A Russian legendary developer of the great musical tool of SunVox, Mr. Alexander Zolotov had kindly answered my questions about himself and his app. Below all about the interview that was done via e-mail. Enjoy!
W: Interviewer (Wakisaka Akifumi)
A: Mr. Alexander Zolotov (WarmPlace.ru)
W: Firstly, I want to show the highest appreciation and respect to you, as you have made such a great music software, in a genius level, “SunVox”. I love to make music with it, and use it as an educational tool in a Japanese art University as well…
A: Thank you! 🙂
W: I think I’ve heard you live in Ekaterinburg now, is that true? And how do you describe your town?
A: Yes. It’s a big and beautiful city on the Ural mountains. With its unique atmosphere and a long eventful history.
You probably know it as the place where the last Emperor of Russia was killed.
Or as one of the largest centers of constructivist architecture in the USSR.
It’s also the city where the Polivoks synthesizer was designed.
W: What kind of person do you think of yourself?
A: Curious geek, artist, musician. Now and always 🙂
W: Let me know your educational, training background and the career as a musician / engineer.
A: I studied at the Ural State Technical University as the system engineer.
But much earlier my brother taught me the basics of programming.
And even before, in 1995, I first tried the FastTracker2 and dived into the amazing world of the demoscene.
W: Are you making your software alone or with your colleagues? How many people are involved in warmplace.ru?
A: I work alone.
W: I think “nightradio” is your artist name, isn’t it? And is “Pavel Ti” your friend? I think he makes lots of good videos about SunVox usage on Youtube.
A: Yes, my first nickname was “Observer”, and then i changed it to “NightRadio” somewhere in the early 2000s.
Pavel Ti is my online friend. He is a great master of SunVox. I love his music and videos! Highly recommend!
W: What is the main concept of SunVox (architecture / usage / philosophy) ? What kind of users do you expect for it?
A: The main concept of SunVox – the ability to compose music anywhere and on anything. Any device, any system, without big differences.
It does not matter if you use a large powerful computer, or an old phone with Android 2.3 🙂
First of all, I expect users who like experiments with sound, are not afraid to try something new.
W: I think nowadays using DAWs is the mainstream of making music things. What is the difference between such DAW software and SunVox?
A: Generally DAWs are based on a multitrack tape recorder metaphor. But the heart of SunVox is the modular synth, where the “track” concept is not so significant. It’s something more abstract here.
W: And what do you think the superiority of SunVox to them?
A: 1) The power of tracker. Yes you need some time to figure it out. But it’s worth it. You can do very cool things with tracker. And if you have a keyboard, you can do it faster than in other types of sequencers. It’s like a text editor where, with certain skills, you can enter text very quickly.
2) SunVox is microtonal and you can use this feature with any modules (synths, samplers, etc.).
3) SunVox has built-in tools for endless generative music, like this:
W: When did you start developing SunVox? If possible, let me know the history of it.
A: I think it’s one of the earliest (March 2006) concepts of the SunVox (below).
As you can see, it was not planned as a tracker 🙂 I thought about some simple music editor with piano roll and modular synth.
The code was partly based on my previous project – MOD/XM-based music tracker PsyTexx:
The first test version of SunVox was released for PalmOS and Windows CE in 2007.
Look at the first screenshots:
The first song ever written in SunVox is Timeless (2007)
W: What is the reason for you to still do updating SunVox? And What is your idea about the compatibility of versions?
A: SunVox is my main musical instrument. I always improve my musical knowledge and skills, and the program grows with them.
Every new version can load files from the previous versions correctly.
But if you load the project from the new SunVox to the older one – some data may be lost.
SunVox works without great differences on different platforms. So there is no division into the normal and mobile (limited) versions, as in some other music apps.
W: Sometimes I am sad to see many other good software is losing its simple strong points, or its ability to work on low-spec hardware, despite getting new features, after several times updating. How do you think about this phenomenon? Does SunVox of the newest version still work on such low spec machines?
A: It strongly depends on the program and platform.
I would not want the SunVox to lose compatibility with older devices.
Sometimes it happens. For different reasons. As for example with the PalmOS version: the SunVox has outgrown the limitations of this platform.
There is also an opposite example: SunVox can still work on very very old Windows CE devices. Why? Because this system is still comfortable for development, and I still have a working WinCE-compiler on my Linux machine. So why not 🙂
W: I think it’s a good idea to make song files involve sampling data in themselves, instead of just have the links to the relative pass to the sound files. Are you doing this intentionally?
A: This is a good tradition, coming from old tracker formats (MOD, S3M, XM, IT, etc.). I love self-contained music files.
W: Why do you distribute such a great software like SunVox to people for free?
A: Not all versions. It’s paid for iOS and Android. Just because these markets are the most convenient for sale.
The other platforms are more convenient to use to promote the app. At least, I don’t plan to change it in the near future.
W: How many people do you think are using SunVox in the world? Do you have any specific area that has more people who use SunVox compared to other area in the world? (ex. Russia)
A: I’m not sure I know the exact number of users. But the approximate distribution is: US (~30%), Russia, UK, Germany, etc.
W: Can you tell me the names of your favorite SunVox artists?
A: Fortunately, now there are a lot of very good SunVox artists.
Here are some of my favorites:
Echo’s Dream Diary & mk7
HEAVY SYSTEMS, Inc
W: What is the reason for you to adopt tracker system in SunVox? Do you have any other tracker software you like made by other makers?
A: Personally I see more advantages of creating music in the trackers. As I wrote above, it’s akin to quickly typing in a text editor.
I tried a lot of different trackers: FastTracker, Scream Tracker, Impulse Tracker, Buzz, Skale Tracker, OpenMPT, Renoise. Love them all, but every app has its pros and cons. So I decided to write my own 🙂
W: Why do you want to make SunVox possible to work on such many platforms? And why can you do that technically?
A: Because it’s fun 🙂 I love such flexible and versatile systems.
*About the latest updating 1.9.4:
W: I think the most outstanding feature of the newest version 1.9.4 is the spectrogram, but do you have any other things that you want to emphasize about it?
A: 1) The new MultiCtl controller “Response” made it possible to smoothly change the values of any controllers easily. I think this is a big step in usability.
2) With the new pattern effects 24-29 you can make even more unpredictable music, which every time sounds differently.
W: In the “Distortion” module, the “type”s has increased from ( lim / sat ) to ( clipping / foldback / foldback2 / foldback3 / overflow ).
So, can we think each of “lim”-“clipping”, and “sat”-“foldback” same?
W: And can you describe the difference of ( clipping / foldback / foldback2 / foldback3 / overflow ) ?
A: I think the pictures will explain it better:
W: “Analog generator” had acquired 7 additional noise types. Why did you add these new noise waves?
Is the old “noise” wave made with sampling?
A: Yes, the old “noise” wave is just a sample loop with 32k of random bytes.
The new types provide true infinite noise of different colors. Each color is perceived in different ways:
*About the future:
W: Do you have any plans of the future development of SunVox, or any other software of Warmplace.ru.?
Or do you have any personal future plans of your life? (like getting your new house, or trying new tea leaves, or reading new books, traveling somewhere, or having kids…, etc.)
A: I plan to further develop the SunVox and other music/sound/graphics apps. And some hardware too. And everything else that you listed 🙂
Too many plans, but too little time. But I try to do as much as possible.
Alexander Zolotov (NightRadio)