Interview with Zalza
Zalza, aka Alessandro Bulér, is one of the most prolific chiptune composers of today. The 19-year-old musician, who also plays the piano and the drums, lives in Helsingborg, Sweden. He is a member of the groups Novano, Tequila, Razor 1911, Fromage, czm and Musiker.
How long have you been in the scene? Tell us a bit about your scene-history.
I've been in the scene for about 4 years or more. I was introduced to the scene by a friend called sobber. He owned an amiga500+ and showed me 'protracker'. He taught me about music modules and we started to make wicked music. We both sucked at it at the time but it was very amusing. We were 14 years old and didn't know a lot about the scene until later on.
I've never had any good computers because I could never afford it. I played around on 286 and 386 pc's when everyone else had 486 and pentiums. Later sobber's father bought a pentium computer and we found out about Fasttracker2. This became our favorite tracker. Sobber showed me how to use it as a friend had taught him. I was amazed at what you could do with sound and got "hooked". At that time we used to call local BBS's and we spread all of our wicked music around to friends.
I was crazy about tracking and I still am. We started to have local demo parties around my neighbourhood where I learned a lot about the scene. From the BBS's I had downloaded music from artists like Elwood, Lizardking, Merlin, Skaven and so on and found out that there were "chiptunes" from the amiga. I was once again amazed about the 4-channel skills and tried to make my own 'chippies' with Fasttracker. I was really bad at it and made some very painful music. But I got a little better when suddenly my friend called me to go with him to the "remedy" demoparty in Sweden. I won 1st prize with my first chip ever released; the first chip my friends even liked. Today I feel sorry for the competitors who should have won, but I'm also pleased.
Then I found out about irc and found a friend called jelly who let me join his newstarted group tequila. From there my skills growed a lot. Great thanks to jelly, makko, dalezy, proop, sond, and the others who supported my development. I met seffren on IRC and thanks to him I've been co-operating in many projects. Since then I have made many chiptunes and they seem to have spread everywhere...
Sobber's role for your involvement in the scene seems to be important. What about his own scene-career - is he still active?
Yes! Thanks to sobber I have found my best thing in life, music. Yeah. Sobber is still active, but not in the scene. He is a good musican and designer, you can contact him via email.
You're a member of quite a lot of groups, how come?
I dont know really, it has just turned out like that. You could call me over-productive. I like to compose many different styles of music, and therefore the amount of groups. When you meet so many talented musicans you just want to be a part of what they are doing.
About Tequila: Does this group focus exclusively on chip-tunes? What are the latest releases, and the current projects? Have any new members joined it recently? And what's the address of Tequila's website?
Tequila is dead. It is very sad, because it was a great group with very talented members. In the beginning we were very active and we had new releases every day. Then it suddenly stopped. People stopped dropping in to our irc channel and there were fewer and fewer releases every day. I think that many of the members didn't have time or motivation.
Our members were: Jelly (leader), dawn (leader), gemini, sond, makko, dalezy, dawn & arjan(proop). We also had Beek there for a while.
What's the group Novano? Could you introduce it a bit? (concept, members, releases,...)
Novano was founded now in 2001. Cemik (Carl Waern) had been making some bossa nova influenced songs and he asked me to join him. We later came up with the name Novano. I met cemik a long time ago in the 'tequila' days. We made some nice chip-co-op's together but never seriously.
The concept is to try to make a new style of music, interesting and new-thinking.
We call it "mood music" on mp3.com. It's a mix between bossa nova, experimental,
ambient and we use strange sounds and bleeps.. Hard to explain huh? :D
You can visit our mp3.com site
(www.mp3.com/novano) and download our songs. Releases: While you sleep, Futurized & Heading for it.
Why do you think so many people love chip-tunes and other types of 'oldskool' music (e.g. SID, tunes from 8-bit videogames) even though they're already far below what's technically possible?
I think it is because the 'oldskool' music gives people a lot of nostalgia. There are indeed very good music with great melodies from games, expecially from nintendo and the c64.
Yeah, I think this is really one of the reasons... I also played videogames of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras a lot when I was younger (as I wrote in Hugi 22 in the article "My World of Games"), and thus I've been accustomed to these sounds. Some chiptunes remind me strongly of games such as Super Mario or Mega Man, and then I'm feeling exactly this nostalgia... :)
I also know from non-sceners to whom I've played some chip-tunes that many of them associate videogames with them first. One of my classmates, for example, immediately asked me: "Oh! Do you also have the soundtrack of Bubble Bobble?"
But I've made the experience that chippes also appeal to people with a weaker gaming background... One girl told me she likes chiptunes because they're so different from the usual music.
Anyway, next question: What are the most important things when making a chip-tune?
I think the lead melody is an important thing in a chiptune. It should have a catchy melody that gets stucked in your head :D I think the arpeggio function is important to get the 'oldskool' sound. I like the funky sid-style chiptunes the most.
Yeah :) Sometimes the melody of a chiptune keeps being repeated in my head and I can't get rid of it :) - Where do you get inspiration for your music?
I got my inspiration from everywhere. For example: Good scene artists like: beek, norfair, carlos, radix, wave, drax, smash etc. Funky sid-music is also a great inspiration.
What about "real-world" musicians? Whom of them do you like the most?
Oh, there are many. For example: Jamiroquai, Post Absence (Local Group), Quant, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool and the Gang, Carlos Jobim, Bud Powell, Charley Parker Oskar Peterson, Bill Evans and so on.
I'm addicted to Funky jazz music but I listen to most of the styles. I think every kind of music has its kind of speciality.
As you've told me that you also play the piano and the drums: Do you play in a band or just privately?
Me, my girlfriend Emma (Singer), Linn and Håkan have started a band called "Success". We are still searching for some musicans to join before we start seriously.
Do you know if chip-music also spread outside the demoscene, e.g. at musicclubs...?
I know some friends who played some chiptunes on a club. But I never got to know about the response.
That's a pity.. It would be interesting to learn how they responded. - Do you have a personal motto or a message for our readers?
Oh. Yes. If you have a talent, don't throw it away. Use it to make something good for the world.
Where can we get your music?
I'm not sure that the links at hem1.passagen.se work but if you want my music I can send it to you on IRC. I'm usually on ircnet: #trax, #scene.se, #tql & #czm.
As a final question: Want to greet someone?
Yes. All my friends on ircnet #trax, #pixel, #tql, #czm, #c-64, #scene.se!
Thank you for the interview! Keep on making chiptunes & see ya!
Zalza & Adok - 06 May 2001