Published in issue 2 of Commodore Faction (October 1998)
The Big Commodore Faction Interview - Jason Mackenzie.
Most definitely, it's been an awesome 8 years ... I must have been doing something right as the Zone is still going strong and people still enjoy the service I offer. Another bonus is I've made many good friends over the years while running the Zone including lots of people 'in the bizz' and regular customers who have become friends. The C64 scene is a nice place to live if you know what you're doing - and don't expect to become a millionaire! :)
How have you coped with the deterioration of the scene in recent years?
I just go with the flow and adapt to how the scene is changing. The commercial software companies may have upped and left but there's still tons of PD crews out there and lots of people who are still interested in the C64. By not putting all my eggs in one basket meant I managed to keep the Zone going even after all the 'proper' magazines left the shop shelves. Having over 4000 Binary Zone members kind of helped here too. ;)
We are approaching the 21st century, why is the Commodore 64 still here?
I guess because you just can't help loving the old beige breadbin. The C64 is capable of doing so much it appeals to a wide audience. There's gamers, demo fans, programmers, C64 music fans, serious users, people who like to customise their C64 (by bolting on hard-drives, RAM expansions etc.) The list goes on ...
Do you have any other computers or consoles. If so, could you compare and contrast them with the C64?
Apart from two functioning C64's that are always set up there are one or two other computing gadgets here in the Zone. Here's a list of what they are, their function and how they compare to the C64:-
Commodore Amiga 1200. This handles my Amiga PD library (yep, I do that too) and houses Binary Zone member details. I also use this machine to port C64 screenshots and SID tunes (and to do this interview at the moment!) This was the machine I 'upgraded' from the C64 to originally and it proved to be fun for a good few years. Its lot in life now is to assist with the production of Commodore Zone and to handle the transfer of C64 files to and from the C64 (and PC). Hoho!
Commodore Amiga 500. I bought this off a chum recently for £30 because I felt sorry for it! It brought back a few memories when I tried some old Amiga demos and games which won't run on the 1200. Now it resides under a dust cover not doing a great deal. How does it compare to the C64? It doesn't!
Super Nintendo. I bought this as soon as it was properly released in the UK, itís a bosting little console. The games were vastly overpriced however and even after owning the SNES for years I only have 8 games for it. In its heyday it was a great console but it won't last as long as the C64 ...
Sony PlayStation. Current 'flavour of the moment'. I love the PSX because it's CD based and lots of games have great soundtracks. I sometimes throw a PSX CD into my CD player just to listen to the music while I do C64 work! I don't get time to play games on it as much as I'd like but current faves are:- Dead or Alive (a fighting game with 'breast bounce' option for the girls - Chortle!), Tekken 3 (shedloads of violence), Tomb Raider II (Lara ... Mmmm!), Castlevania (it's just like a SNES game!!) As a games machine it rules but you can't compare it to the C64 as it's severely lacking in the keyboard department! ;)
Pentium PC. This powerful beast resides in the dungeons of the Zone (kind of like the Rancor in Jabba the Hutts palace). The PC performs lots of tasks including the production of C64 music CD's, Commodore Zone, all those nice letters I type to people and oodles of other stuff. I do a lot of C64 emulating on it and have zillions of C64 disk images on CD which are always entertaining. SidPlay for windows is also great on it as it belts out near perfect C64 tunes (and I have nearly 9000 of them on the hard-drive!) With all this C64 emulation going on the PC doesn't compare to the C64, it IS a C64! - Hehehe!
Would you tell us a bit about Cosine please? Cosine Systems is a demo crew which was set up in approximately 1987. The member status looks rather like this:- T.M.R (coder+gfx), Kenz (gfx, spreader), Simes (gfx), Centaur (coder+gfx), Tonka (music), Odie (coder+music), Skywave(inactive manager+music), Bassline (music), Chancer (code+spreader), The Orb (coder). (Thanks to T.M.R for that info). There's plenty of cool Cosine demos out there, mainly thanks to the stellar efforts of T.M.R who churns out C64 code like a man possessed and Odie who usually supplies the groovy music for Cosine demos ... I think the other members are safely kept in Cryogenic stasis ready for the relaunch of the C64 in 2083 ... ;)
What are the best demos you have seen recently? Reanim8ed by Hitmen, Krestyron (Crest+Oxyron), Wildfire by Coma and some recent demos by Smash Designs. I hear there was also a nice Martin Galway music collection put out by a group called Zinary Bone or something ... Hehe!
Apart from Binary Zone PD, the largest collection in the country, you have flirted with commercial software with Psytronik Software, how did that go?
Reasonably well in the beginning. Sceptre Of Baghdad was a good debut release as it had loads of magazine publicity from Commodore Format and Commodore Force. Things went downhill when I released some enhanced SEUCK games (good though they were). Psytronik then became associated with just SEUCK games and interest waned. I still keep Psytronik going however and have some plans for future Psytronik releases. (Which are top secret so I'm not saying any more ...) Interesting trivia:- The name Psytronik came from "the quality of Psygnosis games with the cheap price of Mastertronic games". That just popped into my head one day and Psytronik Software was born.
Is it still possible to be commercially successful on this format?
Hmm, it depends on what you release and how you go about marketing it. I wouldn't recommend producing a C64 game, getting tapes mastered and inlays printed because you will be left with boxes filled with unsold games. People just ain't interested in that sort of thing any more. Taking advantage of the C64's resurgence on the Internet however, that's where the future lies. (and you can quote me on that!)
A Binary Zone PD catalogue is about to be released, true or false?
That's true m'lud. I'm currently compiling "Update 12" which will feature plenty of new eyepopping demos, PD games and all that jazz. There's also a plethora of other projects in the pipeline so I am considering doing a new 'product catalogue' which details everything that's available from me. Look out for more C64 music CD's (including a range devoted to individual musicians), the High Voltage SID Collection on CD (Those 9000 SID tunes + players on a shiny CD-ROM) + lots of other desirable items ... Oh, and the 20 page 1998 Binary Zone PD disk catalogue is still available. If you want a copy then write to the address given at the end of this interview.
Can anybody contribute demos to your collection?
Absolutely! There's lots of disks in the BZ catalogue that have been exclusively produced for Binary Zone PD, various demo crews send their latest demos to be included in the catalogue and Binary Zone members also contribute their software to the catalogue.
You produce a fanzine, Commodore Zone, which is very different to Commodore Faction, has it been a success, and how do you go about attracting new readers?
To say CZone has been a success would be a bit of an understatement! The mag has been the best thing I've released since starting Binary Zone in 1990. I guess I was lucky because CZone started just as Commodore Format & Force were ending so I managed to get some publicity before they disappeared for good. The concept for Commodore Zone has always been to offer the readers more for their money than they were getting with the 'big' mags. This became a reality with the release of issue 1 which featured 40 pages (nearly twice as many as the last issue of Commodore Format!) and a covermount which crapped all over the feeble efforts compiled by these so called 'proper' magazines. How could they put out a covermount with only one or two programs on it?!
The newly revamped Commodore Zone is designed to appeal to the Internet C64 scene as well as the existing C64 users. The covermount for issue 11 is also available as disk images compatible with the C64 emulators so now you don't need to own a C64 to enjoy the mag! The Internet provides an ideal avenue for advertising the magazine to potential new readers.
A little bird tells me you're a bit of a ladies man, has anybody caught your eye recently that we should know about?
Yes, I do appreciate the female of the species. It's a deep rooted thing at the genetic level or something. They both fascinate and intrigue me. Here's a list of recent 'eye candy' I've spotted:-
Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) - An awesome set of pins and a cute pouty smile. Any girl who dances around with a CGI baby gets respect from me!
Anna Ryder Richardson - I spotted her on 'Changing Rooms' (or some similar show) many moons ago and thought she was "a bit of alright". She was actually on GMTV this very morning (24/9/98) complaining that she couldn't get a man!!! NO WAY! I'm right here Anna. :)
Carol Vorderman - Smart IS Sexy but I think I preferred her with longer hair. Andy Roberts reckons she has a big bum but she still fits pretty well into a miniskirt!
Posh Spice - Vickie was a lovely sight to behold when the Spice Girls first started (and were good) but since the Beckham thing, hairdo change and pregnancy my attention has drifted elsewhere. Sorry Victoria, you had your chance ... Hehe!
Top babes I still like to mention:-
Anita Dels (2 Unlimited), Gillian Anderson (looks better with clothes ON!), Madchen Amick (played waitress Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks), Dot from ReBoot & Lara Croft (polygon babes!). Ohhh, the list is endless. You shouldn't have mentioned the subject of ladies, David! (For more information check out "Kenz's Encyclopaedia of Women", the new shorter 30 volume edition is available now). ;) (Joke!)
The Commodore Faction selector: which do you prefer?
Crest or Triad?
Crest (although Triad did try to win me over by releasing a Spice Girls demo recently!)
Diskzines or paper mags?
Paper mags. I never look at disk-zines, can't be bothered with all the loading, menus, scrolling articles nonsense and you can't read them on the bog (unless your C64 is in the bathroom of course).
Coca-Cola or Pepsi?
Coca-Cola. It's the real thing that makes your body swing. Pepsi is too sweet and Pepsi Max tastes like P*SS!