hello barry . First of all , please , bring us back in time (80s 90s ) with you …and tell me
– When did you start practicing music ?
My grandfather would play me Vynil records of childrens music when I was young, My grandmother played the organ for her church and she had a small electronic organ that she would let me play on. So by the age of 5 I would enjoy messing around making noises on her simple keyboard. In time she got a « Bontempi » one that with the press of a single key, would play the simple backing chords which would allow me to play around creating melodies. I must have spent hours messing around with that
– First Instrument you played ?
I played the recorder in school.. and not very well
– Did you play in a band as musician , if yes , which kind of band ( metal , rock , … ) and which instrument(s) ?
I’ve been involved in a couple of bands, but nothing that achieved anything past playing at the office party. We played mostly rock & goth songs.. Bauhaus’s « Bela Lugosi’s dead », and I distinctly remember me singing an awful rendition of Black Sabbaths « Paranoid »
– When did you get a computer and which one ?
I got a ZX81 in 1982.. and it was amazing.. I was hooked.. We would program in games from magazines, and in time learned to create our own simple games.
– Why did you decide to play music on computer ?
At the time it was unheard of to create music with a computer. The simple fact that you could create music without a recording studio and musicians was just amazing.. and VERY exciting… At the age of 12 or so, I managed to borrow a BBC Model B computer for the entire summer which had some music notation channel that allowed you to arrange music using all 3 channels, (by that time I had a zx spectrum that could beep a single note at a time that I was experimenting with).. I spent 5 days transcribing bach’s toccata in D minor from sheet music into the computer.. it was glorious
– How did you compose music on computer as this time ( tools , software , … )
As time moved on I got a Commodore 64, and started with Electrosound. A terrible piece of software, but it allowed you to create music that COULD be used in games.. At the time you really needed to have your own custom music driver to get music into games, and this gave you that ability.. I got my first game soundtrack published while at the age of 15.
– Were you involved in the demoscene
We created tons of Commodore 64 demos, and attended a weekly computer club in Glasgow where we would share our creations with everyone else who was creating their own work it was a fantastic time to be involved in computers.
– Where did you get your inspiration at these times ?
At that time I was mostly doing cover versions of existing pieces of music. I was struggling to learn how to compose as I had no formal training. In time I managed to take the first step and write my own tune.. It was of course terrible, but the 2nd tune I ever wrote was a little better, and from there, I just kept going.. Overall it took several years before I really got to grips with composing, and to some extent much of the early music I wrote that made it into games makes me cringe.. The simple challenge of doing it was inspiration to keep going and try and compose.. If you cannot make a cake, but you really want to have cake… you will find a way to bake…
– Why and how did you get involved in musics for video games ?
I was inspirred by composers like Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway & Ben Daglish. I wanted to do what they were doing.. they were making a living getting paid to create music.. I couldnt imagine anything more exciting or fun in life !
– Top 5 of music Bands you listened to ?
The Sisters Of Mercy – Temple of Love (92 version)
Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead.
Nick Drake – been smoking too long
Yan Tiersen –Comptine D’un Autre Eté L’apres midi
Covenant – Tears In the Rain
– Top 5 of video games you played ?
Supreme Commander :Forged Alliance – The Definitive RTS..
The Stronghold series – love my RTS games…
Horizon Chase (although I’m getting tired of hearing the music LOL)
Train simulator (*Blush*)
– Top 5 of computer musicians in the 80 & 90’s.
– Best computer in the 90s to creat music ?
PC with Roland MT32
Although the consoles quickly came along with cd soundtracks, and that ended the soundchip wars..
– Best memories of the 90’s in the computer game industry ?
Probably attending the very first EA Audio Conference. EA had many offices, and they were taking audio in games very seriously. As I worked for Origin (owned by EA), the entire audio department attended. There were over 40 people there. This was unheard of before that. To have that many audio guys together in one place at the same time on a purely audio based event. We all shared technologies, and got to see and hear how each part of the corporate giant worked. It was really great.
That and when i was working on Spider on the PSX, I had several months to totally focus on just writing music for it. Nothing else.. just writing the best music I could..
– Worst memories of the 90’s computer game industry ?
Personally, it was while working at Origin. I went there with the dream of scoring a wing commander game, and they hired the very talented George Oldziey who sat in the office next to mine and proceeded to write the music for WC4.. I was very sad I didnt get to do that project. I was working for another team within the building doing snes conversions and then worked under Warren Spector doing Wings of Glory.
– What do you think of the XXI century Video Games Industry?
I think its brilliant. It far exceeded the expectations anyone had back in the 80’s.. It’s a little dissapointing to see how formulaic so many of the games are, but at the same time, there’s really some fantastic indie development going on that continues to fuel the creative fires. Games like GTAV I take the time to play thru just because the storylines are so compelling and the gameplay is just perfect.. I tend to avoid playing many FPS on consoles simply because I struggle with the controllers, and enjoy them far more on the PC..
– are you still playing video games , if yes , which one ?
Answered previously top 5 games… those are pretty much what I’ve played in the last few months
– What kind of musics are you listening nowadays ?
My son will tell you that i listen to an endless barrage of dull 80’s music.. I do listen to lots of stuff that friends post on Facebook and listen to my soundcloud feed quite often, so I do hear new music.. When I sit in my sons car and he plays music I just sit and criticize it… « that lead voice needed vibrato… he should have changed the last note on the 2nd repetition… «
– Are you still in contact with 80s 90s musicians from video games scene ?
Yes we all have each other on Facebook and its always interesting to hear what each other is up to. I think it’s important to support each other. We were all VERY competative in the 80’s and 90’s and it’s been incredibly difficult for us all to overcome that, but slowly we are all realizing that each of us has our own strengths to be celebrated, and enjoy hearing what each other are up to..
– Do you listen current video games musicians ( names ) ?
I have quite a few on soundcloud, but I hate to say I’m terrible with names..
– Current Computer musicians that impress you ?
Everyone who takes the time to create something usually has something impressive in their portfolio, a great example of this would be someone who handed me their cd this weekend.. I put it on to play in my car while driving home from the airport, and while musically, I hated it.. it was simplistic dance music, with some rapping, and using a lot of cheesy club effects, but I LOVED it.. it annoyed me how much I actually enjoyed it because he’d taken the time to add his own little dub step sounds, and had been very creative with a lot of the effects he had used.. Music is so subjective, everyone has their own tastes.. Just because I dont like a particular piece of music, doesnt make it a bad piece. Composers these days have so much control over every aspect of the process, there is so much room for creativity, from the instruments used, to the final mixing. Jean Michel Jarre’s new album is superb too
– Retro is actually very popular , what do you think of it ( in music and in video games )
I think its very interesting to see the retro revival.. Games have reached a point where they can be complex to the point where playing them is more work fun.. So its natural to go back to your roots and find your next direction.. It’s more frustrating that game music as a medium hasnt become more popular and made that jump into the mainstream. The market for the games is mainstream, its confusing as to why the music hasn’t made that jump.There has been the occasional track like dance versions of the Tetris theme etc, that made it into the charts, but its really disapointing to see that so much great music hasnt yet made that jump.. Maybe thats all that it takes.. a simple dance version to bridge that gap to make it more accessible to people..
– How did you get in touch with the brazilian studio Aquiris ?
They found me on Facebook, we got to talking, and after hearing their pure passion for games, and excitement to be doing this game got me all excited to start composing where I’d left off 25 years before
– Horizon chase is clearly a love letter to Classic Arcade racer like Lotus turbo esprit challenge and it s a very good game . How did you compose music for this game , you played it firt next compose tracks or …?
I had seen some screenshots of early artwork, and really liked the style, even though it was just simple demo artwork. It evolved massively along the way and they sent a video of the game playing, that gave me the general tempo of the game, combine that with the arpeggios that everyone liked, I had a real easy starting point and just dived right in..
– What kind of mood would you creat with te in game musics ?
Whatever mood is required.. Sometimes its just keeping the pace of the game up, sometimes its sad, happy, and everything in between.. Music creates the atmosphere for everything.
-Did you take some inspirations from other sources during the composition of horizon chase music ?
My brief for it was « Make it the same as you did 25 years ago, but more modern.. and better »… So referencing the old material was fun, but at the same time modernizing the instruments, and carefully selecting the sounds to be used. I think I spent more time looking for the exact sounds I wanted for HC than I did working on ALL of Top Gear.. There are little musical nods to the old themes, and there are other little musical nods to all sorts of people in there.. Everything that has influenced me is in there..
– Do you know if Aquiris has other cool tribute projects to 90s video games and if they ll produce some releases on PC computer
I talked with the games brainchild Amilton Diesel about that this last weekend, and he’s still contemplating what to do next. They are a mid sized developer, the largest in Brazil, and are very focused on successfully releasing Horizon Chase on formats they havent released on before. This is their breakout title as an independant developer & publisher, so this is all new to them, It’s been wonderful watching them take their first steps and it’s VERY smart to be cautious about what they get themselves into at this point, and I’ve worked at enough games companies that failed to know that these guys are doing it the right way..
– What s your next music project in video games ?
I’m writing music for Dark Quest 2, there’s some other things I cant talk about yet too.
– Are you playing music live ( band , other ) ?
No.. I did have a wonderful experience with a local venue that had me introducing acts to their venue, playing some epic pieces of music I wrote that set the mood for the venue.. (those are on my soundcloud page) It was wonderful watching the audience’s faces as they heard this strange music playing. (I live in rural Ohio, America, where they have both kinds of music – country AND Western ) So it was fun to watch their faces..
– Music projet outside video games ?
Just did a remix of Blue Metal Rose’s « Drei Tone », and working on a track with another UK band.
What do i use to write music ?
I write music using Renoise, and a bunch of VST’s, I have an old Korg Trinity pro that I sketch ideas out.. I tend to work late into the night.
– and your last words are …
Buy some music ! Not necessarily my music, and preferably not from a huge record company.. Take a poke around bandcamp.com and find some independant artists, and BUY their stuff.. Music isnt free, and over the years we’ve all become tired of the RIAA and the copyright police.. and we’ve all protested by pirating the shit out of every major recording artist.. sadly the smaller artists have suffered from this too, and they are the ones who most need your support.. So please.. Go buy their music directly from them. We have a whole generation of people who dont buy music, and it’s simply driven some very talented artists into doing something more profitable instead..