Organic steps inside the world of retro-reactionary Amiga Junglism. Revivalism is neither adequate or even accurate in describing what is essentially the most legitimate modern old skool artist we now know of...
Recently within bass music there has been a resurgence in early '90s influences, from Logos' "Cold Mission" LP to Paul Woolford's output as Special Request. Producers are creating music of a by gone era, harking back to the halcyon days of 20 years ago. But what if you had never stopped making that music? What if throughout the last 20 years you had used essentially the same software and equipment to push a time-locked form to it's logical conclusion? The answer is Paul Devereux AKA Amiga Junglism.
I was first introduced to Paul's music by Break Science project founder Jason oS. Devereux, a follower and producer of hardcore/ jungle drum & bass since it's inception has for the last two decades stood by the software of the time; OctaMED V4. As well as that, Amiga Junglism is not residing in a jungle strong hold like London or Bristol... Intrigued, Organic had to speak to the man himself.
Bury St.Edmunds is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about breakbeat hardcore and foundation sound jungle, have you always lived there? How did you find yourself gravitating to these styles originally?
Bury St.Edmunds is a bustling little market town steeped in history. I was born and raised here. Growing up in the '80s I was subject to lot of interesting music and the first time in my life a Commodore 64 computer. This was where I first heard chip music. I was amazed. When the Amiga came along I quickly started to use it to emulate the growing “Rave” style of music I was hearing a lot in the early '90s. As the scene broke off into sub genres I quickly got into the UK jungle sound. I felt I could relate to this style in many ways. The scene moved on and splintered again but I always came back to jungle so I started to research the actual breakbeats.
What, and when were your first experiences of making electronic music?
Being fortunate to grow up in the '80s influenced me in so many ways. My first experience of making electronic music was on the Commodore 64, probably around 88(ish) The SID chip in them old breadbins were truly astounding. I’d never heard anything like that as a youngster, well, apart from Jean-Michael Jarre. I fondly remember loading games sometimes just to hear the music alone.
For those that don’t know, can you explain what “tracking” means? Does the approach to tune-making differ greatly from MIDI-based tune creation? Trackers have evolved substantially (e.g., Buzz and Renoise environment being two of the more recent developments) Have you used other trackers since?
When I think about what “tracking” actually means I just see it as each track can play samples in any way you want really. Track 1 would have a beat say, then in the next track you would have bass for example. When I got the early version of MED I never really read the instructions as they were way over my head. I would load mod files and see how they ran inside the tracker. Unlike modern music making programs that scroll from left to right, trackers scroll down the screen. A simple block of 4 tracks would contain 64 lines which you could enter keys (samples) into. There is a whole bunch of tracker programs available on the Amiga, the most popular being protracker, but I’ve always preferred OctaMED V4 for its layout and ease of use. I have tried various other trackers over the years on the Amiga but not really grasped the PC tracker programs on the whole.
To anyone with even the slightest insight into music production, your equipment may seem rudimentary, basic or even awkward. What is it about an essentially limited and time-locked platform that has kept you interested for so long?
Having grown up around Commodore machines and having owned an Amiga since around 1990 I guess it's just part of me now. It was only a few years ago I went from using an Amiga 500+ to using an Amiga 1200 which I have upgraded with an accelerator card which speeds up the system and gives me more RAM which is great for samples. I also have it connected to a VGA monitor which gives me a sharp image. Other things like a sound enhancer which boosts certain frequencies from the Amiga (like the low/high end), a midi interface, sampler carts, and the option to transfer files from the PC straight to the Amiga via the PCMCIA slot. Another great thing is the fact my HD is now 4 GB. Previously my old HD on my A500+ was a whopping 120mb so you can imagine how many mods/ samples I can now save. The Amiga itself has a cult status and a vast following still within the demo scene which is still going strong. So it's part of me in many ways. I feel there are a few more years left in the whole tracking thing and im not going anywhere in a hurry. It’s a fun hobby that keeps me off the streets.
You heavily reference OctaMED V4, is there a particular allure that has engrossed you in its use? What sort of limitations have you come up against using it (e.g., limited sampling time), and what techniques have you incorporated to overcome these? I remember hearing about how producers such as Urban Shakedown (and DJ Trax @ Bizzy B’s studio) increased the number of tracks in a song by syncing multiple Amigas. Have you come up with techniques like this for similar problems in OctaMED or do you incorporate additional equipment/software for this task. Related, do you use additional equipment for pre- or post-processing?
OctaMED V4 is the staple of my music making, the backbone if you like. The ease of use is amazing. It’s by far the quickest way for me to get an idea from my head and put it into the tracker and get the results I was looking for. The limitations of only having 4 channels of audio can boost creativity within the tracker itself. I’ve overcome limitations on sample size by adding more RAM, but generally samples are not massive and often there are no more than 10 to 20 samples in my average mod file. These mod files are also no bigger than 1mb in total. I’ve never used 2 amigas synced together but toyed with the idea. I will sometimes use and external midi keyboard to crate the bass alone which frees up a channel of audio on the Amiga. As for effects, I use a little reverb on some of the channels and a slight echo from my outboard mixer to give it a little depth. Nothing fancy really.
I have to say that the idea of using such retro gear does have a certain attraction, but surely having used it for 20 years since it was a contemporary format you must know it inside out? Have you reached the limitations of its use?
Yes, having used OctaMED for as long I have I do now know it quite well but it still amazes me how the Amiga still sounds today up against all the digital stuff. I am constantly pushing my little box as I know it can produce the results I am looking for but with any music making software it’s essentially down to the user and what samples he has at hand. So in a way I like the limitations, it defiantly encourages my production technique.
Sure there are artists who have reverted back to hardware but are you aware of other people doing working in a similar way to yourself having never left the platforms of old?
Over the last few years I have come across a few people via Youtube and Soundcloud that either did the whole tracking thing when they were younger and said that I have inspired them to dig out there old Amiga's and start tracking again.
There is a couple of people in particular that use OctaMED solely as a sequencer for their akai samplers like Squatski and Hailon which I met up with at the start of the year to colab on a track. So I guess there is still a little pocket of interest for such a primitive way of making music. Maybe its nostalgia or just that warm 8 bit sound that the Amiga can produce. Also, I've found more and more artists/ tunes over the years that used this type of set up back in the day. An example being Nebula II and the massive "Atheama", all the rave DJs played this and it did the rounds on the hardcore/ rave circuit in the early '90s.
What for you does a typical Amiga Junglism track sound like? Can you explain the process of making a tune on OctaMED?
The ‘typical’ Amiga Junglism track would usually consist of 2 breakbeats, say like an amen and a think break, an 808 bass or a sine wave bass and string/ pad or stab sample. I will often start chopping a break I've already sampled into one of the tracks and get a feel for the tempo. Once ive got a beat down I will compliment the first beat with the second and chop it accordingly to fit. Once these are in and sound tight and I then make a bassline. The bass can be a simple 808 boom or a sine wave bass that I some times put a pitch bend on. When I have these basic elements I can then load in various stabs ive collected over the years and start to play around with sample via the keyboard, I will end up with a block with all for channels full of audio. This block I then start to change by taking things out and putting things in like volume commands for the samples and then slowly building up other blocks and putting them together in the block editor. It can be a slow process but that’s the where the fun is for me.
People often say I have my own sound but I owe it all to the amazing audio properties of the Paula chip in the Amiga. So it’s a very old fashioned way of doing it but it works for me and I get the results I often set out to get.
Hardcore and early Jungle tunes often sampled Hip Hop records or used sample cds. Do you source your samples similarly? What about non-percussive sounds?
I first started sampling on the Amiga when I got my Stereo Master software/ hardware in the early '90s. Back then I had no high end gear. Most of my samples were made from old hip hop/ rave tapes using a walkman. These days I use records and CDs to sample from. Ive collected samples from all over the place over the years.
The Amiga had many royalty free sample disks mainly the ST-00 disks which went up and beyond ST-99. They contained many non percussive sounds as well as the sort of sounds you would here in games and demos of around that time. Using these samples along all those I've amassed over the years gives me a vast palette now I can store a huge amount on the Amiga’s HD.
Do you think there is anything in particular about the equipment you are using that lends itself to the creation of Hardcore/early-Jungle? Do you make other forms of music on this setup?
Back when the UK underground hardcore rave and the increasingly popular breakbeat emerged most of the music was being written on either an Atari with Cubase or an Amiga with OctaMED or a similar tracker as the Microsoft thing was in it's infancy. I suppose it’s a '90s sound made on '90s equipment in a way which appealed to me then and still does to this day. That and the Amiga was a great gaming platform, had a massive demo scene often producing some real nice music disks got me hooked on the more musical element of the computer. Not only the rave stuff but also the slower stuff I find myself dabbling with from time to time. Almost like trip hop, loop based tracking. Even the odd chip tune now and then can sound amazing.
I have also a couple of akai samplers (S2000/MPC1000) which the S2000 being linked via midi. I still have a lot to learn about this machine, but it’s mostly all Amiga and OctaMED and 4 channels of sound and being creative within it's restrictions.
You can follow Amiga Junglism on Soundcloud: