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Interview with Instant Remedy

Instant Remedy (Martin Andersson) is the man behind one of the absolute best albums with remixed game music of later years. We took the opportunity to ask him some questions.

To begin with, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Do you have any specific hobbies outside of music?

I enjoy doing things when you get to create something, for example small games in Director (I also do a bit of coding sometimes). I work at a game development company in Helsingborg, which means I get to do creative things in the days as well. I also enjoy playing games on the PC, and also PS2. I’m currently renovating our house, which is taking lots of time and energy from me.

How did you come into contact with Chris Abbott, and how did it come about that he let you do your own album?

We had contact by e-mail some time long ago, and when the time came to gather remixes for Back in Time 3 I was asked to do a remix for “IK+”. I started pondering about doing an album of my own and Chris was positive from the very beginning. Since Back in Time 3 became more or less a symphonic record, any of my songs would not have felt suitable at all.

How much do you think Chris and his devotion for game music have meant to the Commodore 64-scene?

It has meant a lot. Without him there would not be any live events, he has one of the biggest databases for remixes and most of all the desirable remix albums. He also makes sure that the original composers get the economical compensation they deserve, if somebody would use their old classics commercially (like Zombie Nation, for example). He does almost everything idealistic. The profit of the record sales is put into investments and expenses that has to do with the remix scene.

Tell us how your debut album came to life! From what we have heard, things became quite difficult towards the end...

I started in January 2001 [the record was released in June 2002 - ed.] with “Lazy Jones Medley”, but it was too difficult to license so we put it out on the net instead. I guess you could say that I practiced a bit and tested new methods, and most of all my new synthesizers. At that time I lived in a flat, so I decided to move all my stuff to my parents’ house where I could work practically around the clock (because there were late nights). There I made “LJM”, “Flimbo’s Quest”, “International Karate”, “IK+” and “Warriors” in about 2-3 months, and I only worked with them in the weekends. I also did some other music. Then it became a long break during the summer and we bought a house which needed some fixing up.

I resumed the work with the album again in January 2002. I completed the remaining seven remixes in approximately 4-5 months, including the CD mastering. The CD was due to be ready for print in the end of May to be finished in time for Back in Time Live 3. I worked with it every weekend which was rather tiresome. I didn’t have any time at all to spend with my friends and family.

The most difficult songs to remix were probably “Ghosts ’n' Goblins”, “Comic Bakery Extended” and “Commando V2”. I had done remixes of them before and didn’t really know how to improve them, except for the sound quality. Comic Bakery was good enough as it was, so I just extended that one. “Commando” was difficult to change into a dance piece, since it sounds so much like video game “blips” and “blops” with its piercing SID-sounds. The song has so many connected melody sequences which doesn’t really fit the dance genre, where much shorter loops are the way to go. “Ghosts ’n' Goblins” suffered similar problems, so I simply had to compose my own sequences which followed the melodies. Retro fans don’t seem to be all that pleased with the solution, but my vision (and Chris’) was to introduce SID music to new listeners and to reduce the cultural clash. We wanted to make an album that “regular” people could appreciate, not just the retro fans.

The track that I’m the least satisfied with is “Commando V2”. It didn’t feel good as a whole. The original was great because it had a long, variable melody, but it doesn’t really suit the dance genre. I had to cut it up a lot, and I felt bad about it. Besides, it was the last remix I made for the album, and by that time I felt a bit tired of constantly producing remixes. The track I like best is “Last Ninja - The Palace”, since it has great energy and a nice melody, and it was a relatively easy remix to do. 

All in all, I’m pleased with almost all the tracks, which feels unusual. Because I got the chance to do something that I like, this most likely wouldn’t have been the case if I would’ve worked with a regular record company. Chris didn’t have any objections when it came to the music. I had a couple of workmates who “beta tested” the music, but I was pretty much the absolute dictator (laughs).

An important ingredient in my songs for this CD was to incorporate much of my own stuff. Like some fresh dance melodies that makes the songs more danceable and up to date. I also mastered the CD myself which became both cheaper and less time consuming. I had never done this before, so it was quite a challenge. The mastering turned out OK. It probably could have been better, but I didn’t want to overdo it.

Do you have any sources of inspiration, except for the obvious game music composers? When listening to ”Game On Issue 09/89”, one gets the impression that you seem pretty fond of the Finnish DJ Darude.

I’m glad you spotted the similarity (laughs)! I like most of Darude’s work, especially a remix he did for Barcode Brothers’ “Dooh Dooh”. Awesome! He’s probably my biggest source of inspiration. I also enjoy Scooter, since they have a big and powerful sound. Koto and Laserdance (space-disco from the 80’s) make very melodic music. Sash! is great as well. Richi M’s earlier singles are also very impressive.

What do you listen to outside of game music? Do you enjoy different genres, or is it dance all the way?

I listen to various genres, even Country now and then. I don’t like the new wave of R’n'B/Rap/Hip Hop. I definitely prefer the mid-90’s, when euro techno dominated the radio every day! I listen to Jean-Michel Jarre sometimes. The dance genre has changed rapidly the last years, unfortunately not towards something I enjoy. MTV has basically nothing that interests me anymore, not even the dance charts!

Can you recommend us a bunch of albums to listen to?

Scooter - 24 Carat Gold: The latest compilation with all the grains of gold in the same place.

Scooter - And the Beat Goes On: Their first album sounds almost like a live recording. Terrific!

Laserdance - Technological Mind: Melodic pieces, albeit a bit monotonous with a whole CD.

Koto - Masterpieces: Masterpieces, simply put.

It’s hard to mention whole albums that are good, since I seldom like more than 2-3 songs per record… But anything with the above will do.

Let’s return to the album! How did you approach the choosing of songs to remix for the album? Did you choose your own favourites, or those who suited the album best? Did it matter which games the songs came from?

I did have my favourite SID's, which I had listened to during a long period, but I also looked for suitable candidates which fitted into the dance genre. Then I had Chris checking out if the songs were possible to license, which most of them were. The list changed from time to time, if I came upon a new song that I found proper. Songs were removed as well, if I after closer inspection didn’t find them suitable. “Arkanoid” was supposed to be in there for example, but I found it a bit odd, so we skipped it. It made absolutely no difference where the songs came from, but we had selected a few well-known SID's (“Last Ninja”, “Commando”, “IK+”, “Comic Bakery” etc.) to cover the need for retro. Which means some tracks are rather unknown, but suitable for other viewpoints, like a good melody for example.

Which part of the record are you most satisfied with?

That I actually finished it! And also that it feels so versatile in spite of the dance genre making a clear mark in many of the songs. I believe that it feels more versatile since I have so many composers that inspire me, instead of me making my own record. The quality feels pretty even I think, not a single track feels weaker than the other, except for the bonus tracks which feels rather dated.

Thinking back, is there anything that you feel you should have done different?

No, I probably wouldn’t have changed a thing. I feel pleased with the result, and everyone can’t like everything either.

The soberly designed logo on the album cover is your own work. Does design interest you?

No, design isn’t what I do best. Neither layout nor design is my strongest point - my homepage is very dull, but I should probably fix it up someday. I actually made the logo a few years ago, for my homepage. It certainly wasn’t something I planned for a CD cover! But time was short, and we had to grab what we had.

On your ”dull” homepage it says that you work for a game company, with game development. Tell us more!

I work with game development, in the graphic department. Basically, I do 3D environments to racing games, which we have specialized ourselves in. Kind of. It’s fun, since the development is making progress all the time, and you get to solve problems and develop new technology. In earlier projects I have also been involved in the sound department.

Who does the vocals on ”Ghosts 'n' Goblins (Trance Version)”?

Hmm, I have no idea. I bought a sound library which included voices, both male and female. I was lucky to find some phrases, some of which I have edited myself, which suited the song’s theme. Darude did the same for his hit “Feel the Beat”, actually. I had heard the sample before I heard the song, and I think it’s a rather cheap solution for a commercial artist like Darude to do it that way … but it works, though.

One could say that there are two camps when it comes to game music. The old school, with Commodore 64, Amiga and NES music, and the newer, more advanced Japanese game music. Do you listen anything to present game music, like Final Fantasy for example?

I have never played Final Fantasy, so I cannot say whether it’s my taste or not. The music in games nowadays feels more like movie scores, it kind of disappears in all the dazzling graphics. It hardly ever stands out, it’s just there. In the C64 days, the graphics was rather plain in comparison to the music, so you had to enjoy what you could. It never happens today that you turn on a game just to hear the music. So I have to admit that I like the old school, including Amiga music. I have thought about remixing some Amiga songs eventually. I’m not leaving the stage just yet.

Can you mention your three favourite game music composers?

Rob Hubbard, Chris Hülsbeck, and Jochen Hippel. It varies which one I like the best from day to day.

Your three favourite game music songs?

In terms of retro feeling: “Last Ninja” (C64), “Commando” (C64), and “Full Contact” (Amiga).

Your three favourite games?

Desperados Dead or Alive has a genuine Wild West feeling to it, which I really like! Gran Turismo 3 looks great, has good driving physics and lasts long. I’ve played Unreal Tournament a lot, but I’ve grown quite tired of the FPS genre.

You’ve been showered with praise for your album; Tommy Rydling of gaming magazine Super PLAY has lauded you constantly, while the CD got the exceptional grade 4.5 out of 5 here on Spelmusik.net. Do you have any more to give, or are you satisfied now?

It’s very fun that my album has been so appreciated by both reviewers and people who sends e-mails. It feels special when your music is described with the own words of the reviewer/listener. I definitely have more to give. This is just the beginning.

Can you reveal any details about your future projects?

I don’t have any detailed plans for the future, but it would be sweet to compose a huge dance-hit, like “Sandstorm”. It would be fun to remix some commercial songs as well. I will probably start remixing some old Amiga tunes and put them out on the net.

Any closing words to your fans?

A big thank you for all the nice e-mails that I have received during the years. I still get one or two e-mails a week, which means a lot to me. And I hope that everyone who bought the record is happy with it, since it’s kind of expensive with the freight costs and such. Thank you, everyone who have bought (or will buy) the CD!

Interview Conducted by Niklas Lundqvist

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Instant Remedy's record, as well as sound samples, are available at C64Audio.com.

Instant Remedy's homepage

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