WARPFLOW: 10-Day Guide to Electronic Music Production
Originally published by Beatport LLC, 2012
On the Record: LSDJ Founder Johan Kotlinski
Originally published in Devise Magazine – June 19, 2014
Interviewer: Tom Jones
We’re catching up with Little Sound DJ’s founder, Johan Kotlinski. If you’ve ever heard any chiptunes, there’s a good chance that they were made using Johan’s program more lovingly known to its users and fans as LSDJ.
Wow, it’s been many years since LSDJ first came out in 2000. What was your inspiration to write the program?
Well, I had been using homebrew music software on the Commodore Amiga for a long time, programs like Protracker and Musicline Editor. Around 2000, the Gameboy Color was new platform, so I was interested in seeing whether it was possible to make some good composing software on that platform.
Were there any major hurdles to make it happen? (This was back in the day before a lot of information was easily available online. Before YouTube if you can imagine.)
Nothing in particular that I can come to think of. The documentation for the platform was and still is available on the internet. If there was any problem, it is that the C compiler I have been using all these years is very buggy and crappy…
Are you a programmer by trade?
Yes, I have been doing it for a living for some years now. However, working in big companies is quite different from programming alone in the bedroom.
Are you a coffee or tea kind of guy?
How does it feel to be a major player in the chiptune movement knowing that LSDJ is a platform for artists like Nullsleep and Bit Shifter to create their music?
I am humbled that the program inspired so many people to make great music. I would never have expected that when I first started on it.
Has the chip scene grown or is it limited to those who grew up in the era of 4-8 bit consoles?
Surprisingly enough, this technology still finds its way into the hands of new young people. Some of the new musicians I like are Toriena and Trey Frey. But there are many others.
As noted in Europe in 8-Bits documentary, people would come together in person to share their music and video art. While the internet has connected people instantly, do you think the essence of the 8-bit culture has been diluted because people can just send an email as opposed to essentially performing their work and standing by their creations? Is there anything you would change about the current situation?
I think communication through computer networks always was an important part of chip music culture. Already in the 80s, people called bulletin board systems using dial-up modems, to share music and other productions. The internet also makes it so much easier to plan and promote events in real life, it is crazy not to use it. I can get nostalgic about micromusic.net at times, which was very energetic around 2000 and sparked a lot of international activities and friendship, but now this is a thing of the past and that is the way life is.
Do you make chiptunes regularly?
No, unfortunately, I’m not very motivated these days.
What separates LSDJ from the modern DAW and current synthesizers?
In my mind, it’s that the workflow is fast and flexible and that the program is fixed to doing one thing very well. This makes it possible to get from point A (first musical idea) to B (finished song) very quickly without getting lost in distractions. The real strength is in musical arrangement, which in my opinion is much more enjoyable and quicker than any other program I worked with.
Can you share any secret/obscure tricks with LSDJ? What’s your favorite technique?
My tricks must anyway be outdated by now! So I will keep that for myself.
So when will there be a worldwide chiptune meet?
The next one is scheduled Sep 27-28th, Square Sounds festival in Tokyo.
Is there any advice/insight you can share (whether about music, life, Zen, making a great steak etc)
Not really, at the age of 35 I feel more clueless than ever.