“c0zmo / BliSS is a newcomer musician to the C64 Demo Scene and a talented SID composer. His origins go back to the Amiga Scene. Today we are very happy to have him with us, here on iamretro! Let’s meet him !”
– Hi Markus! We are all so glad having you here @ iamretro.gr! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? (Name, studies, current job, etc)
– Hi George, and a big Hello to all readers! I’m Markus from Germany. I’am known in the C64 scene as c0zmo, or let’s put it this way: I hope I will be known as c0zmo! 🙂
I’m 42, and thought this is the perfect age for finding the answer to life, universe and everything: It’s the C64! 😉
So, I just started composing on the SID, some months ago. Outside the scene, I work as a systems administrator and network engineer. My family status is ‘Al Bundy’ – married with children… 😉
Thank you for having me here. I enjoyed the other SID-Adventures, that’s quite a great company you put me in!
– Are you a self taught musician?
– Yes, absolutely. As a child, I did not have the opportunity to take music lessons. But I was very early fond of black and white keys – my uncle had a home organ, and there’s a story still told in my family that I tried to play on it before I could even walk. 😉
When I got older, I didn’t feel like taking lessons, but I taught myself to play the piano and keyboards. However, since I was 20 or so I play in bands, and every once in a while I feel like I’m a bit stuck because I cannot read sheet music. But I compensate that by memorizing the pieces. Two years ago, I took a few piano lessons to finally learn notes and stuff, but it was quickly clear that was wasted effort. 😉
– Let’s start from your early days, shall we? I have a hunch that you have a long story to tell, about your very first Amiga years! Do you want to share with us some “relics” from the past?
– Ok, then let’s start right from the very beginning. When I was 10, my cousin gave me his Sinclair ZX81, which I fooled around with, typing BASIC listings and stuff. I quickly wanted “more” – there was that awesome computer a few guys from school had: The Commodore 64. I urged and begged my parents, but they couldn’t afford buying one. I had a classmate with a VIC-20 and his father, who was a sales representative for a HiFi-Stereo company, talked to my parents and organized a Commodore-computer with a big discount. Then on Christmas, there was a huge present under the Christmas tree. I unwrapped it full of anticipation, saw the Commodore-Logo and… it read Commodore 16 ! Can you imagine my disappointment? Man, I got the laughs from all my schoolmates on my side. 🙂 But I got to like that computer. It had a good BASIC interpreter and a built-in machine language monitor, and it had a reset-button! 😉 Of course, it was very limited compared to the C64, and there weren’t many good games. However, I used the C16 for two and a half years. Then, finally, I had saved enough money to buy an Amiga 500.
The Amiga was a revelation, compared to the C16. Of course I played games on it, but I also learned structured programming in C, Pascal and Modula 2, as well as a little 68K-Assembler. When I went to business school, there was this guy who also had an Amiga, and he told me that he was composing songs. He called himself MLP Artworx and was a member of the Amiga scene group “The Special Brothers“. This made me very curious. I went to his place and saw, for the first time, a tracker: The Soundtracker by Karsten Obarski. 🙂 I was stunned by the possibilities. We teamed up, from that point MLP Artworx was a duo. For the next three years, we composed a lot of songs, some of which were used in demos and intros of The Special Brothers, and later Desire. But then we had a real bad argument, and split up.
Desire's "Legoland" - Music by MLP Artworx - YT video by "Ramon de Bruijn"
– What was the Amiga-scene like? Your music was quite good, but most of your tunes were released in music collections and there doesn’t seem to be in many demos. What happened?
– Well… I’ll be honest. From the beginning, I had the feeling that I did not quite fit in the Amiga scene. Most people I met on group meetings or scene parties were edgy and arrogant; they let me feel that I was a rookie without any experience. I had just turned 16; everyone else was older than me. I was excluded from group decisions and wasn’t taken seriously. The situation did not get better when I grew older and made more (and better) music, and eventually I could not stand that any more, and left the scene. Maybe I’m doing them wrong, but that were my feelings back then.
Amiga Music disk - Music Collection II (The Special Brothers) Rel.5/1990 - YT video by "hipoonios"
I kept on composing MODs for myself, but never released them. I traded the Amiga 500 for a Amiga 1200 with Turbocard (Blizzard 1220/4) and even installed a hard drive – 200 Megabytes (!) for 899 Deutsche Mark, that’s about 460 Euro… 🙂 I then focused on BBSing, I was an avid user of the Fidonet and several BBS in our area. In 1996 I bought my first PC with a Cyrix P150+ CPU and Windows 95. I sold the Amiga and – I could bang my head against the wall for hours, when I think of this – gave away ALL of my disks, including ALL the works I did in Protracker. All of my own self-sampled instrument disks. They are lost, forever. I don’t know what I was thinking – maybe I was still hurt by how the collaboration with MLP Artworx turned out and took the opportunity to make a final cut.
Years later, on a garage sale, I found an A1200 with a 200 MB hard drive and a Blizzard 1220/4 Turbocard… I bought it for 20 Euros… but it was not the same machine, as one could think. 😉 I played around with it a little and enjoyed nostalgia, then I put it into the cabinet, where it began collecting dust.
TSB "Maximum Overdrive" - Music by MLP Artworx, GTS, Ivan and 4-Mat - YT video by "ED209rev1"
– Was Amiga your very first system, that gave you the motive to compose? Have you any previous ‘SID’ experience?
– I had a music program for the Commodore 16, but I did not use it often – the TED’s sound is just too rudimentary. I mean, two voices sharing one ADSR-Envelope – and only square-wave without PW-Modulation? Come on! 🙂 So yes, the Amiga was the first platform that I used for composing.
– Did you enjoy playing games? Which were your favorite titles?
– Of course I did! My all time Top Three are Turrican (I+II), Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge and Cannon Fodder. I especially liked the games where Karsten Obarski did the music – e.g. Future Tank and Crystal Hammer – because he was the author of the Soundtracker. It was interesting to hear what he achieved using his own program. And he did the music for Dyter-07, which in my opinion has one of the best soundtracks of all Amiga games, as it’s so ‘chiptune-ish’.
– Have you been involved in music making for any commercial release?
– Yes, that was my dream back then – and with MLP Artworx, we managed to jump onto an opportunity to do game music. We had a contact to Rainbow Arts and they were interested. They provided a game concept and early graphics to us, but a few weeks later we got notice that the development was seized. At first we childishly thought they found a “better” composer, but the game was in fact never released.
– Well, yeah. That’s a sad story. In 1996, when I got my first PC, I bought a MIDI interface and started playing around with sequencers. A few months later, I met Mig (MLP Artworx) again, by chance. We decided to forget our old fight, and teamed up to make music again – this time “real” music, as professionally as we could achieve. I already got some synthesizers, he got an AKAI-Sampler and voilà, our project studio was ready. We called our project “Cosmic 78“. We made a lot of songs, most of them quite crappy, but some very cool, even for today’s standards. I bought more keyboards and we even hired a professional female singer. Yes, we were serious! 🙂 In a tremendous effort, we created a complete album. Unfortunately, we were not able to sell it. We were too naive and made some mistakes. Shortly said, it was a disaster, financially, and personally too, because we again had a bad fight and parted.
– So your CD album has never been published and is lost forever?
– For almost 20 years now, our complete “Cosmic 78” album “When Cosmic Cultures Meet” was lost, and it almost fell into total oblivion. First I wanted to just leave it behind me and never think of it again and then over time I didn’t care about it any more. But since the day you contacted me and asked me about this CD album, I just could not stop thinking about the “Cosmic Cultures“. This never-released album, breathing the spirit of ’90s optimism, of the attitude that everything is possible, was still stored on some old hard disk of mine. Eventually I could not ignore it any more – I wanted to publish it! But I couldn’t just upload it somewhere, because I was not the only creator – Mig was the other part of our duo – and I had lost contact with him for over a decade. Over a few nights with very little sleep, I decided to try and find him again, and I actually succeeded. He was very happy to hear from me again, and I managed to convince him to finally let the world out there listen to our work from back then! So, today is the day, and this interview is the opportunity, where I can make the official announcement: “When Cosmic Cultures meet” is now on line at SoundCloud, free of charge, for everyone to listen! I hope you’ll enjoy these songs at least as much as my C64 tunes. But when judging these works, remember how long ago they have been created. 😉
– Why does someone active on the Amiga scene, buys a C64 some 30 years long after he started on the Amiga and begins composing on a SID? What attracted you to start working with SID as well?
– Last year, after undusting my old Amiga 1200 and enjoying playing games, somehow the C64 came into my mind. I always wanted one – the time had finally come. 😉
I got a C64 from eBay and ordered a XM1541 cable. I discovered websites like gb64, HVSC and of course the CSDb, especially the demos there caught my interest – the last demo I watched on a C64 was in 1991. The C64 hardware did not change since 1982, and I had no idea of the extreme software evolution that I had completely missed.
The first demo I had running on my very own C64 was Edge of Disgrace, and you can probably guess that I was shocked. Completely. What… The… Fuck!!! Then I loaded up Uncensored, and I was lost. That piece is so much more than just a demo, it is art. Everything is perfectly timed, and the soundtrack is just awesome. I watched more high-rated demos: Comaland, Coma Light 13, Wonderland XII, We Are All Connected and a few more. They all blew my mind.
And wow, the music: Diverse, rich and not at all the simple chiptune style I knew – here I listened to the work of real artists! That was the moment where it became crystal clear: I want to be part of this; I want to compose on the C64! 🙂
– What exactly does the Commodore 64 represent to you?
– Although I went from C16 to Amiga, the C64 always had a place in my heart. One of the first games that I played was Ghostbusters. Personally, this game stands for the glory days where I visited my schoolmates and we played all afternoon, loading the games from tape. I have many good memories which are somehow linked to the C64. When I got my first own C64 last year, I instantly knew how to use it – LOAD “$”,8, SYS 64738 , POKE 53280,0 … After all those years, the commands where still in my head – even though I never actually owned a C64 before! It was kind of spooky, but on the other hand it shows the bond that I always had and still have with this great machine.
To me, the C64 got a soul. It represents the zeitgeist of the ’80s, when things were easier. Life was easier. Seeing how it is being used today, 30 years later, with people still releasing stuff for it, creating tools, demos, gfx, music – awesome pieces of art – is just pure bliss.
– How do you compare SID music composing to Amiga/MOD and real music making?
– On the C64 I use Hermit’s great SID-Wizard for creating my music, and the work flow is not very different from Protracker on Amiga. Of course, you don’t have to deal with 1.000.000 instrument disks that make things easier. 😉 On the SID, you are very limited though: 3 channels, 3 waveforms, noise, one filter, ring-modulation and sync. The challenge to make the most out of this is one of the reasons why I like composing on the C64. 🙂
As for the ‘real’ music, that’s a completely different thing. You can add as many tracks, instruments or FX as you like in a modern sequencer. Virtual instruments are on a level where even trained ears fail to distinguish whether it’s the real thing. It’s a composer’s nirvana!
And there’s another important point: The failure of the Cosmic 78 project somehow totally destroyed my motivation to compose my very own music. So, in my bands we focus on playing cover versions of existing songs. With the C64 coming into my life, that nerve has been tickled again, and my desire to be creative has been re-ignited. I am back, composing own tunes, and that’s great.
– Do you have any plans for an Amiga demo scene “come-back” as well?
– No. Seriously, I cannot stand those 8-bit-samples any more. 😀
– Time to show off! It’s not a sin, isn’t it? 😀 Let’s talk about your studio, your favourite music tools, trackers, gear?
– For my ‘real’ music, I use a Macbook Pro with Logic X for arranging and mixing my recordings. My formerly giant synth-park has been boiled down to one stage piano that I use on every gig, the fabulous Nord Stage 2. When I need a second set of keys, I still got my Korg X5D, 20 years old and still doing it’s duty! 🙂 For the fun of it I also have a Nord C2 Hammond-Clone.
Regarding my C64 setup, I have a ‘Breadbox‘, a C64-II and a 1541 Ultimate II. My “weapon of choice” for composing is Hermit’s SID-Wizard. I love to compose on the real thing, and SID-Wizard really is a beast.
– Please name your SID “Heroes”!
Okay – but please take into account that I missed 25 Years and haven’t caught up yet! 😉 (That HVSC is HUGE!!!)
Old masters, in no particular order: Matt Gray, Ben Daglish, Jeroen Tel, Martin Galway, Chris Huelsbeck and of course Rob Hubbard.
From the currently active composers I like the works of Drax, Dane, Fanta, Linus, Jammer and Flex. And I give special kudos to LMan and Jason Page, as they keep pushing the SID into directions nobody would have dared to dream of in the ’80s! 🙂
– Do you think that SID emulation reached its ultimate state of perfection? What do you think about ‘SwinSID’ and the rest modern hardware –wannabe– SID replacements?
– SID emulation has come to the point where it works as a substitute. I use to check my tunes in VICE, as it allows me to select from a pretty wide range of different SID-models. It’s pretty close, but not perfect, in my opinion. As long as SID chips are available on the market, I see no real need for replacements. I haven’t checked one yet, but I have great respect for the people developing them. Someday there will be the need for those chips, if we want to keep the C64 alive beyond using emulators.
– What is your favorite chip to work with, the ‘dirty’/’clicking’ 6581 or the almost perfect 8580? …Nostalgia or quality? Name your poison!
– That’s difficult to answer. For purely oldschool-ish tunes there is of course no substitute for the 6581, but you quickly encounter its limits. On the other hand, the 8580 is perfect for sweet basslines, filtersweeps and all kind of tricks. But then the users with only a 6581 cannot enjoy the tune, except on an emulator. That’s a real conflict for me. I’m not comfortable with that situation; I cannot favor one over the other. So I support both. 🙂
– I really enjoy your first “Transforming” music tune! Such a good start! This was followed by “Blissed Out!” an equal (or maybe better?!) to your first, in terms of quality, release. Another ‘ear’ candy! I was caught by a nice surprise with the “SID-Diffing” feature, you introduced there. Could you explain us in more details what is this exactly for? Will you use it to your future releases? Are you going to improving it by adding new features, making it “smarter” perhaps?
I think that every C64-owner has the ‘right’ to enjoy SID-Music as it is intended, regardless of which SID there is in his machine.
During composing “Transforming“, I decided to make two versions of the song to support both 8580 and 6581. When I finished the song (on the 8580, by the way), I loaded it into my 6581-machine and started tweaking the instrument parameters. I found out that I only needed to do minor changes: In the end, just five bytes made the difference!
Transforming by c0zmo - YT video by "Future Technologics"
When I coded the frontend screen for Transforming, I had this idea: What if I did a SID-Detection and then alter these five bytes to the according values? I wrote a small routine that compares both tune versions byte by byte and writes the deviating addresses and values into a table. These values are then written back after the SID-Detection, which I by the way “borrowed” from SounDemon (Kudos, man!). That worked perfectly. I added the feature to manually switch the diff-data, so if the detection fails, the user can just switch to the correct model. 🙂 Several sceners contacted me after the release and asked me about the diffing, one called it “…the best thing since sliced bread“. So I seem to have found a soft spot here.
The diffing itself cannot be made smarter, although in theory, it should be possible to “map” certain settings to their “other SID” counterpart. But I think the work to adjust the settings to the SID should be done manually by the composer. It’s quite easy actually, and I will try to adjust every tune I make to sound properly on both SID-models. Meanwhile I’m also in direct contact with Hermit, I try to convince him to implement support for SID-switching directly into his SID-Wizard. 🙂
– This year you joined “BLiSS“. How did this happen? What are your plans this year?
– BLiSS was founded by ThunderBlade. We were friends in the late ’80s, but we lost sight of each other. Over the years, he built his own scene group, and later became a member of Fairlight. Then he gave that up to build Protovision and the German magazine GO64! .
He had left the C64 scene over 10 years ago, but recently… he came back. Right after I got my C64, I found him on Forum64.de, and after 25 years we met personally again. He led me into the C64-scene, and helped me releasing my first SID composition, Transforming.
So seen from a C64 view, I’m kind of a new guy while he is the veteran, which is positive for both of us. He has all the experience, but I am “unspoiled”, full of fresh ideas. 🙂
But there’s more to BLiSS: Just for nostalgia and fun, in 2012 ThunderBlade released an updated version of his “Ultraflash-Noter“, originally released in 1995. I tried it out and was struck: What a mark against the volatility and superficiality of today’s over-rushed communication!
Ultraflash-Noter V.3.0 by ThunderBlade of Bliss. Screenshot courtesy of CSDb
Think Facebook, WhatsApp, eMail, etc… In the old days of the C64, communication happened in a better way: In notes – with SID music. I found that notion very appealing. We actually started sending each other C64 note files to discuss matters! I found this a much more intimate and personal way to communicate than sending plain eMails or instant messages. As a nice side effect, I include my tunes, so he can test them on his machines.
This is a great aspect of the C64 scene – you can just be crazy, because everyone else is, albeit everyone in a different way, I guess. 🙂 So why not use this machine like it was still 1989? I’m glad that modern communication tools exist, as well as emulators, cross-dev tools, etc. And I’m perfectly fine with all releases made with GoatTracker, SID-Tracker64 or any other off-platform-tool. It’s just… not my cup of tea. 🙂 To me it feels a bit like a meeting of classic car owners, who all arrive in their air-conditioned, latest-generation Mercedes or BMWs, because it’s easier and more comfortable, while their classic cars never leave their garages.
That’s also one of the reasons why I use a native music program and not GoatTracker. It’s one of the reasons why I care about SID-models and put effort into the SID-diffing. If I didn’t care about the real thing, I could rather use an emulator for everything. But as I mentioned earlier, I also test my tunes in VICE, and I use a 1541 Ultimate II, which in its core is nothing else than an emulator. So yes, the line is very blurry. 🙂 Of course there are situations where emulators or cross-dev tools are extremely useful. And I don’t save my notes to ThunderBlade onto real floppy disks and put them into an envelope – I snag them from the SD in the 1541U2 and send them via eMail. 🙂 But I make them on the C64, and that’s what it’s about.
The more I talked with ThunderBlade, learned about BLiSS and the mindset behind it, the more I felt that it would be the right thing to do, to team up with this old friend from the ’80s. Eventually, on a “pure C64 meeting” initiated by me, he introduced me to some project ideas, and one of them was very appealing to me because it needs several pieces of music – the right task for me! It’s not a demo, at least not in the traditional way – but there will be much to see and, of course, listen to. For me, it’s quite an ambitious project and I have no idea how far we will come – we both have families and demanding jobs – and if we will ever cross the finish line. But maybe we will have a little surprise later this year? 😉
BLISSED OUT by c0zmo - YT video by "Future Technologics"
– Are you going to support stereo SID format? Do you enjoy it?
– I ordered a STEREOinSID kit a few days ago, but primarily to be able to check my tunes on both SID-models without having to boot up the other machine. While I think I will stick to a single SID for now, I am also very curious about Stereo-SIDs. Having an additional SID means so much more than having 3 extra voices. More things become possible, imaginable.
– Do you think that the C64 demo scene is going to get more attention in the future? Can you make a prediction?
– Since I’m totally new to the scene, I do not feel entitled to make any predictions. I missed its evolution entirely, and I feel extremely lucky that I finally got to be a part of it. All I can say is I’m glad that the scene still exists, and that it exists in such a scope. Of course I hope it will be like this for all eternity. 😉
It’s such a different experience for me, compared to my memories of the Amiga-scene. I found nice, warm-hearted and open-minded people who are more than willing to share their time and knowledge. In retrospective, my decision to favour the Amiga over the C64 was the wrong one. ThunderBlade was very early clear about this, he abandoned his Amiga in 1992 and focused on the C64. I laughed at him back then – now he laughs at me. 🙂
– Can I take a peep into your future plans?
– My primary plan is to continue composing on the C64. I’d like to make music for some demos. Furthermore, I plan to visit some scene events. I will be on BCC#10, and probably on Forever 8 Bit. X’2016 is also planned. I will try out myself and my tunes in the compos, I hope that’ll be fun. 🙂 I’m looking forward to meeting a few composer friends; I already have an appointment with Flex on X for having a beer or two… 😉
– Would you like to share some info about your music band? What are your plans?
Of course! I currently have two bands. The “Rouven Tyler Electric Band” is formed around our singer. He is pretty successful in this area, having many gigs as a solo artist and in musical shows. He’s got one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. For the big gigs, we support him as a band. We play funk, soul and rock music.
The Rouven Tyler Electric Band together with Alexander, Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe (playing the Rhodes)
The other band is called “Affrocke” and is a dream project of mine which I founded last year. It is a Tribute to the band “BAP“, which comes from Cologne and makes rock music with lyrics in “Kölsch“. That’s the dialect spoken there, hard to understand for non-Cologne people… 😉 We are making pretty good progress and hope to get some more gigs this year.
– How can a fan check out your latest tunes, scene related or not ?
The first place to check is obviously the CSDb. You can reach my page under http://csdb.dk/scener/?id=27749. I will upload any releases there.
The works of Cosmic 78 can be found on SoundCloud:
Finally, you can check out my bands under http://www.rouventyler.com/galerie/rouven-tyler-electric-band/ and http://www.affrocke.de. (In German)
– Thanks for being with us! Do you want to add something I forgot to ask you?
Like all the celebs today, the last thing I say is: Follow me on Facebook 😉
– Good luck with everything you are planning to! I will keep an eye on you my friend! 😀 Cheers!
Thank you! Keep up the good work! Hail to the SID! 😀