Adam Gilmore / Freelance
Added on December 27th, 2016 (2700 views)
Hello Adam! Please introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you.
Hi! I'm Adam Gilmore and I used to write music for C64, Atari 8-bit, Amiga and PC games.
How did you first get started with computers in general and the C64 in particular?
I first got into computers when a friend of mine called Richard Horricks got a ZX81. His older brother was into computers and, I think, had a kit computer. I used to go around to Richard's and spend what seemed like days loading games into his ZX81. Eventually, I got a ZX81 of my own and started to code on it. I then persuaded my parents to get me a TRS-80 (Model 1, Level 2), as it had a real keyboard. What was cool about the TRS-80 was that it could make sounds through the cassette port. I spent a lot of time fiddling about with Z80 assembler. Around this time, another friend of mine called Ian Armstrong had got a VIC-20 which made "proper" sounds. He had the VIC-20, and I had the TRS-80, so it was time to convince my parents I "needed" a new computer – the C64.
Tell us how your career in games started. Did you submit sample work to various games companies in order to procure jobs, or did jobs come to you?
Sometime around 1985, I started going to a computer club at the Buddle Arts Centre in Wallsend, North-East England, where people would "share" programs. People were talking about Compunet, which they downloaded demos from, including the original Rob Hubbard demos and music demos by The Jackal and Bogg. I started writing a new music demo, using a music sequencer I can't remember the name of, to distribute at the club each week. Around this time, I was working with Jason Fox on an unreleased game called UXB, for which I did the sound and graphics. It was a Manic Miner-type game, and we sent it to all the budget publishers, but no-one bought it. I then met Derek Brewster, a famous Spectrum developer, at the club. He was working on a C64 port of Mission Jupiter, which was never released. I offered to do the music for nothing, and he accepted (and paid me – thanks!) I quickly learned 6502 assembly language and put together a player which I used for the game. Derek then went on to form Zeppelin Games with Brian Jobling, and I did the music for some of their first games, including Sabotage, Zybex and Draconus. By this time, quite a few of my friends were working at Zeppelin as programmers (Jason Fox, Jason Whittaker, Nicky Rutter), so I started doing the music for their games too. I also send off a few demo disks to companies like Ocean, Activision, Code Masters and Mastertronic, and ended up doing some games for Activision, such as The Corporation, Afterburner and Time Scanner.
What attracted you to the C64 as a development platform? In your opinion, was it as special as we like to think it was?
It had the best sound chip! The only computer that came close at the time was the Atari 8-bit, but the C64 had that great low-pass filter.
What C64 games did you work on? Please include a list of titles and as many details as you can recall about each of them.
It's a long list, I'll have to dig it out. I actually saw it recently in a box at home along with some 5 1/4-inch disks.
What companies did you work for, either in-house or freelance, and in what capacity?
I worked for Zeppelin Games, Code Masters, Tynesoft, Flair Software (later Microvalue) and Activision, always freelance.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer at that time.
I would sit down, switch it on, stare at the screen for a while, get my synth out, play around for a while, key-in a bass line, add a melody, then some chords and effects. Eight hours later, I would put a label on the disk, put the disk in a Jiffy Bag and pop it in a post box. :)
When you were assigned to a game, how much time did you usually have to complete your work?
I usually spent around eight to twelve hours, from start to finish, doing a game with a main tune, a couple of subtunes and sound effects.
What tools, development kits, etc. did you use, and did you create any yourself to fulfil a need?
I just used plain old Laser Genius assembler with my own 6502 player. I used to write music on a Casio CZ-101 synthesiser and just type it straight into the source code as .DATA statements in hexadecimal. No sequencer, no MIDI. :) At some point, I upgraded to a Kawai K1 synthesiser and a Yamaha RX17 drum machine.
Were there any games you worked on which never saw the light of day?
UXB and Mission Jupiter. They're up on gtw64.co.uk for anyone who's interested.
Which game are you most proud of, which was the most fun to do, which became a real challenge, and which ended up giving you the biggest headache?
The ones I'm most proud of are those first few for Zeppelin (Sabotage, Zybex, Draconus), as I used to spend more time tweaking things on them. I also liked the music I did for Afterburner, though I did manage to get the sheet music of the original arcade game faxed through for that, which made the work a lot easier. I didn't really have many headaches writing the music, apart from some of the deadlines.
If you had the chance to revisit any of your past games, what would you add, change or remove?
I wish UXB had been published, as Jason Fox and I spent so much time on that game. I remember sitting in his house waiting for Mastertronic to call us with their decision. When they rang, they said no.
Are there any particular games you would have liked to have worked on or converted from arcade?
Super Locomotive! The best video game music of all time, period. Also, Rydeen by the Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Did you get much of a chance to play games as well as create them? Any favourites?
Yeah, loads. Anything by Andrew Braybrook, also Ikari Warriors, Crazy Comets, Thing on a Spring and Commando.
Were there any games you found so awful that you wish you'd had the chance to do a better job?
No comment. :)
Was there a particular programmer, artist and/or musician who influenced you and possibly inspired some of your own work, or did inspiration come from somewhere else?
The programmer who most inspired me was Andrew Braybrook. His games were deep and really well thought out. As for musicians, Rob Hubbard for his fantastic overall sound which kept setting the gold standard, Ben Daglish for his melodies, and Martin Galway just for being different.
Please share some memories from the old days! (Like something a colleague did or said, your time on the demo scene, crackers stealing development disks, going to computer shows, etc.).
The Day of the Jackal: I didn't know how much to charge for my work in the beginning, so I remember ringing up Barry Leitch and pretending I was a publisher wanting to know how much he would charge to do music for a new game. This gave me a rough idea how much to charge. :)
The Great Zeppelin Games Mutiny: In the early days of Zeppelin Games, there was some "unrest" among the staff, and I remember conspiring with some of them to split off and set up a separate games company. We did it, for precisely one day, but Zeppelin soon picked off each of the mutineers and got them back in the office.
The Rob Hubbard Weekly Shock: Every week, I would hear the latest Rob Hubbard music, and every time, he had raised the game.
Retire to Zork: Around 1992, I bought a Sound Blaster card and a CD-ROM drive (by this time, I was doing PC music) together with a copy of Return to Zork. I loaded the disk and listened to the music. It had been recorded by a symphony orchestra. This was when I decided to give up writing games music. :)
We can't ignore the fact that there were other machines apart from the C64. What software and/or hardware did you create on other systems?
I did quite a lot of Atari 8-bit, Amiga and PC music.
What are you up to these days?
I'm an Engineering Director at Ericsson in the UK. I'm still trying to do some music using Propellerhead's Reason and Record v4 and Novation's SL MkII.
Thanks for your time pal!
back to the list of available interviews