Interviews



Interview with Puterman

Published in Vandalism News #43
Performed by Macx


Puterman is a fella' I've come to know the past few years through the Swedish demo parties. But not only is he a commodore party animal, but also one of the coders and musicians in the contemporary Fairlight crew. He as been in my subconscious life since the discussion at CSDb about the releases on LCP this summer, but it first dawned on me to interview him when I heard about the antics he had been up to together with them renowned Australians on their tour through Europe. More about that later on into the interview, which is conducted over IRC and e-mail in December 2004.



M)
What is your name, where do you live and what kind of person are you?

P)
My name is Linus, I live in a magical, mystical place called Uppsala and I've heard that only mentally ill people think they can describe themselves accurately.


M)
I guess that means you are either not mentally ill or trying to hide it.

P)
Yeah, draw your own conclusions. How would you describe yourself?



M)
I'm suddenly glad I'm the one interviewing :-)

Then, to rephrase for some deep digging journalism, what kind of person would write a primer for coding on the c64, and how would he figure that great idea out?


P)
I can't remember why I got started on that, but as I think I wrote somewhere in it, I thought it'd be great if I could help at least one person get started coding on the C-64, because the scene really needs more coders. I also enjoy writing stuff like that now and then. But I like sharing stuff, I like helping out, and I guess giving people something they can work with is my favourite way of helping people learn stuff. What I don't like is when someone asks questions because they're too lazy to learn stuff on their own, especially when it comes to coding. I want people to learn by doing, not just getting everything served on a silver plate.


M)
You should have this thing with ideas set though, I hear you've studied as much philosophy as me?

P)
Well, I've studied philosophy (and aesthetics, which I consider to be a branch of philosophy) for three and a half years. I guess that has taught me to think about things on my own and to question things that some might take for granted. I'm not sure if it actually helps much with creativity.


M)
Is there a thing such as spare time?

P)
There is, and there's plenty of it, as I'm unemployed since a couple of months. Not that I do much anyway, but I get a little coding done, a tune now and then, some cooking (mostly working, of course), a bit of boozing, lots of reading and tons of procrastinating.


M)
What was your first approach to the c64? When and how did you become involved with it?

P)
My neighbour's dad bought a C-64 really early ("now they're down to 6000sek, they can't possibly get any cheaper!"), so me and my neighbour used to sit in their basement with all the lights switched off and play Fort Apocalypse, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Siren City, Bandits, Matrix and stuff like that. We also started some really ambitious game projects, which never got anywhere, as I) he knew a little basic, I knew nothing, ii) we were around 9 years old, iii) we spent most of our time on other projects, such as skiing and playing soccer, and later of course also break dancing, playing Summer Games etc.



M)
What does "the scene" mean to you, and tell us of your first encounters of it?

P)
It's a much needed break from the normal life, with a completely different (and much less draconian) set of rules. I think I need some subculture stuff in my life, as much of society is fucked up and unfriendly. The creative side is kind of important too, as that's what keeps us together. I don't believe in a scene based solely on
friendship, like some people do.

I guess my first near scene experiences were the cracked games (Mr. Z etc.). But apart from that: I noticed that the scene was still alive when I got on the internet in 97, started checking out demos and stuff. Then I started making music and coding and went to LHCTPK in Växjö in 1999, and the rest is history.


M)
Is it possible to describe the picture you had of the scene before you joined, and what differs it from the way it is? Also tell us how you joined the scene, who did you get contact with at first?

P)
I can't really remember what my picture of the scene was before I joined, but I guess I perceived it as a bit more harsh and unfriendly than it is. Maybe because of the elite attitude that there doesn't seem to be much left of these days.

The first scener I got in contact with was UL-Tomten, who's a very gifted musician, although he's way too lazy to show it off very often.



M)
What happened in 1997, had you been involved in computers before?

P)
Well, what happened was that my girlfriend bought a PC. At that time I didn't know the difference between a URL and an email address. I'd been coding in Basic, AMOS and Pascal before, but nothing exciting.


M)
Do you have any other hobbies?

P)
Not really. But I read quite a lot of books. Watch some movies. Don't do sports).


M)
Any authors you would like to mention? Siri Hustvedt?

P)
I hadn't heard of her until you mentioned her, so I won't mention her, then... Er... Some good books I've read recently were written by Joyce Carol Oates, Einar Mar Gudmundson, Majgull Axelsson, Johanna Nilsson, Umberto Eco, Annie Proulx, Dick Harrison and Giles Milton.


M)
Where do you find inspiration?

P)
In different places. Demo parts are usually inspired by things I see in movies or in real life. For example, I got the idea for the part with the smoke coming out of the chimney in We/Laser from seeing the same thing when I was on my way home from work. I wondered if it'd be possible to do it and make it look decent on a C-64, and I guess it was. As for design and concept stuff, it usually comes from free associations around stuff I read about, or from listening to music.

When it comes to music, I just try to do something that I'd want to listen to myself. Most C-64 music is absolutely boring and just filled with clichés.


M)
Why do you think it is like that with music then? Do composers try to imitate, are they adapting to something? Who are your favourite contemporary composers?

P)
I have no idea why people don't try to be more innovative. I guess some people try to imitate the stuff they like, and as 99% of the music for the C-64 is in the same style, they'll end up doing the same thing over and over. But at the same time, it's not like people really try to do Rob Hubbard or Martin Galway style tunes, although everyone says they like their music. If people just shifted their influences a bit, I think it'd be much more interesting to listen to new music.

I like some tunes from SounDemoN, Ed, Twoflower, Zyron and Goto80. It seems they're actually trying to do something interesting. There are also tunes I like from people with a more conventional style, like Agemixer, Trident, Dane, GRG, Avalon etc. Probably some others as well,
but my memory is short.


M)
What, in your opinion, differs the contemporary scene from the old scene?

P)
Everything, I guess, but as I wasn't there, it's hard for me to tell. But I guess there was something called "competition" back then.


M)
Is that necessarily a bad thing though? Is it not possible that creativity becomes restricted under competition?

P)
Yes, of course, if you get swept away by the idea of competition, you're doomed to try to improve the same old effects over and over again, unless you're really creative. But there have always been original demos, although most people tend to try to mimic the stuff they like. It seems this is starting to happen with Hollowman style concept demos too.



M)
What keeps people going?

P)
Different stuff, but I think one thing that keeps lots of people going is the fact that they weren't raised to question things, so they just keep going as if nothing was wrong. Apart from that I don't really know. Scene-wise, I don't know, some people actually enjoy coding (that includes me, although lots of the coding I do is pretty boring), some might do it at least to some extent to get respected, others just hang around because it's a nice and cosy community.


M)
Is there a way to change that, making people question more?

P)
Well, force everyone to study philosophy. :)


M)
And scene-wise, do you feel you get the creative response you need from your fellow sceners, i.e. is the scene a fertile ground for creating rather than producing? Perhaps that is not necessary, what do you think?

P)
Well, I don't get all that much response, but sometimes people say they like my demos and sometimes they say they don't like them. I've learnt that you don't get all that much response, but it doesn't matter really. But if you're the kind of person who needs a lot of feedback, the scene probably sucks as a platform for creativity. Also, when people comment on demos, they usually tell you what they miss, which is often stuff I've left out on purpose, so it's not useful to me. Sometimes it feels like someone has actually understood what I'm trying to do, though, and comments from that person might be really useful.


M)
Of your productions, which one are you most proud of? Why?

P)
Square, I think, as I set out to deconstruct the demo concept, and I think I managed to do it pretty well. It's pretty much an anti-demo. I always try to do something original and I think what I'm best at is coming up with ideas, that's the main point for me, I usually don't have the energy required to implement them very well.

I'm not really interested in beating records, but it's nice to get some positive comments on the code sometimes too. Some parts I've written with what I consider pretty good code are in We/Laser (smoke and rotator), Emanation Machine (sideborder plotter), Game Over (chess wobbler) and Wok Zombie (the circles part).



M)
Can you sense that you achieved something with Square then? I myself am thinking of releases that has come out after, that may have been influenced by it, but anything goes.

P)
Not really, although some demos have some similar stuff in them, but there are other interesting things to be influenced by as well. It seems no one else has tried to exploit the idea of _not_ using music in a demo... I guess that might be a too dramatic break with tradition.


M)
Is the concept of demos going through a change?

P)
It's changing all the time, although it's not changing very quickly. In the last couple of years (since 97 or so?) it's been moving towards concept and "design" (I don't like that word, but I can't think of anything better to use right now). Of course some people don't like this, as their conception of what a demo _should_ be like was formed before this started to happen. (That's why people are saying "this is a good concept demo". They can't just call it a good "demo", because it might not be a very good demo according to the doctrine.)

But it's not like demos have always been about who can write the fastest code. I like the Compunet demos (and the really early stuff in general), because they were made before the conception of what demos should be like was formed. People made stuff that they thought would be cool, that others might like or that they just liked themselves, without considering whether it was right or wrong. That's what I'm doing. Or at least what I'm trying to do, because I often get caught up in trying to be a crowd-pleaser as well.


M)
Then, you don't agree with the thesis "unless new barriers are broken all the time, the demo scene dies", or do you have a different interpretation of it?

P)
All barriers don't have to be technical. There are other things to invent than new ways to increase the number of colours in your plasma effects. I'd love to see more new effects, not just the same stuff recycled over and over. I guess I won't be interested in the scene anymore when the only releases are crappy diskmags, "sid tunes" and party scrollers.


M)
You don't like diskmags?

P)
I said "crappy diskmags". I like good diskmags. I don't like crappy diskmags. Stuff that's released just for the sake of releasing something. I think everyone knows which ones I'm talking about.

I like Vandalism News, Domination and Attitude. Game Over(view) is the best one right now, because it's released regularly and has an attitude. I'm not even interested in games, but this mag is worth reading anyway. I wish someone would release a similar mag with demo reviews instead, but I guess no one except me would really want to do it, and I'm too lazy to get started.


M)
Are we close to utilizing the c64 to its full potential?

P)
Yes and no. You probably can't squeeze many more plots per frame out of it, but there are thousands of ideas just waiting to be discovered (I'd better not go into the ontological implications of that statement, but you know what I mean). People just have to stop being so obsessed with other demos (C-64 and other platforms) and try to come up with something themselves instead.


M)
Has there been any positive surprises in the scene?

P)
Yes, lots of them, otherwise I guess I would have stopped doing this shit a long time ago. Now and then you're surprised by cool demos or other releases, more often by cool people and cool parties, or just weird stuff that happens.



M)
What demos lately have had surprises you've appreciated?

P)
Brief Bursts of Happiness was really fresh and surprising. The same goes for Joe's compo picture for Floppy 2004 (the only release I've rated 10 on CSDb). Postcards from Stockholm wasn't exactly surprising, as I'd seen previews of it, but it's that kind of freshness we need more of. Oh, and Yodelking's and UL-Tomten's tune in last year's Sid compo, "O'boy". The zoomer part in Christopher Jam's demo from LCP was a super nice surprise. And Borderline by Triad was really nice, although I tend to get a bit bored by it, and I don't like the music. And of course You Know the Routine I+II by Camelot.


M)
Name some all time favourite demos.

P)
Industrial Breakdown, Soul, Happy Birthday and Totally Stoned II by Booze Design, A Quoi Ca Sert? and Stupidity III by Wrath Designs, The Last Reactor by React, Manhood I+II, Emission and Feedback by Triad, Pretending to See the Light by Fairlight, Total Epygt, Kuppa II and others by Extend, Prometheus Unbound by Flash Inc., Brutal Comeback and others by Light, Psykolog etc. from Panoramic Designs, Higher Love by Graffity, Digital World by Samar, Parts by Oxyron, Pathology by Fraction, Biba II by Arise, Soiled Legacy by Resource, Unsound Minds and Extremes by Byterapers, +h2k by Plush, The Last Traktor by Horizon, Lone Star by Breeze, Spasmolytic by Censor, O-Tech People by Active, Bound to be the Best II by Xakk and lots of other stuff that I can't remember right now. Oh, Thrust Concert by Stoat and Tim, of course.


M)
Do you play any computer games?

P)
Yeah, for like 10 minutes at a time. I like games like 1942, Thundercats and Cloudburst (vic-20), where there's lots of action and not much thinking. For some reason I started playing Pirates! a couple of weeks ago, and that was kind of fun, so I might do that again sometime.


M)
Tell us of Dataghelg 5.

P)
Heh, well, there's a lot to tell, I guess. The Datahelgs aren't like any other meetings, because of the women and children, which makes it all extra bizarre. This one was a bit special because of the kangaroo visitors, which brought in lots of extra people too. All in all it was a really cool meeting, complete with a compo, drunken fistfight and Andromeda pissing all over the place. Just check out the pictures, because 1000 photos say more than one word. Or so I've heard.


M)
Do the women and children data? Is it true that Hollowman met some beautiful ladies?

P)
No, they don't data, they're just data hangarounds. And as for the ladies, it's true that there were ladies, but I'm not so sure about the "beautiful" part. (Now Hollowman's going to really beat me up in the next fistfight.)


M)
So I've been told as well. Is there something you would like to share with the readers on the subject of Pantaloon, Vengeance and Dwangi?

P)
Everyone should check out the Datahelg 5 photos, of course, to see Pantaloon passing out in style. And me too, in the kitchen. Great pictures! Vengeance is really tall and has long arms, so fist fighting with him is really hard. But I hope I managed to injure him just a little bit anyway. As for Dwangi, I'm less sure than ever that he really exists. But I do know that he likes TT (mellanöl).


M)
I guess this would sum it up quite good. Thank you for taking the time! Any last words?

P)
Make more demos, send me money and be happy!

The pictures from datahelg: http://hem.bredband.net/edvzet/page_01.htm
Puterman's coding-primer: http://democoding.civitas64.de

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