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Birth place and date: January 3 1966, Belfast, Northern
Reside in: Austin, Texas, USA.
Interests: Movies, Music, Driving, Nature, Outdoor activities.
Music taste: Hmm.... pretty diverse after all these years.
I "don't say no to" jazz, classical (inc. movie
soundtracks), acoustic guitar, Floyd-style rock, some
techno as long as it has a melody and is danceable...
plus the usual - Jarre, Thomas Dolby, Cocteau Twins, anything
by Trevor Horn, etc.
What makes Martin happy: Entertaining others, raising
children (have only managed the former so far).
Goal in life: Raise children! Have a mega-empire-family
and be at the top of it all, Godfather style (without
You were born in Belfast/North Ireland
and moved to Manchester/England at the age of five. What
was the reason for that move?
The IRA, man!
If you would have stayed in Belfast,
do you think that your future would have looked the same,
I mean career wise?
No, it wouldn't. I have no idea what would have become
of me if I was still in Belfast now. Probably would not
have been in computers. I originally wanted to be an engineer
in a recording studio (uncannily close to what I do now)
OR a pilot in the RAF.
Living in Austin today must be very
different compared to Manchester. If you would say something
positive about the city, what would that be?
It's a great place. Come and see it!
Any parts of the town you should
7th Street, two blocks west of IH35.
How often do you visit your family in England?
Once a year usually. I'm going back to Britain next summer
Have you thought of doing some music and put it out on
CD? It would help to reach a whole new audience.
Yes, I will get around to that. I am planning to pick
up an 88-note K2500 some time, to play about on. I will
connect it up to my computer & do MIDI composition.
Looking back on the tunes you did
in the old days, do you feel total satisfactory yourself?
Can't change history, but if I were to change one thing,
I would take out all the versions of other people's music
that I often did, primarily Mr. Jarre, and replace them
with more original tunes.
Fill in the following;
The first composition: It was before I worked at Ocean,
in summer 1983 I did the title screen music for Kevin
Edward's BBC game "Atomic Protector" at Optima
Software. I have NO IDEA whether this game was actually
sold or not, or what the sales figures were. It was only
about 10 seconds long! "Atomic Protector" was
basically Pac Man in reverse, you laid down the dots instead
of eating them up. Kind of fun.
best one: (Impossible Question) Taking everything into
consideration, "Rambo - First Blood Part 2".
The worst one: "The Great Escape" - no WAIT
- "Top Gun" C64.
The best arcade conversion: "Arkanoid".
The most complicated one: "Short Circuit" -
no - WAIT - "Times of Lore".
The hardest one to compose: Well, a tune could only be
hard to compose if I was hard-up for ideas at the time
- if it was a conversion/arrangement of someone else's
music it wouldn't be composition, right? "Microprose
Soccer" and "Insects In Space" were the
toughest, by that definition.
The one that took a lot of time to compose: Compositionally,
I suppose the "Parallax" main theme took the
longest individually at about 2 weeks, but the "Short
Circuit" main theme took 4 weeks, though that's really
an arrangement of music that already existed.
The one that was done really fast: "Highlander"
- two days (not bad!).
The one that drove you insane: "Athena", because
after some years of increasing sound quality in the music,
I finally had to come down... I only had 4K in which to
fit the code and music. When I quit and Jonathan Dunn
started, coincidentally the era of cassette multi-load
games began, so Jonathan had it easy in that regard.
Your favourite programmer, artist,
musician and game from the old days are?
I don't want to single anyone out that way - I would like
to say that I had my problems & gripes with some folks
and then later I would enjoy working with them, so there's
no particular favourites. I played a lot of "Pitstop
2" and "Uridium", I must say...
Let's get more in-depth and discuss
some of your compositions before we round up. What first
comes to mind, is the music for Kong Strikes Back. I love
the tune because it's so damn happy! Does the mood in
the songs some what reflect your personal mood at the
time of making?
Absolutely. That's not to say I was "sad" or
"happy" and at that moment tunes popped out
in their entirety. Some of the larger tunes took weeks
to enter the data so I never knew what would be at the
end of them when I started! So one of the things that
characterized my tunes was "sections" that lasted
a minute or two then changed completely in character.
The title screen music for "Wizball" is the
perfect example. I was working at the Sensible Software
office at the time of the major music creation, but the
title screen music never got finished. When I returned
to Ocean I got on with some other things, all the time
worrying about this unfinished tune. Finally I slapped
something on the end of it. I knew I could never top the
first part, that's what the problem was. In my mind the
second part of the tune is pretty lame compared with the
first part. But for some people it represents the mysterious,
magical, unconventional aspect of "Wizball"
so it fits in some ways. But you can tell it's not really
like the other music in the game, which was primarily
developed when I was with the Sensi boys, basking in that
The Wizball soundtrack sets
you into a special mode, and in fact, I think that those
tunes you made for the Sensible boys have a whole new
style and feel than the previous work. They're more personal.
Yes, I really worked on the sound design of the voices
a lot. The music seems to "flow" and "breathe"
unlike anything before it.
Insects in Space must be the oddest
title you've ever done.
Well by the time I got to that game (1988) I was a bit
hard up for ideas. I didn't know what to do with so few
notes available! I wanted my tunes to build up into much
larger entities but I always hit this limit. Plus the
time at which that game was developed was a pretty rough
time for Sensi, none of us were too happy at the time.
Insects In Space was a victim of this. True though, it
certainly has character, but it just doesn't go on long
enough, don't you agree?
have just had the opportunity to listen to the arcade
music for Green Beret. OK, the original is the original,
but it's scary how much better the music sounds the Martin
I am glad you were able to compare the two... Sometimes
I wondered if anyone would ever find these obscure games
that Ocean were licensing in order to realize how hard
I tried to convert them. (Have you ever seen the "Mikie"
game for example?) Most of the arcade games we worked
on has simpler sound chips than the C64's, so I was able
to "beef up the music". By the time I got to
"Rastan Saga" things were different - it was
really hard to fit all that stuff on the C64, particularly
since the dynamic range of arcade game music was starting
to rise at last, something which the C64 doesn't have
much of. (I always had that problem with movie conversions
It's really hard to mention one
favourite of the music you've done. Comic Bakery is one
title I really enjoy. The game itself is really fun to
play, and with the (yes again) happy music, the game feeling
increases a lot.
The only thing I have to say about it is that the title
tune started off as a cover of "Hot Water" by
Level 42 (oh yeah add them to my favourite music list).
It went badly awry by the end of the 1st 10 seconds though
and I decided to change it to something else!
Apart from Comic, Roland's Rat Race
is the ultimate classic from the early days. The sounds
are a bit poor, but really charming.
Yes the sounds are a bit poor. I didn't develop pulse-width
modulation until the next project, which at the time was
called "Cyclone". It later came out as "Helicopter
Jagd". On "Roland's Rat Race" I guess you
could say I was still mastering the C64. It was January/February
1985, my first project on staff at Ocean (I had done quite
a few before that as a freelancer but they weren't comfortable
employing someone SOLELY TO DO MUSIC. Those were the days!).
I bought the soundtrack for Miami
Vice just to see how close you were to the original. The
result is astonishing! How long did it take to convert
The Miami Vice game was a very quick job. I had been handed
"Miami Vice" and "Highlander" because
the outside development team working on it hadn't worked
out who was going to do the sound (notice those games
have little or no sound-effects), so I did my best in
a very short time. I played the same album you have (which
was brand new in the shops at the time), and picked "The
Chase" and the "Main Theme" as the two
tunes I would do. We had settled on two modes for the
game - in your car and out of it I think. (Or maybe it
was in the game and out of it, I can't remember.) I started
on "The Chase" and if you listen to the first
few seconds of that you can hear the basis of that super-filter-echo
tune that is so cool. I recall David Collier was sitting
in the office with me while I was working on it. But while
messing with it while everyone else was at lunch, I came
across this cool sound. I added to it and added to it,
and when we applied the non-sync'd filter sweep we both
flipped out! I decided to abandon the conversion of that
tune and simply go with the cool sounds I had stumbled
upon. When the guys came back from lunch and listened
to it they swore that there was a cassette deck connected
somewhere and it wasn't the C64 playing it! Such a sound
had not been heard before by any of us out of the C64.
So I extended it and turned it into this tripping-out
11-minute piece. The main theme itself... I simply did
my best with no drums (Rob Hubbard's strength). I think
my strength with guitar solos helped pull it off. Both
of those problematic games benefited from my music, actually,
and the Ocean management were very relieved (understatement).
the Arkanoid music came out, I think a lot of people were
stunned of what they heard, because those drumsamples
built up a whole new dimension. How did the idea with
the samples come about?
I figured out how samples were played by hacking into
someone else's code... OK, I admit it... It was a drum
synthesizer package called Digidrums, actually, so you
could still say I was the first to include samples in
a piece of music. I had no equipment for editing samples
though, so my program synthesized the drums as a series
of farts and burps! Later I was able to acquire some proper
drum samples and by "Game Over" it got quite
What were the thoughts when creating
I tried to create this feeling of a massive behemoth robot
monster on its way to destroy you. Thus the marching beat
and the minor chords and stark tones. I had to stick in
the inevitable jamming solo towards the end of course.
I was starting to face the glass ceiling imposed by the
filter on the C64. While my particular SID sounded great,
others were not like it at all and the solos were almost
inaudible! At the other extreme the new C64C's were coming
out and this filter unreliability had been fixed as part
of a silicon revision. BUT the filters were way too open
all the time and you could hardly hear any filtering!
This caused the filtered note to come out a lot louder
than it should have and "stick out" rather unattractively.
So I developed a "filter adjustment" parameter
for my music program which would allow the customer to
control this filter unreliability and get their particular
machine to sound cool. But David Collier never put it
in the options screen. (DOH!) There's always something
The fade-up in the Yie Ar Kung-Fu
2 title track is just so weird and wonderful!! What is
I just tried to come up with a crazy way of settling on
a beginning note (my favourite beginning note of course,
G - almost everything I do is in G). So I plugged in this
echoing waveform thing and let it rip. The tune isn't
particularly Chinese sounding, but I was working on producing
that 'perfect melody', the one you'd be humming all day,
you know. That was a phase I went through. Remember what
I said about converting from older arcade games that had
simpler sound chips than the C64? Well, Ocean's licensing
team really pulled this one out of the hat - they didn't
have an arcade cabinet for us to convert from, we converted
Konami's MSX cartridge version! So the sound I was converting
from was itself a conversion of the arcade cabinet, which
I have NEVER SEEN. It sounded like it was a lame conversion
too, so I easily did a better sounding version. (The MSX's
music only used two notes at once, for example.)
Circuit is just wonderful. Those melodies drives me nuts!!
I can listen to them for hours, and still they sound exciting
and interesting! Tell us about it.
Thank you, at last, some accolades - I worked on that
title screen tune for four weeks! I believe it to be my
most elaborate, complete and successful conversion of
a "digital audio sourced" tune. ZZAP! 64 only
gave the music 79%, my worst score since "Roland's
Rat Race", so you can imagine my disappointment.
One of the other tunes was easy, that's the simple ballad
melody "come and follow me", which I was able
to arrange quite successfully. The other one was a nightmare
since it's the tune right from the beginning of the movie
with all the robotic short notes & arpeggios. The
tune just built up so massive that the poor C64 was short
of notes by about 30 seconds into it, so I had to fudge
the end a bit and make it repeat, basically.
Do you have the C64 lying around
YES, the whole development kit.
Any plans of composing on it again?
Perhaps, I am very busy with other things these days.
If I got ALL those out of the way, I would do it. Very
As a final word, do you have anything
to say to the people out there?
Glad to be alive! Glad to be in an industry that's changing
so fast. Who knows what I will be doing in 2030 and what
shape computer gaming will be in by then ????????????!!!!!!!!???????????
Go back to
the first part of the interview