An Interview with Press Play On Tape @ Back in Time Live 2004

by Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher tried to get an interview with the band after their performance at St Luke's. Sadly there wasn't time to ask many questions, so the guys agreed to do an e-mail interview after the event for RETRO GAMER... only for the interview to be dropped due to lack of space. Here it is in full for the first time anywhere...

Real name: Press Play On Tape
Born: 0
Nationality: Denmark


How did you guys get the band together and start playing Commodore 64 tunes?

We started out as a vague idea in the year 2000, really: We joked a bit about putting a band together for playing old Commodore 64 game tunes at the Danish computer party The Party (www.theparty.dk). And by a strange coincidence one of the organisers of this event heard about this and called to book us even before the band was formed! We then got together and started playing these old tunes realising how great it was to hear these tunes played on real instruments.We are six members in the band: Jesper and Martin on guitars, André and Theo on keyboards, Søren on drums, and Uffe on bass. We all met at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen (Where else would you find six people with this kind of interest? Actually only half of us ever had a Commodore64 at home, but then we knew some friends who did and would spend time at their place playing games because the C64 HAD the coolest games compared to Spectrum, Amstrad and Texas for example). So we have all spent a lot of time in our childhood playing C64 games and being impressed by the tunes these games had. Of course this whole project is riding the nostalgia wave (you probably have to have played the games yourself in order to really appreciate the music), which narrows the target audience pretty much down to people who used a C64 in the 80s. (Which, unfortunately, puts a limit on how many screaming teenage girls attend our concerts and throw their knickers on stage!) Anyway, we have found a niche with this concept that fits our musical ambitions just fine: We have great fun playing these tunes reliving those old days, and if anyone likes it too then that is just even better.

How do you turn the SID tune into the arrangement for guitars, keyboards and drums?

Basically we start by taking the tune and finding the basic chord progressions and getting the melody/solo down. Normally one or two guys in the band feel strongly about that particular tune, so they often get to play the melody (they often know it in advance) but at other times we simply listen to the SID together to find out which parts sound like which instruments.Sometimes a person has had a vision about how the tune should be built up and what 'sound' we are aiming for, but at other times we play around with the arrangements during rehearsals until we find something that works. Sometimes something magical happens while we're playing with a tune, and we'll agree Yes, *this* is the way to play it!Most of Rob Hubbard's tunes are somewhat straightforward to arrange, because there is so much going on that we can easily find 6 interesting things to play (one for each band member). Other SIDs are simpler, and then we need to come up with our own additional chords, riffs, and stuff. Sometimes, we find different SIDs that we feel complement each other and do a medley of them. Yet others are based on the mood of the SID-chip, which can be really difficult to capture with real instruments (not that we don't spend a fortune on strange guitar pedals and effect processors  :-)

Did you enjoy playing this year's Back in Time?

Søren: I enjoyed this Back in Time immensely. Musically speaking this BIT has been the greatest so far in my book. It was a little low on the old stars, but having been to 4 BITs now, I have lost a little of my groupie-ness. We had made certain to get to play first, so we could relax and watch the rest of the performances - and in my opinion they were simply fantastic. I think I fell in love with everybody from Visa Röster... even the boys ;-)Jesper: Yes! It was a really great experience. Nice big stage, great concert room. A pity that people were seated, I think, as it is more difficult to get people in the right mood and flip out  :-) Awesome to play with Ben Daglish and Mark Knight on stage for Monty on the Run!Theo: There is no doubt that this was the best Back in Time (for me at least). Since we were the first act we could relax and enjoy the rest afterwards. I had not expected to be entertained on such a level! The C64 Mafia was indeed funny and put on a good show. Then Visa Röster where in a league of their own deserving nothing but a standing ovation. After that came SID'80s who put on a just as grooving show as they did last year in Brighton. Being able to see and hear all this from the front row just made my day. Concerning the performance, or my own playing: well, yes, this was the fourth time in front of the C64 fan mob so I could relax - and actually enjoy being on stage  :-) Martin: I truly enjoyed playing at this year's BIT. There was a really good atmosphere in the audience, and I had a really good time. As usual, it was a real privilege and lots of fun to play with Ben Daglish and Mark Knight. I also really enjoyed the other acts; since we played first, we could really relax, have a drink, and enjoy the show.

How do you choose the tunes to play live?

Arguments don't work... Gin doesn't even work any more. So for now we are using this scheme: Everybody chooses one tune, and if nobody actually _vetoes_ it (after a lot of arguments and Gin) we will play that tune. So a lot of diplomacy and ganging up is involved so you don't waste your pick by choosing a tune that someone else is about to choose... Yep - we're childish - and we're proud of it.

Yet again, sometimes someone will suggest something that is so obvious that we just jump to play it immediately. Machinae Supremacy's version of Great Giana Sisters is probably not something we will record, but just something we all thought would be appropriate for the BIT gig.

You've added lyrics to several of the tunes/remixes. How do you write and record them?

Søren: The short answer to how we write the lyrics: I take a shower or I ride my bike. The long answer: Basically the lyrics all just write themselves and then suddenly attack me and take away my attention from whatever I am doing (like in the bike-case: avoiding being killed by lousy Danish drivers). At other times someone else has written something, and I say, Hey... that's good. Is it okay if I make some minor cosmetic changes? And before they know it, I have rewritten it all. I am actually not a very good team player when it comes to lyrics.  :-) How we record them is not that interesting. Each person sings his lines a couple of times and we keep the best take. We usually then have to 'process' the recording a little bit in places to make it in tune (long live the auto-tuner). Pretty normal procedures. But the fun part is WHERE we record our stuff. Since we do not have access to a sound proof studio, the recordings are done using clever combinations of someone's living room, pillows, mattresses, socks and the occasional sleeping bag! Theo: For RUN/STOP RESTORE we had a different approach on some of the tunes. To satisfy everybody we chose one tune each to produce and mix on our own. It was a way for all of us to learn how the entire process and to relieve Søren from a lot of the tedious work. Søren then just had to put his final touch on the final mixes - for six of the 18 tunes, that is  :-)

Will you continue to record and play live?

Sadly we're nearing the age where our fellow Commodore 64 enthusiasts no longer _remember_ the Commodore 64... but as long as just a _few_ of them are still alive and haven't completely lost their hearing: YES, we will keep playing.

As long as people will turn up and see us play we'll be there! Heck, if we ever were to do anything else than C64 music there are already a googolplex number of other bands that are better than us, so we'll probably stick to this concept for a bit (no pun intended).

www.pressplayontape.com


Another great performance from the band, and a fantastic interview. If you want to see my pictures from the event, go to Merman's events page

- Merman

Interview date: 11.09.2004