In the 1990’s you could use chipmusic tools to make dance music hits. It was r rare to hear 8-bit songs in public before that. With a few exceptions, records with 8-bit music appeared in the 90’s and were made on the Amiga (see the timeline).
The British duo Dex & Jonesey have probably been involved with more chart hits with the Amiga than anyone else. They worked with 15 UK chart hits between 1996 and 2001, even with mainstream folks like Phil Collins and Lionel Richie. Imagine feeding some phresh Phil Collins vocals into OctaMED, eyh!
They mainly worked with more dancefloor oriented artists though. Their remixes of Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness apparently sold about half a million copies (including their radio edit). Dex & Jonesey used the Amiga for Hardfloor, Usura, Todd Terry and about 40 other releases (check the discography, up until Strings of Justice).
Back in the 1990’s, music retromania was more about synthesizers than computers. It wasn’t like today, when you get bonus points for any 8-bit reference. I mail-talked with Jonesey to get some more information.
– The music biz found out soon enough after attending the studio that we were literally running a Phil Collins record from 1000 pounds worth of studio and out doing David Morales and Arman van Helden. It was bizarre looking back! We did some huge magazine interviews which was really fun. Yet the music industry hated the fact we were not Apple Mac focused and produced so many hit records from a ‘poor man’s’ computer. There was a lot of negativity that we had to fight, but content as always was king and we made it through the storm!
Dex & Jonesey started with Amiga 500 and Protracker, but quickly moved on to using two Amiga 1200 running OctaMED, complemented by a keyboard. – The 44khz quality of DAT was good enough to master from. We had literally a full studio although everything had to be recorded live to DAT including live keyboards which I played. It was daunting but at the same time great fun, it was like being on tour and playing in a live band.
Dex & Jonesey had a competetive edge in two ways. They had a huge library of sounds that they’d sampled from extended mixes amongst other things (all stored on floppies, of course). Secondly, the sound of the Amiga made it stand out from the others. – The sounds were crunchy and tough, not dull and bland, thus allowed my music to have an advantage that others could not replicate. I even had a famous product downgrade to an 8 bit to get the ‘sound’ but it was more than technology that drove the output/results.
In 1999 the duo split up, but Jonesey continued to use the Amiga for hits like Independence. He stuck with the Amigas for another two years, but then switched to Logic on Mac. – When finance got much better I bailed out on the Amigas as technology had caught up and the machines had broken down. I had bought around 15 of them and grown tired of the failures. I went to Apple Mac and still have the leading 8 core system that runs Logic Pro.
What OctaMED provided compared to the new setup, was a fast work pace. – The part I missed about the Amigas the most was the quickness of operations. It was so user friendly where Macs are always so complex!
Such ‘immersive’ qualities of trackers are often forgotten. Once you know them, they are really quick to work with. A lot of the people I interviewed for my thesis mentioned it, and it was recently empirically researched by Nash & Blackwell of the Rainbow Research Group (pdf). But trackers are not made for handling long chunks of audio. If you’re a remixer and use the original audio, even a modern tracker like Renoise is a bit painful. So respect to Dex & Jonesey for keeping it up for so long!