If you ever typed in a BASIC listing to cheat your way through a favourite game, the chances are it was written by Warren Pilkington – better known to CF readers as Waz. Warren is no longer involved in the C64 scene, but he still played an active part in it when he chatted with Peter James Holl back in 2001. We’ve reproduced their conversation for you here.
Warren! How did you get involved with CF? It all started when Newsfield (the company who owned Zzap! 64) went bump for the first time in late 1991. I rang up Newsfield only to be told no one was there, so the batch of tips and listings I had instead went to Andy Dyer, who was then the editor of tips at Commodore Format. Little known to me, he had decided to relinquish that position and Andy Roberts had taken it over. Imagine my surprise when Andy rang me a couple of weeks later. From there I regularly sent stuff off to him – it helped a lot that he often allowed me to send my packages and tips etc direct to him (he worked from home, you see) as he could then place them into the magazine as he saw fit.
A few months after I’d contributed for CF, Zzap! 64 made a brief comeback so I submitted some tips (mainly music listings) to them. Andy warned me the bigwigs at Future might not like that, and sure enough I had a phone call the next day from one of the top brass asking if I could submit only for them in future. Reluctantly, I said yes, but on retrospect it wasn’t a bad decision, as the comeback of Zzap! at that time was an insult to its former glories, and it more resembled a kiddies comic and not the Zzap! that I grew up with and loved. So it wasn’t that bad in the end and I knew Andy wouldn’t mangle the listings and cock them up which was another reassuring thing.
What are your fondest memories of working with CF? The long phone conversations I used to have with Andy Roberts – he was the only person in CF I knew. When he went down to work with Apex [programmers of Creatures and Mayhem – Ed], I often spoke to him (but sometimes also to John and Steve Rowlands) and I fondly remember our constant references to The Mary Whitehouse Experience (someone should really repeat that excellent comedy show), particularly the History Today sketch. That kept us going along nicely and he was pretty flexible. In a way, it reminded me of how things were when Robin Hogg was tips man at Zzap! 64 – he’d speak to me often too, and not just about C64 stuff. He’s a nice guy is Andy.
Which mag was your favourite? Difficult to decide. For different reasons I liked working for them both, as at least in both cases I did feel valued as a contributor. In the Zzap! 64era, the Robin Hogg tips section was the best one – always felt it went a little downhill when Mark Caswell took it over. And then CF was great with Andy, that lasted pretty much to its demise. So I’m afraid I’ll have to sit on the fence and risk the splinters that come with it.
You are obviously heavily into the C64 music scene – what got you involved in the first place? Being a teenager, music was my solace from my difficult school years. The fact I could get away from everything and work (and play) on the C64 was something that made it all worth it. The music was great at the time – Hubbard, Galway etc were doing great things. I even recorded some of them from my C64 onto tape and listened to them on my Walkman so that must be some dedication.
Eventually, I got hold of Ubik’s Musik and made some tunes with it. However the tape version had a bug, you could only compiled your finished compositions to disk and not tape, so until I got my disk drive, I was stuck. And once I did, I started to make and release my own tunes, moving to Music Assembler in 1994. I’ve used that editor from then till now apart from the odd excursion into JCH editor.
Did you ever go “online” with your C64? No – all the online stuff has been with the PC. I never had access to Compunet, but a friend of mine happened to know Tork and Torky (well known on Compunet) so I did acquire many old Compunet classic demos at the time.
Do you still have your very first C64? Of course! My C64C (a rare one, as it has a 6581 R4 SID chip in it, most others have 8580 R5s..) has been a feature of Zaw Towers [I think he means his house – Ed] since I got it in 1987. I’ve gone full circle now and have re-acquired a Plus/4 with lots of games. Now I need an SX-64 and a C128…
Will you ever give up with the C64? Not at least for the next couple of years, however I’ll end up being thirtysomething and having friends going “you’re too old for that retro thing!”. Actually, you’re never too old. If you like the old machines you grew up with, it’s only the same as the music that influenced you when you were little. I guess as long as I have an interest in the C64 I’ll try to keep up the support I try to give.
You have an interesting sideline – Poetry! What got you started and what is your favourite poem? Poetry? Well, that and my whole writing side is something I’ve had an interest in. As you’ll have possibly seen from my web page, I also write a lot about music and current world goings-on. However, it was back in 1994 when I started. I’d split up with my then fiancee whom I’d been engaged to for around eighteen months. The whole experience was quite difficult for me, but I had to do something to keep my mind from wandering the long nights pondering too much. So I turned on the C64, loaded up Mini Office II and started to type poems during the late nights. As it happened, I did a fair number of them and by the time I got my PC, I had written 150 or so. Now this figure is around 300, with new ones being premiered first on my web pages every so often. I find that a lot of people like the poems I write, and I know a couple of girlfriends since who’ve read my work says it shows a lot about my persona. I never thought about it like that – to me it was something I just enjoyed doing as emotional catharsis. The favourite poem I’ve written is one called “The Fear”. As for other writers, I am a big fan of Henry Rollins and his lengthy poem “I Know You” is probably my favourite.
Finally, if you had to pick a C64 that best described you, which one would it be? The original beige box, old, but not past it (like me ) CF
Waz spoke to Peter James Holl for the original Commodore Format fan site in 2001. It’s still available via web archive services. We’ve had difficulty tracking down Peter, who was the original pioneer of keeping Commodore Format alive online. We’d love to make contact.