music.

For example, his most learned instrument is the Nintendo Gameboy.

“When I was younger, I wanted to play the drums,” Tran said.

He did not turn out to be much of a percussionist; in fact he didn’t bother pursuing any traditional musical instruments.

“Using electronic hardware is easier for me. I’ve been around computers all my life,” he says.

Using his engineering skills, Tran rewired the handheld console’s hardware and, under the moniker “Quangstuh,” plays and produces music in conjunction with a laptop computer and monome MIDI sequencer.

This do-it-yourself approach and attitude was the key to Tran’s introduction and gradual exposure to writing music.

Starting with his Gameboy and a piece of software he found that he was gifted.

Tran practiced producing tracks on the handheld three summers ago.

“Before my Gameboy, I had never made or learned music in my life,” he pointed out.

Tran eventually leveled up and began incorporating the use of his computer and MIDI controllers by modifying his Gameboy’s hardware to accommodate.

Discovering a versatile means to present his creative expressions has led him to branch out and find other artists similar to himself.

Tran has formed close ties with prolific musicians such as Derek Estrada and Alfred Darlington, respectively also known as Baseck and Daedelus.

“A friend of mine introduced me to Daedelus at a show, and through that encounter I heard about Baseck,” he explains.

“Once I learned that Baseck also made Gameboy music I just knew I had to talk to him,” he said.

According to Tran, meeting these artists was a huge influence on his music and its evolution.

“It’s quite hard to describe his sound, but it does have a tinge of old school video game music feel and a space-adventure trip to it,” Khanh Thai, 22-year-old University of California Long Beach student, says.

In time his relationship with Baseck presented Tran with many opportunities.

“Derek checked out my Myspace page and heard the songs I uploaded there.

“He really liked it and asked me if I wanted to do a show at the Hive Gallery,” Tran said.

With that initial gig, Tran has built a fan-base among the denizens of the Los Angeles art gallery. “Supposedly, the owner of the gallery and the resident artists enjoy my stuff.”

Despite the amount of successful progress he has made, Tran distributes his music completely for free. “This is really just a hobby.

“If someone likes my music, they ask me if I have CDs or albums for sale and I just tell them, ‘Give me your email, we’ll meet later and I’ll give you one.'”

His DIY mentality and laidback demeanor attests to the simplicity of making music in this day and age, and his fans appreciate his modus operandi.

Photographer Briana Ramos explains why Tran’s music stands out.

“Quangstuh’s music is different from everything else I have heard because it can tell a story without any lyrics. It’s catchy without needing them and it allows me to just make up my own story with whatever I am feeling. I think anyone can do this with his music and that’s what makes it so different.”

According to Tran, if he can do it then anyone can.

“I know a lot of people can make music, but they just don’t know how. You just have to know what you want to create, because you can make music with anything.”

Tran is living proof of his advice; when it comes to expressing one’s self, he has truly found a road less travelled.

“My first journal was also my first Gameboy, and it’s funny because I’m trying to express how I feel through a damn Gameboy,” Tan said.

View Thompson Tran make music with his Gameboy

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Thompson Tran the Game boy