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Interview With Jailbird
by Cactus/Oxyron

One of the most talented and most active graphicians... One of the last sceners from the old Yugoslavia... I give you a chance to know him better. This is probably one of the longest interviews in the scene history. No more to say... Enjoy!

CACTUS/OXYRON

Cactus: Hello Arnold! Even though you are famous C-64 scener, could you say a few words about yourself at first?

Jailbird: Hi Pawel, thanks for interviewing my humble person. Will be hard, but I'll try to be as much honest as possible. ;)

Well, as you can assume from my handle, I'm one of those disgusting kind of dudes, very friendly, though. :) I'm 24, yet, still "sweet sixteen" in heart. I am a very simple-minded guy: in my spare time I adore to get drunk with my friends (or without them, whatever :), I like to watch pr0n, I insult chicks with waving my beer belly, farting and belching in public, and I pray for better Hungarian football. That's probably all I get attracted to in my life beside my girlfriend Nora. She says I always smile, I guess I don't get life too serious - but of course, apart from the joking, I'm actually a quite calm and humble guy, don't drink and at all since quite a long time and work really hard and a lot. I hate politics but I vote for the greens or democrats, preferably for a combination of the two (or at least I say so in public ;), I love good music, catchy movies, and generally I love the mainstream but I adore the not-so-usual things as well. My most crazy moments today, consist of pixelling on one of my lovely machines, but mainly on C64, if I have a working one on stock. At the moment, I do nothing particular for living, only laying around my girl's flat and wondering about finding a suitable and, non the less, legal job. Few months ago came back from Budapest, where I was earning money as a computer assistant in a printing office's "photo-lab". Now I have designer roles in PalmOS, Pocket PC, Smartphone and Symbian Series game-development teams. Look out for "Monsta" at www.indus3.org/monsta and Sugatris at www.indus3.org/sugatris if you're a "lucky" owner of a PalmOS-junk. We got some very good reviews on Monsta, and the same development team (iNDUSTRY ENTERTAINMENT) is currently working on three new titles. Oh, and before I forget, although the C-64 scene is the closest to my heart, I also work(ed) for GBC/GBA/Amiga and other cross platform and handheld scenes.

C: Have you ever thought about making C-64 game graphics? I can understand that it cannot yield too much profit like GBA/PalmOS game development. Would you do it for some great fun?

J: Yes, for a long time I was very positive about making c64 game-graphics, and even released a small lame-o game called "Micro Fighter" under the "Arts of Darkness" label. Well, AoD was based on the leader's very exhausting ideas on him being some kind of a "black" underground red devil, the way of hiding antichrist propaganda into the code, and mass-producing low-level wares just for the sake of releasing games and for devoting our souls to master Satan ;)). Pointless blah blah in general... Honestly, I didn't get the meaning of a game-label having radical look on the world and spreading such thoughts, neither of making games that everyone will forget just after the first try, but I wanted to help the guy out as I really wanted to do game-graphics. The idea of Micro Fighter wasn't bad all in all, I've seen even worse games bringing out "wow!" from the people, so what I wanted to, and tried to persuade the coder, was to spice up the game a bit, and make it enjoyable to the players. Unfortunately, he wasn't open minded for my ideas, so most of the game's playability got stuck on his childish level, where only two players could play the (after all, amazingly boring) game. As an example, a computer-player's AI wasn't build up, and he doesn't even intended to get at least a bit into it. Some of my words seemed to get plain ignored... It was a bit disappointing, especially after seeing the game given straight to "official cracking" (!?) by the main developer himself, while the game didn't needed any kind of cracks at all, due to being a 2player-only game. My enthusiasm strongly decreased after seeing such acts, so I decided to stick beside demo-scene graphics only, or to cooperate with people just on serious projects, like WVL's Pinball Dreams conversion. The money issue doesn't counts at all. Yes, I do it mainly for fun, like all the things considering graphics, but it is really hard to keep myself on track when I'm under the pressure of doing game-graphics in time or to solve very delicate requests, so sometimes it isn't such fun, more like pain in the ass. The fact that I don't play games at all, just one or two on PC, and the major part of that audience I absolutely don't care about (which is of course so different than the demo-scene's) are highly demotivating factors. It's damn hard, but I always try to do my best. :)

C: How long have you been on the C-64 scene and when did you decided to be a graphician?

J: I've got my first commie in 1986 (if I remember right, it was a birthday present). In the very early days, just as most of us sceners, I was interested in everything related to c64, means music, programming in basic, playing games, but mainly computer-graphics were that really turned up my engines, as I always liked to paint on paper and, for some odd reason, I was quite good in it. Because I wasn't informed, I was wondering a lot how those beautiful pixel works were made in the games I played. After we bought a 1541/II with a bunch of disks, I run into some graphics-programs, which I've tried to examine. Although I never painted anything worth to mention, I kept trying.

Around 1992, I accidentally found Revija64 on a game-disk that I ordered from Belgrade. It was a Yugoslavian scene-magazine, more opened to public than the scene-mags those days, nevertheless the main editor, and most of the members from the group releasing the mag and I were living in the same city. So I contacted Flash/Myth, who robbed me by selling some freshly imported games, but later he explained some very basic facts about the scene. When he asked me what do I do on C64, I said I paint, so he promised a place in a local lamer group called Slayer if I show some examples. As I didn't have anything to come up with, that afternoon I fastly did some pictures with stupid landscape-motives and the next day when we all realized I suck enough to join Slayer, we said amen to that. Luckily, Phantom/Slayer had some (although veeeery low) knowledge on pixelling, he showed me few "good" programs (Advanced Art Studio, Logo Graphics Creator) and some bits of his ugly filling-techniques (basically, random dots from a color to another - at that point I realized the basics of shading). I fastly mastered those, and when he couldn't show me anything new any more, I started to take very long looks on the graphics I've ripped with my cart. Slowly, with an amazing amount of practice, I got better and better, and decided to focus on making graphics instead of wasting valuable energy on composing music or coding that I probably wouldn't take to a high level anyway.

C: How your scene career was going on then?

J: For one year I was in Slayer, doing nothing but visiting internal meetings, watching demos, showing my new graphics to the bunch, going to football matches together and drinking myself to death every weekend. Basically, that way of "scening" continued even after Flash/Myth noticed that I progressed graphics-wise and he let me join "his" group. Those days, Myth had the most productive yugo sceners on stock, even PC and Amiga section were built up, and I was very proud to be member, painted a solid logo or two for some import-intros. I felt very pleased when seeing my graphics used, it was pushing me to try to be better and better. The leader of Slayer and the local scene-clown, Phantom, was quite angry when I left his group, but due to that we all hated him, I didn't minded at all. After a while I was the one explaining him the techniques of pixelling (and we stood very good friends even after the practical all-round dying of the Yugoslavian c64 scene, till he left to cooking stuff in Israel, but that's another weird story :). The autumn of 1993 came, and some of us adventure lovers decided to visit the Chromance+Faces party, the actual Hungarian scener gathering in row. This event was quite important to me, as I more or less got introduced to some interesting sceners and to the foreign scene in general. I already felt a bit choked by the international scene's averse to Yugoslavia which was mainly caused by the war in this region, and I also got fulfilled of Flash's too huge ego and dictatorship inside the group, so with coders from Myth and Slayer decided to form a new group named Industry, and to open our doors to the world. We found some swappers from Germany and Holland, but unfortunately both of the coders fastly left to find luck in the Amiga scene (Cyborg/Industry is now the head of the game-development team I'm working for, besides a very good demo coder and a hell of a mate), and as I wasn't in the mood for searching for coders or organizing, I decided to find a new group. Megaunit was the first, then Noname and Lepsi Developments, which I all left because I couldn't keep in constant contact with the group-organizers due to post-problems and common misunderstandings. The best solution was to find a Yugoslavian group again, so I contacted Nucleus/TempesT, and then everything fastened up. A huge mistake was to join the dying Equinoxe, which we also fastly left after a couple of weeks. Around '98 Erol/Hitmen became a TempesT member, and we released two issues of the "Dimension" magazine. After few months of netting from the University, I bought a cheap PC and finally set up an Internet connection at home, and then tried looking around to find a nice second group. Meanwhile I've got better and better in pixelling, started to compete on compos, and via Erol I joined Hitmen. Few months after, again with help from Erol and Cupid, moved to Padua. And what an amazing time I had while being a member! I never experienced such a high level of internal communication inside a group. Erol kind of left the scene around '99, and an interesting movement to Onslaught followed where I enjoyed Jazzcat's very professional organizing, but my membership didn't took long, as when I went to Budapest I decided to left all my groups and to join Breeze. The reason of that was to be local with the other members, so when I came back to Yugoslavia, consequently: I left the group. It was clear to me that I really need to settle down finally and find someone to cooperate with, who has the same work methods and ideas about demo making. With HCL and Booze Design I found really the most interesting and challenging place to be, and I'm pretty sure it brings out just the very best from me.

C: So what are your future plans concerning the C-64 scene? When can we expect the new releases from Booze Design containing your graphics?

J: I wouldn't really want to reveal secrets, but I believe HCL won't be upset if I tell you a few words about our current projects. The booze-schedule goes like this: after a new issue of SCENEthetic, we'll release the "greatest hits of Jailbird" IFLI collection, while we're working on a regular Booze demo as well. Time will tell, as at the moment I'm writing this answer, very busy and hardly find an hour a day for C64 related activities. Weekends are mostly reserved for lazy demo watching and then I'm collecting ideas for pictures, drawing small paper-sketches or playing around with a camera and Photoshop, searching for motivation.

C: You mentioned that you were quite good in painting on paper before you entered the scene. When did you draw your first C-64 cover and how many covers have you painted?

J: My first covers are dated to '94, but those were mainly "designed" covers, which we were putting together from different scanned and Photoshop-filtered pictures of mine in the printing office of Picasso/Myth. I am sure there are some copies of those covers somewhere, but they are just too ugly to waste my time by searching for them in those hundreds of boxes on the attic... My most productive period was just before the dying of the mail-trading scene, means '97-'99, at that time I released more than 15 covers (the DisC=overy series, covers for Noname, Equinoxe, Megaunit, Lepsi; covers for my swap mates). Unfortunately most of those weren't spread too well, and they were all dated from a period I wasn't too active, the main reasons why people know me more as a pixel-graphician than a cover-designer, even when I've had huge successes with some of my covers, e. g. several times top3 in Neotec's "Cover Competition" in NewsPress or the second place on Duce's "Cover of the Millennium" compo which I'm still very proud of. All in all, during 10 years I painted about 30 disk-covers, but much more regular paper graphics. My bad (or nice, you decide :) habit is to give my original paintings to people as gifts before I make a copy of them, so a lot of them got lost in time. I probably don't find them as too important pieces of my life.

C: Can we expect any new covers from you in the future or is it closed part of your life?

J: Maybe it's closed, maybe not - you'll never know. :) Till now I was anyway doing paper graphics only when I had enormous amounts of time for it. Working on a 5.25" cover more than 4-5 hours a day for 3 months is very hard-core, but in a way it relaxes me more than anything else on the world. At the moment I don't have the time. If I'd start a cover now, with seeing how busy I'm with other things, sure it wouldn't be finished even within two years. When it comes to covers, I'm a total perfectionist: I want them to be good as possible, and it takes a lot of time.

C: Are you also a perfectionist when it comes to painting C-64 graphics? How do you come up with the ideas for your new pictures?

J: Pixelling is a different story. In most of the cases, if I start a picture, I try to finish it as soon as possible, to waste the less possible time for painting, especially when a motive is not too important for me emotionally. I rarely work out a picture to perfect, however, nowadays it often happens that I keep on more at the end-touching. Some say, and I couldn't agree more, that I'm more precise in pixelling than a perfectionist. As an example, if you take a look on my picture for Forever8bit, you can notice that there are huge white spaces that I originally wanted to fill up, but unfortunately run out of time. As my way of pixelling in most of cases excludes outlines, I pixel small areas with taking care about proportions afterwards. It helps me focus more on the technique of coloring. That was the case a year ago, now I do care a lot about the motive as well, not just the way of making the picture as better as possible.

Ever since I do "no-copy" pictures, my ideas come from almost everywhere. My thoughts could fly around like crazy after watching a good movie, while listening a song that I'm looping in my CD player, by a story in a catchy book, or by just some words from a person I admire. Though, my favorite motives are realistic faces and bodies, emotions, social problems, discrete humor...

C: Which of your pictures do you consider to be the most satisfying or the best-painted?

J: "Sevenfold Obsolete Sadness". A picture where I successfully combined a very emotional motive and dead hard-core pixelling (IMHO, came up with few innovative techniques I've never seen on IFLIs before - pity I was forced to paint in Funpaint II pro, I'd lead those techniques to much higher level if Gunpaint would work 100%). The picture was a combination of two photos that separately show "just a girl posing for a camera". I cutted and pasted parts in a way to express deep sadness (even if I'm perhaps "not the moral winner of that party", my intention was absolutely *not* to please the Breakpont 2003 audience with chicks&tears, but with hard core work in all areas of that picture - after all, seems that people noticed my work as I got a bunch of positive reactions and only one negative, in a way of ditching my picture for being too commercial). And I'm also very pleased with "The Little Prince..." from x2001, as you can exactly see on that picture how I felt those days (I sketched the picture in the army, and ported it to C64 just after I came back from the one year long duty), I expressed something very personal on a way I never thought it's possible before (my very last ideas about the fear of getting old, thoughts about sexuality, being alone on my separate planet). Unfortunately, very few people realized it's meaning, but at least it was an interesting try, and a first step on a new path: expressing thoughts with pixelling. The freedom of IFLI painting combined with knowledge lets me go wild with ideas. I'm not a "plastique", emotion-less compo-pixeller some of you might think, I infact put a lot of emotions in every single pixel I draw.

C: What can you say about today's Yugoslavian C-64 scene? Are there any people active and producing some new wares yet?

J: Just like on the .yu PC/Amiga scene, sadly, only a few sceners left on 64. But except dAfUNK and me, all of them are quite inactive. Once I wrote a huge Serbian article about the ex yu c64 scene, and the causes why it has ended this way. I am still pretty sure that it could able to grow up to a quite strong scene if there wouldn't be some way stupid people desperate to gain fame with pointless attacks, and ruined everything that was clearly going for good - that's why I am so against of ragging and acting "elite" or superior to sceners that need much help to get into scene-business. Being nice won't make anything worse, while attacking on newbie/lamer issues will just scare away new faces. As for me, I try to get people attracted to this little machine. Our huge problem is that it's quite hard to find c64s here (first of all because I ruin the sids in all of them I got into hand ;], and secondly because they're still quite expensive for our pockets - I mean, I can't give 1/5-1/4 of my monthly payment for a c64, however much I'd like to). Of course there are always people coming and going, so with utilizing the PC and internet, nevertheless with a bit of commercialization of the c64.yu scene, we would be able to get more dudes interested, especially those who are looking on the c64-scene with nostalgia but don't know where or how to get into it again. We're working on that.

C: What's your overall opinion about C-64 scene?

J: Tough question, Pawel. It's loveable of course, otherwise I wouldn't be here :) I mostly feel uncomfortable when seeing amazingly talentless and negligent people getting to #1 spots with cheating, countless hours of ragging on #c-64 or making dozens of terrible demos with an excuse of serving the scene's artistic need. Fortunately, there are much more sceners who instead of the easy way, find more important to prove their fucking best with a lot of work. That helps me keep rocking. :)

C: Which releases and sceners amazed you the most in the year 2002?

J: You mean positively? ;) Among sceners: Dane, definitely. A hell of a bloke. I wonder where the hell he can find so much time for c64 related activities. At least when I look it considering my way of 64ing, beside regular real-life stuff I hardly find 3-4 hours a day for the scene. And then there is a guy who is pixelling, composing music and coding - doing those three things such professionally that is only on a dream-level for the most. Demo-wise, my engines turned up immediately after seeing Insomnia. And the Crossbow-HCL affair was also fun, at least for me surely. :)

It was also interesting to see several party-organizers allowing scrolling-pictures on graphics-compos, I can say they either amazed me quite a much. And of course the shameless Rayden pic on Symmek. Don't understand me wrong, I'd never get upset if getting second to a truly c64 hanpixelled picture, but seeing a conversion winning the compo, that's was so obviously wired... err... that was a bit sad.

C: And what about the current year 2003?

J: We have already seen some fine releases, I myself work for two huge projects that could make you sweat as a horse, scream the demo's name loudly and tear out all your hair. ;) I'm very positive about seeing different scenes getting closer to each other, and people from the old days coming back to the scene.

C: What can we expect in the future? How long do you think people will be enthusiastic about the C-64 and the scene?

J: Don't ask me, I'm not an oracle, neither have an ability to read other people's thoughts ;) Personally, will be an active c64 scener as long my life (or my future wife, heh, but that's a weak excuse ;)) lets me.

C: How many scene parties have you visited in your life? Any curious incidents you remember?

J: Sadly I visited only three parties in my life, due to the sad fact that I live where I live, and as far as I remember nothing too exciting happened on those. However, I was expecting some serious fight with a Yugoslavian ex-scener on Yet Another Lame Party 1997, held in Belgrade. And after all, nothing happened. I'm a quite kind dude, very tranquil in most of the cases, still can't say I'd get afraid of a fair fisting offer. Anyway, he was threatening us via phone, but left us alone at the party. That was almost an incident :)

C: If you come to the Forever party next year, will you play a football match with other C-64 sceners? :)

J: Well, the first word in your question has a huge role in answering it. Yes, sure. *If* I come... :) It is still quite hard to get a visa here, even for countries of the "eastern block". Y'know, I live in the Twilight Zone of Europe. :)

C: What do you think about disk magazines being released today? Do you have any favorite ones? Is mag-scene one of the strongest parts of the C-64 scene?

J: Only a few really great magazines left as I see. My fave is Domination. Vandalism or The Beergarden always guarantee quality reads. Attitude also seemed to me serious before I started to write for it. ;) Well, to be honest, I'm more satisfied by seeing only three or four good magazines released with fine textual side, rather than a bunch that are made just for the sake of it and full of uninteresting nonsense like movie-reviews or F1 stuff. Hey what about flooding Attitude with NBA info? :)

Sure, the magscene isn't the strongest, but perhaps a very intelligent side, and one of the most interesting aspects of the scene.

C: Have you ever been involved into the work on another disk magazine before joining "Attitude" staff?

J: Yes, several years ago. Some of the sceners reading these lines might remember of "Dimension", a mag with a quite fine outfit that was released under the TempesT label. We released two issues, but after a while everyone seemed to get bored, and stopped the work on it. I don't know the exact reasons, but I guess it was just general uninterest, as we didn't had a main organizator who'd kick the others' butts if they'd get lazy...

C: Do you have any special memories of the past C-64 scene days? Any people or productions that bring a tear to your eye?

J: My most interesting memories are all dated to my first few years on the scene, while we were teenage riots and having fun and fun all the time. There were just too many stupidities I was involved in, probably because I was an easy matter to talk into crazy stuff. :) The whole local scene was mostly hanging together: going to underground pubs and punk concerts, having wild time on football matches, chasing girls and being impatient about losing virginity - the usual stuff that 14-16 years old (young?) rebel kids do and wonder about. :)

But apart from that, we were constantly involved in scene related stuff, however, only by watching demos and dreaming about becoming a grandmaster 64er. I cry back the easy fun we all had, the friendship and the constant flow of C64 legal and illegal releases. I'm missing those long nights spent in front of the commie together, exchanging ideas and planning releases. A production that always shake my bones, is the one that "nuskool" people find unoriginal, it's full of "tasteless" fantasy pictures and sweet melodic music, guess which one. It just happens to be one of most beautiful demos I've seen on the C64, and brings back a lot of memories.

C: Let's talk about something else... Do you like SID music? Or may be you're not the fan of the C-64 sounds?

J: Sure I like SID music! Although I'm probably just a regular listener, I mean, occasionally I run "Sidplay" and listen to SIDs for some hours while working. Not such a radical freak that'd listen SID music only and nothing else, those days are over. :) I have a playlist saved with my favorite Mitch&Dane, Drax and Jeff songs and when I play them in full volume, my family goes total nuts.

C: What do you think about the cracking scene today? Most of surviving groups keep on cracking oldies, not too many first releases these days, however we know some new titles are still being developed...

J: I don't play games, or just very rarely, so personally don't see cracking too important. However I do find crack-intros interesting. :) I understand that cracking had an important role back in the 80's, but it's dead just like Elvis and legends can't be reproduced only by nostalgic fans. I never cared too much about the cracking scene, all I got from it, that it's full of arrogant people who think they're fucking Leet BBS posters and that gives them the right to spit on the others. Nevertheless, sceners involved in the cracking-scene always argued like kids ("- you suck! - no, you suck! - nah, you're the one who suck!... etc, you can find beautiful excerpts if you read back some BBS posting archives). Demo scene is the word, the today's global scene is assembling around demos.

C: So what's the most important of a good demo? What features cause it to be a good production in your opinion?

J: You're set to a right way if you have a couple of talented sceners who are willing to talk over the design and the ideas. Years ago, I didn't had the opportunity to work with people who can, in a way or another, bring my crazy ideas to air, but now I start to realize what was I actually missing. In my opinion, but most of you'll agree, a recipe of a good demo is: catchy music (that is synchronized to the demo or vice versa), effects that make your jaw crawling on the floor, smooth design and perhaps a "concept", but not necessarily. Of course, that gives most of the job to the coder, and to the scriptwriter and the designer (or the musician if the music must be synced to the demo). However, there could be several ways of making a good demo, all depending to the creators, of course. Some say the concept is important while others claim that the quality and the hard core is that counts. As I see, if you have two of these combined - there you have a demo close to perfection.

C: Could you please tell me your favorites...?

Demo Groups - Crest, Plush, T'Pau, Megastyle, Censor, Oxyron, (old) Triad, Focus, Black Mail, Graffity, Panoramic Design...
Coders - HCL, Ninja, Krill, Crossbow, Graham, Oswald, Bigfoot, Fenek...
Graphicians - Sander (the best!), Vip, DeeKay, RRR, Bizk, Vodka, Cupid, Electric, Poison, Valsary, Mermaid, Aomeba, Dane... And from the oldschoolers Hein Holt, Hobbit and Mirage.
Musicians - Mitch&Dane, Drax, Mixer, GRG, dAfUNK, Jeff, Tempest, PRI...
Swappers - I don't swap since ages, dunno, Racoon was a fast and hot mail trader, although he wrote shitty notes :)
Cover Designers - Junkie, Electric, Duce...
Demonstrations - I like technical stuff: Dutch Breeze/BM, Krestology/Crest, Royal Arte/Booze, Just in Time/Graffity
Disk Magazines - Domination, Vandalism, Beergarden, is it politically correct if I include Attitude here? :)

C: I think it's high time we've finished this interview. Would you like to add anything to those words you said before?

J: Not really, if I forgot something, we could include it to the next interview. ;) Oh yes, perhaps greetings and stuff. Well, greet not less thee be greeted. So I greet everyone I know and love, a long list would follow, but I assume that the addresses all know who they are.

C: Thank you for a nice chat.

J: Thank *you*, Pawel! I really enjoyed it, a bit long but I certainly hope we'll at least get into the Guinness Book of Records with 40 kilos of interview-text for a C64 magazine (will this fit into one single chapter?). :)

Interview by...

CACTUS/OXYRON
July 2003

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