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Interview with Allister Brimble© Neil Carr, 2001
Allister Brimble a musician i recall well from the days of the c64. However i was suprised to hear than he wasn't has active as i thought. He came into his own on the Amiga and to this very day still composes music for the Gaming industry.
What other composers did you like?
Rob Hubbard, David Whittaker, Martin Galway, Fred Gray, Ben Daglish, Jeroen Tel.
What other sids are amongst your favourites?
Flash Gordon, Gery The Germ, Parallax, Green Beret, Glider Rider, Mutants and Kettle.
What sid of your own are you most pleased with?
I was really an Amiga man and just got in on the C64 scene at the end of it’s life. I didn’t really do anything great on it, but the best is probably “Seymour goes to Hollywood”.
After your refusal at Elite, would you have ever guessed that you would ever make it as a musician for the software industry?
Hmm, how did you know about that ?! I sent them a really dodgy demo made on Ubiks music which was basically a rip off of Rob Hubbard “War” Title tune. I was very young then a didn’t really have the skill to compose anything truly original. The letter I receive back was actually quite possitive and said I showed promise and should keep trying. I pretty much gave up with the C64 at that point. I knew I had to get much better and really started to compose again on the Amiga.
Why did you start writing music on computers?
I just knew the only things I could do were program and play music. Putting these two together was the obvious choice, but it took me many years until I wrote anything good !
I really decided to write music after I heard David Whittakers “Glider Rider” tune on the Spectrum 128K. I still think it’s great to this day.
What were your likes/dislikes regarding the sid chip?
I liked everything about it. I especially liked the way you could use hard sync and ring modulation to create really unusual effects.
The editor that Rob Hubbard used for his music seems to be mentioned quite a lot, do you think if you had his editor that this may have helped you earlier in your career?
No, because I was too young then.
Which editor did you use on the c64 and what was itТs positives and negatives?
Later on in the 90Тs I used my own editor written by Micahel Delaney. This was every bit as good as Robs editor. For me it was possitive in every way. You could do anything you wanted for ADSRТs, drum tables, vibratoТs, filters etc. It was very flexible. ItТs a shame I never got to write anything really good on it, but thatТs because all the C64 games I worked on were small budget games for Codemasters.
Before this driver, I used Wally Bebens driver (with his permissin). You'll probably notice that my earlier SIDS use this.
So. How eventually did Allistair Brimble make the break through into the games music industry?
After some success writing Amiga music for the PD company, 17 bit where I made many conversions of Rob Hubbard music I sent a demo to Codemasters. Tim Miller was very impressed with the Aegis Sonix demo's and decided to use me for a game called "Four Soccer Sims", which was released a few years later as "Italia 1990".
17 bit software also turned into Team 17 Ltd for which I wrote the music to Alienbreed, Project X, Superfrog etc.
What formats have you worked on, and which of these formats were your favourites and least favourite?
C64, Amiga, Atari ST, Spectrum 128K, Amstrad, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Megadriver, SNES, PC, CD32, Gamegear, Jaguar, PSX.
Out of these my favourites are the Amiga & C64. I also like the Gameboy because most of my work these days in for that
How do you feel the music industry has changed since the early days of the c64?
In the old days you could rip off any old tune and get away with it. Today, that's impossible and everything must be original unless you pay for the rights. The other big difference is the amount you get payed for a project. On the C64 is was something like £250.00 (GBP) but today you can get more like £10000.00 for a game with 10 tunes and sound effects. You do have to put in a lot more work though !
You are now a free-lance musician. What in your opinion are the possitives and negatives compairing to being in-house?
1. You get to stay in bed longer !
2. You are your own boss
1. You have little or no control over how the music/sfx are implemented by the programmer. Sometimes they completely spoil your work by putting the sounds in wrongly. 2. You don't really feel like you're part of the project and sometimes it's very hard to get inspiration for something you're not 100% involved with.
Have you ever considered re-arranging your old work with a more modern sound?
Yes, I have already done this. Visit www.mp3.com/AllisterBrimble and you will be able to download some remixes. I also made a CD called Sounds Digital with some Amiga mixes on and another called Bang Tick Tick. I have never remixed any of my C64 tracks because they were not really as good as the famous C64 musicians.
What was the last project you worked on, and what are you working on now?
The last big project I can mention is Driver 2 for the playstation. The others are small gameboy titles. Right now I'm working on around 15 gameboy advance projects and also a sequel to Jimmy Whites Snooker 2 on the PC.
If there was a tune that you wish you could claim as your own what would it be, and why?
Martin Galways Parallax title tune because it was just so original and so wierd. It was very different to anything else, especially because of the instruments Martin managed to make. I loved the sound with the vibrato on that gradually slowed down !
During your many years as a musician have you ever been unfairly treated by a software company?
Yes, a few times. For "Hunt for red Octobed" on the Amiga & C64, the games were published but I was not payed. I had to take them to court before I received anything at all. A programmer copied my music from The Amiga to the C64 but the conversion was quite poor. More recently, a powerboat game was released on the Dreamcast with my music included. I hadn't been payed for this either.
What single aspect do you credit to your success?
Having a good musical ear and trying very hard ! (ok that's two !)
Arrangers to this very day are re-arranging old sid music with modern instruments, how surprising is this to you, and what are your thoughts on this?
Actually, for nostalgic purposes I prefer to keep most of the original C64 instruments and just replace the drums & arpeggios. I did this on my lightforce remix which you can hear at www.mp3.com/AllisterBrimble Some of the other remixes I hear do not bring back memories of the C64.
Did you ever release a piece of music to a software house that you knew was sub-standard?
Not really. I always try hard. However, some of the Codemasters tunes were quite short and I should have made them much longer !
How did you feel when you wrote a great tune, only to find the game was poor?
It is obviously quite dissapointing when you've put all that work in. The worse examples of this are on the gameboy. Many of the GB games I write music for are terrible and yet the music driver sounds great (C64 type sounds!). You can hear my GB tunes at www.gameboyaudio.com btw.
Lastly. What would you like to say to the c64 scene?
The early C64 musicians set the standard by which others such as myself had to follow. Without C64 music I would not be doing the same job !
So it seems that even today free-lance musicians can still have problems with payments. Is this a continuing problem i wonder. Well in true Remix64 fashion i'll be following this subject up. Expect to see an article in the near future reagrding this.
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