An Interview with Darren Izzard

by Neil Carr

Darren was responsable for Scarabaeus and Driller on the Back In Time 2 CD. A talented guy who likes to keep in touch with the original sid he is covering. So we asked him about this and many other aspects regarding the C64 remix scene.

Real name: Darren Izzard
Handle: N/A
Born: 1978
Nationality: English

Darren Izzard
What are your favourite Sid tunes?

Everything in Flimbo's Quest, also Mazemania, Monty on the Run, Auf Weidersehen Monty, Firelord, Demon Blues. Like a lot of other people, I often used to load up games just to hear the music.

Who were your favourite c64 composers?

I didn't know their names at the time, but, of course, now I know they were Rob Hubbard, Johannes Bjerregaard, Matt Gray and Ben Daglish.

Why did you start remixing c64 sids?

I'd learnt to play some C64 tunes on keyboards. When I first got hold of MED on the Amiga, I put together a crude version of Mazemania from memory to get the hang of the tracker. But, these days, I do it because I like playing around with the music.

What non c64 music do you like?

Most stuff, as it goes, but I do like U2, Crowded House, Abba, a lot of things from the 80's, the film scores of John Williams and others. Many other things. Also, due to the years I spent with it, I have a liking for Amiga game music too. Oh, and the Doug Anthony Allstars - they were great.

Did you ever design music on the C64 itself?

Yes, although it wasn't published or used for anything. None of it still exists as far as I know. I've been going through my old computer tapes, and although I've found some of my old BBC Micro music, I haven't found any of the C64 stuff yet.

Who do you think gives the scene the biggest boost?

Depends how you mean.

Well, lets say Who has pushed the scene in the respect of taking it further?

We've had two big steps forward recently, and that's the birth of the c64rmx group, and the site. c64rmx got arrangers of wildly differing styles together - along with some of the original C64 composers, and provided (eventually) a forum for reviewing remixes. R:K:O wasn't the first site holding C64 remix MP3s, but it turned up at exactly the right time to become the counterpart of c64rmx, and the source of material for most of the reviews. So, I'd have to say two big scene-boosters were Jan Lund Thomsen for R:K:O and Kai Spitzley and Puffy64, for c64rmx. Plus, and I know you were just waiting for me to say this, Chris Abbott for BIT and all the other stuff he's done.

How did you become part of the Bit team?

I chanced upon Chris's site some time before he released BIT1, and liked the MIDI files that were up there. I'd done a couple of Flimbo's Quest MIDI files, and sent them to him. He gave me some good feedback on them and I carried on doing every tune in Flimbo's Quest, along with a couple of others. We made some MP3's based on the Flimbo tunes for the BIT1 CD-ROM, and, when the BIT2 project started, I asked Chris if I could be involved, and he said yes.

What type of feedback did Chris Give?

Often there was technical stuff, such as where I'd made errors in transcribing the SID tunes (since I don't use SID2MIDI), or where I'd been setting volumes too high and so on. He also passed on criticisms from visitors to the site. He basically encouraged me to put much more effort into rearranging SID songs.

Scarabaeus and Driller was unusual tunes to pick for Bit 2, why did you pick it?

Because Chris told me to do them! Actually, he started me doing Elektraglide, then ShadowFire and Enigma Force... eventually he gave me a list of tunes he said he'd like to have done, and I did almost all of them. Scarabaeus and Driller were on that list, and Chris selected my arrangements for BIT2. Some of the other tunes are due to turn up on later BITs and/or their accompanying CD-ROMs.

Were you happy with your work for Bit2

Oh, yes. Those tracks turned out much better than I thought they would.

What are your early impressions with the Bit3?

It's coming along very well indeed. Pretty much every track on it is sounding amazing, and they link together surprisingly well.

So you will be attending Bitlive, what do you think about the concept?

The concept of having a club night devoted (more or less) to C64 remixes is good, I think. It should promote the best C64 remixers, and hopefully raise public awareness of the whole scene in a positive way. Plus, it looks like it'll be a great chance for fans and arrangers to meet some of the C64 composers and programmers. Sort of the past meeting the present and all that. (I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that none of my C64 covers will be played, but then again, they're hardly the right sort of style!) Really, it should be a lot of fun.

How do you get your inspiration when attempting to cover a c64 sid?

It depends what atmosphere the SID tune has, or what memories it conjures up. Of course, if a sound in a SID song reminds me of something, I'll try to work that in. Usually, my original instrumentation gets changed a lot when the files get transferred to Chris's equipment, mainly because he has so many more synths and patches to choose from.

Shadowfire is a well-known and liked tune, how do you think it’s progressing for the Bit3 CD?

It's moving in a good direction now. It was sounding a bit weak earlier on in development, but, with some suggestions from Fred Gray, Boz and Kenz, I think we've really pushed it forward. Even so, the standard of the other tracks is very high, and ShadowFire has some tough competition.

Would you say there is one tune that’s really beginning to standout on the bit3 CD?

Not really one. I like all of them!

Musically what influences you?

Again, depends what you mean.

Well, what styles or persons maybe reflect in your style of music?

This question has been the hardest to answer. Obviously, I would hope the covers reflect the original SIDs. Furthermore, I would assume that they reflect the things I mentioned in Q4, but only very rarely do I think, Oh, this needs to sound a bit like such-and-such. When I'm writing music, or doing arrangements, I just do what I feel is right with the music.

Darren Izzard
Are there any arrangers that you like?

Well, out of the arrangers who've been around for some time, I think Puffy, Jogeir, also TheDeadGuys - I'd love to do a remix in a TheDeadGuys kind of way, but I wouldn't know even where to start. And, of course, Chris Abbott - it was because I liked his arrangements that I first sent him those MIDI files. Reyn Ouwehand's Nexus is remarkable too - it'll be interesting to see what he produces next.

What were your fondest memories of the C64?

Staying up late playing Klax and Flimbo's Quest - I think they were on the same cartridge, actually - and of course all the programming.

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

The tunes from Fiendish Freddy's Big Top of Fun. (Same cartridge again!) Also I've not covered many of the best-known tunes, and I'm curious to see how my versions of them would turn out.

If there was a single tune that you wish you could claim as your own, what would it be, and why?

I wouldn't like to get into that way of thinking.

What are your likes/dislikes about the current scene?

Well, I like that it's getting bigger. I like that it's getting fashionable. The down-side of the scene getting bigger is that it's getting harder to keep up-to-date with all the remixes that are being produced.

Lastly what does the future hold for your remixes?

Mine? BIT4 will probably contain a track from me. Other than that, I don't cover C64 songs as much as I used to. I'd like to be more successful with my original music really, and that's where I'm concentrating.

As Darren mentions his future work will concentrate on his own original compositions. Future work may well see him work on further Bit Cd's. some of his work concerning the c64 can be found at

- Neil

Interview date: 24.03.2001