Interview with Estrayk
The interview was originally conducted in the Spanish language. You can read the original Spanish version at www.modulez.org.
Well, finally here we have the first interview of modulez, which we hope will induce the appearance of more soon. :) Our first interview, conducted by Sole, was made with one of the best known Spanish modsceners in the world: Carlos Del Alamo, a.k.a. Estrayk. He started with his Amiga 500 in 1988, and in the course of the time he joined a lot of first-line scene groups of Europe: Darkness, Capsule, Scoopex, Nah-Kolor, Iguana and Fusion. Nowadays he is one of the musicians of Paradox and tracks in his spare time. :) Next, the interview.
Well, at long last I've managed to collect all the questions 'we always wanted to ask but never dared to'. And as you have been interviewed several times, we'll try to abbreviate the typical questions a bit and ask other more interesting ones. I hope you find that ok! Let's go.
You belong (or belonged) to several groups: Capsule, Tlotb and Paradox. Only the first two of them are Spanish. It's strange to see a Spanish guy in a foreign group - how did you manage to join Paradox?
Before answering this question, I'd like to express my thanks to Sole for the interview, and I hope you all have fun reading these lines just like I enjoyed answering the questions.
Well, everything started about 15 years ago, in 1988, with the Amiga A500. I began to make music with programs so simple and non-intuitive that you couldn't even imagine such a program today. I started with it just as a hobby, but soon I got interested in something called 'demo-scene'. I already had seen a couple of intros and demos on the Commodore64, but the AMIGA ones finally caught me, especially for the music and the effects made by coders just as a hobby.
So I organized a meeting with two guys of my city, Valencia. One of them knew how to make gfx and the other one was starting to code, so I suggested to found a group, and - voilà! 'Fifth Generation' was born. This was the first group I really was a member of. With time F.G. gradually became bigger and some of us left for another group: 'Darkness', one of the best Amiga groups in Spain in those days.
Then I had some coops with other groups and thus met a lot of people. I feel permitted to state that I have belonged to the following Amiga groups: PUSSY, RAZOR 1911, TRSI, SCOOPEX, FUSION, PARADISE... and others.
Afer spending a short period in the 'warez' scene, I felt that I wasn't of that world and so decided to found a new demogroup for Amiga called CAPSULE. At that time I was also in some PC groups: IGUANA, TLOTB, CHANKA - and also in an Atari ST group: EMPIRE - and even in a C64 group: FAIRLIGHT, but not exactly making music. :)
Then I had an important interruption of my life as a scener because I had the feeling that the enthusiasm of the past years had gone, so I made a break for a couple of years... until I got to see a PARADOX intro for Playstation!!! And I don't know why nor how... it came that I said to myself: "Wow!! Intros also on PSX???" I had known Paradox as a group of the Amiga Age, but the people who were now active members of Paradox were totally unknown to me. So I started moving a bit onto IRC and there I met the 'leader' of the group, who invited me to make the music for their intros. And this is the a small summary of how I ended up there. :)
Many people consider you - and as far as I know, you don't deny it - of being one the 'old-school'. Gossip has it that you keep using the Amiga for making the music for Paradox' PS 2 cracktros. Isn't this absurd? Pig-headedness or just 'fidelity to old-school spirit'?
I don't want to be vain, but YES. People have told me this so many times in these years that I finally start believing it - I'm 'old-school'. I can be considered one of the few 'old skool' sceners that are still active in this crazy world called Scene.
About the music I've created for consoles in the last years - for PSX, PS2, DREAMCAST and GBA... Attention scoop: Yes!!!! All them have been made with the Amiga. If you wonder why.. well.. uhmmm... I dunnno why. I suppose that as a I am a nostalgic of that age, I feel comfortable using always PROTRACKER, with which I get inspiration sooner than with any other more powerful program on PC.
Maybe I feel better when I'm confronted with some kind of limit when I'm making music. I mean: What really inspires me and what I really like, is to make music with limitations, short samples, 3 or 4 sound channels, file-size limits (chip music) for instance. To sum it up, what I really like is people telling me: "Hey, Carlos! I need a tune for an intro. It has to be no more than 9 kb, but it must not be too repetitive, you know! It must have a duration of at least 3 minutes." I take this as a challenge and I suddenly find inspiration.
In addition, people say I am quite good at that. Although you may not believe it, nowadays there are not many people who can make a good four-channel MOD that sounds fine without exceeding 120k. There has to be music of all kinds and styles, and I am one of this small group of people who make good, small music. :Ŝ
As an anecdote, let me tell you what happened at a little party some years ago at which we held a little music compo. There were 6 or 7 musicians present at the party place. I was amazed when the orgo of the contest made the following announcement:
"Chip Music Compo: We are now gonna give you a disk with all you need and you won't be able to use any another program nor any additional sample. It is.. a disk for Amiga 500."
I, and all the other musicians, expected that this disk was going to contain Protracker or another similar program and some samples. Imagine how surprised we were when we found out that on the disk there was only Protracker and nothing else!!!
Some of the musicians went to the party-org and asked the orgo if he had made a mistake: there was neither a sample nor a module on the disk to start producing music. The orgo smiled at me and another composer next to me. "Do what you need to do! There's no error."
I first was flabbergasted. Then I did the following: I loaded some random binary file I found on the disk into the sample-editor of Protracker; I think it was a library file. Imagine the sound Protracker created out of it: it was an infernal noise. I cut it as much as I could, made a loop, and halé! I had a sample. A terrifying 'piiii', I did what I could and won the compo.
This was the compo I enjoyed most of all I participated in in my life. Perhaps with this anecdote people really understand what I enjoy doing, and what the oldskool spirit is: trying to do the impossible where there seems no realistic solution.
And yet I'm of the opinion that the 'old-school spirit' is not made of things but of thoughts. Otherwise we'd still watch rasterbars and giant scrollers and appreciate them because they're old-school. Do you agree that old-school is a particular attitude that can be found in the scene? What do you think? And... how would you define your own attitude to the scene?
The oldschool spirit HAS TO BE LIVED in your own body to be understood. I'm sorry, but although you might get the impression that I'm trying to rush the answer on this question, it's the truth: This is how I feel.
In that time, the late 80's and the early 90's, everything was very, very, very different. Not only the prods, but EVERYHTING. There was no information, no Internet, no easily accessible media, and people didn't know what you were talking about when you said 'scene', 'demos' or 'party'. We were a VERY small group of people obsessed with a thing that is hard to explain, very limited, strange and difficult to get into. That was why we were called 'freaks'. :)
It's like all the people who 'remember' the music of the 80's. Nearly all the people who love this music do so because they have lived in this era. Anyway, many people will agree that the 80's and the early 90's were something 'special' in the world of music, electronics and computers. :~-)
Answering your question about attitudes, I could say that an oldskool attitude is like a 'retro' attitude. I mean... Oldskoolers are living in the current society but always remember with nostalgia the years that will not come again. That's why the music I make can be considered oldskool, because it's based on the melodies, chords and percussions of that age. I know that some people don't understand me and say: "This sounds old-fashioned!", but it's the music I like creating. If you don't like it, then listen to a module of AWESOME, who has managed to get catch up with the new musical trends. :))) (Hi Awe! :D)
As an 'Amiga fan' you experienced a lot of the most exciting moments in the demoscene history, especially in the history of the Spanish demoscene. One may call you one of its 'daddys'. Does this boost your ego? Do you feel proud of having contributed in some way to the development of many people like me, who have only been able to join the scene thanks to your pioneering work?
YES. I feel very proud of having lived in that era and having contributed to the construction of the Spanish demoscene from scratch. I wouldn't say I have achieved a lot of things for the scene, but I did my bit in that hard age and I hope it has been useful in some way. I don't know... for instance, if listening to my modules has inspired people to start tracking themselves.
About the ego boost, I have to tell you that I lost it some time ago. :( Actually I never considered myself... uhmmm... how should I express it... 'very good' at making music. I have always been aware that there are people with more talent than me.
And while we're talking about egos: Didn't you feel as the center of the universe when Naif and Wonder dedicated 'Strike one' to Evelred and you? (although they won, of course)
Hahahaha! Well, well... this was very good. Actually What really happened was that Evelred and I had won at several compos a couple of years before with random modules that had already been waiting on our hard-disks unused for a long time. And well, I admit that it can be very annoying if you have been working on your entry for the compo for the last three weeks and suddenly a couple of spoilt scene boys, Evelred and Estrayk, bring along a tune that is more than three years old (I'm not kidding), modify it, enter the compo, and, on top of that, win. And of course, always with the same style, commercial, which the people like.
So I supposethat Naif and Wonder damned our mothers several times. Then they created 'strike one', which was supposed to be a kind of joke, but had a very high quality. It was like some protest note, and people immediately understood its meaning. And so they won.
Either the people who voted or the jury grasped the message of this tune, namely that music in the style Evelred and me composed could be created by anybody. After that party, Wonder and Naif laughed at us for being right. But well, we laughed a lot as well! (Hi Wonder! :D)
NOTE: I'll never forget the face of my pale Evelred next to me when they played this mod at the party. :O You can imagine it. Hahahahaha!
Do you miss anything of that time? Perhaps the competitiveness? Not just between scene groups but also between musicians, with those needles in the samples' text, saying 'I'm the best, you'll never reach my level'... and all that...
Well... yes, of course. I miss a lot of things. I miss the Amiga scene, I miss some styles which have disappeared today, music with a rich melody and a chorus like the one produced by Jean Michael Jarre. I also miss the 'feeling' the parties had. In the past, you went to a party to compete, to meet people and to make friends. Today, people go to a party to play, to play, and to play. :( Ah! I forgot something important! They also visit parties in order to copy porn divx. - And finally, I miss a lot of friends of those times; I'm no longer in touch with them.
Some people say we nowadays lack 'scene consciousness'. Today anybody can download a program to make music dragging samples, while some years ago we spent day and night trying to optimize the tune in order to get it as small as possible. Have we become lazy?
Yes. In the past it was not so easy. I always remember people criticizing the Amiga's four-channel limit. As I've already said, I love this limit, but I have to admit that some times I did miss a fifth channel. After all, it's virtually impossible to create chords with only four channels. As everybody knows, you need a minimum of three channels to make a major or a minor chord. So if we made plain chords, we had just one channel left, which of course was not enough. The musicians of that time had to mix the three notes of the chord into a single sample, and of course, we didn't have so much freedom of chords nor so much flexibility as today.
And then please don't complain about all modules having the same set-up: one channel for the bass, one channel for the percussion, one channel for the melody and one channel for the chords. How difficult it was to make a counterpoint in the melody, or to insert a wave string, or to make a simple 'echo' or a 'delay' effect. You couldn't do that... there were not enough free channels!!! It was a real challenge, I can assure that.
How many times have I heard things like: "Dude, I dunno how you can make these modules with 4 channels. It seems impossible!!! This sounded as if you played more than 4 instruments at the same time!!!" :)
Anyway... yes, we did get lazy!!! But I have to admit that when you listen to a modern multichannel module, it sounds professional, which in the past was impossible to achieve.
And if people think that a tracker wastes too much time, what could motivate people to join a module contest today? Cash isn't a feasible motivation. I believe that what might inspire people to use a tracker is the limit. I mean... Imagine a challenge like: 4X4 MODULE CONTEST. Just 4 samples, 44k limit, 4 minutes, 4 channels! :D Total freedom. It could lead to some very nice things, sure. :) Prize: a coke. It's the prize I got for the contest I told you before in the anecdote. :D
Let's change the type of questions: Have you ever thought about expanding the range of music you create? For instance, how about cellular phone melodies? The arpeggio king wouldn't have a rival! You could make a fortune...
Well, now that you mention it, it's not a bad idea. If they make a mobile with a Paula chip or a SID of C64....!!! Haha! I'm joking... but yes, sometimes I thought about it, but you know... my wife, my job... I have no time to wee! :-P
A question hard to answer: Why is it that loads of people love the music of telephones, but they don't listen to Nectarine?
Why do people watch Big Brother, Hotel Glamour or Operación triunfo? Why do women go to the toilet together? Why did VHS beat BETA and 2000? Why does the coyote never catch the road runner? Why was Spectrum the most successful computer in the 8 bit age although it was the worst from a technical point of view? Why is it that if you unconnect your keyboard off your PC, the PC will state that it cannot find the keyboard and ask you to press any key to continue!!
They are questions no man can give a sensible answer on, Sole. I dunno!! :D
Do you think one ought to make the masses aware of the existence of scene music, or would it be too hard for them to understand it? Or perhaps you are one of these sceners who think that one should "leave people as they are"?
I'm of exactly that opinion: leave them as they are. An intelligent person knows how to expand his horizon if he is really interested in doing so.
And to end with the interview, just one more question: You haven't been to any party for quite a while. Are we going to see you at Euskal? At BCN? Or anywhere else...? Have you lost your interest in parties? :-)
Err.. yes. As I have already said before, I really have lost my interest in parties. The last party I visited was SYMPOSIUM in Germany in the year 2000. Or was it 2001? I can't remember. I don't go to parties because although people still call them parties, THEY ARE NOT PARTIES ANYMORE. They are GAME-Parties. As far as I remember, in the early days when I started visiting parties, playing was always strictly forbidden! This has changed, and that's why I believe I will no more attend any party in my life. I think I've gone to too many of them and I've seen the decline.
Well, at this point, we can end the interview. Lots of thanks for dedicating your time to us.
Estrayk's official website
Profile of Estrayk/Paradox at Ojuice
Amiga Music Preservation (see interviews)
Some tunes by Estrayk
Article by Sole - Translation by Yero