Interviews



Interview with PAL

Published in Vandalism News #53
Performed by Jazzcat


Who to question?

Who do we interrogate that would be of any interest?

Pondering on these questions the first thing I usually do is to see who is active or who has just returned to the scene after a break. A few names hit the grey-matter immediately and one of these I managed to seduce into doing this interview. He is a graphician from Norway who has been a member of groups like Bonzai, Panoramic Designs and  Warriors of Time.

We welcome to the Autumn-pages of Vandalism News Mr. Syvertsen, better known as PAL of Offence.



J)
Thanks for taking the time for this interview and welcome to Vandalism News, please introduce yourself to the audience.

P)
Hello Vandalism News, my name is Pal Syvertsen and I am 36 years old and I have a daughter that is 7 years old. I live in Oslo, Norway where I have run my own graphics and design company for the last 13 years. I am most known for creating the looks and design for the Opera web browser for 10 years, going from 2 million users to a massive 40+ million users. My interests are in design, animation, 3D and 2D, photo, friends, family, music, film, C64 and the computer scene in general.

Thanks for taking the time to do an interview of me for Vandalism News, I think it is so fun that you create a strong magazine on the C64 today, the scene deserves that.



J)
When did you first get a C=64 and how did you get from just a regular guy with a computer anyone could buy to a guy in the underground scene?

P)
What's cool is that in the very beginning, I had an ABC 80 machine and a Dragon 32. The ABC 80 was a really amazing toy when my mother brought it home in 1981 (I think maybe '82, am not completely sure?). It had some really freakin' cool hardware! It had a cable with two poles in the end of it, which would help the ABC 80 to tell me the pH value.

I was in love for the first time! I was just a really small child at the time and I really felt this was much more fun than my LEGO pieces...

I was typing in programs from magazines my mother had brought with her home from work. I didn't understand them, as instructions were in English and they were computer programs, but I typed them in and my mum helped me correct the mistakes. I think this made me realise that you have to do something in order to get a reward. I knew this from moral from my upbringing, but this made me think of it in a new way. When I got the Dragon 32, I fell in love with games like Hungry Horace and Touchstone's Revenge. I remember both of us getting blisters from playing all night long on the weekends. The joypad on the Dragon 32 had really sharp edges.

After this I got a C64 in 1986 I think, it had a floppy drive and I fell in love all over again. In my home town, we had this computer store called PM Danielsen. One of the employees, Bjorn Bilstad, let us test all the games and all the new hardware as long as we bought something from time to time. When Bjorn got angry, we knew we had to buy something. I got to know Alpha of The Golden Triangle and the Rawhead (Amiga) dudes in this store. I also got to know Tamtrax, and together we started doing demos and swapping. My scene life begun!


J)
Always fun to see how people started. Everyone's story is so different! Who did you look up to? Did anyone in the scene motivate you and why?

P)
My number one scene hero is Unitrax. He was so inspiring and he created a lot of art, code and music that blew me away! While others wanted to impress with something advanced, he just captured the mood and feel of the part or idea and went along with that instead. He created so many demo parts it's insane! He always had something cooking.

He unfortunately died of heart failure after years of drug abuse. I miss you Marius, my good friend. It would have been so cool to have you visiting again, like in the past... Love you!

The best demo part I know of is the last part in the Phoenix demo (http://noname.C64.org/csdb/release/?id=549)  by Marius. Together with the music of a young and hungry Geir Tjelta, this part holds some of the best memories from the C64 days for me. Marius was about just doing it and then also releasing it, or not releasing it, but he had done it... I love the do'ers, I dislike the talkers.

My number one group has to be Horizon because they were the absolute best there was for some years. Their clear lack of design was not an issue. They were beyond these measurements. The Horizon dudes were so nice too! I remember
when we did an Amiga demo and Exilon of Horizon helped Challenger (Perplex) to make a specific routine faster and better. It was the logo routine that looked like 3D mapping, a routine we were famous for inventing. We had a part with this on the C64 too, but we never released it.

I could name more like Scoop, MDG, Panoramic Designs, Black Mail, Crest, Double Density, Judges, 1001 Crew, Cosmos, Triad, Pretzel, Hubbard, Fred, Moz(IC)Art, Prosonix, TDM, SIT, The Sarge, Bob, Jeff Minter, XAKK, Triangle, Upfront, Vibrants, Byterapers, Beyond Force, Shape, NATO, Origo, Ash & Dave, Stoat & Tim, FairLight, and Amok.

Sex'n'Crime was the best!!! I remember I was waiting for the next issue to read about the latest. Last night I listened to Future Freak's music on the C64 and man I have to mention him too as he was so awesome... and Red from The Judges... and the memory lane gets me, I could name hundreds of people that inspired me and that made the C64 what it is too me, thanks all. You even were a big part in the moulding of who I am - a nice person. ;-) The members of Offence are my scene heroes too. Love you all - you all have a special place in my heart.



J)
What was the scene all about in your opinion?

P)
Love! I think the scene was a parallel universe to what we call "real life". I could be a superstar in the scene, and at the same time, "just" me in real life. I could be a rock God in real life, but still "just" me in the scene.

The scene was a magic place where I knew that if I just used time, effort and determination, I could do it as good as my heroes. Some choose the battle path, but most of us choose the love path.

The scene was about knowing you had a place in something, it is like being a fan of Liverpool FC, and you know that you will never walk alone.


J)
Did you ever imagine the scene would still be alive in 2010? That demos (including records and new effects) are still being released?

P)
I want to say that I did not think it would remain as the scene in the future, but I actually never thought of this in that way. I just became a part of the scene and the scene became a part of me. After a lot of years being a professional graphic artist I have always felt and still do feel every day that I am a part of something special and different, the scene. I think when I get really old I still will be a part of the scene and after death I will go to Unitrax and say, hey old buddy, let us create some cool stuff together on the C64... haha... It would be marvellous to work with him on a demo.


J)
When you returned to the scene after years of absence, was it difficult? Did you have problems relating to new guys these days or did your younger brother keep you posted on the scene today?

P)
At first it were not difficult, I just started to draw and create koala images again and making ideas for parts.

But after a while I think it got a bit harder due to the fact that I had to remember more about the image composing colours and chars and all that and also it got a lot harder when I started to look at all the great stuff that had been done in the time span where I did not look so much at stuff.

Then after some time getting into the juice of things I started to look more in the CSDb forums. I find it a bit difficult to see that a lot of people in the scene are too eager to debate and put people down for releasing something. In my mind it is just a marvellous thing to even create a single pixel or a scroller or music or what ever on the platform we do love... So I think a part of me tells me that there are some dark forces in the scene due to their egos or their boredom, I do not know, but I know I do not like that too much. I remember Fredrik started to post some "music" he had done and everyone were putting him down, I feel that were very bad as it is a unimaginable thing he did, he started with the C64 music last year, no-one does that were my thought... how cool is that, to start with the C64 now? That is special... and to me he should get a medal instead of massive down-setting comments.

Back in the days it were cool that someone did something and if one did not like it or were not on the same level in the release feelings, one could just stop it and move on, today a lot of the scene is starting to discuss this and that and creates huge issues from nothing, stop that! It is not important to boost your ego, just enjoy or hate what you see, give feedback but please do not get that personal over nothing.


J)
Fully agree with you there. It seems there is a lot of hot air and less activity - I say people should do better or be quiet! :D Next question, what makes the C64 so special? And is it the computer or the scene?

P)
The C64 is special, not in question at all. It was gold, it had charm and edge and was just plain cool. Remember the dudes owning a C64 were the ones we all thought had the coolest toy in a way, even in the Amiga days the C64 was cooler in a lot of aspects. The people using the C64 were in my mind more "freaks" than the one on the Amiga and PC later on, the C64 people were just so wide spread in personalities and in interests and I thought I had a more jolly time with them than with other computer scene freaks. I was a member in Razor 1911, The Silents, Scoopex and so on the Amiga, but it never captured my heart as the C64 groups I was in and I felt more for that.

I love the record breaking demos and I love the more abstract stuff that is just weird. I think the C64 are and were and will be a stage for the unknown to take a step up and just create something, and today, in the year 2010 it is just remarkable that there are some productions at all... I think it is so cool to see the stuff created and I think, "hey this is special, always has been and always will be".



J)
What are you working on at the moment and what is the status of your group? (Who are members, products in the making, do you guys meet in real life, etc)

P)
The status is quite cool now, Olav and Bjorn from Panoramic Designs are in, Stein and Ole from Prosonix are in, Tim from Stoat & Tim are in, we have a total new member in Kristian (he started with C64 last year, haha), We have a member that is also in Triad, his name is Killsquad. Then a lot of us original Offence members got active again too... Challenger/Perplex is coding again and doing several cool parts that we have designed...

We meet on our meltdowns, the Saturday meltdowns are not often but they are great, we get all drunk and wasted and just have a good time... every Wednesday I have an open house at my flat and I make dinner for the ones that will come, last Wednesday we had 9 people and we just coded, pixelled and composed and had a cool time together.


J)
Some real expansions in the group membership! Those meltdown parties seem to be the centre of Offence's comeback! X-2010 will be the first opportunity since the Flexible demos to express yourself on the big screen?

P)
Well first off, all the Flexible demos were released in 1997 when Trasher was working in the military. The graphics for those and most of the code was done in 1992 and Trasher just did some more and presented them in demos, that is cool because no one would ever have seen those old farts if he did not do that, thanks Preben. I was not in the scene at that time and did not even know they were released when they were. In 2009 we released a mega demo, it is huge and important and full of dwarves. ;)

The meltdowns are what they state to be... meltdown... we in Offence and Prosonix are nerds in one way or another and by melting down everything outside the scene we stand stripped... hehe... we get raped by the feelings of the past and we love it!

Yes X-2010 is the first event that we will go to this year... We consider to enter the compo there or just release a demo outside the competition... you know, old and strange that we are we do not consider the 8 minute demo rule to be cool at all, we just love older productions where one can listen to the music or love the visuals for longer time per part or effect. We do not like the one tune per side demo, we want more in there, we want to create something that is strong per design and not something that works okay over a lot of different screens with the same music trying to follow and create moments that it can not do in a way. But again that is also hard as one has to present music art and effects or mood that can stand on their own more than be less with transitions covering it to be great, that is really hard to do but I think we do already have some parts that will be such, they are great!


J)
At your meltdown meetings, I guess you have an opportunity to show the older generation-members some of the modern demos. Any of these modern demos stand out for you?

P)
oohhh... based on the statements you might understand that we are a bit older than the recent demos but there are of course some that I have thought about in different ways. Edge of Disgrace is a super demo, but personally I think it is something completely different than what I think is the coolest. When that is said I really love that demo but really, what I like is a part, the concept of a part is so cool instead of one large demo creating more a film like experience... not film, something leads to something and all goes together, I love contrasts and splits of mood and so on.

Andropolis is a demo where I think... "how great these artists are"... I just love the art in that demo and the demo code and music is also great. Unsigned by the Byterapers is a demo that works for me even they have this music over the whole almost... it is just very good for me and captures that fun part of the scene and it is wrapped into a cool presentation... Vicious Sid is also very good as it is something different from all the rest in a way, I love that demo... Bound To Be Best #2 by XAKK is fab, and it is like a lot of Horizon demos beyond the design, they are demos... ooohhh... love the hard and edge that the presentation had in a way!


J)
Going to scene parties and watching your demo on the big screen, like at Brutal & Hurricane Summer Party 1992. How would you describe this feeling to someone, to see the audience clap to your artwork? What are your favourite parties and can you remember any fun trivia from those meetings?

P)
Well, when Emotional Breakdown was released and shown on the big screen on the party in Denmark I felt so proud and when people started to clap to the parts and the art that we did, we were in heaven. We were really proud of that demo... and we are still. The coolest thing about the party was that a Phenomena demo on the Amiga featured vector plot balls which were shown and they looked so good, when we did the same on the C64 in the C64 compo the audience just went nuts... Even the expanded version of the sprite dot plotter looked twice as good as the Amiga demo because it was bigger and on the big screen just ruled the hall. I remember when the angel image I did came up on the screen as the last part the hall clapped louder than ever and I thought that "hey this is great PAL!".

My best memories are from Horizon parties and the TRC/Shape party in Porsgrunn... also the Bergen party were cool, and the early gatherings from crusaders on the Amiga. I also arranged a party for my Amiga group Razor 1911 in my hometown, it was great with demos from Andromeda and a lot others...

Fun trivia? snake or die?



J)
How was Offence formed and why the name? Did you want to offend people? :D

P)
I remember that Yup & Burp formed a group called Power after WOT, we were all in I think (not sure, hehe), I thought it were lame in a way, then it were a lot of changing and we were in Shape and so on but we landed in Offence. We did not want to offend some people, we offended everyone. We even used a slogan that "We're faster than Black Mail", because they were so slow in releasing while we were blistering fast...


J)
Disk magazines. Sex'n'Crime was an early favourite. You guys even had your own under WOT and later Offence called Slow Poke. How do you think a mag fits into the C64 scene? Is it still important to have disk magazines in the modern era of the web?

P)
Sex'n'Crime was something else, for me that was the best there ever was the best there is and the best there ever will be... Sex'n'Crime were just the absolute edge and the coolest most well written and closest to the scene magazine, it were in Norway regarded as the only true one. You knew OMG and you trusted the stuff in Sex'n'Crime, it were the facts in a away, it were also so fast in news at the time, when I got the magazine from amok it were written that x changes group to x at x and when I looked at the calendar it were two days news... really cool magazine and quite professional too.

Slow Poke was my magazine, there were not that great amount of issues but sure, it was good at the time due to info we could write about that was fresh, we blue-boxed (software to fool the telephone systems around the world) and got a lot of fresh info before release...

J)
Boards, Phreaking, Conferences - another wild side to the scene from back in the day, did you ever get involved?

P)
Well... hmmm... yes... as mentioned above I did a lot of blue-box conferences and we talked all night long every night around the world. We arranged what we called conferences and invited different people from the scene by using the phone operator at AT&T in the states using corporate conference numbers. It was a lot of fun and the scene got closer, we were there every night, even though we were spread out all over the world, it was a great time.



J)
If I remember correctly Pernod was the master of Snake of Die, maybe you can explain what it was to the audience and I should also ask, did you become a victim of the party game?

P)
I thought Mastermind was the Snake or Die dude? What I can remember of it was that I saw these Horizon members beating the living hell out of some lamers with their rubber snakes. Shame on you, you big bullies... hehe...


J)
Unitrax meant a lot to you and was sorely missed when he passed away. What do you remember most about Marius, was his lifestyle that bad that his life was lost because of it?

P)
Yes we had a lot of great moments together and he is sorely missed, even today. We always had fun and he became a good friend of mine. The thing about him was that he was so sharp, he could do all these magical things on the computer, he could build all kinds of musical instruments in real life and also play them, he created good songs for his band and he was so hyper-creative, a force I have never seen since.

We have lots of unreleased parts on floppy's that he did, we want to get them out sometime, Olav and Bjørn has a lot of these, lots of small stuff that are weird and strange and cool. In the last years of his life his lifestyle destroyed him, because of heroin and heavy drug usage in general. It was a terrible time because one could see that he just went down and down. In the end I remember he was at my flat and I made dinner for us, he ate some and then just went to the bathroom and he did not come out for an hour or two. His face had scars and his body had marks that did not heal and he was very dirty, but in there he was still himself in a way, the smile he had was so good, you could see that smile and you knew it was the smile of a warm and caring person. He later travelled abroad and found his love, but then suddenly he died when his heart stopped beating. At his funeral Olav played some old C64 tunes on the piano, it was magical and very sad.

It is often that we remember the dead and put them up, so I would like to remember the living too... All the friends I have got to know from the C64 scene, I love you a lot and miss the special times from the past! I am so proud that some of us get together now again and man I think we do have a nice time together. Thumbs up to you all...


J)
Historically, Norway has had some very strong groups. Panoramic Designs were one of these groups, releasing some psychological and psychedelic kind of demos that were very different. Do you know any background on any of their demos and how they were created?

P)
Yes there were good groups in Norway with really talented young lads in them. The most psychedelic demo parts they
created were under the influences of drugs and alcohol, big surprise!!! Also Unitrax could be at my place hanging around and then some hours later he sat down and just created something and saved on a floppy... I guess there are a lot of Unitrax files on Norwegian floppy's lying around here and there... he were so fast, could create wonders in no time, from small things to bigger and greater things.



J)
You were in Triad for only a few days? What happened there? Why such a short time?

P)
I can not really remember as Jerry asked us to join in when we were in WOT... and so we did, I just cannot remember why we left again? We were proud to be in Triad, but I think it was because we joined Shape instead because they were more of a local Norwegian group and we always loved the name... SHAPE... how cool is that? I think the legacy of Unitrax had a lot to do with it.

Triad is a legendary group but I think we just wanted something else. Back in those days’ things happened fast and mood and feelings were heavy measurements in order to do this or that.


J)
You never got to finish your game? (C64 or Amiga) How would you describe it?

P)
Well actually I did more than one game, we had three or four games that we were creating at some point. One of the games actually made it all the way to the computer shops around Europe. It was an Amiga game we created in '90 and '91... the company that we sold it to went broke and we never got the settlement we were supposed to get. The game was called Hyperion and was quite a good one, it was based on Jawbreakers 3D landscape routine that were used in a Razor 1911 demo we did together. Jawbreaker and I also created another game that was never finished. On the C64 I had graphics for lots of games and we also coded level editors, big full screen graphics 16 colour fast scroller routine in y and x. Had animated characters and I must say it had some clever and very well crafted graphics and ideas from me. This game was more of a platform ala Mario or Giana Sisters. I also created some graphics for a platform game on the Amiga and I can remember Martin Brown from Team17 Software got the disk copy with the graphics. To my big surprise I think I can recognise some of my pixels here and there in Superfrog, but can almost not say so.. hehe... at the time I saw that, I just thought, that is so cool!


J)
Tell us about your Amiga scening. What did you do in that scene and what do you remember that was most fun?

P)
Well the Amiga days were a blend with my C64 days as I was member of Razor 1911 on the Amiga while my C64 life lived strong. It was very cool because we could always use my handle on the boards and so on and I always got unlimited access to download and get information. I felt like a celeb for the first time in my life. I got to know a lot of great dudes on the Amiga. I can also remember that I was so proud to become member of The Silents and also Scoopex, even though I really did not release much on the Amiga, but I always had things under creation. I created some 3D animations that some of the people on the first Gathering parties can remember I think, really high density human heads rotating. I used the Amiga for more professional work in design and painting and in multimedia productions for companies, I lived from my work on the Amiga so the C64 remained my hobby for long after I stopped doing demo parts. The Amiga was something more serious for me in a way and maybe that is why I always have thought the C64 was more special and fun.

Some of my graphics in a Razor 1911 production can be found here - http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=11093


J)
What demos changed the way the scene produced demos on C64?

P)
Xakk had a big influence in the past on me, Triangle and Upfront too, they had these awesome splits and code and action that I loved so much, but that later changed in a way when Mentallic came out. They were still great demos and many more were great.

I think Mentallic changed a lot for me, and for others too. That was a demo with clean and a strong mood and setting. I am not sure that there was just a few demos that changed the C64 style of demos to come but after '92 I got tired of the raster splits and all the pure code and wanted more story and moods. Black Mail had done such earlier too, not that clean but more story based. I also think of Sign o' times by Nop/Cycleburner of Weird Science 2662 and his later demos had some impact.

The demos from Unitrax always influenced demo creating here in Norway and when they created more art rather than traditional demos a lot of others followed this trend too... more wild and strange and just plain weird.



J)
How does your professional design work influence your C64 work? Has it changed the way you approach design on the C64 and the way you view demonstrations?

P)
Yes, I think I do stronger setup and cleaner screens because of the professional work I do. Today I use more advanced software as Photoshop and promotion in creating art for the C64, I just do not use the joystick or C64 keyboard to paint as I did so much of in the past. Today one can be more free, test out more directions and then take it over to the other side and go from there with manual pixeling and repainting and it is a lot of fun.

I also think there is a big difference in great art that was done all those years ago due to this, I admire some of those so much as the artist at that time had to invest really a lot of time, today it happens a bit faster, but then again maybe it is slower as one creates more advanced and complex images that in the end took you a month to make anyway... hehe.


J)
What's your view on these new graphic formats/techniques these days like NUFLI? Do you plan to use any of them or do you feel more comfortable sticking with traditional formats?

P)
I would try to do some in the new formats later, but I must say that the koala format is my favourite format as it is the C64 for me. Instant double pixels, no other format today has that in a way. One can see the most beautiful paintings or scanned images or photos on all web sites, the koala format stuff you never see and that is why it is extra cool today. I think the new formats do take the charm out of the graphic mode away... why see a flickering bad photo on the C64 when one can see the full-res-non-flicker-full-colour-photo in all its beauty on a PC? NUFLI is different here as it is flicker free and crisp, but it lacks the double pixel feature...


J)
Do the limitations of the C64 make you unhappy?

P)
Not at all... the limitations of the C64 are what make me happy about the old hardware. I think it is really cool that the scene did violate all the limitations and created the unimaginable on the C64. I think that is the absolute best thing about the C64, it was so limited but still had unleashed and undocumented powers.

Unhappy is when I can not manage to deliver great stuff in my work, if something sad happens in life and so on, I only get happiness from the breadbox, think I need that food to stay alive for real... hehe.


J)
What is different from the scene 'then' from the scene 'now'?

P)
Then it was almost life itself, now it is purely for fun. I kind of like that it is just for fun and for limited audiences these days. The scene was bolder before and today there are some people taking things too serious in my mind. It is the C64, a machine from 1982... I think the scene could love newcomers more and welcome them with open arms as it is special to do C64 stuff today in the year 2010 with PC that has GPU 3D renders and real-time almost movie like games. I was also very serious before but at that time it was also education for real life work and shit, today I must say that the C64 is strange and not a platform to be too serious about. I have a daughter that is 7 years old, that is serious, the C64 is entertainment.


J)
Will we ever see the scene end?

P)
For me the scene will not end, because it is strange and totally beyond all reason, there will always be people like us loving that, right? I will always be a member of the scene in a way, for all my life, I know it is so in me that it will never leave. All people are fond of great things from the past and that is why the force of the C64 lives so strong, I even think it will be a bit stronger soon too... so let us see what emerges.


J)
There are a lot of readers - so, take a deep breath and say some words to those you know and those you do not know!...

P)
All the Offence dudes, I really enjoy your company and think we have great times together. All the people coming to X10, I look so much forward to meeting you and getting to know the ones I do not know. Hope there will be great demos at the party, before the party and long after... Yup, drink Red Bull... Olav and Bjørn from Panoramic, great that we are all together in Offence now, love it!

I also want to say thanks to Joe/Wrath Designs who sent me some super mails with images he had done and he said to me:

"You're one of those gfx-people we looked upon whilst "growing up in the scene" I hope if you are inspired enough as we once were by your artwork, you might do something again?"

Thanks mate, that was the coolest thing to receive those mails from you with your images and so on, hope some of the art I have done the last year+ will be something that you and all the others will like, I just continued on the path I left a long time ago in a way...

I want to say to Tamtrax that I miss you, maybe we can get together again in the future and do something.


J)
Thanks for your time Pal, any final words for our audience?

P)
I would like to say that I am sorry for bad English in this interview from my side, that is just the way it is. Hope you have enjoyed it, I sure did.



PAL is an active member of the rejuvenated Offence team. We hope to shake hands with them at the upcoming X-2010 event! In the mean time you can pay a visit to PAL's website and check out his latest efforts in graphic design - http://www.flottaltsaa.no

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