Interview with Vip

Published in Domination #18
Performed by Jazzcat

Needing little introduction, our second guest to this interview section is still quite active. His latest contribution to the scene being a music in Attitude #5 by Oxyron.

Vip is a musician and graphician and resides in Padua, WOW and Role.
This is a BIG interview, so sit back and enjoy!

Welcome to the 18th issue of the Domination magazine. As usual, please introduce yourself to the audience...

Thanks for having me in, Jazzcat.

Hello, my name's Vip, and I'm a 26 year old from Belgium who's been doing the C64 thing for way too long (about 14 years I think).

Back in 1989, I remember wanting a computer more than anything else... It was either going to be an Amiga or a C64. Then I saw pictures of this game called Katakis (later named Denaris, created by The Man, Manfred Trenz), and from that point I knew I had to get the computer that hosted this awesome game - the C64.

Of course I grumbled a few times after seeing Turrican 2 on the Amiga a few years later, but that's another story.

In real life, I'm active as a teacher of mathematics (final two grades) at a local school - a job I really enjoy. It can be hard sometimes, but reaching out to adolescents and teaching them a bit about life and science is very rewarding. Outside of that, I try to hang out with my friends who are scattered all over Belgium and generally have a great time with them, write so called FAQs for video games, play a little sax now and then and finally, do some stuff on the C64.

Which groups are you currently in and what jobs do you perform for each of them?

Well, currently I'm a member of 3 groups (Role, WOW and Padua) and 2 labels (64ever and the music label cantered around Jeff which used to be called CyberZound - the new label name is pending as we write). For all of them I'm more than happy to do graphics and music to my best ability and as far as time permits.

I sometimes brainstorm a little about demo parts and algorithms and other miscellaneous stuff, but the audial and visual is my main passion and thus, occupation on the C64.

Please tell the readers when you first joined the scene and what has happened up until now.

Umm, that’s kind of a long story :). But I'll try my best to keep it short. I got my c64 in 1989, but I was never in "the scene" until '94, when I began my studies at the university. There, I met a person who was then still known as Ice-T (later he changed his handle to The Chronic, but became inactive on the C64 soon after). He was a member of Role and via him, I met Commander, Role's leader, a person who I respect very much.

Commander enlisted me in his ranks, and as of then, I was officially part of the scene.

It was a personal dream come true. Always watching on the sideline, now inside the real thing. Kool.

After that, things evolved rapidly. I made tunes and logos for Role, and soon enough got noticed by Einstein of WOW. He asked me to join his group as well, but as I was not going to leave Role, I opted to dual-group.

Time went on, and at some point in '95-'96, I gained access to e-mail and, to some extent, IRC. That opened a whole new world, with lots of new people. It was bliss to be able to chat with sceners I tremendously respected - Anonym, Xbow, DK, RRR, Mindflow aka Skizo (Hey Fredrik! Where you at, man? :) and so on... all names I used to see credited in the demos I really loved. Yes, major fanboy alert indeed. :p

For some reason, all this led to me doing a few music reviews for Relax (at least for a couple of issues) (Daniel, I'll find the secret to your handle yet :) having a few great online art/music discussions with DK et al., becoming a member of the then CyberZound label, having the immense honour of doing a couple of graphics for Crest productions and joining Padua as a third group. Needless to say, I was in Cloud 9 - I still am, actually.

During this period, Einstein brought a certain demo called Half-baked to my attention. There, I saw parts from two Israelian guys called Lax and Raven. I was stupefied and just knew I had to work with them in their future WOW productions. But then, due to reasons I do not wish to discuss here, Lax and Raven left WOW to form the 64ever label. I stayed in contact with them however, and joined the label soon after they told me about their plans for a new project.

As demos are THE thing I enjoy most on the commie these days, I was happy to accept adding my share to it.

Hmm, that's about all I can say about joining groups. Final remark: it would be very difficult for me to leave any group/label since I made good friends who I respect in every group. Leaving these groups would be like leaving them behind. Definitely not an option...

What computer equipment do you own?

For a scener, I guess I only have a modest hardware base. In the "real" computers department, I've got one breadcase and disk drive (c64-II and 1541-II), an Amiga 500 (which is collecting dust in the attic) and a PC (modest config by today's standards, but sufficient for what I do).

But then, there's the consoles. Since video games became a semi-professional hobby, I now am the proud owner of a PAL and NTSC Playstation, a PAL and NTSC Playstation 2 and a NTSC Gamecube. No Dreamcast, N64 or Xbox, partly because of money, partly because one of them sucks (I'll let you guess which one).

Oh, in the attic, there's also a box with a Gameboy, Sega Master System and tons of old Nintendo handhelds - now those were cool little things.  :)

INSOMNIA by 64ever was one of the recent releases you were involved in. Could you please tell the readers about this project and what it involved?

Well, it's the project that made me join 64ever for one. Back then, Raven showed a couple of parts he was working on and they blew me away, so I definitely wanted to be involved. What an experience it turned out to be… you know, before Insomnia, doing a  part usually went like this: "Hey Vince, here's the part, you draw me a logo and some sprites, do a sound and I'll splice them in". The end.

Enter Raven. Now in the beginning, we worked like the above, but neither of us was very happy with it. Then we both got jobs that involved sitting behind a desk with a computer and internet connection. Soon enough, we were chatting on a daily basis. This helped the project enormously, as we could plot out the demo, its flow and parts. Every time a chunk of code or graphics/music was done, we could give feedback on it the day after.

This gave me a tremendous boost – for the first time in my life, I was actively working on a real demo project, not just supplying the graphics and music (later on, similar things would happen in WOW and Padua).

Insomnia became something special, something I put my heart and soul into, as did Raven. And we weren't afraid to reject things either. If a tune or picture or piece of code wasn't okay, it landed in the bin. As simple as that.

Many things got rethought and redesigned. This was hard at first and lead to a couple of heated discussions, but in the long run, if we were to make a cool product with continuous flow, it was for the best.

What Insomnia involved? A lot of blood, sweat and tears. But also a lot of dedication. Granted, the delays weren't pretty and again, my apologies on behalf of all 64everers, but real life can be an itch-bay sometimes.  I promise to do better with the next project time-wise (no, really :).

Will there be a new demo from you and the others and can you tell us much about it?

After all the overwhelmingly positive reactions to Insomnia from everyone (excluding a few effect-monkies and people who feel the demo is without soul) and looking back at the creative experience, that's affirmative as far as I'm concerned. I am sure Raven feels the same, so chances are 95% that there will be a new project coming up.

So far, it's still pretty much in the initial planning stages. While (at the time of writing) Raven is busy in real life (and rightfully so) and the audial side of things is planned out, I'm working on the design: making sketches drawing the characters, setting the environment, figuring out how to get the right feeling across and so on (also working my way through anatomy books to get better picture quality). Many people commented on how they liked consistent images and design, so I'm going to make sure it stays (without any more certain IFLI picture hiccups.  :)

Also, it was commented that there was no real end to Insomnia. Well actually, there is, but it's subtle - if you follow the pictures, you can see how the girl grows into liking it inside cyberspace. The peaceful expression in The End picture shows just that. And thus, she stays. Agreed, another ending was planned, but we had to implement this instead. Rest assured, however. The next project will have a better ending - we'll do our best to make it happen.

That's about all I can tell right now...

Concerning composing on C64, is Jeff going to release his new editor that he has been working on for some time?

Well, I've taken this question to the main man himself (Jeff), and he told me that the editor's going to go public, but there's still a lot of work to do as well as extensive testing of the finished editor to avoid bugs in the public release. So no release date as of yet - however, Jeff hopes to announce one once more work has been done on the editor itself.

What's your opinion on editors such as SID DUZZ IT and GOAT TRACKER?

I can't really voice an opinion on Goat Tracker, as I've never used it, but SDI is very cool. A trackerstyle editor (just the way I like it), many options, high quality sounds, multi-frame support and lots of effects. A fourth "track" is added for extra flexibility - either it be effect-control or adding samples. So yeah, I like it a lot.

Somehow, though, I still prefer the good old JCH editor at the moment. It's slightly behind in terms of flexibility and carries no more support from Jens-Christian, but, in my humble opinion, the editor is still dope - it's very powerful none-withstanding its simplicity, the sounds (single speed, that is) compete with the best of them and with a little elvan magic, you can still produce tunes which are very much up-to-date I'd say.

But I'm beginning to feel the limitations of the JCH editor. Single speed-wise, I'm more or less comfortable composing now, and if there's one thing I don't like, it's feeling comfortable. Your work should never grow into a stalemate - evolution's the key. So I'm fooling around with the new editors, both single speed and multi-framed. Once I've found the one which fits me like a glove, I'll bid a fond farewell to JCH v20.g4 and get on with the new.

With that said, I should check out Goat Tracker as well.

You mentioned earlier in this interview that CZP (CyberZound Productions) will be changing name. What brought this around?

The name change was a decision made by Jeff, who made this public in a disk magazine I failed to read - resulting in a rather big surprise when Jeff told me on IRC that CZP was no more, especially since about every compo tune I ever made proudly carries the CZP label.

Why? Well, for one there was the fact that there was virtually no activity in the group, but secondly, have a listen to the music made by its members – we all have different styles and flavours. Jeff hoped for a distinct group style, but because of our diversity, this wasn't going to happen. So CZP got buried.

However.  :)
Maybe something magical will happen with the release of the editor, which still doesn't have a name (a few suggestions are floating in the air, but in the end, the main man will decide what it's going to be. Come on Jeff, cut that Gordian knot already! :) Just wait and see... or rather, hear...

Are there any 64 musicians that you idolise? If so, who and why?

Of the current musicians, I don't idolise any of them, but rather have great, great respect for those who are still pushing the limits of c64 music and try to mould their own artistic vision into 3-voice chip music.

Every time I make a compo music, these people are greeted, and I will pay my respects to them in the next question.

Of the composers in the past, I do idolise a few, mostly because I heard them back when I was just a kid. I guess idolisation is somewhat linked to nostalgia - looking back at a few tunes that have proven themselves over time, that are really unique and then giving their composers the credit they deserve.

The ones on my list are: Martin Galway, definitely. His tunes are still incredible, the atmosphere he creates within them is unrivalled to this point. Matt Gray, who was able to make the C64 sound like a real rock band. Ben Daglish - a varied composer, great effects for his time, close to those of Rob Hubbard (who made some fancy stuff as well). Less known, but still a good composer was Richard Joseph of Defender of the Crown/Barbarian fame. Not that many tunes done, but those did are all burnt into my skull. Markus Schneider, creative mind and great tunes. Thomas Detert, predictable, but very solid. Jonathan Dunn, atmospheric at times (Wobocop!). Johannes Bjerregaard, who introduced the c64 to the jazz concept. Chris Huelsbeck, oh yeah. Be sure to hear his Turrican soundtracks on Amiga/commercial CD as well, they be da bomb. Then, the nineties came. Drax, JCH, Laxity, Metal, Jeroen Tel, Reyn Ouwehand,... need I say more? :)

Anyway, I could go on like this. So many great composers, so little writing space but these are the ones that immediately jump to mind.

Your all-time favourites:

I'd like to say up front that I'm not going to mention people whom I'm affiliated - they know I respect them deeply anyway. I'll also limit myself to C64 only.

I'm not really in a position to judge coders on their ability, but still, I have to show respect to -
Scene: Xbow, Krill, Graham, HCL, Oswald, AEG, TTS, et to Bob.
Commercial: Ivo Herzeg, Sebastian Broghammer, Dan Phillips and Manfred Trenz, definitely.

This is a bit easier. Scene: Gotcha, Ogami, Electric, Jailbird, Joe, Dragon, Deekay, Mermaid, GBF, RRR, Hein Design, Carrion et al. Commercial: Dokk, Manfred Trenz, Robin Levy.

Ah, now we're where it's at.  :)
Scene: Metal, PRI, Ed, Skiz (Mindflow), Astovel, Danko, Praiser, GRG, KR, Geir Tjelta, Kjell Nordbo, AMJ, TBB, Laxity, Fanta, Mixer, DAF, Wizard, MSK, Noise, Guy Shavitt, The Syndrom, Scortia, Wacek, Sage, Orcan, Shogoon... I'm sure I forgot many.

Commercial (as said previously): Martin Walker, Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Ben Daglish, Matt Gray, Richard Joseph, Chris Huelsbeck, Markus Schneider, Thomas Detert, F.A.M.E., Johannes Bjerregaard, JCH, Drax, Jeroen Tel, Reyn Ouwehand.

Demo Groups: Bamm. I'm gonna go non-C64 here as well.

C64: Oxyron, Crest, Resource, Booze Design, Arise, Fairlight, Triad, Blackmail, Censor, Taboo, Elysium, Samar, Babygang, Antic, Extend, Byterapers, Smash Designs, Reflex, The Judges, X-Ample, Bonzai, Panoramic Design.

Amiga: The Black Lotus, Potion, Loonies Mad Wizards, Fairlight (hey! :), Spaceballs, Maturefunk, Haujobb...
PC: 3state, Byterapers (hey! :), The Black Lotus (hey! :), Threepixels, Farbrausch, Fairlight (hey! :), Exceed, Haujobb (hey! :), Proxium, Alien Prophets, Aardbei, Bypass, Replay, Foobug, Fulcrum, Dubius, Park, Kolor, Calodox, Sunflower.

Touching a weak point... I played C64 games to death before moving to the console realm. My favourites would be the following:

Recommended: The Last Ninja, The Last Ninja 2, The Last Ninja 3, Turrican, Turrican 2.

High picks: The Bard's Tale 3, Defender of the Crown, Armalyte, Target Renegade, Maniac Mansion, Zak McKraken, Great Giana Sisters, Creatures, Creatures 2, Mayhem in Monsterland, Soul Crystal (I played the German version, which imo is much richer than the English translation. Oh well).

And finally Covergirl Strip Poker (I got it back then for Scortia's ruling music and the interesting articles * and * the game of poker is challenging and intriguing indeed. :) Just kidding of course. Really! Ahaha... ehm.

Disk Magazines:
I really enjoyed Magic Disk and Game On every month, as well as the monthly Golden Disk. As far as C64 scene mags are concerned, I'd say Sh0ck, Skyhigh and Relax. I do like Domination a lot, too :). I would want to add more mags, but I'm affiliated to those, so...

A lot of old sceners return to THE 8-bit machine. Why do you think people keep paying attention to the C64?

I think, no rather hope that it's due to challenge. The technical limitations of the c64 pose a challenge for every facet of the demo group: the musician faces 3 voices, the graphician faces 16 colours and low resolutions and the coder has to put everything together and add interesting effects, all within 0.98mhz processing speed. And that's not easy.

On the other side of the spectrum, 16- and 32-bit machines nowadays have been updated to such levels that the challenge is slowly disappearing. Want more polygons? Oh, well just wait for the next-generation video cards and we're okay. Trouble adding better 3D effects to your polygon meshes? No problem, DirectX-10.1 is here. Graphics? Oh, let's scan our images and Photoshop 'til we drop. Music? Hey, what about those nice, commercial .mp3s out there? People will still find our demos cool if we use them instead of asking a scene musician to track something. DOS demos? Hey pal, if your demo doesn't run under Windows, you're out of luck.

In the midst of the update craze, the challenge is slowly getting lost, and that might have left an emptiness inside several dedicated sceners, which might have driven them back to the 8-bit machines. But these are just speculations - I guess there could be other reasons as well.

Note: There are, of course, many dedicated people in the 16- and 32-bit platforms who are true to the scene spirit and still experience quite the challenge while orchestrating, designing and implementing their demos. The above comments are not for them and certainly not a generalisation of the 16- and 32-bit scenes. My utter respect to those other-platform groups who truly deserve it.

Scene parties are one of the major events on the scene. Which ones have you been to and are there any particular things that happened on a party you have fond memories of?

I haven't been to a lot of scene parties, actually three to be exact: Wired 1998, X2001 and the Role Party 2002. That's because at the time, I didn't have a driver's license and when you're depending on public transport to get you somewhere, you're in for a tough time (trust me).

But I do have fond memories of them all. There's something really cool about being at a place with a whole gang of like-minded people and discuss the scene world with them under the enjoyment of a relaxing drink.

Whether it's gfx, music or code, there's always something new to learn and that's what makes it so exciting. And of course, let's not forget the incredible tension you feel when you're watching your competition entries on the big screen - I can still feel my heartbeat going ballistic when it's up there...

The happiest memory I had was at X01. So many great people, such great organisation, such great atmosphere... when my music entry (Varsity) was played there, I actually saw people enjoying the tune, snapping their fingers and bopping their heads to the beat. Afterwards, a big round of applause, and that made me incredibly happy - the third place was just icing on the cake. It certainly motivated me to go on and keep improving my style (both in music and gfx).

The worst memory was at X01 also, though. The first showing of Insomnia was a small disaster for me and everyone else in 64ever, but I (and the others) said more than enough about that in the Insomnia note. It's long forgotten now - lesson learned, life goes on. In retrospect, I do hope there will be another X some year.

I also know the other side about parties. I was an organiser at Wired 1998, and that was quite a learning experience. Creating the infrastructure the network, food and drink stands, sleeping quarters, decorations, keeping things under control during the party, settling disputes and inevitably ask people to disconnect their portable fridges and microwaves from the main power grid is a lot of work, and so I have great respect for the orgas... Here's to you guys!

If the C64 scene was a person, would it have any regrets, and if so, what?

Well, that's a tough question. The behaviour of the c64 scene was largely shaped through the commercial industry so there was hardly another way to evolve until finally the major companies abandoned our beloved platform. After that, the demo scene became a much larger factor than before, something I welcomed very much. Because as you might have noticed now, I'm a demo nut. Whatever the platform is, as long as it's a cool demo, you've got my vote. And the evolution of the demo scene up to now has been absolutely great. Except for one thing.

I personally confess that I was reluctant to accept newskool. I was happy with oldskool and regarded newskool as intrusive and chaotic. However, with time, I grew to like it and now I know that you must learn to accept all changes. We have to evolve, and in order to do so, we must experiment.

Sure, some things might not look good at first, but as experience grows, something cool might come out of it (or maybe not - for example, the experimental a-tonal music from the 50s-60s never really hit it off). So if there is one thing the c64 scene could regret, it would be on the rigidness with respect to new styles and ideas. However, looking at the current situation, I'd say we're on the right track now.

What do like to do in your spare time?

Too many things. Of course, there's the C64 to attend to, but apart from that, I'm a freelance strategy writer - I play videogames in a really hardcore fashion (any platform) so that other people might find a second wave of enjoyment from their store-bought products. Check out and to see what I do. Then, there's music - I'm an avid sax player and like to jazz freestyle on piano chords. Sometimes, the jam session's a disaster, sometimes its like a dream. I often get mixed results. Play's been on hold for 1.5 years though as I had to return my sax to its rightful owners }

As for the rest, its having fun with friends. Going out, having a few drinks, enjoying time.. Without them, I'd probably be half of who I am now.


Cans filled with beverage of greeted person's choice fly out to: Role, Wow, Padua, 64ever, Jeff, Mitch, Dane, Skiz, CreamD, JSL, Steppe, DMA, HCL, Krill, Graham, RR, Reyn, Fanta, GRG, dk, Pater Pi, Hollowman, Brush, Sebaloz, Metal, Xbow, Mixer, AMJ, Danko, my family, friends and any I forgot.

Any last words?

Yes, I'd like to voice my opinion about a topic which is dear to me. With wiring, I understand the process of taking the work of a professional artist and then converting to the c64 using some conversion tool. Wired pics seem to be all around and they win compos.

That outright sucks.

When you wire, you're making profit from someone else's original work. Adding pixels on c64 to reduce flicker doesn't mean you're creating gfx. It means you are the final step in a general pic conversion program. Its not cool, no matter how cool the pic is.

If you're really a graphician, use your imagination and create your own gfx. Okay, so chances are it doesn't come close to a standard Vallejo. But at least your work's honest. It'll also garner respect of other painters, because they will see your new distinctive drawing style.

Consider it. Be original. Show your style.

Thanks for your time!

Many thanks as well, David, for the chance to do this. Cheers!