[The comeback you don't expect........]
Mod3m and Darkage are back in business

Life is good when you have a nickname with a number in it.

Mod3m of Darkage nickname's was originally "Modem", but at some point he changed it and surrendered to the dark side of eliteness. Some days ago I noticed a production from Darkage at Revision 2023. Yes, Mod3m and Darkage were making a comeback after more than 20 years.

So, I quickly wrote to Paolo (Mod3m) and asked him a bunch of questions.

A phong-shaded Mod3m with a rotozooming background

First of all, cheers for seeing you back at Revision 2023; more or less, about 20 years have passed from the last demo by Darkage. What sparked your reunion and the will to release something at a party?

Mod3m: there must be something in the air that made coming back in business a lot of Amiga sceners from the nineties. I'm talking about Melon, Lemon., Andromeda, Haujobb, Ephidrena, just to cite a bunch. It has been, for me, about one year since I felt the desire to return back to the scene and make a new Amiga demo, and slowly, I started to remove the dust from AsmOne and write some new routines. I have to admit I didn't remember anything, in the beginning! Luckyly, the memories started to come to surface, and now I feel fresh as in the nineties :) Seems that the scene can live without Mod3m, but Mod3m can't live without the demoscene. It's a small part of my life that gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction.

Where does the name "Neocolora" come from? Is it linked to Darkage's old demos (neo, neo 2, etc.)?

Partly, yes. One of the reasons that pushed me back to programming on the Amiga was completing "neo 3", that I started coding back in 2001, but that I didn't finish. Actually, only two effects where ready, effects that I kept in Neocolora, but the rest was produced between 2022 and 2023. When I proposed the name "Neo 3", Virgill (one of the authors of the soundtrack) shared some alternative names, and everyone liked "Neocolora".

But... what did you really do in those 20 years? (easy question 😁)

When my "career" on Amiga finished, both as a scener and as a commercial programmer, I switched to music. In 20 years, I published a lot of Cds and played in more than 1200 concerts around the world. If you are curious about what I did, you can visit the website www.pabloraster.com, where you can find a lot of info. I also wrote two biographies, one related to the Amiga period ("Darkage Software, la storia") and one that tells about the 20 years I spent making music ("Pablo Raster, 20 anni in Dub") (editor's note: the books are in Italian, but this is a good opportunity to learn it).

Which platform do you use to write code? Do you use an emulator or an original Amiga?

Mod3m: I still have my A1200 Tower with a 68060 CPU, PPC and Bvision, but for practical reasons I mainly use WinUAE. A friend (and Amiga scener) dumped my Amiga hard disk, so when I use the emulator I have exactly the software and configurations that I used in the nineties. Also, I configured WinUAE to show the typical scanlines of CRT monitors, and I use a Waffle drive for the floppy disks, so the "sensation" is similar to the one a real Amiga gives.

Did you ever thought of producing something on PC?

Oh, in real life I program on PC (I stopped playing music in 2020 and I switched jobs), but I'm not attracted from the idea of doing a PC demo.

The "bounce" effect in Neocolora

How is the screen "bounce" effect, from many Darkage demos, and even in Neocolora, done? Any trick in particular?

Amiga equals multitasking, and that bounce effect is executed in an interrupt regardless of how much the CPU is loaded; so, if I'm for example drawing a texture mapped object that takes several frames to be drawn, I can always bounce the screen at 50fps independently. Moreover, I can also fade the screen, move sprites, and do many other things.

Is there any PC production that impressed you in those years (or to the Amiga people is still forbidden to watch PC productions 😁)?

Mod3m: ahaha, no, from 2017, even we Amigahns can use the PC :-D There are some recent PC demos that I liked in particular: Ziphead and Number One by CNCD and Fairlight (Finland a go-go, incredible design), Return by Rebels& Calodox (especially for the soundtrack by Alkama) and, from the latest Revision, Mechasm by Fairlight; however, I consider the latter a "half demo", because the excessive weight (1GB!) makes it more suitable as a wild demo.

What do you think of the shortage of 64k intros on the PC platform? Seems that Amiga hasn't the same problem; for example at Revision there were 10 64k Amiga intros...

Mod3m: I'm a bit sorry for this situation, because I think that the 40k and 64k formats are ideal and very well calibrated. Anyway, I've seen some 4k intros on PC (like the one by LJ and Virgill) that make your jaw drop!

Is there a coder or a group (even not well known) that inspires you in the Amiga or PC scene, even from the past, and why? And in the (quite dead) Italian demoscene?

Ram Jam were always an inspiration, for me, particularly Randy/RJ. I owe a lot to him; I would haven't been able to write 680x0 asm code without him.

When is the next issue of Showtime coming out?

Mod3m: tomorrow morning! Eheh, I'm joking. I would really like to set up an editorial staff and release new issues (I also picked up the source code and compiled it; everything works), but considering the short time I have, I don't think it will be possible. However, in the paper magazine Passione Amiga I am curating a large section dedicated to the Amiga demoscene.

Yes, we've found the secret part in Neocolora

You hinted at a new comeback, with a new production. What can you tell us about that?

Mod3m: Yes, there is the desire and the commitment to make a new demo this year, and thanks to the collaboration with Dip (who is much, much better than me at writing code) I think we will be able to complete it. I'm looking at Xenium 2023 in Poland as a possible release party, but we'll see. Also, I've started writing a musicdisk engine that I hope to finish this spring; the goal is to release the musicdisk (which is still unnamed) at regular intervals, perhaps every 3-4 months.

Do you think that AI image generators (Midjourney, etc.) and pre-baked 3D engines (see the Unreal engine) will bring value to the scene or definitely corrupt it?

Mod3m: As I said before, I prefer the demoscene to remain on well-defined platforms, where all coders have the same features available; if it has been decided that on PC it is fine to integrate ready-made AI and 3D engines, I think that it would be necessary to regulate common specifications, beyond which we no longer speak of demos but of wild demos.

Thanks to Mod3m for his time. I think that the Amiga scene won't stop surprising us in the future.

posted by friol at 4/23/2023 05:43:00 PM - under: - comments? here (0)
[The Y in FBY........]
A mystery that continues in the decades

The first time I saw FBY, he was sleeping on the stands of the arena where The Italian Gathering 1997 was taking place. The party was almost finished, and they were announcing the winner of the 4 channel music compo (which was FBY himself). Someone started yelling at him, but he continued sleeping, until they threw him his prize and he awoke.

FBY playing an A minor chord; some retro tech and retro guys on the right (Bernie and Alex)

FBY is a great musician. The parties he won speak for themselves: 1st at The Party 1995, 1st at Saturne 1996, 1st at The Italian Gathering 1997 and 1998, 1st at Outline 2006, and so on. But more than looking at placements, you should experience his mods in first person. If you haven't heard of him, well, lucky you: you have a world to discover today. I suggest (but it's just my personal opinion) to start with Apache, Strange flower and Sambing to have a quick glance of his art, and then dig deeper if you like his style (you will).

So I reached FBY and asked him to talk about his musical origins, tracked music and music in general.

I've read that you started with a guitar and that your sisters carried you (or forced you to go) to music lessons. Is your family a family of musicians? Did you study classical music?

Yes. I began to sing when I was young, and then my sisters and I started to take private guitar lessons with maestro Carlo Mascilli. It was really fun: our teacher gave us pieces to study at home, and then we had to replay them during the lesson. At the end of each lesson, the teacher played for us... he was fantastic. Ivana [his sister, Ed.] quit first, while Sandra continued studying really hard. I was not studying that much, but still managed to keep up with the lessons, and after a while I started to bring to the lesson my own pieces (I was starting to show the traits of a composer, more than a performer). At our first recital, I played music from Leo Brouwer, Dionisio Aguado and three preludes written by me :)

So yes, I had a classical education that influenced my first compositions, like the "Piano Sound" I-V and "FBY Studio" I-IV series. By the way, the first music program I used wasn't a tracker, but a pentagram-based composing software, "Aegis Sonix".

The loading screen of Aegis Sonix wasn't bad.

In 1998 you said: "I like travelling a lot, so I don't think I will stay in Florence much more or in a stable way; I'd like to spend quite some time in America, maybe near a big lake with big trouts inside". How did it go then? Did you catch some big trout in America? :)

No, but my father went there :)
I've been in New York and for some time in the flat-ish Florida. I was at Delray Beach and often went to Miami and the beaches near there. I travelled a lot, across Europe in the 90s and then also in Asia. In the last few years, I really dug into Tiziano Terzani's books on the subject. 

Italians at Assembly 1996. Can you spot FBY?

Tell us something about the "acid" period of FBY's music, the one that brought pieces like "Acido Puro". Too many hours spent at the disco or just a consequence of the 90s?

Both things, I would say :)
At that time, with my friends Francesco and Demetrio we were listening to "a martello" music [an Italian expression to identify music similar to gabber or with a pumping bass drum, Ed.] every evening. If you like Acido Puro, you should also like Tetriade and Klassica.

Did you ever compose that kind of modules where notes make drawings in the patterns or the pattens go backwards?

No, never. But I appreciate Audiomonster and other musicians that did this kind of stuff. Really ingenious!

Apache. What's the title about? The public release of the .xm dates to 1998, but there are two other versions in different keys. Can you tell us something about the birth of this module?

The title comes from the American Indian tribe... not from the open source web server :) The first version was made in 1988 with Aegis Sonix (4 channels), the second version was made with 2 Amigas playing simultaneously in Soundtracker (8 channels), and the third and final version was made with Fast Tracker and rendered with Deliplayer (with additional stereo sound and reverb).

How did I track one module on 2 Amigas, you may ask... My friend Bernie [Bernardo Innocenti, Ed.] invented an interface that duplicated the mouse movements on the 2 Amigas, when needed, and created a home-made mixer for sound output. He also wrote an Amiga utility called "XModule", that was able to merge two 4ch modules into an 8ch one, and to convert Oktalyzer modules [Oktalyzer is a tracker often used by FBY, Ed.] into .mods.

Another piece I really like is the soundtrack for "Mille e non più mille", a 64k by Spyral that was presented at Mekka/Symposium 1997. Did you have problems staying within the 64k limit (the mod is 20k)?

Not really. I was used to write chip music. For example, I produced other small mods, like "Lucky day" (43k), "Amiga monkey shine" (63k), and the more well known "Superjazz" (aka "Oh yes, Jazz!", 86k compressed), that won the chiptune compo at DiHALT 2007 in Russia.

What are those guys doing?

A question on "inspiration". Talking about non-commissioned music, how does inspiration come for you? You just stand in front of the tracker and start composing, or you imagine a melody when you're walking, or you play an instrument or all of the above?

The first option. I regularly opened the tracker, every afternoon, and started composing what came to my mind. As you can see in the page that collects all my mods (FBY ALL MUSIC), I really covered a lot of genres. I liked to experiment and I enjoyed composing music in every style and genre. For example Andalusia, that recalls Spanish/Andalusian music (I've also been there on vacation) and Paco de Lucia's one.

Is there a relationship between your mood when you are tracking and the quality of the music you produce, or this is really randomic? Where does quality, the thing that makes a piece stand as a masterpiece that is remembered, come from, in your opinion?

Yes, there is a relationship. But there is also a random, experimental factor. For me, the quality of a musical piece comes from its originality (that's why I love Pink Floyd, a band that experimented a lot) and then from its tracking and musical technique.

In another interview, you said: "In the future, more than affirming myself, I hope to create a series of skills, working practices, and a commercial system that would put in the spotlight artists, creators and not the usual merchants". Do you think that with Youtube, Soundcloud, and all the platforms to share music we are near to your idea of 20 years ago?

Yes, that's true: the "new" Internet gave to everybody the chance to put their music online, and for sure this is a good thing. At the time of that interview, anyway, I was starting the company "Nayma Software", in 1998, so in my mind there was the idea to establish a more open and free way of working to create software and electronic art. Nowadays, some companies, like Google, are near to that ideal, giving their employees that kind of freedom and flexibility.

Music in the demoscene has always been free, but very good, nonetheless.
Do you think that music should have a price? Or do you think that there can be a system that would give free music to the listener without letting the artist starve [maybe called Patreon or Spotify, Ed.]?

In my opinion, music should be free. In fact, my motto has always been "Fby's music is free music". Musicians have always been starving, little exceptions apart.

Last question: after all these years, you can tell us: F=Fabio, B=Barzagli... and Y=?

Sorry, it's a secret I will take to my grave :)

It has been a pleasure speaking with FBY and discovering his tracking secrets (but not the secret of his nickname, unfortunately). He's also involved in social themes (he mantains a portal on divorced fathers and paternity, www.paternita.info) and he writes thoughts and aphorisms (www.FabioBarzagli.net - in Italian).

We hope to hear more music from him soon!

posted by friol at 8/12/2020 04:53:00 PM - under: , , , , , , , - comments? here (0)
[Alexa, go make a demo about it........]
Amazon Echo meets the demoscene

Mixing my need to code with different tools and on different platforms (as of today, counting among the others, GW-Basic, the Nintendo DS, Arduino, iPaq OS and a lot of other forgettable shit) and the prison where a pig that ate a bat confined us, I ended up building a demoscene skill for Amazon Echo.

The skill can do many unnecessary things, like spitting out a demoscene fun fact and listing the upcoming parties or the top prods of the month, without you leaving your sofa. It will be available on the Amazon skill store when the Amazon testers think we are all dead it's time (they are saying on 24/4, at the moment) (UPDATE 17/04: the skill is now LIVE in English or Italian).

But anyway, the excess of spare time makes its victims too, and I decided to produce a video (!) about it (never edited a video in my life). If you can stand the loudish ambient noise, the lack of a microphone and my primitive English skills, you can watch it here (it's only 4 minutes long, after all):

Hope everybody survived this. This video, I mean.
Gosh, if this quarantine continues, I will start singing and playing the ukulele.

posted by friol at 4/13/2020 11:49:00 AM - under: , , - comments? here (1)
[Preserving demoscene poetry........]
If you can't beat them, collect them

I've recently switched jobs. The new job is boring as hell. The previous one was heavy and boring as hell.
So, things are getting better, uh?

During the last month or so, I've been assembling a website from scratch (but shhh, don't tell that to my company).

The website is this one. It's called "sceneþoetry" (yes, it is. With a 'þ', yes).

Basically, it's a repository of scene poetry and demo lyrics. Goals for it are easy searchability, easy visualization on all devices, making the data linkable and easily aggregatable. For sure my current work influenced it in some way (I'm working on Elasticsearch, at the moment. No, nothing demoscenic, sorry. Well, wait. How long for a demo on Kibana?).

Your contribution is really needed and appreciated.
On the website, there is a contact form that allows you to submit a missing lyric or missing poetry. And many of those are missing. Just compare with this list (I think a good 50% of the lyrics are missing). You'll find a list of demos also on the contact form.

So, let's build together the definitive list of scene poetry.

P.S.: now I must find another project to do at work.

posted by friol at 3/07/2019 09:20:00 PM - under: - comments? here (0)

the Tunnel - demoscene blog(c) friol 2o18