Interview with Romeo Knight

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(picture : Romeo Knight in 1992 )

thanx eike for the answers….

Past

-Before becoming «  Romeo Knight , » can you tell us your story ?

Thanks for being here! First of all, on a side note, it’s quite funny there’s still enough interest in my person for an interview since almost all of my « popularity » leads back to the music I did more than 20 years ago in a nerd scene:-D, I guess we’re experiencing some kind of retro-boom right now, not only computer-wise.
But musically it started even earlier, I actually got musical education at a very early age, had classical clarinet lessons and so on. Although it got boring at one point (usual trend for a teen learning a classical intrument) it helped a lot understanding music in general. Then, at the age of 14, I got a C64 (well, actually it was a C128 used in C64-mode only) which opened up the world of SID music to me. Being struck by the tunes of Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway and Chris Huelsbeck – I listened to C64 game tunes at home like others listened to chart music – I started making music myself using Huelsbeck’s brilliant Soundmonitor.
So, though being known for an « AMIGA music guy », for me the C64 was the root that started it all (like for many other musicians in the scene, too).

-Why did you choose Amiga to create songs ?

The Amiga was the next logical step for making music on a computer. I mean – using samples! Samples, OMG!:-) Suddenly it was possible to use any sound you wanted for your compositions; naturally the HC Deluxe Sound Audio-Digitizer was the first thing I purchased for my new AMIGA 500. Now, two decades later, apart from the sample use, it looks like the AMIGA was more of a downgrade musically because there was no provided way for modulations or any kind of synth functionality (in contrast to the SID chip of the C64 which basically was a full multitimbral synthesizer and way ahead of it’s time as a dedicated homecomputer soundchip. No wonder chipmusic is still popular today). The Amiga had its trademark sound somehow but generally it was kind of static if you didn’t use all kinds of tricks to make it sound lively. However, back then, it was considered as a real improvement since you got rid of the bleepy chip sound we all love nowadays.:-)

-How did you create your compositions ( tools ) ?

On AMIGA I started with Aegis Sonix, a quite awkward program where you put actual notes on a notation sheet to compose. Still, you could use your own samples which made it first choice until the Soundmonitor was released. Like most AMIGA musicians I used the typical Noisetracker and Protracker versions for music tracking later on. I also tried other tracker programs like Oktalyzer and Sidmon but I they couldn’t excite me a lot. I made two songs on Sidmon which I hated back then since I only did them because I simply got asked to do them and had no urge to go back to a mixture of samples and chippy sounds (that in fact sounded worse than the C64 SID sound). Funnily, both became classics somehow, people liked them for some reason unknown to me.:-)
So, well…Protracker it was and no stock samples, please!

-When , how and why did you join Red sector ?

In fact – I don’t have a clue anymore, it’s too long ago.:-) The only thing I remember was that I got in contact with guy called Skyhawk around 1987 and he introduced me to some of the Red Sector guys a bit later, like IRATA, Flynn, Pater Becker, Hamster etc. ; the Red Sector «HQ» was in Duesseldorf at that time, my hometown, so this was the coincidence,
Actually I wasn’t keen on being a member of a cracking group at all, it was just nice that I found some people who were interested in my music which I was doing anyway at that time. For me, it was some kind of distribution platform that made it possible to let my music reach quite a bunch of people worldwide. I wasn’t involved in many scene activities at all, I think the only party I ever attended in those very early times was the Radwar Party 1988 – and that was basically for boozing and having fun with friends. (Ah, nothing changed nowadays apparently:-))

-What were your main sources of inspiration at this time ?

This seems like a quite obvious answer: Music. Electronic music, Hiphop music, Metal music, all music I was listening to at that time. And it’s even more obvious in the case of making Amiga modules since I sampled a lot of instruments from my favorite songs and bands. The most famous example would be the drums in « Cream Of The Earth » I took from «Buffalo Stance» by Neneh Cherry.

-What was your first Demoparty and what kind of memories are still in your mind today ?

Haha, as mentioned before, my first demoparty was a Radwar party around ’88. As far as I remember it was really fun getting wasted with all the other teenage nerds around, just keep in mind I wasn’t used to partying much at all since I was basically one of those geeky homebodies. I met Mr. Gravenreuth and some ASM editor (ASM=Aktueller Software Markt, one of Germany’s leading game magazines of that time), arguing about the perspectives of the levels in the Amiga game « Zany Golf » being correct or not. (Don’t ask me why I do remember stupid things like THIS…some shit just keeps sticking to your mind)
A big thing, however, was when wo won the 1st prize in in the World Of Commodore demo competition 1992 with the Wicked Sensation demo by TRSi. The prize was in fact a car (a brown Seat Ibiza….:-)) and parts of the demo and the prize giving were aired on german national TV. This was the kind of experience that gave a scener nerd like me a bit confidence that even passed on into Real Life(TM).:-)

-What was your others center of interest at this time ?

Besides music and computer not much and this didn’t change a lot. 😉
(I did a lot of sports actually, Track and Field, Tennis, Table Tennis, Basketball, Decathlon, Hyper Sports, Winter Games)

-How did you get in touch with games companies ?

No specific memories about how it happened. Apart from that some people I knew introduced me to some people at Starbyte. And The Strauch Brothers, working for Hudson Soft, contacted me for the Bomberman/Dynablaster soundtrack. They took me for a weekend to Hamburg where I met all the other people involved (like, for example, Michael Kleps who runs reFX and does VSTi programming today) and converted the whole soundtrack by ear into 3-channel Amiga mods in 2 days.
I never really aimed forces at making game music, I never advertised my services to immerge into game music business at that time, which I regret quite a bit because I had all the opportunities. Look what I kind of nerd I had been.:-)

-What kind of feelings did you keep of this experience ( making music for video games) ?

Not much, except that one thing: If you wanna earn money by making music, you need to treat it like a business because that’s what it is. In fact, back in the days, I even didn’t bother asking to get paid for the jobs I was applied to, but I just didn’t care enough. Stupid, immature me. Well, that changed today.:-)

Present

-Are you still composing for Demoscene ?

Yes. I came back 2007, I’m a member of Brainstorm since then but will compose for anyone who’s got a promising project in development. It’s about the fun of it, and a little bit profile.:-)

-What do you think of today Demoscene compare to the 90’s one?

I like it much better today – people grew up and there’s less serious competition, usually no senseless fights about who’s the greatest anymore, it’s more about real creativity now. We’ve realized we’re quite a small community and most of us feel like being part of a big family. In fact I found a couple of really good friends in the scene since I’m back, and partying, boozing and chatting with them is at least as important as producing actual demos (or other demoscene releases).

-What is your opinion about remixes of old tracks (from c64 or Amiga ) and why did you create some ?

I love a well-made remix that stays true to the original, still adding creative ideas of the remixer.
After years of playing guitar in several bands I liked the idea of doing solo projects again.
Doing remixes (which are actually remakes) of my favorite C64 game tunes was the perfect thing to get back into actual music production ; I had a studio at my hands all the time for commercial and voiceover business, so it was just a matter of my own impetus. That’s when I reinvented my old pseudonym again, too. Although I hated it.:-)

-You are engaged in many activities ( music for games, studio , guitarist …) , in wich one do you think you can express accurately your inspiration as composer ?

I love everything for its own sake. Of course, if I work alone on my own tracks without any guidelines, I have the most direct output of my creative ideas, still, working together with other musicians can inspire a lot, too. If I work on game music,e.g. tiny hints about the setting or mood of a scene or game level can already spark a musical idea in my mind, so I don’t feel too restricted when working for such a paid project. It’s a different kind of experience trying to meet the expectations of your client, but it’s still fun and satisfying most of the time. Same goes for hire work as a guitarist, it’s quite a welcome change having the opportunity to only concentrate on your instrument alone instead of bothering about the whole arrangement of a track. And I love guitar solos, playing as well as listening to them. 🙂

-What kind of mood , environment and atmosphere you need to have when composing ?

Mmmh, that’s not easy to answer. Often the best ideas come up when you least expect it. (…)
I don’t think the mood is really important, it logically has influences on the result but even if I’m in a bad mood, it cannot distract me from being productive. Making music really helps me to disconnect from that everyday shit. Usually I really want to be in the studio alone with doors closed, I hate being interrupted while being in the process, no matter if I’m composing or only listening back, mixing or learning a guitar part.
I’m not the fastest composer, I don’t have as much output as many musicians in the scene but I’ve never experienced any lack of ideas, I’m able to create instantly from scratch, anytime, anywhere.

-What is the last book , the last film and the last music that really impact you ?

-Book: I rarely read nowadays due to lack of time.
-Film: Prometheus. I know, it got horrible inconsistencies in the storyline and character development but it’s still a brillant piece of cinematography, I loved the artwork, the set and the whole sinister mood. It made me watch all the Alien stuff again (even Alien 4 and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, yes :-))
-Music: I listen to a lot of metal in my freetime, right now the last Meshuggah album and Periphery are running in my player a lot. I’m also realizing right now how brilliant a lot of movie soundtracks from the 80s were.

-What kind of projects are you recently working on ?

I’m very happy that Chris Huelsbeck recently asked me to lay down some guitar tracks for his upcoming Turrican Soundtrack Anthology, it’s a really cool project! (Especially playing lead guitar on top of his Turrican remakes is really an amazing thing to do for me).
Apart from that I’m working on the game soundtrack for a couple of mobile games by independent game studios, nothing to become famous with but still a lot of fun to do and reputable work, too.
Whenever I got extra time for music making I work on my upcoming album featuring guitar-based instrumental music – style-wise basically quite heavy stuff mixed with electronica. But as far as I can see it right now I don’t expect it to be finished before 2014.
And last but not least, there’s my recent band «Samsara Circle» I play bass in that needs the regular dose of rehearsing to play live decently.

Futur

how do you imagine yourself in ten years ?

Old.

A project that you would really love to realise ?

Well, I’d imagine a lot of interesting projects but in fact, I still just try to improve in what I’m doing and get it out there to the audience; that way I already got involved in many fantastic projects I never thought would be possible a few years ago. Like the 6581 band which covers C64 music on live events, the collaboration with Xerxes and Bendik to play live on demoscene events, getting hired as a session guitarist for other peoples projects etc etc.
I’d really love to score for some high-profile games for PC or consoles in the future though, at best something in a really dark sci-fi setting, that’d be really awesome. However, let’s see what future brings.:-)

——–

links : http://www.romeoknight.net/

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