Interview by Peter Ward
What did you want to do when you were at school for a career and what was your first job?
At school I didn’t really have a long term plan, most likely it was a career in acting, and I have appeared as an Extra in a movie called Memphis Belle, I was on set for 3 weeks when I was 16 years old. My first job was delivering news papers.
When did you realise you wanted to get into game industry and how did it happen?
I never wanted to work in the games industry, I was doing IT work for a law firm and writing Pro Tracker Mods at home on my Commodore Amiga, it was only when a good friend of my Nathan Whitaker told me the computer games company he was working for needed some music, and I was introduced to his boss and offered a job that I decided to change career and give composing a go at a professional level.
I understand your first Computer was a Vic 20 is this your favourite computer?
Though the Vic 20 was my first computer, my favorite is the Commodore C64, the music inspired me to write, but it was also the Commodore Amiga that made is possible for me to do so, so I would say – both the C64 and Amiga.
You have a very impressive CV working on many platforms which was the easiest to work with and which was the most challenging and what were the challenges?
Writing music for the many forms of sound cards on the PC in the early days of PC gaming was challenging because each card sounded different so I had to re-write each piece so its sound right on each sound card. Since everything went digital, life has been much easier.
You have worked for some great companies such as Ocean and Acclaim?
Yes, I have.
Was it easy to fit in at Ocean and Acclaim who was the first person who made you feel welcome at these companies and are you still in touch with them?
At Ocean no it wasn’t the company was about to be bought out, the man who hired me Gary Bracey was leaving, and one of the other composers at Ocean didn’t like me very much so that made working there a challenge, however I also met my best friend John May at Ocean, and when we were both made redundant we both ended up at Acclaim together.
At Acclaim the whole setup was brilliant, Darren and Jason Falcus were amazing people to work for (and still are), they are very good development people.
What is the funniest thing and most frustrating thing that happened to you at Ocean and Acclaim?
At Acclaim there are far too many funny things to mention, and most of them not printable!! Ocean was not a happy time.
What is the favourite music you have worked on during your time at Ocean and Acclaim?
The Shadow Man score. Its some of the best work I have ever done, it won an Award which I am really pleased about, and I worked on every single piece of audio in that game include all of the speech including all the language versions. (months of hand editing the special effects into the deadside dialog). It took effort but I think it shows, and the soundtrack still sells today.
I understand you have worked on many formats what was the easiest to create music and what was the most complex?
All games are different but each one tells me the score it requires, I just need to look at it for a while and I hear the score in my head.
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?
Read the above reply the answer is the same.
Can you please educate us with the process you go through in creating music for a game?
No in a paragraph no. But I’ll summarize. I look at the game, I play it A LOT, and then I discuss the score with the other people involved in making creative decisions about the work, and then I write the music, and then we test it with the game, review it between ourselves, and then approve it, if it works.
What would you advise be to somebody trying to get into the game sound industry?
First of all you need to be extremely good at writing music or creating sound effects, sound effects is the easier route in, as composition is very competitive. You also need to play games everyday and listen to them and understand them and what the composer has achieved. You also need to dedicate your whole life to it, you won’t be able to bring up children if you want to really be good at the work, but good and successful are not the same thing, I know a lot of successful composers who write terrible music.
What inspired you to release Shadow Man cd?
I am the moderator on facebook of a Shadow Man fan group, it was there wish to be able to buy the score in a Remastered format, so I got in touch with Valiant Entertainment who hold the copyright and made a deal with them to regain my ownership rights of the score, and then I released a soundtrack album that was originally created in 1999 to go out with the game (which didn’t happen), and then I remastered ALL of the original score along with some unreleased material then made it available on BANDCAMP.
Do you plan anymore albums in the near future?
I release music on BANDCAMP every year, either from the games I am working on for Ninja Kiwi, or my own material some of which is inspired by my previous game work.
Tell us what your current working on?
I have just finished working on a score for Ninja Kiwi’s Mobile release of Bloons Super Monkey 2. My next score which I’ll start work on in April is also for Ninja Kiwi, but I cannot tell you for what game at this time.
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?
One thing about the game industry is that its in a constant state of evolution, we are almost back to the 80’s and 90’s again with a lot of games being made by indie devs working in the bedrooms again, I think with the amount of tools available for free now, including game engines then putting together a game is not as hard as it once was, which is a good and bad thing. From an audio point of view, the industry has far too many composers who think that just because they can do a tune in Albion then they can write for games, and that just isn’t the case, anyone can throw paint on a canvas but does that make them a fine artist? No. One of the problems is that development companies often make decisions on who they hire by the amount of money they have to spend, they go for the cheapest option, rather than the best option. But I do think quality wins out in the end, and hopefully this current trend of composers will go and do jobs more suited to their skills and we’ll end up with a smaller but better collection of composers work in our industry.
Here are some questions about retro games:
My favourite computer was my Amiga and my favourite console the Megadrive do you have a favourite?
Yes. C64 for computer, and Nintendo Gamecube for Console (though I have owned all consoles at one point or another)
What is your favourite retro game?
That’s easy! Wizball on the C64
Do you still game on the current consoles if so whats your favourite game?
Whats the worst game you have ever played?
Oh dear, I better not say as it was made by friends of mine. LOL
Finally what game or feature would you like to see on Retrogamesmaster in the future?
I’d like you to do a review of Shadow Man, the PC version (though you can also do the others as well, as they would all get very different scores!), its recently been re-released on STEAM and GOG.com and is also weirdly now available on OSX even though it was never ported to the Mac 🙂