Portrait: 4-Mat of Orb & Ate Bit
Written by Magic of Nah-Kolor
Introduction: Past & Present
4-Mat, in real life going by the name of Matt Simonds, got known on the Amiga demoscene in the very early 90's in the originally British group Anarchy. Anarchy got a lot country based sections later on but this was already after many demos had been released with music by 4-Mat inside them. The demos Hardcore and In The Kitchen for example. In these two particular demos also the early work of Facet (who these days resides in Brainstorm on the PC) could be witnessed. But also Krestmass Leftovers and Madness 2 had great tracks by 4-Mat. This was even before musician Nuke (later known as Spaceman) did most music for Anarchy UK productions. In the last few years 4-Mat has got active again on the demoscene on multiple platforms
. The two groups he is member of are Ate Bit and Orb.
4-mat participated in releases like 'Miami Vic'
(Vic 20 intro) or 'Ahh.. the tape loading era' (zx spectrum demo) or the winning 64kb PC intro at Assembly 2009 called 'Transform'. But also in 'mus1k', a 1kb musicdisk for the VIC 20, or Frameskool and Outlined
(64kb invitations for Breakpoint 2007 and Outline 2007 respectively). 4-mat introduces himself: "Hi, I'm 4mat/Orb/Ate Bit. I work in the games industry doing music & sound design, occasionally a bit of scene work for fun. Vegetarian, non-smoker, the usual", and continues to tell us about his first years on the demoscene and his return a few years ago: "I was first scening on the Amiga in 1989 with Slipstream and then the famous(?) Anarchy until 1992 when I left to do games. Came back 'properly' into the scene after working on the Breakpoint invite with Keops a few years ago. He asked me to join his new group Orb and I was flattered to be in a group with all those legendary sceners. So these days I do stuff with them and the fabulous scene poets in Ate Bit", 4-Mat comments.
4-Mat, the musician
4-Mat is making his living with his music. He more recently worked on games like Silent Hill, Who wants to be a millionaire, Populous a new beginning. But if you remember the Amiga games Chuck Rock (1991, Core Design) or Agony (1992, Psygnosis), he did the music for them as well. You can read his complete CV on his blog. So what does 4-Mat himself have to say about how he earns his bread? 4-Mat: "It's mostly sound design for games, with the odd bit of music depending on how the project is structured." Looking at all the tunes 4-Mat composed on the Amiga, we can see they are mostly chiptunes. Why did 4-Mat prefer making chiptunes rather than full modules back then? I asked him this question and he told quite a nice story: "I was playing in a band at the time so my 'real music' ideas were focused on that. My chip stuff was about trying to make the same sort of sounds and filesizes that the custom players (like SidMon etc.) had. First it was 'how can I make chip sounds in soundtracker?', then it was 'how can I do this chip effect in a tracker?' and so on. Got quite into that back in the day."
The handle 4-Mat has his first name in it but what is the true origin of this nick name? 4-Mat comments: "From 'formatting' a disk. Bit cheesy I know, had to think up a name really quick as I was putting out a musicdisk the next day. It's been a pain for coders ever since to add numbers to their fonts."
"The handle 4-Mat comes from formatting a disk."
Everybody is influenced by someone or something in what they are doing. Composing music should not be any different.
Also 4-Mat was influenced by musicians in and outside the demoscene and gave him inspiration to compose his own music. "On the demoscene there are
Bug/Subway, the World's Wave music disks are so great, and his chip stuff, and everything else.
Bill Williams, not demoscene, but Sinbad is my favourite Amiga game soundtrack. Oh, and mindwalker, which he did as well.
Bruno, so far ahead of the rest, I couldn't believe what he was doing. RIP Bruno, much missed.
Luxor/Megaforce, first tracker stuff I heard, such a sound quality leap from my Commodore 64. Suntronics, probably most famous for the Paranoimia cracktro but musicdisk #3 was really inspiring for me starting chipmusic in trackers. I'm listening to it right now actually. :) Tim Follin, well everyone likes Tim Follin right? Again, not demoscene sorry. :) Before that on the c64 it'd be stuff I heard on Compunet like Bogg, Choroid, Demon, Michael Winterberg and WEMusic. There were plenty of game music rips on there but these guys were uploading exclusive stuff", 4-Mat tell us and continues with his favourite real life musicians who influenced him: "Heh, gotta think what I was listening to in the '90s. :) When I was writing Amiga music it'd be Brian Wilson, Joy Division, Mazzy Star, Stina Nordenstam, Stereolab, Talking Heads, Konami soundtracks on the MSX and probably Terra Cresta in the arcade (loved that game). Apart from the game stuff I don't think any of those really had an influence on my demo music. For me writing demo music is a whole different set of rules to what I usually do."
Multiple Platforms and the Meaning of Music
As written earlier in this article 4-Mat made the music for 'Orbtraxx #1' (featuring 10 uncut chiptunes) and for the 'Orb megademo', both of them
releases for the VIC 20. 4-Mat also made the music for 'Mus1k', a 1kb musicdisk on the Commodore 64. However 4-Mat also coded on the 'Orb Megademo' and 'mus1k' 1kb musicdisk. Does 4-Mat have a specific interest in old computers? 4-Mat: Not really, I like size coding but I only know 6502 assembly language. If I was better skilled at 'C' I'd do PC stuff instead these days." Music must mean a lot to 4-Mat especially after composing and creating music for over 2 decades. 4-Mat confirms: "Oh it means everything, really. Well, when it works anyway. When it doesn't work, argh. I like waking up the next day and there's something on the drive I've made, even if it's usually awful. And then there's playing live, or just blasting away at the piano for an hour (badly). And hearing a song that makes your heart burst (like Judee Sill's Waterfall did last week), oh it's all good.
Next to the group 'Ate Bit' 4-Mat is also a member of the group Orb. Which meant his proper comeback to the scene was when he worked on the Breakpoint 2007 invitation with Keops of Orb. (Although the Breakpoint 2007 invitation got released under Equinox.) 4-Mat's music inside this invitation also became the official tune/jingle at Breakpoint 2007.
So how did 4-Mat become involved in this project and what anecdotes jump to his mind about creating this production? 4-Mat comments: "I joined the Nectarine forum and Keops found me on there. Actually Keops asked me to work on something else first but that's not released yet. :) The Breakpoint song was a module I wrote for fun and sent him, coincidentally Keops was coding the invite when he got it."
Epilogue, what to espect from Orb in the future
When this article was nearly finished contact unfortunately got lost with 4-Mat - his boss told him he was not allowed to e-mail from work. So the last few questions prepared for this article never got back but I think it doesn't really, really matter. This article is just a few sentences shorter now. As an ending of this article about 4-Mat of Anarchy... ehm.... Ate Bit and Orb we asked 4-Mat what Orb is all about and what we can expect from Orb in the future. "It's a 'supergroup' of old Amiga/ST/PC sceners, keeping the high quality of the old '90s releases but with a modern twist. I hope I've got that description right", 4-Mat comments and concludes: "As with most 'older' sceners we have no free time anymore so things take a while to get finished, but there's definately more releases to come. I can't really say what yet."
Links related to this article
4-Mat's Myspace website
4-Mat on Facebook
4-Mat on Twitter
4-Mat's CSDB profile
Orb official website
Anarchy Productions with 4-mat's music
In The Kitchen
Frameskool - Breakpoint 2007 64kb PC invitation
Transform #1 64kb intro at Assembly 2009
All Ate Bit releases at Pouet.net
All Orb releases at Pouet.net