CZ: How did you get started producing music on the C64 Martin?
Martin: In 1983 I started producing music on the BBC micro since that's what they had at school. Everyone in school derided the C64 because it only had 8K of ROM, versus the 32K in the BBC which made the BBC easier to get non-game applications running. (Soon as you want to write a decent game the ROM issue disappears and you need all the RAM and fancy chips you can get, but that was never realised by us schoolkids.) So in March of 1984 I was doing the audio for this BBC Pac-Man rip-off that my schoolfriend was programming, and since he was too shy to try and sell it (he often did complete games over a period of weeks and then formatted the floppy when he was finished!) we agreed that if I could sell it we would split the money. I looked on the back cover of "Personal Computer Weekly" (anyone remember that?) and there was an Ocean ad for Kong I think. Since they were in Manchester, the Mecca of game development of course, I gave them a call. That's the only reason I got connected with Ocean. Once we got to Ocean, they bought the game easy enough, and so like any salesman I delved into my pocket for the number #2 product. I played my BBC tunes on their system there, and they liked 'em, but David Collier said (in his thick Lancashire accent) "there's no market for 't BBC 'round 'ere lad, what d'yer know about the Commodore 64?" I said I didn't know much, but I could try, so they loaned me (without any contracts) a complete CBM 64 assembly language development system to take home and mess with. They [Ocean] also gave me the current source code of their music program which came from another guy, it was dreadful! I could tell even without being familiar with the '64, but anyhow used it on the Daley Thompson's Decathlon loading music which was my first product with them, 'cos they needed it sharpish. I continued to wrestle with the '64 and its loopy disc drive system (8K of ROM remember), and eventually was able to start to shape my audio routine, which got its first real outing on Kong Strikes Back.
CZ: What tune did you find the most difficult to produce and which one took the longest to do?
Martin: The most difficult adaption of a piece of music from a game was the Rastan Saga music, that took a while to get all fitted into three channels. I also had to do "Who's Jonny?" by El DeBarge for the "Short Circuit" game, that took 4 weeks to program in with all those slides and copies of what the record does, I regarded that as quite an achievement since it was kind of a neat tune. The most complex original tune I did was the "Times Of Lore" title tune, it took 20 days just to do the guitar solos! It has a random number generator which selects different guitar solos, but I didn't realise that people wouldn't leave it looping for its 11-minute duration so the work all got sort of wasted.
CZ: out of all the tunes you produced, which one is your favourite and which one were you the least happy with?
Martin: My favourite is Wizball's overall suite of music, although I wish I made the title music longer (had to get onto the next thing). I am least happy with... hmmmm.... I would have to say I was least "set on fire" by the title music on "Green Beret." I didn't really know what to come up with for that one once the intro was over with. ZZAP! rightly termed it "Galway on 45" which was cutting, but fitting.
CZ: Was there any specific game you would have REALLY liked to do the music for but didn't?
Martin: Commando and Outrun come to mind...
CZ: Who were your main influences when it came to composing music?
Martin: Can you guess? Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream were the big guys for overall arranging style, but I looked all over for melodic cues, from Depeche Mode to Thomas Dolby to Cocteau Twins. I'm still a big fan of all those folks although I am less affected by what they're doing these days (except Thomas Dolby, whose last album "Astronauts & Heretics" is a truly inspiring piece of work - I wish he would quit all this interactive gimmickry and sit down and do another album!). I like guitar playing, from Dave Gilmour, Ry Cooder and Brian May electric stuff to simple acoustic stuff like Arno Guthrie.
CZ: Who personally was your favourite musician on the C64 and why?
Martin: There weren't many to choose from, I must say. I would have to say Rob Hubbard ('cos he works at EA too and will kick me in the butt if I say otherwise... - just kidding), he was tops, followed by Fred Gray, whose bouncy melodies had a cool feel to them.
CZ: How did you get involved with using sampled sounds?
Martin: I saw some utilities from the USA and picked them apart. Never would I claim to have invented that technique, I just got it published first. In fact, I couldn't really figure out where they got the sample data, just that they were wiggling the volume register, so I tried to make up my own drum sample sounds in realtime - which is the flatulence stuff that shipped in "Arkanoid".
CZ: The Slap Fight music was done in a different style to your
normal tunes. Was the music converted from the coin-op?
Martin: I didn't have much memory space, I believe around 5 or 6K, so I was delighted to copy the arcade game exactly, which had very simple sound! That was my most accurate conversion.
CZ: I noticed you used a tune from the "Neverending Story"
soundtrack as the title theme
for "Helicopter Jagd". Was this because it didn't get used in the "Neverending Story" game or did you just like the soundtrack?
Martin: The latter; in fact, I was still freelancing when I worked on that music first in 1984, and I just said to Tony Pomfret "what do you want for the music?" to which he replied "I want the B-side from the Limahl single "Neverending Story" I bought the other day." At no time were we thinking Ocean would publish a "Neverending Story" game, it was very much just a cool tune to do. (It was a Georgio Moroder filler tune, whose style I had a lot of respect for as a producer). It was the first tune I did pulse-width sweeps on, but didn't get released 'til after a bunch of other games had come out I think. The sound blew everyone away.
CZ: Tell us a bit about the Parallax music. The main theme was
an EPIC production and was quite unusual. Is there a story behind that?
Martin: It was 11 minutes long, certainly my longest at the time. I took my development gear home to work on it for a week or two. I just said to myself "OK, it's going to be this mega-tune, so the intro has to be mega". The intro took up two-thirds of the tune! I actually got bored with it, and stuck that silly melody on the end which doesn't really match. Going back I would have made it less melodic. I wanted to reflect the gigantic visual proportions represented by the parallax effect in the game so that's why it has an "epic" feel.
CZ: What sort of 'real' music do you listen to nowadays?
Martin: The list is rather long, I'm listening to "Oasis" while I type this. In the car I have a collection of trad jazz CD's I got while visiting New Orleans recently. Last two CDs I bought are the 2nd "Ace Of Base" album and "Post" by Bjork. Other artists, besided classical music, include Stevie Wonder, Thomas Dolby, Cocteau Twins, Suzanne Vega, I've got dozens of others I can't remember right now. (They're all sitting in my CD rack sobbing for not getting their 15 seconds of fame).
CZ: What have you been doing since you left the C64 scene?
Martin: Working on the IBM PC and SNES for Origin Systems.
CZ: Do you still have a working C64?
Martin: I have a C128D and a C128/1541. I also have an A1000 w/512KB and external drive, and a 1040STF with b/w monitor, modified to run the Ocean development system of the time. All 240V.
CZ: Have you produced any music on any other different machines or consoles? If so, what?
Martin: I worked up a nice driver on the SNES in '93 but the development effort is larger on that system to get anything really nice sounding, so unfortunately with the limited time and funds the company was allowing, I was only able to hear it "tick over" so to speak. I really should try to record those tunes for posterity. I also worked up some nice music on the NES and Game Boy on a couple of games. I have been directing audio development for a while, you don't really hear that directly. I also did a lot of research into digital audio for the company in the early 90's.
CZ: I heard a rumour that Dave Collier was supposed to write International Karate for System 3, but scarped to Imagine to write Yie-Ar Kung Fu. Is this true or toast?
Martin: Out of those two options, I think it's toast. He'd been at Ocean for quite a while when the Konami game came along.
CZ: What are your best and worst memories about the C64?
Martin: Best memory is seeing my name on the cover of ZZAP! magazine when I was interviewed once. I bought three copies from the newsagents! (No idea why now. I have lost them all since.) Worst memory is that damn filter! I wish they were able to fix it.
CZ: Have you got a message to all the people who enjoy your music?
Martin: Same one I said to another reporter on this subject, only that I plan to return to composing some time, perhaps putting out my own CD's, or attempting to score for TV or film.
CZ: What's it like living in the States compared to life in Britain?
Martin: Everyone talks funny, except Chris Roberts, who talks normal.
CZ: You are regarded as a LEGEND by many people still active in the C64 scene! What is you reaction to that?
Martin: Well, that's a fitting term, because I'm probably not what I'm cracked up be, just like what a legend is.
CZ: Why does sour cream have a sell-by-date ?
Martin: Because it's not what you think it is. Thay only call it sour cream. It's something else 1,000 times more disgusting (on the Knight-Wurlitzer Pseudo-Revulsion scale of disgustingdom).
CZ: Did you produce any tunes that were never released, Martin?
Martin: There aren't that many unreleased tunes. I prided myself on not accumulating a body of unused work. Only one comes to mind, we did a C64 version of the "Street Hawk" game, but it was cancelled just before it was finished because the programmer was taking so long to finish it. All the graphics & sounds were done. Because it was music from the TV show, I couldn't use it on any other games! So it as hung around in the "vaults" so to speak. But it is a nice tune and one of my favourites, actually. It will make its way out fairly soon I think.
CZ: What was it like working with the Sensi-Soft guys, do you
still keep in touch, and is there any possibility of a re-union in the future?
Martin: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I had the best feeling of sharing with those guys, it was like we had a common purpose to defeat the world together or something. I haven't been in contact with them for several years though, we sort of fell out when the partnership was breaking up. Oh yeah, there's a big possibility we'll re-unite - when Mars collides with the Earth, maybe about a week after that. (That's humour, lighten up!)
CZ: You produced some very impressive music on the Speccy too.
A particular favourite of mine was your Cobra music which sounded similar
to Arkanoid on the C64. How come?
Martin: I'm glad you spotted "Cobra" on the Spectrum, whose tune I was in love
with and HAD to use somewhere else...! I figured no-one would complain if I used it a year later on the C64. At the time I did the "Arkanoid" title tune, I was of course fiddling with digitized sound - but I, and I suspect everyone else as well, had NO CLUE what we were really doing! After the project was in the shops I gained access to some real drum samples, and I slid those into my own custom version of the tune. The one that's in the shops is kind of a collage of farts & burps, don't you think? Things were better once I got to "Game Over".
CZ: Why didn't you do the music for the C64 version of "Cobra"?
Martin: Was there even a C64 version of that? I don't remember it. That's definately a good reason why I didn't do any music for it (I can't remember it existing).
CZ: How did you feel when a really good bit of music was used
in a poor product (E.G. "Game Over" - The game played like a brick
but the music KICKED ASS!)
Martin: I felt like it was dressing up a mutton as a lamb of course! Some of those games I thought should never have been released! Don't you know Ocean gained a reputation of putting sh*t onto the market? Using the customers as toilet paper, they were. They thought thay could put CRAP out and it would still sell, "because we were OCEAN". Anyhow it bit 'em in the ass after a year or so and they actually started to pay attention to game quality. It took a while to earn back the good reputation they had originally.
CZ: Did Ocean or Imagine realise how important the music for their
games was? Did they know that some people would buy a game simply for the
music in it?
Martin: You're dead right, buddy boy. In 1986, in the depths of the sh*t-releasing phase, they got "Highlander" and "Miami Vice", both from the same out-of-house company. These guys had no idea what they were doing at the time in terms of product quality, and were delivering the games to Ocean without any sound! I had to do both games in about a week each. The tunes happened to be rather natty on each one, and the games appeared to sell well just because of the music, I remember our sales manager singing "We love you Mart, you saved our ar*e this month!" (they always go month-to-month those sales guys).
CZ: What happened with the "Ping Pong" music? The Speccy
version features an AMAZING title theme but all we got for the C64 version
was a selection of jingles.
Martin: Can't quite remember what happened with "Ping Pong". I seem to remember not having very much time to work on it. I do recall working late on it after everyone else had left, because perhaps I was going on holiday the next day or something. (Was it around September-1987?) The arcade game didn't have any music on the "press start" screen, so it would have been a natural for an original tune. Maybe everyone regarded it as a "baby game" which didn't merit much attention. CAN'T QUITE REMEMBER, sorry!
CZ: There have been some rumours in the past of an amazing Martin
Galway music editor which you used? Was there one?
Martin: No, there never was an editor to make it "easy"! It was always assembler source files, which will all come out in the wash once I get them as text to put onto the WWW. I started with some kind of really cheesy almost-BASIC Assembler software whose name I can't recall, then Ocean upgraded to "Zeus 64" by Crystal, which over a period of a year or two they squeezed every last drop of performance out of, then they started to write their own system for the C128D which would use all 128K of RAM. Then they migrated to the Atari ST, whose development was just about complete around the time I quit Ocean. I bought one of the systems and that's what I've got today.
CZ: Did you ever hear the audio Datahits tape that was released
by WHSmiths and produced by Mupados? It features funky 'stereo dance-form'
versions of Rambo, Neverending Story and Hyper Sports. If you did hear it
then what did you think?
Martin: Yes, in fact I co-operated with the guy responsible for it. His project sounded rather special when he was proposing it, but I must say the cassette he sent us rather disappointed, (There's another opportunity for humour there, bit I think I'll leave it).
CZ: Did you ever consider releasing a CD of updated synth versions
of some of your compositions - maybe similar to the Datahits idea?
Martin: I will never do rearrangements of those tunes on other instruments, the SID is what they're meant to be heard on. It would not be "updating" them to put them onto a different instrument. If you ever hear music from me on today's instruments, the tunes will be all-new (and probably a lot better).
CZ: Have you been interviewed before? If so, in what publications?
Is there a question you would like to have been asked but wasn't?
Martin: Sure I've been interviewed before, I can only remember Zzap, Commodore User and Happy Computer. I have been asked tons of questions over the Internet over the last couple of years though, it amounts to more material than had been printed before. No question comes to mind that I haven't been asked.
CZ: Who if your favourite celeb-babe at the moment? Mine is Gillian
Andersson who plays Scully in the X-Files. I don't know what it is about
her but I fancy her something ROTTEN!
Martin: I don't watch much TV, but I see a lot of films. My favourite actress is Mary Louise Parker, I think she's a great actress as well as being a babe. I can't figure out how she got passed over for the Oscar for "Boys On The Side", that was one of the finest performances I've seen. On TV it's got to be Julia Louise Dreyfus from "Seinfeld". (I suppose if their middle name is "Louise" I'm there!)
CZ: Did you do the music for "Insects In Space"? That
has alwas been a bit of a mystery.
Martin: I did do the "Insects In Space" music. I am sorry to see that most composers these days don't have access to the kind of tricks I was able to do (being a programmer), which for example allowed me to create the "buzzing bees" effect at the beginning of the tune. Too bad, eh? The other thing I'd like to say about that one was that I was a bit hard up on ideas at the time which is why it's so short; there was definately enough memory space for a longer tune. I apologise for that. That was the last music I did with Sensi, by the way.
CZ: How about the music for "Oh No!"? that was a Sensi
Martin: I didn't do the music for "Oh No!" by Sensi. I can't remember who did it, if anyone did it at all (I guess if there wasn't any music on it, you wouldn't be asking). All I can remember is that it was a low-budget game that didn't have much work put into it.
CZ: I remember reading in a scroller in a demo by Ash & Dave
about a project you were working on with Sensi ... the game was apparently
called "Touchstone" and Ash & Dave thought the music was AWESOME!
Did this project ever see the light of day, if not what about the music?
Martin: We at Sensi WERE making a medieval/magic game called "Touchstone" for Origin Systems, in 1988/9. (funny how things are connected isn't it?) I was the lead programmer, since I was sitting around doing nothing as it takes less time to do the music than the other parts of a game. But things were slow on that project because I'm not cut out to be a game programmer, and also the game kept changing platforms. It started out on a C64/assembly, migrated to Amiga/assembly (I wrote lots of code on that one), then we decided to go to IBM PC in C, like a 286-type of thing. By that time things had dragged out so much that Origin weren't interested any more! So we all decided to scrap it. But the game idea was great and I still think it could make a great title. However, I never did the music for it. Perhaps Ash & Dave were referring to "Times Of Lore", which took about a year to come out after I did the music on it, so there was plenty of time for them to audition it before it was released. Maybe they, or someone else down the line, got confused.
CZ: Finally, will we ever see (or hear!) any new C64 music by
you in the future? (Even if it's only for nostalgic or PD purposes - there
is DEFINATELY an audience for it.)
Martin: Not "new" as in "not yet composed". Only the unheard stuff that's collecting dust at the minute. Unless I win at the lottery and can do anything I want, perhaps composing on the C64 will be all I do then! It's certainly a good platform to practice getting a tune on with those 3 notes and all...