“Sebastian Hirsch is a prolific musician and music producer from Germany. The Amiga and the Commodore (SID) are always in his music arsenal, so we thought it was time to get to know him better! Here we go!”
– Hi there Sebastian and welcome to iamretro.gr! Can you please introduce yourself and your group ‘Naviára’ to our readers?
– Hi, my name is Sebastian Hirsch, 42 years old. I am a music producer with a modern project studio in Germany. I am making music in my free time for fun or doing contract work for audio services, especially soundtracks and background music. I am involved in a few musical projects, for instance my band ‘Naviára‘ , my solo project ‘Anthony Walters‘ and a few cooperations with some music friends. Besides the music I work in a company for IT hardware products and software solutions.
I have grown up with Commodore products, at first I got the C64 and later the Amiga, mostly using them to play games. On C64 I also wrote two programs which are published on the Magic Disk 64 magazine – an address Database (Loxtex64 II) and an adventure creator (Loxad), both in C64 Basic. Today I wished I would have invested more time for better programming skills, especially assembler.
Making music was not a big thing for me at this time, but I liked the music the C64 produced very much. Unfortunately, every time when I want to compose my own music on the C64, all the music editors were so cryptic and the general workflow was so far away from being practical and felt much more like programming something instead composing. It was not as fun as playing games, so I gave up but I tried many music programs before – for instance Romuzak, Future composer and Soundmonitor.
With a bit practice in future composer I was finally able to make a ‘Shadow of the beast 1‘ cover from the first ‘tree level’ that sounded really good. The original SID is lost but I have it still on audiotape, so I recreated the tune entirely with my own build C64 Sid-Workstation with Cubase and MSSIAH
Anthony Walters / Shadow Of The Beast [SID cover remastered] – SoundCloud Link
Later on Amiga it was much easier to make music. I got a music tool, a “tracker” on my first 10 disks package along with 3 disks of instruments based on sound samples. This tracker, the Noisetracker was much more practical, but still felt very limited with just the 4 voices and the 8 bit sound quality. There was also one more problem: “Where should I get new instrument samples without a sampler?!”
Most of the “good” instruments were only found in the music of commercial games, so I got this Nordic Power cartridge from a friend. With this cart, I was able to copy the actual memory content to a floppy disc in one big file. My luck – Opened with an audio editor all the instruments and sfx used in a game could be found and converted into tracker instruments. Later I got a copy of the tracker OctaMED from a CU magazine which I still have.
I made many compositions with the instruments of Turrican, Shadow of the beast, Dragon Wars, Castles, Leander, Captain Blood.
Here is one of my songs I’ve made entirely with this samples:
Anthony Walters / Caladorn SoundTrack [MOD tunes made with OctaMED] – SoundCloud Link
Octamed was able to use more then 4 tracks and also can handle external MIDI Instruments. At this time I had a cheap Yamaha Keyboard, bought a MIDI interface for the AMIGA and started to mix Midi instruments with the AMIGA voices. The video shows how this was done using the original Keyboard and a AMIGA emulator using Octamed :
Recording very old AMIGA’s OctaMED stuff [extended version] – Video tutorial by Naviaravideos
This was of course far away from CD Quality, but 2 years later I got a PC with my first low budget 16 bit sampler on a sound card from Creative, the Soundblaster AWE32
I got rid of the 4 internal AMIGA 8 bit sounds and the Yamaha keyboard voices and produced my first CD for a Netherland dance label.
Luckdragon 20th Anniversary / Making of ‘Fatal Movement 2K8’ – YT video by Naviaravideos
This is a picture of my childhood room and my music setup:
– Have you been involved somehow into any computer demo scene (C64, Amiga or PC)? Did you compose a music theme for any commercial or home brewed game(s)?
– No I have never been involved in the demo scene.
I have done a whole sfx & soundtrack for the role playing game “yvio Tarascon” in 2008 (electronic board game). I also produced music for the “come to Moraland” project of the german theatre group “Theater-Anu” and co produced music for a few german EDM and EM music artists.
– Do you have a music theory background? Have you studied music or do you compose by experience?
– Never studied music, all is done by own practice.
– Do you make use of a midi controlled synth/device or do you prefer writing your music on paper, note by note?
– Always on a Keyboard or Midi controller, but most times I correct single notes with the mouse. Since I can’t read notes very good I never write down anything on paper.
– Could you please name your favorite C64 musician(s) and tunes?
– Rob Hubbard, Chris Hülsbeck, Martin Galway and Ben Daglish.
I really like the “Commando” tune, the music themes from “Zoíds”, “To be on Top”, “Turrican”, “Frankie goes to Hollywood” and “Last Ninja”.
– Which chip do you prefer to create your tunes, the warm and familiar 6581 or the crystal clear 8580? Do you find any pros and cons between them? Why do people enjoy listen to tunes created on C64?
– I only know the sound of the 8580, that’s the one I own in my childhood, so I can’t make a real comparison to a 6581. I also know the emulated SID sounds, but if you only listen to pure SID music, a real SID sounds a bit better.
Together with other synthesizers or instruments in a mix you can’t hear much difference between an emulated and real SID, so I prefer to use the emulated sounds inside a virtual instrument because they are much easier to integrate into a virtual studio setup, you can automate many parameters what you can’t do with a real SID and also all parameters are saved within a song project.
The reason why people enjoy listening to SID? The arrangement in a SID tune is most time limited to its basic (drum, bass, and melody/chord) – so the composition and melody comes more into focus for the listener. There are this many catchy tunes, which makes them really enjoyable and maybe doesn’t work so good in a pop song but perfect in a SID tune.
There is also this decent nostalgia factor which comes along with the SID.
– Did you ever use or work with “SwinSID” chips? Do you believe that finally it will make it to be a perfect SID replacement?
– If you ask a hardcore SID fan, they will never accept a replacement for the real thing, but if you ask me as a composer who uses the SID as an additional synthesizer or sound module, then I would say – sure, why not?!
The base character of the sound is there. Maybe you can’t do all the possible sound tricks as with a real SID, but the base character sound is very present, even inside emulation.
– Can you give us a “picture” of your working environment (studio, favorite trackers / progys…)? Please reveal your secret weapons!
– I have not much room in my project studio, so instead of building synth castles with tons of effect racks I try to keep it as much virtual. I produce on a Windows 7 PC with Cubase – The main CPU; an i7 with 3.5 GHz is mainly used for all the virtual synthesizers. For the vintage effects I have some extra processing hardware from TC electronic and Universal Audio installed which uses their own DSP’s for processing.
Vom Klang der Steine – d saavala gomb d miro d grio [Live] – YT video by Naviaravideos
– How can an old C64 assist you in composing?
– The C64 had much influence on my life in the past. Without the C64 I would never work inside my actual job or have such an interest in computer and music production. After years without the C64, I bought a used unit last year from ebay and modified it for music production, so now our ‘Sid Workstation‘ is much easier to use it in a modern studio.
Commodore 64 SID Work & RetroStation – YT video by Naviaravideos
– Do you use special trackers made for C64 or you prefer working with some more sophisticated ones like Milkytracker, Schism Tracker, FamiTracker etc?
– Well, at the moment I use the C64 only as sound module with MIDI and MSSIAH, if I have more time I will definitely will try out a tracker, since all other music tools are way to cryptic for my workflow.
– What kind of software and extra hardware do you run on the C64 that you use in your studio?
– A USB midi interface on the PC connected to the C64 MSSIAH cartridge, this works perfectly and the setup is quickly done.
Here is a example where the SID has been used along in a dance track with other Synthesizer instruments:
Naviára / Electrical Life [Radio Edit] – SoundCloud Link
– From A to Z, how long does it usually take to complete a perfect tune? How harsh could be the whole process to compose a tune?
– Depends on the style, usually a track is done in 2-3 days. This track with SID sounds was done during one live show on twitch that I do sometimes on weekends.
Anthony Walters / Solar Striker – SoundCloud Link
– Do you enjoy Stereo or maybe 3SID tunes?
– Yes! I wished the C64 had 32 voices from the beginning 🙂 No joke, in music I really don’t like to run out of resources, that’s why I like to use virtual instruments on a powerful PC – just load another instance of a plugin and you’re ready to go!
– Have you ever performed live on stage with some C64 scene musicians?
– Live on stage yes, but not with C64 scene musicians yet. I must say, that I am really no scene guy – but maybe one day if someone is interested 🙂
– Could you remember and share with us your best moments? Which are the songs to be proud of creating them?
– The first time I uploaded samples on my AWE32 was great, 32 voices in 16bit filled with own samples that opened so many new possibilities. As someone who used the 4 voices on an AMIGA before that was very very much!!
There are also a few other songs and projects I am proud of – all songs of my band Naviára, especially the track “You never walk alone” we wrote for a “Legend of Zelda” contest in 2004.
…or a remix we had done for my favorite well known synthie pop band DE/Vision:
At last the CD “in mutatio tempora” I co-produced for the music project Matzumi
– Can I get a “glimpse” at your future plans? 😉
– Actually I am working with Naviára and TMA on our life show “Sternentraumreise“, also doing some videos for our YouTube channel [ https://www.youtube.com/user/Naviaravideos ] and for the future we plan a new live show with my band Naviára – including the C64 for the first time live on stage!
– That’s all!..Was quite the short list, wasn’t it? 😛
– Indeed 😉
– Thanks for being with us Sebastian! Good luck with everything you’re up to!