I Talked To A Guy Selling A Rare Pepe Gameboy
The “Rare Pepe” meme is to some a very clever reinterpretation of a character from Matt Furie’s comic Boy’s Club, or another annoying idea from the many tween minds that hang out on tumblr and 4chan. The Chiptune community has grown up on such fineries, and so it was inevitable that a pepe would pop up on something like a gameboy. Last week an auction for a modified gameboy with pepe himself appeared on eBay, and the bids skyrocketed to more than $7,000 dollars. Kurrent Music and The Synth Warehouse got to sit down with “King Pepe”, the seller of this dank meme, to talk about how it exploded almost overnight, modding Gameboys, and plugging a project or two.
TSW: So first off, would you like to share your name or keep it anon, or do you have a pseudonym?
King Pepe: Originally I was gonna just go by "King Pepe" (for the lolz or whatever), but due to recent events I'm alright with giving my actual name, haha. I'm Joshua Barnard, AKA Josh-Shmosh on the internet. I'm from Tennessee. Currently living in Cookeville, specifically. Attending college.
TSW: What inspired this auction in the first place?
King Pepe: Some odd combination of boredom and the bad influence of my friend Evan Butler. (He helped put this all together, though he's not able to be here for the interview at the moment)
TSW: What was his part in this? Was he whispering "Do it for the memes" in your ear?
King Pepe: hahaha, basically. I was originally planning on putting together a few simple/silly meme-themed Gameboys. First was going to be Dickbutt (the apparent mascot of the chiptune community these days), then Doge, (why not?) and then Pepe (because omg rare!!1!1!!!). I was visiting Evan and we talked about it and he kinda decided to just run with the Pepe and turn it into the huge ordeal it ended up being.
TSW: You must be a member of Chiptunes = Win?
King Pepe: Indeed I am! Not as a musician, though. I dabble with music a bit but I'm mainly just a modder.
TSW: Part of why I noticed this auction is because most of my friends are chip musicians. The moment I saw it was modded with prosound I knew you had to be chip affiliated.
King Pepe: yyyyyyyep!
TSW: What happened with the auction?
King Pepe: We started it out with an opening bid of $9.11 and a buy-it-now price of $420.69. I made a single post on /b/ with a screenshot of the auction. No comment, no link, no context. It only took a couple minutes before it'd been reposted to their various videogame boards and people started bidding on it. IIRC all of the bids were from legit accounts up until around the $1,600 mark. It was kind of hilarious.
TSW: It sounds hilarious.
King Pepe: And we only had around 4000 views on the auction. Then the second or third night it was up I refreshed the page and it had jumped up to 11,000 views. We started getting a bunch more bids again, but this time it seemed to be mostly shill bids. We were trying to figure out what had happened and a little while later one of our friends messaged us and let us know the auction had been posted to TinyCartridge-
TSW: Makes sense, one of the bloggers on there is also in the chip community.
King Pepe: The comments on tumblr were great. Things ranging from "omg this is great" to "this is the worst thing I've ever seen can we just please end the fucking planet now”. [Then] the occasional comments about Evan's hairy legs in the photos of the Gameboy. There was one along the lines of "I can tell by how hairy this guy's legs are that he has a massive neckbeard" (He doesn’t actually).
TSW: Oh, Tumblr.
King Pepe: It also made the rounds on twitter and a couple other message boards, but those are harder to keep track of. Anyway, middle of the night last night my phone started going crazy letting me know people started bidding again. It jumped from around $2000 or so to $7766.69 within half an hour. Again, mostly shill bids from brand new accounts, but one of the accounts actually had a decent amount of feedback. Maybe they could've actually paid that much, hahah. A couple hours ago, though. Evan texted me. "Josh! They took down the auction!"
TSW: Whoa. Did you freak out when you saw what it jumped to?
King Pepe: I did a little bit, but at the same time I wasn't that surprised. People list goofy stuff like this on eBay that that sell for crazy amounts all the time. And plus, there are people that have sold flash drives full of images of Pepe on eBay for several hundred dollars before. The Pepe Economy is no joke, apparently.
TSW: Them Pepe’s are rare. Did eBay give an official reason for taking down the auction?
King Pepe: I did receive this email.
King Pepe: I gave them a call and after being forwarded to a million different eBay reps, one of them came to the conclusion that the account was "probably suspended because of false contact information". When I made the [King Pepe] eBay account, I entered my name as "Pepe Memer" rather than my actual name, which seems like a pretty BS reason for suspension to me.
TSW: My guess is they saw the outrageously high bids on what they saw as just a Gameboy and called BS.
King Pepe: Probably. I told them I was simply "Joshua Barnard, DBA Pepe Memer", and asked if they could just correct the information on the account and reinstate it, but they said they couldn't appeal the ban.
TSW: What buzzkills. Can’t a guy just sell memes on the internet?
King Pepe: I know, right? eBay is totally anti-meme and anti-small-business :p
TSW: Tell me more about the Gameboy itself. I know it was prosound modded, but explain for the audience what that is.
King Pepe: Basically, the headphone jack has been rewired in a way that cuts out all of the original Game Boy's background hum/static. It makes it a bit quieter when using headphones, but it's a HUGE help when recording or performing music.
TSW: What sort of mods are usually done to Gameboys? Is it mainly sound? What mods do you typically install?
King Pepe: The main thing everybody usually wants more than anything else is a backlight. When I was 6 years old and wanted to play in poor lighting conditions, I either had to pay an extra $15 or so for one of these bad boys or gaming in the dark was a no-go. As far as stuff I do, it's all mainly custom commissioned and I'm up for putting together whatever the customer wants. Most people just want a neat paintjob with a backlight and prosound, but I've also played around with built-in Arduinos for midi synchronization, variable clocks (speed up or slow down the system), and LSDJ keyboards (basically turning a computer keyboard into a keytar of sorts for use with the Game Boy. Google it, it's really neat.)
TSW: Definitely. I had a few worm lights when I was a small child.
King Pepe: I was never too fond of the wormlights, tbh. They were a bit TOO bright and made an awful glare on the screen so you could only look at it from a certain angle. Maybe that's just me, though. And with the Light Boy I linked to a minute ago, you also had to buy batteries all the time, which kinda sucked. But now with $10 or so and a bit of soldering, anyone can have a backlit Game Boy! And they come in all sorts of colors, too.
TSW: A friend of mine has a Gameboy with three switches at the top that toggle between mixes of light, which is one of the coolest mods I’ve ever seen.
King Pepe: Oh yeah, those are super-neat! They're a bit dimmer than other models, but having the option to switch colors on the fly is great. Especially when you combine it with a transparent shell and case LEDs that can change color too.
TSW: Who are your favorite chip musicians?
King Pepe: Trey Frey, Ultrasyd, Chibitech, The J. Arthur Keenes Band (though he's kinda moved away from chip...) Bit Shifter's great, but I wish he would release some new stuff. He's been saying that he will "soon" for like the past three years, lol.
TSW: Chip musicians got them day job blues. Okay, two more things, one kinda jokey, one not. How disappointed are you that i'm not from vice/thump, and do you have any final shoutouts/thoughts/words?
King Pepe: Well, I'm not too sure Vice would be interested in chipmusic or memes, and I live under a rock and have no idea what Thump is.
TSW: Thump is Vice’s offshoot electronic music-themed blog.
King Pepe: Ah.
TSW: they actually just did an article on IAYD.
King Pepe: Oh, seriously? That's awesome! So, final shoutouts/thoughts/words... I suppose I should link you to my Tumblr and give you my email address, since modding game systems is what's currently paying my way through college! Tumblr is josh-shmosh.tumblr.com, and my email address for business inquiries is JoshShmoshMedia@Gmail.com. Though I'm mostly known for Nintendo handhelds, I've done all sorts of stuff with systems ranging from the Atari ST to the PS4. Oh, and check out Evan's book. It's actually pretty entertaining. http://www.lulu.com/shop/evan-butler/guardians-of-life/paperback/product-22259245.html
TSW: Rad! Thanks for talking to me about this very dank meme.
King Pepe: No problem! Thanks for having me.