An Interview with Jan Zottmann

by Neil Carr

Jan Zottmann takes over the reigns for the sequal to the Amiga remix CD Immortal. Immortal 2 is set to take the series one step further than what was achieved previously.. Find out more on this exciting venture with this interview with Jan

Real name: Jan Zottmann

Handle: Jazz

Born: 1977

Nationality: German

Interview date: 14 November 2001


Neil

For those who are not familiar with Immortal 2, what can you tell us about the CD?

Jan

It's the sequel to the Immortal album that was released by Ruben Monteiro in 1999. The idea behind the CD is to have rearranged studio versions of great AMIGA game music on CD, not in a chart-compatible way, but performed by the original composers whenever possible.

Neil

Ruben Monteiro was the producer of the first Immortal CD, how did you become the producer of Immortal 2?

Jan

After I had listened to Ruben's CD, we mailed a couple of times and discussed ideas for a sequel. Since Ruben had moved on to other projects, he felt he wouldn't have enough time to do another album. I had been playing around with the idea of producing a scene CD for quite some time then, so at one point I told Ruben that I would be interested in taking over production duties for Immortal 2 and he encouraged me to do so. Well, here I am 😊

Neil

How have you approached the CD, what did you look at in the innital phases?

Jan

First, I wrote down all the tracks, musicians and artists I had in mind for the album. When my concept was basically ready, I asked the guys at synSONIQ records to have a look at it and they really liked what I had come up with. When Chris Hülsbeck visited Germany in October 2001, I met with him and asked him if he'd be interested in contributing an exclusive arrangement to the CD. He agreed to do one, and that was really an important moment for the project - to be honest, I probably would have cancelled the whole thing otherwise.

Neil

Deciding on which musicians to feature on the CD is never easy, what did you look at when hiring muscians?

Jan

Well, I simply compiled a huge list of personal favourites in the first place and Ruben also made a few suggestions. I then looked for contact information on the people I had in mind. Some were really hard to track down after all the years (especially those, who are no longer working in the games industry) but in most cases I was lucky enough to find them. And then I asked them if they'd be interested in contributing.

Neil

What musicians are set to feature on Immortal 2?

Jan

I was able to win well-known AMIGA musicians such as Chris Hülsbeck, Allister Brimble, Andrew Barnabas, Richard Joseph, Rudolf Stember or Barry Leitch for the CD. They will all be featured with brandnew and exclusive arrangements on Immortal 2. However, there are a few names that I don't want to give away at the moment, but I bet you'll be suprised to see who else will appear on the disc in the end!

Neil

You have kept the track listing very much secret, why is this?

Jan

There are various reasons for that; some of them are of legal nature, some are not. In the end I think it's better to keep things secret for a while instead of disappointing fans by announcing tracks or composers that eventually won't be featured on the final product.

Neil

What has been the most difficult part of creating the CD?

Jan

The legal stuff in general. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid that part when you're conducting a project like Immortal, Back In Time or whenever trademarks and licenses are involved. Actually, it wouldn't be all that difficult if some of the so-called third parties would be a little bit more cooperative; since you've just made your own experiences as producers of the Remix64 CD when dealing with EMI, you should have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about...

Neil

When can we expect to see the CD released?

Jan

Still aiming for a release in April 2002.

Neil

What parts of Immortal did you look at when compairing this to your own product?

Jan

I took the idea of having great AMIGA music rearranged by the original composers and asked two of the contributors (Barry and Allister) to return for the second volume, and that's about it.

Neil

Is there anything you would have changed if you were the producer of the first Immortal?

Jan

Everything I would have changed I changed for the second volume: other than the first Immortal, which showed an overview of AMIGA game music history from the early days until now, the sequel will focus on tracks composed between 1990 and 1993, which was AMIGA's finest hour in my opinion. From my point of view it actually is the first Immortal; if I had been in charge for the first volume, I would probably have produced a record similar to the one I am producing now.

Neil

What can you tell us about your history in the music scene?

Jan

As a musician? Well, I am composing for about 10 years now, but I've never scored a professional product - it's more a hobby of mine, although a very important one. I have recently joined the Merregnon Development Team as a supporting member and have written an orchestral composition for their download section, another track is already on the way. Originally, I didn't want to have one of my compositions on Immortal 2, because I felt it would be out of place there. However, Fabian Del Priore suggested it could be done as a bonus track and offered me the use of his high tech equipment for such an arrangement. I decided to give it a go and the track turned out to be really cool and I think it'll be a nice addition to the album. I'm also planning to make more of my music available for download on my homepage at www. zottmann. com in the future.

Neil

You have big connections to synSONIQ, what can you tell us about these connections?

Jan

When I was a synSONIQ customer, I often mailed or called them them when I had heard about new and upcoming products in the game music scene. In March 2000 they asked me if I'd possibly be interested in regularly writing a column for their website, and so I became kind of a freelance newsreporter for synSONIQ records. I am very much obliged to them for the extraordinary support they have shown for the Immortal 2 project so far.

Neil

What are your hopes for the Immortal 2 CD?

Jan

I hope it will turn out to be what I had in in mind when I started working on the project: the greatest AMIGA game music album ever - nothing more and nothing less. Oh, and it would also be nice if a couple of folks out there would eventually buy the CD 😉

Neil

Although too early to tell, but can you see a third CD in the offering in the future?

Jan

Well, I've always been a fan of sequels... 😉

Neil

Has there been any disapointments while producing Immortal 2, and how did you combat them?

Jan

I was very disappointed when Martin Iveson dropped out because of his tight release schedule - he had agreed to do Wolfchild for the album in the first place. I tried to get a permission or license from Core Design to do an arrangement of the track for CD, but unfortunately I never got a reply. When I realized that I had finally lost Wolfchild from the tracklist (a couple of months and unanswered maiìs later) I went and hired two new contributors for the album

Neil

What would you say makes a successful scene CD?

Jan

That's hard to tell for me, since Imíortal 2 is my first scene CD production. I think it is very important to show respect to the original compositions; that's why I wanted to have the music rearranged by the original musicians and not just a CD full of strange techno remixes, performed by somebody who doesn't really care for that music (Output 64, anyone? ) Immortal 2 is a labour of love, with a lot of attention spent on details - I'm sure that scene music fans will recognize and appreciate that.

Neil

What are your favourite scene compositions?

Jan

Almost every AMIGA game soundtrack by Chris Hülsbeck, especially the Turrican series and Apidya. There's also a lot of pretty cool C64 music, I'm really looking forward to hear Chris Abbott covering The Last Ninja on the fourth chapter in his Back In Time series. I'm not really an expert to the demo music scene, but I was pretty impressed by the works of Jonne Purple Motion Valtonen - as far as I know he's currently working on his first solo album.

Neil

Apart from scene music, what music do you enjoy?

Jan

I'm an insatiable collector of motion picture soundtracks; favourite composers include Dennis McCarthy, Chris Boardman, Jonathan Elias, Sylvester Levay, David Michael Frank and of course big names such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams or Michael Kamen. I also listen to progressive rock bands (like Yes or Dream Theater) jazz, new age, industrial - almost everything except the stuff you see on MTV all the time. Well... errr... there was this Backstreet Boys single...

Neil

I suppose the big question is, why are you producing an Amiga music CD?

Jan

I was already waiting for that one. 😊 While my first computer was the C64, it was the AMIGA that finally turned me into a game music fanatic. My first scene was Shades by Chris Hülsbeck. So you can imagine that this project is a dream coming true for me: I mean, I'm working with personal heroes of mine, who are now rearranging my favourite AMIGA game soundtracks for CD - I'm the producer of a record that I would want to buy! What more could I ask for?

Neil

Lastly, What further coments would you like to add?

Jan

I'd like to thank some people who have supported me during the production of Immortal 2 so far (and will hopefully continue to do so!) : Hans-Jörg Stapff, Christoph Winkler and everybody at synSONIQ records; Thomas Böcker; Fabian Del Priore; Ruben Monteiro; Chris Abbott; all of the musicians; my family and my girlfriend Alex, whose love and support means the world to me. I'd also like to thank everybody at Remix64 for the opportunity to talk about this exciting project.

Plenty of c64 CD's to choose from these days, so Immortal 2 will come to a breath of fresh air for those who want to hear more from the composers who first made their marks on the computer music world.

- Neil