Sound: Grayscale Project
Thanks for giving this interview. Would you
please introduce yourselves to our readers first...
Grzegorz Kwiatek, age 24, I'm living in Warsaw,
Poland. Just married, since summer 2002. Scene
nickname: Greg/Bit Busters.
Lukasz Sychowicz, age 26, also known as X-ray/Slight,
You express a common feeling of love towards
the "little" Atari computers on your
web site. Where does this love come from? How
did you discover the Atari?
simply wasn't a special kind of discovery
as you noticed. When I was young, I got in touch
with Atari computers in my friend's home. It
was in 1992. Atari computers were very popular
in these days - the others were CBM and its
C64... So... it was simply an accident, that
I bought Atari.
I found my Atari 65XE under the Christmas tree.
It was in 1987. I suppose, that it was by accident,
too. I remember, that it cost about $130, and
that was a very expensive gift for my parents.
Well, maybe it's a kind of nostalgia... I think,
that Atari was a part of our childhood, a part
of our history.
When did you start making music on the Atari?
On Atari? I suppose, that I started at the end
of 1993; just in time when I bought CMC, Chaos
Music Composer. I mean, the professional tracker
for making music on little Atari. My
first modules were completely awful and probably
one would be irritated listening to them. However,
I joined Taquart (Atari scene group) in 1994
and started making more and more professional
I went through almost the same way. I had started
making music in 1992 - on CMC of course - and
then came Atari scene times...
...and he joined Slight - the other scene group.
Exactly. Music and Polish Atari scene made,
that we soon first met. It was probably in 1995,
at QuaST Party in Orneta (maybe you ST fans,
knew this place much better then we, because
it was an ST fans copy party). I presented there
my songs at the music competition, and so did
When did you start the Grayscale Project?
Officially, Grayscale Project started in January
2003, as it is mentioned at our web site. Unofficially,
it started when we made our first module in
co-operation. It was impossible as long as Greg
was moved to Warsaw from the southern part of
Chip music seems to be very much the big
thing to do at the moment, but a lot of people
prefer the Commodore 64, because of its SID
sound chip. What makes the POKEY sound so specific?
Well, firstly: What does the SID sound chip
mean? A milder or maybe better sound? I believe,
that is no matter what platform, Atari or C64
you've chosen. The most important thing is to
interest the listener; making him feel the music
you create, your expressions and feelings.
Greg is right. We pay no attention to the ideology,
whatever it means. We create music using Atari.
It could be C64 as well, but our childhood made
that we've chosen Atari. And that's all. SID/POKEY?
It doesn't matter!
Technically speaking, Atari and its POKEY sound
chip sounds more rough and raw, but also a little
bit clearer than C64 sounds. SID has its fantastic
filters and basses, but we don't envy C64 musicians.
The list of comparisons could be much more longer,
but, as we mentioned above, no matter what computer
platform you have chosen, but how you use this
Now you have to tell us about your set-up; please,
don't hide any details.
Atari 65XE with 256 KB on-board, stereo upgrade,
MIDI Out port. Moreover: standard PC -
Athlon 1800+ with trashy AC97 integrated sound
chipset. Fortunately I don't need to create
Atari 65XE, QMEG system, stereo upgrade, PC,
and the most important part of our configuration:
SIO2PC cable, which helps us connect Atari to
What software do you use for producing the tunes?
Currently we use Theta Music Composer by Jaskier/Taquart,
one of the most famous music trackers on Atari.
It has one big advantage: it can make the most
of our stereo upgrade.
X-ray doesn't mention that he uses Impulse Tracker
too, see our web site!
Any specific software to program sounds?
No specific software :-)
Well, we use SapMaker in order to make SAP
files. SAP files make possible to hear Atari
music on your PC.
Now let me tell you I am pretty amazed by the
high quality of your productions. I didn't actually
know such impressive sound was possible on the
XE/XL. How many Ataris do you use in your productions?
Let's look at "Euglena Zielona" for
example. How many 8-bits do we hear there?
It is possible and it was possible! You didn't
hear our previous modules on Atari! ;-) But,
returning to the question... Maybe one can not
believe us, but in "Euglena Zielona"
and all Grayscale modules there is only one
Atari playing. Of course it has above menthioned
"stereo upgrade". It means, that you
can hear there maximum 8 channels, twice as
"normal" 4-channel Atari can generate.
Stereo upgrade is very common and very simple
alteration of your XE.
Which equipment do you use for recording the
Maybe it isn't a strict answer to your question,
but here is the way from Atari module to MP3
file: Firstly, we connect Atari via SIO2PC
cable to PC. PC is used as a file-server for
XE, so we can transfer just-created TMC modules
to PC hard disk. Secondly we convert TMC module
into SAP file. You can consider it as a cross-platform
file format (you can hear Atari music even on
Linux with your SAP files!). Thirdly, we
use Winamp SAP plug-in to convert SAP into WAV
and, finally, CDEX to convert WAV into MP3.
What software is missing on the XE/XL for producing
music at the moment? What's on your wish-list?
I'm sure, that our wish-list is empty; we've
got everything what we need to have. I suppose
that our and other Atari musicians' productions
are a kind of "final frontier" in
generating music on XE/XL platform.
Of course one can add another and another POKEY
chip, increasing total number of channels, but
it does not make sense.
Do you just use Ataris, or is there any other
hardware you like to produce chip music on?
I'm using my PC and Impulse Tracker.
In 1997-2000 I created music with my XE connected
to Casio keyboard via MIDI port. All of
my MIDI productions converted to MP3 you can
find at my web site.
Why do you think chip music is so popular at
the moment? We even hear some of it on
German music TV...
Hmm... I don't know if it's so popular, it's
just another kind of music... but a special
kind of, because you have to be very flexible,
even cunning. You have to tense your brain and
all your music abilities in order to make nice chip
Well, I think that it is a return to the '80s
or... just a fashion.
Talking about music and Atari, most people think
of ST or even the Falcon. Ever worked with these
machines, or do you plan to?
No, I don't. Of course, there is an ability
to leap from one platform to another but, firstly,
we should ask ourselves, "What for?"
Greg says, that there are a lot of professional
musicians on every scene, but there's a few
on Atari XE/XL. Our (I mean: all Atari musicians')
music helps Atari to be noticeable in the chip
tune world. However, I made some modules on
Do you also produce music for demos?
Greg made soundtracks for three productions:
"Back to life" and "Ultra",
both created by Taquart group. The second one
was released at Intel Outside 4 CP in 1997.
Moreover, he made demo called "Cogito".
X-ray created music for "Overmind"
demo by Slight, and for "Numen" -
a brand new demo by Taquart released in 2002.
And a lot of music for intros and other smaller
...and so did Greg.
What are the special requirements for making
music for demos or even games?
It depends... on coder, mainly. In general,
there isn't any special requirements for making
demo-music. Coders, of course, prefer music
players which take less processor time, but
it is only a suggestion, not an order. For example,
"Ultra" soundtrack uses Theta player,
which takes the most processor time.
Do you consider yourself more as musicians or
as a programmers?
Musicians of course!
Do you plan live gigs in the future?
[Laughs] No, we don't, for sure. Who wants to
listen this strange sounds? ;-)
It's difficult for me to imagine live gigs on
What kind of music do you listen to personally?
I'm listening to a wide spectrum of music styles:
pop, jazz, rock, funky, classical music... everything.
I like to listen concrete songs. I don't choose
music according to artists or music style. I'm
the musician, and I'm searching the whole music
It is said, that every music is good on condition...
that it is good indeed. I'm trying to keep this
This interview was
originally published in German by st-computer
magazine, February 2003, and is reproduced in
English with kind permission.