Interview with Hoffman of Unstable Label
Done by Magic of Nah-Kolor
Before and after his Datastorm 2014 gig, Hugi interviewed this great DJ and musician.
Magic: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? Please tell us about your previous groups and current ones.
Hoffman: Hi, my name is Ian Ford, currently known as Hoffman but previously know as Dreamfish or Hydlide within the demoscene. Back in the day I had been in a number of Amiga groups including DCS, TRSI, Defekt, Divine, Quartz and most notably a founder member of the tracking group Mono. Currently I'm a member of Focus Design and a Scenesat staff member and broadcaster. I also run the net label Unstable Label with my wife SaVannaH.
Magic: What made you start making music on computers all those years ago?
Hoffman: I grew up with a C64 and like everyone else loved the classic soundtracks by Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway. I didn't start writing music until I got my Amiga. A copy of MED was on the cover of a magazine I bought and I started having a little tinker with tracking. Getting more into the Demoscene and mail trading, eventually a copy of Nosietracker arrived through my door and I really started to getting into writing music. With some local friends we decided to start our own little demo crew. As it was back in those days we each picked position in the group and so I decided to be the musician.
Magic: What is it like living in the UK?
Hoffman: Expensive and rainy! Seriously though it's been a birth place for a lot of innovation within dance music and being right in the middle of it and also contributing to it has been an amazing experience.
Magic: What is the origin of the nickname 'Hoffman'?
Hoffman: It's something to do with a scientist's bicycle journey.
Magic: Scientist's bicycle journey? Please explain!
Hoffman: It's all lies I'm the love child of David Hasselhoff.
Magic: What does music mean to you?
Hoffman: Everything! It's a massive positive influence on my life as a whole and something I'm really passionate about.
Magic: What positive influences did music give you on your life?
Hoffman: It all goes back to my first Amiga and discovering the demoscene. I got into tracking when I was about 12 years old and carried on for years after. It was inevitable that I would get into DJ'ing and the result was a 5 year residency at my local club. When I was doing breakbeat music I was doing a lot of DJ bookings and it was a crazy time of my life. I was playing small parties all over the UK all the way through to 20,000 capacity Spanish festivals. Nothing beats the the buzz of playing music you love to people who love it too, well apart from playing your own tunes and people dancing too them. So without music, none of these things would have happened.
Magic: You are a member of the group Unstable Label. What is this group about? Who are also members?
Hoffman: It's actually a record label started in 1999 by my friend Paul Era. I joined the label 2005 when I was producing Breakbeat music. He left me the label and with the help of SaVannaH we turned it into a Free Net Label. It's connection with the scene was simply a result of me coming back in 2010. Currently it's run by myself, SaVannaH and RC55.
Magic: What can you tell us about this Free Net Label? What is the url? Can our readers enjoy some nice music there?
Hoffman: Although the music is free to download, we still put all the releases through rigorous quality control from getting the mixdown right through to professional mastering. We pay for everything ourselves just because we want the end result to stand-up against purchased tracks. You can grab all the music for free from our soundcloud page.
Magic: What demoscene productions have you music inside? Which productions are you the most proud of?
Hoffman: Just looking back there has been quite a handful now. Obviously a lot of the Focus Design output with Hot Dots still being my all time favourite of those, such a tight intro on all fronts! But the one I'm most proud of is 8-Bit Jungle. I put a hell of a lot of effort into it and it took me ages to get it completed but was well worth it. The added bonus was how well it was received by the scene.
Magic: How does Hoffman look back on the demoscene year 2013? What were your highlights and most fond memories?
Hoffman: Collaborating with Ferris on an EXE track was really fun. His synth setup is pretty insane. Also DJ'ing at Revision was wicked as ever, seems the crowd get more and more ravey each year. However, my favourite moment of 2013 was when lug00ber ordered Pizza at Sundown. The Pizza delivery guy saw what was going on and actually stayed to watch some of the compos.
Magic: What can you tell us about the making of the Parallax Mixdown track which you gave to us for this issue of Hugi? What makes the original SID so special to you made a remix out of it?
Hoffman: The theme from Parallax is one of my all time favourite C64 tunes. I remember playing it as a kid and listening to the title music on repeat constantly, more so than playing the actual game. I've not done a C64 remix before so this track seemed to be the perfect choice. The process is quite easy when using tools like SID2MIDI. You essentially have all the notes available in chunks so it was a case of finding the right sounds and then embellishing it with additional layers. I aimed to really pay homage to the original and hopefully that has come across in the arrangement.
Magic: You are also a DJ. And you have done some gigs at scene parties. Which parties did you enjoy best doing a gig and why?
Hoffman: Tough one! They've all been pretty dam great to be honest but I think probably the first Revision. I was pretty nervous as I wasn't sure how a demoparty would take to the kind of stuff I played. When I started there was nobody up dancing, so I kinda resided myself to it being that way throughout. But by the end the dance floor was rammed and everyone was really going for it.
Magic: You are playing on Datastorm 2014 in a month from now. What are your expectations of this gig? Will the last Datastorm get some special performance from you? Would you consider playing at a Datastorm successor party in 2015?
Hoffman: I'll be doing a DJ set using two Amigas and the PT-1210 software I've written with Akira. It will be the second time I've ever used the software live, so I'm hoping no bugs suddenly appear!! I'll be drawing heavily on the UpRough module back catalogue as well as a lot of my own stuff. They are the royal kings of the Amiga scene after all! If Datastorm finds a new home I'll surely try and attend, weather I DJ again will be solely up to Spot's ability to convince / harass me!
Magic: We are a couple of weeks now in 2014. Any productions planned where we can hear you music in this issue of Hugi aside?
Hoffman: Focus Design are of course working on some bits and pieces. Booster is currently working on a new Amiga sample generation system with filters and other nice bits which hopefully will be in used at Revision in a couple of things. There maybe some other things popping up about that time, but that's all I can really say for now.
Magic: A lot of scene musicians are DJs in real life. Which are you favourite ones and why?
Hoffman: Let's just do some shout outs instead shall we? glxblt, Knoeki, lug00ber, Ferris, Gloom, subi and the guy who I can't remember who played one of my tunes on the second stage at Revision last year, sorry I can't remember your name, I was rat arsed!
Magic: Who is Hoffman in real life? Please also describe a normal day for you. How is your life shaped on this crazy little planet called earth?
Hoffman: During the day I do SQL and C# for a software company. The day is usually spent writing queries, hacking together integrations and sharing cat pictures with the guys in the office. The evening and weekends is usually spent either chilling, writing music or coding badly in 68000. I'm pretty lucky as far as out of work time is concerned as my wife SaVannaH also writes music with me. When demo parties are coming up I'm basically sent packing to the studio.
Magic: Choose: making a live as coder or musician?
Hoffman: I think every musician would love to do music for a job, but the reality of it is a lot harder.
Magic: Please tell us, why reality made it a lot harder for you? Is this why you are a programmer in daytime?
Hoffman: I know people who do music or even sound design for a living and it can be really tough (at least they say that!). I'm at a point in my life where I'm able to do a job which supports my life but still have enough free time to concentrate on my passion for music. I suppose in a way it makes the music writing easier as the pressure is only a deadline, not a pay cheque.
Magic: While progressing with this interview you visited Datastorm 2014. How did your gig go? What other fond memories do you have about this party?
Hoffman: The Amiga DJ set went really well. Thanks to Deadguy, Yonx, Wasp and Spot for supplying all the equipment for the set, unfortunately Ryanair baggage allowance didn't allow me to take my own kit. It's the second time I've used our PT1210 software for a live performance and I'm happy to say that it works really well. The new UI with Akira's graphics looks the nuts and really helps with showing you what's going on with the track. As for memories of Datastorm, it's hard to pin point anything in particular, it's a great old school demoscene vibe and the venue is the most unique i've ever been too. It's a shame the place it being torn down this year :(
Magic: Your music was in a bootblock intro by Loonies and Unstable Label. How hard was it to make such small music? What can you tell us about the creation process?
Hoffman: It's all down to Blueberry really, he designed a synth / sample generator which fitted inside a bootblock but also a little VST wrapper for it to generate the sounds. The samples could then be loaded into ProTracker and his converter pulled all the settings out of the sample name. The first draft of the tune was written over 3 patterns in ProTracker but we were well over the 1k size limit so instead I converted the track into a single pattern so that Blueburry could mute / unmute channels while the pattern looped which made the music seem like it was long than it was. Hats off to the guy, hes a crazy frikin genius!
Magic: What can you tell us about the making of the Parallax Mixdown track which you gave to us for this issue of Hugi? What makes the original SID so special to you to make a remix out of it?
Hoffman: The theme from Parallax is one of my all-time favourite C64 tunes. I remember playing it as a kid and listening to the title music on repeat constantly, more so than playing the actual game. I've not done a C64 remix before so this track seemed to be the perfect choice. The process is quite easy when using tools like SID2MIDI. You essentially have all the notes available in chunks so it was a case of finding the right sounds and then embellishing it with additional layers. I aimed to really pay hommage to the original and hopefully that has come across in the arrangement.
Magic: Take over the keyboard now. Write a scrolltext ehm, well some words anyway for our readers for a good ending of this interview.
Hoffman: Shout outs to the Nordic bass massive, lug00ber, Gloom, Ferris and Miu. Indigenous shouts to the UK crew RC55, NE7, DVS, Gasman, Subi, Smash and christ I can't remember everyone from old blighty right now but you know who you are. Never nederlands big ups to m0d, silverlance and the psychedelic trainer loving Okkie. Special dubplate dedications for Spot and the whole UpRough crew. Family blessings to the Focus Design posse. High five to my partner in ProTracker DJ hackery crime Akira. But most of all shouts to my wife SaVannaH.
Links related to this interview
Unstable Label official website
Loonies & Unstable Label - Beelze Bub's Beat-Block
Hoffman at Datastorm 2014
Revision 2012 Sunday - DJ Hoffmann