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Interview With Stormfront/Excess
by DJ Gruby/Protovision/Triad

In December 2017 I had a pleasure to speak with Stormfront, a long time member and currently a group leader of Excess, one of the major cracking powers of today. During our conversation we covered various topics revolving around the history and the present of Excess as well as its place in the C64 scene. This is a transcription of a chat we engaged in.

DJ Gruby: Hi Peter! How are things with you?

Stormfront: Hello Pawe?. Thanks for asking. Well, a bit of ups and downs in my life. Divorced since August this year, after 9 years of marriage and 16 years with the same girl (since mid of 2000). I've got a new girlfriend and a lot of trouble with the ex-wife. Even not that easy for my 10 years old daughter. But all in all I'm okay.

DJ Gruby: I was very sorry to learn about your trouble. I trust it does not severely impact your C64 activities. Are you comfortable putting the real life stuff aside while working on the C64?

Stormfront: To be honest the new girlfriend is taking time, as well as my daughter as she lives with me every second week. But yes, the weather gets colder and darker and I found already more time to sit in my basement at my hobby room with my three Commodore 64 computers, all of them are modified. One Dolphin Dos 3.0, two with Speed Dos/Jiffy Dos. I started about 14 years ago with archiving the diskettes onto PC, first with a XE1541 cable (from Wolfgang Moser aka WoMo/Fairlight) and the Star Commander software, later with RR-Net, MMC64 and Retro Replay together with Warp Copy to create D64 images. And I have quite a huge D64 storage, approx. 40 to 50 GB of C64 programs, D64 and T64 files. And of course downloaded from the net as well (SceneBase for example).

DJ Gruby: All right, winter is coming seems like a good thing in your case. Of course I want to thank you very much for finding time for this interview in your busy schedule. Do you mind sharing a few introductory words about yourself with our readers?

Stormfront: Well, I was getting part of the scene since middle of 1996 as I found a PLK number of a guy from Excess who was located in Bergisch Gladbach. That was H-Bloxx. At that time I lived in Cologne Duennwald, quite close to Bergisch Gladbach. H-Bloxx wrote back to me and wants to meet me. I had no other contact with anyone from the Commodore 64 scene before. We met several times, so Ralf and I became friends and he introduced me to sceners like Baracuda, Mendrake, AEG, and lot others. He checked my cracking skills and brought me (of course with permission of the team leaders) into Excess as swapper and cracker. I had to become a scene swapper which he guides me to it.

DJ Gruby: Before we talk more about the history of Excess, I could not help but notice that Excess has been pretty active lately. How did it occur that after several years of stagnation you are showering us with as many new releases as you used to put out in the golden 90s?

Stormfront: Scene-wise we have an awesome time in Excess, since the 25th anniversary party in January 2017 in Emsdetten. That was a very good time when we met our old comrades, some of them after more than decades. Tim Harris alias Bordeaux joined Excess again straight at the meeting (oh yes, simply assimilated!), and since that time a lot did happen. We started doing a tiny magazine called Rapid-News where the third edition was just been released on the 25th of October 2017, i.e. the date of the 26th Excess anniversary! On 11th of May we lauched a brand new BBS called Rapid Fire. Started as Excess BBS, two months later it became home of the group Laxity as well. We plan to release our well-known magazine Nitro with issue #26, hopefully in the first quarter of the next year (2018), first with an already known magazine code, then a new mag code is planned for future issues. Besides that we have already more than 40 releases in 2017, and the year did not yet end. This week we got a new coder in Excess, Artlace just joined the force to work on the new Nitro layout.

DJ Gruby: Reading a new issue of Nitro magazine after (an almost) 20 years long break is without a doubt going to be a thrilling experience. I wish you best of luck in this venture. An "old" layout had already been very nice, so I am more than excited to see it released with a fresh content. Do you have any plans for a smashing new outfit or would you rather aim to focus on a quality content in the first place, given that contemporary magazines such as Vandalism News raised the bar very high?

Stormfront: Of course it will be quite difficult to connect to the quality of the Nitro issues of the past, but we will try to keep quality in the articles and style of writing. The plan is to bring out the Nitro on regular basis. We hope to be comparable to Vandalism News or even better. Let's see and on the end you all will decide if Excess found its way back to the standards of well known Commodore 64 magazines. But we're quite optimistic.

DJ Gruby: Who is going to form the new Nitro's editorial team? Will the magazine include only articles written exclusively by Excess group members, or do you perchance intend to reach out for an additional reinforcement externally?

Stormfront: Sentinel is of course the main editor, he did the main texts of all three Rapid News issues and has always been the biggest part of Nitro. The plan is to have support from The Pro, Tadpole, myself and maybe some others, too. The question if we will have guest writers is not clear, yet.

DJ Gruby: Can you reveal whose idea it was to revive Nitro? Has it circled around for some time or was it rather a sudden and determined push from a specific person?

Stormfront: The idea came from Sentinel when I asked him to join again the leadership of Excess, as he was a former member (known at that time as Quick X, a name given by his brother, Firelord) and Sascha was always the main editor of the Nitro magazine. And as we never had the chance to finish issue #26 the idea was quite fast back on the table from Sascha and as well from my side. Issue #25 was mainly done by Sascha and myself (even I do not remember much but that seems to be normal for old farts).

DJ Gruby: In the past Excess had been known for its very fruitful cooperation with Acrise. It served as a model co-op in the C64 scene. How did you guys come up with an idea to join forces together, how did your everyday collaboration look like, and why did not another co-op with Hitmen turn out to work so well?

Stormfront: I joined Excess in 1996 when the Acrise & Excess coop just have been split up again. Unfortunately, as I've been told that it was a damn good time and the quality and quantity of releases were amazingly high, those times came to an end and the productivity of the most members went low again. That was the reason to cancel the cooperation (I've been told). The coop with Hitmen was unfortunately not well discussed from Racoon with the Hitmen leaders (members which were inactive but wanted still to be asked in such cases). Racoon and I did a handful of releases in the short coop but the old Hitmen crew (Groepaz, Peacemaker, Curlin and so on) forced us to stop the coop imediately. I think this is the first time that I have the chance to talk about the background details of the Excess & Hitmen coop.

DJ Gruby: Had it ever been explained by Hitmen leadership team, what did they dislike so much in a cooperation with Excess that they demanded putting an immediate end to it?

Stormfront: To be honest, no! Racoon and I could not really understand why the inactive leadership was against it. Racoon (Ralf) became not much later inactive as he was quite upset about these decisions.

DJ Gruby: You joined Excess as your very first group and remained loyal ever since. I find it fascinating to see people staying with one group over decades. What makes Excess membership so appealing to form such a strong bond?

Stormfront: Excess is as group very special, and the behave of my groupmates was and still is more friendship than just being a part of "just a group". That was it from the start when H-Bloxx brought me into the group, and drag (I agreed of course) me to the leaders home Emsdetten. I met the guys many times, went with them to Symposium Mekka parties, private parties, birthday parties, Breakpoints and so on. For example H-Bloxx, he has been in so many well known groups, knows so many elite sceners personally but remains a huge time in Excess until he quit C64 activities. He was of course a part of the 25th anniversary meeting in January 2017 in Emsdetten! Great dude. So yes, there is a reason why I and the most others stick to Excess! We just have a good relationship and lotsa fun!

DJ Gruby: Excess has always been mostly active on the cracking front. What is your opinion about today's cracking scene? What challenges do you see and how does Excess compare to its present-day adversaries?

Stormfront: Well, after Master S & H-Bloxx did hold the flags for Excess high, I was still supporting them as good as I could. When they both became inactive, I took over the leadership and the website from Excess which they have maintained before. When you look on the Excess releases all the years back (on CSDB for example) you can see Excess was never dead or gone. From time to time there were releases, a handful of first releases, a lot more releases for fun (mail releases). But we were present in the scene. And all my friends and contacts in the scene helped a lot not to lose the interest on the good old Commodore 64. The big movement came when we had our 25th anniversary. Since that time we're back with a lot old comrades of the past and some new members who have the same attitude for our really nice hobby. We do look forward to the next years and we believe that you will see/read something more from Excess soon and in the future... EXCESS - more than you deserve! Today we do have three leaders in Excess, Sentinel (I asked him if he would be able helping to coordinate the group activities, as he is of course one of the founders of Excess; I was quite happy that he agreed). Second leader is Bordeaux, a multi-talented scener who got friends and contacts within Excess from the early days on. Our cracker Faayd becomes our main cracker as he is getting better and better, latest work was playing around with exomized levelpack and IFFL. We can expect soon more quality cracks from him. Bordeaux is working at the moment on the dark side of coding. So here we can expect something nice, too. A short funny story I can tell as on the 31st of October 2017 the game preview so called "Petunia Pickle's Pumpkin" was released by Pond, we were trying to get the first release points for it. We checked the boards (Antidote and Reflections) to see if someone did already the uploads on those counting BBSes. There wasn't any release of this game so Faayd started to work on a version. So we kept the BBSes busy for 30 minutes or so. Tim were checking meanwhile his messages he did received on Antidote (he said that it was around 900 or so) after he finally did call that board after decades and his access did still exists (respect to Taper/Triad for having the oldest BBS in the scene and still alive and kickin'). Bordeaux lost connection to Antidote and could not login. Meantime I was already uploading onto Reflections our plus 1 version of that game preview but when I moved onto The Hidden BBS I saw already the Genesis Project version there. I checked Antidote immediately and found it uploaded from G*P there, too. So we lost that race for "Petunia Pickle's Pumpkin Preview". Okay. Up to the next release which did pop up was "Cookie" by Andy Noble, just published an hour after the pumpkin preview. So we were thinking to get onto another race, and it was another with G*P. Unfortunately, we lost again that race but it was kinda fun. So all that for the fame and glory to be in the cracking charts in a good ranking. We had fun and that's what it's all about.

DJ Gruby: From what you are saying I understand that cracking competition may still appear aggressive (in a good sense of this word) nowadays, and it sometimes gets very tight on a first release front. Will Excess be able to hold the determination to reach to the very top of the charts?

Stormfront: Well, I do not remember times where Excess wasn't in the top 15 cracker charts. Excess was and is always around in the cracking scene. A tiny first release here and there, sometimes a better trained version of games... But nowadays you can see on CSDb quite easy that even groups like Fairlight or Onslaught get slapped in their face with rude comments, we can read that nowadays more and more. That is not my personal style and "sceners" of today are just "impressed" by jewel or cartridge versions of classical games. We fully understand that there should be somehow a level of quality provided if it comes to a release, that's what we have learned in the recent months. And we deal with it. As you surely have noticed Excess grows and changes itself a bit right now. Due to new members and new skills of cartridge releases, we failed a bit with LuftrauserZ on the first release which was due to real miscommunication, but we proved afterwards that Excess is able to do really nice releases even on the cartridge cracking front. And there is more to come. My Turbo Chameleon 64 and I like that. Hope you do like it, too.

DJ Gruby: With a game publishing market shrinking every year, ain't you afraid that at some point there will be no more new games available to crack, and an entire cracking scene will inevitably fade away? What is your forecast on this matter? Will it happen rather sooner or later?

Stormfront: A good point where we haven't talked about. So let's wait and see. Currently we pirates are entering new seas with cartridge waters those as Easy Flash. I assume that could be even something where we can improve already available classic games which would be nice to have as jewel cartridge versions, too. There is something in the pipeline you will surely like. Stay tuned.

DJ Gruby: I was about to ask this question earlier, but here it is... How did it occur to you to become a group leader, and also how challenging a task it was?

Stormfront: Well, that came because I was the only active person left in Excess when Master S and H-Bloxx left the Commodore 64 scene to move on with a PC cracking group I can't tell here but it's quite popular and the name belongs to cold weather behave (lol). So I slided into that leader role so easy and as there were not many members (inactive at that time) to guide and control, it was not that difficult task. I made some releases from time to time and searched for unreleased games and previews from the diskettes I'm transferring since decades to D64 images. The big step for Excess came with our 25th anniversary meeting we held in January 2017 in Emsdetten, the birth place of Excess and where the most members from the beginning lived and most still do. That chased many of us to become active again on that beloved C64. Faayd is becoming our best cracker, getting better and better. New members as Knight Rider and Stablizer joined us, we are still searching for talented graphicians (logos and more) as well as active musicians.

DJ Gruby: If you were to name a single fact/story from your leadership career that you consider to be your biggest success, what would it be?

Stormfront: The biggest success for me was/is that Excess never died, as a lot of other groups did. As a good example Genesis Project had their revival in 2009 (what they wrote on CSDb), but to be honest their comeback in the cracking scene begun in 2011. Whatever, we are alive and facing another Excess meeting in January 2018 where we all do look forward to. Real friends of Excess are warmly welcome to meet up with us. Just write a PM on CSDb or drop me an email: st0rmfr0nt@gmx.net. Have phun!

DJ Gruby: Looks like you guys are going to have some amazing time together! Let's wait and see what this event brings for Excess and C64 scene. What are your personal expectations towards the event?

Stormfront: Well, mainly to meet my group mates and real good friends. And of course we will discuss internal stuff beside somehow, too. But we all really look forward to that meeting. We got the idea in mind to have another meeting somewhere in the future for two days with BBQ and stay over night, maybe in the pathfinder house where decades ago some Excess parties took place? We will see...

DJ Gruby: All right! Good luck and thank you, Peter, for finding a gap in your busy schedule allowing us to conduct this interview. Any closing words?

Stormfront: Well, you're a part of the Commodore 64 scene when you read this text... We hope for more respect in the scene, happy new year 2018 to all of you!

DJ GRUBY/PROTOVISION/TRIAD

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