Ben Daglish

Ben Daglish Interview by Mark Hellewell and Peter Ward

From left to right Antony Crowther, Ian warby, Ben Daglish and Russell Merryman.

Music CV 

Platypus II (2007) (Music)
C64 Classix (2005) (Track2 “The Last Ninja (lv1 extended remix)”, originally composed by)
Maziac (2005) (Music)
Platypus (2002) (Level Boss Music 1, excerpt from “Trap”)
Monty on the Norm (2001) (Music – Auf Wiedersehen Monty by)
Chronicles of the Sword (1996) (Music)
Druid: Daemons of the Mind (1995) (Music)
Rapid Assault (1995) (Original Music)
Touché: The Adventures of the Fifth Musketeer (1995) (Music by)
Legends of Valour (1992) (Audio)
Motörhead (1992) (Music)
Axel’s Magic Hammer (1990) (Music by)
Corporation (1990) (Music by)
Greg Norman’s Shark Attack!: The Ultimate Gol… (1990) (Audio)
Hot Rod (1990) (Sound)
Super Cars (1990) (Music)
Blasteroids (1989) (Music)
Butcher Hill (1989) (Music by)
Continental Circus (1989) (Music by)
Emilio Butragueño 2 (1989) (Music)
FOFT: Federation of Free Traders (1989) (Music)
Footballer of the Year 2 (1989) (Audio)
Gary Lineker’s Hot-Shot! (1989) (Music by)
H.A.T.E: Hostile All Terrain Encounter (1989) (Music by)
John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts (1989) (Music)
The Munsters (1989) (Music by)
Passing Shot (1989) (Music and sound)
The Real Stunt Experts (1989) (Music by)
Super Scramble Simulator (1989) (Sound)
Switchblade (1989) (Music)
Artura (1988) (Music by)
Cosmic Relief: Prof. Renegade to the Rescue (1988) (Music -)
Dark Fusion (1988) (Music)
The Flintstones (1988) (Music)
Gary Linekers Superskills (1988) (Music)
Mickey Mouse: The Computer Game (1988) (Music)
NorthStar (1988) (Music)
Pac-Mania (1988) (Music arranged by)
Skate Crazy (1988) (Music)
Supersports: The Alternative Olympics (1988) (Music by)
VENOM Strikes Back (1988) (Music)
3D Galax (1987) (Music by)
720º (1987) (Music by)
Auf Wiedersehen Monty (1987) (Music by)
Basil the Great Mouse Detective (1987) (Music)
Bulldog (1987) (Music by)
Coil Cop (1987) (Music by)
Deathscape (1987) (Music)
Death Wish 3 (1987) (Music by)
Deflektor (1987) (Music by)
Duel Master: Blood Valley (1987) (Music by (uncredited))
Gauntlet II (1987) (Title music)
Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons (1987) (Music:)
Jack the Nipper… II in Coconut Capers (1987) (Music)
Krakout (1987) (Music by)
The Last Ninja (1987) (Music by)
MASK (1987) (Music)
Rampage (1987) (Music by)
Sports-A-Roni (1987) (Music)
Wizard Warz (1987) (Music (uncredited))
Ark Pandora (1986) (Music by)
Cobra (1986) (Music by)
Footballer of the Year (1986) (Music by)
Harvey Headbanger (1986) (Music)
Jack the Nipper (1986) (Score by)
Trap (1986) (Music)
Black Thunder (1985) (Music)
Gauntlet (1985) (Music)
The Vikings (1985) (Music)
William Wobbler (1985) (Music by)
Percy the Potty Pigeon (1984) (Musician)

(Pete Ward Questions)

Thank you for agreeing to doing an interview it is an honour to interview such a talented musician.

Awww – thanks! My pleasure.

What did you want to do for a career when you were at school, and what was your first job?

My first ever “job”, and the only work I’ve ever done that didn’t involve computers or music, was as a caddy at the local golf club! Up until the age of about 15, I always wanted to be a marine biologist, until it became obvious that I was a lot better at maths and physics than biology! From then on, I didn’t really have any idea – I did a year of maths, physics and computing at university, before I realised that I could earn proper money writing music.

When did you realise you wanted to get into the game industry, and how did it happen?

I never wanted to get into the industry – there *wasn’t* an industry when I started! The story about how I got into writing games is well told now, I think – do you really want me to repeat again?

What computer did you first own? Would you say this was your favourite computer?

The very first was the BBC, and although I loved the C64 for the SID chip, I have to say that the BBC was a superb machine, for many reasons – BBC BASIC was marvellous, especially with the built-in asm, the expansion ports, teletext mode etc – a lovely beast.

What is you most favourite music you worked on?


Which other composers did you like? we have interviewed Matt Gray, Barry Leitch and Allister Brimble

Well, Rob Hubbard of course stood head and shoulders above us all. I like all the above (notwithstanding the long story of Barry’s involvement with the industry 🙂 ), and many others – Martin and Dave, of course, and then too many of the Japanese chaps to mention!

What music that you composed are your favourites?

Again, TRAP, but there are many others – always difficult to pick a favourite though – like picking your favourite child!

Tell us about W.E.M.U.S.I.C? 

What would you like to know? We were two teenagers who had a great time coding late at night, partying and playing games – what else is there? 🙂

(Mark Hellewell Questions)

You’re a well know C64 composer, but you did work 
on formats. Which other formats did you work on and which were the easiest and hardest to compose on?

All the other formats were conversions, really Before the Amiga came along, I’d always write the C64 version first, then “downgrade” it to an AY version (for the Amstrad, ST, MSX, Speccy 128 etc.), which was OK – same number of voices, just with not-quite-as-good sounds – and then finally I’d hold my nose and write the once-voice Speccy beeper version…I think that makes it obvious as to which were the easiest/hardest to work on 🙂
When the Amiga came along, again I’d usually write the C64 version first, but then “upgrade” it for the Amiga, although, as it used samples, it was never quite as much fun as programming the sound chip directly.

Tony Crowther programmer who we interviewed recently you went to school and worked with do you have any amusing stories about him or the two of you?

I don’t know about “amusing” – we had lots of fun, but I’d have to check with Tony first before spilling any beans!

In 1987 you worked on the soundtrack to Auf Wiedersehen Monty with Rob Hubbard.

Yes I did.

Please tell us about this. Two ‘big name’ musicians working together on a C64 game soundtrack was fairly unusual at the time, and indeed since. I’ve often wondered how this colaboration came to be?

…It was Ian Stewart’s idea I think  – head of Gremlin. As Rob had had such a big hit with the previous Monty, he thought it’d be nice to invite him back to work on the follow-up.

And how the process of composition differed working alongside another musician as opposed to writing solo.

We just jammed – it was extremely easy.

Who did what when it came down to the nitty gritty of the writing & programming.

the programming was Rob – he was rightly very jealous of his player, which indeed was a marvel, and so once we’d worked out how it would all go, Rob locked himself in the studio for a few hours, and emerged with the thing fully programmed.

Also, as this was a follow up to one of Rob’s breakthrough tracks, along with Thing on a Spring, was the prospect of matching and topping the original Monty on the Run soundtrack daunting at any stage?

Not at all – it didn’t feel like that in the slightest – there was no pressure that I recall at all.

An epic game with an epic soundtrack, 1987’s The Last Ninja from System 3, was a step up in many ways for C64 game soundtracks, not only for yourself but for the 64. Stepping away from the title-screen / in-game ‘ditty’ to a fully blown ‘movie style’ soundtrack. Co-produced with a Anthony Lees, what are your memories of this work?

Really, not a lot. I got the phone call, wrote the pieces, then went down for a day to plug them into the game. I know it sounds boring, but that was the reality of the thing – I didn’t even see the game before I started writing – the brief was “oriental fighting game”, pretty much.

Was writing music part of your life before the 64, and if so in what form, did you imagine you could have made money from music before the 64 came along ?

*Playing* music was a large part of my life before the 64, and remains so. I was already earning as an orchestral percussionist, and thought that may be my career.

The ‘demo-scene’ was heavily inspired by the C64’s musical pioneers such as yourself, Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Fred Gray, Tim Folin etc. Did you follow the demo scene at all during your time on the C64 or the Amiga and did you ever find yourself then being influenced by the works it produced or surprised by the musical references to yourself?

Not a lot really – the hey-day of the demo scene was after I’d stopped, really, and I was never influenced by anything I saw or heard, but I was always impressed.

The late 80’s brought the hugely popular Amiga 500 which became the ‘next machine to own’ for many C64 owners. Many C64 ‘heroes’ were missing from the Amiga but you carried over with some succses. Can you tell us a little about how working with the Amiga was different to the 64?

Sorry to say, I found it a bit dull – stitching together samples wasn’t as enjoyable as actually programming a chip.

The dawn of the internet brought together what became to be known as the ‘retro gaming community’; passionate fans of the machines they grew up with. Did you ever think possible that more than 30 years ago people would still be listening to the tunes you made on what is now rather humble yet endeering hardware and what does it mean to you?

No – never at all. It means an enormous amount – incredible to still be turning up to conventions and events and hearing from the people for whom you wrote their childhood soundtrack.

‘Give the fans what they want’ is an often used term but over the last two decades you have been doing just that. Working & perfroming in some of Chris Abbot’s wonderful ‘Back in Time live’ projects, and recently on the ‘From Bedrooms to Billions’ movie in 2015 as well as other live work not related in any way to gaming. Is that how you’d like to go forward in the future.. more soundtrack work, be it games or screen, or is live performance your main passion going forwards?
No – live performing every time, I think. I’ve always been a pretty average composer, I think – but I’m a bloody excellent performer 🙂

(Pete Ward Questions)

What formats have you created on, which was the easiest to create music on, and which was the most complex?

The main 4 systems I worked on were C64, Amiga, AY-based (see above) and beepers, like the Spectrum, but there was no “easiest” or “more complex” really where the music was concerned – the composition process for a piece remained the same. I suppose attempting to adapt a 3 or 4 voice tune to a single voice beeper was quite a complex thing – it evolved a lot of re-arrangment to attempt to get a feel of the harmonic structure!

What games did you work on? Please include a list of titles and some details about the music?

Awww – man. That’s your research, not mine! There were 100’s. Try Wikipedia 🙂

I have fond memories and I feel the music soundtrack is an integral part of the game. Did you play the games to get a feel for the music you were going to create?

Sometimes, but often not – I’d literally get a verbal description over the phone, and have to deliver the music the same week.

Can you please educate us as to the process you would go through when creating music for a game?

There wasn’t really a “process” as such – I’d just lie back, hum to myself, maybe play around a bit on a keyboard or guitar, hum a bit more, and then have the basis of the piece in my head, at which point I’d turn on the computer and start typing notes into a text editor – simple as that.

What advice would you give to somebody trying to get into the game sound industry?

I’m not sure I would, these days – it’s a cut-throat industry, and very easy to get burned out. If you want to do music, go out and play live 🙂

Tell us what you are currently working on?

My day job – programming network device backup software.

I enjoy some modern games but feel more love for the smaller teams of the past. I feel the fun factor has gone in modern games and are more like movie productions; games can be bug ridden now as patches can be made.  In the past we didn’t have updates and in-app purchases. What is your view of our industry now?

Exactly the same – it’s a money-making monster, with as little love for the craft of games as Hollywood has for the craft of theatre, it seems to me. Let’s hear it for the indie producers out there who are still managing to keep the spirit of earlier times 🙂

Here are some questions about retro games:

My favourite computer was my Amiga and 2 of my favourite games were Cannon Fodder and SWOS ? and my favourite console was the Megadrive. Do you have a favourite?

Favourite what – machine? If so, then, as I said earlier, probably the BBC. The Defender/Pacman clones on there were absolutely perfect.

What is your favourite retro game?

Day Of The Tentacle

Do you still game on the current consoles? If so which is your favourite game?

I don’t – these days it’s pretty much the odd game of “Solitaire”, if I get the chance.

Whats the worst game you have ever played?

“Jackie Charlton’s Fishing” – without a doubt!