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Commodore Free Magazine, Issue 95 - Part 7

 and retro
computer cultures ther website can be found here.  www.goto80.com

4-mat (programming/design, UK) makes tiny audiovisual art for various 8-bit
computer systems, and works with game audio.  He was also one of the first
in the world to make chipmusic on the Amiga in 1990.  4mat.bandcamp.com

iLKke (graphics/design, Australia) is a notorious pixel artist and
composer, who started in the Amiga demoscene in Serbia.  ilkke.net

Ray Manta (concept/design, Australia) is the alias of veteran electronica
producer

Tim Koch, who initiated and organized the project runs
datadoor.bandcamp.com/ where you can download music by some of the artists
named above, and from himself, it depends what you want out of your music
but I would advise you to check out some of the unique pieces on offer.

WEBSITES

Videos
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPXGA7R6gb0

Device
datadoor.net/dubcrt/
datadoor.bandcamp.com/album/dubcrt/



*************************************
       INTERVIEW WITH TIM KOCH
         Creator of DUBCART
*************************************

datadoor.bandcamp.com/track/antispeed-tim-koch-cartridge-remix
datadoor.bandcamp.com/album/dubcrt

COMMODORE FREE:  Please, can you introduce yourself to our Commodore Free
readers?

Tim Koch:  Hi my name is Tim Koch, I have been using Commodore machines
since about 1985 - I grew up with a C64 and then in the late eighties
jumped over to Amiga for music production - then strangely enough became
heavily involved again with the Commodore 64 via a love of the SID chip in
around 2008.  Since then I have gradually started using trackers and other
music tools (Prophet64/Mssiah) for live performance using the SID chip, and
also toying with PETSCII in perhaps a more progressive way (I'd like to
think anyway).  I also run DataDoor which is the music label /
software+hardware oddity label.  Outside of Commodore / retro scene I have
been writing, releasing, and performing electronic music for the past
twenty years or so (under my real name as well as "10:32").

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  So what was your first introduction to Computers, and especially the
Commodore range of machines?

TK:  in the mid 1980s as a kid many friends had Spectrums here in
Australia, but somewhere along the line we scammed our parents into
purchasing a C64 for 'educational' purposes which of course meant games.
First and foremost I think I was blown away by this discovery of dynamic
sound and music since I had just heard the more rudimentary blips on
Spectrum / Amstrad / Texas Instruments of friends.  After realizing just
how different the SID sounded to fresh ears I think I did literally enjoy
games more for their soundtracks than anything else, and of course Galway's
Parallax title music and Hubbard's Delta in-game music exposed me to more
interesting composition than standard melodic game-theme dynamics.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  So it's mainly the music /graphics that are a big part of your
Commodore love then?

TK:  Oh yes definitely, the odd qualities and restrictions of the 6581 and
8580 has always fascinated me, as has the PETSCII character set (or
CBMSCII) for CBM machines.  As has been stated quite a lot, the
restrictions of a tool set or technology are often the factors that result
in unexpected creativity or surprises, and I think the limitation of three
oscillators with the SID and also the rudimentary nature of PETSCII have
always fascinated me to the point of wanting to toy with both and learn a
little more about what can be done.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  DUBCRT is listed as a music album with interactive light synthesizer
and remix gadget released as a Commodore 64 cartridge.  Was it important to
fit everything on one cartridge?  Were you ever tempted to maybe consider a
memory bank switching cartridge with a number of CRT files held on
different chips that could be switched on or off for different music?

TK:  We did have a lot of discussion about potentially using bank-switching
and some other tricks, but eventually thought it would be better to stick
to a focused group of just eight songs that effectively mimicked somewhat a
conventional music album in length.  Eventually we thought it better to
cram as much as possible into the 64k of the EPROM rather than expand the
architecture of the cart to allow for too much content which would perhaps
result in the loss of focus of the crux of what we initially envisioned for
the DUBCRT.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  For anyone not exactly clear, what does the cartridge actually do?
So, once installed and powered on, what happens?

TK:  Without giving too much away, after a very short intro the cart loads
a menu that is essentially a blank puzzle template.  At this point the user
can jump into one of eight songs and their associated visualisers.  Within
each song and visualiser it is possible to alter the parameters of what is
happening on screen (colour, type of PETSCII characters being used, rate of
activity, and some other glitchy variables).

In it's boot-state - each of the eight songs are hard locked to their
associated visualisers, but once the secret sections are reached, the user
can alter the sequence of song and visualiser which displays how each
visualiser reacts distinctly different depending on the type of SID
activity.

Without giving too much away, listening to the songs in a certain order
will gift the user with more puzzle pieces that appear on the main menu
once you exit from a song/visualiser.  One visualiser is an abstract
PETSCII platform-game controlled via joystick in port2 - and the more
tokens that are collected in this game also gift the user more puzzle
pieces in the main menu.

So essentially once the user has filled the empty puzzle slots, they need
to arrange them in a configuration that then alerts the user they have
entered the next 'mode' (or secret section).  Each new mode then unlocks
more functionality, eventually resulting in a special section that then
allows the user to have A LOT of control over remixing all of the songs on
the cartridge.

There is a secret section that allows the user to remix all of the patterns
of the song they choose, alter waveforms of each oscillator etc.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  Has anything ever been created like this before?

TK:  Well there have certainly been games and demos that have incorporated
elements of DUBCRT, but as far as I can tell nothing has been released as a
cartridge in this fashion where the onus is on experimentation and
playfulness.  Games such as Master of the Lamps or Frankie Goes To
Hollywood certainly inspired the simple puzzle aspects of DUBCRT, and
abstract music disks such as Disco Calculi (Wrath Designs 2007) definitely
have some similarities.  Jeff Minter's Psychedelia is also of course a very
big inspiration.  I think also that Goto80's vision in terms of perhaps
pushing the SID into more progressive territory is quite distinctive
especially since he uses defMON which is a custom-tracker in a way that it
has been personalised to some degree to his own needs.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  So the Commodore 64 is best known for it SID chip and graphics, and I
think your intention was to use petscii graphics.  Was this purely down to
memory or because of this classic retro feel?

TK:  Definitely a homage to SID and PETSCII, with a shift towards the
restrictions that are offered by both.  I think PETSCII is only now being
fully explored in terms of the quirks and possibilities of using it
creatively.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  Petscii graphics certainly can be very leasing and unique.  Could you
explain to our readers who was involved in the project, and how were they
selected?

TK:  Goto80 did all of the music, 4mat did all of the code, iLKke did all
of the incidental PETSCII (logo, intro screens for each song/visualiser
section).  Personally I just came up with the idea and we all developed the
design and ideas, with 4mat's code obviously guiding the general design in
a very major way.  Goto80 has always done very interesting things with the
SID, so from the outset the project was he and I brainstorming how it was
going to work and who we could find to code it and also do general PETSCII
gfx such as logos and other components.  4mat had been doing great and
interesting things with his more adventurous and abstract demos with Atebit
and Orb (he and iLKke did a Commodore PET demo previously), and iLKke has
such a great visual flair (and is also a great chip musician and coder in
his own right) - so it all fell into place in terms of us all having a
pretty similar vision in regards to how we regarded retro tech and art
aesthetics.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  How was the production of the device achieved?  How did you move from
Art music and coding onto a physical cartridge format?

TK:  Once the music choices of Goto80s were totally locked in, 4mat got
busy finalising the code and the design grew from this.  Once a working
template was in place we got Goto80 to finesse the tracks we had chosen.
Consequently once we had a working CRT file, I started working finding a
suitable PCB design, and luckily DDI had a great PCB already in existence
which then Dale @ DDI and I configured to work with a transparent
plexi-case that complemented the LEDs on the PCB that threw light upwards,
bouncing back off the plexi back onto the DUBCRT logo that is etched on the
PCB :) Also the pulsing red LED on the reset switch is a great touch,
almost acting like the beating heart of the whole PCB haha.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  I see from the website the cartridge has sold out, and pretty quickly.
Are there plans to re-release the device?

TK:  It sold out in approximately two and a half hours, and was always
meant to be a passion project and done in a small run.  Luckily Tim at
Shareware Plus in the UK has licensed the DUBCRT to do another batch of
cartridges later in the year (Tim has re-released Paul Slocum's Cynthcart
recently with new packaging and extra features).

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  There is an audio-only version available of the music.  Was this
created, I presume from feeding a "real" machine and not using emulation?

TK:  The audio version is an oddity in that I audio dumped the songs from
the cartridge on a real C64 (6581SID) and a C64C (8580SID) - and then
edited them into a stereo file with each version of the SID in left and
right channel respectively.  The DUBCRT is ultimately suited to the new SID
chip (8580) but is still acceptable on a 6581 SID - just some odd quirks
with filters and the like.  The DUBCRT is however not suited to any NTSC
machines, with some undesirable problems with speed and visuals!

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  Will there be a follow on version?

TK:  At this stage there is definitely plans for a DUBCRT2 - and actually
the first batch of cartridges all have slotted EPROMS - so in theory there
may be a chance people can just swap over the EPROM if we do a new version,
but ultimately it would be nicer to do a whole new design, so that is the
plan!

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  How do you feel about emulation?  Do you think it has a valid place in
retro community?

TK:  I think there is definitely a valid place for emulation in that it
opens up accessibility for a project such as this - and we are planning to
release a digital only version with VICE bundled maybe for those who have
no experience with emulation.  Large parts of the cart were done without
even touching authentic hardware (I did a lot of the testing on my real
machines here), with the code done in a PRG studio type environment.

         - - - - - - - - - -

CF:  What has the general feed-back been like?

TK:  There has been very good feedback so far - with people quite intrigued
with the format and also the unusual nature of the graphics in that they
really don't follow any conventions or standards, but they are more a
homage to 60's and 70

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