An Interview with Magnus Alstad

by Neil Carr

Magnus Alstad from Joined Forces (formally known as Magnus Erik Band)
has produced two very impressive remixes from The last Ninja series of games. His Latest remix of these gained a remix of the Month award here at remix 64.

Real name: Magnus Alstad
Born: 1973
Nationality: Norwegian

Who and what are the Magnus & Erik Band?

Magnus & Erik Band was a 99% studio band from Norway consisting of me Magnus Alstad and my friend Erik Hedlund. We’ve known each other since we were small kids and we used to sit up all night jamming and learning each other new guitar licks. Our band which we later called Joined Forces was a just for fun project which resulted in a number of home-made tunes, mostly recorded Erik’s old 4 track Tascam studio, which was quite a challenge to use with so few tracks. Reminds me of the c64 with only 3 channels of sound simultaneously😊 About the first thing we made together was some cover tunes of Joe Satriani, which made it to our national radio here in Norway. Actually Last Ninja are the latest tunes we’ve done together. I’ve made some music on my own after that, the reason we no longer make music together is that we live so far from each other now. It’s not easy to get together and jam a bit as we did before.

Who are you favorite c64 composers?

I’m really not very familiar with the names of C64 composers, but I like a lot of the game-music on the C64. The ones I know and like are Ben Daglish, Rob Hubbard and Matt Gray.

What are your favourite sids?

I definitely have to say Last Ninja (all of them), they were the ones reminding me of melodic guitar playing and really got me wanting to do a remix. Other tunes I remember are some really cool themes from Rambo, Delta, Ace 2 and Cybernoid. The unfortunate moment of a hard-disk crash erased most of my collected sid tunes, so now I’m quite lost.

So far we have heard two remixes from the Last Ninja, Why exactly these tunes?

We’ve actually made 4 tunes from Last Ninja, but only two has (yet) been published on the internet. The reason we picked those tunes were we thought they were the best, and they had some interesting melodic lines which was very well suited for guitar playing. If you listen to it you have heard we use a lot of harmonics to give the tunes a interesting melodic dimension. The tone transitions and slides in the two songs are plain magic in my ears and actually reminds me a lot about a extremely melodic guitar player with eastern-Asia influences named Marty Friedman.

Will you be doing more remixes from the Last Ninja, or plan remixes from other games?

For the time being I’m not sure, we were thinking of remixing some more songs from Last Ninja 2, but now we’re living so far apart it wont happen as a band I think. I’m thinking of fixing an uncompleted song for Last Ninja 2 which we haven’t released yet, and I’ll publish another tune from Last Ninja 1 on the internet very soon. You can check it out on in a week or two.

How difficult can it be to remix Sids to guitar, and do you feel Last Ninja lent itself to the guitar methodology?

The worst about it for us was making a backing theme that doesn’t suck and fits to the guitar, and because both me and Erik are guitar players and no drum and synth players we had a hard time in FastTracker making the backing for the melody line. From a guitar point of view The Garden from Last ninja 1 was possibly the worst to record as it required some serious technical ability to follow the fast apperigo theme with guitar. The melodic line was fairly easy, but of course the bends and slides in pitch was really fun and unconventional as you don’t normally bend your guitar strings 2 or 3 notes up as that makes your strings brake or your fingers bleed 😊

What gives you inspiration?

I guess as I live in Norway I should say the magnificent nature, but it’s not so I’m afraid. Listening to really good melodic music ex. c64 sids or other music make me wanna grab my guitar and play along. The strange thing is that listening to really bad music also gives me inspiration, because I get kind of angry want to show how good music should sound, hehe. Emotional moments like a minor depression is also good for inspiration actually, cause it makes you wanna express your feelings through music, and that’s what music is really about. So to all composers out there make sure you get dumped by your girlfriend once in a while and your music will be a lot more emotional and better *LOL*.

What do you look at in a sid when remixing it?

I pay a lot of attention to make especially the melodic line the focus in the song and enhancing it with harmonics if it sounds natural to give it more life. Apart from the drums, which the c64 wasn’t very good at simulating, I try to keep the backing as close to the original as possible.

What other arrangers do you like?

I haven’t heard a lot of arrangers apart from a dozen on the Amiga using soundtracker/protracker. We made these tunes without any particular inspiration from anything else than the game itself, and wasn’t aware of Puffy64’s remixes until this week. I think he has some interesting backing themes for the LN tunes. We made these tunes around 1994 , so I don’t think there were a lot of arrangers using guitar at that time.

What equipment/software do you use?

We used both protracker for the Amiga and Fasttracker for the PC for drums,bass, synth and effects, then we used a 24 digital studio which another friend of mine Jostein Lien let us use for one song, and Erik’s 4 track Tascam for the rest. I used an Ibanez guitar with BOSS ME-5 effects Erik used his Kramer with Digitech effect-machine.

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

Last Ninja in the garden, great melody and a real invention in the music genre at the time it was made.

What piece of equipment that you do not already own would you want, and why?

I’d like a really good multitrack digital home studio to master all my work on my pc, I’ve tried cakewalk pro audio, but I really miss some better features, and my soundcard is to bad to make low noise sampling possible.

How did you come across the remixing scene?

By playing C64 games when I was younger and, some of my friends made a lot of remixes from different Amiga and C64 tunes in protracker, so that might help me into thinking of making C64 tunes.

Why do you remix c64 music?

It was great music, and still is!

What are your fondest memories of the c64?

Using the screwdriver on the tape player to make my turbo-tapes load properly, hehe.

What non c64 music do you listen to and does this reflect in your music?

Today one of my favourites is Dream Theatre, but at the time of the Last Ninja recordings I used to listen a lot to Marty Friedman and Jason Becker in a band called Cacophony. Especially Marty Friedman’s music reminds me of C64 LN with his Japanese inspired guitar lines, and his music and technical playing inspired me a lot when making the tunes.

How would you like to see the scene develop/improve?

Don’t stop what you’re doing now with all the webforums and stuff for artists, this is what makes the scene accessible to everyone, which it really should to get any serious attention.

Finally What would you like to say to the scene?

Free C64 remix music rox the bra off multimillion Britney and lookalikes!

It seems that remixes from Magnus and Erik are going to be few and far between. Though i'd recommend you taking the time and having a listen to their work.

- Neil

Interview date: 05.10.2001