In Focus: Manwe/SandS
By Mitchell/Mostly Harmless/Hardwave/Wattle
Alexander Matchugovsky a.k.a. Manwe is a Russian musician and coder. He is also a member of the demo group "the SandS", which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Firstly, tell us about yourself. What are the things that you're interested in. What do you like about the scene?
Everything. Except politics and money, perhaps. Yet sometimes I have to deal with them :)
How old are you, and for how long have you been in the scene?
Now I'm 30 years old, but in the making of this diskmag issue, it will be one more - then I'll already be 31 :)
I think I have been in the scene since the foundation of the (not only) demo group named Strogino Programming Company, which was around the years 89-90; it's difficult to recall.
How did you get to discover the demoscene? And when?
Me and my friends simply began to write computer games, music editors, packers; A couple of times we even broke and set game protections; we were publishing an e-mag (we called it "computer paper") and writing demos. As we found out later, somebody in Moscow was already doing something similar, but the productions where so varied that nobody had the idea to head it with the label "scene" or something simular. In fact those were the things we all now call "scene releases". Back then, in 1990, I visited Belgium and saw a couple of Amstrad CPC demos, they were cool. When I came back to Moscow I got even deeper in demo and music programming (we programmed music at that time, it wasn't composed :)). In the final years of school, I worked part-time and saw Crystal Dreams and Scream Tracker 2 (not exactly, it didn't exist then. It was called STMPlay then). I understood that there was a creative life on PC as well, it even had its own name - Scene.
It was the year 1991.
Tell us about the group "The Sands". What Type of group is this? When was it formed? Who are the members?
In early 1994 Tarh (programmer and musician) and me (musician and programmer) wrote our first co-op work in Scream Tracker 3 and mused on how to sign it. We decided to let it be credited by two authors but by a group instead. At that moment, it can be regarded as the foundation of the SandS. Actually, we had been doing quite a lot of stuff prior, including writing intros on PC. The aim of our group in the beginning was to make "something like Second Reality" (haha). Plus, at that time we were writing a game.
Now we have a lot of members in the SandS, but not so many as in Taat, KFMF or HRG :) There are three divisions on our site (thesands.ru/contacts.html): "active members", "oldschool" and "game division". We are not taking in any new people but we are very actively collaborating with the guys from other demogroups; that is why I've already lost the edge of where's "the SandS" and where it isn't :)
In what interesting projects, in your opinion, have you been involved in?
In 1995 we decided to organize the first demoparty in Russia and ex-USSR. Nobody knew what this was at the time. The only information was from European e-mags. We decided to do it in detail, that's why we postponed the party for half a year and then Enlight'95 happened in between; thus ours became the second demoparty in Russia.
It was cool. The party went for three years in a row and it was called BK-Mania (BK is the Soviet home computer). The third party we combined BK-Mania and Bytefall together.
I was also writing music for many demos, intros, e-mags, making designs and wrote a code for some demos and intros (of course, this is an essential part of the demoscene). In all, the most interesting thing in the Scene for me was the teamwork. And I was lucky - the guys with whom we were working on projects with usually were rarely talented, there were a lot of things to learn.
Considering projects I can recall "We'll See You Soon", "Causaprima", "Packed Band", "Night Tales", "SandS 10 years" and, actually, many more.
I also participated in the Xmplay project in its early stage, when Ian Luck was accomplishing to play IT and S3M formats.
How has the demoscene affected your life?
It's still affecting it. At the very beginning, after school I chose technical academy (system programming, artifical intelligence), instead of the artistic one because I was interested in programming and optimization. All this was a direct influence of the Scene. In the mid 90s I rewatched good demos right at the workplace, for inspiration (the work has to do with design in the end, not programming - paradox). In the beginning of the century, I often listened to tracked music - also in the search for inspiration. Today, apart from the design, I'm staying busy with music for games, there's often a need of tracked music. Of course, if I hadn't met Scream Tracker 2, nothing of this would have happened.
Tell us about your first computer, what were you doing on them?
BK-0010. There are some intros and demos for them at pouet.net. Many people refer to BK-0010 as a 8-bit computers by the date of design, but this is a big mistake. BK didn't have 8-bit commands, nor 8-bit registers or data bus. I think it will be hard to believe for the readers from Europe and America, but it was the first 100% 16-bit home computer. I'm not talking supercomputers, but home machines. USSR, year 1983 - unbelievable, isn't it? How was it possible not to be fascinated by this great machine? People were falling in love with her :) It wasn't even necessary to buy it out - you could stay at school after the lessons and do what you wanted with it.
I wrote a tracker on BK (soldered and plugged the covox). On BK we created the group Strogino Programming Company about which I told in the beginning, we were writing games, demos, e-mags, system programs, setting up parties, writing music, drawing and even earned some money from our productions. I worked on BK until 1995 (though I already had a PC for a long time). I put BK out of the box in 1996, in order to write two intros for the BK-Mania'96 demoparty.
Do most of your friends belong to the demoscene or not?
90% belong to the Scene, I guess. Actually, there are a few who haven't heard about the Scene.
What do you think about the Russian demoscene? Is there any difference from the western one?
Before I thought there was, but now I think there isn't. People are the same, conditions are slightly different.
Who from the Russian demosceners can you emphasize with?
I divide "demosceners" and "demomakers". I need to emphasize Prog/Universe from the "demosceners". In the mid 90s he was always sitting on IRC, communicating with all of the western sceners, regulary calling them at home in the different countries (Pulse guys, for example), engaged them to coop projects, etc. In Moscow he got together with nearly all demosceners on his birthday - an enormous crowd :) There were always visitors at his house, he visited all the people aswell. Now imagine: I lived in the neighbouring street! :) And Prog would always visit me me, often with people I didn't know (demosceners too). To be honest, Prog isn't only a "scener", but the "maker": he worked a lot and did a lot of demo-releases. He is crazy, but he is a good egg, I love him :)
Your favourite sceners and groups from the West. Who are they? Do you observe the western scene?
Of course. Now they are MFX, Kewlers, Moppi. I appreciate the works of Farbrausch and Andromeda Software Development. And earlier were Future Crew, Triton, Renaissance, Cascada, then Orange, Pulse, well, you may continue this list by yourself :)
And, of course, Amiga scene: Artwork, Essence, TBL, Looker House and others. Broadly speaking, if the group made at least one excellent demo then I'm ready to include this group to the list of favourites :)
How has tracked music influenced you? Can you see the future of tracked music?
Oh... We have Purple Motion's S3Ms translated on central TV and radio from time to time... Tracked music influenced not only me but everyone who had a computer in the 90s. How can one not be influenced by it?
I can say I loved Beatles, Chelentano, Boney M and the likes before, but the first jungle which I really liked was a tracked one. The first jazz which I liked was tracked. The first funk was tracked, the first IQ-trance was tracked and so on. There was something in those modules which caught you regardless of style. When listening to a musician and every MOD he made is of a new style, you begin to see the music differently. That isn't like pop-radio, nor like a CD of your favourite group.
What music editors do you use now?
Schism Tracker and Ableton Live mostly. There is one sync problem in Schism which needs to be fixed (maybe already fixed), I would like to be able to control Moog emulators and all these VST/AU thingies from within it. This means it would be possible to almost forget about Ableton and Garage Band (or maybe use them like instruments in/from Shism).
What are your preferences in music? What do you listen to?
Hmm... Is anybody interesting? :) I listen to jazz, tracked music, triphop, music from games, Vollenweider, McCartney... Generally everything that contains music.
What are the current projects of the The Sands and what are your plans for the future?
"PostMODism" is coming now - a musicdisk with a shell. A 64k intro and another musicdisk are in progress. We also write a lot of music for games. Also Tone began a radio program about the Scene, I supported the initiative and we made a podcast in Russian.
Actually, there are a lot of ideas, let's see what we can do in the next year.
What have you got from attending KRI 2005 in Moscow? What are the positive moments you could tell?
Well, me and Lavender held a seminar about interactive music, met the people whose worked with us via the Internet, had a good time, met AND and guys from T-Rex, celebrated my birthday :) ... I don't know, it is an exhibition - part of the job, what can be special with that? I think Scene guys were the most interesting part of the event for me :)
With what sceners do you communicate now? Tell about them.
My ICQ contact list grows nearly every day, they mostly are Scene people :) I wouldn't have enough time to tell about them all. In general, my friends are the guys from SandS, T-Rex, Looker House, Universe and some other groups.
What are the demoparties in Russia and CIS which you could tell us about?
Every party, I guess, except last Chaos Construction and CAFe, because I didn't attended them (my son was born - what trips?).
Mitchell & Manwe
Translated from Russian by Nevidimka