The Commodore C64 Music Scene - and how it has evolved..
By Steve Drysdale
When the Commodore 64 was released in 1982 it took the world by storm, with its colourful yet sometimes blocky graphics and the music and sound from its dedicated SID(sound interface device) 6581 chip, it was the computer everyone wanted. There was a vast variety of games available and in america there was a C64 in almost every home in the country.
During its life-span the C64 sales totalled between 12.5 and 17 million units - making it the best selling home computer on the market. Even to this day the C64 is still widely used and played, many people still making SID tunes, but more and more people are turning to making remixes of popular SID tunes and releasing them on the internet on sites such as http://remix.kwed.org and hoping they'll be played on the popular C64 radio station Slayradio (www.slayradio.org) who also have regular live shows playing requests and talking about their beloved C64's, there is even an online store where you can purchase C64 related cds at www.c64audio.com, so to say the C64 is dead would be a HUGE understatement!
I had the opportunity to catch up with some of the people in the C64 music scenes inception and growth, namely Reyn Ouwehand of the maniacs of noise, Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway and also three of the most well known names in the C64 music scene - Chris Abbott, Alistair 'Boz' Bowness and Jason 'Kenz' Mckenzie
The C64 Musicians
Born January 3rd 1966 in Belfast
Started writing games and music in 1983 for the BBC Micro computer
Famous for C64 sids such as Rambo: First Blood Part II, Parallax and Wizball
Born 1955 in Kingston Upon-Hull England
After writing some demos and educational software for learning music he landed a job with Gremlin Graphics
Famous for many sids, especially Sanxion
Born 2nd August 1973 in Holland
Also a member of the music group ‘Maniacs Of Noise’
Best known for SID’s such as Last Ninja 3 and is still very active in the C64 scene
The C64 Sceners
Owner and proprietor of c64 music cd purchasing of cds and the like website www.c64audio.com.
He also likes baked potatoes!
Alistair 'Boz' Bowness
Born…in england somewhere,
has a regular weekly show on Slay Radio called ‘BBB’ which stands for Boz’ Bit’o Bollocks.
Original Z Show member!
His potatoes tend to be in Chip form!
Jason 'Kenz' Mackenzie
Kenz is well known for being regularly on the video-game show ‘Bits’ (when it was on telly that is!)
and not only has his own website BinaryZone, but he also runs Emily Bouffs website too!
He likes cheese with his potatoes
The first interviews I did were with the SID composers.
Key: MG – Martin Galway, RH – Rob Hubbard, RO – Reyn Ouwehand
Growing up who were your musical influences?
MG: Let's see, when I was very young I took notice of weird bands like Sparks when they put out their
This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us and of course Gary Glitter was the king. Once I started actually getting into buying records, electronic music was much more interesting and I was listening to Jean Michel Jarre, but I also bought some New Musik, John Foxx, OMD and Ultravox. I also was into Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk in my mind, but didn't buy any of their records until later.
RO: I was very influenced by film music and particular John Williams and the movie ET. That made me decide I wanted to do something with music. After that and during my C64 period I listened mostly to (bad) '80s music. I guess that's a generation thing.
RH: Lots! Everything from Mozart to Michael Brecker, and Beatles to Jarre
How did you get into the business of making music for the commodore 64 games?
MG: Well I was at Ocean trying to sell a BBC Micro game that I had worked on with a friend of mine (which they bought but never published) - and when I rolled out my BBC Micro music that I had created on my school's computers (as I could not afford a BBC Micro of my own) they realised they might have a solution for sound and music on the C64, which they really didn't have at the time. They lent me a Commodore 64, programming manual, assembler and cassette deck and told me to get cracking on it!
RO: I think because some of the people I hang out with from the demo scene at that time. Groups like Scoop and the Boys Without Brains started to make games themselves instead of just demos and needed music for it. In combination with the fact that I got noticed by Charles Deenen and became a member of the Maniacs of Noise who already shifted to just making music for games.
RH: I started to learned BASIC and then 6502. I did some experimental educational software and then I did a game that was never published. I then decided to just do the music and sound effects, since much of it was so bad. Eventually I got offered a couple of jobs and then it all started.
If there was a SID you could back and do again, which one would it be and why?
MG: Probably the title screen music for
Green Beret, it was a little thin on inspiration! I would replace it with something grim and meaty, inspired by Han Zimmer's
The Thin Red Line score - but time travelling tricks of that nature are outlawed, aren't they?
RO: I think pretty much all of them. I think one of the goals of a musician is to get better and better at what he does. Not just the technical skills, but also the composing itself. There is always something that could have been done better. Even if a melody was working good back then, I would have done the 'phrasing' way different; to make the melody breath by adding stops (to breath) to the melody, or when and where to put the vibrato, etc.
And that is besides the fact that pretty much all my sounds sucked big time. I wasn't a programmer and that makes it really hard to be a chip-composer. I think the best composers those days were both. Both a good composer and a good programmer. Luckily at the end I was saved by Falco Paul from 20CC who fixed most of my sounds. I believe most of my later work are my best ones mostly because of his input.
RH: Probably most of them! Why? Because I really thought it was all very short term work - games would be around 2 months and than trashed. If I'd had known the music would have lasted 30 years it would have been different.
When composing the music onto the SID chip, was it a complicated business or was it a very simple job to do?
RH: No it was very tedious. But it was still great fun to do, because the 6502 was so simple and elegant. Also the games very generally more innovative back them.
RO: Well, honestly it was a bit of a drag. Like i said, I wasn't a programmer at all and to insert notes one by one in $hex was just plain awful. Although I used the DUSAT Music Assembler for a while. The sounds weren't that great (at least not how I made them), but the editor and GUI was way more user friendly. However, later with Maniacs of Noise and the editor of Falco Paul were both in Turbo Assembler which meant more $hex. But when the Amiga came and it started to sound more like 'real music' because of the use of samples I wanted to move on. The SID chip had it's own and unique sound but because of the use of low quality samples with the Amiga it was still far from the quality of 'real' music. That's when I started to shift to non-chip music and recording real instruments. Also at that time I entered to a special music for young kids which was connected to the Conservatory in Rotterdam and got more interested in studying the piano and playing live instead of programming a song into a computer.
MG: It was oddly simple. With only 3 sound generators, there's not a lot of arranging complexity. Composing for the SID is rather like composing for 3-part acapella. You have to boil your music down to the bare essentials. This made it rather simple and the solutions had to be elegant.
What was the biggest stumbling block you encountered while composing for the SID chip?
RH: Just the total lack of resources - only 3 voices, and very primative sound capabilities compared to the synths that were around at that time. It wasn't the 6502 or the programming.
MG: Honestly, the documentation for the SID was very sparse. It was regularly capable of a lot more than the programming manual indicated, and there was a lot of research required to figure out all the tricks. I actually stopped advancing with it when my own programming prowess started to become a roadblock. I needed to team up with a hotter programmer but it never happened. I'll give you two other problems I was never able to solve - firstly, the SID's well-known variation in filter performance from chip to chip was a pain. It stopped me from exploiting that feature more regularly, since I couldn't tell it fhe work would be a waste of time or not (some SIDs sounded terrible when playing filtered sounds). Secondly, it seemed like the hardware envelope generator had random quirks that caused accelerated attack stages to occur. Instead of taking (say) 50ms for an attack, it would do it in 25ms. This would occur randomly, so over a series of repeated notes that were all supposed to have the same volume envelopes, the chip would sound like it was tripping over itself trying to do what I was commanding it to play. I called this the
school band effect. Never did figure out a way to eliminate it with it.
RO: Making the sounds work. I had the perfect sounds in my head but I never could make it work on the real thing. That's why I was so grateful that people like Falco Paul helped me with it and made me sound like I never could have dreamt of.
There has been a lot of talk over the years of musicians on the SID plagiarising other peoples work, what do you think of this and have you ever done it?
RO: I think I did a few covers but not a lot. Making covers is ok though. A lot of the work from Hubbard are covers. The more I got older the more I discovered that A LOT of his music has been covers. I'm totally fine with that. I can still enjoy them just as much and often they sounded better then the original.
MG: It's well known that I plagiarised plenty of tunes by Jean Michel Jarre et. al.. It is sad that it happened, but it was basically a cottage industry with a lot of people teaching themselves to compose and learning the rules of copyright as they went - myself included.
Whats your favourite composition and why?
MG: Wizball's title screen tune. The interaction of the three sound generators makes it sound like there's a lot more than three things going on at once - even reverb! To me, anyway
RH: Probably Sanxion, Kentilla, Spellbound. There were other things I did for other machines too.
RO: Pretty much everything from Johannes Bjerregaard. His melodies, his phrasing, his chord changes, his sounds. All close to perfection. His songs are where everything comes together for me. My biggest C64 hero and still is.
And (if there is such a thing) your worst composition and why?
RO: I can't be bothered looking for the worst composition really. Though like in real life there is a tendency that there is more bad then good sadly. Ah wait, I see you asked about MY worst tunes. Too many,.. way too many. I wouldn't mind hacking into the HVSC and only allow 5 songs in my directory...
RH: Well yes - sometimes you just had to get a job done, and go with whatever you had. Sometimes I would think it was was crap, and the client would really like it, and of course visa versa.
MG: Green Beret's title screen music, for the reasons I stated above.
What was the last SID tune you ever made, or are you still making SID's today?
MG: I think it was the
Insects In Space music in 1989. I am not doing it at present, though I have kept all my gear in decent working order.
RO: The last one was Primary Star from 2003. Though I must admit I only made 2 SIDs between 1991 and 2013. I think it has to do with growing up and getting a life.... The nostalgia is nice, but let's face it, it's bloody 25 years ago!
RH: The last ones were the EA sports games - Jordan vs Bird, or Power Play Hockey.
There are many remixes of some of your best SID's, if you've listened to any what ones stand out to you the most?
MG: Jogeir Liljedahl did a great remix of the Green Beret loading music. Instant Remedy did a great Comic Bakery title screen remix (and of course there is the boy-band video of the same tune done by Press Play On Tape... amazing), My actual favourite remix of all time is of a tune that I didn't compose in the first place! It's Kent Valden's Swing Mix of Jonathan Dunn's Ocean Loader tune, give it a listen. I have let that thing play on repeat LOUD for hours...
RH: Actually I havn't heard most of them - but the there are some interesting ones. There is an interesting version of Commando I heard and the mega version of Knucklebusters from PPOT. I heard a couple of good versions of OMAHD. Of course my own orchestral version of IK that I did for the concert in Leipzig, and the c64 orchestra arrangements I did of Jeroen Tel and my tunes.
RO: I really like what Lagerfeldt did with Flip the Flop. Could have been a major hit in my opinion.
You are also very active on the C64 remix scene, not only have you released some great albums, but also you have done a few live shows, can you tell me how your show – where you build the tune up one instrument after another came about and how difficult it was to do live on stage?
RO: Actually I stole the idea from Jon Brion who is a musician/producer from LA. Since 1998 he has done a weekly show at a club called Largo. He also has the complete backline (and more!) of a band setup on stage en plays requests from the audience. And uses loopers to record and capture every single instrument resulting in a sound as big as a normal band or bigger. I wanted to do the same thing, but because I'm no good singer the idea of doing instrumental music was the only choice. But since SID music is instrumental and I have a background in SID music it was the perfect combination. And ever since I do regular live shows on SlayRadio and the occasional live show on computer parties.
Your SID tunes are regarded as some of the best ever made, do you have any SID's that have never been released because you thought they werent good enough?
MG: Apart from a few programming tests I did back in the early days, which wouldn't be anything special, nothing has
never been released - in fact the Project Galway double-CD took care of that when the Streethawk music was included.
Do you have a message for all the people who still listen to your SID's today?
MG: Thanks for keeping the 8-bit music flag flying! It's a unique musical art form in itself. And remember, no matter where, whenever you hear a fast arpeggiator trying to sound like a chord... it all started on the SID in 1984's
Kong Strikes Back.
And now for the C64 Scene Guys
Key: CA-Chris Abbott, AB – Boz, JM – Kenz
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, and your background before getting involved in the C64 scene?
CA: I was always a fan, and managed a few brushes with fame during my teenage years. I was thrilled to get some work from Superior Software (small though it was). I would have loved so much to do what the classic composer were doing, but I didn’t have the time or the skills. It took Ubik’s music to get me doing tunes on the C64 (though I’d used an Atari 800XL for MIDI composition through my Casio CZ101), so I didn’t have the programming to really be creative in the way the classic people were. I don’t count myself as a major SID (or even BBC) composer, but it was nice to be involved tangentially.
I spent a lot of time on the C64 and doing music before and during my first year at University: I made my first remixes on an Amstrad Studio 100 4-track, mostly overdubbing SID tracks with live played instruments (like Microrhythm or the CZ). From then on my music kind of took a back seat. I didn’t get involved again in any music since I bought an Creative Labs AWE32 in 1993 and started programming MIDI files. I started with the MIDI file of Action Biker. It wasn’t great, but it was a start.
AB: Well yes, my name is Alistair Bowness but almost everyone calls me Boz (even my mum, unless I'm in trouble!). I originally come from Leicester, but after a brief stint in London and Worcester, I'm now living in Gothenburg, Sweden, since summer 2005. By day I'm a mild-mannered computer consultant where my assignments range from testing to developing in a number of languages. By night, however, I'm a bit of a computer geek, working on retro and modern-day stuff.
My first computer was a SInclair ZX81 (complete with 16K wobbly RAM-pack) that I got for my birthday in 1981 and I
caught the bug from there. My parents saw how much I was getting into in and bought me a Sinclair ZX Spectrum for Christmas 1982. With both of these computers I used to write little BASIC programs; but it was the next computer, the Commodore 64 that I got at Christmas 1986, that changed everything. Not only did it have the best sound chip out there, I decided to get into programming in machine code. This was definitely the computer that I'll remember the most, even when moving on to the Amiga in 1991 (and then, of course, onto PCs).
Nowadays I still write the odd demo for the C64 (for Commodore is Awesome) and play on my real C64 when time permits; I also broadcast a show every Wednesday at 20:00 Swedish time on SLAY Radio called BBB.
JM: Was I ever NOT a part of the C64 scene? ;) Okay, my name is Jason 'Kenz' Mackenzie and I've been dabbling with computers for as long as I can remember. I started out with a Sinclair ZX81, then I had a 48K Speccy, then I saw a C64 and **REALLY** wanted one but was bought an Amstrad CPC 464 instead (!) but eventually managed to save up enough cash and bought my beloved C64 (in about 1989 I think). That was when Binary Zone was born - which led onto Commodore Zone, Psytronik Software, The Z-Show and One Man & His Mic etc.
What was it that first attracted you to the C64, and what music do you remember hearing first and thinking 'thats great! I'd like to do that myself one day'?
JM: I can remember seeing a C64 for the first time ever at my mate Matt Waltons house and I was absolutely blown away by it. He showed me URIDIUM and that was it, I was SOLD! The silky smooth scrolling, gorgeous bas-relief graphics and that neat metallic theme tune from Steve Turner. Matt then played me music by Rob Hubbard & Martin Galway etc. and I was absolutely hooked at that point. Matt even kindly made me some C64 music tapes so I could listen to the latest C64 choons (and I still have some of those tapes to this day!)
AB: My first experience of the C64 was Hyper Sports; more specifically, it was the Ocean Loader (v1) tune that Martin Galway had composed, which then went into his version of Chariots of Fire. I was gob-smacked by the sound. Following on from that was Monty on the Run, the music of which was composed by Rob Hubbard. Incredible stuff! Si I guess it was these three tunes, heard on a rainy November Saturday in my local computer shop (Dimension Computers that used to be on the Leicester High Street), that made me nag my parents to death to buy me a C64 for Christmas.
CA: The first computer I had regular access to was a Pet 4032 and my first computer was an Atari 400. I only had access to a C64 through my schoolfriend Zak: so it was exotic because it was expensive and I didn’t get much access to it. Later on a friend of mine near my school got one, and I went round there as much as possible after school. In terms of stuff which impressed me back then (this was 83/84 before Rob or Martin really got going), the most impressive music I ever heard was (on the Atari) Preppie and Preppie 2, Shamus, Canyon climber and Clowns and Balloons, and on the C64, China Miner and tales of the Arabian Nights, Black Hawk, the Wheeling Wallie Games, Hovver Bovver, Sheep in Space and RMC, with a special mention to Son of Blagger, Monty Mole (the colourful one that played Colonel Bogey) and Pedro (one of Fred Gray’s first). Wheeling Wallie (which is actually a minuet by Bach) and China Miner (Scott Joplin) were the most influential back then, and led to a love of classical music and ragtime which is still with me. Big up to Forbidden Forest and Aztec Challenge too!
How did you first get involved in the C64 music scene? and when for you did the C64 scene begin.
CA: You mean the remix scene? While I was creating the MIDI files in 1993/4, there was a huge remix scene on already on the Amiga with people porting C64 tunes to MOD (not to mention
100 Classic SID tunes on the Amiga). Often the versions weren’t that great and people weren’t doing the tunes that I liked. I was just into the scene in general: the stuff you’d find in Zzap.
From ’97 to 2000 it was pretty much just me (there was about a year when C64Audio.com was bigger than RKO!), so I guess the modern music scene as we understand it probably coincided with Remix64, RKO and then Slay coming into existence.
AB: I guess it would have been when I got my Amiga in 1991 and started missing the C64 tunes that I started writing my own remixes using Pro Tracker. Then, accidentally, I found Chris Abbott's website, advertising his newly-released Back in Time commercial CD. That's actually how I got to know Chris, through e-mail correspondence.'
The 'C64 scene' itself began for me actually when I still had my C64. I signed up to use CompuNet, which was basically a graphical BBS (Bulletin Board System) for the C64 (and later, Amiga). I was a member on there for a while (member ID AB39, if I recall correctly), before it went bankrupt. Lots of sceners were on there at the time!
JM: I latched onto C64 music straight away (in around 1987) and it actually shaped my taste for 'real' music. I was never into 'pop' or 'metal' but I soon became a big fan of synth music by Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and Mark Shreeve etc. (Probably because the synth style reminded me of C64 music!)! So I've always loved C64 music - and setting up Binary Zone in 1990 gave me access to lots more C64 music through the demo scene - and this eventually led onto the C64 remix scene, Back in Time and assisting Chris Abbott with the early Back in Time Live events.
Was there any particular music that inspired you to try and write your own SID tune?
CA: Bits and pieces of other tunes, but mostly Jarre. Bogg’s album 1 was pretty mindblowing for me since his covers were so good. There was such a lot of quality tunes around at that time (83-86) that you can’t really isolate one.
That's the Way It Is by Jeroen Tel. I loved that tune. Still do, in fact! I remember wanting to get my hands on a decent music editor and try my luck. I didn't at the time though, unfortunately.
JM: I've never actually tickled the SID myself, I just enjoy listening to it.
You've made a few remixes in your time, what one do you think stands out the most and why?
CA: Flash Gordon, Zoids and Trap from BIT 3. I put so much effort into them, and got such great input from Ben, Madfiddler, Marcel and others… given the limitations of the instruments I was using, I’m very proud of them. The stuff on Dreamscapes stands up pretty well to scrutiny as well.
AB: I think one of my most recent ones,
Chimera Subtune 2, stands out the most. I think because I manage to mix the SID sound with a modern beat is what makes it stand out. It's definitely the one I'm most proud of.
JM: I've only dabbled slightly with remixes and collaborated with various people, mainly with musical ideas and suggestions. There's a lot of stuff I've helped with that I'm proud of (especially on Back in Time 3) but I can't really take direct credit for any of it, I just helped out where I could.
Who were your main musical influences growing up and how did that combine with making remixes of SID tunes?
CA: Jarre, 80s synth pop generally and Test-card Music (which was very varied and also contributed to my love of
cute synth sounds and classical tunes). I loved Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones, Depeche Mode, Phil Collins and Genesis, but that never really got into the music. Even Vangelis never really got a look in on the Jarre obsession.
AB: I loved the 80s electronica so I'd have to say that probably Human League, Depeche Mode and Art of Noise influenced me a lot. But I guess there's ALL sorts of influences in my work; I have SUCH an eclectic collection! My dad started me off with Buddy Holly and I love all sorts of 60s and 70s music as well. I would probably say that a mix of 80s with modern styles are the two main inspirations.
JM: The obvious legends - Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Benn Daglish, David Whittaker, Fred Gray, Tim Follin, Matt Gray etc. etc.
Boz and Kenz, Can you tell us about your radio show 'The Z Show' that you used to do , how it came about and why you think it was so popular?
JM: I shared a house with The Mighty Boz for a while and as we were both huge fans of C64 music and remixes decided to do a live radio show together for Slay Radio. Me & Boz have a similar sense of humour so we bounced off each other nicely during the shows. The listeners seemed to enjoy our antics too and I have fond memories of those Sunday evenings getting drunk with Boz and eating pizzas. I still listen to the 'Z-Show Gold' CD from time-to-time and that Formula 1 Fartulator moment STILL cracks me up to this day. GOLD! (And the CD is still available from www.binaryzone.org/retrostore/ - plug plug!)
AB: I had moved back to Worcester and was actually sharing a house with Kenz. We were friends with Slaygon and he had only recently updated his server-side scripts to allow live shows. Kenz and I had actually made a pre-recorded show called
Oh, It's THAT!, which played the SID and then the original tune it was based on. Due to copyright issues, however, this show wasn't made available for download. But it gave both Kenz and me the idea to do a weekly request show on SLAY Radio. After talking to Slaygon, who was definitely up for it, we went ahead with the Sunday show!
Chris what made you decide to open your own C64 music shop, and what has been your best selling item since inception?
CA: The scene needed an
official remix CD, and no one was doing it. So I did, but that meant opening a shop. BIT 1 is still the best selling album, followed by BIT 2, BIT 3 and Instant Remedy. After 2003 the audience for the CDs was greatly reduced.
Of all the C64 related events that have been organised over the years, which one stands out the most to you?
CA: I would have loved to be at the PC World show in 1985, but that wasn’t a C64 event. I think Brighton was the standout in terms of the people who came, and the overall vibe. There have been C64 events I haven’t been to, and I’m sure those were great, but I can’t comment on them J It was good seeing PPOT in Denmark though the audience was unfortunately chatty.
JM: I think Brighton was my fave one - I loved the computer show in the day (including the launch of the Project:Galway album - WITH Martin Galway!) and the concert was great too. The very first BITLive was fab too - although I did far too much running around that day. Great atmosphere in the VIP lounge though!
Whats your most memorable moment of any of those events?
CA: Most of my memorable moments didn’t occur at the events but at the stuff before it: for instance, there were two days of rehearsals for BIT Live 2003 and 2004 and those were a blast. I filled in for Jon Hare on the bass with SID80s because he couldn’t make the first day, and the Brighton and Gossips 2002 rehearsals with PPOT were special too. The leadup to BIT 1 was full of special moments with the composers, Kenz, Waz, Boz and the gang I’d bought up with me. My best moment personally might be singing Hey Hey 16k with MJ Hibbett at BIT Live 2007. Martin Galway quietly standing unannounced behind Octave Sounds while he played Ocean Loader on his plinky-keyboard, finding a proper plug for Jeff Minter, going to Dixons for PPOT, Bouff, Kenz, Boz, Pete Connelly… Marcel Donne demanding a burger or he’d kill somebody while wondering around London…
I’m sure I’ve forgotten stuff.
Worst moment was during Back in Time Live 1: attendance was disappointing to the extent I didn’t think any more events would be possible. I was standing outside hoping for people to wonder by, and some people did. Then Galway’s Green Beret loading tune played very very loud, and the people recoiled in horror, commented on how lame it was, then left. I had a nasty sinking feeling I’ve never quite forgotten, and I was very miserable.
The best thing about the events, though, were the people, all of them. I love those guys, they made the event a success by coming, and by being determined to make the most of it. And the composers were great.
AB: I'd have to say BIT Live Brighton in (uhm, 2003 was it??). That's when I met and hung out with Martin Galway a little bit, after I had recorded tunes from his original SID chip for Project: Galway. He hung around to sign some of the CDs. It's also when I met Slaygon (for the second time, we realised: we had briefly chatted in Gossips at an early BITLive) and got to know about his radio station a little more.
JM: Ooh, I've got LOTS of great memories from those events. Seeing Dave Whittaker bounce of a wall in a drunk fashion and then being carried out by Benn Daglish & Tony Crowther, Emily Booth being great fun at BitLive 2, Rob Hubbard playing live versions of his tunes at Brighton (brought a tear to my eye, that did!), Visa Roster at St Luke's (amazing to see them perform live) - good times! One of my favourite memories was actually helping Benn Daglish and Madfiddler with their 'rehearsals' one night before a BitLive. I was in the hotel room opposite them and nipped across to see how the rehearsals were going. A bottle of vodka magically appeared and a few hours later I literally CRAWLED back to my room pissed as a fart! Those guys sure do know how to rehearse for an event!
Do you feel that the C64 music scene is still thriving after all these years and do you think there might be another bitlive on the horizon??
CA: Well, people in it age, and families take their toll on free-time. We all have to earn a crust. I’d love to do another BIT Live (and even planned with Ziphoid a kickstarter for one), but I simply can’t take the financial risks now: I shouldn’t have then, it led to quite a lot of difficulty later on. I’d also feel like a hypocrite insisting people go to my event when I don’t get out to other events now (become a bit of a hermit that way).
There are still really talented people, but there’s so much stuff out there for people coming into it that they actually don’t need to seek out other people. In the beginning of the scene, people searched for stuff, and because it wasn’t there, either created it themselves, or inspired people who did. These days you can find it like that: so why go on searching? If you’re in love with the music, you’re not necessarily going to search out other fans. Which is a shame. But then, what did we achieve? C64 music has its place in history, every SID tune is available, remixes are plentiful, YouTube is stuffed with mashups… hog’s heaven, really.
AB: I think it's still thriving, yes - just looking at the new additions to RKO is testament to that; new original SIDs are also being added (from demos that are still being made today). I think there's definitely still mileage in C64 music - and the C64 scene in general!
JM: C64 music still has a huge following and its influences can still be heard in a lot of modern music. There's some great new acts appearing that use SID in their music (Lukhash for example - LOVE that stuff!) There's no sign of another BitLive happening as far as I know but hey, never say never!
Im sure you’ll agree that there is still a lot of life left in that ‘breadbin’ called the C64, and some interesting and in depth answers to some of my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading my first ever interview, I’ve enjoyed making it, and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time out of their busy day to answer my questions about a 30+ year old machine and its music chip.
Websites of Interest