Interview with Steel

Published in Vandalism News #65
Performed by Jazzcat & Scarzix

Needing little introduction, Steel is one of our great composers with digital background in crews like Doughnut Cracking Service, Origo, Success and Padua.

He is also an internationally renowned graffiti artist, being sponsored by the likes of Montana Cans for over a decade.

Vandalism News is proud to present to you, Steel...

V) Hi Steel! Welcome to the pages of Vandalism News, as usual with most interviews, please introduce yourself to the audience and make yourself more known, also if you could give some non-computer related facts about your person.

S) Hey Vandals. My name is Mario, I'm 43 years old located in Frankfurt/Germany. I got in touch with the C64 probably around 85/86, entered the "scene" in I believe 87/88 as a swapper and musician. I left the C64 in 1993 but started to follow c64 stuff online again from around 2010. Last year I got in touch with the tool Cheesecutter and my memories about how to do stuff quickly became refreshed (Thanks Scarzix for the support) and I'd say I got hooked probably since I always loved the SID sound and I bet I can whistle thousands of tunes from back then haha. ;)

V) What is "the scene" to you and what were your first notions of it?

S) For me the scene was anyone that was into swapping and creating a "name" at first, in the end probably everyone that spent time on creating rather than consuming (e.g. playing games only). Being a part of the scene was becoming good at what you do and get known for it. Today it seems like it's a bunch of old farts that just can't stop HAHAHA.

V) What are your favourite memories from your earlier times in the scene before being resurrected recently?

S) My friends (Frankfurt posse), the awesome people I've met or been in touch with internationally, the parties (Eddersheim parties and the best ever which was the DOM/Upfront/Trilogy party in Christmas 1989), the music, and the passion we had about it.

V) What does music mean to you and SID music in particular?

S) Music is perfect for expressing feelings to me. You can just let it out whatever it is. SID music focuses that extremely simplified. It needs to be pure harmony in order to work.

V) What do you listen to? What gives you inspiration?

S) Even though I was into Hip Hop (production) for a long time I like a lot of different types of music. The good thing about it that there is always a style for your different moods. I get a lot of inspiration from Funk and Soul Music, Orchestral or Film Music. Whatever comes across that sounds "right" or pleases my ears.  

V) The most popular musicians seemed to have always adapted to the development of their own music editors, JCH, BRIAN, FALCO PAUL etc.., did you code your own editor? Do you think it helps the creator more to make better music? And have you used other editors?

S) I never really had a deeper understanding of coding on the C64 so I was only able to use editors that were "accessible". I got into it once I had Future Composer not knowing what all these tables with hex numbers were about, so I came up with changing values until I basically understood what I had to do. I wasn't even into music theory or was able write notes. Had to learn it all from scratch. After FC I was composing in Music Assembler until I got in touch with JCH and been using his Editor from 14.G0 up to 20.G4 players until the end of my 64 scene activity.

V) How much time do you spend a tune? Which tune is your favourite and which tune did you spend the longest amount of time on?

S) As probably most composers I like to "sketch" my music and create a big bunch of work tunes until I have the feeling to further work on a specific song. Sometimes I'm losing myself in the detail. I hardly compose a tune in one shot. My favourite from all released tunes in the past still is "Compotune" from 1992. The one I worked the longest on is "Fantasy Tune" because at first I did the tune in Music Assembler and at that time got the JCH Editor and decided to do it again in the new editor to improve it, learn about it and play with its sound capabilities.

V) If you had to choose, 6581 or 8580, and why?

S) I'm from the 6581 era, and I also have that chip in my 64. Now that I'm sidding again I prefer the 8580 because it offers new possibilities and a different approach that I can play and experiment with. In the end it depends on what you want to do soundwise. I like both and think the 6581 has the more raw sound that needs to be focused on harmony while the 8580 offers more on the effect side simply because of the different and better filter opportunities.

V) Which C64 musicians are amongst your personal favourites? Can you also explain why?

S) Back in the days my favourites were MON, Vibrants, RO, 20CC, Hubbard, Follin, etc with JT as my all-time top favourite individual composer with his melodic theme based style. Since I'm "resurrected" I have come across many names that were not active or popular back then that do really, really awesome stuff.

V) What makes composing SID music so special? Is it hard to compose a SID track? What advice can you give to people who want to start make SID music to?

O) It's special because I don't know anything that's like it. If someone's never been familiar to HEX numbers I think it might be a bit confusing in the beginning, but it's like with everything else: if you find your passion with something you will find a way.

V) Do you like conversions of music (i.e.: Hotel California) If so, how should it be done to be better accepted by the public?

O) I always liked converting music and did a few back then. Actually I have done a few recently and I really like it. I don't care if it's accepted or not, is that so?  As long as someone does not pretend it's his own composition I'm fine with it.

V) You were involved in the Raw Guys demo with code by Rap and graphics from Zoomo. That demo never made it, do you remember much about it and what was planned and what happened?

S) I remember the planning period a bit. Things got stuck in the progress when all of our interest began to fade into different directions.

V) Have you ever been involved in commercial software before on any format?

S) Sidwise I did a few Markt & Technik disc game jobs, but that's basically it. In the real job world I was into web and application development for quite some time and running an award winning graffiti online game with 1M+ players between 2003 and 2013.

V) You are involved in the graffiti scene, can you tell us a bit about that?

S) I got into graffiti in about 1989 and haven't stopped since. Reaching worldwide "fame" status and being sponsored by Montana Cans for a decade I have been traveling the world and doing all sorts of cool projects and adventures. It's funny to see similarities to the c64 and worldwide graffiti scene as far as creating a "name" or pseudonym along with the skills that this name stands for. Also the fact back then that both interests had sort of a criminal touch. haha. See more on Instagram or FB @klarkkentone or even Wikipedia.

V) So what does the future hold for you and the C64?

S) I will always relate to the C64 so let's look forward to more productions and releases. ;)

V) Thanks for your time Mario, any last comments to leave a final impression on the audience?

S) I'm impressed that you scene people are still out there and active on this little breadbox. Ya'll rock. See you at X2016!