Interviews



Interview with Carrion

Published in Vandalism News #51
Performed by Jazzcat & Macx


Another graphician rejoins the scene from out of the wilderness. This time it's legendary Polish pixel giant Tomek 'Carrion' Mielnik who hasn't been active in the scene for around 14 years.


V)
Hi Tomek and welcome to the pages of Vandalism News. I fondly remember your pixel-work on C64 and am pleased to see you have found your way back. For those who don't know you, please give a short introduction...

C)
Hello everyone my name is Tomek Mielnik and I'm better known as Carrion, ex-Elysium, now Crest. I'm from Poland. I'll be 34 this year which is quite mature age to be in the demo scene I guess. ;)


V)
You recently found the "need" to pixel again on C64, can you tell us what brought this feeling back?

C)
I should start by saying that I've got a quite stable situation in my life now. I have a family and a good job, so the one thing missing was a nice hobby (jogging, gym, reading books etc is not a hobby for me really) that would make me feel good after all the daily duties. Pixeling was always fun for me but pixeling just for the sake of creating images could be boring. I knew that scene is active (more or less) when I get to CSDb, so an idea grew in my mind “why not get back to the scene" and make some graphics/demos and maybe a graphics collection at last. So answering your question, the main reason for my comeback is a need to finish some unfinished jobs (gfx collie being one of them) and have some fun again with 8bit computers (my son Jakub doesn't get why I do that).



V)
Regarding the editors you used in the past compared to what's available now (e.g. Timanthes), what are you currently using and how do you feel your results are in recent pictures such as Black Glasses and Afro Boxer?

C)
I started doing graphics with logos (character based). I never thought I'll do real graphics simply because I didn't understand why when I use Koala and I put pixel sometimes the pixels change their colours making the whole image look awful. After a few months I realised that there is something like colour limitations and despite the problems it caused there are people doing nice pictures. I remember that my first big whole screen image was done in Art Studio (multicolour), it was around 1989. When I joined Asphyxia (-1991) FLI was a new standard and thanks to that I was able to start doing real graphics. Also because of the FLI I stopped doing multicolour graphics for some time.

For FLI I've used only one true editor - Black Mail's FLI Graph.

All my FLIs were made with this tool which, when I look at it now, was far from perfect. In Elysium my colleagues asked me few times to do multicolour images because "it was real gfx format" and far less memory consuming (perfect for demos). So I started too look around for a tool for me. And believe it or not I quickly found that Amica Paint was my tool of choice. I know -
zoom mode in this tool was a disaster (no grid!) but overall productivity was okay for me. Later I did some images in Face Painter as an additional tool used together with Amica Paint. I remember when Fun Paint came out I thought it's so hard to use that nobody will use it. But IFLI looked so attractive that I took some time and started to try it. So Fun Paint (which later was fixed by Hain/Elysium/F4CG in few areas) was a tool I did all my IFLIs with.

When I decided that I'll try to do some images after those years I first looked at my old tool chain. I sold my C64 like 10 years ago so one choice for me was Vice + my old tools that I knew. I started to pixel "Molly" on Project One (because I imported one of my old PC images) and quickly transferred it to Amica Paint. There I stretched it a bit and exported to Fun Paint to convert it from koala format to Fun Paint format. Then I tried Pixel Perfex (the best IFLI tool for C64 right now in my opinion). Trying different approaches I found out there's something like Timanthes. So I stopped with the "Molly" image for a few days and tried this new tool from Mirage. And I have one word for this tool amazing! I was able to finish 1 koala and 1 FLI image in 2-3 days which for me was something really amazing (I usually spent 1 week or more per image back in 90's). Then the "New Timanthes" came out and was even better and I decided to finish "Molly" in this tool. So this is what I used for these images. Now if you ask me what I think about them well I like "Molly" and "Black Glasses". I pixeled all 3 of them (each one in different format) to recall all my techniques. So it was more a training/revision and I have hopes that all future images will be better. I know that there are purists saying that pixeling on Vice / Timanthes is lame. But for now I don't care about that. What counts right now is the result and how it looks on a real C64. Oh and by the way, I bought C64 last week so I'll use it too for pixeling soon.



V)
When did you discover the C64 and the scene and can you tell us a bit about how you became Carrion and how you got into groups like Asphyxia, Elysium and most recently Crest?

C)
I started my scene activities somewhere around 1989 and I was a graphician from the beginning. I founded a group named Cruel Soldiers (yes I know it sounds lame now) together with my friend Rekin (he was later a member of Flash Inc). A few years later with some colleagues (Rekin, Jane, Kruger, Prokop) we formed Asphyxia. These were the time when we listened a lot to the Heavy Metal and I guess it's visible in Asphyxia demos. In 1992 I was in the founding team in Elysium. Brush and Hain/ex-Parados visited me personally (which was huge for me since Parados was the best Polish group of that time), and asked me to join the newly forming group Elysium. I was looking for something new during that time so I agreed. We became real good friends for a long time and we had great time in Elysium. I remember finishing our first demo "Origon" on Asphyxia party in Poland. I also remember the time when we set with Taboo guys and decided we do a coop demo. You have to know that "Altered States" and "Late Ejaculation" were supposed to be a single demo called Altered States. We designed every part, every transition, and every screen for that demo. I'm not sure why it didn't happened but probably because of no time for joint linking of the parts (we were in Warsaw they were in Katowice and there was no Internet during that time). Anyway, I stayed in Elysium till 2003/04 (can't remember exactly now). Stopped scene activities in 1995 when I sold my C64 to get money for a holiday with my girlfriend. I should be punished I know that ;) but it was worth the case because she's my wife now. In 1999 with Brush/Elysium we did our last demo "Illmatic". After this demo I left scene. The Crest case was the best thing that could happen to me on my comeback. After I published Black Glasses and Afro Boxer, DeeKay contacted me with a simple question and my answer was "I do". And no matter how childish it sounds I have to say that I was so happy and felt like small boy in wonderland when I joined Crest. Even my wife said there should be something wrong with me. Right now I have a lot of energy and good will to pixel let’s see how long it stays like that.


V)
Who do you look up to in the graphic-world of C64?

C)
My all time favourite pixel master is Hein Holt. I remember this breakthrough moment when I saw his images in Dutch Breeze.  It was actually a moment when I decided I'll try to get closer to his style with FLI. From "my scene times" I remember that Joe/Wrath Designs, Valsary, Mirage was masters too and I was always jealous for their works. Now after the years when I browse CSDb to see what happened during these years I would definitely say that a lot has changed, and keeping the quality with guys like Leon, Ptoing, DK, Archmage, Jailbird and of course Mirage is for me a tough job.



V)
Being re-involved in the C64 scene I guess you've checked out the releases in the last few years and the advances in graphic theme (e.g. we've moved from big breasted warrior women to something containing a lot more thought). Any favourites or comments on how the C64 is travelling these days?

C)
Regarding of what I said above I think a lot has changed including graphics formats, style, techniques and tools. For me the graphics scene should go in direction that Joe has now. I'm not saying we all should do abstract multicolour compositions.

What Joe is doing I would call new ways of expression. At the same time we should use techniques that are already known like colour mixing (especially in IFLIs), anti-aliasing. We shouldn't be afraid of using complex dithering and yes I know that tools like Timanthes do that just great and a pixeler has no longer to bother with it. As I see it, we should use tools which help us to achieve any result. I'll repeat myself here but the final result is something what I value and not the steps that were taken to achieve it. Okay, okay, converting is another story and it's not pixeling for me.


V)
What is art to you?

C)
I think I answered it partially in previous questions. Art for me is doing common things in a non-common manner.



V)
You never released a graphic collection on C64 yet, will this change?

C)
You've said times of busty ladies and dragons are past now, but I have to say that one more graphics collection with this kind of fantasy / SF images is going to be released. A week or so ago I bought a C64 and checked my old 5.25 disks. My old never released images from 90's are still there. So I thought I'll release those which were never shown as proof that I was quite busy in "my best scene times". After this collection I'll move on to my new ideas. Oh and directly answering your question I would say. I started like 5-8 images almost simultaneously and never finishing each of them. Every time I saw the result will be good enough I was getting bored and started with new ideas for images. I guess it's because I'm really inpatient when I have new ideas and try to do all at once. Like my Molly, Black Glasses and Afro Boxer case. ;)


V)
There seems to be a surge in the current C64 scene in Poland; new groups and sceners, quite a few fancy musicians and old nostalgic junkies returning. If you take a look at how the Scandinavian scene has risen from the ashes partly due to regular parties, would you consider this a working remedy also in Polska?


C)
I've never been too active when it comes to visiting parties. I visited a few back in '93-'95 and after '95 I stopped going to parties. Saying that it's hard for me to say how parties in Poland looks like nowadays and if they can help to rebuild the scene. As far as I know there are a few parties in Poland every year and this year I plan to go to Silesia Party for example (please join us in September). After that party I'll let you know if it helps to raise sceners back to an active level. ;)  One thing I know for sure - every time I met with my fellow scene colleagues I was so inspired and motivated to pixel and stay active like in not any other situation. So answering the question; if you have interest and motivation in coming back to scene you have to meet other sceners to get more motivation.



V)
What differs with art in contemporary C64 demos to the ones fifteen or twenty years ago?

C)
Short answer - Nothing!

But to elaborate more on that I have to say that art means different things for different people. I just mentioned that for me art is doing common things in not common manner. We have the same rules/limitations/possibilities in C64 graphics world like we had 20 years ago. Maybe we have some new graphics formats but the main rules are the same. We can have great HiRes image but painted with unusual technique/style and we can have XYZuFLI image with lots of mixed, interlaced colours but pixeled with no spirit. In my opinion it all comes to just a few but most important factors:

- technique / style
- idea for image/ content
- innovative use of tools which actually is more or less the same as the first one.

I don't have an art-based education but what I remember from high school is that art is a parallel of form and content, and there are different trends ones saying that form is important other saying that content of the art is important. To me form is what you see first and how you judge the images especially on C64.

Art is a very subjective issue but for me there are examples of great art created now and 20 years ago.


V)
There sure must be quite a few productions released in the past decade you need to catch up with. Have you had the time to indulge, and are there general comments or specific demos you would want to mention? You refer to Joe as a bold contemporary C64 graphician, what do you think of the works of Wrath Designs as a crew?

C)
I have a problem with remembering production names, especially now after the break when a lot happened on the scene. So please don't ask me for names of productions. I remember one (from "my times", and it has its age now) which is "Courtesy of Soviet" from WD. It has everything I expect from a great production. Multicolour images used in this demo should be presented as the best ever in this gfx mode. I really mean it. ;)

WD is, as I believe a great team. I just haven't seen too much from them (nor from the others) lately so I can't tell really. And this shows a bigger problem. I love to pixel and create demos but I didn't have motivation to learn all these group names, handles, who's who etc. and I really regret that.


V)
Which of the more recent demos do you like, and are there trends and tendencies you find more interesting?

C)
"Recent" is the key word here. For me recent is something what was released after 1999 because it's more or less the time when I left scene. Everything post-'99 is new for me. Of course I see differences in demo effects from 1999 and from 2009. To answer the question I'll need to browse CSDb and see what was released after 1999 spend hours making notes what was ok and what wasn't. So I'll answer indirectly here.

For example my favourite demo of all time is Dutch Breeze and I can compare it to another gfx based demo - Deus Ex Machina. Both include cool graphics and design and both show features of their times. It's hard to say which is better, but both show what I like best about demos. Great graphics and design, and this is where we should look for ideas. I don't mean we should copy them exactly but rather look for ways to leverage the great graphics we have.

If it comes to tendencies my dream that some time in future I will be fluent with all the new xUFLI graphics modes like DeeKay is. This is area I'll take closer look at in the near future.

But if you ask me for demos names here they are:

One Million Lightyears from Earth, Pearls for Pigs, Edge of Disgrace, Natural Wonders 2, Smart Girls Hate Booze - Are the ones I liked most when visiting CSDb last month.



V)
Can you tell us a bit about the Polish scene, back in the nineties, there was a huge surge of releases and then the North Party etc? Much isn't known before this time, but what was it like locally... in someway did it feel like Poland was isolated from the rest of the scene? (Like my country, Australia, is compared to the rest of the scene, we had our 'local' scene here etc).

C)
I'm not an expert of the Polish scene at all and never was. Even in the mid 90's when I was active I knew about Elysium (obviously), Asphyxia, Charged and maybe a few other groups. I know there was a lot more but as said in this interview before I never was really into scene life (I liked to pixel and to compete and that was enough for me :)). As much as I can tell, the scene in
Poland started in the late 80's (like 88-89) with groups like Quartet (really active guys - watch them on CSDb) or Slaves of Keyboard. I think the Polish scene started to be really active in early 90's ('91-'94) when groups like Parados, Taboo, Elysium,
Asphyxia created really good products comparable to the rest of the European scene. I will not agree that we were kind of isolated at that time. In '92-'93 I saw my nick on some European charts and not only mine to be honest. People like Brush, Cresh, Cruise, Hain, Rekin, KM, MMS, Fazee (and much more) were really well known in Europe. Of course a true sentence will be that we started a bit later than let's say our German or Swedish friends due to the iron curtain we had in Europe till 1989.

I remember that in my town there weren't so many people with a C64 in '89-'90. I got mine from my father who worked in Germany for some time in '88-'89. And I was really lucky one at that time.


V)
What's your view on the cracking scene back in the old days and how it affected the commercial game making on C64?

C)
Cracking scene was the thing I really didn't care about at all. I mean I knew we had Hain/Elysium/F4CG - one of the best at that time but that was all I knew. I didn't care too much if my games were cracked second day after official release (Hain had some first releases :)). Let me just end here stating that although I know it required outstanding skills to crack some games, I always thought that creating demos (or games) was more creative and fun than cracking them.


V)
Reflecting upon the demos and projects you've been a part of. What was the most challenging thing for you? And do you feel that there is something you wanted to do but wasn't accomplished?

C)
There's one thing that I feel like was the biggest unfinished project ever in the Polish scene. I'm talking about Altered States, the coop demo between Elysium and Taboo. I remember we set together in one of the demo parties in Tarnow to design every FX and every transition between them. It was a perfect design and we had everything written down to just code it. To make long story short it lasted for 1.5 year when Taboo guys decided they can't wait for us to finish our parts so they released Altered States (50%). Later when we saw that, we released Late Ejaculation where for example you'll find the Altered States logo (haven't you ever wondered why it's there?). So it was supposed to be one demo and it never was. So this is only one thing I regret that wasn't finished. Also I never released my FLI gfx collection. But I will. Thanks to my Crest friends I'll do that this year (soon). In that production, which I hope you scene guys, will like even, it contains boobs-and-dragons images, you'll see my unfinished images in finished-2009-style.


V)
Did you ever imagine the scene would still be alive in 2009? That demos (including records and new effects) are still being released?

C)
Never! If back in 1999 you would tell me that I'll see and do great demos in 2009 I would laugh in your face. When I was leaving the scene in 1999 I just thought that's the way it works. We get older and really had no time or interest in doing demos. Looking at myself I could say that I was more interested to do some professional development (work and graphics artist, learn Linux, learn PHP, learn Java, learn how IT business works, etc) rather that "waste" time on pixeling something that less and less people really appreciate. But as I said in one of my earlier answers. Now I have family, some experience at work and a hobby was needed. As a graphician you can try Photoshop, 3D (btw: checkout open source Blender project it rocks), and other stuff but pixeling is really fun. So I think coders, musicians can say the same. Doing all that on the machine that has the same limitations for last 30 years is fun and that's the main reason people still stick to C64.

I want to share some thoughts I have though. A couple of weeks ago I run Eternal and Miecze Valdgira, two of my games to play with my 7 year old son. After a few minutes he said that it's boring and we should better play Little Big Planet on PS3 because it's much better and fun. I want to say here that we (30 years old or older guys ;)) who still understand that the C64 had incredible technology for it's time and fun. I want to be wrong, but after us there might not be a new C64 scene.


V)
What is the weirdest experience you've had on the C64?

C)
I had traumatic story in Tarnow at the Elysium/Antia Demo Party in 1994, where I almost burned the hotel down. That's true. I stayed with some Elysium guys as organisers at some hotel close to the party place. It was winter so we had a glass urn that you connect to power to heat the water for coffee or tea. I started to make some coffee for us, plugged it in and then... forgot about it. We went to the city for a couple of beers and when we got back to the hotel room we entered the room and at that same moment the glass urn exploded and the floor and carpet started to get on fire. Of course we extinguished the fire in a few seconds but one minute later the room would've been totally on fire.

We got drunk later that day and so I forgot all about this accident but later and until this very day, when I think about that I feel terrible. So maybe it's not directly connected to my C64 scene activities but it definitely caused some trauma for me. Even today when I leave a hotel room, house or anything else I double-check electric urns, irons, ovens, etc. My wife laughs that I have this paranoia. But don't tell it to anybody - it's my secret. :)


V)
Apart from Crest, what other groups or guys would you like to work with in a demo or game production on C64?

C)
If you would asked me that question in 90s I would answer that I do gfx only for Elysium my only group. I was so proud I’m in this group (which I hope was also known in Australia ;) )  that I only pixeled for Elysium. Now we have different era of C64 demo scene and I think that in order to help it live longer we have to help each other. So I can do graphics (work together) with any group  only limitation is free time to do it. For example I help my friends from Lepsi and Miracles and pixel some stuff for their new demo.


V)
Did you ever make any paper art? (scene or non-scene related). I remember some great work from guys like Cruise and Stone...

C)
I tried to do some paper art but it always ended to be paper-crap. I have almost no skills to paint on paper seriously.


V)
Disk magazines have been around for a long time, I remember collecting them from all over the world and getting frustrated that some of them from Poland and Germany wouldn't be in the English language. Thinking about disk magazines, how are your feelings towards them, the role that they play in the scene, any favourites?

C)
I remember when I read first issue of Highlife probably first real disk mag in Poland. I liked it the most because a main editor Biondi was a real master in writing great texts. Besides Highlife contained latest charts which was always first and mandatory column to read. Later Highlife joined forces with other great mag called Darkside and together created mag called Always which was really, really good. It was first mag with real articles about not only scene. The role of all mags not only those was huge. We also had no Internet at that time, remember? So it was first source of scene news not only for us old sceners but also for all newcomers.


V)
Any greetings that you have? Go right ahead!

C)
Greetings to all pixel masters.


V)
What would you like to be remembered for in the C64 scene?

C)
I want to be remembered for some great images which, I hope, are still to come.


V)
Thank you for taking the time with our questions for this 51st edition of Vandalism News, any final words for the audience?

C)
It was my pleasure to share some thoughts with you David and to the readers. So if you want to meet me in person and talk not only about pixels come to parties. My plan for being an active scener is not only pixeling but also to visit the parties as well.

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