| Was it fun to compose
and program on the C64, despite the limits?
Yeah, I enjoyed it. Sometimes I'd like to go back and
use what I know now in order to utilize the hardware better.
What do you think of the quality
of your C64 stuff?
Ummm... The C64 stuff I think is very poor, but it showed
How long did it generally take to compose a tune and how
long did the sound effects normally take?
When we did that Battle Zone rip off game for that budget
label in London (so we could pay our rent that week),
it took the programmer and the artist one day to finish
the game, and it took me two days to do the music. I did
about three tunes I think, and the sound effects took
a few minutes.
did you specifically create a sound?
Uhh, well, I'd compose in Electrosound using basic patches,
imagining how they would sound when using decent sounds
in a proper music driver. Later I'd use an Amiga and a
tracker program. From there I'd either try and emulate
the Amiga's sound (sometimes with some dire consequences
like with some of the Xenophobe tunes) or I'd simply type
in the hex data for the instrument, then assemble and
download it to the C64 to hear how it sounded.
What were the difficulties and advantages
in composing on the C64 compared to the other computer
As time progressed, the C64 went from being king of the
hill to being "neither halfway up nor down".
The Amiga and ST came, the ST being lumped in with the
Spectrum, Amstrad and all the other AY chip derivatives
(Gameboy, Game Gear etc). For me, most of those shared
the same music driver data, so basically I only had to
convert the data once and that was it, instantly five
other versions. The C64 always sounded way better than
the AY chip machines, it had a far better sound palette
to work with and thus the music had more emotion. Composing
on it was always hard. By the time you got a sound palette
that even came close to Rob's and Martin's, you still
couldn't match the technical brilliance Rob used, or Martin's
fluidity. I fear I languished deep in the valley between
those two mountains. ;)
Which was the first C64 tune you
Axel F in Electrosound. I won a five quid bet for doing
it. First composition was probably Jackal's tune #1. ;)
Which was the best one?
They are all a bit rough really. Jackal's tune #1 ain't
that bad, it shows promise. I should just have walked
away from it all after that one and left on a high note.
The absolute worst one?
Hah, do you really need me to answer that?
The one that drove you insane?
Probably Xenophobe. I wanted so badly for it to be great,
it got good reviews, but when I listen to it now I cringe.
The one composed in shortest time?
Oooh, I must have spent minutes on some of them. :)
And finally, the most complicated
one to compose?
Hah, none of my C64 stuff was complicated really.
Did you self-invent any techniques
to make composition easier?
Well, "back in the day" I used to compose in
Electrosound. It was fast, easy and it let me get fairly
accurate results as to what the final music would sound
like (except without all the arpeggios etc). I basically
ended up running a dual C64 system, composing on one and
converting onto one next to it.
you at times feel that things were quite hard because
you almost always did something original instead of, let's
say, an arcade conversion?
People underestimate how hard it is to be creative at
9 a.m. on a Monday morning. The C64 stuff I did, the arcade
conversions were a bit of a miss. I really didn't have
an ear for it at the time. Years later when I did California
Speed on the Nintendo 64, the original musicians couldn't
tell if I was playing them the original or mine. </blowing
own trumpet mode>
Where did you find inspiration
Wherever I could find it.
inspiration was lost?
When inspiration was lost there weren't a whole lot to
do. You could always write a tune just using your basic
understanding of how a piece of music should be written.
From what Rob told me, his Volleyball pieces were written
like that. But there is a big difference between a piece
that you churn out and a piece that you really get into
(Rob really got into his Spellbound piece).
of time limits, could you sometimes feel that you were
not totally pleased with your work - but it had to go
because of the deadline?
Yup. Happened all the time. Not so much these days,
but definitely at Imagitec. I had so many deadlines that
were like "EA just called, you have until tomorrow
night to get the music done for Imperium".
Is there a C64 game that you really
wanted to do music for but someone else got the job?
One of Jeff Minters games probably. I would have liked
the opportunity to work with him. Maybe still someday...
Did you ever come to a point
where you felt that you'd master the machine and there
was nothing more to do?
Not on the C64, no. I mean by the end of it all, I had
a good grasp on it technically (Xenophobe using filters
and ring modulation), but I was still cutting my teeth
as a composer then.
Let's talk more in-depth about the
tunes. The music in I.C.U.P.S., based on Bogg's Detergent,
was your first published work. Give us the full story.
I had written the tune as a demo, and I had been trading
with Bogg for a few years. I had re-written his tune just
to see how I would have taken his initial idea and run
with it myself. Anyways, I had sent disks with a load
of tunes on to all the major software companies at the
time. Firebird contacted me and they wanted to use I.C.U.P.S.
I told them at the time that it was kind of a rip off
of Bogg's Detergent, but they were quite happy to offer
to buy it. They offered me 150 pounds, and then when someone
pointed out again to them that it was based on Bogg's
tune, they gave him half the money too which I was quite
Could you see
a money change throughout the years?
The money has changed a lot over the years, as the hardware
has changed so has the amount of time it takes to create
the music and the result is way different. My first job
as a composer was with Catalyst Coders, I got paid 4,000
pounds a year for that. I think unemployment benefit is
more than that these days isn't it? :)
on Catalyst today?
Thank god they're long gone.
Continuing with Back to the Future
3. Didn't Maniacs of Noise do that one?
Probe asked Imagitec to provide the music for Amiga, ST
and C64 versions of Back to the Future 3, and we did.
The C64 version had sampled guitars, sampled sound effects,
tons of stuff. But I don't think they used the music in
the final C64 release for some reason, either A) they
didn't like it or B) the music and sound effects were
too big and Imagitec probably refused to alter them unless
they paid more. I'd like to think it was B. :)
I think the Marauder in-game music was the first tune
I wrote where I actually thought the end result was reasonable.
Seemed like everything I had done before that sounded
C64 version of ZW was never finished. But I did write
a good tune for it, or at least I remember it to be good.
Maybe I shouldn't dig it out, after all I remembered Impossamole
as sounding quite good at the time. Heheh...
We wrote the whole game in three days on three C64s so
we could pay our rent in London. I needed two of the C64s
to write the music with (one to sequence on Electrosound
and the other to enter the data into the music driver).
This must have been one of the last C64 tunes I did. I
got the knack down of composing on the Amiga knowing that
I'd have to convert it to the lesser formats, so I was
always careful to use melodies and backing that I knew
I could convert easily. I'm suprised theres only one tune
though, because there was more in the Amiga one.
It was a lot of fun working on Hero Quest, although the
limits on the in-game music on the Amiga was a total nightmare.
We had 30k for a seven minute tune. But the way we wrote
it was cool because it converted really well to the other
formats and the Roland LAPC1 version is pretty damned
tasty if I do say so myself.
Hughes International Soccer
Worked freelance for Audiogenic to do this one and I had
a lot of fun doing it. Funnily enough I ran into the guy
who produced this game at a computer show a few years
later, and he had moved into journalism and had started
writing the computer column for the Sunday Sport.
Darren "I could sell ye yer own shirt and make u
feel good about it" Melbourne managed to sell Codemasters
on the idea of doing music for one of their games. I had
three days do to it, and three tunes to do. The completion
or death tune (I can't remember) is a rip off of the movie
Phantasm's closing credits music.
highest rating I ever got for a game was for Xenophobe.
94 percent in Zzap! 64 beat the 48 percent I got for I.C.U.P.S.
I used a lot of filters in the loading tune and Axel Brown
the programmer did an excellent job of keeping the music
playing during the game. Axel is a long time friend. I
worked with him at Imagitec and then again at Origin in
Texas. I still keep in touch with him.
I really didn't have much of an ear when I did this, so
some of the transcription is a bit rough to say the least.
We had the arcade game in the office for years though
and it got played a lot.
"The publisher says we have to do the music too,
so you've got like an hour or two to get it done and in
Ocean had the great idea that they would do three versions
of every movie license they got, an arcade version, an
arcade adventure, and an RPG. Imagitec did the RPG, the
game was that bad Ocean never released it.
The first time I used samples in a tune. Driver was altered
by Dave "Omega Man" Chiles. Possibly the world's
best C64 coder. I think this one is probably the best
C64 tune I did.
Just an arcade conversion from an audio tape of the arcade
game recorded on a hand held tape recorder from a video
arcade with lots of noise. My music sounds nothing like
the arcade one.
They asked for a dance version of Row Row Row Your Boat,
and that's what they got. It was good for a laugh at least.
These were probably the first tunes I wrote as a "suite"
kinda thing, you know, the complete game package with
title, high score, jingles etc. Kinda rough listening
to them these days. ;)
Freddy's Top o' Fun
I think these were a conversion of some German guy who
did the Amiga version. I was pleased how they came out,
and it didn't take long either.
Double Dragon (C64 Console)
I don't remember much about this. I know Peter Sandén
of the HVSC team has been working diligently at rescuing
bits and pieces off my old disks. I remember the console
looked cool but it was so late in the day for it to be
a commercial success. Oh, it's in the HSVC, ah, it sounds
okey except for the odd bum chord.
The highlight of my career. :) Actually there was a point
when the top three games in the UK charts had my music
in them. Silkworm, Postman Pat and Gemini Wing I think.
Gilbert Escape From Drill
They wanted the music to sound dorky, and they wanted
the good the bad and ugly theme to sound out of key...
Why do I listen to these people!
I had to convert Whittakers pieces, and I hated having
to do cover versions as I really wasn't good at it then.
I can't remember his piece, but it's probably a rough
approximation of it. I remember having to go to Leeds
to get the sheet music for Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Like I said, I really didn't have an ear for transcription
then. Thankfully it developed over time.
And finally Impossamole.
Sorry Rob! I just did what they asked me to do.
What do you mean?
They asked me to do a stupid dance version of Rob's
Monty on the Run tune.
Pick out the top five C64 compositions
you've done and add a small comment.
Because it scored the highest in Zzap.
2. Emlyn Hughes Soccer
Again well received. Got an e-mail from some guy in Argentina
this year about that, and he said it inspired him to "conquer
the devil in his hell". I felt quite touched by that.
Even if it is a Sisters of Mercy rip, it worked.
4. Marauder high-score
I like this, even though it could use being slowed down
about 40 percent and played with acoustic instruments.
Xtra Long version... Just because I threw everything including
the kitchen sink into it... Youthful niavety. :)
you return to do some C64 music again? :)
No, I don't have a development kit for it any more, and
I'm not about to try writing something in Turbo Assembler!
How about a remix of some of the
old tunes then?
There's the odd remix CD that I'm working on. People need
to go out and buy Immortal 2 and 3 when they're done.
Do you have any C64 equipment left?
I have a 1541 drive connected to my PC and about 1,000
disks on the shelf next to me, and an emulator so I can
still have a laugh at the old stuff.
What were the best and worse
things about the C64?
Best: That everyone was having fun learning the technology
and pushing the hardware limits further than people could
have ever imagined. Worst: I think my tunes rank up there
somewhere, don't they?
What was the coolest thing someone
invented on the C64?
Hubbard's music driver. :) His data structure etc. influenced
just about every music driver written around then.
Your favourites on the C64:
Musician: Hubbard. Artist: Macfarlane. Demo: DNA. Game:
Traffic by Quicksilva. Event: Any computer show at the
Olympia in London circa 1987 or so.
Tell us about your visits to those
We'd take the bus down overnight from Scotland
and walk around the show zombified all day trying to take
it in and get to meet everyone we wanted to meet. I tried
to find the pictures of us and Gary Liddon for BIT Brighton
2003, but I couldn't find them. Maybe next time.
proudest moment in your career?
Fisher Price's The Royal Potty. It plays a fanfare when
the kid pees
in it. :) Seriously, I was very proud when I got my copy
of I.C.U.P.S. Getting my music played on the radio was
pretty fucking amazing. I nearly crashed my car when it
came on! I was high as a kite for days from that. It was
totally unexpected. Getting to work with Alien Sex Fiend
was very cool. The fiends are some of the nicest people
you could ever hope to meet. I was very proud when Wing
Commander 3 came out, that was such a huge team effort.
I was proud when Spider came out on the Playstation just
because of the work I'd done on it. Gauntlet Dark Legacy
arcade machine - again a gargantuan team effort.
What is the most giving thing
you've got through your computer interest?
Friendship I suppose. Money, women, my children, my life...
It all stems from my interest/work with computers. ;)
If I hadn't gotten into computers, I have no clue as to
where I'd be.
We have reached the end of the interview.
Thanks a lot pal! What's up next?
Well, I'm just putting the finishing touches to the Supercars
2 remix for Immortal 3 and I've got a slight hand in the
Remix of TFX for that too. It's being handled by one of
my workmates who is more akin to writing avant garde orchestral
pieces. After that, there's an Atari ST remix CD coming
up I think, and I've been contemplating a "Best of"
CD. Maybe I'll do a Pixter CD. What's pixter? www.pixter.com!
Maybe if the software industry gets a bit more stable
I'll go back into games full time, but until then I'll
stick to writing mods for toys. ;)
back to the first part of the interview