An Interview with Richard Joseph
What other c64 composers did you like?
Martin Galway is still my favourite even now. Although Rob's was technically groundbreaking there's more emotion in Martin's stuff. Very musical.
What non Richard Joseph sids did you like?
Knucklebusters - Rob H
Martin Galway - Wizball (awesome music AND fx. The whole soundtrack is brilliant)
What tune that you created were you most pleased with?
It was an ending section for Antiriad that I decided to change to the piece you hear now. It was abstract and surreal and I felt that the reviewers and gamers alike would hate it. But I still love it. Also, there was a collection of great tunes written for a game called 'Monster Museum' which was never released. Annoying really, I was just starting to get good when the Amiga came along and we all had to change or lose our jobs.....
What were your likes/dislikes about the sid chip?
I hated the fact that the filter was changed a number of times throughout various production runs of the hardware. This meant that we couldn't really use it at all.
You created music for some of the best games on the c64, including Barbarian 1&2, Defender Of The Crown, Antiriad. How pleasing for you personally was it for you to be associated with these fine titles?
I felt honoured. After the 64 I went on to work on very many top titles and I still feel honoured to work on them even now.
You worked mainly at the now no longer Palace software, could you explain that period to our readers?
It was a very exciting time. We all knew we were doing something special and there was a real concentration of great talent. There were only a few games developers in those days and it was very cool to work for indie houses like Palace and System 3. A lot of very high up names in the current games industry came from those studios originally. Palace was a part of the film company that made Evil Dead and Absolute Beginners so the emphasis was on cinematic games from the start. Palace liked getting publicity and one stunt was to feature Page 3 girl Maria Whitaker as the Princess in Barbarian. I remember the uproar it all created in the tabloids. Brilliant. The Barbarian himself was of course a yet to be discovered Wolf out of Gladiators.
Why did you start writing c64 music?
It was the flagship format for the first game I did for Palace, Cauldron II. Out of the three we working on- Spectrum and Amstrad being the others- the C64 was by far the best to originate a soundtrack on. I never used it for anything but games work, but then the games stuff used to take up all of my time anyway.
How did you become involved in the games industry?
I had spent many years working in the pop music industry and was writing for mainstream entertainment when I answered an advertisement in Melody Maker (sadly no longer with us) put in by Palace who were looking for a composer to work in games. Nothing unusual about that, but this was 1986 of course and there weren't very many computer musicians around at that time. I'd just spent a year composing about 100 tunes on a Yamaha CX5 music computer (including the 'famous' Robocod one), and had tinkered with a Spectrum so it wasn't that hard to convince Palace.
What are your thoughts on your music being re-created using modern sounds?
I’m always interested to hear other people’s interpretations but I don't believe that any of these, or remixes of other's stuff is neccessarily 'better' or 'improved' just because more modern sounds are used. I think ultimately it will be the original c64 renditions that go down in history whatever remixes exist.
Have you heard any of these remixes/covers that has impressed you?
Well they all have to some degree. I just like the fact that people are enjoying doing them, although I do wonder why- my own stuff doesn't exactly fit into the mainstream of remixable soundtracks being largely orchestral.
Is there a tune, you wished you could have worked more on?
I only had a short time to do Cauldron II. There is a longer version but sadly it didn’t get finished quickly enough to make it to the game. I had just two weeks from booting up the c64 for the first time to delivering a finished tune and 20 sound effects.
Probably your most remembered tunes were for Defender Of The Crown and Antiriad. Would you agree with this, and what can you tell our readers about these two sids?
Antiriad was the second soundtrack after Cauldron II. I took the tune from something I'd written a year or so earlier on midi instruments and stuck a new bit on the end. As I said in another answer there was an alternative part B for Antiriad that never made it, and I still listen to it to this day and wonder what might have been.
Defender Of The Crown was more remote for me, as Cinemaware who developed it were based in the States. It was weird working that way but I really enjoyed it- the game itself is brilliant fun.
What other formats have you worked on, and what was your preference/least preferred?
- Amstrad 464
- Atari ST
- Sega Megadrive
- Playstation 2
Favourite was Amiga. Bitmap Brothers, Sensible Software, those were cool times.
Least favourite was Megadrive. One of the most interesting moments was listening to Rob Hubbard's Megadrive conversion of my Robocod tunes!
So I see you are still involved in the game music industry with Audio Interactive. Do you still write music for games, or do you follow a different lead now?
I am more involved with the production of a game’s audio. There is so much material needed nowadays that I prefer to leave the specialized work, like writing Orchestral music for instance to experts in those particular fields. I did write 11 tunes for a Lego game last year but as a rule I don’t write as much. Probably more for myself in fact.
I've been working on an orchestral arrangement of Barbarian in the style of Ennio Morriconi, which is what I had aimed for in the c64 version, and its turned out very well. If all goes well it could appear on a future Back In Time CD.
What can you tell our readers about Audio Interactive?
We do everything audio for games. We compose and record music, both linear and interactive. We design and implement sound effects. We do dialogue production, recording and processing. It sounds like a big industry but its not really. Its just the same as it was in c64 days but on a larger scale. If anything there was more pressure in those days, as every single sound was critical. These days we have the luxury of being able to use sampled sounds which makes the job an absolute doddle compared to the old times.
If there was a tune that you wished you could as your own, what would it be and why?
Probably Rob's Knucklebusters. The tune maintains the listeners interest for what, thirteen minutes? That's no mean achievement.
What are your fondest memories of the c64?
The day I booted it up for the first time, after bringing it back from Palace, and playing Beach Head and Impossible Mission with my girlfriend's kids (work it out.... yes I am very old!).
What has been your latest project?
The latest project is Republic: The Revolution for Elixir Studios. The sound has lots to do including conveying the various atmospheres of a city at different times of day and night, with ever-changing orchestral /industrial film music to suit each action within the game.
Your music on the c64 was generally more slanted towards the orchestral side rather than heavy drums and baselines. Was this due to the games you made music for or was this your style?
This actually was quite a problem for me, with the SID only having very limited resources for recreating real instruments. Most of the early games I worked on needed the kind of ambitious soundtrack we are creating now.
What did you do after leaving Palace software?
I went freelance and signed up to do games for The Bitmap Brothers, Sensible Software and Millennium. In 1995 I formed Audio Interactive and we picked up companies like Sony and EA. Last year we won a BAFTA Interactive award for best sound on Theme Park World. Another of our soundtracks, Codemasters' Cannon Fodder (GBC) was nominated for the same award.
How would you best prefer to be remembered?
For the early stuff - not only the c64 but the Amiga soundtracks I did for Sensible and the Bitmaps. Nowadays I would say that Theme Park World is probably the best but I have higher hopes for Republic...
Have you ever considered Remixing or re-arranging some of your old c64 sids into modern sounds?
Yes, the Barbarian thing. Otherwise no, I like them the way they are.
How did you get your inspiration for the music for Defender Of the Crown?
I don't think anything was an inspiration for DOTC. Palace just told me that another company wanted to use me and that there was some tie-in for them. In a lot of ways it was good to work on something, for a change, that wasn't 'Palace' in feel.
What does the future hold for you and your music?
I have no idea to be honest. There is a whole CD of music and mayhem from the ill-fated Sensible game Sex n Drugs n Rock n Roll that we are trying to place with a record company right now. It's quite wonderful really! I just don't want it put out as an mp3 yet- we must have spent nearly six years on it from start to finish and I want to get something out of it. As for the future, Jon Hare (ex Sensible) and I are creating a sequel to the SDRR CD but there is little pressure on us to complete it and neither of us have much time. If SDRR was a success then things would be different obviously.
Lastly, what would you like to say to the c64 community?
I would like to say that it's brilliant that there's a community at all. After the c64 disappeared into commercial history and the industry was pushing forward I just thought that everyone’s pioneering work would simply be forgotten. Not so! The appreciation of retro games and the people who made them is wonderful, as is the continued use of the machine and emulators, with remixes and CDs... wonderful.
Richard always followed the orchestral side of music.. Which with 3 voices was as richard explained was very difficult. However he came out of it with flying colours, creating some of the most ambitous music on the c64. Palace software was a small player in the games market, but didn't they produce some fantastic games and who could forget the publicity campain for Barbarian where they pictured Maria Whittaker scantily clad. This caused a real stir amongst the press. This however must have been exactly what Palace had wanted. The Barbarian soundtrack was exceptionally fitting for the game too. Who could forget the move in Barbarian where the player could spin around and chop an enemies head right off in full gore. Wikid!!!