Interview with Puh/Agony


Puh of Agony is one of the most skilled Amiga editors ever. Since many, many years this Swedish mastermind is responsible for the Amiga demoscene mag OEPIR RISTI. OEPIR RISTI comes out in quite an irregular manner but it has always been entertaining and fun to read. Puh can write about the usage of a new shampoo or how fish seek for food at the ground of the sea, whatever he's writing about - it's still interesting for the readers. Not to forget that he has developed a writing style of his own and has never tried to copy the typical scene-style of others, which made his mag quite different and unique. Last week (Ed.: back then, it was spring 2001) we had a coffee or two with him in order to get to know him better...

Hey Puh, welcome to the first interview with you ever. How comes that nobody has ever tried to do this before? What do you want to drink? Tea, coffee, milk with honey maybe? ;-)

Hello, and thanks. Apart from a half-breed interview by Count Dragonsbane (published in some old OR issue), you are right in that I have not been interviewed before, at least not that I can think of as of now. I don't know why this is - but then, I can't see that I have anything particularly interesting to add, and especially so with respect to the scene.

Oh, I'd go for the coffee. Black, no sugar.

Or probably you want to smoke a joint first to stimulate yourself??

Naah, not much for those. Stimulation can be achieved through so many other means, all of which are legal: long walks in the forest, deep compassionate intellectual discussions on God, having green tea with unknown but uprising poets, the ... ah, fuck that. Hand me one, will ya.

Please introduce yourself to the readers - what is your name, age, what are you doing at the university, what in your sparetime etc.

My name is Henrik Nilsson, and I have never held a living lizard in my hand. I recall wanting to do so when I saw one C64 graphician bring a lizard to the Phenomena Light party 1992, but I never ventured asking. Instead, and my fears notwithstanding, I have focused on botany, of which I am expected to know a whole lot after some five years at the university, but of which I constantly get reminded how little I really know. I live the life of a bachelor and, having tried the opposite, wish the situation to remain the same for the foreseeable future. In the instance that I actually feel that I do have some time off, I usually throw it away in front of some book or paper - I like reading and writing. Music plays an important role in my life, but my role with respect to music is that of the listener, and not that of the active participant. You could, I guess, discern three main branches of my taste in music, namely black metal, Tangerine Dream and related issues, and C64 / Amiga music formats (the more odd the better). My stereo is hardly every turned off.

If I am known to the average scener, it would be as one of the Oepir Risti editors in chief. I have never been that good at any traditional scene activity (graphics, music, coding, etc.), but I found my role as swapper quite early, and as writer some time after that. I'm pretty much still in that role today, even though I devote less time to it than, perhaps, I should.

Who or what is a Puh? Does it have anything to do with the Puh the bear? Please tell us how you've received that name??

This is a story that goes back some time - to the C64 days, to be precise. I got my first C64 in ... what? ... the latter part of the eighties, 1987? Having spent some time gaming (a time during which I attained a life-long addiction to H.E.R.O. and SID music), I realized I grew more and more curious on the intros introducing the games, and even some of those mega-demos I was sent. I took up "serious" swapping, first under the name EC, then, when I joined Skylight, under the name London'89 - and as you might understand, I don't wish to comment further upon this. I drew some logos - fair or mediocre at best - and continued swapping for some years. I bought my first A500 (must have been 1990?), and not before long, I and Phobos started Agony, and I decided it was time to change my handle. And lo and behold, I chose Puh, which, as you suggest, refers to the bear, whose name is "Nalle Puh" in Swedish. I can't recall why I chose that very name, but it was short all right - and besides, both I and Winnie have a preference for going fishing once in a while, but none of us likes eating the fish once we have caught it. Well, anyway, and these days I really don't see any reason to change it. Once in the game, it's hard to throw the deck away.

How did it come that you've discovered the Scene? Who introduced you there?

Hoo. Well, I guess that was partly due to Polyfemos (who later on joined Agony), who at the time was quite addicted to the Swedish modem scene. I grew more and more interested in the intros and the groups behind them (and some other aspects of modeming, too), and he introduced me to the Amiga BBS world, much like he four years earlier had introduced me to C64 games, and like he five years later would introduce me to his girlfriend, with whom he later broke up. I also wish to mention S.Duvan, who at that time was a Silents member. Although I had taken a few introductory steps towards the scene when I first met him (in a scene context, that is, since we attended the same school; back comes the Phenomena Light party), he for sure played a huge role in getting me soaked into the scene for real, and indeed so in keeping the flame alive, even after all these years. I don't think I would be here still today, had we not released the first OR issue.

And I guess we all know what happens once you have taken up swapping. Hard to let go off, wouldn't you say?

Oh yes, you are right!

What are the scene-related people in Sweden and in general you are in contact with!?

This... requires a bit of thinking. I am still in contact with some ex Sardonyx people, including DuffE, C-Lous (Origo, Frame), Elusive, Prowler and the OR Staff of course, and some more loosely defined international correspondence. Oh, and Sane and yourself, nice chaps, those. Spot of course. Kindly allow me to get back to this question if additional light sources appear.

If you are reading an article - what comes in your mind? How do you judge it, how must an article be: entertaining, amusing, full of information or what are your expectations when it comes to articles??!?

I have, I'd say, different requirements for different kinds of articles etc. - however, disregarding this, I think an article above all must be well written. Badly written texts on interesting topics, well, most often I cannot stand them, and leave them rather quickly, whereas good texts on boring issues, well, they are much better off. However and of course, there is a huge difference between "badly written" and "bad spelling" and "bad grammar" - my impression of the article depends first and foremost on the ... should we call it the LIFE ... of the text. Some authors write living texts - regardless of spelling - whereas others write dead. Dead articles just are no good.

A nice article should also be coloured by some humour - be it black or even all but invisible. A good article, further on, is rather lengthy and tries to empty or advance a topic, adding new material to the old one. Summaries are only good if new material is added or the old material is commented or compared and not just summed together. Varying the length of the paragraphs and using some dialogue here and there makes the article more friendly to the - i.e. to my - mind.

I am not saying that my articles are like this. I'm saying that the articles that I would like to read are like this.

What are your favourite writers and please exactly explain why!

I take this to mean writers in the scene sense. Well, as is explained further below, I really don't read many scene magazines these days, so I am not willing to comment upon the recent (after 1997 perhaps) scene writers. My all-time top three list would be made up by Macno, Peto, and Mop. I like Sane, too. My guess is that all these guys knew how they wanted something to be written, and then they wrote it, caring little for outside written or spoken rules and guidelines if the writing would benefit from breaking them. They had a good sense of language and a tenderly nourished feeling for writing, spawning highly interesting and informative texts, and they proved their delicate sense of humor on several occasions.

Are there any people that you like so much so that you've tried to copy their style? Maybe Macno with his sarcasm, maybe Lord Helmet who was the master of offending flames, maybe even a bit of Mop with his infotainment?

While I guess it is unavoidable that I have in some sense copied or tried to do so one, some or even many scene writers, this has neither been my attention nor my will. Of course, you'd like to think of yourself as someone who has not copied anyone - you tend to stick to the picture of yourself as someone who taught him or herself how to do or perform a particular task, like Jack London when it comes to writing or Klaus Schulze with respect to music. I gather it would be much easier for an independent beholder to judge who's influenced who. I consequently cannot give you any particular names, the bearers of which I have tried to embody. You are right, though, that both Macno and Mop would be worth to copy, at least in some abstract sense.

What do you think about the present mags such as Showtime, Eurochart, Devotion, D.I.S.C etc.?

While I have always been a great fan of disk magazines, I have for some reason devoted less and less time to reading other magazines over the years, leaving me in a position where I hardly read any at all, except for re-reading old issues of precious magazines. One explanation is that the magazines have grown beyond being a disk magazine to being a lha archive magazine, usually of such size that I cannot handle them easily. Thus, I don't handle them at all. Nevertheless, that's only a small part of the truth, and I can't really tell you why I don't read them as much any more. I DO enjoy it, after all. Perhaps I'll enter one of those scene periods soon, and then we'll see. I have never read Devotion, and I have hardly read (the new) Eurochart or Showtime (even though I liked what I saw when I saw it) - in fact, D.I.S.C. is the only magazine I have read with any intensity for ... two years? I really enjoyed the old-fashioned feeling of D.I.S.C. - it introduced a modern approach to a carefully preserved traditional style; I think you get the point. I guess I bear the face of conservatism, hah.

Ever tried to read a PC mag? If yes, what do you think about it?

I saw one a few years ago. I was neither impressed nor disgusted by it - I want the Amiga style. Thus, I don't care much for PC magazines. Good luck guys.

Looking back, in my humble opinion the flames with Fishwave in Jurassic Pack were one of your most popular articles ever. What about a new war? ;-)

While the Fishwave war had its nice aspects, it went a little out of hand after a while, probably not least thanks to me. Everything is done well that is not overdone, as history has it, and the last moves of the affair perhaps weren't that delicate. It is, though, my guess that neither of us really regrets what happened; at least, from my side, I regret only that what happened, happened so intensely in the end.

And besides, almost anything that springs out of intense feelings is great fun - not to say instructive - to read, no matter who wrote it, and given that the author wrote the text, waited a day or two, and then gave it some final beating. Then what you usually have is a text so intense that you feel the heat already when the title picture of the magazine is loading. More intensity, please, people.

What importance does the internet play in your activities? Are you also browsing or is email your highest priority??

Internet, regrettably, plays a very big role in my daily life. I probably spend the better part of an hour every day on the Internet - doing nothing particular most of the time. Mail is the premium usage as far as I am concerned, but surfing is a close second. Information retrieval made fast. RC5 for the Team Amiga, of course. Some general Amiga surfing, too.

What about Oepir Risti? Will it ever come back - I really hope yes. And if it will, please with rocking articles such as from the first issues. Please explain to us your method of writing articles. Do you have the content completely in your mind or do you develop it while writing???

Well, it hasn't been THAT long, has it? The last issue was released about a year ago (March 2000 (?)), and we hope to get a new issue ready before summer. You are, though, right in that the last issues of OR have been ... different from the first ones. The fervent eager to write exclusively for the scene is no longer there, or at least not as fuelled as before, and this unavoidably gives fewer true OR articles, and many others - not necessarily less interesting or worse. If you ask me, I'd say that the best issues are perhaps five to eight or seven Icing. It's a shame that you cannot know that, since the best articles have always been in Swedish. Looking back at for example the 7I issue, I can't help feeling that sting of nostalgia (or even sadness) - how much fun we had, and what crazy articles we orchestrated! Anyway, as I said, we are working on a new issue - the eleventh - and hope to get it ready before the summer holidays.

When writing a text for fun, like most scene articles, there's no use in starting unless you feel like it. Nothing will come out of nothing. The stronger feelings you have for the topic, the better your article will be - this is why my I restrict myself to certain parts (aspects) of the scene, parts that obviously involves at least some feelings from my side. They way it is for me, I perhaps read an article on a certain topic or get to think of it for some other reasons, and know - at least more or less - what I want to say about it. If I feel that I am in a "writing mode", I load some nice SID tunes and get going. I don't do any preliminary sketches or important points that I must include - I just write what comes to my mind. If the article is long - as was the 100 K editorial of OR 8 (or was that 9?) - I split up the writing between several days. Then, in the end, what you really should do is put aside the article for at least a weak, and the re-read it. This is probably the only way to get some perspective on your text, and it is indeed a CRITICALLY important step. All too often, however, I disregard it. Laziness, you know. My scene writing is not representative of my other writing. The definition of the scene, you know.

Writing a more serious text is, to me, more ... serious (is that a fact!), and requires perhaps some additional planning, but I usually go where, so to speak, my pulse takes me. Don't care too much about rules and conventions, but rather stick to your own opinions. And, of course, there's no practice like practice.

What will you do in 10 years?

Whereas growing old is unavoidable, growing up is optional and never really was my thing. In ten years I hope I'll live much the same life as I am living right now, perhaps with some slight modifications: a bit more money (however not too much), a kind young woman - possibly deaf so that I can go on with the SID tunes - and a lizard, which I can hold whenever I want. I'm healthy, and I still have a bunch of good friends - hopefully the same ones as I have now. My SID archive is complete and my collection of old Amiga games is nearly so, too. I even have time to play some of them, like Lost Dutchman's Mine. I made it past the PRO level of H.E.R.O.

One more joint or do you already have enough? ;-)))))

Naah, gimme another while we're at it. Nothing like sum sweet ol' Texas tobacco.

Anybody out there you want to greet at the end?

I would like to extend my greetings to all who after all these years keep on making high-quality demo-like productions on the Amiga. It has always been a pleasure to know some of you guys. Thanks.