"The future has imploded into the present. With no nuclear war,
the new battlefields are people's minds and souls.
Megacorporations are the new government. The computer generated
info-domains are the new frontiers. Though there is better
living through science and chemistry, we are all becoming
The computer is the new "cool tool," and though we say "all
information should be free," it is not. Information is power and
currency in the virtual world we inhabit, so mistrust authority.
Cyberpunks are the true rebels. Cyberculture is coming in under
the radar of ordinary society. An unholy alliance of the tech
world, and the world of organized dissent..."
Opening Manifesto edited with additions by Billy Idol used under
license from "Is There A Cyberpunk Movement?" by Gareth Branwyn
cxt: Hi Lotek, I guess there won't be many sceners who didn't
know you already, either by your current nick or by your former
alias, which was of course MC Laser. You were born in 1973 and
became active inside the Atari scene in 1991. Since then you
were spotted on most big party events and aided lots of prods
come to life. Your real name is Stefan Benz and you are
currently a member of tSCc. You started DJing at the end of the
eighties and didn't get enough of it yet, it seems :) I also
remember that I read you began composing chip-music in 1998.
What else can you tell us about yourself?
ltk: It looks like you already mentioned most of the important
informations. I can add that I am genetic male (not looking like
that all of the time), single and looking. My current age is 32
and I am working as a salesman selling household machines over
cxt: Hmm, the term "genetic male" sounds funny, perhaps I should
get a bit suspicious here? In addition to that you are "not
looking like that all the time"? You have a (secret) life as a
drag queen or something? (Sorry couldn't resist ;)))
ltk: Hehe well… the term "Drag Queen" is mostly used when it
comes to overstyled transvestites with exaggerated make-up who
can mostly be found in gay-clubs. In my case there is more the
idea of the "androgyne cyborg" like the robots in the video "All
is full of love" by Bjoerk (directed by Chris Cunningham). Maybe
this is just a phase like David Bowie's androgyne phase in his
cxt: Why did you change your nickname from MC Laser to Lotek
ltk: The namechange had a simple reason. I already had the
"Lotek Style"-projectname for my musicstuff since 1998. Back at
that time chipmusic wasn't involved in my music at all. I did
not consider it as "real music". A few years later this had
completely changed and chipmusic was a major influence and
output from myself. During my retraining in 2000-2002 I often
had the problem that people knew me as "Lotek Style", but when I
showed them some Atari production where I was involved they
said: "Where are you, we haven't read your name there?". I had
to explain that for a couple of times so I decided to change my
name completely to "Lotek Style" to avoid confusion caused by
several nicknames. Well, on the other hand you can take it as
another sign of growing up.
cxt: Since you are no coder, you have to use other peoples
trackers instead of creating your own, which has quite a
tradition among other famous chip-musicians in the Atari scene.
Which chip-tracker do you prefer for your compositions? Are you
still using Animal Mine's SSD or have you switched to one of the
newer and more advanced trackers like MusicMon2.1, maxYMiser or
ltk: Recently I haven't been very active doing music at all but,
yes, I still use SSD and also INSIGNIA TRISOUND from time to
time. I haven't switched to the newer trackers yet but I heavily
ogle with maxYMiser. This will be the next tracker that I will
take a closer look to.
cxt: At the #atariscne horror cabinet on dhs I saw you own
several Atari computers, starting with an 800XL, several (Mega)
STs and a C-Lab Falcon MKII, which is probably your main
machine. It seems you are a bit into collecting these. Is there
a machine you always wanted to have but didn't get so far?
ltk: Horror cabinet? Doesn't myself look so pretty pretty? ;)
Well I am not really a hardcore machine collector like several
other guys around. The amount of machines in my collection is
really small compared to their collections. There is no machine
which I am after, except maybe such a nice Atari Androbot that
you can examine at the website of the Atari Historical Society.
(cxt: http://www.atarimuseum.com/ )
cxt: Damn, you got me. Let's google a bit. like the name already
suggested it's a robot. I guess these will be somewhat hard to
get. Perhaps a more recent product like the Robosapien V2 might
fill the gap? It might be a bit smaller (only 70cm though).
ltk: No I don't think so because Atari wasn't involved ;) The
Androbot also looks so "Battlestar Galactica-ish" which is a
plus for me.
cxt: What do you think about Falcon accelerators like the ct60,
would you like to have one, or do you think stockpile machines
should be enough for demos?
ltk: A very tricky question to me. There were lots of
discussions about that topic in the past. People said that it is
killing the scene or better dividing a small scene into several
smaller sub-scenes which cannot be concerned as a good thing.
I'd love to have a ct60 but in my opinion it is too expensive.
cxt: What do you think about ST(E) emulators or emulators in
general? Would you like to have a real Falcon emulator?
ltk: Steem is a very nice tool and without it some of my
projects wouldn't have been realised that fast. Emulators are
useful but when it comes to watching ST demos I prefer the real
machine. Emulators can also give you a nice insight on other
platforms demos. Concerning a real falcon emulator, yes, I'd
love to have such a tool. It would make it easier to check out
some falcon stuff if you are working on a huge archive of falcon
productions for example (hint hint).
cxt: You are also the proud owner of a VCS and a Jaguar, did you
use any other consoles beside them?
ltk: Well, use or own? :) I "use" several consoles when I visit
other people at home. A few years ago I had a Nintendo64 for a
couple of month but sold it again when I needed the money. I
think the GameBoyAdvance and newer models are quite interesting
because they have that 16-bit feeling :)
cxt: You are also the guy behind the Fading Twilight and No
Fragments CD series, how many parts for each series can we
expect in total? Are you planning to switch to DVD releases in
ltk: The masterplan for this answer still has to be written.
There will be at least two more Fading Twilight CD's. Excerpt 10
and 11 are already under construction but will take a long long
time unless I got some more support from rippers and converters.
After that I am planning a dual-layer-DVD-release of the
complete FADING TWILIGHT - NO EXCERPTS! Wrong files or damaged
musics, as well as wrong file or composer-infos will be replaced
or corrected. NO FRAGMENTS is difficult too as there are lots of
files missing which keeps me from finishing several CD's like
the diskmags volume or another one full with compilation discs.
There is also a CD started by Moondog which could be the
ultimate falcon archive when it's finished. There are also CD's
for VISUALS (scene-graphics, scans, ads, movies), a PD GAMES CD
and another party archive CD in my mind at the moment. Progress
is very, very slow at the moment so don't expect any release for
cxt: I saw you were collecting videos of demos from several
systems too, are you planning to release a demoscene video DVD
or do you just collect them for your own pleasure?
ltk: This is just for my own pleasure. There are other crews out
there doing that already and as you might have read I am very
busy with the above mentioned projects.
cxt: I think I can also call you the creator of YM ROCKERZ which
seems to act like a kind of independent label to chip-musicians.
Why did you thought about creating YM ROCKERZ? Were you fed up
with waiting for coders to finish their stuff, while the music
was long done?
ltk: The YM Rockerz idea was born at a time where my own crew
seemed to fall apart and I was looking for a platform to release
my current chipmusics. I first told Tao/Cream about the idea and
it seemed that he liked it. Also 505 seemed very attracted by
the idea. Some more months passed by until we really started to
work on the first disc. You already mentioned another important
point: INDEPENDENCE! Independency from coders who never finish
their stuff when we already finished the music ages ago. In
later discs I always propagandised the battle against the major
record companies and their policy of releasing shit. "You need a
studio - we only need 3 channels!" - The YM Rockerz in 2005 can
also be considered as some kind of netlabel for chipmusic.
cxt: The YMROCKERZ were always good for a surprise in the past
and feature tracks of almost all still active Atari chip-
musicians. What are your plans for the future? When will we see
the next release?
ltk: The new project is currently under construction but the
concept isn't really finished. We already set a "first" deadline
for sending in tunes. I know we will need longer than expected.
It's like that with every new release. That's why I don't want
to release too much information on the project at the moment.
What I can tell you is that it will be called "warptYMe".
cxt: Since chip-music seems to be en vogue ATM I guess its due
to ask if YMROCKERZ are only releasing their music-demos or if
you can also be viewed live on stage at some mirco-music event?
ltk: Oh well some of use are already doing that for ages. Guys
like Crazy Q or gwEm are playing live very often. Unfortunatly
there was no "YM Rockerz united" live-gig up to date. To be
honest I don't know if this would work out on stage too good. 10
or more guys standing behind their ST's clicking around, gwEm is
starting some Scooter-ish MCing, lotek starts to sing something
about beams, satellites that wanna kill itself or guys dressing
up as girls.
cxt: Ah yes, I guess one can recognize a pattern here :). Did
you ever consider using Software YM emulators like the great YM-
ltk: YM-VST is very, very nice but I don't use CUBASE VST on PC
at the moment. I switched completely to REASON 3.0 from
Propellerheads Software. If I need YM Sounds I'm sampling them
directly from my Falcon which is standing beside my PC on the
desk. Even if I am not using such tools at the moment it is nice
to know that they exist.
cxt: What do you think about the strong presence of chip-music
elements within the current mainstream music? Is it a good thing
to see these crossover effects or would you prefer chip-music to
stay more underground, more 1337?
ltk: As all things, there are some good and some bad points
about that topic. The good point is that a wider audience gets
in touch with that kind of sound. The bad thing is that no one
is educating those masses where those sounds are coming from and
who the real heroes of this musicstyle are. When People like
Malcolm Mclaren are claiming to be the initiators of chipmusic
it becomes endlessly ridiculous. When such things happen I
prefer chipmusic to stay underground.
cxt: What is it - in your opinion - that makes chip-music so
much more acceptable for the masses than it was in the past?
ltk: Is it really more accepted? Maybe with all that ringtone-
shit people got used to that "beep beep beep"-sound in the end?
I think it is tolerated but not accepted as real music by the
cxt: Compared to other computers the YM was always considered as
a very weak chip. Even C64 musicians consider themselves lucky
to have a more advanced chip inside their machine. What's reason
for you to use the YM to create your music? Why don't you use
some shiny studio equipment? Is it just the price tag on it or
do you think the limitations of the YM offer more room for real
ltk: For quite a few years I had this shiny studio equipment
standing over here but it didn't made me do better songs. When I
started to do chipmusic back in 1998 some non-scene-musician
liked all the stuff and considered it as real music too. That
made me think about it. The YM is the chip inside the Atari
computer and I'm an Atari-scener so I use this chip. If I were a
C64-scener I guess I would use a SID ;)
cxt: You were a member of UCM in the past, and I am glad you
joined the Alive/UCM team again, but there is still one question
that is still unanswered: What made you quit working for UCM?
ltk: The period when I quitted was a very hard time for me. I
think it was around issue 15/16. Around that time my mother
passed away (my father just passed away 1 ½ years before) and I
completely lost motivation for writing articles at all. Even
years after that when Moondog reactivated the magazine under the
tscc-label I wasn't able to do more than 2-3 articles per issue.
cxt: Since composing, mixing and article writing doesn't eat up
enough time you are also into editing ASCII logos and stuff. I
guess you don't like ASCII generators too much, right?
ltk: ASCII generators are lame like demo construction kits! ;)
Even if there are editors on PC from ex-atari sceners (e.g.
RISK) the results are mostly crap and can never beat a handdrawn
cxt: Selfgoogling seems to be on vogue nowadays. When I search
for xtroll I usually stumble over a corrosion protection and
removal company and perhaps a spam filter program :). Apart from
that, the name seems to be pretty unique. Have you ever tried to
search for tSCc?
ltk: Sure we tried that some years ago with some very amusing
results like the "Tidewater Sports Car Club", "Tiberian Sun
Command Center" or "Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club".
cxt: Very uncommon for any other interview I used a short
excerpt from "Is There A Cyberpunk Movement?" as an
introduction, do you think these words have lost their edge over
the years? Did they become worn off by too many people -
including me - citing them?
ltk: The cyberpunk manifesto was written in 1992 and in my
opinion it's still very, very topical. "Megacorporations are the
new government" is a fact that is becoming more and more
reality. Do you really think that politicians rule the world?
cxt: Lot's of your productions are heavily influenced by any
means of the so called Cyberpunk culture. I bet you read William
Gibson and others quite a while ago. What's so fascinating about
ltk: Sure I read the Neuromancer-trilogy as well as several
other short stories from Gibson and other authors. Cyberpunk is
the first genre that I can completely identify with as chipmusic
is THE music I can identify with. Well what's so fascinating
about it... maybe it has to do with computers? ;)
cxt: Also the latest tSCc product "beams" seems to cite a lot of
elements from the Cyberpunk world, I remember "Ice" for example
was a term for a protection program, something like a firewall
perhaps. However within the songtext you refer to the pyramids
of IBM? I am not sure about the cross reference here. Are you
referring to the "Blue Brain Project" or just too some Website
IBM made for Egypt? Well or perhaps it's something completely
ltk: First: It has absolutely nothing to do with the "Blue Brain
Project" or Egyptian IBM websites. Let me explain. Beams isn't
only heavily involved by Cyberpunk, it is the visualization of a
part from "Neuromancer" by William Gibson. The whole demo/song
is about datapiracy. You were right, ICE means (intrusion
countermeasures electronics) Electronic protection for computer
databases. The pyramids of IBM is inspired by the comic from
Neuromancer that came out in 1991 I think. Case, the datacowboy,
is entering cyberspace and looking into the distant "land"
watching the pyramids of IBM. I hope things now look a bit
clearer. "Panther moderns" is another term where I often got
asked what it means. Here is a short explanation on that point.
Panthers Moderns Youth culture, nihilistic techno fetishist
mercenaries who use mimetic polycarbon suits.
cxt: Evoke brought beams into the spotlight as the latest "coup
de coeur" at pouet. What about the feedback about it? Does it
encourage you to create the next blockbuster?
ltk: The "coup de coeur" was a big surprise for us and made me
quite happy to be honest. The Feedback is almost nice and yeah
we really thought about something new but this was independent
from the latest happenings. A new demo will take some time and
we haven't started yet.
cxt: Beams seems to lend some of the visual effects and graphics
style from current PC demos, while it's technically far beyond
the quality of those prods. Well since a 4 MB, 16 MHz Falcon
can't compete with today's PC specs you focused more on design
than on cutting edge technology that's understandable. However
However do you think these similarities are one of the reasons
for the big success of beams even in the pc scene? Or is it just
ltk: I really don't know but I composed an earwig with "Beams
are gonna blind me" for sure.
cxt: It seems the coding in beams had to follow the audio track
to get synchronized. Is that right? Did ray actually had to code
the effects after the soundtrack was finished?
ltk: The Soundtrack was already finished back in 2001 before the
demo was even started. The very first version was produced for a
Dreamcast-demo from Icebird which never saw the light of day. I
finished the song after that for a label compilation from
ELECTRIC SWITCHEZ from Heidelberg. The CD was released as promo-
CD in 2001. The demo was started in 2002 as far as I remember
and it looks a bit different as we planned.
cxt: The greetings at the end of beams seem to be a bit shop-
soiled probably due to the long release delay of it. I guess you
were too lazy to recreate the mp2 with the audio file right?
ltk: Yes, it was a bit complicated to record the speech voices
and due to lack of motivation I kept the older greetings.
cxt: Well you know the schedule, it's about time for the
ultimate Alive brainstorming test. Fasten your seatbelts,
extinguish cigarettes and get ready. I picked a pretty tough one
especially for you.
L:aser Dance - cool music
O:xygene - one of my fave demogroups
T:urrican 2 - my fave game
E:lectro - music that I spin
K:raftwerk - originators
S:uper Trouper - beams are gonna blind me
T:ransvestites - I like em
Y:M Rockerz - rockerz of the YM!
L:azer - was a cool democrew back in the day
E:kosystem.org - Nice grafitti page from Ex-Eko members
O:rbital - Cool music group which unfortunatly stopped.
F:lan - Pixelstyler!
T:echno - The wave was strong in 1991
S:exmachine - James Brown that is
C:ybernetics - Another cool democrew from France
C:razy Q - Cool YM Rocker ;)
I:mmortal - A cool movie which I've recently discovered
S:eXpress - Hey music lover… did you know that Sonique was a
member of them?
A:tari - heavily influenced my life
L:ego - Kindheitszockerei
I:nter - Another cool crew
V:ectronix - Metallinos Schmittman rocked! ;)
E:nd - phew.
cxt: Congratulations, you just managed to pass the Alive
recruitment test. Consider yourself as a fixed member of the
team now :). Feel free to say some final words, because this
interview is about to end now.
ltk: Wow finally. It must have been the longest interview that
I've ever done. I hope it was informative and entertaining.
Thanx for reading.
cxt: Thanks for your patience and time, and always remember 2
stay Atari ;)
Cyclone / X-Troll for Alive, 2005-09-13