In the last couple of years, there have been quite a few Kickstarters by computer musicians from our favourite era. Usually they promise remakes of their classic tracks, brought bang up to date with modern technology. And they're great... I can't get enough of them.
Marcel Donné is a musician from those halcyon days, but he's taking a different tack altogether. He's taking tracks from our favourite 8-bit composers, and remaking them by playing them in the style of venerable synth God, Jean-Michel Jarre. An intriguing prospect to be sure... and I wanted to find out more about it. Who better to turn to than Chris Abbott, the man behind C64 Audio and friend to pretty much every C64 composer out there? Here's all the information you could need about Project Sidologie, direct from Chris.
Hi Chris, welcome to They Were Our Gods! For those who don't know you, please give us a bit of background on you and C64 Audio.
"Started doing C64 MIDI files in 1995, launched a CD in 1998, kept doing it…!"
So this Kickstarter is to take classic Commodore 64 tunes and remake them in the style of Jean-Michel Jarre? But who's he? And why in his style, what relevance does he have to the Commodore 64?
"Jean-Michel Jarre was absolutely central to the motivation of a large number of SID musicians such as Ben (Daglish), Martin (Galway), Rob (Hubbard) and Matt (Gray). Since his signature style (above and beyond “floaty chords”) was melodic bassline, arps and strong lead melody, his style was ideally suited to a three voice soundchip."
Can you tell us a bit more about Marcel Donné? Who is he, what is his background/pedigree and what makes him the man for Project Sidologie?
"He was one of the founders of Maniacs of Noise, and already a gifted musician. He was drafted just before their glory days, which is why he isn’t venerated like Jeroen (Tel).
He’s also gifted at taking a style and creating original stuff within it. I’m continually astonished at his imagination and skill. I’m worried it will run out at any moment! "
“Hey! This Kickstarter is already funded! Why should I give them any more money?” Tell us why!
"You get more stuff The Kickstarter started at three disks, and is heading for six. That means that backers at the beginning are getting six disks for the price of three. That’s good for everyone."
OK, so more backers means more money which means more discs for everyone. Hurray! How many discs could we get in total? What else could we get if the funding reaches a high enough level?
"Six, plus the DVD of surround sound mixes. The problem with subsequent stretch goals is that they expand the timeline a little too much. I’d love to add, for instance, a “Times of Lore” soundtrack CD, but that’s another month added right there."
So each disc has a specific theme? Sounds cool! Let's go through them in a bit more detail.
Disc one is guaranteed for all backers and is called “Project Sidologie”. How does that tie in with Marcel's original “Sidologie” album?
"It’s the same concept: C64 music in a Jarre container. It’s basically “all composers except Rob and Martin”."
Discs two and three are also guaranteed for all backers, and are made up exclusively of Martin Galway tracks (disc two) and Rob Hubbard tracks (disc three). With so many tracks to choose from, how did Marcel pick the ones he wanted to remake? Were they personal favourites or was there a more specific process?
"First Marcel chose his essentials, then Martin and Rob chose their essentials, I filled in some gaps, and then there were some backers' comments that prompted changes."
Disc four has just been funded and is also guaranteed for all backers. It's called “Waiting for SID” and will feature some very lengthy tracks. This is much in keeping with Jarre's actual work, which often featured huge epics. Obviously, putting them on a standard disc cuts the number of tracks on each disc, so was it always the intention to have these tracks as a stretch goal on a separate album? Why should backers be especially excited about this disc?
"The original concept for this CD was “Crystal Dreamscapes 2”, but Trevor’s artwork actually affected the music choice for the CD. We knew we had to put Tetris somewhere, and everything else flowed from there. This album promises to be an emotional, in-depth journey through the SIDs in them, which you just don’t get from the usual CD that’s under pressure to “pack everything in”."
Now we come to the discs where we need some help. Disc five is going to be called “Chariots of SID”, and is a departure from the Jarre theme as it will be done in the style of another keyboard wizard, Vangelis. Why the thematic change, and what did Vangelis bring to Commodore 64 musicians? What makes this disc worth the extra funding?
"Two real reasons: there’s the practical reason that we needed somewhere to put enhanced versions of “Yie-Ar Kung Fu 2” and “Cobra” from the first album. Then Marcel absolutely adores his CS80, which provides many of the iconic sounds on Vangelis albums.
Another reason is that a lot of the SIDs covered benefit far more from the overtly emotional, soundtracky feel of Vangelis rather than the Jarre sound. I’m sure Vangelis was influential to some composers, but this is more about some SID tunes absolutely making great Vangelis tracks, guaranteed to make people cry little tears."
The final planned album will be interesting as it appears to consist entirely of guest appearances. There are some great confirmed guests and a few mysteries yet to be revealed. Again, tell us why this disc makes extra backing worthwhile?
"It’s famous people doing different things, and in the process realising some of their own dreams. Some of them were absolutely gagging to do a legal Jarre cover and have it released There will be some amazing tracks, that’s for sure."
The Kickstarter is funded, which means all backers are getting some new music. Great! What can you tell us about the length of time needed to produce the albums, with a “best worst case scenario” of all six albums being funded?
"We have a plan, which is me feeding Marcel with raw material and him doing all the clever work. The initial month will be doing the sampling and sound design so that the rest of the project can have a consistent feel. That sound design will also be turned over to the other remixers so they can have some help with the sound."
Matt Gray recently completed a very successful Kickstarter to remake many of his classic tracks. Since it finished he's posted some great updates which have included preview clips of works in progress. Will there be any plans for Marcel to do something similar to keep backers excited?
"Yes, previews and vlogs. It’s important to make the previews as good as possible though. That’s similar to some advice Nik Kershaw gave out, so it must be true!"
Thanks for the update, and good luck to Marcel and C64 Audio!
Now, everyone, if you want to see Marcel in person, go to Back in Time Live (tickets still available, amazing concert)."
So there you have it. The complete lowdown on what is going to be a very exciting project. If they're going to do this, we might as well get as much music out of the thing as possible, so if you haven't backed it yet, throw your weight (and money) behind it as soon as possible, then sit back and wait to be treated to an aural feast. If you have backed it... well, don't you want to increase it and nab yourself one of those lovely exclusive perks?
The campaign ends very soon, so you'd better get in there sharpish. Well, go on! Here's the link: