An Interview with Mr Weebl
A short interview with Mr Weebl, the artist behind the latest remix album
SID Life Crisis that was released in January, 2023.
Afew weeks ago a new remix album, creatively titled
SID Life Crisis was released by Mr Weebl (known as Jonathan
Jonti Picking in real life) The album features 12 mostly uptempo tracks with synth-heavy (re-)arrangements of several well-known SID tunes, some of which turn dark and grungy at times. A couple of them are also fronted by clever lyrics sang by Mr Weeble himself that are usually a twist on the title of the given SID tune itself (for example, singing
Turn your face into the light / The force that we feel feels so real / It feels just so right on the track titled
Lightforce). On this occasion I asked Mr Weebl if he could answer a few questions about the album, and to my delight he agreed.
Hi! Welcome, and thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for Remix64.com! You are known mostly for your animation work ( Weebls-stuff.com ), and also for your work with the virtual band
Savlonic. What motivated you to create and publish this solo SID remix album now, almost out of the blue? How does it connect to your previous artistic output, if at all?
I'd made a couple of remixes years ago of Delta and Sanxion, then sort of put it to one side. Life gets in the way I guess. Then during a stream on Twitch, I think it was, Thalamus asked if I'd be interested in doing an album. I jumped at the chance. The tunes of the C64 mean a lot to me and having that end goal really focuses you. It's like the blank page you normally start with now has notes for you to build off.
There's a lot of the SID sound in my tunes in general I think. At least in spirit, if not in actuality. This was the music of the machine that first inspired me, that gave me my first taste of sequencing, synthesis and animation (via SEUCK).
It's been so much fun reconnecting with it all and I'm glad I did it. After lockdown and everything else going on I'd been finding it quite hard as I'm sure many others are/were. This project for me is a love letter to some of my inspirations, musical heroes, and happy memories.
What is your personal connection with the Commodore 64 and the music that was made on it by Hubbard, Daglish, Galway and others?
So much of my childhood memories are of time spent with the C64. I remember spending a summer with my mate Jim trying to beat Bubble Bobble on it. Hooking it up to a stereo and dancing to the tunes. The music was almost more important than the game to me. I'd pause tapes while loading just to hear the full loading tunes. Sit on the start screen of Parallax to hear Galway's wonderful theme. Play on the Delta mix-E-loader by Rob Hubbard. Bought the sampler and the weird Yamaha keyboard... I still have a C64 with the Messiah cartridge, though most of the sounds on this album are made with hardware synths.
What was the idea behind teaming up with the
new Thalamus for this album? Obviously, the original Thalamus was the publisher of some of the games whose music you chose to remix on this album (Sanxion, Delta, and Quedex) but I suspect there must be some more connection beyond that.
I'd love to know where the idea sprang from to get this rolling. I think it was pure serendipity. I stream my work day on twitch and Thalamus was in the chat so maybe the idea sprang to them or maybe it was planned. I'm not sure but I'm really glad it did.
They were so cool about letting me go outside the original Thalamus game soundtracks, as there were remixes I just really, really wanted to do.
I always admire remixers who choose to cover the entirety of Galway's milestone Parallax theme. You tackled this tune, too, and it turned into a 10 and a half minute long cinematic track on your album, even featuring a church organ, an instrument that is near and dear to my heart. Is there anything you can tell our readers about this track: how it came to be, why you chose it, and why you chose to make your remix nearly as long as the original?
The original is etched into my mind and this one was an itch I had to scratch. That almost out-of-tune melody at the start then the sweeping bass comes in. Glorious. I love when sounds are on the cusp of breaking down and this is part of the SID's charm I think. Some of the other tracks I tore apart to focus on the sections that really worked for me - you can't really do that with Parallax. so how do you bring something to that party? This one was sparked by Zapp64's love of Steve Reich (used in Delta, I know) which I obviously needed to hear. It's all knock-on effects. It felt right to try and bring some of that in as it was part of how I feel about these tracks as a result. The repeating riffs and arpeggios of the original just fit so well.
And who doesn't love a massive organ sound?
You've explained in detail why you chose Parallax for the album, but what about the other tunes? Any specific reasons for picking those over, I don't know, a thousand others that you could've picked for the album?
Something about the Bombjack track made me think of old French Synth music and summers in pub gardens with some dub playing. I love how music can do that, spark a memory with something else, and the whole album for me is a nod to not only the C64 but to other music of my life, too. Arkanoid is just one of the most aggressive tunes on the C64, really got me pumped up for smashing bricks as a kid. Quedex sparked memories of listening to Selected Ambient Works. As for Lightforce, I think it's hard to find a better chip tune.
There's also a few tracks I tried out but in the end felt I wasn't doing them justice. You can't get precious, though. Something isn't working? Spent several days on it? Get rid of it. Move on.
I'm looking at you Hunters Moon.
For the more technical-minded readers of ours: was there any specific gear (instrument, plugin, mixing tool, whatever) that you especially enjoyed or looked forward to utilize on this album?
Oh yeah. I'd been thirsting for the Behringer 2600 (ARP clone) and this was a fantastic excuse to follow through on that. Wonderful, rich analogue sound with a lot of possibilities as is all patchable. It's quite possible to replicate a lot of what the SID can do. It's covered in lights, too, so that's nice.
We got the wonderful Daniel Dobbs (Kasper Funk in Savlonic) on guitar for Firelord (VST's were not cutting it). Thanks Thalamus for that!
The Roland JP-8080, Novation Mininova (overlooked I think, little powerhouse) were also used, but the majority was done in Reason which is a quirky DAW built around a modular/patch cable concept. I love it... It's not for everyone.
Mainly, though, it's about controllers, as different interfaces bring different things to the table. Hence this. (See side picture.)
Is this album going to be a one-off, or is there a possibility we'll see more SID remix albums from you in the future, too?
I would absolutely love to. Hopefully this does well enough for a sequel.
Feb 2023, interview by LaLa
The interview was conducted over email and has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
SID Life Crisis trailer video
The advert is mainly a nod to people who have reached the same point in Life and gone... fuck it.
Do things. Embrace chaos. Be the most you, you can be. (Mr Weebl)
Official video clip for the track
Lightforce from SID Life Crisis.