Interviews



Interview with LMan of MultiStyle Labs, Oxyron and Remix64

Published in Vandalism News #66
Vandalism News goes one on one with the musician who won the X 2016 music competition!

An interview conducted by Magic of Nah-Kolor with some help of CRT of ex-Censor Design

Magic:
Please introduce yourself to our readers. Also, how did you became interested in the C64 and started to make music on it?

LMan:
I am around 40 and live in the Cologne area. I grew up in a very small village. My brother got his c64 when I was 10, had never seen something like it before and was instantly hooked. However living that isolated I didn't have contact with the scene at all, you took what you got from the schoolyard. I guess the story is the same for many sceners, I was always more fascinated with great music, cool intros and gfx than my friends, who found this odd hehe. So around 1990 I got my hands on the little known but cool tracker called AMP. It was on a diskmag and I used it to make a couple of SIDs just for fun, you know those everyone does (Axel F anyone?). So in 1992 I moved on to Protracker, then Cakewalk, Cubase, Reason. When the Internet finally arrived at home, searching for C64 stuff was among the first things to do, so I got in touch with the remixing scene. I founded Remix64 together with Tas. Ever since then I hoped to return to SID music one day, keeping a loose watch on the core scene all the time. When I finally made the step in January 2015, I had collected lots of ideas I wanted to try. So that's how I got to it.


Magic:
Where does your nick LMan come from? What does it mean?

LMan:
The nickname went through several iterations. It can be traced back to an incident in art class 1986, and a guy who is now my best friend. His nick is BMan. :)


Magic:
What incident?

LMan:
BMan poured his dirty watercolour water over my freshly cleaned paintbox. We'll leave the rest a mystery ;)


Magic:
What can you tell our readers about your groups MultiStyle Labs, Oxyron and Remix64?

LMan:
When I got into the scene last year, the plan was to stay out of groups and remain freelance. However one day Jammer asked me to join MultiStyle Labs. Would I join my all-time favourite music group? So I answered "You kidding? Hell yeah!" No brainer really. The unwritten core principles of MSL are experimentation, diversity and freedom. In other words, we're nothing but a bunch of friends annoying you in their spare time, as our tagline goes. When I got in touch with THCM from Oxyron it was instantly clear we'd make a great team. So before I knew it I had contributed a lot of music to the Censor Design / Oxyron demo "Fantasmolytic". Joining Oxy was a logical consequence, and of course a great honour. Remix64 is not a group per se, rather the staff running remix64.com and its community forum.


Magic:
What is remix64 about? Why did you found it?

LMan:
The remixing scene is focused on remixing or remaking SID tunes with "real" synths and instruments. In the early days, there were "Triad Mp3s" and its then brand new spiritual successor remix.kwed.org. Both were basically file repositories where remixers could submit their works to. Then there was also Chris Abbott's c64audio.com, which at that time was hosting a couple of remixes with lots of background info, screenshots etc. The community aspect happened mostly at the c64rmx Yahoo group. So I wanted to create a community platform to bring it all together, and enrich it with reviews, voting etc.

Incidentally Neil Carr aka Tas was setting up a beta webzine called Remix64, but struggling with the technical aspects. So we teamed up and brought the site to life. I was coding the CMS and everything while Neil filed the site with editorial content. Great times.


Magic:
You won the X 2016 music compo with Rastaline Dub. How did you come up with the idea for your winning X2016 sid?

LMan:
Uwe (THCM) and I make the perfect team, since his technical and my musical visions totally match. So for X he suggested to improve his sample/sid engine with new special effects. So we discussed ideas and settled on a feasible plan to incorporate a real feedback echo on one of two sample channels. Of course a delay effect is predestined for the dub style. Since I wanted to do a reggae track ever since starting to do SIDs last year, the choice of style was a no brainer.

Magic:
So how does this exactly work? Could you explain from a technical point of view how you make such sid tracks?

LMan:
HCM's tool converts a protracker mod file into a special data stream that can play back the tune on a c64. Of course there are several limitations, you couldn't simply convert an Amiga track, but the format is identical so you can edit the tune in any protracker compatible tracker. Now here comes the twist: THCM's engine allows for a regular sid tune to play back simultaneously, for example from GoatTracker or Cheesecutter. Since both SID and MOD formats are synced with the screen rate, their tempo can be perfectly matched. To make room for the sample playback, you can only use 2 SID voices. You can use the filter settings in the SID part to modify the sample playback on voice 3. That way I cover up the aliasing and sample noise, since the maximum sample playback frequency is around 7-8khz. So since we're editing the sample and SID parts separately, it requires some imagination and planning to figure out how the both of them will work together.


CRT:
How do you choose samples/sounds for 15KHz? Is it just by ear or are there some good rules? (Assuming the sample playback is ~15KHz). Also what tools do you work with to create your sids? And which tools are made by THCM exactly? Could you explain your toolchain?

LMan:
The maximum playback rate for the SID + Sample playback is around 7KHz. That's pretty scratchy and noisy, I've kind of specialised on covering that up with filtering and SID overlays. I create most of the sounds myself in Propellerhead Reason, and dump them to wav. Then I import the wavs in OpenMPT, crop and down-sample them accordingly. Some of the sounds work better than others, it's a bit trial and error really. For the SID part I use Abaddon's Cheesecutter, but it works the same with Goattracker files. THCMs tool will load the .prg and .mod files and combine them as described above.


CRT:
What does music mean to you and what are your musical influences in and outside the scene?

LMan:
Music is a huge part of my life. I'm interested in all kinds of genres, and in trying out new styles. Massive influences within the scene, to name only a few are Jammer, Jeff, Linus, AMJ, Fanta, GRG, Hein, TBB and many more. Outside the scene there's none I could pinpoint, just about everything I like is an influence.


Magic:
How do you look back at the X 2016 music compo?

LMan:
All the entries were great, many of them amazing. The level of awesomeness was overall very high. I was really very curious how my choice of style would be received. I knew it was going to be surprising and in stark contrast to the mostly upbeat other tracks. So I took the risk and it paid off. Everyone who attended the prize giving witnessed how happy I was to win the music compo. Being my first win ever, this actually meant a lot to me.


Magic:
Some people argued the music compo should be split up in digi (with samples) and non-digi (without samples), what do you think of this?

LMan:
For the pure sake of fairness this doesn't make sense. A good track is a good track, no matter if it's oldschool or techy. The distribution of both styles along the rankings in this and past compos prove this. However I could imagine an additional music compo with artificial limits, similar to 4k or PETSCII categories.


Magic:
You were involved in the X 2016 The Concert demo by Performers... Please tell us about this demo. How did it all start? How did you became involved, what did you do for it exactly...

LMan:
Uwe (THCM) had the initial idea to do a homage for the 80's "Thrust Concert" demo for X'2016, and we exchanged ideas for it at Nordlicht 2015. So we assembled a team at Oxyron to make the demo, however since many of our groupmates were bound in other projects, the awesome Arsenic demo for example, barely two months before the party time was running short to get it finished. Luckily Uwe was able to bring in help from outside Oxyron, and thus we named the highly motivated and energized new team "Performers". Because of that, and some hardcore party coding and pixelling, we managed to deliver a nearly finished demo just in time for the compo. So even if it was kind of rushed and unpolished, I think it oozed all the love with every pixel, byte and sound, with new effects and loads of references to our childhood heroes. Watch out for the complete version, coming soon!


Magic:
What's yet to be discovered music wise on the C64? What are your future goals? And... any last words?

LMan:
Considering the age of the chips you should think everything's been done, but of course year after year the scene's creative minds prove that sentiment wrong. So yeah I think there's a lot to discover. I'll just keep experimenting and having fun with the SID chip, and I'm very looking forward to meeting up and talking to all of you guys again. Thank you for having me on the mag! The scene is special, with special people. The creative buzz is incredible, and I'm proud and grateful to be part of it. A special hello to my wife Natascha aka Sunflower who always keeps me grounded and takes care of the kids and everything at home while I'm out at demoscene parties, so without her amazing support that wouldn't be possible. THANK YOU!


Magic:
No... Thank you for let us having you... right here... in Vandalism News issue 66! Make some noise! :) Latersssss...



Editor's note:
Find a lot of LMan his sid's ready for you to play in your browser at his website here:http://markus-klein-k.de/sid

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