An Interview with MistaDistah

by Neil Carr

MistahDistah (A relative newcomer) broke into the scene several months back winning fans and acclaim from many sections, Though MistahDistah says that he's non too happy with any of them.

Real name: Mikael Ericsson Duffy
Handle: MistaDistah
Born: 1974
Nationality: Swedish/Irish

What are your favourite c64 composers?

There are really too many skilled sid-composers to mention. I like all of them. Making strong melodies in 3 voices is hard enough, so Ill have to say… most of them were and are really skilled. Naturally, I have a few composers I admire over others. There are composers that I liked back then, and then there are composers that Ive discovered since I got the Sidplayer for Windows (I didnt follow the sid-progress after I got a Amiga for some strange reason). Generally, it comes down to Fred Gray, Jonathan Dunn, Matt Gray, Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, David Whittaker, Martin Walker, Neil Brennan and Martin Galway (almost everyone!). They were the ones I thought did exceptionally well overall. But there are so many others…

What are your favourite sids?

Very tricky stuff. In random order: Boulderdash (PL), Infodroid (FG), Uridium (ST), Green Beret (MG - Song 1 only), Mutants (FG), Nexus (?), Elektraglide (DW), Fist 2 (NB), Hypaball (KT), Robocop (JD), Scarabaeus (Andromeda), Citadel (MW), Master Of The Lamps (RL), Rambo - First Blood 2 (MG), Kettle (BD), Incredible Shrinking Sphere (AL), Led Storm (TF), Enigmaforce (FG), Shadowfire (FG), Gyroscope (MA), Parallax (MG), Alleykat (ST), Phantoms Of The Asteroid (RH), Lightforce (RH), Master Of Magic (RH), Arkanoid (MG), Panther (DW), Thanatos (RH), Ocean Loaders (Various), Armgeddon Man (DW), Ballblazer (K-Byte), Bazooka Bill (NB), Deliverance (MG), Delta (RH), Wizball (MG), Dominion (MW), Driller (MG), Great Giana Sisters (CH), Human Race (RH), Krakout (BD) and many others (I discovered writing this that there may be too many)…

Why did your start arranging c64 music?

A good friend of mine, Peter Morck, (who Ive shared a lot of C64 memories with), got me into it by playing a The Dead Guys remix to me a couple of years back. The track completely blew me away with its unique sound and modern production. It was a nostalgic memory with a beat. Since I already was doing some music of my own, I decided to try to contribute my own salute to this forgotten era I have so many fine memories from. Also, it is a great way to test technical abilities and evolve as an arranger/remixer. As I progress with making remixes, I hope to learn. Eventually, I will hopefully find a unique sound and production value, building itself on experience, that will be of a somewhat professional standard (hehe). And from there on make my own grooves…

What equipment/software do you use?

A 420 Mhz PC with Soundblaster AWE64 Gold Soundcard.
Cubase & numerous Softsynths, Editors and Plugins.
Roland MC-303 Groovebox
Fender Stratocaster with Alembic Active Pickups
Rickenbacker-Model Bass Guitar (Unknown brand : )
Line6 POD Amp Simulator
Kittyhawk Tube Rack Preamp
Behringer MX 1602 - 16 Channel Mixer
Boss Digital Delay Pedal
Boss Heavy Metal Pedal
Electro Harmonix Phase Shifter Pedal
Colorsound -74 Wah Wah Pedal
Harman Kardon Amplifier
Gale Reference Monitor Speakers

Which remix of your own are you most pleased with?

Unfortunately, Im not too pleased with any of them. Since Im still learning, I feel that Im gradually with time improving my way of arranging tunes. Hence, I dont like my first couple of remixes very much (LN3 & Wizball Mixes). They were done quite some time ago in a period when I used mainly samples to arrange. The later remixes are OK, but I like Gyroscope the most. It has a more accomplished sound and is the most recent remix.

What sids are you looking to convert in the future?

There are mainly three sids that Im dying to spend some time making. Infodroid by Fred Gray, Fist 2 by Neil Brennan and Green Beret (Song 1) by Martin Galway. Lately, Ive been doing a mix of Miami Vice Loader by Martin Galway. Don't know when it will be finished though (need to fix my guitar - bad wiring). Also, there are many more waiting to be done. Im gonna spend more time on making my stuff in the future, so it may take more time before future releases are brought to RKO.

What/where/who do you get your inspiration?

Reflecting… …everyday mood of life. Everything that is good or bad about everything (phew!…there I go again).

What non-c64 music do you like, and does this reflect in your music?

I like all kinds of stuff. Ive been going through a number of musical periods throughout my life. Like everybody else, I love some stuff now that I wouldnt have been caught dead with 10 years ago. Usually, I state that I like the better of all genres of music (your average generalisation, anyone???!!!) I have experienced through the years. These might reflect in my music/arrangements/remixes: Depthcharge (moviessamples, killerbass and beats), Queens Of The Stone Age & Kyuss (ROCK!…), Orbital, Deftones, Tori Amos, Miles Davis, Bomb The Bass, Curve, Depeche Mode, Autechre, Future Sound Of London, David Bowie, Curtis Mayfield, Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, u-ziq, Boards Of Canada, 808 State and so on and on… I like a lot of movie-scores as well, but almost always in the original context of the movie itself.

If there was a piece of music that you would like to claim as your own, what would it be, and why?

I would never claim another persons work as my own. Too much foolish pride for that. Then why do arrangements of other peoples work then? To honor I suppose. Its way too hard to pick one single piece. But, generally, if there was one piece of music picked so a judgement could be done of my character…my general thought would be: Shit, cant even think of one…

In your opinion How should a sid be remixed?

In a free manner. A sid should be remixed in any which way the arranger/remixer chooses to remix it in. It is the arranger/remixers own better or worse judgement of how to interpret a piece of music as a remix, that decides in which direction the tune should shape itself. If they honour or dishonour an original composition isnt their choice. That might sound like your typical crappy statement, but I follow those terms. I remix a sid in the manner I would with any music. My own way. What I feel made me like the original piece in the first place. To put it in terms: A combination of mood, style, ambition and atmosphere felt by the original piece. I remix to honour the original piece in an original manner. A different style.

) What are your thoughts on the music in modern day games?

There has most certainly been a fair share of crap and too-quickly-produced music in the gaming industry the last 10 years or so (probably with the introduction of incorporating the CDROM-format into games). However, some golden gems are to be found. I remember being mighty impressed by the soundtrack to Deus Ex as I progressed through the games levels not so long ago. Using the same aesthetics as movies, games are generally heading into the direction of a more film like style. I think the music will follow, if it hasn't already. A lot of good game-music has most probably blown past me without notice. Unreal Tournament has a couple of fancy tunes. I heard TDG-Judge Dredd was featured on a modification to Quake 3 (Rocket Arena 3), but I guess that doesn't count as a real game (Quake 3 sucks & mod wasn't too good either - I don't speak for everybody of course…).

Do you think that c64 remixes could ever make it commercially?

Its no news that C64s and other 8-bit stuff have inspired a lot of commercial artists in how their music sounds today. Kernkraft 400 (or whatever…) did have a hit with the lead from a C64 tune. But, as far as I see it that could almost have been a random event (I know for a fact it wasn't though…). It's a small short ditty (catchy…), which could easily have been any German dance floor-fillers everyday food. I don't think C64 remixes should be commercial at all, unless the money is going back to the original composers. The remixes are there for the enjoyment of those who experienced the originals and for those who have yet to discover how creative and original the 8-bit technology was back in those days. So, I definitely dont rejoice over all the commercial C64 cds popping up all over the place. Call it nostalgia if you will…please?

) Who do you think gives the scene the biggest boost?

I haven't followed the so-called scene for long. In my opinion, the boost is given by Jan Lund Thompsen at RKO and all its remixers who are all doing a great job at reviving all those tunes. And if it wasn't for the site you're reading this on right now, you wouldn't be reading it!!! So, a big hug to the guys at Remix64 as well for keeping it together and making these interviews available. It's a pity not many people use the messageboards a lot more.

Which is better: Cover or remix?

Is there really a difference? I guess so. It would seem a cover would be a faithful adaptation of the original, but that's fairly hard as it would use only 3 voices (instruments) and that would leave us rather listening to the original. In my opinion a remix is the way to go as it leaves the original tune open to either making a reasonably correct (or crappy...) version of the original with some minor improvements (or none…) or a self-interpreted remix where the original tune can freely be transferred to any given style/genre.

) Has there been anything that has helped you improve your music?

The progress of mixing hardware with software when making the remixes. Lately, the capabilities of powerful software have taken over the hardware by integrating everything in easily used environments. I can now integrate my hardware with software and get results that were not available to me a couple of years back. Computers have become very powerful as well (my computer still sucks though) allowing more amazing things to be done. Its always better mixing hardware with software, even though sometimes you feel using software only would be a lot easier. The general sound of hardware is still superior if used right. That's why I still fail. I need more HARDWARE! (Need more money too…). Who am I kidding? Of course, if you're motivated and stubborn you can make anything sound good if you give it enough time.

) What other arrangers do you like?

There are many I like. The Dead Guys (these are the guys that inspired me to get into the scene), Wobbler, O2, Mr Sid, LMan, Oedipus, Betweenzone, Peter Morck, Kent Wallden, Feekzoid, Axel Melzener. DHS of TSW (not the dancy stuff…) and many others.

What are your likes/dislikes about remixing?

Likes: I love remixing in all its aspects. I've also had a lot of free time lately. That's always good for remixing. Also when someone thinks you've done the original tune justice with your remix.
Dislikes: It's hard to keep up when you don't get enough feedback on the stuff you make. Rarely, do I get feedback on anything (there could be reasons for that…). There are a lot of remixers spitting remixes for what seems to be the share pleasure of seeing their name on the top ten chart. Seems like an awful waste of time for that reason.

What are your thoughts on commercial c64 remixing CD's?

As mentioned above I don't feel in any way there should be any such thing as a commercial C64 album, except if its in the hands of their respective original composers. And why would anyone want to buy a cd of something that they have the original of already for free. Not to mention the outstanding remixes FOR FREE at, that I personally think, certain songs of course, are far superior than the remixes found on any of the commercial albums. Also, there seems to be general copyright-theft-paranoia within these commercial remix-artists minds. Worried about their money and stuff. Whets to be worry about? The songs were not made by them in the first place. Not even all of the original songs are originals. I don't claim to know everything, that's just my opinion.

What are your fondest memories of the c64?

  • Getting it at Christmas a long time ago…as many others, I got the tape player first, and then I knew what was waiting in that other big box…
  • Waiting for that loader-screen to finish, unveiling magic (could be crap too of course).
  • Raid Over Moscow…
  • Buying all those cheap Mastertronic games.
  • S.A.M. and Funky Drummer. The only two sound-producing tools I ever got to use on the C64.
  • Kicking ass and getting ass kicked in Spy vs Spy.
  • Paradroid - badly packaged and on sale. The only game I could afford when visiting a computerstore with a friend in 1985. After playing it a while, it was the best 8-bit game ever made.
  • Those great tunes with their insane sounds.

Lastly what would you like to say to the scene?

I like to thank all my collaborators, friends and the people who supported me and gave me feedback on my stuff. A BIG THANX to all the people making the music available: remixers, composers, admins, and many others. Boys & girls, KEEP IT UP!!!

MistahDistah seems non too keen on the scenes new direction regarding commercialism and the like. There are deffinately to ways of thinking here... Quality Mixes on CD or lesser mixes for FREE. What would you choose. MistahDistah would choose the latter.

- Neil

Interview date: 15.08.2001