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Interview with LGPT creator Marc Nostromo pt1

lvptThis week we speak with Marc Nostromo, the creator of the excellent Little Gamepark Tracker, a LSDJ style sequencer for various handhelds like the PSP and OS’s. He also records music under the name M-.-n, and blogs about electronic music at NoisePages. Today is part I of a two part interview, where we get into Marc’s background, his LSDJ based music, and what it was like playing the Blip Festival.

LB: First off thanks very much for agreeing to the interview

Marc: My pleasure.

LB: Were you a programmer first then a musician or the other way around?

Marc: I actually have still some trouble to consider myself as a musician.

LB: I will talk about this a little later but I think most people would say you manage to do both pretty well. What sort of computers were about when you became interested in programming?

Marc: My first programmable unit was a TI-98. Not really anything fancy but it got me hooked. Then I went Sinclair ZX-81 (my first assembly code), Vic 20, C64, Amiga and finally PC. I got really sad at the time to drop the Amiga since it took ages for the pc to even reach the level of sound flexibility of the Amiga but I had to keep with times I guess.

LB: Why did you switch to the Vic20 after the ZX81 rather than staying with Sinclair?

Marc: I don’t think there was a specific reason. Either it came out before or it looked more sturdy. The Sinclair experience was good but to be properly set-up the ZX-81 looked like a cobweb of wires and extensions all over the place. Compared to that, the all-in-one and proper keyboard of the VIC looked like heaven sent. I think I said to my mum at the time ‘this is the computer I well ever need’.. which was a little naive I guess

LB: The ZX81 PSU got REALLY hot if I remember rightly too.

Marc: yeah, and if you wiggled the extension a little too much you would easily loose everything

LB: I had that happen a time or two myself. Which model Amiga did you have?

Marc: A simple A500. I loved that machine. It’s been the playground of a lot of my first explorations.. sound, 3D.. multi-process environment. It was a truly amazing machine for the times

LB: A wonderful machine for sure, were you into any of the games which were available at the time or more into the programming/media side?

Marc: Of course I was into games.. it’s hard to avoid getting hooked into them when you have a machine like that. The thing with the gaming is that it becomes very blurry in my mind to recall which games I played on which computer… especially in the C64/Amiga transition.

LB: Did you write and apps for the Amiga at all?

Marc: Yes sure, I start writing programs at the Sinclair times already. I developed a game on Vic20 too and helped a friend with the C64 stuff too. On the Amiga it was mostly stuff for myself, learning to use C etc… The Amiga is also the milestone of my stepping more deeply in the synthesis and music world. I had explored the sound capabilities of the C64 but it was more exploring sound parameters rather than trying to build something. Sonix on the Amiga really opened the world of sampling and composition to me.

LB: You mentioned exploring the sound on the C64. Could you be a little more specific?

Marc: I did a small presentation at school about the possibilities of the SID. Looking back I’m not too sure I was able to say anything coherent nor of any value. I must have used one of the programs available at the time (I doubt I demonstrated that using pokes), cycling through waveforms and explaining about envelopes but I can’t really remember which one. All I know is that the idea of ‘composing’ came up later, in the Amiga days.

LB: Was this your first experience with Tracking?

Marc: That will probably seem strange but I got into tracking really late. My first experiences was using Sonix which used note-based association and then I moved into sequencers and midi like Dr. T’s and the like. I got through tracker a little bit more at the time of BBS’s downloading mods but it’s really only until LSDJ that I started actively using anything that could be called a tracker

LB: Were you listening to any chip music before you came across LSDJ?

Marc: Not especially. At the time, I was looking for something I could use to do music on the move. I had tried a few solution from the “big suckers” but none of them were up to my liking. Friends of mine were into the “let’s use old gear to do something” vibe and introduced me with LSDJ  & the chip tune world. At some point I heard some of Lo-Bat’s track and was really impressed about the level of complexity and vibe that came out of his tracks. This pretty sold me to try the Gameboy so I got a copy of Nanoloop and LSDJ and got hooked by the Swedish one

LB: Why did LSDJ seem the natural choice for you?

Marc: It just worked better for me. It took me a while to get used to both but LSDJ’s interface just suited me better. Using Nanoloop always felt more “random” to me. I’m a logic person at heart so I guess the ability to see values fit better than hieroglyphs. I respect Olivier’s work a lot but it wasn’t really for me. I got great sounds out of it but never could write more than a pattern. Plus LSDJ’s got the best interface idioms on millions of level. In my eyes it’s a work of art

LB:  Is your Disco Dust release from this period?

Marc: Totally. D!skwish is the first track I ever wrote on Gameboy. My first consistent music track ever actually.

LB: Did Disco Dust get a release anywhere before the 8BP release? I had never heard it before then.

Marc: Disco Dust was my first proper release. I’ve never been good at trying to push my stuff out but since I had this collection of Gameboy tracks collecting dust and that I had moved to LGPT, I thought it be good to make it available to people. 8bitpeoples seemed like the best ‘sanctuary’ for them so I got in contact with Josh and Jeremiah and they kindly got excited by the idea.

LB: I’m not surprised, its a great release. How was it to play at Blip?

Marc: it was fantastic. it was though to decide what to play as the set was quite short but it’s been a great opportunity to mix the old and the new, using LSDJ and LGPT tracks together. I gotta give props to all the NYC crew, they do a fantastic job organizing that.

Part 2 of this interview is coming later this week and goes into detail about LGPT, it’s ports and its future.

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