Interview with Anders "Goto80" Carlsson.
Published in Vandalism News #66
Conducted by Tim "Ray Manta" Koch in October 2016.
V) You recently relocated to America, camels?
G) Yeah I'm spending a few months in New York, a tour in California with Kero Kero Bonito and Slime Girls, then heading to Canada and Latin America for some gigs and presentations. I'm playing some shows and preparing some new releases, but at the moment I'm more focused on writing and research. As a part of a research project, I'm writing a paper about CSDb, actually. It's proving to be even more interesting than I thought. Lots of different tensions in there to explore. What does CSDb do to the memory of the C64-scene? And what doesn't it do? Yeah, stay tuned for that paper coming out on your local Science BBS next year!
And it's pretty cool how opportunities just appear, when you're here. For example, I've written a text for this gigantic NY-based digital art site, Rhizome, about an art piece. It was made on videotex (used in eg Minitel) so it was an early example of what's called net art today.
V) defMON is quite a unique piece of music software. Do you regard it perhaps as a? constant? audio appendage of sorts since it was developed with your specific ?required feature-set in mind?
G) Frantic built defMON on his own for a few years and then I moved to the same city as him, so we started to do regular defJAMS every week. So we really tested it thoroughly in the context of live jamming, where defMON really outshines every other tracker that I've used. At the time, I was really sick of trackers ignoring all the potential for live performance (which they still do) and defMON made it possible to really use the C64 as an instrument. I can actually make a song sound better live than in its pre-programmed state. That's something else completely than "hey I'm changing some settings in this song to prove that I'm actually doing something live". Which I do a lot of the time too, but still… hee
Frantic had the idea of developing a tracker where everything was possible. A sort of universalism. I guess 99% of all C64-music can theoretically be converted to defMON, which is pretty amazing. I was also trying to push defMON towards particularism at times, to make it easier and faster to use - both for composing and performing. But I think defMON balances between flexibility and ease of use quite well.
Now that I can sync defMON with other machines via MIDI or DIN-sync, I've made an album called 80864 that is based on C64 and TR-808 synchronization. They make a very cute couple, I have to say.
V) Give me your interpretation of "dub" aesthetics and how they apply to modern use of retro sound chips and or hardware.
G) For many, I guess dub means a reggae-related style of music, but I think of it more as an approach to making sounds and music. Someone once said that dub is the only genre that seamlessly crossed over to the digital times. Which I think says a lot. Take what you have and learn it well - don't be a promiscuous gear freak. Mess with it. Embrace mistakes. Don't be a control freak. Melt together with the machines. And put tons of echoes on it!
That approach is certainly there among chip music people aswell - yeah, except for the echoes. Perhaps a bit less today than 15 years ago. A lot of people are interested in perfection now. Removing noise, literally and figuratively, to get the best sound ever. That goes for me too, in a way. It's the zeitgeist, perhaps?
But, put differently, I think old digital platforms are great for dub approaches. I mused about this in the book 8 BIT REGGAE by Nicolas Nova, as well. Maybe I said smarter things there than what I can come up with right now, here in Colorado.
V) Your recent EP makes use of synch hardware to marry the commodore64 sound output with your 808 with a common clock synch - is this a configuration you have used for live shows? much??
G) Since the TR-808 is such a hard machine to use live in a good way (this is probably a sin to say, but I'm saying it anyway) I haven't really found a good way to use it live. I want to have a balance between improvisation and pre-made things, and the 808 is hard to use in that way.
I do however use it constantly at home - record jams with the C64 and the TR-808, edit it, and add more stuff to turn it into songs. And of course to jam together with friends who have all their modular monsters and drum machines and mega computers and what not. I recently plugged defMON into a modular video synthesizer, which was completely amazing.
But I hope to explore this more in the future. At the moment I've gone back to using a laptop live on stage, but for a while I was only using C64 and Amiga. I'm not sure which direction to go in, but I'm pretty sure it will involve synchronizing the C64 to other machines. And not only music machines.
V) You have been a part of the "Scene" for quite some time now, do you consider that the dynamics have changed somewhat? (cynical 40-somethings with mortgages and kids etc.
G) The scene is definitely more friendly now, I'd say. No more knife fights and nazis, which is a pretty good thing if you ask me. There is also not as much elitism. I'm not sure if that's only a good thing, though. I somehow like that the scene is reclusive and exclusive. Which is not to say that I promote elitism, but I think it's fine that a subculture keeps doing its own thing without trying too hard to make itself relevant to others.
The downside obviously is that it becomes really self-referential. The scene seems to be a bit stuck in routines. People are getting "old" I guess. For me the cool thing with the scene was that you could always do whatever you wanted, unlike in many other creative contexts. It's kind of the same as with the chipscene - as long as you follow the “materiality” and use a certain platform and a certain format - your stuff is basically labelled as a scene-release.
I'm not sure we're using that freedom so well all the time. Someone asked me here in the US (where everybody says that there never was a scene, because it was too small I guess) if I thought that there was a future to the scene. And that kind of made me think. I mean, the way it looks now, the scene is not very attractive for a 20-year-old. There's kind of steep learning curve in learning about all that history that frankly the scene bathes in. There's not much “young experimentation” in the scene. And if that continues, the scene will fade away. And maybe that's not a bad thing?
V) A square wave, sine wave and triangle wave walk into a bar...
G) and ring modulate with the bartender, sync with a chair, and then leave without a trace.
V) At the risk of cliched territory, name a SID composer that you respect and appreciate for versatility and originality.
G) I think Kjell Nordbo always deserves a mention when talking originality and versatility. Not only an amazing composer, but there's also his code and graphics, and the whole myth about him as a person. It's hard to think of another artist who was so dedicated to the C64-scene, even in its most inactive years, and who didn't get much recognition anywhere else. Or not as far as I know, anyway.
I hope we can keep celebrating Kjell forever!
V) Do you compose primarily in emulation for SID / Amiga tunes - or is the allure of real hardware too much?
G) I used to be fiercely against emulators as an angry teenager. But I'm not an angry teenager anymore. I'm an angry old man now. And only hipster kids care about real hardware these days anyway, amirite? Hrm. Well.
I just gave away and sold almost all of my floppies and hardware that I've collected since I first got into the C64-scene 20 years ago. It was a weird moment of relief and sadness, to hand these badasses away. But what's the point of just keeping them, without using them? At least for me I don't see the point anymore. I've handed the C64-disks over to preservationists (hi Hedning!) and the hardware to serious collectors (hi Oxidy!).
Having said that, I always carry around the real C64, to the amusement and fear of airport security personnel. I still can't really get into C64-emulators, mostly now because of the keyboard and the general feel. The audio emulation still isn't 100% either (what's so hard about $51?), which of course is a bit of a downer.
As for the Amiga, I'm a bit tired of the real thing to be honest. There's too much hazzle, and it's more fragile than the C64 to travel around with. I do amiga music in 8bitbubsy's protracker clone now, which is the first time I've seen a good convenient way of making Amiga music on the PC. That sounds odd, but I've never heard a maximised chip-mod play well on a PC. 8bitbubsy's PT-clone is the shit! And frankly, music-making was always what I liked best with the Amiga.
V) What are you working on at the moment?
G) Well, I focused a lot on music last summer to put together DUBCRT and 80864 and prepare several other releases. So now, while I'm in the US, I've focused more on writing and research. Apart from the things mentioned above, I'm trying to put together all of the research I've done on text graphics over the years. If you're into PETSCII and ASCII at all, you should check text-mode.tumblr.com to see all the media and formats you've never heard of, and related things. The general idea is that blocky mosaic geometrics is not something that came with computers, but have existed for thousands of years. I find this quite fascinating, and I'm interested in expanding way beyond the boring text-mode graphics dogmas that are based on character encoding. It's super weird that we still do that. The encoding seems pretty irrelevant these days for anything but technical matters. The font, for example, is often more important.
But as I said, I have many new releases in the pipe. One thing, that is probably quite unexpected, is a very poppy release with FM-sounds and speech synthesis vocals. I also have a lot of acid, quite poppy actually, that I want to put out next year.
G) Greetings to all the people who keep making the C64 run things it's never run before! Both tech-geeks and artists, I salute you all in the name of the sword. Especially Frantic, who's been working on his demo in the dark for so many years. I hope it will be finished next year so everybody can see all the mind-twisting effects, drop their jaws to the ground and sit on it!
V) Final words?
G) You should never think that you know what your C64 wants, and you should never disrespect it. Believe in the power of the compute!