Interview with melcom
Written by Adok
Melcom, known from the IRC-Channel #coders.ger, is one of the scene musicians who managed to start a professional career. Formerly a member of groups like Hoax Arts and an editor of the "Coders.ger-Magazine", melcom now writes the music of computer games from respected companies like Blue Byte and Acclaim. But he is still active in the tracker music and the demo scene.
Adok: Hello, Mel! Welcome to our Hall of Fame. Sit down here. Would you like to have a cup of tee, or do you prefer coffee? melcom: I prefer coffee. I drink a lot of coffee. When I go to work in the morning, I usually drink three or four cups. During work I drink coffee all the day, and in the evening usually I consume the interior of another cup.
Adok: Do you drink Turkish coffee or rather prefer the Viennese type of coffee with milk?
melcom: I used to drink only black coffee, but for almost three years I have drunk coffee with milk and sugar. Three years ago I stopped smoking, and then I did not like coffee any more. Well, as I said, since then, I have drunk it with milk and sugar again. However, today I smoke again. But I want to stop it again *smile*.
Adok: OK, let's get to more important things. Quickly introduce yourself. What's your name, where do you live, what do you do in your real life?
melcom: I'm named Andreas Thomas K-C. Urban. Only a few people know what this K-C. is for - and that's good *smile*. I live in Hannover/Germany where I was born in 1972. In my real life I am a bookkeeper and work at my dad's company. Sometimes I also help out in the building trade.
Adok: How would you describe your character to a stranger who's never seen you?
melcom: Friendly, ready to help, good-looking *grin*.
Adok: How did you get in touch with a computer for the first time?
melcom: Honestly, I can't remember. Anyway it started in 1984 with a C64. My dad bought one for me, and I bragged about it at school.
Adok: How did you get to the demo scene?
melcom: Somebody from my class told me to get some C64 demos. "C64 demos?" I had no idea what that could be. Then he gave me some strange intro of his group 'Eagle Soft' (I think) featuring the picture of an eagle. Well, okay but nothing special, I thought and returned the disk to him. 1985 I went to Amsterdam with him, and there I got to know the "real" computer freaks. There were groups that hardly anyone knows today. So I fell in love with the demo scene and got to know many of these people personally.
Adok: Since when have you been active in the scene?
melcom: I've been in the DEMO scene since 1984. Until about 1992 I was in a few C64/Amiga/PC-DEMO-groups and created intros, etc. In 1993 I stopped this stuff and started making music.
Adok: How did your musical computer career start?
melcom: In 1986, I wrote my first song on Amiga. Well, if you can call it a song at all. I'd rather say "an attempt" *smile*. Somehow it stayed the same until 1996. I was not a real music freak before then. Actually I was only interested on the coding/demo scene and wrote a couple of intros myself till 1992. When I stopped this in 1992/1993, I made up the name "melcom".
1996 I wrote the song Space Invaders v1.1 with my Scream Tracker. I liked it so much that my interest in the tracker/music scene increased.
Adok: When and how came the transition from hobby to profession?
melcom: Composing music is mainly still a hobby for me. But I know nobody who would reject composing something for a corporation like Acclaim or Blue Byte if he got this chance with the argument: "I don't like commercial activities." Okay, an even better reaction would be: "Yes but I don't want any money for it." *grin* Well, I don't understand the people who get upset of those who earn some money with their hobby.
Adok: One of your latest releases is an audio CD called "Dark Trooper Symphony IV". How did you get the idea to start this project? What is the Dark Trooper saga at all? What did you want to convey to us with it?
melcom: I'm a sci-fi freak and made a little sci-fi soundtrack called Dark Trooper Symphony in 1995. I love orchestra and film music. The soundtrack itself isn't THAT GOOD, but after Dark Trooper soundtrack 2 I got mails from some sceners who encouraged me and stated I'd slowly improve. I sent the two soundtracks and my Lordship soundtrack (for the game with the same name) to the computer magazine POWER PLAY (http://www.powerplay.de). Then, they had a readers' corner on their CD to which every computer freak could send his own productions. Then I got reactions from the magazine's readers.
There was something special about these Dark Trooper soundtracks so I wrote Part III in 1997/98. I added some vocals to this third part to achieve the feeling of an action/sci-fi movie. I got a lot of feedback to it, and then came questions like: "Is this soundtrack for a game or for a movie?" or: "What do you want to express with this soundtrack, and what's the story behind it?" So at the beginning of 1999 I wrote Part IV and a little novel to it which tells the story of the Dark Troopers. But that wasn't enough for me, and so I asked some people to create some pics for this story. In the middle of 1999 I finished the soundtrack and wanted to put it onto the Internet as a musicdisk. My friends, however, did not finish the graphics in time, and so I released one of the tune as MP3. I stored the song at MP3.COM. Soon after that I recieved an e-mail from the maintainers of this site. They were interested in the other songs and suggested publishing them as an audio CD.
Since my friends haven't finished the gfx yet I released the Dark Trooper Symphony 4 on CD. However, I don't earn a lot of money with the CD. It's up to everyone whether he wants to order this CD.
Two weeks later the soundtrack already proved to be a little success. The CD had been sold more than thirty times in this short period. I also plan to try to release the soundtrack as a musicdisk (in the MOD format) until the end of September. I am just waiting for the last few graphics for the short story of the Dark Troopers.
Adok: What are your current projects (regarding the scene and commercial)?
melcom: For about a year we have been working on the project "From Hell to Hell". From Hell to Hell will be a C&C clone for which I create the music. You can get the opening and closing themes as MP3 at my personal web-site, http://www.melcom.cjb.net. A little test of the game (build00xx.zip) is available at http://www.shoran.com.
I am also working on a commercial soundtrack. The game I am writing it for is called "JAGGED - Transformers". At the end of August or September '99 I will put the MP3 soundtrack onto my web-site, and then it will also be available as a DAM-CD at MP3.COM.
Adok: How would you describe your music style, the "melcom style"? And what is your incentive to track?
melcom: As I've already said, I am a big fan of film music. I watch a movie and then play it back in my head. Later I try to depict the movie by music, paying attention to my emotions.
My fave movie is "Revenge" with Kevin Costner. Jack Nitzsche wrote the music to it. Jack is one of the best film musicians I know. I even have contact to this dude *grin*.
Just watch this movie! It is full of emotions and a bit of action. I have seen it more than thirty times, and every time I watch it something in my inside happens, and I feel the urge to track. Yes, it's like that *grin*.
I enjoy listening to ochestra and rock music (Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura, etc.) most. I also love music by Bill Conti, Graeme Revell, Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, and Sylvester Levay. I have got almost every CD by these people. Whenever I listen to a song by them I am in the mood to track.
Adok: What equipment do you use for making music?
melcom: The keyboards I have are Kurzweil K2000 and Yamaha PSR730 XG. Further I use FastTracker 2 and Impulse Tracker 2. I have the audio programs Soundforge v4.5, Cakewalk Pro 7, DSP-FX, Sonic Foundry ACID Pro v1.0d final, and some more. At the moment I am saving money to buy the latest version of DSP-FX *smile*.
Adok: You've lately been to the USA. What happened there?
melcom: I was mainly there for some real vacation. My girlfriend is a stewardess working for Happag Lloyd, and she wanted to combine a flight to the United States with holidays. I went to the US first and then met her. We went to Houston/Texas and California. The trip lasted for almost six weeks, and in the end I did not want to go back home again. The weather was incredible.
In the USA, I also met a friend of mine. I played a little with his Kurzweil K2000 keyboard and then bought one for myself *smile*. Before that, I had exachanged letters with Chris Hlsbeck, who gave me some cool tips and also told me: "Get a Kurzweil K2000 with software version 2.8 or higher..." I immediately seized this opportunity *smile*.
Adok: Several times you have been asked by computer game companies to make music for their games. You sat in the holy rooms of ID Software. What's the feeling when you are sitting in a room together with star programmers and working on new projects together with them?
melcom: I was flabbergasted of course. I, a little musician, among these great people... It was pretty cool.
Adok: How did you get to working for well-known game companies at all?
melcom: After the positive feedback to my soundtracks DTS1/2 and Lordship, which I had sent to Power Play, I contacted Epic Megagames in 1995/96. They immediately answered to my mail and asked me to upload some of my songs in a password-protected ZIP file to their FTP server. After waiting several weeks I got a message by them. They asked me whether I could write a soundtrack to their game Space Invaders. Of course I did not reject, wrote the track and sent it to Epic via snailmail. Later I moved, lost my e-mail and asked Epic a year later what had happened to the soundtrack/game. The game had been canceled, and they begged for apology. Well...
I sticked resolutely to my wish to write music for commercial games and applied for other software companies. Now and then I got some little jobs. Now I'm trying to work for Blue Byte. I talked to the development leader, Erik Simon. I gave him some of my songs and am now waiting for his answer.
Adok: What music/demo scene groups have you been a member of?
melcom: On PC, I was in groups like Nebula (Trax in Space) and Hoax Arts. I still remember my C64/Amiga time but I do not want to write anything about my groups of that time. Sorry!
Adok: Are you in any group now?
melcom: In the middle or end of 1998 I left all my groups. There was no action in Hoax Arts (http://www.hoaxarts.cjb.net) at all, and a group which consists of only one or two active members is no group. So I left Hoax Arts and joined Nebula (http://www.center-nebula.com). Immediately I was treated like a family member in Nebula. Nebula is a music label which only top musicians are members of. They produce their own CDs in the USA and are also hosting the second largest scene music archive after the Hornet Archive there (http://www.traxinspace.com). However, I left Nebula soon and am now solo. I really like being solo. I just do what I like and what's fun *smile*.
Adok: What is your attitude to the issue of "sample ripping"?
melcom: I'm not opposed to sample ripping. Everyone does it. But you should not forget to credit the people whose samples you have taken in your song.
Adok: The old topic: What do you think about MP3s in demos?
melcom: Nothing. I do not like MP3s in demos. I release my songs in IT/XM format. Later I put the same songs in the net as MP3. But only for those people who have no tracker or player. However, I don't MP3 every song of mine but only those I personally like. My next soundtrack, "JAGGED", will be an MP3 soundtrack. It will be partly tracked, the rest will come from my keyboard.
Adok: An audio CD can store about 650 MByte of data. This is 72 minutes of uncompressed audio data. That means that a minute of music occuipies about 9 MByte of disk space. Using MP3 compression you can reduce the space needed to one sixth on an average, with a slight quality loss. The sequel to this compression method, MP4, is promised to have an even better compression factor. Are the quality losses relevant enough to be opposed to these methods?
melcom: Well, when I write a song with my keyboard and put it online, I am pleased that something like an MP3/MP4 format exists. And you hardly notice the quality loss. I mean, I cannot simply put a song of 30 MB or more on the net. Who should download it?! And if someone really wants to have a file of 30 MB or more, they can send me a CD-R, and I will burn the song on it.
Adok: Do you have any idols or musicians whom you especially respect?
melcom: My idols are Purple Motion, Allister Brimble, Hülsbeck, Lynne, and Hunz.
Adok: Your favourite demo groups, music groups, demos, intros, coders, graphicians, and diskmags?
melcom: My all-time favourite demo groups are Future Crew, Pulse and Skid Row. Music groups: Nebula. Demos: Tour (Pulse), Second Reality (FC), Sunflower (Pulse). Coders: PSI (FC), KB (Smash Designs), Unreal (Pulse). Intros: Stash (TBL). Graphicians: Pixel (FC), Skaven (FC), Lazur (Pulse). Diskmags: Hugi, Imphobia, Armor of Gods.
Adok: Your personal motto?
melcom: Be the best or die with the rest.
Adok: A suggestion for the readers?
melcom: Don't listen to others. Do what's fun. And don't give up.
Adok: Is there anybody you would like to greet?
melcom: My mum, my girlfriend, and my cat Nirvana.
Adok: Where can your (future) fans learn more about you and your creations?
melcom: The best way is my web-site: http://www.melcom.cjb.net
Adok: A final question: Rumour has it that you will soon become a father. True?
melcom: Yep, I hope so *smile*. If it has worked out, I'll announce it on my web-site. Mama melcom wants to surprise me on the next weekend. I strongly hope that it is what I assume *smile*.
Adok: Than you for the interview! All the best to you.
melcom: It was my pleasure.