An Interview with Alistair Boz Bowness

by Neil Carr

Boz's C64 music covers have been well recieved here at remix64. Most of his remixes have received over 80% in the reviews section of the magazine. Boz has had vital input in the production of the forthcoming Back In Time III album. As a remixer of c64 music, his styles vary, but the synth style is very prominent in his work. Here is what he had to say...

Real name: Alistair Bowness
Handle: Boz
Born: 1970
Nationality: England

Alistair Bowness "Boz"
What are your hobbies?

As well as listening to music as well as composing it, I like to chill out by reading all sorts of books, surfing the net, and playing on my PS2 (yes, I'm
one of the Chosen Few in the UK that has one!). I also run a joke e-zine ( which is released twice a week, which keeps me
busy. Oh, and I like to watch lots of movies and TV programs, including The Simpsons, Futurama and David Letterman.

Who are your top 3 c64 composers, and why?

The numero uno guy has to be Rob Hubbard -- boring answer? Maybe so, but he deserves it. He managed to cram so much emotion into a piece,
I tended to forget that it was just a 3-channel piece on a little chip, and more of a soundtrack. And the technical stuff he did was outstanding.
Number two, for the same sort of reason, would be Martin Galway. His PWM instruments were so silky smooth! It also showed that you didn't necessarily have to rely on a drumbeat in the background either -- the melody alone was good enough. Ben Daglish comes third, not only because he wrote a few tunes that were nice and bouncy and fun to listen to, but he composed Trap as well, one of my all-time faves.

What are your top 3 c64 tunes, and why?

Hmmm, difficult to choose. There are so many out there that I like, or sometimes I don't actually like the style but I respect what it -- or the composer -- was trying to do. I mentioned Trap above, maybe that would be in the top three. But I just can't wittle it down any further, sorry!

Who are your top 3 remix arrangers?

I'd have to tip my hat in the general direction of Chris Abbott, mainly because I know him personally and he's an all-round nice guy! Marcel Donne because he always does weird Jarre-esque things to his music, and Jogeir Liljedahl for his beautiful Galway remixes. There are plenty of others around, too, who are excellent; but these were the first three that popped in my mind so I listed 'em!

What are your top 3 remix's from other arrangers?

Oh, there's just too many to mention, and I like them for different reasons! I don't think I could ever wittle it down to just three!

What tune that you remixed are you most proud of?

I guess It would be a toss-up between Thrust and Uridium. The main reason being that no-one else -- to my knowledge -- has tried to cover them yet. Thrust was a complete b**tard to do, but I'm proud of the result. It has the Hubbard-isms in there, but overlaid with some synthy stuff. As for Uridium, I had the idea for my extended 80's mix of it in my mind since I heard the tune in 1988, so I was glad I finally got a chance to do it!

Why did you start doing c64 remixes?

It was Chris Abbott, blame him! It was, after all, a couple of MIDI files that were knocking around CompuServe way back in -- ooh, '94 or '95 possibly -- that got me into remixing. I had tried a couple of remixes on the Amiga equipped with ProTracker, but shifting from a three-channel analog chip to a four-channel sample-only chip was difficult, and lost a lot of the emotion in the tune. So hearing Chris' MIDI files fired me up again. I started with FastTracker, which again was sample-based, but I had a lot more memory / disk-space to play with bigger samples. Then I went a bit quiet for a time, because of my day job. It was when Back in Time 2 came out, I think, that fired me up again, and I eventually bit the bullet and bought myself a proper MIDI synth and eventually moved away from my old Tracker days, into MIDI sequencing.

Did you do any music on the c64 itself, and was it commercial or was it an hobby?

Yes, I did a few bits of music, nothing that was commercial though. I had written a Shareware game and composed the music for it, I think it was knocking around CompuNet for a while before it all went pear-shaped.

What are your fondest memories of the c64?

I remember walking into a shop and seeing -- or rather hearing -- Rob Hubbard's Monty on the Run. I was gob-smacked! I remember thinking that I must have one of those machines (I had a Spectrum at the time). I also asked to see Hyper Sports, and that's when I heard Galways Ocean Loader followed by his rendition of Chariots of Fire. Pure bliss! Those two moments were what made me get a '64 in the first place, and would be my fondest memories.

Are you working on anything new or do you have any plans?

I've been a bit quiet of late, but that's mainly because I've been helping out with orchestrations on BiT3. Chris and I are quite alike when it comes to music, I have noticed, and sitting around at his studio and listening to the BiT3 stuff is certainly going to help me when I finally get back to doing some of my own work. It will probably be more orchestral stuff now -- but with the odd fallback to dancy / synthy stuff! I've started on a little tune for BiT4 already...

In what capacity are you associated with the Back In Time 3" album?

I've been honoured enough to have had an input on the project. I've been sitting around Chris' studio and helping him out mainly with the orchestral pieces -- you know, suggesting different instruments or volume settings. I've also just been a beta listener, gviing suggestions for the album as a whole. It's been an incredible experience actually, to hear the music come to life as you're sitting there!

Will you be going to the Bit live event, and what are your thoughts on the idea?

Of course I'll be there! I think it's going to be an EVENT that will never be forgotten (the word EVENT has to be in capitals because it's THAT important!). Just look at it from the two main viewpoints: C64 fans will be awestruck when they see some of the old heroes of their fave computer at the event; and it's set with a 80's music backdrop. You can't go wrong! It's only the first step in an incredible idea that Chris and Kenz have though, so don't think this is going to be the only EVENT to talk about 😊

What do you use to create your music?

The central bit is a Pentium-II PC with an E-MU APS soundcard. This usually has Cakewalk 9 running on it nowadays, but I sometimes fall back on MED Sound Studio (formerly OctaMED) when I'm feeling Tracky!. To create the music, I use Michael Schwendt's SID2MIDI program, which is an absolute life-saver and would be one item on my Desert Island! I sometimes use Sound Forge as well for post-production stuff.

As far as the actual music-making goes, I have an E-MU E-Synth, which is a keyboard / sampler / synthesizer all in one. It's a great little (well, BIG actually!) machine and was my first piece of equipment when I decided to move away from FastTracker. I have also recently bought an E-MU Virtuoso 2000, which is an orchestral module. This will come in handy for the more orchestral stuff I'm interested in doing. I also have a HardSID card (basically a SID chip in a PC slot), which I use in conjunction with the HardSID MIDI interface and Cakewalk to get some good analog sounds out of.

What is your opinion on the state of music in games these days?

Hmmm. I guess they don't make me sit up and take notice any more. I guess they do their job by enhancing the atmosphere of whatever you're playing at the time, but they don't make you put your joystick down, sit back and just listen to the title music, like I used to. They do their job.

Do you miss the creativeness of music on the c64?

Yes, very much so. Pushing that little chip to it's limits, but still getting more out of it -- it was just amazing to see what people could do. I guess the total effect exceeded the sum of its parts, to misquote a cliché!

What other non c64 performers do you like?

Ooh, lots. Looking at my CD rack, I have a very strange and varied taste of music! But things that stand out are people like Jarre and John Williams. You can always tell if a film's soundtrack is Williams. I like the sound of Depeche Mode when Vince Clark was still with them, too; I love that 80's synth sound! I guess it's because, like the 64, people were still getting to grips with what they could do with computerized sounds and it was always great to hear new ideas in tunes. Nowadays you could write a tune while going for a piss and get a number one (excuse the pun). OK, I'm over-simplifying, but you get the point!

Have you spoken to any famous C64 composers, if so what impression did you get from these?

Actually, no I've never spoken to any, unless you count Chris. He's OK I guess ;-)

Is there a tune that you like that you have not covered yet?

Yes, a few. I've always liked Jon Dunn's Ocean Loader 4, which I'd like to do a half-decent job of. I don't usually have a list of stuff I want to do, though. The way I go about it is to fire up SIDPlay and keep clicking on tunes until my brain says Hmm, I can do something with that.

Is there a tune or cover that you wished you could claim as your own?

As a tune, I wish I had composed Thalamusic (or Sanxion Loading Music). As a cover, I wish I had done Trap!

What in your opinion should a cover be like to give the original justice?

Don't bastardize the music, that's the number one rule. If you're going to cover it, make sure you've got the notes right for a start. If you're going to do a balls-out dance mix of a piece, then I guess this is more difficult to do, but there's nothing worse, in my view, than covering a tune and getting the odd note / timing wrong. It makes me cringe every time! Remember that you're covering a piece, too, not remaking a piece and trying to make it your own. You can put your own stamp on it, sure, but remember who wrote the music in the first place.

Who do you think gives the c64 revival the biggest boost, and why!

This interview is turning into a bit of an Abbott-fest, but I guess he's the one giving the biggest boost. I don't have to say why -- surely it's obvious by now!

What do you think will happen to the future of the c64 remixing scene, will it get bigger and better or slowly die?

I guess there will be a point, one day, when everything that can be done will have been done. It will be sad but inevitable. For now, though, I think the scene is very much alive, especially all the stuff that's about to happen that will give it a massive injection. I think it still has room to get bigger for now.

Do you think any of the big composers from the c64 will ever make a reappearance?

I wouldn't have thought so, they have moved on now. Martin Galway even states in STIL that he wouldn't do any more 64 stuff, and who can blame him?

If there was one piece of equipment that you do not own, what would it be, and why?

I would like to get my hands on a Roland JV-1080, I just haven't got round to it yet. It's a good all-round module. That and a more professional mixer / soundcard -- the E-MU APS is no longer in production, to the point that they don't even support it now 😒

Lastly Remix 64 has vastly improved on it's design by adding new features, is there anything that you would like to see included in the magazine?

Nothing I can think of right now. I'd like to see all my music reviews get 100%... but that ain't gonna happen!

Boz has rightly a high regard for Chris Abbott, you can see this from his interview above. He also respects the authors of the music, and insists that a tune must be well timed and without dropped notes. You can indeed tell this by the quality of his covers.

- Neil

Interview date: 05.03.2001