Twenty Years of C64 Remixes on RKO – The Stats
Article by Warren Pilkington, September 2020
Amazingly, Jan Lund Thomsen’s hard work on remix.kwed.org, providing an essential source for the Commodore remix community, and indeed, what also feeds into Remix 64 and their voting system, charts and so on, celebrated twenty years of remixes in June 2020. As you can well imagine, that’s a considerable number of remixes which have been submitted, approved, and ultimately enjoyed by the SID and remix community alike. So, I thought in this article we’d have a deeper dive into some fun statistics, showing what is popular to remix, which SID musicians have the most remixes, but also some quirky facts too along the way.
All the data presented here is based on a database pull from remix.kwed.org kindly provided to me by Jan himself on 24th September – and my many thanks to him for his sterling assistance on that. Indeed, I think we all need to give Jan a huge thank you for maintaining that resource for so long, and for being a valuable resource of music, especially during the current situation that we all find ourselves in.
A Few Important Notes Before We Start
Looking at the data Jan provided, it was clear that some remixers would have provided the original author credit for who was known to be the SID author at the time of submission (which changes as HVSC evolves and finds even better credits.) In a few other cases, those remixers sometimes defaulted to subtune 1 rather than the actual SID subtune they were covering – so it was important where possible to correct those.
One other thing I did was that if a SID file had multiple authors, and the authors of each subtune were known, I ensured that the SID author credit was for that subtune. This was particularly important in the case of The Last Ninja, in order that the late Ben Daglish and Anthony Lees were correctly represented individually – as it would matter in one of the statistics. So, in summary then:
mega mixesinvolving multiple SIDs by one or multiple authors were ruled out for stats analysis (there were only around 20 of these)
- Any SID file with multiple authors were split to correct credits for each subtune where possible
- SID author names were checked for consistency / spelling / handle use and made consistent for accuracy
- SID author names were verified against the SID file if an author changed during the lifecycle of when the remix was released
- Any obvious errors with the SID subtune selected to be remixed were corrected where possible
- All stats are based on the data as of 24thSeptember 2020 and will be liable to change in future as more remixes are submitted.
Finally, the data is based on what was provided by Jan Lund Thomsen to me from remix.kwed.org and only covers remixes on that site. Any commercial CDs etc would not be included here, but are available for your listening pleasure and to purchase, should you wish to.
So, let’s delve in and have some fun, shall we?
The Most Remixed SID Files
So which SID files within HVSC have provided sources of inspiration for remixes? Lots of them, actually. In fact, 1,363 different SID files have been remixed, which as a proportion of HVSC version 73 (52,884 SIDs in total) is 2.57%. That means that there is plenty of scope of finding a SID file and tune which hasn’t as yet had a remix – and be a new source of inspiration.
Here’s the top 25 SID files from HVSC in terms of numbers of remixes:
What is perhaps the biggest surprise is that Last Ninja 2, not Last Ninja, is actually top of the list here. There is a larger suite of subtunes (13 as opposed to 11) which may also be the reason – more scope to pick an individual subtune from that.
Not a surprise to see the likes of Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway dominate most of this list, but worthy of note that certain tunes by perhaps lesser well-known musicians also feature: Nick Scarim’s Spy vs Spy and the haunting Enlightenment: Druid II by David Hanlon – the latter of course made famous by being used in the Fairlight crack intros of the time too. What was also surprising was that only one Jeroen Tel SID made the top 25, and two for Chris Hülsbeck, although in both cases they have a large back catalogue to choose from.
Plenty of these themes of course are bona fide Commodore 64 classics, and it’s no wonder that they have proven popular to be remixed over the years. What’s then interesting is if you break this down by individual tune (called subtune in the SID file).
The Most Remixed Individual Tunes
So, the top 25 subtunes (actually, 27, as four tied for 24th place so only fair to include them all) look like this:
Rob Hubbard takes the top three positions, and no surprise that his classic interpretation of the Commando main theme is top of the list. What this also does show you is how spread out the remixes of the Last Ninja games are in terms of tunes within the suites, with only four of them featuring:
- #6 and #7 from Last Ninja, The Wastelands and The Wilderness
- #2 and #12 from Last Ninja 2, Central Park and The Mansion
The number of versions of Spy vs Spy explain Nick Scarim’s high ranking here and in the previous table, similar to David Hanlon for Enlightenment: Druid II. Perhaps notable also is the Wizball high score music (#7) by Martin Galway is the one that features here, instead of the title theme, which is subtune #4.
Rob Hubbard takes up pretty much half of the top remixed subtunes list.
Most Remixed SID Musician
The top 25 most remixed SID musicians are below, with Rob Hubbard way out in front at the top (as you might have expected.) The percentage is of all remixes on RKO, which means almost one in six remixes (especially if you add the ones of Auf Wiedersehen Monty that was him and Ben Daglish together) are of Rob:
Note: SID musicians that are unknown and have been remixed are excluded from this table. There were 68 remixes where the original author was unknown which would have made 12th place.
Rob more than doubles the next most remixed musician, and after carefully ensuring the correct subtunes for Last Ninja were credited to the late Ben Daglish as the original musician, that ensured fourth place behind Jeroen Tel.
Some other interesting quirks:
- Do you remember how Last Ninja 2 had 120 remixes? That is in effect almost three quarters of all remixes of Matt Gray tunes (and bear in mind, this is RKO only, so Matt’s Reformation series is not included)
- A number of demo musicians made the most remixed list (DRAX, Jeff, Laxity ad Tomas Danko) which is positive sign that remixers are venturing beyond the game tunes more.
- However, 12 of the 29 Tomas Danko remixes are based on one tune – Plastic Pop.
- Graham Jarvis and Rob Hartshorne (aka Clever Music) feature here because of three game themes only: Fairlight, Gyroscope and Wizardry.
- Of all the 56 Fred Gray remixes, only one remix Fred’s favourite tune, Madballs – kudos to Makke for taking that on.
Most Different SID Tunes Remixed, by Musician
This next table shows how many different SIDs by the SID musicians have been remixed. In some cases, this is because the SID composer has a large back catalogue, but also should show what variety there is from some of the SID musicians:
Note: unknown musician would have had 44 different SIDs and been placed fourth, but because this could be any musician, this has been excluded from this table. Only 24 musicians had 10 different SIDs or more remixed.
Jeroen Tel finally tops a chart here, perhaps best illustrating the depth of work to be a remix
source. No surprise too that DRAX features highly due to the sheer number of SID tunes he’s made over the years, and a number of other musicians feature here not on previous charts, including demo musicians such as A-Man and Dane, as well as the likes of Neil Baldwin, Markus Schneider and Adam Gilmore as well. In each of these cases, the variety of work has often proven to be a remix source, but not necessarily the same SID tune either, so interesting to note.
It’s also worth pointing out that of the 1,363 different SID files remixed in total, around 400 SID musicians feature in some way, which is pretty nice.
In addition, I went and worked out how many of those SID subtunes (ie: tunes within the SID file) which totalled 1,692 subtunes in all, had only one remix, or two, or three. The results were quite interesting:
- 1,089 SID subtunes had only one remix
- 274 SID subtunes had two remixes
- 97 SID subtunes had three remixes
So, there’s also plenty of uniqueness around where someone’s attempted a remix, and they’re the only one. Maybe worth a search to see if there’s something there to either improve on or to use as a source of inspiration for looking at other SIDs by the same musician to remix, methinks.
The Most Remixes by Remixer
Going the other way, and often showing the longevity of a remixer over the 20 years RKO has been around, the top 20 remixers with the highest number of remixes look like this:
Many of these have contributed over a long period of time, so no surprise to see some familiar names in this list, including DHS, Sonic Wanderer, Wobbler, Martin Dodd, Infamous and Dr Future. Johan Andersson though has produced a lot, and all but one is over a seven-year period, which is a fairly high output. Also, of interest: only three on this list were also SID musicians as well (Chris Abbott, Moog and Dafunk)
The Longest Remixes
This shouldn’t need any explanation – the ten longest remixes in terms of length, with Tomsk no less being top of this list:
Perhaps notable, due to the original also being a rather long piece, is that Parallax makes three of the top ten here. Also, because Knucklebusters is such a complex piece, kudos for Tomsk for taking that one on. There are also 23 remixes in total which are over ten minutes long.
The Shortest Remixes
At the other end of the extreme, if you want something short (and sweet) here’s the shortest. It’s worth noting 37 remixes in all are under a minute long:
And yes, I did play them all to check. In some cases, such as Flight Path 737 and Skate Rock, it is down to the original SID tune also being short as well, so makes sense. The Last Ninja 3 End remix featured here is actually the game over tune, not the end sequence tune, but still quite a nice little rendition
Number of Remixes, Released Each Year
The graph below shows you how many remixes, year on year, were released on RKO:
2020 is of course not as yet complete, so that figure will rise. It’s worth noting that the initial few years had plenty of remixes, and this settled down to between 100-150 per year from 2014 onwards. 2016 had the lowest number of releases on RKO (95) and 2001 had the highest number (359) which equates to almost one remix per day for the whole year.
The steadier number may also mean two things: either there’s less people still having the enthusiasm to remix, or as I see it, more focus on quality instead of quantity, and with people having also moved on to other things, it’s actually a newer generation in some cases who are also doing a very good job indeed.
Various Other Fun Stats
You want more? Well, here’s some noticeable other stats I came up with when doing the additional research for this article:
- 33 remixes are by the original SID musician, remaking their own work. This tends to happen more in commercial releases (see Matt Gray’s Reformation series and Reyn Ouwehand’s Nexus series in particular). Of those 33, Thomas Detert and Steven Diemer (A-Man) have done 8 each, with Peter Clarke also contributing 5.
- 448 remixes are by a SID musician remixing another SID musicians’ work – adding the 33 above, remixing their own tune, and that’s 481 where the remixer is also a SID musician. Chris Abbott tops this list with 44, followed by Dafunk (41), Moog (32), Markus Schneider (22) and Marcel Donné (18)
- The famous Ocean Loader themes have seen a total of 48 remixes, split like this:
- Ocean Loader 1 – 3
- Ocean Loader 2 – 18
- Ocean Loader 3 – 7
- Ocean Loader 4 – 16
- Ocean Loader 5 – 4
- The longest SID tune that has a remix is Gordian Tomb by Thomas Detert (the in-game subtune #2 is 31:57), followed by Tetris by Wally Beben (25:54). In both cases, the remixes aren’t the full song – so there’s a challenge for anyone to take one of these monsters on!
- If you listened to all the remixes on RKO, back to back, you’d be listening for 287 hours, 41 minutes, 58 seconds. That’s a shade under 12 days non-stop, and averages out at around 4 minutes 5 seconds per remix.
- The first SID tune remixed (by alphabetical HVSC path) is Boz Hubbard by Boz (DEMOS/A-F/Boz_Hubbard.sid), and the last SID tune alphabetically remixed is Slowmotion by Zyron (MUSICIANS/Z/Zyron/Slowmotion.sid) – and both of these were remixed by Hazel!
So, there you have it, a useful snapshot of how the remix scene is after twenty plus years of having RKO as a very useful resource for both SID fans and for remixers alike, aligned with Remix64 for the magazine side. It certainly was fascinating to do all the research (and of course listen to plenty of remixes along the way as well as the original SID tunes) so definitely well worth checking so many of them out.
I should also add too that the time and effort spent by all, to bring it all to you, should not be underestimated and their passion for the Commodore 64 and its music is one that we all appreciate. If you’ve ever given it a go, my hat is tipped in your direction.
Second - it's a fascinating compilation, Waz, much appreciated! Although I have to say, if you did not use Perl to compile the data presented here, I'm not sure I would be willing to certify it. ;-)
Also, I think we can all agree that Johan really deserves a special award by being the most prolific remixer on RKO by a mile. And the vast majority of his remixes have a rating of well above 70% (with 6 in the all-time top 100 list!), so it's not just about quantity with him, but also quality!
And thanks for the kind words, everyone. Can't believe it's been twenty years already. :)