Skyhigh 17 About TDJ/Focus part 1

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You will have to excuse it if the text is a little mismatched, but this is converted from PC (using my new Magazine Editor) then converted to Raz's editor!

Here is the start of a series of interviews with some VERY well known guys in the C64 scene today. I start this series with a very well known Dutch scener, who (in my opinion) is famous for never being stuck for a word...Founder member of easily the best Dutch group(and one of the best in the scene!)...Welcome TDJ/FOCUS!!!

TDJ: Thanks MAD .. Nice to finally meet somebody who asks me for an interview and actually conducts one as well !! Hasn't happened since 1989 or so..

MAD: Give the readers a brief description about yourself...

TDJ: Sure. I'm 24 years of age, and I live in The Hague,Holland (where I study computer science) for almost 3 years now, with my girlfriend Petra. We have a small but nice apartment in the centre of the city, - everything you can think of (shops, cinema's, clubs etc) are in walking distance, which is good as I used to live with my parents in the country between farms .. As for the way I look, I'm not going to tell you since I can't imagine anybody being interested in that.

MAD: How long have you been on the C64 scene, andwhat other scenes are you a part of?

TDJ: Well, I got my c64 in september 1984, with a diskdrive on christmas that year and started collecting demo's in 1986, when I became a member of a notorious group of re-crackers called "Wild Boys 86" under several handles (of which I managed to forgot most, thank god .. Romancing The Disk was one of them). In '87 I worked briefly under the handle "WAM" (which are in fact my initials) and released my first demo's for a group I founded called Royal Swapping Force 2047 (RSF). Quite funny is the fact that Nightshade/Success, who only found this out at the X95 party, has a disk with demo's from that group at home .. Anyway, RSF was a local group with one big 'rival' in the neighbourhood, a group called WWE (standing for World Wide Expressive). When 3 of the 5 RSF members went amiga I was asked to join WWE which I did in february 1988 .. The first half year in WWE was the best time I ever had, and I became great mates with two of the other members (Charon & Rhandor) who are until today still my best friends in the world, next to my girlfriend ofcourse. We had a nice time, released lots of demo's and even became a bit famous, also thanks to a great copyparty we held in october 1988 (Joy-Mgf-WWE party). I myself did a lot of demo's, got in touch with a lot of guys and things seemed to be improving constantly. Until the summer of '89 that was, when we formed a cooperation with TRC. After that everything went wrong, most of the original members left WWE and when the smoke cleared there were just 3 members, of which I was the longest in the group .. I tried to build up the group again, even managed to do so I think but the joy was gone, so in april of 1990, when I visited the Horizon party in Sweden,I decided to look for a new group, got some interesting offers and then joined Science 451. My first production for them was released at that same party, a demo called "Midnight Oil" featuring a 25 chars high multi color char scroll which could be steered both ways, unfortunately they didn't show that on the screen (the fact that it could go both ways).Back in Holland I formed a subgroup of S451 as we had decided I should do with 5 other ex-WWE members.The name of this group was "Focus" and it was officially founded on 21 april 1990 .. This is over 5 years ago, in which time we released approx. 17 demo's and (hopefully) proved to be one of the most stylish groups in the c64 scene ever. Ofcourse that is not such a hard thing to do considering all the talented members I could work with ..Names like Compyx, Mirage and Hein make most designlovers drool I guess! Still, we had some hard times as well, like in 1991 when a lot of dutch people got upset with me because of some text I wrote in a demo and even formed anti-groups against me! The best thing in that period however was the fact that all other Focus'ers stood behind me. After winning the Silicon 2 party in the summer of that year with "Visual Delight" things were worked out and one of my biggest enemies then (Action Jackson/TRC) is a good scene friend now .. Success has its toll though, ours being the fact that 3 of our members left us: Mirage who had been in Censor as well decided to work for them alone and Compyx & X-Byte both joined Black Mail. Fortunately the latter 2 didn't like it too much there and left just before Dutch Breeze was released.Still, we took somewhat of a big break (some people refer to it as '1992') and early 1993 we released 4 demo's in a few months time, returning us to the charts. Then on xmas '93 (TP3) we won 3rd prize with a preview of 'Visual Delight 2', a demo we managed to postpone to release until approx. one year later. And now we are here, 14 guys, all dutch (like all Focus members in the past as well) and hoping there still is a public need for that which we create. Because after the release of VD2 in january of this year we got virtually no reactions which made me so 'depressed' that I almost decided to declare Focus dead ..Sorry to be this brief, but as I understand there have to be more topics in this mag than just 'the TDJ story' :)As for the other scenes: I'm in an amiga group called 'Vivid', with Morris (good friend of mine, excellent coder), Mirage, Hein and Cycleburner. On the snes I'm in a trainer-group called 'Cyber Force' but that's just for fun, actually I don't really consider myself to be a member as I never did anything worthwhile for them. Furthermore I'm in another c64 group called 'Marvel' and finally I'm in Bonzai (pc), a name which may ring a bell for a lot of c64 sceners I guess ..Now, I hope this wasn't too long an answer ??

MAD: TDJ The Early Years, published first here in SkyHigh magazine... Hmm, Marco, that was quite some answer!!! I guess it is better than a one word answer though! About Marvel, I guess many readers won't have heard of Marvel (yet), so how about enlightening everybody?

TDJ: Marvel is a c64 demogroup whose members are all using internet some way or the other so we can stay in touch rather easy. I started the group about 18 months ago asking Metal, Cycleburner and Mirage to join.They did, later followed Tron, Unifier, Compyx, Mr.Sex and finally BX. We haven't really started on anything yet but hope to "hit the public there were it hurts most" with something real nice soon enough. The only problem is that there are several others I would like to join but I don't want Marvel to be too big, so for the moment we have a 'no more members' rule. By the way, needless to say that all members (apart from Unifier) are still in their own group as well.

MAD: With a line up like that, I can't wait. Can you let us all in on any projects?

TDJ: Okay, there will be a sort of introduction demo coming quite soon, that is all I can say..

MAD: You mentioned also being in Bonzai (PC) -How did you break the 'DANES ONLY' rule when you joined BONZAI on the PC, along with MIRAGE /FOCUS?

TDJ: Well, I didn't break it, they did :). Anyway, I was exchanging e-mail with Torben Hansen (Metal), who I've known ever since he was a member of WWE. He was in Bonzai and one day he came with the suggestion that Mirage & me might be able to join as well. But there was this DANES ONLY rule you already mentioned. So he gave me the e-mail address of Trap, and told me to write him a nice letter, maybe making Trap change his mind. Well, it seems to have worked as me & Trap became instant friends right away and after a short while Mirage & me became part of the Bonzai gang. After that a few more non-Danes joined, such as MCA (dutch musician, also in Focus), Unifier (who doesn't know this great swedish coder?) and Freshman, who used to be in Spirit as well under a different handle (from Germany). The big catch here is that all foreign members except for MCA are on internet so staying in touch isn't that hard to do .. Ofcourse me & Mirage met some of the Danes on the Party 4 where they were all pleasantly surprised by the graphical skills of my friend Lars (Mirage), as for instance Trap had never seen any graphics by him before. Mirage even won Bonzai another prize as he finished 3rd with his picture in the PC/Amiga gfx compo (out of a 150)!

MAD: Explain a bit about your Interent lifestyle...

TDJ: I'm a huge internet fan, for sure. It 'gave back' so many of my old friends such as Cycleburner, Bagder/HZ, Metal, HBH, Destino and a lot of 'new' ones as well, like Unifier, Mr.Sex, Bacchus, Tron, Maduplec and several others. I used to spend quite a few hours per day on writing e-mail, nowadays I can mostly be found on irc, channel #c-64. I even have an home account these days next to my school account, so I can 'surf cyber' whenever I want to. I hate to think what this means for my next phonebill though :(. Now let me give you a small example of why I love internet so much: this afternoon I had just started irc, when somebody called 'Elf' from Norway joined the channel as well. I wrote: "Elf ?? I knew an Elf/WWE once from Norway" .. Guess what ?? It was him !! Over 5 years since I heard of him and here he was again, also knowing right away who I was. Now that is great !! Another great thing is that I finally get feedback on the productions Focus has made. Even if it's negative, it's better than nothing at all. And when I hear that somebody thinks Visual Delight 2 is the best designed and graphical demo of 1994, it makes me feel real proud !! (Even though the preview won 3rd prize in 1993 and the demo was finally spread in 1995). By the way, those who want to contact me on the 'net can do so by sending some e-mail to


MAD: Which computer/console do you find easier to program on? What do you use to program on these machines???

TDJ: Well, I'm kind of ashamed to actually admit that I'm a real lazy bastard and even though I've told people that I will start to code on pc & amiga real soon for acouple of years already (I even *did* start coding the amiga, in 1988, but it wasn't a great success) I never actually made any real attempts. I do code in Turbo Pascal (pc) though, even did some demo-like thingies in it, which are now considered to be a lethal weapon here in Holland, so if I ever show them to somebody I might be shot. Ofcourse I do code on the c64 as you may have noticed, and I still hope to find enough energy and faith to actually start coding other machines, preferably the pc and the snes since its m/l looks so much like that of the c64 ..

MAD: Which computer/console would you say will still be around in 10 years?

TDJ: Well, that's very hard to say. I had a brief discussion with Jeroen Tel on it as a matter of fact, and he (like me) thinks there still will be fools using their c64 in 2005 (of which I probably will be one). Alsothe pc might be around but I guess it has evolved into something so extremely powerful by then, I couldn't even imagine what it will be like now .. S. Nintendo's etc. will be outdated then ofcourse, that is already happening as we speak. As for Amiga ?? I fear big fears that it may not survive another 10 years as well. :(

MAD: About FOCUS... How big is the group now? Memberstatus?

TDJ: Like I have mentioned earlier on, there are 14 guys in the group nowadays. This has been so for over a year now, since the last one joined in and I hope it will stay the same (well, maybe the number of members will increase, I've got a couple of people in mind who might join if they would like to).As for the memberstatus: Adam (code), Anorganic (code), Compyx (code,gfx), Fonzie (swap), Heathcliff (code), Hein (gfx), JVD (music), MCA (music), Mirage (code,gfx), PDB (gfx), Sander (gfx), VV (music). X-Byte (code)and yours truly (code, organising).

MAD: That certainlyis some line-up! But how do you rate yourself as a member of Focus ?

TDJ: Although I'm slowly realising that in fact I am one of the more famous members of Focus, I don't think that oding-wise I'm up to staoders uld de' me without too much of an effort. I am lucky enough to be able to come up with somewhat more original effects now and then, like the 'zooming plasma', as some have called it, in VD2, a part of which I am VERY proud. Thus it seems very strange to me that *I* am in the coding charts of some magazines while the others (save for X-Byte & Compyx sometimes) are not. Ofcourse I realise that this has more to do with me being well-known than my qualities, still I must admit liking it. After all, we all want to be respected and valued, right ?? But coming back to my status as a Focus member: I think I am (big arrogance) more than that. It was I who came up with the idea of forming this group, I invented the name and I am the only member ever who has been in since day 1 and never left (Compyx was a founding member as well but alas, his Black Mail days ruined his trackrecord). Still I don't see myself as a leader, more as an organiser, a mentor even. People tell me that I have a gift to make them enthusiastic towards the scene again and I often am surprised myself to see that certain members, who haven't done anything for ages, agree to start working on a new part/music/picture when I ask them to.I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that I never 'demand' something to happen, after all this is a hobby and it is supposed to stay that way, don't you agree ?? MAD: I certainly do. Hostile demands meet with hostile rejections... While we are on the subject of new products, what are FOCUS up to these days? Any games, demos, utilities on the way?

TDJ: We are working on several demo's but if there's one thing I've learnt in all my scene-years it's never to promise people something actually will come out :). As for utilities: Compyx has a couple of nice things he made for himself mostly, e.g. a very good paint program called BDP, a program he unfortunately seems to be the only one able to work with. He also started something resembling a game several times, in cooperation with several other FOCUS members but never finished anything. In fact he was asked to be the painter on Lemmings after they dumped Nikaj Eijk (which I still think was a rotten thing to do) but since his'love' for Remi Ebus, the 'producer' of that game, wasn't too big (like with the rest of us) it didn't take him too long to stop working on that either.Two of our members are working on some very commercial stuff though. Hein & Mirage are both painting for a pc-cd rom game and Hein is doinggraphics for a SNES game as well .. But those activities have nothing to do with Focus save for the fact that they both are in that team ..We were also going to do a demo-scene-only version of Shock but that project has been put aside until further notice. And finally me and Compyx are working on something we call "The Book Of Demo's", a demo encyclopedia. It will be several disks big and featuring some kind of hyper-link system Compyx created and which is very fast. MAD: FOCUS have always paid much attention on design. Do you feel that design is the only thing left to improve on, on the C64? Do you think that there is anything left to code on this machine???

TDJ: I think there is room for much improvement on both design and coding in the c64 world. Up until now not too many demo's have found the right balance between those, except for Tower Power/Camelot and Dutch Breeze maybe. Truth is, that whenever good graphics and design are used, people tend to underrate the code. This happened with Focus as well, in fact we have been dubbed koala picture show routine makers' only a few weeks ago by a member of a certain german group whose name I will not mention here (I'll only tell you that they won 2 important c64 compo's in a row, hehe .. but I don't hold one guys' actions against an entire group ofcourse). This makes me sad as I know that we have several guys in our group who could probably out-code them without any problems but as our style hasn't left open too much room to do just that until now, we were never able to prove it. BUT !! Those in the scene who know how to read may have noticed my "This is the end of life but not as you know it" text in the scroll in the final part of VD2. With that I meant that we in Focus are (hopefully) going in a new direction, featuring more original and better coding while at the same time ofcourse not losing the design and general graphical overkill we've been known for. All I can say right now is "sit & wait, maybe you'll be surprised"! Now let me ask you something, as I'm always curious to find out, and please be honest: how do you think Focus fits in the scene, today and overall ?? Are we an above average group leaning towards 'legendary status' or just another demo-group, easily forgotten. Because I myself feel we haven't reached the legendary status yet, hopefully we will with our next demo's ..

MAD: HOLD ON TDJ!!! I don't think this mag will cope with the masses of text you have written!

Time to LOAD the SECOND PART of this interview!!!


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