Feelings after Assembly 2001 - How everything happened
I'm ashamed to say that this one crept up on me whilst I was unaware. The
'Alt zone' or mini-Alt taking place within the body of the mega-mighty
Assembly coding convention had been discussed for some time before it
happened, but I was unable to attend. Regretfully turning to thoughts of
Greek Islands and summer sun, I now hand you over to the excellent account
recorded by Setok of this seminal event, intercut with key extracts from
the Wiki-Web real time report. - CiH, August 8th 2001.
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The whole Alternative Zone actually happened by chance. Originally Ville
Vaten, one of the many Assembly organisers, had mentioned that it might be
possible for us to work at something nice together at Assembly. That was the
first time ideas about an Alternative Zone popped up. This was way back in
January or February so we had ample time to work out something.
I guess we misunderstood this to mean that the Assembly organisers had
actually discussed having something like that there because of our protest
and presence last year for the Alternative scene. In addition, Antti Silvast
(of Bandwagon fame) had also turned into an Assembly organiser. All this
together made us feel they were beginning to like us, or at least that they
would not mind us doing something with them.
So we created some ideas for what we could do there and decided that it
certainly could do no harm joining in. I sent an email to Abyss/Future Crew
(the main Assembly organiser) about taking part in Assembly. Apparently at a
later Assembly meeting Vaten was given a bit of rap for leading us to
believe we were given permission to do something there. Anyhow, after a
month of anxious waiting Abyss responded, asking us about what we were
planning to do.
At this time our hopes were quite high so we immediately chose a few ideas
that we were ready to implement. Our goal was to raise the profile of our
own Alternative Party (http://www.altparty.org ), our "movement" and, very
importantly, to present the wide range of machines available beyond the gray
world of PCs. Additionally we thought people would really enjoy something
very different and thus raise the whole spirit of Assembly. It seemed like a
good deal for both sides of the equation.
We never actually received a response from Abyss about these plans.
Organising a party is a huge job, especially something like Assembly, so I
guess this was understandable. Eventually we dropped the idea of any
"official" support for our Alternative Zone. However, as we were already
geared to do something we thought we might set up a table, spread some
propaganda and be a general menace to the mainstream.
Time went by and finally a week before Assembly I decided to give Abyss one
last shot. At the same time I asked about Oldskool tickets. Everything had
been so unclear that several of us had not even purchased Assembly tickets.
We were not actually convinced about participating at all. This time Abyss
answered almost immediately. Interestingly enough he said "I'm not quite
sure what I've promised, so I guess you can come", or words to that effect.
Of course, he had not promised anything,but we jumped at the possibility and
brought in the old idea of an Alternative Zone. Thankfully we received a few
Assembly tickets and a small chunk of space to do something.
This was all very ad hoc. We found out on Wednesday -- the day before the
party -- that there were no tables or chairs available for us so we had to
bring/invent our own. It was clearly stated that we were not to use much
electricity and later at the party we were to discover that a network
connection was also going to be problematic.
We were very grateful to Abyss for the chance to do this and we awarded him
with the last Alternative Party t-shirt. However, I could not help feeling
slightly depressed about everything. It was obvious that we were only really
an after-thought and probably seemed like only trouble to people involved
with Assembly. Especially as that meant we had to try and find some tables
and chairs from somewhere in the very last moment.
This feeling was only emphasised the next day when we had to queue up for
quite a while with our huge amount of stuff and to try and set up everything
amidst the usual Assembly chaos. We have always done everything with a bit
of a laugh and our tongues in our cheeks. Still, underneath the humour we do
feel rather strongly about what we do and that it is a Good Thing.
So at the time it did not feel so great as it looked like we were being
ignored. Of course, looking back now, that is not quite the truth. We were
given special permission to do what nobody else was doing. I guess it was
mostly depressing because originally we had hoped for something quite
different. We had hoped to be able to organise a special part of Assembly
along with the rest of the organisers. To be almost a part of this year's
show, rather than an eccentricity. It was the final realization that this
was not to be that made me feel rather gloomy.
The actual event
Things did pick up when we finally got everything set up after hours of
work. A row of wonderful machines was building up on top of the camouflage
net we borrowed from Entropy, along with the UV lights. Epson sponsored us
with a video projector so we could show off demos for the Amiga500, Ataris
and other machines! Immediately people began to take interest in our area,
often with loving remarks about our nice machines.
An ST and an unknown MSX recline in a seductive fashion?
Our first mini-compo was to be the analogue graphics compo, but as there
were not yet that many contributions we decided to extend the deadline. This
seemed to be a good idea as we received some pretty good entries by the end
of Assembly. This was also our most popular competition. The simplistic
beauty of a pencil and paper is unbeatable. Anyone can sit down and draw
something and take part. It is so straightforward that it satisfies even
someone with no artistic skills.
At the same time it separates the really skilled from the ones with less
gifts. What is also nice about this minimalistic approach is that every
person is different. Each person has their own style, however skilled they
might be otherwise. If one takes a look at the entries for Assembly's real
graphics competition, almost all represent the usual demoscene surrealism
and many in a very similar style. You simply do not get that with a pencil.
The next day it was time for perhaps our most creative competition: the live
music competition. We actually expected this to fail miserably as creating
live music requires a bit of courage. Something most of us lack. With this
in mind we were pleasantly surprised to have 6 entries taking part. tAAt
hallitsee was the only group that decided not to use a synthesizer and
perhaps for that reason they won the competition (or then they have lots of
We now turn to the Wiki Web realtime report for some early reactions to the
Live Music Compo.
This was a superb event and surpasses our expectations. 6 people took part
and each entry was at the very least interesting, some were creative and a
couple were really quite nice indeed. Many people were interested and
Assembly TV just had to take some footage of us playing around with
synthesizers and mixers.
Analogia even said that this was a real compo. One where people had to use
But this was not without its problems, as the following paragraph now
pnmf! played it's live gig after midnight. people involved were
nosfe,synteesi,roi blask and floppy. we managed to make some nice noise and
there even were few people listening and enjoying(?) our show. some problems
with the staff of hartwall arena though, we had to stop our show twice. first
they took away our tables, and then they told us to move ourselves even more.
fuck that. we stopped playing when the console democompo started and they
wanted to kill all audio and lights.
I believe a special mention should also be given to Analogia, who was quite
obviously well aquainted with the art of making music and my personal
favourite. Ravel and I even took part by setting up a German industrial band
called "Die Rebels" (can be pronounced either in German or English --
whichever you prefer). I am sure you will hear more from us in the future!
AssemblyTV finally found something worthwhile to film when they discovered
this competition, so the end of it was broadcasted. A video will be made of
the whole live music event.
In contrast, our demo competition was a bit of a let-down with only 4
contributions. Still, it is the thought that counts.
The joint winners of the most obscure machine competition were a Philips
Videopac and an old Epson computer (nothing to do with the fact that Epson
The biggest events from our point of view were the Oldskool competitions. It
was actually great to see the MSX and VIC-20 beating the C64 in the oldskool
demo competition! I am sure Silvast, in particular, was feeling good about
their production winning, considering that his entry was the target of scorn
at last year's Wild compo. Mind you, meeting the C64 Dekadence guys, who
came in third, certainly convinced me of their alternativeness. They can
wear their ALT arm bands with pride.
The Oldskool music competition also was fantastic with many wonderful
entries with !Cube (Atari people will certainly recognise the name) winning
and Britelite coming in second. Personally I very much enjoyed
"Valtavirtaa", which was the first truly experimental SID tune I have heard.
Contrary to popular belief, this was not a joke entry from the AltParty
crowd, although the name (Mainstream) may sound like that. But maybe the
name was inspired by us? Who knows...
The normal music competitions were a horrible disappointment. While the
multichannels entries were simply amateur-like, the mp3 compo contained
mostly rather tiring pop/rock songs, with hardly anything different or
interesting going on. One would have thought that that particular medium
would allow the artist's creativity to flow freely. This did not seem to be
the case. Where was the experimentation?
A quick note on the demo competition: it was much better than last year.
Although last year's certainly was not bad, it mostly lacked really original
entries. This year was slightly different, with at least three memorable
entries (Lapsuus, gerbera and dese 2), each with their own style instead of
simply twirling 3D objects. The stunning Amiga entry "Lapsuus" from
Maturefurk (Future Mark) won, which was a great victory for the "old lady",
as Owl called it during the prize ceremony. Having said that, it would
definitely not hurt to see even more individuality and new ideas.
But you've almost forgotten the Wild Competition! Never mind, the realtime
report has quite a lot to say on the subject.
At last we got our network back online so time to say a word or two about the
wild compo. The most disappointing thing about it was that Nosfe&Co's entry
was not shown on the big screen. Yes, it was weird, yes the sound was
basically bleeps and noise, but it was well made, looked good and obviously
effort was put into it. Meanwhile there must have been at least 5 entries
based around some guys fighting on screen in supposedly funny ways. Some were
naturally better than the others, but why not show something a bit different
to balance things out?
As for the other entries, the return of the lego animation was welcomed. The
quality has just gone up since last year. Probably this year's winner again.
Another interesting entry was by Pygmy Project with a version of their old
Amiga intro winner from ' 4 (name?). For some straneg reason the audience
didn't like this. Apparently they wanted more fight scenes.
One more entry is worth mentioning as it was quite different. It contained a
collection of war pictures and the usual demoscene "philosophical" content.
As an idea this was very neat and could have been a winner, but somehow it
just ended up being very tasteless. The font used was not appropriate for the
material, and the ending was nauseating with a loving picture of the author's
girlfriend and the famous marines photo from WWII edited to contain a Finnish
flag. An ending like this for a production that began with pictures of
massacred people was just too much.
Here's another viewpoint coming up....
Same goes for entries in the wild compo. Majority were dullish home videos
masquerading as action adventures (mostly of the "secret agent" variety).
Okay, most had a nice idea or two, but still there was direct correlation
between sex + violence and positive response from the crowd. A demo running
on Nokia's 9210 PDA was scorned upon loudly - the audience got bored (no
cheap humor). Appreciation for the technical novelty value was very low.
Calling it "wild compo" doesn't seem appropriate anymore since nothing wild
got to the screen...
I believe our Alternative Zone was a success, despite the odds. We gained
quite a fair share of media attention and interest -- especially from the
people at the Oldskool area. Several pointed out that we were by far the
most interesting portion of that articular section of Assembly (although
technically we were not inside it). Analogia even went as far as to say that
our live music competition was the only really creative competition at
Assembly. Much more so than the pre-programmed official music competitions.
I do not think anyone really had anything against us being there. At least
nobody came up to complain, except for the few times when we played some
experimental music rather loud -- and even then it was mostly the organisers
complaining while the rest of the people seemed fine with it. We actually
got shouts of approval after playing something nice and harsh by '2nd Gen'
immediately after the pop-focused mp3 competition. The track was
appropriately named "Musicians are Morons". Just to shrug off any
misunderstandings: the organisers were mostly great as well. Many visited
our tables and were obviously in glee at seeing some of the hardware we had
with us. Some even insisted on receiving red "ALT" arm bands.
Our most honoured guest was Robert J Mical, creator of the Amiga. He is the
kind of person who probably never looks miserable. The best kind of
American, with a big smile, big laugh and interested in hearing the silliest
stories. It was obviously bliss for him to see two Amiga500s sitting proudly
at our Alternative Zone. I could not resist forcing him to touch an Atari
Falcon030, explaining that it is one of the most underrated machines in the
demoscene. He slid his fingers across the case and exclaimed with a broad
smile "this is SO great!".
The realtime reveals a bit more about this famous figure....
Robert J Mical (father of Amiga and Lynx) visited the Alternative Zone to see
an example of his baby in action. He saw Viznut's VIC entry for the oldskool
compo and was stunned. He told us about his experiences with Atari and the
Lynx. Apparently the bosses at the time were complete idiots and genuinely
evil. Well we all knew that... Their greed made developers feel pissed off
with Atari, the Lynx team quit, and nobody was terribly excited with it. This
resulted in a higher price and bad feeling all round.
He was visibly excited to touch an Atari Falcon.
WARNING! This man (Sam Tramiel) is Evil!
And here, the Alt boys accomplish something never seen before in the whole
history of the Amiga/PC dominated Assembly party.
For the first time in known history Atari Falcon demos were shown on the big
screen at Assembly! We showed Avena's Sono*, Fit's Maha* (damn, Falcon demo
names are difficult to remember) and Eko's System. It's unsure whether
anybody really noticed them, not to mention enjoying them (mostly pelulamus
in the main area), but if even one person liked them, then we are content.
Now just how did they manage to do THAT!?
The success of the ALT bands is an interesting story in itself. We sold many
of them to people with an attitude and who were interested in what we were
doing and our fun machines. These strips of red cloth with "ALT" spelt
across them turned out to be on of the hottest items at the event. People
everywhere could be seen proudly wearing one on their arm, leg, head or any
other half suitable place. Some were even showing off with two bands. The
funniest was seeing the winners of the oldskool demo compo on stage
collecting their prizes. It was basically just a row of freaks wearing red
arm bands. A clear sign of their stance in the world.
What about an Alternative Zone next year? I sort of doubt it. For one thing,
we have this habit of never doing the same thing twice. Must keep one's mind
fresh, and all. Certainly I do not think it would happen in the haphazard
way it did this time. While almost everyone loved our little collection of
weirdness, it was really a huge pain to get together and I am still not
quite sure what the actual Assembly organisers thought of us. I think we
were still considered a silly curiosity and maybe even a nuisance. While it
is certainly rewarding to receive the comments that we did from party-goers,
being considered a nuisance and unwanted is not a nice feeling.
I still strongly believe we brought a colour and diversity to Assembly that
it benefited greatly from. Maybe we had some kind of impact somewhere, and
that would certainly be wonderful. At the same time, Assembly can probably
manage fine without us. I am pretty sure some of us will visit in the future
but right now our primary concern is the next Alternative Party. I just hope
enough people noticed our small contribution to Assembly and will come and
visit what must be one of the most interesting events of the whole
Thanks To everyone helping to organise the Alternative Zone:
And a special thanks to Jussi Laakkonen (Abyss) for allowing us to take
Kristoffer Lawson | Setok / Aggression | firstname.lastname@example.org
Can be reproduced freely (although I would like to hear about it).