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Interview with Ziphoid
by Taper/Triad

Welcome to this issue's interview chapter! This time around we have conducted an interview with Ziphoid/Active/SecneSat about his past and current scene career. This interview has been especially interesting for me, being involved in scene media as well, even though in very different ways. Let's not beat around the bush, let the interview begin!

Hello Ziphoid, and thanks for letting us conduct this interview with you! Let's start with a little information about yourself, so could you give us a brief introduction?

Hey Taper and thanx for having me included here! :) Well, I'm John, just turned 42, recently engaged, have two kids + five bonus kids and these days work as a web developer.

How did you start your scene-career back in the 80s?

I stumbled onto the scene through some friends and thought it was a cool thing and wanted to know more about it and got to know more people as it came along and then I was stuck.

At first you used The Survivor as handle, but later changed to Ziphoid. What was your motive for changing handle?

Well, I took The Survivor as a sort of temporary thing and never really felt for it. Then, when thinking about it a bit later, I thought I'd better come up with something that I could at least like for myself. I then grabbed my pocket calculator, a copy of the Concise English Dictionary and wrote a little randomizer to give me 10 words.

The best one of those was 'Xiphoid' which I kinda liked, apart from feeling that the X was a bit heavy. Therefore, I changed it to a Z and was pleased with that. Many people think I took this as a nudge towards Zaphod Beeblebrox, but that's not the case at all.

You used to be a member of groups such as Razor 1911 and Triumph. Do you have any nice stories from then? Please share a bit of history from days gone by!

Hmm, well, there are so many, especially from the time in Razor, so it's hard to pick one... I became a member of Razor in a quite funny way, though. After hearing about the amazing Danish Gold party in 1987, me and Dexter/Active set off to the follow-up party in 1988.

After my first flight ever and an exciting train ride, hiding from the conductor, we arrived to Odense and the whole station was filled with cops with machine guns and stuff. This was due to the fact that they were arresting a couple of murderers who were running from Sweden.

We were quite startled, to say the least, but got ourselves to the party place, which was a mess. A way too small cabin with room for about 10-20 people was the venue, but there was a couple of hundred people waiting outside while the organizers were drunk and didn't care. There are some more stories about this party on CSDb, so I won't go deeper into this right now.

I popped into the cabin and started talking to a guy who was sitting there with his Amiga 1000, coding on a demo. He asked me what I did and when I said I was a musician, he asked me if I wanted to join and by that I became the first non-Norwegian member of Razor 1911.

Later you ended up in Active, where you have stayed ever since. How did you end up a member of The Girls Number One?

It was due to knowing Dexter and through him Surfer, who was running the group. Me and Surfer were almost twins in the way we looked at that point, and were quite popular with the ladies, so therefore it fit pretty well. Interestingly enough, I actually got to know just a year ago when browsing through Mahoney's little project searching for Ziphoid, that I was kicked from Active due to laziness. I don't think I got that memo, though. ;)

When meeting some of the still-active Active members at X 2006, I kinda was part of the group again. These days, I've actually had a track in a little intro as well, so now I guess I can validate my membership again.

You've handled many different tasks during the years, but except for founding SceneSat (which we will talk more about later), you are probably mostly known as a musician. You haven't composed tons of music, but there are some really nice tunes in your back-catalogue, used in demos, crack intros and music collections. Is there any tune you are particularly fond of yourself?

To be honest, I HAVE composed tons of music, but I've only released a quite small number of them. I think that if I found my old work disks, I would probably find a bunch of tracks that could have been released without too much more work, especially on the Amiga.

When it comes to my HVSC-directory, two of the tracks are actually covers of Amiga tunes from my group members Codex and Uncle Tom. I think those are quite nice conversions, for sure, but when it comes to the other tracks, I think I'm most pleased with the three tracks to the game "Sword of Honour". I made those in an editor I had never used before and I had an evening to get them done, so they were done within five hours and turned out quite OK for that small amount of work. Also, I must say that I'm quite happy with my come-back SID, "Back in the saddle". I made that in two hours at the Sunrise demo party in 2011.

I have a soft spot for 80s music, so I really like your Jan Hammer cover used in an old Unit 5 intro. What music editor(s) did you use back then?

Oh, dang. That little cover was made in 5 minutes since the guys in Abnormal asked me for something quick at a party in Norway. It's actually b0rking up if you let it loop a few times so it's pretty crappy. ;)

I basically used whatever tool I had at my disposal, and that particular one I believe was made in Future Composer. On the Amiga, I of course used the regular Sound-, Noise- and Protrackers, but I actually did most of my tracks in the more synthetic-driven editors like Future Composer, FredEd and our own Musicline Editor. I've never had any problems with the tools apart from these days when the limits what you can do in them kind of have been blurred out. I believe I need those restrictions to actually get creative enough to get anything done.

In 2011 you released another tune, "Back in the saddle", the first in many years. Are you planning to do more composing in the future, and what is your preferred music editor these days?

I'm trying to get back into composing again, for sure. I still haven't really found the best way to do this, though, since every time I sit down in front of a fully fledged DAW, like Logic Pro or similar, I get kind of lost in the possibilities and never get anywhere. The toughest part is to start. :) What I've done to circumvent that is to get back into things in the smaller scale, using GoatTracker/CheeseCutter and HivelyTracker. That gives me the restrictions I need to be able to do something.

Apart from that, I will be forcing myself to sit down in a modern DAW (probably Logic Pro, Reaper, Renoise or Reason) a couple of hours per week to get started. It won't matter if I get any tracks fully made like that or not, the plan is to get used to the workflow and to learn how it all works. :)

SceneSat has become very popular and I'm one of those who often tune in when you broadcast live from some party which I'm unable to attend myself. As the founder of SceneSat, can you tell us a bit about when and how you got the idea to start broadcasting scene radio?

When I went to Back In Time Live in Brighton 2003, I met a lot of guys in the C64 remixing scene and amongst them were Morpheus/Flash Inc., Slaygon/Censor Design and a bunch of others. They were involved in Slaygon's little pet project SLAY Radio. At the end of 2005, I joined along for a bunch of broadcasts and got completely hooked doing that. In 2006, I did my first own show on SLAY and a lot more were to come from that.

After going to broadcast from Dreamhack and Birdie, and then visiting my first demo party in many years by going to X 2006, I realised that broadcasting from parties was a fun thing. I also loved the music from other platforms than the C64 so I mixed in music from all sorts of sources into my shows. That didn't really go well with some of the others since SLAY is a C64-only (with a pinch of Amiga thrown in occasionally) radio, so therefore they kind of "fired" me. That only made me realise that I really wanted to keep on doing this. During the last year of broadcasting for SLAY, I had actually played with the idea of starting a sub-station that stretched out a bit more than just the C64. Now, with me not being part of that any more, it made sense to do something about it.

The very same evening that I was fired, I started chatting to my Danish friend Hazel, who I knew already had set up his own little stream with demoscene music, much like SLAY started from the beginning, when Slaygon wanted to be able to listen to C64 remixes wherever he was. After deciding that we should try to do something, I got hold of my friend Fnord, who had the technical knowledge of setting up and running a web radio and then also Sir Garbagetruck, who had the scene knowledge. With both of them on board, we decided to go for it. After about a week of that decision, we had a first version of a stream up and running, and then it has progressed from that. We're constantly working on improving the systems involved and more and more people seem to want to help out, so we're growing as a team and that gives us more possibilities to make more things happen.

Technology advance must have made your work with SceneSat at least a bit easier down the road, but can you tell us a bit about the initial challenges you faced regarding the technical aspects when first starting out broadcasting?

The first things were really quite problematic, in the sense of getting hosting, bandwidth, server power and similar. Luckily, after buying a server, I could host it at the data centre of the company I work for, so that solved a lot of the initial problems. We also needed to set up a proper radio server software but there we had a lot of help by the fact that Fnord had helped setting up the SLAY Radio system earlier.

We went for a similar solution and got things up and running pretty quickly, even though it was very rudimentary from the beginning. Also, this was only the server side. The challenges for the client side, especially when broadcasting from parties, have been quite a lot bigger. It's not easy to bring along all the equipment needed to be able to do a proper broadcast when you're travelling everywhere. That has been revised a bunch of times throughout the years and we keep on improving it when we can afford it.

I guess you are using other hardware setups for broadcasting now. What are the most important hardware and software items you're using to keep SceneSat running?

As mentioned earlier, the setup has kind of stayed the same on the server side, but improved a lot on the client side. What we're currently running on the server side is Spacial's SAM Broadcaster. It is a radio broadcasting software that we really only use as a mixing software that lets us do streaming to multiple relays. It's really the only affordable solution that does the trick, if you're not gonna do it yourself. Yes, people will argue about this since there are multiple tools that basically do the same thing, but for what we need it for, this has been the best one yet.

However, we ARE looking into creating our own streaming server, which will give us the kind of possibilities we need to evolve further. It will just take time, since we don't have an unlimited amount of that.

Client-wise, it really depends on who is doing the broadcast. My setup is Mac-based and I use Nicecast for audio streaming and Telestream's Wirecast for video streaming. Each broadcaster use their own preferred set of tools, though. For example, I use Traktor for playing music, while others might use Mixx and SAM. It really depends on the person and what kind of equipment he or she has to use, since we can in no way afford supplying a standard set of tools to our broadcasters. :) It's not really a paying gig, this... ;) That said, we've put in - happily - quite a lot of money into this ourselves, and we'll keep doing so.

It IS a quite expensive machinery to run, but the biggest chunk of that is time. Money always helps with paying hosting bills, software licenses, hardware purchases and traveling. Luckily, we do get some donations every now and then, which really help us keep this running. We'll keep doing it by our own means either way, so it's not that we would kill everything off if we don't get any more donations, but since we're doing this for fun, the service will always be free. Also, banners and advertising is no fun way either, so I'd rather see that people help us out when they feel they can and want to. :)

I understand you nowadays also have some helping hands when it comes to running SceneSat. How do you divide the workload among yourselves?

Yes, since there are a LOT of parties out there and I do have a job and a family, I wouldn't be able to go everywhere, not even considering how much it would cost. Luckily, there are quite a few people who are willing to help out broadcasting from parties they're going to. We're also opening up our systems a bit more to let other parties, were we're not present, use our system to broadcast themselves. Also, there's no such thing as really dividing the workload. So far, I've been doing the site programming and surrounding things, and probably also most of the broadcasting. Fnord has been taking care of the server side of things. Hazel has been gathering most of the music. Truck and others have mostly done broadcasting and overall bringing knowledge into it all.

As someone working with scene media, do you keep track of other sources, like C64 diskmags, scene news sites and the likes yourself?

I try to keep track of what's going on, mostly by following various sites and being on IRC, but also going to parties. I'm quite lazy of keeping track of diskmags and such, though, which I wish I had more time to do. I hope the balance will flip a bit in the future so I'll be able to keep track of things better. Although, I must say that I do keep quite good track of most things that happen, mostly due to talking and chatting with other sceners, which I do quite a lot. I'm also heavily involved in developing and running various scene related sites, and that by itself gives quite good insight into what's happening out there.

SceneSat often provides live streams from parties and you are a frequent party visitor. In your opinion, what constitutes a good scene party?

A good party is an event where you can get to talk to a lot of people, both meeting friends and getting to know more friends. Good organisation to make it run smoothly is quite crucial, but it also very much depends on what kind of party it is. Good and interesting compos also help with the overall feeling, since that part of the creativity is what it's all about.

Looking back, you have visited scene parties in a wide timespan. Comparing parties held in the 80s with those held now, in the early 2010s, do you have any thoughts on differences and similarities between these different eras?

Well, in a way it's the same, albeit we're a bit older now, with all that comes along with that. I mean, in the 80s, not many of us were over 20, so the amount of alcohol at these parties was a lot less than it is today. Back then, it was a lot about copying games and tools, but also gaming quite a lot. These days, there are only a few parties that have both a gaming section and a scene section, so I guess that bit is quite different. Also, due to traveling costs have seriously been lowered and the growth of Internet, more people are going to far-away parties these days than before, so I guess you get a bit more diversity in the visitors today than before.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure, we'll be tuning in to SceneSat frequently and wish you much luck in the future!

Not a problem at all. Thanx for wanting to interview me and we will keep the digital airwaves flowing for all you out there. :)


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