Zyron / Swedish Computer Gang,
Quari Cracking Group,
Wiz Game Swapping,
Fantastic 4 Cracking Group,
Added on February 5th, 2010 (6189 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
I'm Johan Åstrand, a 36 years old guy living in a really small place called Karlsborg in Sweden. I was born in Gothenburg on April 13:th (a Friday!) in 1973. I have a son who'll turn five in May. Right now I work as a programmer building communities and other stuff. My biggest interest is music and I buy way too much vinyl records. Three Saturdays a month you can listen to me mixing records on http://interstatefm.com. :)
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
The only handle I'm known by is Zyron, which I took in 1989 from the game Zyron's Escape. Earlier handles were Maniac, Trropic, Snobben, Felix and JPH in decreasing chronological order.
What group(s) were you in?
Early unknown days, all groups were started by myself and local friends/classmates:
Felix/Swedish Computer Gang (1986-1987): Felix was a name I came up with when calling the Swedish hotlines, telephone numbers where several people could talk to each other at the same time, similar to conferences. I spent a lot of time on Södertäljes hotline back then because some of the frequent callers were into C64 and also synth music. Making long distant calls were very expensive and when the phone bill arrived it turned out I had made calls for several thousand Swedish crowns, my mother was of course extremely upset. I had to get a job that summer to be able to pay her back.
Snobben/Quari Cracking Group (1987-1988): Snobben is the Swedish name for Snoopy, the cartoon dog. The other member was called Gnutten, after a Swedish cartoon.
Trropic/Wiz Game Swapping (1988): One of the callers on the Södertälje hotline that I talked to a lot called himself Trropic (hello Sauli, wherever you may be). I kind of liked the name and used it as a handle for a short while.
Maniac/Deceit (1988-1989): Don't remember why I choose this handle, but I soon noticed that it wasn't very imaginative and changed it.
Zyron/Deceit (1989-1992): Taken from the game Zyron's Escape, as mentioned earlier.
Later known days, all under the handle Zyron: Antic (1992-1996), Swemix (1994-1996), The Remembers (1994-1995), Nostalgia (1995-present), Fantastic 4 Cracking Group (1996-2004), and Oxsid Planetary (1996-present).
What roles have you fulfilled?
Mainly a musician, but I did some swapping, coding and cracking as well. I also tried to organize Nostalgia for a while.
How long were you active for?
From around 1986/87 until 2007/08 or something like that. Nowadays I'm seriously inactive production wise, but I haven't given up the old breadbox yet.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I believe I started out in a similar way as many others; copying and playing an enormous amount of turbo tape games and getting inspired by crack intros and demos and wanting to do things like that myself. First using BASIC (which of course was way too slow) and later on in machine code and Assembler. Everyone around me had only been interested in gaming and as time went by they either moved on to the Amiga or simply lost interest and sold their C64s which made me give up all C64 activities as well some time in 1988, and the breadbox got stored in the basement.
In 1990 when I started high school in a nearby town called Tibro (home of other sceners like Iron/Tronix and Dino/Fairlight) one of my new class mates (later Linco/Deceit) mentioned that he had a friend who was coding demos on the C64. The guy called himself Droid/The New Terminators. He was a much better coder than me and the person who introduced me to Turbo Assembler. I dug out the breadbox from the basement and started coding again, this time for real! For about a year and a half I spent more or less every weekend at Droid's place coding, discussing routines, watching new demos, drinking beer and writing scrolltexts. Sometimes it was like a little meeting in his apartment with me and Psycho of Deceit, Droid, Killer, and Linco of The New Terminators, plus two other guys calling themselves Lord and Tomcat present. The normal scenario would be me and Droid sitting by his C64 most of the time while the rest were either playing games or watching demos on Killer's Amiga. These were the best of times!
Since there were a couple of other sceners living in Tibro, Droid had more and newer demos than me, and also a couple of music editors. I copied all of them and started composing. I think Horizon's version of the Soede editor was the first I tried out (Collection 1), then some version of the Skyline editor (Collection 2), Sound Master (Collection 3) and Future Composer (Collection 4).
In April 1991 me, Droid, Killer and Linco took a trip to the Horizon Easter party - my first real copy party, and what an experience it was! We shared room with Gotcha, McSprite, Tycoon and some other Cosmos and Ikari+Talent members, so we saw Mamba #17 and McGottifant take shape. Watching Gotcha drawing those animated sprites was really awesome.
During this party I copied a lot of new stuff and met a lot of nice people, for example Oze/TPF who used a tune of mine in one of his parts for the Mother Mooh demo which competed in the demo compo. Hearing my music being played in the assembly hall during the compo was a really cool experience! Deceit and The New Terminators released a quite lame coop megademo that me and Droid had been working on for a couple of months.
I met Voyager/Accuracy who was kind enough to paint me a couple of logos for the next Deceit demo Inferno which I was working on at the time. At the party I got a copy of some version of Voice Tracker which would be my editor of choice for a couple of years to come. After the party I finished Inferno and then started working on the next demo, Digital Force. Droid moved to Gothenburg to study, so we didn't meet that much any longer.
In early 1992 me, Psycho, Droid, Killer and Linco went to an Atari/Amiga party in the nearby town Skövde, the arranger was a group called Brainless Institute. We were the only C64 users at the party and we felt kind of misplaced in the big halls, so we rigged or gear in a small room just outside the headmasters office instead. Outside our room was one of the main hallways, so there were always a lot of people on the move. During the party, several curious persons visited our room as well as the occasional C64 scener like Rowdy and Dino. Later that weekend two guys calling themselves Depeh/Antic and Kingpin/WoW noticed us. They were really surprised to see us and Depeh said something like: "C64s! Cool!", and about an hour later they returned with their own equipment and we had a nice litte C64-only party within the party. :) I was working on the Digital Force demo at this time and the Inferno demo had been ready for months, so I decided to release it at the party to get rid of it since it felt old and outdated.
After this party I joined Antic as a musician after an offer from Depeh, and that's when my real scene years started! I stayed in Deceit as a coder and a few weeks later Droid, Killer and Linco accepted to join the group, and even later another local guy called Shastar/Weird joined as a graphician. After Digital Force was released me and Droid started on the next demo, The Liquid Wall, a demo where we worked on all parts together, sending source code to each other through snailmail. Unfortunately Droid started losing all interest in the C64 during this period, he met a girlfriend and his coding came to a complete stop. I finished and released The Liquid Wall at the Light+Phenomena Easter party 1992, with a little help from Shastar. It didn't turn out anyway near as good as we had planned and during the summer of 1992 I decided to leave and bury Deceit.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I would sit in front of the computer after school doing things like copying disks, making music and coding until very late. :)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Not that I remember.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
That would probably be my music collections Echoes of Rapture and The Oxsid Book plus my +11HI version of Zig Zag on which I spent an enourmous amount of time. The memory was so packed I had to hide my highscore saver behind the black sprites on the title screen with the upscroller. :)
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
From the start it was the very early crackers and cracking groups that had either just changed a text line or a sprite element in a game, sometimes so discreetly it took me quite some time before I understood that it was actually changed and for what reason (for example, the girl in Donkey Kong screaming '1103' instead of 'Help', '1103' was written on the billboard in Cup Final and the KBR sprite in Olympic Skier when you crash.) There was something very mystic and magical about those tags showing up everywhere.
Later it was the intros linked to the turbo tape games which appealed to me (German Cracking Service, Cream Crackers, Xerox, Mr.Z, Clonekid and Oddball, 1001 Crew, 1701, ABC, Antiram, etc. etc.) One of the very first intros I remember being very impressed by was Sodan's intro for ACE with David Whittaker's cover of Kraftwerk's The Model. I've spent so many hours watching that intro, listening to the music and reading the (unfortunately much too short) scrolltext.
Some time later I got a tape where one of the files wasn't a game; it was something else that someone had made. I didn't really understand what it was at first, but it was a demo. I can't remember which demo it was, but I'm sure it was something from Compunet. The other side of that tape was filled with Compunet one-filers and a whole new world opened up for me.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
That's a tricky question since there were so many cool things invented on the C64, from the opening of the borders to new impossible graphic modes like FLI and NUFLI. I think I'll have to say the tape turbo though cause without it and the possibility of swapping hundreds of games on a C90 tape, I doubt the C64 would've had such an impact.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Yes, I did visit some 25 of them. The first big one was the Horizon Easter party in Huddinge 1991 where Dr Cool started arguing with me and probably alot of other people as well. He said "Say you're a lamer", so I said "You're a lamer" which did upset him slightly. The people he was hanging out with at the time (maybe some other Censor members, not sure) seemed to think it was kind of fun though and made him stop messing around with me by saying something like "C'mon, let's go. Don't waste your time on that lamer." :)
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
Showing what you're capable of and getting feedback. Getting to know like-minded people.
What were the particular highlights for you?
One of the highlights for me was definitely the HZ Easter party in 1991. I especially remember the demo competition which was a great experience. Another highlight was when I won the music compo at X'97. Joining Antic and getting into the scene for real was also a highlight. I can also remember the satisfaction I felt when I saw my handle in the charts of some mag for the first time.
Any cool stories to share with us?
Well, this is partly C64 related: Around 1995/96 I used to spend a lot of time in the IRC channel #c-64, but I also hung out in the #pinkfloyd channel quite a bit. One of the most frequent visitors of that channel was a guy called Pihl which I used to chat a lot with. After some months, when another user in the channel did a /whois on me, he saw that I was in the #c-64 too and wrote something like: "Hey Pihl! Look! Zyron and you seem to have something more in common. He's in the #c-64 channel." It turned out that Pihl was Arrow/Triad! (Hi Fredrik, if you read this.)
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Yes, a couple. Mainly through sites like CSDb and Facebook, but also on MSN/ICQ.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got it in 1984 but that one died on me years ago. I have two other ones though, one old and one new model.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
But of course! :)
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
I can't say when, but it will definitely happen eventually. :)
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Greetings everyone! You're far too many to mention but you know who you are.
back to the list of available interviews