|Hey Barry! Feel warmly
welcomed to this interview. How are things?
Thank you very much Andreas. Things are pretty good right
now. Just finished a Gameboy Advance title and built myself
a PVR system. :)
What was your first
computer and when did you get it?
My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. I got it in 1982,
but we'd been using my friend's ZX81 since 1981 and we'd
been programming Basic programs.
And when did you get the C64?
Sometime in 1985 I think.
Did you immediately start to make demos or were you like
me, a game playing maniac for the first years?
Well, I guess with the ZX81 we spent most of our time
typing in Basic programs from magazines. When I got my
ZX Spectrum about a year later, we started hacking the
games. I hacked the protection out of Jet Set Willy (didn't
everybody). Remember Kokotoni Wilf from Elite? They had
a prize for the people that completed the game and sent
in the message from the game completion screen. Of course
we hacked it, copied down the message and sent it in.
We got $5 off of Lee Majors The Stuntman.
I guess we didn't start doing proper demos until we got
Commodore 64s about 18 months later and flooded Compunet
with them (we were churning them out at a rate of about
one every day or so).
Did you hang around Compunet a lot?
We didn't hang around that much. It was too damn expensive
to stay online (remember phone calls in the UK are really
expensive). But it was great because everybody was on
How big was it? How was the atmosphere?
Who talked to who about what?
It seemed huge at the time, but by today's standard it
was nothing more than a glorified BBS. There was a chat
system which was cool, because you could chat with your
pals on there, and you could vote on peoples demos.
As many of us, you were a great
fan of musicians like Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway. I
guess the relationship between you and them has changed
into a friendly respect for each other. Back then, people
were making fun of you but today both Rob and Martin want
to put you in a favourable light by telling that you now
have become successful on your own. What's your comment
I was a stupid wee boy who had nothing better to do than pester these poor people. Rob and Martin gave me good advice. Rob was always telling me to write different styles and to experiment. They all made fun of me because I asked for it basically. Anyone who was as obnoxious and persistent as I was, really was asking to be ridiculed. I wanted to write music for video games, but I really wasn't that good. I thought I was good, and hell I wanted to be good, but it just wasn't happening. I was working as an apprentice engineer and I really didn't want a career in the engineering business. I was trying too hard to get my foot in the door when all I needed to do was to step back and concentrate on writing good music, as opposed to trying to get everyone to believe that I was good. Which is what I did I suppose after all the Chicken Songs and that. I fucked around at college and stuff and spent some time just writing music which got me a job at Catalyst Coders.
As for Rob and Martin putting me in a favourable light, I guess I'm not the annoying wee boy that I used to be, and I appreciate that they took the time to see that.
It may be that you bugged a lot
of people, but at the same time it gave you important
contacts which has led you to where you are today. Agree?
Yes it helped a lot, but at the same time it's kinda annoying
every time that someone who has been in the industry a
while is introduced to me with the line: "And this
is our Audio Director Barry Leitch. You remember him,
he did the Chicken Song on the C64!". Working at
Imagitec and doing music through them for lots of different
companies helped also. I guess over the years I have worked
with a shit load of development teams. And programmers
go on to be producers and producers get to be presidents
of startups, so I guess there are a lot of them in important
You did quite a few demos together
with Gryphon and Grover. How did you three know each other?
Grover was Alan Macfarlane's first nickname. He changed
it to Gryphon when he decided it wasn't arty enough. Alan
had a Commodore 64 and could draw and I needed an artist.
We got together doing demos and then by strange coincidence,
my folks ended up buying a house right behind his,
so we just churned out those demos.
Who were your best work pals in
the old days?
Alan Macfarlane (Grover/Gryphon) - What a great artist!
I got him a job at Imagitec and we got to work together
there for a while. He's still in Scotland and is doing
Rob Hubbard/The Messiah - Rob took the time to give me
advice and tips which got me started.
Martin Galway - Gave me good advice too.
Axel Brown - I've worked with Axel on more games than
any other programmer.
Mark Kelley (producer of Marauder) - I have many fond
memories of working away in Mark's tiny office in Glasgow
on Marauder and Captain Courageous.
Colin Gordon - He wrote New Zealand Story for Ocean, and
for 20 geek points, can you remember the cheat mode for
that? Motherfuckingkiwibastard. :)
Dean Evans - Ocean musician. If ever I need another musician
here, Dean gets first offer.
Dave Chiles/Omega Man - Dave was TCS, the Teeside Cracking
Service. I have all his old C64 disks. There wasn't a
piece of software that he didn't crack. He knew the C64
inside out and could code purely by typing in the hex
codes. A total geek. But a fucking cool one at that. :)
Darren Melbourne - Now he's president of Phoenix Productions
or something like that. Darren could sell you your own
shirt and make you feel good about buying it, and then
drink you under the table just to prove why you should
have bought it from him.
You used both your name and handle
when you produced demos. Was it that you used The Jackal
in the beginning and then switched over to Barry Leitch
to be taken serious by the game companies?
Yes, it's not very professional to use an alias when you
are trying to get a job.
Did you think it was possible to
make a living out of making computer music?
Yes, there were others doing it (Hubbard/Galway/Grey/Daglish/Whittaker),
so why shouldn't I...
Was it hard to compete over the
contracts with those guys?
I was only ever freelance for a few months, and Daglish
and Galway were never really freelance (well, Galway was,
but only for a very short time). Rob was always busy as
hell and quite expensive, so when I needed to pick up
some freelance work, it was quite easy, but it didn't pay
too well. We wrote a whole game in three days once just
to make some quick cash - Battlefield by Atlantis on the
C64. 300 pounds for a whole game.
Which game companies did you
work for? How did you get in touch with them?
Catalyst Coders were coming to Scotland to interview one
of my pals. I managed to blag my way into getting them
to interview me as well (basically I tagged along). At
Catalyst, there were a load of us who were not getting
paid, so we teamed up with Darren Melbourne at Sales Curve.
Sales Curve didn't need a development team but Darren
was trying to create some kind of sister company deal
up with Imagitec. Of course none of it ever came to light,
but we did get an offer from Imagitec. So when we failed
at running our own company, we called up Imagitec and
told them: "Hey, if you guys still want to employ
us, send a van down to London to pick us up and we'll
come work for ya". And they did! Boy were we grateful.
When I was at Imagitec and Ben Daglish left Gremlin, Gremlin
contracted Imagitec (me) to do all the music for their
games. So suddenly I had like 30 games a year to score
for. It was a busy time.
Getting a job the way you got the
Imagitec gig must have been like: "WOW! They really
It was more like "Cool! We don't have to live on the
streets", but we were very glad to be working there.
How could a typical day at the office
That's hard to say. You come into work, start working
on a tune, take breaks when you're hungry or out of ideas,
go home when you're tired.
What were the worst working
conditions you had?
I've had a few. :) Let's see... Working in the upstairs
of a bed shop without sleep for three days (that company
later went on to become Climax, which is now one of the
largest if not the largest independent developers in the
world). Working in a bedsit in London with nothing to
eat but cornflakes (this was right before several of us
joined Imagitec). We were on the verge of breaking up
and going our separate ways. The landlords were literally
gangsters. If we didn't pay them rent, we'd get concrete
wellies. Very dodgy.
Working in the kitchen at Imagitec with Ian Howe in the
same room. Not that there's anything wrong with Howie,
just having two of us trying to compose at the same time
was a nightmare. Working at Imagitec with no amplifier
for the Amiga, no keyboard, and no way to get samples
except to rip them out of other peoples mod files. No
sound proofing between audio offices. Programmers banging
on the doors telling you to turn it down. Having to physically
threaten a programmer in order to get your job done. Having
to apologise to programmer after he's complained to the
boss because you threatened to hit him if he touched your
mixing desk. Working in a cubicle. Working in cubicles
with other audio guys in the next cubicles. Having to
deal with marketing people.
Actually, it's quite funny, the only place I haven't had
much to complain about was Origin. They had a very hands
off attitude and it was very condusive to creativity,
although it's very probable that the other ex-EA guys
would say the exact opposite.
Generally then, what were the highlights?
I dunno, the shows in London were always a big event for
us. We just took it as it came. It's hard to pick a highlight,
we just had fun. From the computer shows in Glasgow that
we went to every week, filling peoples car up with garbage
for a laugh, going to visit Rob and going into a pub for
the very first time (Rob bought alcohol for a minor -
me!). Turning up at Martin Galways doorstep on a Sunday
morning with the welshwanks (the JCS guys). Getting hired
by Catalyst Coders and living in the dodgy office they
rented. Alan Macfarlane fedexing a box of bricks to Dave
Wainwright instead of the TV he was supposed to send back
because he hadn't been paid. Gary Bracey telling me he
loved my music.
Also, getting about a dozen pieces of mail a day. Getting phone calls from Australia at 3 a.m. Basically, there was a camaraderie, people shared their ideas and technology. It was fun!
Do you have any fun stories to tell?
There's a good story... Okey, so Gary had been by Imagitec
a couple of times and had heard the Amiga stuff I was
doing and he liked it. A couple of years later when I
got canned from Imagitec, I called Ocean and got an interview
right away. I came out of the interview with an offer
for a job which was for more money than I'd been on, and
I told my mate that: "I can't believe Ocean want to
hire me and pay me xxxxx quid a year". Years later,
I found out that Gary had gone into his mates office,
and said: "I can't believe we just hired Barry Leitch
and for only xxxxx quid a year". :)
Imagitec hired this guy called Sean Connolly for a bit.
When he came for the interview, one of the first things
he started talking about was his bloody dog. Thankfully
his friend who was with him mentioned to him quietly that
the man interviewing probably wasn't that interested in
his dog. Imagitec went through some hard times financially
every few months, which meant most of us wouldn't get
paid. So after getting kicked out of one place I ended
up in a house the company rented, and of course that meant
sharing with whoever else was living there. I got lumped
with living with Sean. Sean was deaf in one ear, and everytime
someone would phone up Sean, he would hold the phone to
his deaf ear and shout "HULLO? HULLO???". He
had extremely smelly feet, and as if that didn't make
him a bad enough housemate, he'd masturbate loudly in
his room every morning over the TV-AM weather girl.
Anyways... We were working on Prophecy the Viking Child,
and I'd given Sean the job of recording the sound effects
for the game. Somehow we'd blagged a sampler to use at
work and we needed a sound for the player falling off-screen.
I told Sean just to record himself going "Aaaaaaahhhh"
and fade it out like he was falling off into the distance.
Sean crossed his arms and shook his head: "No way!
Ahm no recording maself. Ah sound stupid." —
"Sean, just do it!" — "Nope!"
— "You have to, it's part of yer job, just
record yerself, it'll take two seconds." —
"No way, I don't like how ma voice sounds."
and so it went on for about an hour. In the end I threatened
to throw him out the window and record him as he fell.
And I'll always remember his reply. He just crossed his
arms again and said: "But I'll just not make any
sound", all smug. I snapped at this point and told
him to fuck off. He quit a few weeks later after one of
the infamous Imagitec parties because "Everyone is
trying to change ma personality". He wasn't happy
when we pointed out that you had to have a personality
to change to start with. A few years later his career
in the industry ended abruptly when he accused his employer
of internationally kidnapping him. But that's another
story, and not mine to tell. :)
In what way were the Imagitec parties
Everybody would get really drunk, the boss would usually
physically assault someone, my band played a gig at one
of them, there were usually fireworks, people getting
injured with fireworks, people hitting on other peoples
girlfriends, people hitting people who hit on their girlfriends...
Erm, pretty much yer average party. Generally they were
a lot of fun but not for the weak of heart or stomach.
Tell us about the Gremlin days.
Gremlin would contract Imagitec to do their music.
I'd either write all the music and post it down to them,
or from time to time go down there, either crash at some
programmer's flat or shitty hotel and work with the programmers
on stuff. We did Impossamole on the TurboGrafix in five
days, two to write the driver, and three to do the music.
Other than that, we went out and got drunk a lot.
And the Ocean days...
I was at Ocean for just over a year. There were three
musicians at Ocean, Dean Evans was one of them, Keith
Tinman the other. Ocean churned out a lot of products,
so we worked on a lot of titles. Not only did they have
a massive in house development team but a shit load of
out of house work going on too.
How did you later end up at Origin?
Origin hired me to be musician for a certain producer
group (their console development team), unfortunately
the console development team were breaking up, so I got
switched initially into Warren Spector's group. And from
there into Andy Hollis' group. Each producer group had
at least one other musician, sometimes two or three. As a result,
some people were busy all the time while others had hardly
anything to do. Origin had a horribly overstaffed audio
department. They had 12 or so musicians, and as a result
of that I didn't feel too secure in my position there.
Galway's SNES driver was probably the most powerful music
driver ever written. Unfortunately it was sooo complex
and un-user friendly, nobody wanted to use it. I got to
do two products with it. Wasn't I lucky...
Tell us about Boss Game.
Startup Sister Company of Boss Film Studios who did special
effects for movies like Batman, Cliffhanger, Species,
How did the work-offer come around?
I knew the President (Colin Gordon) from when we worked
at Ocean in England together. He needed an audio director
who had experience of cartridge work.
You were the Audio Director. What
does an Audio Director do exactly?
Basically I was in charge of all the audio that went in
our games, I composed all the music, I created all the
sound effects, and if necessary, programmed it all in.
I was in charge of hiring voice actors if we needed voice
work for our products and hired other musicians if we
That's quite a heavy responsibility.
Yeah, but it was nice to be able to have the control over
what we needed to do for a game to make it sound its best
instead of being dictated to by a programmer who doesn't
give a damn about the audio.
Where do you work these days?
Working for the man. Well, Corporate America. Fisher Price
Toys near Buffalo.
How did the job offer come around?
The job came around very strangely (as most jobs do).
My old boss at Atari had been at E3 and had sat down for
a break and got talking to a couple of guys sitting next
to him. The guys introduced themselves and mentioned
they were looking for an "audio guy". My boss
didn't fancy living out in the frozen wilderness here,
so he passed the lead onto me. The rest is history. Actually,
I'm quite enjoying it. It's very different to games in
some ways and almost identical in others, it's a challenge
trying to get audio into some of these wee IC's let alone
something that resembles a soundtrack. It's challenging
like it was in the "bad old days" so I enjoy
that. Pushing technology as far as it can go and then
just that wee bit further.
From your point of view, how does
the game market look today?
Evolving... Development costs have hit a critical
point where companies can't simply sustain a 20-40 man
team for two+ years to bring a product to market that
may only sell 50k units. Hence publishers are being more
cautious and developers are getting shafted. I saw a list
the other day of 30+ british game developers that had
gone bust in this past year. That's horrendous, think
of all those people out of work, people with familes etc.
It's very worrying.
Lets take care of some personal
things before we move on to talk about compositions and
things concerning the games you worked on.
Born: Paisley, Scotland.
Reside in: Out in the sticks
near Buffalo, NY.
Hobbies: Writing music, gaming,
4-wheeling, tormenting dumb animals (I had kittens recently).
Music taste: While writing
this, my playlist has gone from techno, to opera, to punk.
So all sorts.
The things that make you happy:
Nothing beats the high of writing something, cranking
it right up and just knowing "yeah, that bit works".
That and watching my kids grow up. Pulling into my driveway
and seeing deer and rabbits usually makes me pretty happy
Goal in life: Tough one...
I used to think I'd like to have a number one single,
but more people hear my music these days than most number
one singles. I'll have to come up with some new goals.
For now I'm pretty content.
What do you do in your spare
Potter around with my computers and synths. I have a
forest on my land so I tear around that on my 4-wheeler
and cut down a lot of trees.
you recommend people to visit Buffalo? Any parts you should
Buffalo is affectionately called the armpit of America,
and they are not far wrong. It was a great city hundred
years ago, but since then, all the industry moved away. Hence,
I don't live anywhere near the city. Lots of houses with
wooden curtains. My friends in the city hate that I won't
visit them. The snow sucks around here, they got seven
foot in 24 hours last year.
it been hard to adjust yourself to the new changes a move
to another country can bring?
The only thing that's been hard is getting used to the
bland American humour. That and they drive too damned
to the second part of the interview