DEMOSCENEINTERVIEWS/ENTREVUES ★ WACCI 136 - The French Connection ★

Julien NevoTarghan - WacciTarghan|Another World fanzine)
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What CPC support still exists in Europe? What drives people in France and Germany to stick with their Amstrads? As part of WACCI's expanding international outlook, Roy Everett spoke to leading French CPCer, Julien Nevo – aka Targhan of the Arkos coding group

Roy: When did you and Orphée get the idea to start the Arkos group, and who have been the members of the group, and what are their CPC talents? Why Arkos?Julien: Well, it was long before, probably in 93/94. At this time, we were only the Demoniak fanzine team, which included Orphée (main editor at the time, coder) (and Julian's brother), Rainbird (editor, coder, graphist) and me (editor, coder, musician). But soon our coding level was getting better and better with the learning of the assembler language, and demomaking really attracted us. So we decided to create a group, Arkos, that would represent all our productions, demos and fanzines.

But why the name Arkos? As far as I can remember, Orphée chose this name from the Ancient Greek word arkaos which means to command. It sounded great, but the meaning didn't really represent our ambitions, so he removed the second a and the group became ARKOS. And it still sounded great!

By the time two more members had joined Arkos: The first one was Starman, who came in '95; or '96;. He was a beginner in assembler but had very good and original ideas. The only production he made under the Arkos name (and for the CPC scene, I think) was a demo called Dangerous. It's quite strange, but original. Sadly we didnt have many news from him since, but I know he often has a look at the latest CPC productions.

The other member was the well known Epsilon, who was previously in Power System. He was an artist, coder and musician (!) and was very productive, so if you are a little involved in the CPC scene, you can't miss his demos! He also made a discmag called New Arcade. Under the Arkos name, he produced his Anthology demo, a very good 3-part demo. Sadly, he left for military service, and gave up the CPC for 3 years. Nowadays, he's back on the CPC, but has returned into Power System. He is also producing his first professional musical album under the name Capwest, with a guitarist and a singer. Good luck!What keeps you interested in the CPC?It's a question I often ask to myself this time. Why am I on CPC? Probably because the CPC is a machine that allows to create, to code your ideas very quickly. If you want to code an effect, you can go to DAMS (the most popular assembler in France, comparable to Maxam – Richard) in 2 seconds (if you've got a Ramcard!), and if the CPC crashes, that's your fault and not because of a bug in DAMS or AMSDOS. You are really in contact with every byte of the machine, which is ready to do exactly what you want to do. I couldn't code on a PC, because I think I would be more a slave than a real coder. On the PC, you have to know many many things about Windows if you just want to open a window, draw a line, make a sound...

It is clear that the CPC needs innovations. In particular, I'm talking about demomaking innovations (after all, I am French !), as every time I release a demo or a fanzine, I try to make something that has never been seen before. I think it's the aim of every demomaker: to improve, to imagine, to impress.

I won't leave the CPC scene before I have done all that I have to do. I have many ideas of demos, many ideas to write, and I hope I will be able to produce all of them. My aim on CPC is to make good productions, but as much for others as for myself. I want to prove to others what it was possible to do on the CPC, but also to myself that I was able to do it...

Demomakers have selfish goals, you might say... And you'd be right.What inspired you to write your disc fanzine, Demoniak, and are the challenges still present?When we started out on the CPC, it was clear that we would not be able to create demos, or technical things. If we wanted to be known to the CPC scene – and that was our aim – we had to find another way. Making a discmag is well suited to beginners, because you don't have to be a coder or a musician or an artist. Or at least, you don't have to be good at any of those. Thats why so many disc/paper mags were released.

But only a few survived more than two issues, because they were not interesting enough. In Demoniak, we tried to have a good and justified critical sense, a nice sense of humour, and articles that would interest everyone. But we were young, and though every issue was ambitious, issues one and two were not very successful. The third issue was strongly improved by the full involvement of Rainbird who provided wonderful graphics. This issue also corresponds to our real arrival into the scene.

Our principal sources of inspiration was the fanzine Amazing Fanzine, a wonderful papermag which included all the things I listed before! But also Disc Full, which was a very stylish mag: not always interesting, but so beautifully designed (MADE was the artist...).

Our aim with Demoniak was always to be good critics, and to spread news and ideas about the scene. I think our 7th issue is the best we did in this way.

Sadly, at this time, the scene is not very productive, so Demoniak 8 might be released in half a year... We don't want to make a discmag that would talk solely about us! A discmag deals with the scene, the sceners, their productions. As long as the scene is alive, Demoniak will be released.Ok, the standard questions:What are your favourite demos; games, both commercial and PD; magazines, paper and disc-based; coding group, yesterday and today; and utility, commercial and PD.

Demo: probably S&KOH by Overflow, because of the graphics, the design, and the fact that the demo is always changing. There's always something moving. I also love the old demo Synergy by Benjy and Strooky, for its ideas and good design. If I could include a megademo, I would choose Voyage '93;: not for the design (!), but for the good variety of effects the demo shows.

I'm sorry, but I'm not fond of the latest demos. Even if Ecole Buissoniere is technically wonderful and well designed, there is something I prefer in old demos... Nostalgia, perhaps ?

Games: I don't play on CPC any more, but I used to spend hours on Renegade (I can win 4 times in a single game !). Also Elite and Cholo, for their concept, originality and incredible long life time.

PD game: Black Land really interested me for a long time: the graphics are very good and the code must be so hard to do. Fres Fighter is also a big work, but is sadly not much fun… I prefer Yie Ar Kung Fu.

Disc fanzine: There aren't many these days. I like Ovation, and Eurowacci is really nice (sorry, Philip : I forgot to include the Eurowacci reviews in Demoniak 7, even though they were written! I am ashamed...)

Paper fanzine: Sorry, English papermags never interested me much. But I love the French Amslive, Another World, and Drapeau Noir.

Coding group: The best of alltime is probably Logon System, if we're talking about the technical aspect. But the Longshot demos never stuck me to the screen for hours. In fact, my favourite part of The Demo is the Megalomaniak part by Digit.
  So, my favourite group is not Logon, but... well, I don't know! Every group makes good things, but I can't choose one more than another... And I am not interested by the technical competition that often makes for uninteresting demos. Nowadays, the group that has the best coding potential is Overlanders.. But I won't choose them.

Utility: The best commercial tools I use are DAMS, Semword, and a bit of OCP Art Studio. DAMS because it's the best friend of a coder, and the worst enemy of MAXAM; Semword, because I still can't write a text under Protext, and OCP because... there is nothing better! (GPaint? – Richard)

PD utility: I don't have to think twice about this: the BSC Soundtrakker, because it's the best of its category. I also like the Cheese cruncher by Antoine, and Turbo Imploder by Crown – still the best for crunching Demoniak articles.

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Julien Nevo - aka Targhan of the Arkos coding group

You attend most of the French CPC meetings. What's so good about them? Do you think that there would be a place for a pan-European meeting?Meeting another CPCists is a normal step when you love demomaking. And it's true for every kind of interest! If you like painting, you will feel attracted by museums – you need human contact to gain motivation. I write my demos for the people I meet in the meetings, so it's normal that I meet them! They are all friends, you know. When those people will bore me, when I won't feel happy to meet them again and again, I'll be closer to giving up my demomaking activities. And the people gathered here have knowledge you don't have, so if youve got a problem, you can tell them what it is! There is so much to learn.

I think a Euromeeting is a good idea, but to be honest... some countries are perhaps incompatible. I mean, a meeting between French people, demomakers, and English people, users generally, would perhaps be a waste of time. (You might be surprised – Richard) I don't think we would have anything to learn from each others. I'm not tempted to use all the utilities ATM often talks about, while I think my demos (and even my discmag) might bore many English people. Am I wrong?

But I think that French, German and Greek people really have the same way of thinking. We have the same goals. When Antitec and IND (from Greece) came to Ze Meeting 2000, we had great conversations (when we understood what they were talking about! They have such strange spelling... Hopefully, IND speaks French well!).

Such a Euromeeting would be really useful to the scene. It would create links between the countries, as one doesn't always know the existence of the others...Emmanuel Roussin ventured across the channel to see a WACCI Convention for himself. Has it ever occured to you to do likewise?No, I never go abroad for a meeting. And for the reasons I mentioned above, I don't think that would be a real benefit for me to go to a WACCI convention. Don't feel hurt by my words, that's not my intention. But I think I wouldnt find anything interesting to me. But a travel to Greece or Germany is something to think about seriously.A bit about yourself. What are your personal interests outside the CPC?I was a student in computer science... but it didn't interest me a lot. Another passion is music. I love groups like Yes, Genesis, Dream Theatre, King Crimson – progressive music in general. My compositions on CPC were in fact very useful to me, as they convinced me to become a professional musician. I have been a bass player for 3 years now, and I work (alone for the moment) on an rock album which is 80% written.When did you get a CPC? What was the set-up?Probably in '86; or '87;, I don't exactly know. It was a CPC 464 our neighbour sold us because his wife thought he was spending too much time on it... I can thank her! It came with Fruity Frank, Alien-8, and that's all I think... But Orphée bought some games, and we had a CPC club nearby, so we, too, spent many many hours on CPC... We had a CPC 6128 two years later.OK, you had Orphée, but who else did you get in contact with initially?The first contact we had was Tronic. We wrote to him because we saw his address in the Paradise Demo, by Paradox, and we wanted to interview him in Demoniak 1. He left the CPC one or two years later, but was a good contact.

The second contact was Tony from Maxi-Micro, and this guy is probably the most incredible guy we ever contacted. In fact, I dont remember how we entered in contact, but Tony helped us in so many ways... graphics, music, news... He really made all he could for us to get motivated and to improve our fanzine. He also coded the superb turn-disc of Demoniak 3. If we are here, that's because of him!

We also met Ramlaid and the team of his then fanzine Croco World, as they were living 60 km from our home! And we're still good friends.What stimulated you and why?We were beginning to get known! Demoniak was reviewed in many fanzines, and it was quite appreciated. What we did was not made for nothing and nobody. To receive a letter in which is written that your discmag is good, is really enjoyable. To read your name is a greeting scrolltext is great. How could we stop here?What holds your interest now?Always the same thing : to receive greetings and congratulations. We work hard on our productions, but I think they are well received. When we released Demoniak 6, we had only a few replies: nearly no-one seemed to have read it! We were very disappointed. We made Demoniak 7 in order to counter this.What has been your biggest disappointment?Probably the loss of contact with our graphist, Rainbird, who disappeared to America. We know he's back, so we're happy! But generally, there is less and less contact with the sceners... We are all getting older, and more and more busy...Your greatest achievement?I'm quite proud about Demoniak 7, in which I wrote many many things. I think it touched the scene, whichwas my aim. I'm also quite proud about my Big'o'full'o'demo, even if some CRTCs don't accept it very well.

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Before we go any further, what are your CPC productions to date?Seven Demoniak issues, of course. My first demo was the Rastablast part of the Power System Megademo. I coded the Digiblast part in the Bordelik demo IV from Arkos. One of the three parts of the Terror under the Xmas Tree from Arkos. The three part demo Big'o'full'o'demo, also from ARKOS. The tool Rastarkos.

I made musics for every demo listed here, and also for Deep Space by Tom & Jerry, Acid Music Box 3, and other Arkos demos I didn't code.Emulators. Which do you use and of the crop which do you rate and why? Will the emulator, as opposed to the actual CPC, be the future?I use WinAPE1.8b (by Richard Wilson), because it allows you to assemble infinitely long source code. That's my main problem nowadays: my code is too big to fit the CPC memory! Demoniak 7 had to be finished on an emulator, because the source was too big for DAMS!

I also use emulators when I need a lot of precalculated data. I write the code in BASIC, and when the CPC makes the calculations, I use a 3000 Mhz CPC! NoCash CPC is a very fast emulator, very good for precalculations: I use it in this case. When I want to see a demo, I use Arnold or Caprice32.

But generally, emulators should just be used when you don't have a CPC at hand... at work, for example (!). Or when the CPC tools are not good enough. That's why I finish my code with WinAPE.

Emulators are not the future, but allow you to go beyond some CPC hardware and software weaknesses, where they exist.Of the people on the CPC, who do you consider yourself to be closest to?Eheh, it's a funny question! I think Ramlaid from Mortel is the guy I know the best. Because we live quite near to each other, we often meet for non-CPC reasons. We were also in the same college.Who have you found a great help over the years in understanding the complexities of the CPC?As I said before, Tony of Maxi-Micro was one of our first contacts. Among all he sent us, was a tutorial he wrote, which talked about rasters in assembler. I and Orphée studied this code, and after this we were able to create little codes. He also sent us his fullscreen-code. This code allowed us to use fullscreen in every article of Demoniak 4... So Tony was our first teacher.

We found also much information in Amstrad Cent Pour Cent magazine, still published at the time. But a great help came from the many meetings we went to, where you can ask every questions you have, and are sure to find the answers.

But to answer your last question, I think that without Tony, we would have given up, or have begun to learn machine code much later.What's your opinion of the demo scene?The demo scene is the only thing that makes us stay on CPC. Sadly, it is quite weak these last years.And the game scene?Dead? If we discount Bollaware (who have left the CPC), who still creates good games? But I don't really care about games on CPC. If I want to play, I generally use a PC.Each country's coders?I think the French scene is the most productive on the CPC... I know most of the sceners, and they are all very cool. How could I say anything else? I wish the productivity will increase. Nothing has happened these last months.

It's said that the German scene is dead, but I don't have any contact with any German coders.

The Greek scene is strange: a group can appear and disappear two weeks later! But some Greek coders are really good.

I don't have any contact with any English coders... But generally English productions don't interest me a lot. There is always a war or two angry people fighting each other...

If you want to contact me for Demoniak or anything else, write to:

  NEVO Julien
  Le Louya
  35290 Gael
  France
  Website: http://members.tripod.com/~arkos

Goodbye!

Propos recueillis dans WACCI NEWS n°136
Merci à eux

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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.