Kjell Nordbø, We Miss You

In January 2005 the C64-composer Zyron got a package with a 5.25″ floppy disk from his friend in Norway. The disk didn’t work, which was annoying. The guy who had sent the disk, Kjell Nordbø, had been active in the demoscene since 1991 but always seemed to operate in the fringe of this fringe subculture. He mostly made what he called “music demos” – executable audiovisual albums – for C64 and sent floppies to a few people who would spread them to the public. This music disk was only given to Zyron, but since the disk didn’t work and he was in the process of moving, the music disk was forgotten. Some time later, Zyron got an e-mail from Kjell’s father who told him that Kjell had committed suicide by hanging himself. Shock. Zyron found the disk again and managed to fix it. He loaded the disk and saw that the title of the music demo was “Larger Than Life”. Hrmmf. When he loaded the music disk he was in for the next shock as he saw the intro screen – Kjell’s logotype was hanging from a tree….

For those of us who had been following Kjell’s work, this was a terrible loss. After his passing away I couldn’t listen to his songs for a long time, since the dark nature of his work really took a new level after he said goodbye to the world through his last C64-production. I find Kjell’s work to be among the best 8-bit work, ever. I think his music disks are amazing works, combining artistic and technical skills and creating very eerie feelings with music, graphics, programming and text. His way of experimenting and surprising, the way he creates the mosty spooky atmospheres but sometimes also almost disturbingly happy songs. Often his works have very surprising changes aswell, so they are hard to grasp by just fast forwarding through them. I think his music has inspired me a lot, and I would like to make other people discover his work. That’s why I am trying to promote him so much. His first solo music disk starts the scrolltext with “Welcome to my world of prejudices, schizophrenia and pure perfection.” It’s a good introduction to what is to come. Here’s a list of his solo music demos to show his productivity (each collection contains >a lot< of music) and his tradition of naming his collections…

Does Not Compute (1994)
The Magic Flute (1994)
Born Alive Dead (1995)
Relationship Across the World (1995)
Total Insane OK (1996)
Pioneers Are Lonely (1996)
Iron of Steel (1996)
Outsider Seek Safety (1997)
Death or Hell? (1998)
Forces in Alliance (1999)
The Big Leap (1999)
No Compromise Touch (2000)
A New Life (2001)
Journey Through Mirrorland (2002)
Mad Mans Dream (2002)
Ghost Escapes Body (2003)
Larger Than Life (2005)

(note that some of these cannot be run if a cartridge is not in the C64 or the emulator)

A composer with a wide spectrum of styles such as Kjell is hard to get into when there are more than 400 songs to download. I asked Zyron to make a selection of his favourite tracks by Kjell. First he said “it would be easier to select the ones that aren’t that good” but finally managed to get it down to 80 tracks. After Zyron’s list I will also put a less comprehensive list for people with less time. All of the links are to MP3-files at 6581-8580.com which means that unlike the original SID-format 1) the songs won’t loop 2) the ending of the songs are a bit weird 3) the songs are taken from HVSC 4) and most importantly, they are not emulated but played on the 8580R SID-chip (the way Kjell composed them) on a real C64-setup. Hail authenticity!

A Change For
A Length

Trying the Carousel [A New Life #17]
A Place
After Real
All the Time
Best to You, The
Cakes Taste Good
Carry My Weight
Dark Force
Dream Runner
Drifting Away
Dunk Bang Kraesj
Happiness Room
Happy Days
Hard Times
Heat, The
Here I Come
Hiding My Face
Holding a Hand
Honey Soup
Hurry (Someone Needs Help)
I Hate You
I Wave Goodbye
If It Ain’t Love
I’m Fonkey
In a Funky Place
Left Lane
Life Is a Game (But It Isn’t)
Like a Player
Little Big Man, The
Mad About It
Into My Picture [Mad Mans Dream #10]
Master of the Universe
Mind Escape, The
Mysterious Dance
Never Die
Nor Art or You
Over the Edge
Rope of Plastic
Sea Boble
Seek the Truth
Slow Reactions
Spy Spied Me
Starting an End
That’s MY Girl
This Chair
Touches of Magic
Unlimited Mind
Unlock Your Doors
Use My Fire!
What a Chance
Where Are You

Here’s some suggestions from yours truly, hoping that you can find your way into the world of Kjell. If you like it, I recommend to run his music demos aswell to see his graphics, read his texts, and get into one of the most interesting blends of a human mind and a set of chips.

A song to start with, including many of his styles: Unlimited Mind
Crazy funk: 1001 Ride & Let’s Work
Happyjumpy: The Best to You
Dark action funk: Died & Crime
Rock: That’s MY Girl & Use My Fire! & Atom Guitar
Squirrel jam: Ekorn
Metal funk jazz: The Little Big Man
Rock twist: Out of Nothing
Abstractish: Snofnugg & Surrounded & Touches of Magic & Ann Kristin (Anti Krist) & Clowns & Genuine Madness

Enjoy Kjell, Larger Than Life.


19 Responses to “Kjell Nordbø, We Miss You”

  1. chipflip Says:

    by the way – Larger Than Life is not yet in the HVSC or 6581-8580 so you have to run the file in an emulator. here’s a discussion about it http://www.remix64.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4419&start=15

  2. norfair Says:

    Funny I should do a google search for Kjell a few day after you post this article.

    I’m a big fan of Kjell and his music, and I keep coming back to it every once in a while. The fact that he is gone is sad, but I think I can relate to him and try to understand how much pain he was in. After all, it is part of what made his music so great. It was full of honesty and intense emotion. To me that puts Kjell up there with Kobain.

    Although the situation saddens me, I wish to keep listening to Kjell’s great music for years to come.

    – Norfair

  3. kikendo Says:

    I didn’t know about this. It’s a big shame, I love this guy’s work.
    2 years ago some other musician,not chip, drum&bass, called Desimal, who I respected a lot, took the same decision and left us with a last release called “Afterlife”. It’s really incredible

    Will check Kjell’s last release ASAP.

  4. Vanja Says:

    Actually, Zyron wasn’t the only person that Kjell mailed the music collection to. The notefile was recovered from my copy.

  5. Three Very Eerie Norwee « CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] Nordbo – Larger than life (C64, 2005) Already mentioned here before, this is probably the creepiest demoscene production ever. ‘The ultimate freedom you get only […]

  6. nitro2k01 Says:

    (note that some of these cannot be run if a cartridge is not in the C64 or the emulator)

    How does one go about doing that in Vice64? I tried creating a zero filled disk image, but that apparantly didn’t do the trick.
    Sorry for the non-authentic request, but since I don’t own either a 1541 or a suitable cartridge I’m even more toast trying that…

  7. nitro2k01 Says:

    That’s what I did (With a “generic 8k image” where I attached a null filled 8k file) My problem is that “Larger than life” hangs after the intro text. (With or without a null cartridge)

  8. skab Says:

    Try going into the VICE monitor, type:

    bank ram
    l “L*” 8

    then RUN on the emulated C64.

    I had been into Kjell’s music for years but only recently, rather by accident, leaned about him being dead. Watching his last demo and seeing that intro screen made me feel sick, too. Many of his songs sort of got a very bitter taste, it seems now that the dark atmosphere and the titles he gave his songs mirrored a lot more of his own personality than I ever would have guessed.

    It’s also strange how taste differs, when I read Zyron’s list I missed many of my personal favorites and many really remarkable and powerful tracks. So as a little addition here’s my lis of not-yet-mentioned trackst

    That Sign
    Naked and Lost
    Jalla the Spider
    Time Passes By
    Rock Or Die
    Its War
    Guilty Souls
    I Resolve
    No One Thats Me
    Jeg Er Glad Sangen
    Strange Sweet Little Linn
    Through Confessions
    A New Life
    Its not enough
    I Skogens Makt
    Ghost Escapes Body #6 (Distorted)
    Ghost Escapes Body #8 (The Might of Fear)
    Mad Mans Dream #23 (Change of Views)
    Larger than Life #1 (Lifeblood)
    Larger than Life #4 (Kjellfire)
    Larger than Life #7 (Spaisara)
    Larger than Life #15 (Delusion)

    Especially Delusion is an incredible tour-de-force (17:15 minutes!) and a fitting swansong with many of his trademarks in one single track.

    Anyway, RIP Kjell. Thanks for all your lovely and weird music.

  9. Sixx Says:

    Since a couple years back i always listen to Kjell in bed before i sleep. One of the few really talented musicans that could master the SID.. RIP.

  10. C64Fan Says:

    I left the C64 Scene for the Amiga Scene and didnt follow it much past 1992, so I hadnt heard of Kjell till much later.

    I started looking at the brilliant stuff he was releasing, I soon realised that there are images and words sprinkled all over he’s work which got more intense and morbid leading up to the end.

    I know Larger than life was the final demo, but did he leave a note for anyone?

    A great talent and tragic loss, to the C64 Scene.

    • chipflip Says:

      I am not sure if he left any paper note, but LTL is definitely one of the most powerful good bye notes I have ever heard of!

  11. Mikko Says:

    I recommend listening to the tune “i skogens makt”, one of my personal favourites.

  12. Offline Chipmusic Radio Shows « CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] Hat Mack had themed episodes like one on the demoparty Mekka Symposium 2000, one for Zyron & Kjell Nordbo, for multispeed music and for PRI. It was mostly game music though, as far as I […]

  13. Lazy Jones Says:

    While there probably are a lot of artists who have expressed their personal grief through their art, I would guess Kjell was probably the only one who foretold his own really sad faith in a C64 demo(s). Intrigued by the story, I watched through all his demos, some of them are so personal that it feels like a personal journal or even a small window to his life. Sad story of a great talent.

  14. rffnewsde Says:

    thank you a lot, chipflip, for your initiative to honour kjell as the incredibly inspirational musician and human being he was.

    i’ve known kjell all my life; we grew up together and share the same grandparents. several years ago – i guess around year 2K – i recorded most of his music via cable from the C64 to a PC, collected maybe 100 of my favourite tracks and went to visit some of my friends who are musicians. after some hours of voting and eager discussion we boiled it down to about 2 CDs of playing time which we then copied and distributed to open-minded music enthusiasts who never owned a C64. the response can be summed up somewhat like this: his is fantastic! who is this genius? and why isn’t this music world-famous already?

    i recently found and ripped those 2 CDs and made them available in streaming mp3-format here:

    in my opinion these tracks sum up his exceptionally funky, melodic, rhythmic and in all aspects avant-garde-ic life in music in a way that should inspire anyone who is able to regard the C64 as a musical instrument and not a “computer”.

    • chipflip Says:

      thanks for visiting, and sharing the mp3s! you made a website for him back in the days, right? i met kjell at a swedish demoparty back in the days, and he had a norwegian newspaper where “normal” musicians were interviewed about him. perhaps that’s what you’re talking about aswell? i’m sure that some day his work will be wider known.

      • frode Says:

        that’s right, i made a micro-site for him back in the days hosted by a free norwegian DNS that no longer exist. i’m considering to collect all possible data by and about Kjell and make a new site for him. it’s hard, though, because it would all be “summed up” and thus “definitive”.

        and yes, the newspaper he showed you would probably be the one featuring some of the same people that participated in the selection of tracks for the forementioned playlists.

        i came across this webpage (http://www.commodorelife.com/commodore-64-hardware.php) that places Kjell where he truly belongs; mentioned alongside some of those who inspired him the most, he himself has become one of them and therefore an equal inspiration to others. that’s really moving, and i’m sure he would be proud!

        thanks again for the most thorough and sincere webpage in memory of kjell.

      • skab Says:

        Just in case anyone stumbles across this page: The last link in frode’s post fell victim to some domain-spammers, don’t click it anymore.

        And in case the redirection fails sometime as well: The music page mentioned in his post before that moved to http://www.norwegianink.com/wordpress/

        The Internet is so volatile…

        Kjell’s last music disk is now 10 years old. And I still remember reading the STIL entry as “The latest compositions by Kjell” instead of “last” and totally missing the clue…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: