Ed: Lazerbeat provides another interview with musican/organizer/chiptheologian Goto80. Part I talks about Goto80’s background, his setup, and the futurepast of trackersoft.
LB – On your blog you mention your first release was “HARDCORETECHNO3” under the name “Polaxe” for the “Mayday – a Day in May” Demo which you wrote aged 12 on the Amiga. The release is dated on Pouet as 1993. How long had you been writing for at that time?
GT80 – Not for long, maybe a year or so.
LB – Do you recall the tracker you used? Was the Amiga your first machine?
GT80 – Me and my brother bought a Commodore 64 first, for gaming, and then got the Amiga500 and my brother showed me Noisetracker and gone were the days of gaming! Rather soon I moved on to Protracker and had a go with Startrekker and Audiosculpture as well as OctaMed to sequence my brother’s synthesizers. So my start was pretty much about samples and hardcore techno!
LB – Did you have any formal music training before this?
GT80 – Nope!
LB – It sounds like you started tracking on Amiga then got into c64 later, what prompted the change?
GT80 – I gradually got more into the bleepier sounds, after trying to mimic gabber and electronica with the Amiga. You know, tiny sample-loops with added effects. As great as it is to make sample-based chip music, I was intrigued by the dirty dynamics of the SID-chip. And already back then I was a bit romantic about the C64 and the demoscene on it. I was spending more and more time collecting old C64-software and hardware, and I turned into a bit of a maniac. Archiving, dot-matrix-printing huge lists, sysoping, browsing through piles of abandoned disks and cassettes, etc. (there was a point to doing this before the Internet). So it was only normal to make more C64-music than Amiga music. Early on it was mostly failed attempts, since I didn’t really understand much of Groovy Beat or DMC, but slowly I learned how to fail with more elegance.
This could be just an after construction, but I think that the C64 appealed to me because of the in-determinism. I was rarely in full control of the SID chip. Even if I was it would probably not sound the same on another chip anyway. Sometimes I think that normality annoys me, and the SID chip offered something very different. Sometimes I had no idea what to expect, and I felt like I had an assistant, or a friend even, when I composed.
But the feeling of maximum control and hardware intimacy was also there, with the trackers addressing the registers on the chip straight away. There is very little CPU-involvement, unlike many other setups. It is not like you can use LSDJ music in a game, you know. (although we actually did manage to fit it into our Gameboy demo Demotronic back in the days) Since I am doing some research into how chip music can be defined, this is an interesting aspect to me. I am still learning new things about the SID when composing. Using the tabula rasa tables of Defmon requires me to do manually the things that are default in all other software. Understanding, handling, and expanding on the ADSR-bug. And following the amazing discoveries and documentations made in the demoscene, or outside. With basically the same hardware and software, there is still new sounds being produced. I think that is absurdly great.
GT80 – I never really moved very far away from the original setup. The stuff I have is all pretty corporate! Except for a sampler, and a lightpen that seems pretty homebrew. Oh yeah, and my SID-protection of course! At last year’s LCP a guy proposed to build a SID-protection thing so I would no longer destroy 3 SIDs every year. And it has worked like a charm.
But I also have some plans to have more stuff built for the new C64-software I am using, and to reach out into the world with the C64.
LB – I wonder if you could say who built the SID-protector and how it works?
It was built by the C64-programmer/doctor Mogwai, and to be honest I am not sure how it works. It’s based on a lot of different theories as to how the SID can be destroyed, and I think it is essentially about regulating electrical glitches and protecting the audio in pin. But I don’t really know! I have tested it for a year now, so I think he will go more public with it soon.
LB – Do you have what you would call a “studio”? what are the main machines and gadgets?
GT80 – I have been moving rather constantly for the last 10 years, so I never really had a Studio. At times I just had the SX-64, laptop and a 1 euro headset. I haven’t been home for two months, but back there I have an Amiga1200, C64, C64C, SX-64, TR-808, laptop, and a Casio MT-400v. And the Gameboy has actually come to be used again, after a 5 year hiatus. But I don’t really like the sound or the feeling of the Gameboy, which is a bit of a problem. But I really enjoy improvising with the rather unique features of LSDJ. I used it for live jamming in
a remix of Icarus, out soon.
LB – I would hazard a guess you were an early tester of LSDJ? are there any parts of the software now that you contributed to specifically?
GT80 – I don’t remember so much from those days, but I don’t think I contributed much to it.
GT80 – Yeah, Hack n’ Trade was started by me, my friend, and the local data-trashers, including my brother joined in fast. He also made Amiga chip music under the name Zid or Bolo. Quite nice stuff actually, it inspired me a lot! I think you can find some of his songs over at modland.com. I grew up in a small town with surprisingly many good databoys. Swedish Cracking Crew and Red Sector were represented on the very street I lived on. But yeah, demoscene perfectionism was never really what Hack n Trade was about…
Oh, and Protracker 2.3 is still one of my absolute favorite trackers. Brilliantly placed between the hexers and the soundblock-movers.
LB – What are some of your favorite C64 trackers?
GT80 – Mainly Groovy Beat, DMC, JCH, and now Defmon.
LB – You mentioned the new software you use and potential new hardware you might have built, could you talk a little more about it?
GT80 – As for hardware mods, I am not sure what will happen yet. It all depends. And currently there are no plans to spread the new software,
which is called Defmon. My friend has been programming it for several years, and now it’s finished enough to use. It is definitely the most powerful tracker I have tried, in relation to soundchip-capabilities and CPU-usage. Defmon can reproduce almost every song ever made on C64, which (believe it or not) is very rare. Defmon is as flexible as hell, since there are very few assumptions made for you. I guess the most spectacular thing is that you do not work with discrete instruments. Instead, you have a gigantic table that you point to in the tracker. If you want to set Attack followed by some PWM, you can do that, while the filter is still running an envelope and the waveforms are still hammering away with a little wavetable. Needless to say, it is very powerful and extremely interesting to use live. Me and this mysterious friend are going to release some of our jam sessions in the future, but probably somewhere away from chip music. This is more like another kind of music.
GT80 – I am still waiting for a good tracker for the POKEY chip. It seems like a chip which still has a lot of hidden features! And it seems to be fun in many of the same ways as the SID is. I think FM sounds extremely good too, but the problem is that I really can’t get my head around how to program it. Manipulating presets is not so much fun.
Check out Part II tommorow!