Rico / Silver Rom Crackers,
Added on December 26th, 2014 (2374 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Well, my full name is Govert Fredrik Rico Blom. I was born in 1970 in a small town in Sweden called Sandviken, but now I live in Uppsala, a slightly bigger city in Sweden. I'm currently living in a big house in the countryside with my two kids. I work as a software developer/engineer, but I also have an interest in film-making and work as a stunt performer and also compose film music. Apart from film-making, which serves a dual purpose as both a hobby and an extra job, I have a big interest in training, working-out and other physical activities.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
When I started out on the scene, I used the handle TNT for no other reason than that I thought it sounded cool. Later on, I changed my handle to Coq Rouge, taken from a series of books about a sort of Swedish James Bond nicknamed Coq Rouge in the books. I kept this handle for the first few demos by Pretzel Logic, but then changed it to my real (second) name, Rico.
What group(s) were you in?
My first group was one of my own founding, called Silver Rom Crackers. Silver Rom is a Swedish brand of rum (which is spelled and pronounced "rom" in Swedish). The group was formed together with a couple of friends, BJ Brain and WIP. The other members of Silver Rom Crackers were no longer that active after a while, so I followed Injun (Jörgen Johansson) to Triumph 2001. This group released some nice demos, but as I remember it, they faded away after a bit, so I again followed Injun, this time to Agile. My interest was mainly in making demos, though, and since Agile was first and foremost a cracking group, I didn't really fit in there.
After that, I formed Pretzel Logic together with some local friends, Spiham and Rastan, who shared my idea of what demos should be about, and that's still where I am now. I later started my own computer consultancy under the same name. It comes from an album by the group Steely Dan, and our last demo The Royal Scam is also named after one of their albums.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I guess I have fullfilled most roles except musician, though my artistic abilities when it came to graphics were limited to really simple stuff in a few early demos. Making some C64 music was always a dream of mine, but I never got around to composing with the SID (not for release, anyway). I did however create some players and editors, but it wasn't until later that I got into composing music. Actually, the music for the only commercially released game we made, Break Down (featured in the very last issue of Zzap!64), was composed by a friend of mine – the guy who created the character Kråkan and a lot of the music for the Swedish kids' series Mamma Mu och Kråkan (Mama Moo and the Crow) – but I arranged his music in my player and I may even have done a part of the tunes myself.
How long were you active for?
Hmm, I guess you could say I was active from 1987 until 1994, when I attended my last party, but I was not that active at all in the latter few of those years. On the other hand, I feel like I've never really left the scene, just taken a very long break...
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
As I remember them, those were fantastic years! Being a teenager with loads of time on your hands and grand visions of making both stunning and of course mega-selling games and cool demos was a great combination. I think the dreaming and enthusiasm were a really great energy kick, and I try to stay true to that principle even now.
I have always been a coder and that's why I got myself a computer called Colour Genie. The Genie was a computer that looked like the C64 but had totally different hardware. I soon switched to the C64 and started coding straight away. This was back in 1984 or 1985 and demos were still something unheard-of for me, I was more or less solely focussed on making games. Since playing games was also a big interest of mine, I wanted to get my hands on new games faster, so I got in touch with Jörgen (who was then Jolly Roger of United Style Crackers). While games were the main thing, I also got some of his and others' demos and started to get interested in making and spreading demos myself.
I made my first demos without knowing what a cruncher was, and sent them un-crunched to some guys whose addresses I had found in other demos and crack intros. The first few demos (I think we did three at Silver Rom Crackers, one for each of the group's members) were just basic one-part demos with a ripped (and altered) image, some ripped music and a simple scrolltext.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Oh, my... As I remember it, I would get up for school but, more often than not, I ended up doing some coding or such like before actually heading off to school. This would continue after school with more coding, going to visit my fellow group members (at least while in Pretzel Logic, as we lived quite close to each other) or hanging out with Injun. I guess you could say that everything was about the C64, certainly the coding, planning demos and games, and also of course playing games every now and then.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I was never a very technical coder when it came to playing around with the VIC chip, and our demos were rarely focussed on pushing the technical limits of the C64. Maybe it has something to do with my interest in film-making, but I think for me it was more about realising a vision in the demo using whatever means it took to get it done. That said, we did work with animated graphics a lot, and I made some tools for helping out with this, both for the artists and also for me as a coder. Also, when it came to making games, I did of course write some tools for creating levels and stuff for the games we were planning (but hardly ever finished, unfortunately).
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
There are some demos (or parts of demos) that I am really proud of, and I would say that I am quite happy with the last demo I/we released, The Royal Scam. It highlighted all the things I liked about demos back then, such as having a story running through each part. I'm also proud of Batmania. More generally, I'm just proud of having been a part of the scene, even if I was never really elite or anything. Looking back, it was a fantastic time and a great thing to have been a part of.
The thing I maybe most wanted to do was get a game out there. I did manage to finish a couple of games, and while nothing ever got picked up by a games company or anything, I did manage to get a game on the cover of the last ever issue of Zzap!64 magazine. The game itself may not have been the best ever, but I can still be proud of having actually finished and got some money for it.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Some of the, from my perspective, early guys like The Judges were always heroes. They pushed the limits and made it classy, a bit boastful of course, but still classy. I guess it was also because they got in there quite early with the demo-making. I also really liked some of the things from Ash & Dave and Ian & Mic. Later on, I became very fond of the demos by Fairlight and Censor Design, who still make really excellent demos. I was also always impressed by composers and those who made the players, in particular Rob Hubbard and Dave Whittaker, but also Maniacs of Noise and other musicians.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Since I was never a very technically-minded coder, I was really impressed by anything that pushed the limits of the hardware, especially of course the VIC-II chip. I think the one thing that impressed me most back then, and still does, is the scrolling of images.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I sure did! I can't remember them all, it's a bit blurry, but I do remember my first party in Kalmar, followed by the party in Furulund the same year. I also attended the infamous Ikari & Zargon party in Slagelse in 1989. I went with a bunch of guys from Uppsala on a coach someone had organised (possibly Thundercats, I'm no longer sure, but that was where I met Sanke for the first time). Other than that, there were a bunch of Swedish parties: the Easter party in Eskilstuna, then Huddinge, some party in Tyresö, and so on. The last one I went to was in Allingsås in 1994.
I also went to the tradeshow in London for three years. I can't remember the name, but it was held at Earls Court and was great fun. One year was particularly exciting, as the boat from Gothenburg to England caught fire and was almost evacuated before we could get to Denmark and board another ferry. While I took the whole thing in my stride, I was rather worried that my disks – which I had left in my cabin – would be destroyed either by the fire or by seawater. They contained the final version of my game Break Down which I was planning to exhibit at the tradeshow. The disks were fine, though, and although I didn't manage to sell my game, I was able to show it to a few companies with various degrees of success.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
For me, it was a combination of gaining skills, showing off your skills, meeting new people and learning about group dynamics and competition. It was a very special way of gaining global social skills, before there were social networks like today.
What were the particular highlights for you?
I remember being invited to participate in Demo of the Year, which made me feel pretty big at the time. We never managed to come up with anything, though. The very positive reviews and reactions to The Royal Scam and Batmania were also a particular highlight.
Any cool stories to share with us?
I remember my friend Bjarne fell asleep on his keyboard at the Furulund party and woke up with an imprint of the keyboard on his face, I guess many of us have done that over the years. It is also hard NOT to remember the Ikari & Zargon party where someone came down with meningitis. Because it can be contagious, the authorities wanted to keep track of us, leading to visits from both doctors and the police. There was a bit (!) of a panic among many attendees when the police walked in the door, but they did then assure us they were only there to check on everyone's medical condition.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Well, thanks to Facebook, it's hard NOT to be in contact nowadays, both with people I knew back then and also people I didn't know at the time but have since connected with. I rarely meet up with folk in person, though. I should probably do something about that...
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got my C64 in 1984 or 1985, and I still have it. It's actually on display in my living room, though I managed to break it some years ago. I do have a working C128D that I hook up every now and then, and also some other Commodore computers lying around (a A500, for instance).
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Yes, it was and still is. It introduced a whole generation (and then some!) to computers, and not only for coding but also for creating music and graphics. This can of course also be said of other home computers, but the C64 was exceptional. The C64's influence wasn't limited to sceners either, just listen to the electronic music of the 1980s and beyond, much of which is filled with very SID-inspired arpeggios (Timbaland, anyone?). Anyone who grew up at that time has some connection to the C64, and many can still name games like The Great Giana Sisters, International Karate and other C64 titles from that time, even if they were never particularly into computers. It was and is a phenomenon.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Who knows. My idea was always to do some new stuff or to put out some old stuff that never got released at the time. Mikael Dunker, one of the artists from Pretzel Logic, got in touch with me just the other day and had some ideas for a new demo. He has also contacted Sanke Choe, who was interested in making some music, so maybe, maybe...
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
I think it's amazing how all you guys keep up your interest in the C64, keep digging out the old stuff and even keep making new stuff. I hope to join in again sometime soon.
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