Welcome Martin! Let's go all the way back to the time before you started to make computer music. What music experience did you have?
My dad is a music teacher and tried to get me to learn all sorts of musical instruments. I had lessons on flute, violin, clarinet and piano, but the only one I really picked up on was piano, and not even in a big way. I really regret not learning more at the time now.

Talk to us about the first active years, when you got your first computer, when you started your music programming etc.
In 1982, at the age of 16, I got involved with my school's (one) computer room, which had a ZX81, a VIC20, a TRS80 Mk 2, and about 3 Commodore Pets. I do remember causing the VIC20 to make sound using BASIC. My parents were not able to provide the cash for such an expensive gift and my dad was a bit of a Luddite when it came to computers so I had to work to get the money for my first one, which was a Sinclair Spectrum 16K. I didn't really do much with that, I broke it after 7 days in fact. Told Sinclair it broke by itself and got my money back!

It was at school that I realized I could get the BBC Micro to play tunes by lining up the notes as numbers in DATA statements. Additionally, the BBC's operating system is laid out such that you can easily convert BASIC programs to assembly language. I proceeded to do so. Then I got a job writing software at the age of 17 (one year after starting from scratch!) - it was a pretty low-paid one though. Writing music and sound-effects for the BBC machine for a company run by the "Micro User" magazine company. With this money I was able to buy a Camputers Lynx, a 48K Z80 machine. I was able to learn Z80 real good from that thing.

I continued to improve at school on the 6502-based BBC machines and in May of 1984 at the age of 18, I showed my wares to David Collier at Ocean Software while selling a friend's BBC game to them (that friend ended up working at Rare Ltd). They said they liked the music but the BBC wasn't a big market, so they lent me a Commodore 64, cassette deck, assembler software and that famous tome the "C64 Programmers Reference Guide" and told me to "get cracking!" (which does NOT mean breaking into other people's software by the way). I initially thought of the C64 as a bit primitive, due to its operating software, but I soon learned that the best set-up for games is a lot of RAM and some great chips, and the C64 easily excelled there.

Ocean logo

You got more or less immediate contact with Ocean when you started off. Is that the reason why we never saw a demo from you?
Yes, I was pretty much in the commercial side of it from the word go. I never got a modem. Telephone calls cost money in the UK you know! I was never interested in cracking or swapping software, I was (initially anyway) more interested in creating new material & content. I did ONE demo though, it was a version of Rob Hubbard's COMMANDO music (the high-score tune), of which I put the only copy on a floppy disc and sent it to my biggest fan at the time, Barry Leitch (who is now a successful composer in the industry, by the way). Barry lost the disc!

So, Ocean liked your stuff and you got employed. What happened then?

They had me programming the C64 version of "Match Day". I was a programmer, technically speaking, so they couldn't have me simply as a "musician". But this only lasted six weeks. I was always too busy for 3 or 4 days here, 5 or 6 days there doing the music on other games, so the C64 "Match Day" stuff was going really slowly. Once I had finished on "Roland's Rat Race", which took a month, they agreed to suspend my tasks as a programmer and my employment as game sound guy began. C64 "Match Day" itself was put into suspended aniumation as a project, only to be woken up a year or two later with some other programmers (who didn't do a very good job, but then again I think mine wasn't going to turn out very well). When I see today's soccer games like FIFA etc., I always think back to my days worrying, trying to figure out how C64 "Match Day" could be done and still not look like crap!

Some of the people present in this picture are: Martin Galway (top right corner), Zach Townsend (infront of Martin), Stephen Wahid (to the left of Zach), Andrew Sleigh, Jane Lowe, Mark Jones and Allan Shortt. Datormagazin, who published this picture, screwed up all the names, so it's impossible to exactly say who's who. Picture: Tomas Hybner.

Ocean used to have about 50 employees, where 20 of them were programmers. That means that a lot of games were produced! It could take up to three months to develop a game and then some more time to get the cover, manual and such, finished. You must have worked under a lot of pressure sometimes.
Yes, in fact that was the reason I quit, they refused to find help for me. I had 5 games ahead of me sometimes.

Did this fast producing result in Ocean bringing in some freelance musicians to do music for some of the games like Cobra by Ben Daglish and Mag Max by Fred Gray?
Yes. Can't remember Ben Daglish being featured on any games during my tenure there though, maybe that happened after I left.

He did the C64 music for the same Cobra you made music for on the Speccy.
Really? I can't remember seeing "Cobra" on the C64. I wonder how it turned out.

What was the deal with Imagine? Ocean bought Imagine and started to release stuff for both companies. Why??!!?
So they could release similar games but not confuse the public! Say they had a football game in development and an outside house comes in offering another one - one that's really good and they don't want to let anyone else sell it. They couldn't release them both under the Ocean label, right? No-one would know which one to buy. But if they put one out under Imagine and one out under Ocean, the public doesn't realize they're from the same company and think they're choosing between two games that are competing with each other in the market. A win-win situation.

Do you agree with me that Ocean some what played it safe by releasing a game of a popular movie or TV-serie, like Top Gun and Miami Vice? And do you think that some of those games sold on their name without being that great?

Yes, although Ocean were the leaders in working in that side of the business. Look at any kid's videogame store and you'll find tons of licenses. Ocean were the first to explore that. You can say that it was bound to happen, but still, being at the company that was doing it first gave us a great buzz. We were still allowed to create original games, basically.

Remember the Ocean office from 1986? Describe how a typical day looked like.
Complaining about the heat in my office! (no A/C) Complaining about the pay! (low) Making tea, hanging around having fun, playing my music loud on the stereo, playing arcade games... those were the days!

There must be some good stories from this period you can share with us. Let's say when you were in Ocean's coffee room, at the computer shows, meeting other musicians etc. Give us the highlights!
The highlight is that I was able to walk around shows without being mobbed, unlike Rob Hubbard, because I had strived to keep my photo out of the mags, but Rob's was all over the place. Once people found out who I was they would follow me around, like in a pack.

What did people say about your compositions around this time?

Well, just read the reviews of the time! I was in hog-heaven. My ego was larger than Zaphod Beeblebrox's.

Zach Townsend
The most famous people I remember being responsible for Ocean's games are Dave Collier, John Meegan, Allan Shortt, Zach Townsend (picture) and Stephen Wahid. How were these guys to work with?
Yes, those folks are all good friends of mine. They were great fun to work with. Mr. Townsend, I only worked on one project as I recall (I think "Game Over") but the others I had a long relationship with. All professionals.

Do you mean that you're still in contact with them?
Not all of them, it's hard to keep track of everyone you've ever known in your life you know! But I always look them up when I visit my family in Manchester. I have actually kept in touch with Jonathan Dunn more than anyone, even though we never worked together directly.

Touching the surface of other people you've worked with in the past, tell us about these, just very shortly:

Tony Pomfret

He's bald now! So I have heard anyway. He was a hot programmer who was not good at keeping schedules (but then again who is?).

Bill Barna
Good programmer who ended up doing all the cassette mastering. Bill & Tony convinced me to stay up overnight with them finishing "Hunchback 2" on a cold night in November 1984 so they could get their bonuses! (I didn't get a cut of those bonuses though... HEY!) I had never been up overnight before and it was a new experience, especially since I had to get to college the following day.

Chris Yates
Super-hot programmer who I always felt like getting down on my knees Wayne & Garth-style and screaming "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!".

Jane Lowe
Very beautiful and talented artist, actually. I always went to pieces around her 'cos I was such a geek. (still am really)

Martin McDonald
We didn't really work together too much, he started right around the time I quit. Apart from drinking a lot of Boddington's with him the only thing I can remember about him was giving me advice on how to shave my beard.

John Palmer
Again, we didn't really work together since he was a newer guy who started after I left I think.

Karen Davies
Can't remember Karen unless it's a girl from Denton Designs - in which case she was fun and did nice graphics (Denton Designs came out of the old Imagine and were ahead of Ocean in the development model - they actually staffed up pretty majorly with artists).

Andrew Sleigh
Again, his name is familiar but SORRY MAN I JUST CANT REMEMBER YOU! You are talking about 10 years ago don't forget! I can only remember that was in front of my nose in those days.

Dallas Snell
Great guy, my main inspiration for my current working practices and motivation/drive. He lost his own motivation/drive for working at Origin actually, and is now simply enjoying life!

Kevin Edwards
An old schoolpal, we hung out with Chris Roberts and this other guy who has disappeared from view, Paul Proctor. All super-hot programmers (those guys, not me). I remember Kevin, Paul & I were only one chapter behind the teacher in the computer studies class! We took that stuff totally seriously, learning machine code and all that. I wonder where Kevin is, eh? Write me an email some time, why don't you!

Chris Roberts
The man himself, always adept at whatever he tries. Didn't get on with him when we were in school together actually, we only started to work together once I had left school. We have shared our common interest in fantasy, sci-fi, movies & action since then. I got his first games published - when Ocean bought the Imagine company name to use as a label, they badly need some games to launch it. All they had was a half-finished "World Series Baseball" that they had acquired from the defunct Imagine, which David Collier was finishing off. So I mentioned my friend Chris who was trying to sell his game "Wizadore" to Ultimate Play The Game without much success, and Ocean decided to pick it up. DESPITE it being on the BBC, which was the popular school machine in the U.K. but not really popular in the games market (the Spectrum and C64 ruled) - but like I said, they badly needed games for the launch, so they had to ignore that! (Ordinarily they would have been less interested in a BBC game.) Chris was later contracted to do the "Match Day" conversion on the BBC since they were trying to get this super-successful game onto as many platforms as they could. After doing a few games with Superior Software Chris told me he was leaving for the U.S. since his dad was taking a job there, so I thought I'd never see him again. He was trying to squeeze something akin to "The Gauntlet" on the C64 by this point, something which we all thought was crazy, but after a lot of squeezing he managed to put out "Times Of Lore" (I remember I squeezed the code & data for 25 sound-effects into 923 bytes - not bad, eh?). My my, I've written quite a lot about him, eh? I'll leave the rest for my $million-plus scoop in the tabloids...

Colin Gresty
Ah, me ol' mate The Grest. Comic Bakery was the only game he completed at Ocean. He left when "Street Hawk" was in its final stages after months of delays. I had done a ton of work on that game and no-one has heard it. Colin & I keep in touch still, he writes business software now.

How did the working progress on a game look like from idea to finished product?
From a music point of view I basically made a list of tunes we would have in the game. Then I got started! The programmers would figure something out in their heads, basically.

What kind of directions did you get before you started to compose?
None, really, in fact I can't remember ever being "directed" while at Ocean. I had all the control, basically 'cos I think they were saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Actually I did have some pointers sometimes but they were usually due to legal restrictions that Ocean had agreed to in regard to the musical content of movies, which is sometimes licensed separately.

In an interview for Happy Computer in 1986 you said: "Our development system at Ocean is more than top secret, because it's the best!". Except from that you had two C128 computers connected to each other, what was the big secret?
The REAL story was that we were getting help from Space Aliens. We just couldn't tell the press, there would have been a panic in the streets. The Space Aliens helped us optimize the software for game production.

If you say so..:) Listening to your compositions makes me not only think about the amazing sounds and melodies, but also the arrangements. What techniques did you apply to when creating music?
I just did the best I could, man! I was no expert at arranging. In fact getting the confidence to compose my own work in the first place was a big hurdle, I was kind of shy at it initially. I just tried to make sure all 3 channels were getting used. A couple of techniques allowed it to sound like more was going on, like fast arpeggios, and chorusing/echoes.

And what was it in your music-routine that made it possible for you to get those great sounds? I mean, the quality is awesome!!
Thank you, I tried hard to allow myself to change the properties of a note once it had started. This allowed pitch bending and so forth. It was pretty primitive though, once I publish all the source files (soon), you will see how much hard work went into it all!

When you ran out of ideas, what did you do to get the inspiration back?
Listened to my favourite artists of the time, played on the keyboard at work, played my old tunes! It was hard, actually.

Tell us about the Origin years.
It's was more hands-off. I was less involved with music than I used to be. There were those that had composed for longer than I had and were simply better at it than me, for example George Oldziey. I can't get that "orchestral sound". All my music is minimalist, I think it's because I learned my trade on the SID!!! In the future I think there will be an outlet for my style though, we'll have to see.

I became more involved with dialogue, which simply didn't exist in the 80's. From scriptwriting, to directing actors, to editing the dialogue later and processing it to get a good clear sound in the game.

At Origin you got involved in game programming again. Credited additional coding in "Times of Lore" together with Chris Yates and Ken Arnold.
The additional coding thing on TOL, yes, I remember I wrote a part of the game code that rotates the axe graphic! Quite trivial but it was left in so I was honourably credited. I credited Chris Yates because on "Wizball" he rewrote my keyboard reading software with something much better than what I had, and I used it on every game after that. I think that's what it's for, although they did visit Origin while I was working there on TOL so maybe he did something additional, I can't remember. Oh yeah... he gave me a random number generator (used to select guitar riffs in the title music). I am not sure what Ken Arnold was credited for. He was Origin's resident audio guy at the time (1988).

Why was Digital Anvil built up?
Digital Anvil logoBecause Electronic Arts, who owns Origin, wouldn't give Chris (and by implication the team) the flexibility we needed to produce the kind of games we wanted to. Several new game ideas got canned. The Wing Commander feature project is a case in point, they weren't interested in doing it there. So we all left. We just secured the rights from them do to it ourselves and we're working on it now (for December 1998 release), because that's what we wanted to do. I understand one of the other games that was canned is one that we may acquire to complete later. It's about doing what we want. Origin employees are faced with such projects as Ultima Underworld 3, Privateer 3, Wing Commander 6, Ultima 9... Can you see a pattern there?

Tell us who's employed and such things.
In addition to all that corporate blurb on the web site, all the best staff from the Strike Commander, Wing Commander and Privateer teams all moved over to DA to continue making kick-ass space fantasy games. In addition, Tony Zurovec and the best of the Crusader team moved over here, and they're still into guns, explosions & carnage, except that this time it involves cars too, something we're all into!

Do you come up with all the game and movie ideas yourselves or are you cooperating with someone outside the company?
We come up with all the ideas ourselves, except of course the Wing Commander feature project which is based on the time period/universe from the Wing Commander 1 game (which we came up with in the first place, so go figure). For actually creating the feature films, we dip into the huge freelance talent pool that exists in Hollywood. The producer of the Wing Commander feature film, for example, is Todd Moyer, who co-produced "Time Cop".

» Continue to the second part of the interview

» Get his music - from C64 to BBC to Nintendo and more!

Softography - not only the C64 stuff.

» Back in Time - pictures of Martin from this event.

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