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gwEm interview pt 1

gwem2

Pictures used with kind permission of Bit.Shifter

I was lucky enough to chat a little to gwEm, author of Maxymiser, hell survivor, Hardcore rave tunesmith and International Rock Star.

LB – Thanks most kindly for doing this.

gwEm – No worries!

LB – What came first for you, music or computers?

gwEm – Hard to say… Today music comes first though, I don’t care too much for computers. I was very young when I had my first computer, so I can’t exactly recall. Maybe I had a musical instrument before then..?! No idea :)

LB – What was your first machine?

gwEm – It was an Oric Atmos 48k

LB – Not the most popular of machines at the time, did you start coding on it?

gwEm – Yes, but I was very young, and didn’t do much worth speaking about. It was all BASIC stuff.

LB – Did you hop from that to the Atari series or was there something in between?

gwEm – No, the Oric broke, and then our family got an Atari ST.

LB – Did the sound chip capture your imagination right away?

gwEm – I’d have to say no – that came much later. The late 80s demo scene didn’t attract me at all. Atari ST was based around the megademo format – which in retrospect is kind of cool but at the time I thought it was an ugly way to present screens. But it only took a couple of years to get into making music on the ST.

LB – Which trackers did you start on?

gwEm – I first used Music Studio – which is a notation based thing, using the sound chip. But it was very limited. My first compositions were done in that, and with a Yamaha PSS590 synth. The first tracker I used was TCB Tracker, which really blew my mind when I first saw what it could do.

LB – Did you find these limiting at all after a while?

gwEm – I was only 12 or 14 at this time, they were my first experiments with music, but I wanted to make well produced rave stuff like my heroes ‘The Prodigy’. I was frustrated with the limitations, and gave up my compositions, and became a DJ.

LB – Gotcha, I would guess this was late 80’s then?

gwEm – 1992 or so.

LB – Were you a little to young to hit any of the raves at the time?

gwEm -Very much so, but I was collecting records (12″), and dreaming of going to raves. When I was 18 I played my first DJ set, well, the first one in a club, obviously I was making mixes for friends and so on.

LB – How did your early sets go over with the crowds?

gwEm – I was nervous as hell on my first gig, and didn’t have proper DJ headphones, so my mixing was a pile of crap. But people loved the tunes. By this time my collection was already called ‘old skool rave’ you know… I love to DJ that stuff.

LB – Could you throw out a few names of tunes you enjoyed at the time?

gwEm – Many many tunes, I have over a thousand rave records… anything by The Prodigy, Altern-8, Hype, The Hypnotist, Johnny-L.

LB – Were you into The Prodigy from the start with “What Evil Lurks” and stuff?

gwEm – I got into them with ‘Out of Space’

LB – That was a good time, killer B sides on that release.

gwEm – But I realized I heard them with ‘G-Force: Hyperspeed Part 1’ on a Kaos Theory compilation much earlier but I didn’t know what it was.

LB – Were you listening to a lot of Metal at the time also?

gwEm – I got into metal in 1997 or so, thanks to my brother. I was mostly just a jungle and old skool rave DJ, but I had a not-very-secret happy hardcore fetish too.

LB – Hah, I guessed that might be the case from a Bubble Bobble cover/remix of yours I heard.

gwEm – well, I wear my happy hardcore influence very obviously for all to see – but not as many people pick up on it as I thought.

LB – Bonkers and the like?

gwEm – Great compilation series, I recall taking my first car to its maximum speed with Sharkey’s Bonkers 3 mix cranked out, the Hixxy one is also pretty good, but I wasn’t sure about the Dougal one. I never liked happy hardcore when it was too cheesy – with all the stabs.

LB – Were you learning an instrument at this time?

gwEm – I knew keyboards from school.

LB – And guitar?

gwEm – When I got into metal I wanted to learn that of course. I heard Motorhead and decided it gave the same feeling as a great rave tune.

LB – Your page lists some fairly classic metal, Motorhead, Diamond Head and Sabbath, I was curious about the omission of Venom just never got into them?

gwEm – I got obsessed with Black Sabbath after Motorhead, as we all do. Diamond Head are amazing song writers. Venom are pretty cool – but not my sound. You want those big riffs. Motorhead have a strong punk flavour, which I loved and so I got into the Pistols too. Metal is more musical for me, but the fuck you attitude of punk really is inside me.

LB – How soon before you were inspired to fuse the two sounds?

gwEm – Well, that was pretty fast actually with “Fuck You Management Wanker“.

LB – I was curious about the video, it was directed by one of the PRB collective?

gwEm – Yes, the director – Alexandre Singh – is very much an up and coming star of the New York art scene now.

LB – Why did you decide to do it?

gwEm – Well, the track was doing well – we’d pressed it up, Cylob was playing it, and it was getting big downloads on Micromusic, then it was picked up by Shitkatapult. Alex had this great idea for a video, and he was living in New York, so I went over and we filmed it. It was shot in a legal office in Newark, on super 16mm.

LB – It looks like its was a blast to do.

gwEm – It was hilarious fun. the assistant director was hitting on the entire male crew, which was bizarre. The cast and everyone one were really nice people, I wish I was still in touch with the actor who played the boss. The people whose office we were hiring hated us, we trashed the place every night.

LB – How long was the shoot?

gwEm – 3 or so nights, but they had to re-shoot one of the scenes later. At the end where I spit on the lens, we actually broke it. Its funny, but Fuck You Management Wanker has no 8bit in it at all, though it was adopted by the scene.

LB – Was that your first time doing vocals?

gwEm – Not exactly, I was dabbling in MCing all the time. I recall playing this big drum’n’bass rave – One Nation – it was my biggest DJing gig. But I saw it all suddenly – the bad side of the scene. I wanted to get into something with a bit more behind it, for a year or so I was heavily into rephlex records and also the Electroclash scene.

LB – Was the bad side personalities or politics or something else?

gwEm – Well, there was a certain competition lets say, and also the music of drum’n’bass was getting very stale – its the easiest thing in the world to play a great jungle set drop the latest big tunes, a few classics, scratch it up, not much to think about. Well yeah, so with my interest in Rephlex and Electroclash I decided to make some tunes again.

LB – I was interested in PRB records, you documented the becoming a rockstar/pressing vinyl process really well. Was it more difficult than you expected?

gwEm – It wasn’t, but we had no idea about everything you had to do.

LB – What was PRB 002?

gwEm – Ah ;), Alexandre Singh has an 8bit name – KingKas. PRB002 was a gwEm and KingKas DJ mix album. PRB catalog numbers have also been assigned to books and artwork, and there was an underground white label, but that wasn’t strictly PRB. The white label was a single sided drum’n’bass 12″.

LB – You mentioned the 8 bitscene adoption of FYMW, I am really curious about your take on the scene, big or small. You said you weren’t into the early ST demo scene?

gwEm – Well, I was all into Rephlex records, and heard ‘Maxi German Rave Blast Hits 3’ by Bodenstandig 2000. I became good friends with Bodenstandig, and Drx gave me an Atari disk with the tracker Musicmon2 so I worked on some songs using it. But then I investigated the contemporary demo scene, which I thought rocked. They were all using a different tracker called SID Sound Designer.

LB – Where was the scene based at this time?

gwEm – The 8bitscene was really based on Micromusic and 8bitpeoples, but the demoscene was almost entirely separate from it. I went to my first Atari demo party in Holland and I tried the SID Sound Designer.

LB – I would guess this is early 2000s?

gwEm – Yeah, 2001 or so. I also heard a musician called Tao had his own secret tracker. There were these three main trackers on the Atari scene, all making a different sound – the Tao tracker was called Magic Synth. But, there was a common replay format – SNDH – I recalled my years DJing I wrote STj as a live tool for everyone.

LB – How was it received?

gwEm – The demoscene were really positive, but of course they didn’t play live at the time and couldn’t use it. These days almost all live playing Atari musicians use it – Crazy Q and Stu for example make great use of it, they also have a DJ background.

LB – Stu was a DJ? I didn’t know that?

gwEm – Yes, both of them were successful DJs.

LB – What kind of environment were people using STj in?

gwEm – 8bit raves ;) I was pissed off with carrying a screen, and I wanted to beatmatch the tunes, now I can fit my STj rig in a large sports bag.

LB – Were these 8bit raves using demoscene visuals?

gwEm – They sometimes projected demos yes or the visuals were very demo inspired at times. I always like the visuals people do. Right from the start we had very advanced visuals – the C-Men and Copenhagen Brains. otro came quickly and changed things too, now I see the US guys like, No Carrier, and they bring it on a step. Its great how the scene is so visually aware.

LB – Was the audience for the 8bit raves demosceners or 8bit sceners?

gwEm – They were 8bitsceners mainly but I played at some demoparties in the last few years. To begin with 8bit/Micromusic and demoscene weren’t sure of each other there wasn’t too much crossover. Now, its a different story, and the integration is pretty good. Its clear why there is a divide. 8bitsceners love the 8bit aesthetic, although thats against the demoscene philosophy of getting the best from your platform.

LB – How would you say the 8bit sceners go against the getting the best from their platform idea?

gwEm – Well, 8bitsceners do sometimes try to push things, and I prefer that stuff. But, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.

LB – Good point.

gwEm – I don’t think its good or bad – I just speak about generalizations. The demoscene likes the odd old skool cracktro too, so exceptions on both sides.

LB – Are there any other aspects to your definition of the divide between the two scenes?

gwEm – I don’t think so – its all very blurred up now – which is the way it should be. Culture grows and changes of course. We both split, and then evolved back together into something better.

LB – What do you think of the 8bit scene in the UK at the moment? Which of the 8bit musicians have impressed you thus far?

gwEm – Jellica, Stevens and Syphus come to mind but there are more certainly than that, Sabrepulse does a great job. I think the 8bit scene in the UK at the moment is very strong we have some great motivated musicians. Maybe its strange to you, but I only listen to 8bitscene music at gigs these days. I mostly listen to metal, rave of various styles and electroclash.. and much demoscene stuff.

Check out Part II here!

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