1) Hello K-Klass. Well, the first question is always the same: could you introduce yourself (name, job, passsion, ...)?
Real name: Kevin Dempsey, Job: Just started my own business buying & selling console games... more of an extension of a pastime... to earn real money I do construction work. After spending around 6 years studying with about 3 more years in-between doing boring office work, another year dossing & another permanently drunk either side of a very long holiday to the US, I decided I didn't fancy working for someone else again... and couldn't bear the thought of sitting in front of a PC for the rest of my life.
2) When did you enter the world of computers? What was your first machine?
It all started for me in about '81, aged 8-ish - my uncle came over from Liverpool with a black & white Grandstand TV Master 4 Plus 2. Oh. My. God. I was instantly hooked! Only problem was that I didn't get to spend too much time with it because I didn't have the power pack... batteries seemed to last a matter of minutes rather than hours.
My first real computer was a Mattel Aquarius I bought around three years later. Nothing can touch that machine for me... only the ST comes close. While our friends had BBCs, ZX81s & ZX Spectrums, we took a trip to ASDA and picked up a huge discount bundle of home computer greatness (!). For a very reasonable £50 we came home with an Aquarius, 16k memory expansion & data recorder. Cartridge games could also be picked up over the next 12-18 months for around a fiver. Our favourite cart was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons... awesome. But I can't leave this bit without mentioning * M_o_w_e_r_M_a_n * Bought from the Aquarius Users' Club, it was a cassette game that had me addicted for months... and, yes, you had to go 'round mowing lawns & picking up litter! I could clock that game over & over!
3) When did you buy your first ST? Why?
After the Aquarius we had a Speccy +2... nice sound but basically crap. When my brother came home from school one day with stories of his friend's Dad's Atari computer I laughed because all I could think of was the VCS & a couple of poor games I'd seen on an 8-bit Atari computer... but then I saw an advert for Tai-Pan (one of the games I liked from the +2) with ST screen shots I knew I had to buy one. So my brother & myself saved most of our spending money & lunch money, sold the +2 & put the money towards getting an STFM Super Pack. First game I played was Test Drive & it was great... then it bombed!
4) When did you begin to draw for other people? Was Awesome the first team you involved?
Before Awesome, I'd had some of my pictures printed in a couple of UK games mags - Atari ST User & ST Format. But I'd always had the desire to make pictures with the computers I had (I even used to make ASCII-pictures on the Aquarius using the FileForm cartridge, well before I'd even heard of ASCII-art ;) On the spectrum I had Melbourne Draw from Melbourne House - drawing with a joystick was Etch-A-Sketch-tastic & coping with the speccy's colour block limitations was, erm, interesting.
On the ST it was all quite obvious stuff I drew at first... using the copy of NeoChrome that came with my computer I drew Garfield... (I think everyone draws Garfield... it's sort of the equivalent of 'Hello World') Most people grow out of it...
When I started getting hold of LSD/Was (Not Was) menus from a friend or a friend of my Dad, along came a copy of Degas Elite in a stack of 40-or so disks. F**king hell! This program shit all over NeoChrome from a great height. I could make much nicer stuff with this!
Awesome was the first group I joined. I'd done what a lot of Ruthless' contacts-to-be had done & got his address off an early menu! Still remember the day I got a parcel from Ruthless with Awesome #10 & some super-hot cracks. It felt quite good actually having some of my gfx used for something quite a few people would see... even if Ruthless had decided that the group would be called 'Awesome' and that my name was 'K-Class'... lamer!
5) So, let's speak about Ruthless (leader of the band?). There is a lot of rumours about this guy. What is right and what is wrong about him? (personal note: could you tell the complete story? thanks)
Oh, just the complete story? =)
As much as I'd like to sit down and write an essay entitled 'Ruthless: The complete story', besides probably making a few quid selling it to a national newspaper, I don't think any one person can tell this story. You could ask 10 of us to do the same & I'm sure we'd all come back with widely differing stories.
If anyone cares enough to want to ask a specific question, sure, fire away... I'll do my best to remember. But for now...
Actually, from a personal perspective, I don't have too many bad things to say about him. While I was in the group we became pretty good mates - I seem to remember that my 'phone bill went up from £30 a quarter to over a hundred after I joined Awesome ;) The James I spoke to on the phone each week (I never actually got to meet him in person) was a fairly decent, average kind of kid... if maybe a little devious and something of a control freak! He he...
He used to 'phone up regularly, too, to check out what new stuff I'd got hold of (well it didn't cost him anything as tone dialers were quite fashionable at the time) and he'd tell me stories about the conference calls he'd had with all sorts of top crackers from top groups (of course, using borrowed AT&T calling card details). I'd get big parcels through from him (with Prittstick or tape over the stamps, obviously) between menus full of really new stuff, getting a lot of stuff faster than I could making my weekly trip to the local ST/Amiga copying club.
I do remember that I didn't trust him entirely... having his details on his menus prompted loads of people to write off to Ruthless, and he ended up taking money & stuff like consoles as payment for sending out his menus & other peoples stuff 'for life'... of course, he didn't really have much intention of doing this for very long once he had the goodies! That reminds me - I remember he was well impressed with the pic I'd done that was used on Awesome #10... when I told him it was taken from a top bought from a local independent record shop he wanted one badly... was I going to shell out £40 before he sent the cash? Er, no!
Because James had loads of contacts all over the world he just couldn't keep up with them. He asked me to take over 10 that he didn't want to lose but just couldn't find enough time to send our stuff out to. What he didnt point out was that he owed most of these people disks! But I didn't care - 3 or 4 of these guys became great contacts for a long while afterwards... one especially so, as I later went on to co-found one of the Atari scene's most prolific groups with him.
I remember Ruthless was quite pissed off when I told him I'd met someone from Pompey Pirates who told me to forget about Awesome & send off my gfx to them instead! As for other members of the group, it's clear from reading some of the scrollers that a few of them knew each other. But when new people joined, especially people such as myself and Tim who didn't have 100s of contacts, he was very reluctant to let us have any contact with the rest of the group. I mean, I'd really have liked to be in contact with Dal and some of the others... So, at least for me, there was no real feeling of being in a group as such... He did give me the details for one of our other members, can't remember if it was Frosty or Editman.
A fairly disturbing practice of James' was to use a borrowed microphone with some kind of sucker attachment (borrowed I think from Editman or Frosty) and tape conversations with some quite famous ST guys! One of these taped conversations involved the slagging off of someone by the infamous Derek MD. He replayed this conversation to me over the phone I think & then sent me the tape... the idea was to sample such phrases such as "I can't stand Gino, he's a wanker", "Derek's got a code & you ain't gettin' it", "Stick you're dick right up your arse" and "I didn't even know he was named Supreme anyway"... well, the samples weren't really too interesting as they were, so I made a silly mod using them which was quite comedy! I'm not too sure Derek & the people he was slagging off would have liked it, though... I think I still have that mod file somewhere, too!
One thing I would like to mention is to do with The Bald Eagle - a well respected producer of ST menus who came on board to work for Awesome. OK, I don't want to be seen to be tale-telling or anythig like that, but James actually told me on the 'phone that the only reason he had ha let TBE join was that he wanted to "Kill Automation". He even told the TBE had sent him loads of stuff to use on Awesome menus but that he wasn't going to even consider using it... it all sounded pretty nasty to me.
We've all heard these stories of the infamous Ruthless, but I'm not even sure what other names he was going under during and after Awesome/Elite/Etc. When he got hold of a copy of Blip Blopper for me (which was a bit naughty of him at the time :) & I mentioned how great I thought The Syndicate menus were, especially Redzone's logos, he hinted that he was actually a member of their group, under another name!
6) At the time, nobody in the crew was informed about Ruthless' practices?
The member status of the group seemed to alter each and every menu with Awesome... and as I said before, he didn't seem to want to let us all contact each other (at least it seemed that way) so I can't speak for anyone else...
Maybe I wasn't in the best position within the group to answer this question 100% accurately, because Awesome was a group like no other I know of... the first I knew that any of this was true was when I got a Reps crack that really ripped into 'Truthless'. I called him up as I did every Sunday to let him know what new stuff I'd got & he admitted he'd been passing off other people's work as his. I was well shocked! Really daft and I'm not exactly sure what (if any) excuse he came up with... maybe something about not getting hold of originals or having them but not bothering to crack them as he already had cracks of them... lame whatever it was.
Occasionally I had my little suspicions he maybe wasn't as technically tallented as he made out. James had given me the source to Griff's spinning wireframe Awesome logo intro & I made up a fake Awesome menu to put on the front of a disks of gfx I made for the coders. I messed with it a bit to distort the Awesome logo. Nothing much, nothing clever... yet he didn't know what part of the code I'd changed... seemed weird to me that he wouldn't know, that it wouln't be obvious within about 10 seconds of skipping through the file!...
It was all a bit sad really, but he just dumped his name & started up again with a new one...
7) When did you stop drawing for Awesome?
That would be when James came up with the news that we were dumping the Awesome name & joining Hotline of Elite. Hotline? Only one of the most respected groups of all time. Of course it was all a bit weird really, but at the time that didn't occur to me! He'd pulled off quite a coup having Tim (D-Coder/Dominion) join after he'd made those stunning Pompey Pirates screens & it looked like Awesome were becoming a serious group... and I'd made so many nice Awesome logos that would never be used & was fairly pissed off about that. But the prospect of joining Hotline sort of off-set that & I was looking forward to doing something other than draw the word 'Awesome' a few hundred times more!
So I now went under the name Outlander and K-Klass was rested. I remember he 'phoned me up a few days before Christmas and asked if I had got the fullscreen PI1 maker program he'd sent that made overscan-sized pics from multiple PI1s... the idea was to use it to create a Christams menu. Probably for the first time since joining the group I said no... I wanted to relax and enjoy Christmas with my family - well, I couldn't be arsed, really! He didn't seem too bothered, though. But what was I thinking?! A Christmas menu would be cool! So I got out Blip Blopper & created a tune, got out Degas & made a huge santa pic then 'phoned James up to tell him. Only thing was, there wasn't any code yet to make a menu, and I don't think he was up to it. So he had to give me Tim's address & got Tim to code the menu while I sent down the gfx/music. This was great because I now had contact with Tim! He actually made me promise that I wouldn't let anyone else have his address (he was afraid some other crew would take him away!).
Lots of stupid name calling ruined the later Elite disks - all that Genesis Is Dead rubbish - pretty pathetic.
Hotline then... too good to be true? Yep! Seems James had been a bit eager telling Tim & myself that we were now members of Hotline... looks like Sledge had either had second thoughts or hadn't quite envisioned things being the way James now saw them... or maybe hadn't even discussed this with James at all! Who knows?! This was the proposed solution: James came up with the idea that we could all still be in the group, but he, myself & Tim would have to go under a single name..! Can't remember what that name was, but was that ever going to work? Nah! Didn't like the sound of that at all.
8) Were you involved in other projects after Awesome/Elite Compilations?
After the Elite disks & the problems with Hotline UK not working out, a new group was on the cards for James, Tim & myself. James came up with many suggestions for names... most of them quite crap! We were still to be a member of Elite, but go under the name Teknix. I'm not sure if we actually released anything under that name, but I certainly made some tasty logos under the name Drity Mind. Another great idea for a name he put to me was Quartex - I said "what, like the Amiga group?" and he said "oh, have you heard of them, then?" Errr.. yes! Even though I now owned an Amiga too (spit), I'd heard of the legendary Quartex before as I'd seen them greeted on ST stuff! Still, Extreme, as he was now known, went ahead with the Quartex & got into even more hot water. It wasn't great for James, but Tim made a fine intro with the 3d bubbles and I offered one of my best logos so far - it certainly was quality stuff but under the name Quartex it wasn't going to last. I'm pretty sure James got lots of greets as Ruthless of Quartex which must have pissed him off quite a bit! I'm not too sure how long that lot lasted, but the QTX cracks appeared on many different groups' menus...
The next plan, and I don't know if he discussed this with anyone else, was to jump ship - over to the AMIGA! We both now owned Amigas & I think maybe Tim did, too... the plan was to make a crew on the Amiga in a very ST-style... the Amiga scene was all about cracks and speed... there wasn't much of a CD/menu thing going on at all... but we never did much more than plan it... & I'm quite glad, too!
So in the aftermath of Awesome / Hotline / Elite / Teknix / Quartex / Etc (there could well have been more, I don't really remember!), I became crewless... One of the contacts I'd got from James was Nirvana of Admirables & he asked if I would like to join his group - so of course I obliged! Doing legal stuff was a nice change. Not living in the same country as the rest of your group, though, it's really weird! Admirables were a Finnish group & I was living in England. So I never really got to settle in the group properly and seemed to drift in and out as my interest in doing ST stuff waivered at the end of the ST's game release years. In '93 I also bought myself my first Falcon030! This died 2 weeks later & was replaced within a couple of days. None of the other Admirables members bought Falcons & we sort of lost touch a few times even though we had been emailing a little the year before at college. There wasn't much about on the Falcon to begin with as most people were sticking with their STs & waiting to see if the Falcon would take off or deserting to the PC.
During this time my interest in ST games menus was awakened by The Lemmings & I decided to go back to the K-Klass name. Now the Lemmings had some great members - Pele was a first class cracker, wrote some interesting code & made Alien's trainer modes look stingy! Quantum Man was a decent coder (I especially liked his rotating cubes menus.. nice!). Charles (Info-somethingy-o :) was a great crazy coder who once helped me make the strangest cup of herbal tea imaginable, which John(? - info-otherthingy-o) actually drank! Ha! As I recall, I had Tim's address & passed it on to Pele then he joined, too. Nova was also a great coder & could handle himself when it came to the games, too. But out of the rest of them, there were a real set of strange kids! Lemmings wasn't about super-fast warez & writing numbers on front of disks only to be filed away - when Pele made a menu he put a great deal of effort into making stuff that was better than any other versions out there. So if there's a game you want/like, check if TLS did a version of it! We even had menus that had Falcon-fixed stuff on them.
9) When did you join Reservoir Gods?
One of my contacts who did work for Disk Maggie, Léon O'Reilly, was very interested in the Falcon. He always wanted to know what was out & how good the machine was. So I decided to bring mine down to his house to show him. But before I had arrived, he'd already bought his own! Leon came up with the great names - he named us Reservoir Gods, took the name Mr.Pink , gave me the name Mr.Blonde (and I'm clearly not... well, I was for a while , but that's a different story). I'm not sure if his sister, Nice Guy Eddie, joined at this time or a short time later. Anyway, we released Tautology, a tile-matching game that didn't work on VGA too well, had horriblly tiny, ill-defined gfx but was actually a fantastic game!
10) What was your main work(s) for this crew?
Some time later, I decided I didn't want to be just another mister & took the name Spare Head Three, and if you remember Red Dwarf you might remember Kryten's corrupt Northern-accented spare head number three. Tautology 2 was released - a slick total re-code with super nice new tiles sets by Nice Guy Eddie & myself. Double Bobble 2000 followed (which actually could have made a commercial release under the Bubble Bobble name, if it were not for Taito wanting £250,000.00 for the license ;) Hundreds more productions followed, including lots of ST stuff such as the fantastic Chu Chu Rocket! you'd be a fool not to visit http://rg.atari.org
11) What's your latest project?
A Mega/ST/E/Falcon version of God-Pey, a simple yet addictive puzzler from the Bandai Wonderswan handheld... obviously, not a direct port - when RG make a game, it has options & features galore! It could even make it out some time shortly after Easter 2002 as we are having a small party at my place.
12) A lot of people are familar with "ST productions" using emulators. What do you think about this softwares?
At first I didn't want to know... then Mr.Pink decided to make Chu Chu Rocket! He showed me STEem & I really couldn't believe the quality of the emulation, much better than I had expected. So I now use STEem & Saint quite a lot & would recommend them to anyone. Still, it's always nice to have a couple of real STs around.
13) Last but not least, are you still in contact with other members of Awesome?
Tim (D-Coder/Dominion) was the first and last Awesome memeber I met. Ruthless worked in a game shop in Cardiff at some point, then moved to Sheffield after Awesome etc. and still supplied originals, possibly under the name Extreme.. among others. He still used to 'phone me from work if he could catch me home from college, but without the releases etc. to discuss, we lost contact.
14) Is there something you want to say for the end? Greetings? F**kings? Let us know.
I'd like to send greets out to all my old contacts... no point listing them... and to everyone mentioned above! Fuckings fly out to everyone who sold their STs ;)
Thanks a lot for this interview K-Klass. Was a nice surprise to meet you! Hope to hear from you soon :)