4-Mat / Cosine,
Added on December 1st, 2009 (4399 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
I'm Matt Simmonds, 35 (argh), games sound designer living in the UK. I read a lot, write music, make the odd game now and then.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
Handle's always been 4-Mat. I needed a name after putting my first Amiga MODs pack together. The first one that came up was the combination of formatting a disk and a pun on my real name. Guess that's the most boring handle story ever.
What group(s) were you in?
When I first had a C64 in the 80's, I just hung around on Compunet and wrote some tracks in Master Composer and Ubik's Musik. On Amiga, I was in Slipstream, then Anarchy. When I came back to the C64, to have a go at learning assembly, I joined Cosine and now I'm in Ate Bit and Orb instead.
What roles have you fulfilled?
Musician. I guess it's coder as well now. I'm the only 65xx coder in Ate Bit.
How long were you active for?
1989-1992 on the Amiga. On C64, 1999 onwards and I do the odd thing on VIC 20. I wouldn't say I'm active these days, only if I get some idea that hasn't been done yet and it's fast to create.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I was into Compunet in the 80's because I had a coder friend who was downloading a lot of stuff (and ZZAP!64 magazine ran some articles on it). So I got a modem and joined up. I didn't have a disk drive first time around, so half my online time was spent saving them to tape (in kernal load). First thing I downloaded was Demon's Demo 1 by Neil Baldwin. Amiga was a natural progression from the C64, but I was still into demos. I joined Slipstream after sending some tracker modules out, then onto Anarchy where they became one of the biggest groups on Amiga in those days. On Amiga, I did mostly chip modules because I liked the SID sound.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
The usual stuff, collect parcels in the morning, maybe track a few songs for the day or get some sendings ready, then go out for the night. The important part was not letting it take over your life really. I quit when it stopped being fun. People were taking it really seriously, like it was a business or something.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Not on the C64. I was too late for that and my code skills are very amateur (VIC 20 scene is easier to find new stuff but I dunno if I have myself). On the Amiga, I was one of the first to do chip modules apparantly, not that I knew that at the time.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
On the Amiga, people seem to rate my chip tracks. On the C64, probably Mini Melodies/Cosine. It's a silly 2K music disk with a simple player routine, but I enjoyed working on it. Size coding interests me a lot.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
The Mighty Bogg – First SID demos I heard ever. I used to make bas-relief screens like his for my songs. WE M.U.S.I.C. – Not so scene-related as such, but La Femme Chinoise was the first proper demo I saw. Benn's music demos were inspiring. He has a great gift for harmony. The Judges – Always interesting work. The Mean Team – Great code. Also, they'd use the latest Rob Hubbard tracks so I didn't need to buy a bad game just to hear them. Amusingly that'd be frowned upon these days. Panoramic Designs – Breath of fresh air, even now. They were amazing coders before and then they took off in another direction, just like Melon did on the Amiga and MFX and Orange have done on the PC. Crossbow/Crest – Of course. Kjell Nordbø – He was the best in the new scene, totally dedicated to his art. Ron Klaren (Amiga) – Was carrying on the SID tradition onto the Amiga, great inspiration for my chip module work.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Last thing that really impressed me was the ultimate multiplexor routine in Krestage. The thinking behind that is real scene spirit.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Not parties, but the occasional tradeshow in the early 90's was good for meeting scene people. That kind of fizzled out when the consoles moved in. To be honest, that whole side of the scene never really interested me. It was pretty much just the demos.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
When you're young, it's a good place for honing your creative skills. At the time, there weren't many outlets for expressing yourself on a computer cheaply. You could get your work out to many people for nothing, the good stuff was spread, and the bad stuff stalled. I got into games development through the scene as there were many more sceners working in games in the 90's. I guess as you get older, it's kind of like proving to yourself you can keep up with the new guys. The demo scene was – and still is – a quite insular environment though, and I think it's pretty much been left behind these days. Interestingly, with the rise of the Internet, there's a parallel scene for 8-bit machines, mostly outside Europe, which has almost nothing to do with the demo scene as we know it, having come more from a NES games background. It seems like a lot more of the new guys are going there rather than into demos. These days, I can see why someone wouldn't feel the need to join the demo scene when there are so many other outlets for getting your work seen like YouTube, DeviantArt, or the indie games scene, etc.
What were the particular highlights for you?
My favourite C64 demos are: The Mighty Bogg albums (Lettuce! Detergent!), Crazy Sample 2/The Judges, We M.U.S.I.C. 1, Future Shock/Borderzone Design, Blue Forest/Shape, Kjell's R.A.W, Psykolog/PD, Sonix 13/Creators, Macho Programming/Triad, Roots/PU-239, and Camel Park/Camelot.
Any cool stories to share with us?
I was still getting scene mail to my old address a good five years after I left the scene. My Amiga MODs kept getting circulated around on the boards. That was kind of weird.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I speak to TMR and Odie now and then, but that's about it. I've worked with game coders who started on the C64 first. Not many like being reminded of their old work. :)
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
First one I got was in 1982 from my parents. I had my heart set on a VIC 20 but they were told this was the better machine, and they were right. I sold it in 1989 to buy an Amiga (sorry). I picked up another one in 1991 and have had that ever since. It's the one belonging to my coder friend from the 80's, still using the same power pack.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, the true demo scene started there (ignore Apple-II, heh heh) and it was the first place many of us saw work created on a computer just to entertain. Not to mention the music! I learnt analogue sound design on the C64 and then how to use samples on the Amiga, so huge thanks to Commodore for giving me a hands-on in audio production there.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Not sure. I always have a couple of things in my work folder, but it's real 'code for five minutes while waiting for something else to finish' kind of attitude these days.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Hello! I feel a bit of a fraud doing an interview for here when I was primarily an Amiga guy. :) Also sorry if I didn't send your disks back.
back to the list of available interviews