– Hi Sascha ! I feel so glad that you accepted my call for an interview! We all welcome you here @ iamretro.gr !
– Thank you! The pleasure is all mine.
– I know that I may sound a bit of boring but let’s start with a short bio of yours, shall we? (Name / studies / present job…everything you want to share with us 🙂 )
– Sure, my name is Sascha Zeidler, better known as “Linus” among C64 sceners, turning 36 this year. Married, two kids and a dog, self-employed.
I run a web-agency specializing in integrating merchandise management into e-commerce systems as well as WordPress development.
As for hobbies next to composing I enjoy hunting down obscure music and movies from the 60s and 70s, beers and petting my dog.
– Did you study or took any special courses in music?
– My whole life started to revolve around music one way or another after I got hold of an Amiga and a certain disc labeled “Noisetracker” when I was around 11 or 12 years old.
Soon enough after somewhat grasping the concept of that magic tracker thing my mother bought a keyboard and I started taking music lessons. From there on I used to play in several bands (all sorts of genres from electro to free jazz), trying all sorts of instruments with varying success 😉 Lately I started to take more jazz piano lessons again.
– What exactly does an old C64 home computer mean to you? Had you own any as a kid? Did you enjoy playing games? Your favourite titles?
– I had one or another all the time since 1989 I think (not necessarily set up, tho) and used to play games whenever I could or mom allowed me to 😉
I pretty much grew up on it and it still provides a warm feeling of both childhood nostalgia AND an occasion to artistically express. There is nothing like the sound of a 1541 doing it’s magic, is it? 😉
My favorite games? From the top of my head:
Turrican I + II
The games series by Epyx, especially World- and California Games
Defender of the Crown
Auf Wiedersehen Monty (probably just because of the music!)
Boulder Dash in all it’s incarnations
Too many to mention, really. I haven’t played any of them for at least a decade, tho.
– How long have you been active in the scene? How did you start? Early years?…
– As far as I can remember I became interested in the demoscene around 1992 after buying an Amiga, basically just watching demos my neighbor (an old Amiga swapper) provided. In a local computer club (hah!) I got to know some crackers and soon enough started to compose tunes for their cracktros. The first proper music release was in 1995 on the long defunct netlabel ‘phase’d‘ after talking to prat/phase’d on one of their bbs systems. Other netlabels such as Mono211, Voodoo, MoPlayaz and Theralite followed and I eventually switched from using Protracker and the PerfectSound sampler to Windows and (yep, you already guessed it) FastTrackerII. Oddly enough I never really got into it (there are just a handful of XM releases by me out there) which lead me to using Buzz and Renoise later on, mostly for the back-then live act „K:inski“ .
– What sparked your interest to start composing SID music?
– It must have been as late as 2004 I stumbled upon Goattracker by accident making a child dream come true to actually write sid music. I have always been a fan of the Sid chip, (even listening to sid recordings on my walkman in the ’80s all day) and was more than surprised when I found out there still was a vital c64 scene in 2004.
I started writing some tunes for fun (it wasn’t that hard as I knew tracker based systems and had a decent grasp of subtractive synths already) and eventually got invited to join my first C64 groups (Civitas and Jeff’s ViruZ). What intrigued me about writing sid music is the low level approach – everything you do you do from scratch, independent from plugins and sound libraries you’re able to control every frame of the sound. One doesn’t need to concentrate of mixing in a treated room either and thus can get tunes done rather quickly.
– Have you been involved to some other systems (8 or 16bit) demo scene(s) as well?
– Yep, I started out on the Amiga until the scene completely dried up towards the turn of the century and also did some VC20 music (quite a funky chip, I might add) for a TRSI demo. Regarding the PC scene it was all about netlabels for me, I never did any demo soundtracks at all, nor did I ever really watch any PC production either. I also did some commercial soundtracks for small indie game studios for various consoles, but I cannot remember any titles atm. Oh, and I love playing Atari VCS games from time to time 😉
– From all these tons of quality SID tunes you released, are any special or favorite ones? What you feel are your milestones?
– 64 Forever certainly marks a milestone as it won the X2014 music competition. It was the very first time ever I put down a tune with ‚winning‘ as the main goal in mind 😀 Achievement unlocked!
64Forever - #1 @ X2014 Music Competition - Code: Ian Coog, Music: Linus, Help: Jammer - YT Video by C64 Studio
Apart from that Urban Canyon Cruising is something I am really satisfied with. Generally the coops with GH produced a lot of favourites, our album “Pixels“, which is hopefully going to be released soonish, even more so.
I also released a sid LP with vocals [ Mini Melodies IF I NEVER CAME HOME AGAIN ] where I like both „Vegas“ and „Someday Soon“ very much.
– Could you please give me in a few words, the ingredients of a well distinguished and memorable tune?
– Uh, I guess I am the wrong guy when it comes to ‚memorable‘ tunes. Usually I am not really after catchyness, but like more progressive tunes (abandoning the usual verse-chorus 4/4 beat structure) with a jazzy touch most. Prime examples are Hein Holt and Randall, but it can be anything, really. Tunes by e.g. Ed and Goto80 come to mind.
'Still Ready' Rel. LCP2009 by Resource and The Dreams - Music: Linus - YT Video by 'AmN79'
– How many unfinished projects you left behind or totally trashed?
– I never actually trash any worktunes and still have everything archived from the early Protracker .mod days on. My C64 worktunes folder currently says 1619 files (one tune can have many iterations, tho). As for left behind … most of them, I guess.
Linus - Urban Canyon Cruising - YT Video by 'C64 Studio'
– Do certain SID tunes reflect your present mood? Did you make any as a reminder for a special occasion?
– Since I am not a professional musician who has to deliver commercial tunes in a given style on time I am free to do whatever I feel like doing. Therefore I guess all the tunes certainly reflect the mood I am in while writing them. As for my present mood? Across Tundras, maybe 😉
Linus - 'Across Tundras' - YT Video by 'demoscenes'
– 8580 FTW…or not?
– 8580 for Kaiser, definitely. Not to say the old chip doesn’t have it’s advantages but my whole sound design approach relies on heavy filter type switching resulting in massive clicks on the old chip. So yeah, 8580 all the way for me.
– How possible is for a musician/coder to teach an old SID chip, new tricks ? 😉
– 2X, 3X…multiple SIDs…love or hate?
– Indifferent I’d say 😉 Multispeed is too much hassle for a lazy ass like me and not really necessary most of the time and stereo feels a bit like cheating. In the end I just prefer standard mono single speed sids without samples I guess.
– I always like to ask all fine musicians to describe their studios…I will not make an exception here! 😀… Would you please give us a picture of your equipment, programs, trackers ?…Everything you use, even your furniture! LOL! C’mon thrill us! 😀
Uhh, nothing to special I guess. A couple of years back I used to have a treated room with quite some gear, but sold a lot of it when I became a father and moved houses. You probably know that moment when priorities suddenly shift 😉
I’ve got my Macs (for both professional and music related work), pretty decent Adam Audio monitors, AKG and Shure headphones, an old Korg XP80 workstation currently being used as a midi masterkeyboard, a Tenori On, a Novation Bassstation and a Fender US guitar I rarely play 😉 I mainly compose on my piano downstairs and record sketches on the fly.
– Emulation or Real SID? How far have we come? How about when SID chips become obsolete?
Since I don’t have my C64 set up right now I usually listen to sids via emulation, which is pretty darn good by now, at least regarding the 8580 chip. I never encountered bad surprises when I moved from the emu to real sids at parties.
– What about DTV? You’ve been active there as well with “Ghost In the machine” and “2008 – A DTV Odyssey”, if I recall correctly. Seems that 2008 was DTV’s year, am I wrong? These were some excellent prods out of a few releases for this platform. Do you like to see more prods released for a hardware based emulation, modern system like the DTV?
– From a musicians point of view doing DTV stuff can be quite frustrating as there are no filters and the adsr settings can be very unstable at times (amongst many other problems). To be honest I did not really enjoy doing DTV tracks, although the TRSI demos itself where excellent, of course. I can see the attraction for coders, obviously, and really felt sorry for the TRSI guys when my motivation dropped to zero after 2008 – a DTV Odyssey.
2008 - a DTV Odyssey - Released @ Oxyron Party 2008 by Tristar & Red Sector Incorporated
– Easy Flash / 1541 Ultimate II …to name a few modern hardware C64 lovely and very useful gadgets. You were the musician for some excellent demos, special tailored for REU. The jaw dropping ‘BluREU‘ comes straight to my mind. Are you going to support REU prods further?
– I certainly wouldn’t mind to, why would I? 🙂
BluREU by CREST - Released @ Breakpoint 2010 - Code: Bitbreaker, Crossbow, S.E.S / Music: Jeff, Linus / GraphX: Carrion, DeeKay - YT Video by 'lemmingoffence'
– Originals or Remixes? Could you please name some of your favorites tunes from each category?
– Sorry, but I am not really familiar with the C64 remix scene. Not to devalue the work that goes into remixes at all but listening to the nth-rendition of a Hubbard/Galway/Daglish tune with modern synths isn’t particular interesting to me. But then again I might not have heard enough tracks to really say anything about that 😉
As for originals, there are many tunes I really adore.
From the commercial heydays Tim Follin and Martin Galway are my favourites by far.
Randall – Vinyl Headz, Unintelligible Disco, A Liquor Store Anthem, Girl from North Carolina … oh well, too many to mention, really. His stuff just hits a certain nerve.
Hein – The Jam, Syntax Error, Scott-Land, Ticking Timebomb. Again, many many more, same thing as with Randall.
Jeff – Dune’s K Remix
Jammer – Big Beat
GH – Dying Star, Wind Downs
Laxity – Schmold Skool
Ole Marius – Trick’n’Treat Tune
I could easily name a few hundreds more.
– ‘Demo-ing’ is an expression of art. Demos are much like movies, requiring many talented people in a fine cooperation under guidance from an experienced director to achieve something that will amaze the audience…What’s your opinion? Is anybody able to make a demo/prod (having some experience and knowledge of course), or must have something special…like a skill, a talent perhaps?
– Next to an artistic disposition passion and dedication (obsession, maybe?) is the key I think. Social skills shouldn’t be underestimated either 😉
Linus and GH - Midnight Upon Us [MultiStyle Labs, 2015] - YT Video by 'demoscenes'
– What are your criteria to give a solid 10 to a SID tune?
– Oh, that’s hard to tell. It certainly has to hit a certain nerve and be at least somewhat compatible with my own taste, although I can appreciate well executed tunes outside of my listening comfort zone (say, Eurotrance, hah!), too. I cannot quite put my finger on what it is, really. It can be anything from Ed’s glitch, GH’s wonderful chord progressions to Jammer’s amazing sounds.
– Multistyle Labs. So many talented musicians in the same group! Do you work on your tunes strictly by your own or assist each other as a team? I feel that you are like a ‘dream team’ of musicians but how likeable is to comment or judge the work of each other?
– Oh, we run a certain infamous, politically incorrect, at times disgusting, often hilarious hillbilly-esque chat room where we meet to trash talk (often) and share worktunes (rarely). Work in progress tunes are also shared via Dropbox.
As we are well-grounded characters commenting on and judging the other guys tunes is usually no problem at all, no matter how harsh it gets at times 😉
– ‘Fortress of Narzod’ !!! Now, you touched a very sensitive chord!! 🙂 You know, I am very active in Vectrex scene as well. Vectrex is a machine I cherish, is really in my heart…well…beside C64 of course! Have you own a Vectrex machine? How did you come with this neat idea to port a Vectrex game to C64 and compose its catchy tune (with some…hmm…’Eastern’ sound touch) and sfx?
Fortress of Narzod [16KB Cartridge for C64] - Code: Peiseluli / Music: Linus - YT Video by James Monkman
– Hah, I did not come up with the idea at all, that was Peiseluli whom I met at X2008. Having never owned a Vectrex the black and white spartanic vector gfx gave me a creepy sort of retrofuturistic lost in space feel. If that makes any sense whatsoever, which I doubt 😉 As for the music … eastern scales (and especially the switching of the whole tone scales in the ingame tune) kind of underline that foreign atmosphere I felt, although I admit that might not work for everybody.
– ‘Fantasmolytic‘, ‘BCC Faces‘, ‘Cauldron 101%‘, ‘Durch den Monsun‘, ‘Demo of the Year 2013‘…WOW! I am so sorry but I really can’t go any further, because I have to copy the entire CSDb here! LOL!…So many quality releases…What was the most harsh to complete? Any stories you want to share?
'Fantasmolytic', #1 @Nordlicht 2015 by Censor Design and Oxyron - YT Video by RetroDemoScene
– Most harsh to complete … well, that must have been the soundtrack for BluReu as I was moving houses at the time and had to compose it during late nights. Also that VC20 Demo by TRSI was quite something, as I had to learn the VC20 soundchip, it’s software and limitation very quickly AND come up with a couple of tracks.
– ‘Darkness‘ (Rel.2014) and ‘VICE squad‘ (Rel.2013). Two very well crafted and high quality, commercial game releases from ‘Psytronik Software’ and ‘RGCD’. They are both now available for free.
You have a legitimate user here! Yes, sir! I did pay the registration fee to own them both and I am really proud for it!
‘Darkness’ is my kind of game but unfortunately I am a lousy player with a serious lack of free time (supporting a family with two boys, is so much time consuming…ha!ha!ha!). Could you please give us a picture of the “making of...” stages?
– Heh, thanks! 😉 I can certainly relate to that having two young kids to support at home.
The atmosphere of The Darkness made me wanna go for a Follin inspired style, of course. As far as I remember Achim provided me with a playable demo with all graphics done already, so it should have been hassle free but I was constantly (up until the *very* end) completely unsatisfied with the in-game tune so I started from scratch weeks before the finishing line. The hardest part was to cram something listenable and not too repetitive into two voices without eating too much memory. The third voice is reserved for SFX, but as there can be more than one SFX at a time it had to be possible to mute the 2nd voice without actually killing the song. That means no long sustained notes on voice 2. So yeah, several hurdles to overcome.
– C64 scene will continue to flourish for the time to come, with many more wonders to get unveiled out of our beloved C64…Agree?
– I sure hope so, although I cannot see much (any?) young blood. As Randall put it … X parties are parties of old men nowadays 😀
– May I spy with ‘my little eye’ to your future plans? Please give me some clues!…
– I am looking forward to the release of GH’s and mine 12 tracks „Pixels“ album and planning to do more tunes/EPs/LPs with GH (an underrated brilliant and better musician than I will ever be and a very nice bloke, too).
I am also starting to slowly build a proper mixing room in the attic again, which is probably going to be the main goal this year. Apart from that? More jazz piano and a proper X2016 tune, maybe a demo or two.
– I have to confess that during the time I was writing this brief (!LOL!) list of question, I was listening to your sid tunes (they are so well sorted into the High Voltage SID collection archives), with a little help from my special moded stereo 8580 SID commie/1541 UII and of course SIDPlay.
I have to admit that nearly every single tune I was listening to, triggered a new question to pop up! Is very hard for me to interview such a prolific scener like you…I know very well that I forgot to ask you lot of stuff…so please…Do you want to add anything else (important or not 🙂 ) that I have overlooked?
– Wow, thanks for your kind words, warms an old heart! Nothing „important“ you have missed, I can assure you 😉
Just one thing – special greetings to my biggest fans Stinsen and Fanta, keep on practising, dudes. You’ll get there someday! 😀
They Cut the Grass Again by Linus and GH - Released by MultiStyle Labs / Toondichters, 6/2015
– Which way your fans can reach you? Any special sites?…URL(s) please ! 😉
for starters 😉
– We were so glad to have you here, Sascha ! Good luck to whatever you are planning to!….
– Again, thank you very much for your kind words and interest. Good luck with the site and mag, keep on trucking!