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Ryo Kawasaki
1 August 2003  

R: Can you describe yourself? not all people on C64 scene know that you were using C64 very actively...

K: I still use C64 for my commercial music productions such as CD albums and writing film scores or Jingles. I have written software called "Kawasaki Midi work station" around 1986 for C64 and made hand made sync box to go with. This is pretty serious MIDI sequencer and I designed it to be the way I like it to function. It only had one page of main screen for all the functions so that I didn't have to go to different pages for the different tasks or command, so it was more like a musical instrument for me and that is why I still used it even all the sophisticated sequencers available on the market such as Cubase. Because I can make new entire tracks on my sequencer while reading few pages of the manual for the new sequencer for PC or Mac and I am so impatient to read manuals for the new software, I lose passion and inspiration to make music itself, if I have to spend time to learn new machine or software.
It works both for midi and pulse sync, so I can sync with drum machine like Roland TR-808 or old drumulater while syncing with other Midi drum machine or sequencer. During the late 1980's, I have made many dance 12 inch singles (mostly House or Techno tracks) using this method and I hardly used tape recorders. All the vocal tracks were sampled on samplers such as Akai-S900 and Roland S-550 and fired by this sequencer. And the data for the entire song fit in the memory of C64, which I had about 40K out of 64K for music data for 4-7 minutes long song with many different parts. This sequencer had 8 tracks and it could work with both real-time input and step time input. Also, it can mix any combination of tracks into one track like bouncing on tape recorder. It can also be able to sync with tape recorder(s). At that time, there was no digital recorder yet, so I synchronized with Fostex A8 analog 8 track tape recorder and later I have been using three Alesis ADATS with this sequencer for the last ten years or so. Of course I have more powerful PCs with nice sequencers or multitrack recorders such as Nuendo and Cool Edit, but I normally use them on the road just to sketch my ideas on my laptop and use my sequencer with C64 for the final production in my studio. There are many sound bites in my site for the songs I made and published using my C64 sequencer "Kawasaki MIDI Work Station" and several of them were international radio or club hits as well.

R: well, as usual I'd like to know how old are you, where are you from, what are you doing now and how about C64 today? have you still contact with this machine?

K: I am going to be 56 on Feb 25 and I am originally from Tokyo Japan and came to New York 30 years ago in 1973. I use C64 all the time with my sequencer with my new projects. I had about seven C64s since 1984 and the last one is almost dying now, so I have to surf the net to get the working machine. Is there anyone who can give it me? At one point I ordered from Commodore for bunch of replacement chips, but they're all gone as well.
Recently I am more in to acoustic stuff either with band with real musicians with acoustic instruments or acoustic guitar solo for performances and recordings and I am almost due to engage to produce my new album.

R: Most of people on the C64 scene don't know you as musican who made a lot of tunes on this computer, why were you interested in Commodore 64 when in Japan MSX was so popular?

K: Well, I was living already in New York at that time and I believe that MSX was not available when C64 first came out which was probably 1983, I was probably one of the first ones to buy this computer. It was $600 without a Monitor! I had been an analog synthesizer freak for my guitar synthesizer I invented and developed during 1978-1982 and I had Orberheim, Emu, Korg and Roland analog sound modules hooked in to this guitar synthesizer. So, I was very familiar with how they worked and C64's SID chip had very similar parameters to manipulate sounds. And I was so fascinated about that discovery and wanted to do something with it. I didn't know anything about programming until I actually put my hands on this computer. I started from Basic language and in less than six months, I was programming using machine language, because it runs incredibly fast and save so much memories, and saving the memories for programming was the key to write useful software at tha time since it had only 64K to play with. I think programmers nowadays are spoiled that they can waste so much memories in their programming. I enter hex codes directly in to monitor and I memorized the entire Kernel addresses for built in subroutines in the machine so that I could program on fly. Only downside during this period was that I really damaged my right hand and fingers because of such an extensive programming for few years on poorly designed C64 keyboard as well as I was Arcade game freak spending so much time forcing my hand and fingers in to wrong ways and I lost my chops and abilities to play classical guitar and finger picking style, my fingers on my right hand are just not the same as used to be, so if you play instrument, you really have to be careful how you use your fingers. I was programming 16hrs a day for 2-3 years and it was just too much for my fingers.
A couple of years later, my "Kawasaki Synthesizer" and "Kawasaki Rhythm Rocker" and "Kawasaki Musiquill" were licensed and converted to Japanese Fujitsu FM-77, which had FM synthesis modules instead of Analog synthesizer. However, they maintained most of the design and functionality except the quality and characteristics of analog sounds.

R: Have you made music using only C64 - without additional sequencers and mixers?

K: Yes, most of them were included as demo songs within my three software "Kawasaki Synthesizer", "Kawasaki Rhythm Rocker" and "Kawasaki Musiquil" as well as for "Icredible musical Keybord". They're all downloadable at my c64 page at http://www.satellitesrecords.com/c64.htm
I also used some sound effects created on C64 for my albums and singles in Mid-80's and I made some game soft at that time just for my family, and I incorporated some music and sound effects within that program, but I don't even remember the name of that game anymore, it was just some kind of space game.

R: In your opinion , will C64 or at least SID chip emulators be used in future for making music?

K: What SID chip does is basically the same as any other analog synthesizers and from that perspective, the answer is yes that people will be using the sound of Analog synthesizers, but not only limited to SID chip on C64. When I find nice sound on C64, I probably sample that sound first then use other Midi sequencer to compose using that sound instead of creating entirely on C64 since this way is probably much more faster and sophisticated.

R: Who is your favourite C64 composer?

K:I am not so keen on these areas these days since I haven't really spent enough time to discover other composers using C64. However, I have a friend lives in Argentina and his name is Carlos Devizia and he uses C64 and my programs intensely to create his music. He actually sent me few CDs and they are all very interesting.

R: your favourite game on C64?

K: I only remember few, I played "Sammy light foot" with my daughter Tane 17 years ago, she was 8 years old then and she still remembers it when I spoken to her several days ago since we played together almost every night. I also liked "Flight Simulator". I also remember played some car racing game both on C64 and Atari. Most of Arcade games, I didn't bother to play on C64, since my home was few blocks away from New York's Times Square Arcade game center. I just pumped quarters in to them day and night and I hurt my hands and fingers. There was nice game called "Tron" on these real arcade games based on computer movie to digitize human and send him in to the guts of computer. May be it is a nice game to convert to C64.

R: were you interested in C64 scene?

K: I suppose so, I had featured article on Compute's Gazzette and made a cover on the magazine "Commodore", I diligently read these magazines to learn about machine language programmings. I hope I kept these magazines instead of throwing them out at one point because they took too much space in my shelf space in my room. I attended to CES shows for a couple of years to promote my programs. C64 and Atari were the hottest things at that time. I also had several seminars to teach programmings for different user's groups. It was fun and I made nice money too, I made more money than music through programming in these few years. Average of $2,500/week was coming in to my mail box as royalties from my programs, I never have made that kind of money playing jazz guitar or writing music until then.

R: are you using C64 emulators?

K: I am just using CCS64 to check if my programs runs on PC, it works fine on windows 95-98, but it seems to have some problem with XP I'm using now.

R: Would you like to make some music on C64 using trackers like VoiceTracker or JCH?

K: Sorry that I am not familiar with VoiceTracker or JCH.

R: were you interested in graphics on C64?

K: I've done some graphics on C64 while I was writing my programs, I think I used software named "Delux Paint" from Electronic Arts. Also, sprites capabilities on C64 is quite cool and I used extensively on Rhythm Rocker and Musiquill programs.

R: Do you listen to SID music made on C64?

K: Nothing in recent years, maybe I'll find some time to surf the net to discover SID music.

Thank you for the interview , you're very very amazing guy :)


© 2003 UNCOVER Team

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