Back in 2015 I got a chance to put a few questions to the one and only Aidy - front man of indie rock band the British IBM! Here's the interview:
"Offering a nimble mesh of indie rock and vintage computing, Cambridge-based trio the British IBM officially launched in 2012..."
website of the British IBM
Stuart: Aidy, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview for the myAcornElectron site. Regular visitors to the site will know that I'm a big fan of the band
and have an Electronified fan-page; hope that doesn't scare you off!
Aidy: No, it's all good and the Electronified fan-art on the page looks awesome.
Stuart: I wanted travel back in time a little bit, back to when the band first began as we know it now. Naturally, I'm a big fan of all things Acorn, am I right in
saying that the film Micro Men had a big influence on you back then? Could you perhaps share a
little bit about your feelings on the film and the inspirations you drew
from it? Did you have a favourite yourself in the Sinclair vs. Acorn battle?
Aidy: That movie was a massive influence on myself and the creation of the band. I loved it and that one scene in particular where Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry get
thrown out of the Barron of Beef in Cambridge is where the name of the band and the song came from. "We could have been the British IBM" is possibly my all time favorite
line of dialog. It's a moving scene that gets you thinking along a whole line of what-ifs.
Stuart: That music video was my path into becoming a big fan of your music; I stumbled across your first album online and fell hook line and sinker for the title track,
even before I really knew anything else about the band, simply because of the vintage computing feel of the video for the song 'the British IBM'!
Retro and vintage is obviously a big passion for you too; do you find the stuff you do at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge overlaps a lot with your music?
Aidy: There is some cross-over between the two, the BBC Micro in the main music video is borrowed from the museum. Also the museum's Jason Fitzpatrick had a cameo in Micro Men
as he provided a lot of the props for the film along with some technical supervision.
Stuart: As you can imagine, I've always had a big Acorn obsession, focused really on the humble Electron, and it often frustrates me that these Acorn machines are
largely left out of the mainstream 'retrogaming' scene today. Yet, to Acorn nuts, their nostalgia is as strong as it is for folks that owned the Speccy or C64 back
in the day. Are there any vintage or retro computers or consoles that you feel the same way about - other scene-underdogs maybe?
Aidy: I had quite a few machines growing up and have owned both the BBC Micro and the Acorn Electron. The first machine I ever used though was a bit of an underdog
and you rarely hear much about it these days. That was the Mattel Aquarius. When I was about
3 or 4 years old I loved playing a game called Local Bomber on it.
I actually went to the effort of re-making it with a friend recently and putting it out on iOS and Android. Our version's
called Gimpy Bomber.
Stuart: I recently bought your new album, 'Psychopaths Dream in Black and White' and was struck by the darker feel to the lyrics; it's like you're inviting
the listener to go on a journey with you through each song.. as much like reading a good novel as listening to an album. A journey in a similar way that the
first album took us back to the '80s and '90s with some of the songs and their associated videos; 'the British IBM' spoke of early 80s Sinclair/Acorn and
then the video for 'Animal' had a SNES-era feel... Do you start out with a concept or story in mind, or do the songs naturally follow a theme?
Aidy: For the new album I had a concept and a story in mind when I started writing it. It's kind of American Psycho meets Fight Club. It tells the story of a Psychopath
with multiple personalities who's psychopathic traits, such as his lack of empathy, lead him to be extremely successful in the business world. I had a pretty vivid idea
of what was going on as the story progressed and wanted to try and reflect that with a more cinematic sound.
Stuart: The new album has also brought a new wave of gigs, do you find a fair proportion of your fans are drawn in from the vintage computer scene?
Aidy: Yeah that's definitely an area in which most of the fans have come from and we've been plugged in that scene a fair bit. My favorite podcast Retrogaming
Roundup have been awesome and played tracks and helped plug both albums. Another big boost was when our music got used in From Bedrooms to Billions.
Stuart: I think the retrogaming scene is here to stay, how do you see that scene changing as time goes on and do you think the British IBM will stay entwined within it?
Aidy: It'll always be there in some capacity and we'll always be there somewhere in the background playing songs about Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry. I actually
wanted to do an album called "Where is Matthew Smith?" so maybe that'll happen at some point, I had a few songs demo'd for it.
With regards to the changing of the scene, I do sometimes wonder about the future. There used to be about one retro gaming expo a year in the UK and now there's
loads of them but it's still a fairly niche thing and I don't think the number's are there to support them all (but I hope I'm wrong as I love attending them and
go to pretty much all of them). The other thing that's going to change with time is what people consider retro as new consoles begin to age.
Stuart: We touched earlier on the BBC Micro and Electron, do you have a top five list of favourite games from those machines? In fact, do you have these machines in your collection?
Aidy: I have a “tweaked” BBC Micro with an SD card in it. My top five games on that would be the ones I played the most growing up:
Stuart: I've included the download links for tape images (euf) of the games, all except Frak! which is the disc image (ssd) - got these images from the StairwayToHell archive
Stuart: So, the Acorn Electron..... do you think you'd ever be up for sneaking an Elk into any future songs or videos? This little beige beauty needs
all the back up it can get in the cut and thrust of the retro scene ;-)
Aidy: You never know!
Stuart: Well, thank you so much once again for taking the time to indulge myAcornElectron with these few questions; please can I wish you and the band
all success with the future! You've got a real gift and long may you continue to share that with us!
Aidy: Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. Keep it retro!
I had the pleasure of meeting Aidy in person a few years after this interview, you read about it here. Find out more about the band on their website, www.thebritishibm.com