An Interview with Jan Lund Thomsen of remix.kwed.org

by Neil Carr

R:K:O (remix.kwed.org) has established itself as one of most important sites on the Web for arrangers. It was a great idea, and a much needed site for arrangers to post their remixes, so that they could become available for all to hear. So we spoke to Jan and asked him to express his views on R:K:O. I must say he gave a lengthy and detailed interview.

Real name: Jan Lund Thomsen
Handle: Qed / Kwed
Born: 1970
Nationality: Danish


What are your hobbies?

SID remakes, the more innovative the better,
Keeping R:K:O running,
self-published writings, both on the web and dead-tree
editions,
Redefining what websites can do in terms of providing content,
Photography,
Books,
Comic Books,
Music,
Movies,
Playing the Didgeridoo (still learning, I'm afraid =))

remix.kwed.org is a strange title, why did you use this for the name?

R:K:O got the host name it did for two reasons.

a) I already owned the kwed.org domain, so adding the Remix.Kwed.Org subdomain
was a piece of cake. The remix prefix was inspired by the great
http://Remix.Overclocked.Org site.

b) Using a subdomain I have made sure that Kwed.Org has etched itself onto
peoples retina. Believe it or not, webwise R:K:O is not my greatest ambition.

http://Kwed.Org is an ongoing experiment for my various creative outlets. In
the past it has held poetry, fiction, rants, and a photo gallery. For the
months until the R:K:O launch on November 23rd it held nothing but a strange
collage hinting that some major change was coming along. =) There's no telling
what direction I will take the kwedOrg site in in the future, but rest assured
it'll be exiting.

... The origin of Kwed is that it was one of the ways fellow sceners
pronounced my scene-handle Qed back when I was busy doing copyright
infringements for a major cracking group in the early 90s. I still use this
handle when I pop by IRCnet #c-64 so feel free to say hi if you spot me on the
channel.

How come you decided to do the remix.kwed site?

In short: to recreate the Triad MP3z site the way I thought it should be done -
a one stop site to all C64 remakes freely available in the MP3 format. No more
hunting around various arrangers homepages to see if they had created any new
material - something I spent a *lot* of time doing back then. =)

Back in June 2000 people on the C64rmx mailing list started talking about a
potential replacement site for Triad MP3z. I followed these discussions with
great interest as that site was what really opened my eyes to the Remix scene.

... However, I didn't participate in the discussions I thought most of the
volunteers were all talk and no action. (sorry if this offends anyone.)

Thus the idea to do it myself was born. I started learning PHP and MySQL and
worked many long hours to get the alpha-version of the site running. Markus
Wobbler Norsted supplied a kick-ass design early on in the process. I also
showed the site to a couple of people and without exception they were very much
impressed with it. At this point I would like to publicly thank Linus Walleij
(of Triad MP3z fame) for telling me that what I had created had impressed him
to such an extent that he would close Triad MP3z when R:K:O went public.

My intentions were clear; everyone who saw R:K:O in its early stages was sworn
to secrecy. I wanted to hold on to the secret until I felt that the site showed
so much potential that it would leave everyone speechless and establish itself
as the new one-stop site.

On July 22nd the members of the C64rmx list received an invitation to beta-test
the site. The previous weeks I had been dropping hints on the list that
somewhere someone was brewing up something that would knock everyone’s socks
off. Which was exactly what happened. =)

Musicians post their tunes to you on a regular basis, do they have to meet
a certain criteria to have the tune displayed?

Mainly one - that the tune is submitted in minimum 128Kbps MP3. Second that the
tune should be a remake, rather than just a SID with some drum-loops attached
to it.

Needless to say, you'll find some exceptions to these (unwritten) rules on the
site, but in general arrangers are a great bunch who take even greater pride in
their work. Thus, very little regulation is needed from my part.

I have turned down a few tunes in the past, but when that happens I always make
sure to tell the arranger my reason for doing so.

Is mp3 the only format that R:K:O accepts?

Yes.

Although I have had a few people ask me about MOD/XM/etc I have felt right from
the start that MP3 coverage was my one aim. Especially when people like Torben
Bjerregaard (http:///www.bluenine.org) and Chris Abbott
(http://www.c64audio.com) are doing such a great job on collecting those other
formats. MP3 is a great format and you can safely assume that everyone who
stops by the site is able to play them.

You must be pleased that remix.kwed has become so popular - did you expect
R:K:O to be this popular?

I am pleased beyond belief that not only that R:K:O was popular not just with the
C64rmx patrons but also with the general public. I receive the occasional
fanmail from people I have never spoken to, thanking me for making it all
possible. Something that brings a smile to my face every single time.

What I still haven't got used to is the apparent weight my words carry among
the C64rmx patrons. I once mentioned that I would really like to see a cover of
the Max Headroom SID - within a couple of weeks 3 people (including two of my
favourite arrangers) had created some rather nifty covers. Awesome. =)


What are your top3 composers on the c64, and why?



And the winner of the Impossible-to-answer-question award goes to... Neil
Carr of Remix 64 for What are your top3 composers on the c64, and why? =)

Seriously, I have had so many great moments listening to SID music that boiling
it down to naming 3 people would be disrespecting everyone else. You guys all
rocked my world, and for that you have my eternal gratitude.



What are your top3 tunes from the c64, and why?

Again, lots of favourites - but if I am to mention the tracks that immediately
spring to mind when people ask about my all-time faves it'll be these three:

- Max Headroom tune #2 (by David Whittaker)
- Future Shock (by Neil Demon Baldwin)
- Dance at Night (by Chris Huelsbeck)

All tracks are immensely funky, have a great melody, and makes me want to get
up and boogie every time I listen to them. Don't let their age fool you, I have
listened to a lot of stuff since - but these three always wind up sharing the
number one spot.

What are your top 3 remix arrangers?

(In no particular order)

The Dead Guys ............. for redefining the word remake.
The Soundwavers ........... for taking the C64 to the dancefloor.
Kent Trace Wallden ...... for his Exploding Fist covers. Amazing!


What are your top3 remixes?

Kent Trace Wallden - Way of the Exploding Fist (both versions)
- The Dead Guys - Paperboy (peaperboayh mix)
- N-Joy/Soundwavers - Mega Apocalypse

... a special honorary award goes to Makke for his Ode to my C64 which gave
everyone the goosebumps and brought the community closer together - whether
people want to admit it or not. =)

Who do you most respect from the whole scene, be it from the c64 or the modern day?




Linus Walleij
... for paving the way with the Triad MP3z site. And for being a great
source of support and inspiration.

Chris Abbott
... for pioneering remakes and believing in it enough to struggle against all
odds by producing commercially available C64 based audio CDs.

Ben Daglish and Chris Huelsbeck
... (who I met on IRCnet #c-64 years back) for considering themselves a
couple of regular guys who just happen to have done some work on the C64.
Also Chris told me about Dance at Night being a remake of a tune he did
earlier - and pleased me no end when he dug out the DAT tape with the original
and made it publicly available because I requested him to do so.


How long has R:K:O been running?

The site was publicly announced on Brendan Reids most excellent C=Wire site
(http://www.wire.c64.org) on November 23rd 2000. And even with a week of
downtime around Christmas more than 60 gigabytes were downloaded during the
first month.

what style of remix do you prefer? - I.e. dance/pop/pure cover etc...

My favourite remixes do what I call lift the track into orbit. They are the
ones that take the track to new heights. The style of the remix doesn't really
matter as long as they stay true to the spirit of the original track. Great
examples of this include O2's Zoids and Nemesis the Warlock, The Dead Guys
Paperboy and countless others.


What pleases you about the scene?

Friendly arrangers who take pride in their work. A great online community on
the C64rmx list. Receiving the occasional thank-you not from total strangers.


What annoys you about the scene?

I get a few annoying mails from people who assume that I can sort their
non-R:K:O-related problems (everything from How do I play MP3s? to requests
for pirated versions of music software) ... these severely tick me off for a
couple of minutes. Using some ancient sort of Ninja Magick to relax myself I
then compose a calm response to their query.

Apart from that - not much. In the past I felt that I had more than my share of
gripe with people who seemed unable to grasp the amount of time and energy I
have invested in this project and consequently moaned about this and that
feature missing or not operating the exact way they wanted it to be - up to the
point where I at one point seriously considered closing up shop. Luckily for
all of us, I got past this stage.

do you think that c64 music will ever be a viable commercial product, and why?

Apart from the Back In Time, Nexus and related CDs which have a loyal
following; not in its own right. I think we might very well see more commercial
musicians reaching towards the C64 for inspiration, ala Zombie Nation.


R:K:O has had a few technical problems over the past few months, e.g.. Had a problem staying online. Do you think these have been malicious acts or is it just a technical problem, and do you expect to iron the problem out?


Although the latest outage was due to a compromised nameserver I have no reason
to suspect foul play in general. It is true that the database server crashed
rather a lot back in the old days. This was actually due to a bug in my code
that never showed up during testing, but became a massive problem when the
traffic started pouring in.

Quality assurance has always been a major item for me. And I make sure my
hosting partners share this belief.


R:K:O at the moment is just a post site, do you have any plans to increase the features, or are you happy with how it stands?

I am happy with the way the site behaves to the end-user.

However, the admin interface seriously needs improvement. At its current it is
only useful for approving freshly submitted material. Which annoys me no end
every time I have to alter some part of the database. Once I get that part
sorted out I might start brainstorming and come up with new features, time
permitting.

R:K:O seems vital for arrangers, do you expect to keep the site running for the foreseeable future?


Which roughly translates to: as long as I can get it hosted freely, yes. R:K:O
attracts a *LOT* of bandwidth and there is no way I could pay the bill a
regular ISP would charge me. R:K:O has roughly 2 Gigabytes of files and has
been generating several hundred gigabytes of traffic since the site went public
on November 23rd, 2000. Having said this I am incredibly grateful to Jaymz
Julian and the rest of the intrepid folks over at DSPAudio (visit them at
http://www.dspaudio.com) for their donation of disk space and bandwidth.

R:K:O is developed for free, using free software, serving tunes made freely
available by their arrangers and operating on donations by good people who
believe in providing a public service. As long as this remains R:K:O be in
operation.


Have you heard about the back in time, live event, and will you be attending?

Sadly I will not be attending. During BITlive I am busy working on becoming a
Cisco Certified Network Associate. A rather nifty education, a personal and
professional ambition, and a great thing to put on my resume should I ever want
another job.

And finally - what are your ambitions, and what do you hope to see in the future regarding the scene in general?

Remix-wise I am working with someone to create a partner site for R:K:O. In the
future I would love the scene to come even closer together both online and
offline, having more events like BITlive. Also I would love to talk my way into
the mainstream media and broaden the public knowledge of the remix scene.



As you can see Jan is very ambitious and has many interests in various departments. He is constantly looking to improve the site, juggling this with a busy life style.

- Neil

Interview date: 12.03.2001