Interviews



Interview with Ironcat

Published in Vandalism News #40
Performed by Jazzcat





J)
Thanks for your time. Could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

I)
No problem. Well, my name is Alain, live in Geneva (Switzerland), turned 30 years old last November and currently work as a Web Application Developer (Java, JSP, PHP, HTML/JavaScript/CSS, etc). As part of my hobbies, I like composing music, scuba-driving, travelling around the world, several sports, movies, computers...


J)
Could you please try and describe your history on the C64, highlighting the memorable events and achievements you accomplished.

I)
I got my C64 as a birthday present from my father around 1984. I started playing games, listening for hours to music in games and demos which already impressed me a lot, then quickly go interested in programming: in Basic of course, then 1-2 years later in Assembler.

At the same time I discovered that making music was kind of "easy", through Basic programs and entering notes and delays as numbers in Basic data areas. I started to try to do conversions of real songs (Beatles "Yellow Submarine" was my 1st!), then soon started composing self-made music. All this was done by ear of course, I had never attended to any music course before at all. Anyway, my first trial in programming was a karate-like game (which I soon gave up since I couldn't draw well), then I made a couple of demos in Basic under "The Dark Hell" handle (OMG!), then made my first demos in Assembler under my new nickname Iron Cat (got it from my good old cat (RIP my friend) which was black, but looked grey in the dark). I also was very interested in cracking games, so I just started hacking already cracked games to understand how this is done (come on, every cracker did that at least once!), then quickly tried hacking originals.

Around 1989 we created our first group together with Mr Fox: Wolfen. We cracked quite a lot of games, unfortunately not fast enough compared to the elite groups at that time. Still we managed to get some quality releases and a few fast ones, we also got ranked in mags etc. At the same time I created some demos and released some music-collections (small and big ones), as I was also trying to get famous as a musician. Some conversions were very well known, like the famous Roxette's "The Look", and later on I converted Michael Jackson's "Heal the World", Nik Kershaw's "The Riddle", Amiga demo-music plus many more (check the HVSC website or my website for my full music list, there must be ca. 250 tunes made by me there).

Wolfen was a great and very interesting period for me, as I was doing several things at the same time: coding, cracking, composing music, swapping and organizing the group!

Several years later, Wolfen officially "died" (Mr Fox stopped on C64 and couldn't supply us with originals anymore, and many members wanted to stop too).

So we officially announced Wolfen's death and I joined TRC mainly as a musician and demo-maker. I released a nice music-collection and many songs for them.

With distance between me and other members and also because a good friend of mine at the time lived in Geneva like me and was joining a brand new and promising group (with former G*P and other group's members) known as AVANTGARDE, I decided to leave TRC and joined AVT.

At that time I was already thinking of leaving the C64 and I was starting to compose on Amiga and some years later on PC too. So I only did a very nice intro with music for Avantgarde and slowly quit the scene in 1995.

That's it I guess (phew!)...



J)
Your music has been heard in plenty of places. Can you briefly tell us what projects you have written exclusive music for?

I)
Hmmm tough question as I don't remember everything, but here are some spotlights:

- "The Look / Roxette" conversion: done for Alpha Flight under their request. They stole the credits for themselves, so when the song got spread and used everywhere like hell, everybody thought AFL did the conversion! They went as far as changing the credits I had put in the song's memory... Anyway.
- Music for "Craft" game.
- Several music for magazines: Mamba, etc.
- And many music for there groups (mostly for their demos or intros), like Nato, Legend, Manowar, BYG, etc.


J)
What music routines have you used through your scene career?

I)
My first music editor was Rock monitor. Then I switched to Sound monitor (since Rockmon took so much space because of the drum samples), then I got that famous Future Composer editor. At that time several other editors got released, the Fire Eagle's editor (don't remember the name but was used by Soedesoft) and others, so I didn't know which one to choose because all of them seemed to have their limitations in sound programming. Until a day came a guy called Polonus contacted me and sent me his editor: Voice tracker V2. I LOVED this editor and it's sounds immediately and composed with it during my remaining C64 career.



J)
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, what do you play?

I)
I "play" (humm) synths only. Just learned myself to play chords and stuff, still when I compose I do it by ear: meaning I roughly play on the keyboard, but very often correct the notes timing and pitch through a sequencer afterwards.


J)
Is there any musical background in your family?

I)
Hmmmm... No :-) My mother was a very good (almost professional) oriental dancer, but that's it, lol.


J)
Is there any C64 musicians that you idolise?

I)
Rob Hubbard was my first idol!!! All his music was absolutely great, I still remember his very first music collections he released around 1984-85, with some conversions of Rock/Country style music! His game music was also great, sometimes I listened to them for more than an hour before starting to play the game!

Among idols, there are of course: Martin Galway (all his game musics were amazing!) and Jeroen Tel (great game and demo musics). There were also many other great musicians, whose music I liked a lot: JCH, Drax, Reyn Ouwehand, Jonathan Dunn, Charles Deenen, Johannes Bjerregaard, etc. But some of their tunes were not to my liking, it just depended on what they did.


J)
Do you think when a musician or talented computer person gets famous that it interferes with their work? or does it make it better?

I)
I think it's rather a question of attitude and personal ambition. Though most of the time it makes it better, since staying on top is quite a nice challenge too.



J)
What are your musical influences away from the C64?

I)
Almost any music style, as long as I like the music/song itself: techno trance, metal, pop/rock, instrumental/chill out/space music, classical music. Every time I hear a nice song and like it, I get some inspiration and ideas from it for future songs.


J)
What disadvantages and advantages, musically, has the C64? Have we pushed it to it's limits?

I)
Disadvantages: lack of tracks and processing power. Well, the sound chip didn't evolve for more than 20 years. :-)

Advantages: easy sound programming and still many possibilities, easy to learn to "compose" something because of it's simplicity (3 tracks, 4 waveforms, etc).

Have we pushed it to it's limits? I don't know :-) I've listened with a friend of mine to musics done in the last few years with brand new players and music routines (also taking quite a lot of raster time) with sounds I would have never imagined during "my time" that they were possible. So I think you can still go further, but would it be usable in a demo or a game? I don't think so... I would say though that it's limits have been reached since a long time, but as always, there are tricks to circumvent them.



Ironcat's all-time favourites:

Demo: argh, there are many! Well let's say the Wonderland series, Dutch Breeze/Blackmail and Digital Delight/PD
Demo groups: again too many... Censor Design, Bonzai, Crest, Black Mail, Panoramic Designs, etc.
Coders: Mr. Cursor
Graphicians: hmm can't remember the names :-) I remember Sachs though!
Musicians: Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Jeroen Tel, Reyn Ouwehand etc etc :-)
Games: Almost all Karate games (IK, IK+, Bruce Lee, Karateka, Yie-Ar Kung Fu, WOTEF, etc), Defender of the Crown, Spy vs Spy series, Commando, Green Beret, FGTH, Impossible Mission + many many more!
Crackers: Snacky, Fletch, Strider, etc.
Cracking groups: Triad, Ikari, Fairlight, Talent, G*P etc.
Disk magazines: Frontpage, Mamba



J)
A lot of old sceners return to the C64. Why do you think people keep paying attention to the C64?

I)
I guess because it has a great and very long history in family computers. This was in my opinion the real first computer to get so much success in homes, I guess almost everybody has had a C64 computer at home, or at least everybody knew a friend which had one. Also games were absolutely amazing on C64, still today I think most of the new games have lost their interest and challenge we had at that time. Something else: the first "scene" was also originally created on C64, all this hacking stuff we see nowadays comes from the C64: cracking, parties, groups, rankings, fame, etc.


J)
Thinking back on the old days, is there anything that you regret?

I)
Yes:
Leaving TRC without notifying Action Jackson (sorry Marcel) - Not having practiced on music routine programming.

I would have loved to create my own!
- Not having released my "final" music collection before quitting, on which I had worked on for weeks!
- Not knowing at the time what I know today :-)


J)
What would you like to be remembered for?

I)
For being a "not bad" music composer. ;-)


J)
And what are you doing nowadays?

I)
I have a computer-related job. I compose instrumental musics with my synths in my home studio (I released a demo CD last year, check my site for more info - http://www.herten-music.com).



J)
Would you like to say hello to anyone in particular?

I)
Yes, a big hi to:
Peter Sanden, for converting all my C64 disks and making me enjoy once again the good old C64 mood! Very nice holiday at your place ;-)
- my former c64 friends in Geneva for sharing this passion with me
- former Wolfen members, for having contributed to the group with ability and friendship
- all c64 fans around the world!!


J)
Any final words?

I)
Thanks Jazzcat for the interview!!

Long live the C64 and make this computer legend be remembered forever! Feel free to contact me for "c64 old timers" chat ;-) email: herten@spamfree

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