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Interview with ADAM GILMORE

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#1 Dracon OFFLINE  



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Posted Thu Dec 2, 2004 1:00 PM


I think there is no need to explain who Adam Gilmore is, especially for old atarians. This English musican created many superb game tunes for the XL/XE when it was popular in the West Europe & the US (music in "ZYBEX", "DRACONUS" or "JOCKY WILSON'S DARTS CHALLENGE", to name a few). I dare to say that only Richard Munns was able to "squash" the POKEY chip as good as Adam did later. After quite a long time of making efforts to talk with Adam, here you can see my results...

A: Adam Gimore

D: Can you write some details about yourself (age, place of living, hobbies...) ?

A: Hello, my name is Adam Gilmore, I'm 34 and live in Canterbury, UK. Hobbies include drinking beer, playing squash, guitar, keyboards and drums (just bought a Yamaha DTXpress).

D: Tell me what was your beginning in making music... Did you take a special lessons or only learn by yourself to compose music? Did you play in any band somewhere and when ?

A: I started playing music when I was about 6 - my dad had an electric organ which I used to play about with. When I was 11 I started taking trombone lessons at school (I wanted to play the trumpet but I had the longest arms so I ended up with the trombone). That lasted a year until I got a bass guitar - I started playing in rock bands with friends. Also played the scottish bagpipes for a while. I had lessons on the trombone, bass guitar and bagpipes. I've been in quite a few rock bands - Teaser (glam rock), Radial Vein (death metal), Deviant (keyboard metal), Remedy (blues/Led Zeppelin-ish rock) + a few others I can't even remember the names of.

D: How did you start out composing computer (electronic) music ?

A: I started writing computer music on a TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2 using a program called Dancing Demon which allowed you to write a mono beep track that played out thru the cassette port whilst an animated demon danced on the screen. I then got a C64 which was a bit better and started using a composition tool (I can't remember the name of it but Barry Leitch used to use it a lot) to do demos on. I got some interest from the Spectrum/C64 programmer Derek Brewster so I wrote my own player and started composing using that.

D: How you came out with your (best) tunes?
A: It's difficult to say how you come up with tunes but I usually start by getting a rhythm or chord pattern going then build upon that until it's done.

D: Well, it seems to be good technique, but I'm also curious whether you tried to compose music while keeping in mind game's genre? I mean, for example, when you compose music for NINJA COMMANDO you tried to use some oriental motives while in BLINKY's SCARY SCHOOL there is a cool ghostly mood... :)

A: Yeah - most of the time I knew what the game was about - action, racing etc... - which made it fairly easy to develop a theme. Sometimes, especially on budget games, the music had to be produced very quickly and I didn't even get a title.

D: How did your music workshop looks like (in 8-bits' times) ? I mean what instruments did you use to compose and play your tunes that were later used in computer games ?

A: It was a simple setup - a Casio keyboard - can't remember the model but it was one of the ones with "bossa nova auto accompaniment" and it played "The Girl from Ipanema" when you clicked the demo button - nice!!. When I'd earned some money I bought a Casio CZ-101 and a Yamaha RX-17 drum machine. Later on I got a Kawai K1 (full size keys). Most of the tunes went straight from a keyboard into hex codes in the player - I didn't sequence the entire track first.

D: So did you need to write them down to the paper and type in on C64/Atari, right? It's quite a long way.... :)

A: Most of the music I wrote was for the C64 first, then ported to the Atari. With the original track I would play a part on my keyboard and then type it in directly as hex codes. This was tricky at the start but you soon got used to it. E.g. 0x4c, 0x04, 0x01, 0x4e, 0x02, 0x01, 0x4f, 0x02, 0x01

D: Did you store some of your games songs in original form e.g. as .MID files ? Have you had them even nowadays ?

A: Yeah - i've got the original 6502 assembler source files on 5 1/4 inch disks. The music was embedded in the assembler as .data statements, so no need for midi files.

D: Talking about creating games music, I'd like to ask: how long does it take to do all soundtrack for one game and was it very hard for you (I also mean sometimes one can't think up the idea for some music... So what can help in such situation ?) ?

A: It used to take anytime between 1 day and 3-4 days depending on the number of tunes and sound effects required (also the fee affected the amount of time spent ). Sometimes it was difficult to come up with tunes that weren't similar to ones you'd done previously. It sometimes helped to program new sounds (like low-pass filtered drums used in Draconus) that would inspire a new tune.

D: Were you influenced by someone else when writing music sometimes or did it all just goes out of your head ? ;)

A: My main influences on the C64 were most definitely Rob Hubbard and David Whittaker - Rob for the arrangements and David for the rhythms. Non-64 influences were bands like Tangerine Dream, JMJ and Can though I was into a lot of metal bands like Slayer at the time. I don't think music ever just comes out of your head, you're always ripping someone off.

D: I read some interviews with other famous retro musicans e.g. David Whittaker or Rob Hubbard and I get to know they were quite often ripped off by some software firms... And it seems to me you also were cheated in such way. So what do you think, what was the main problem about it? Were the big companies too greedy ? :o
A: I worked for a few small companies and a couple of big ones and I must say I never got ripped off as much as I always got paid. I was only 15-21 and a student at the time so the money was very good. I suppose if you had a family to support the money wasn't too good.

D: By the way: were you in touch with some musicans like these two men I mentioned above ? Did you exchange experiences with other musicans in order to improve own skills ?

A: I met Rob Hubbard once - a mutual friend took me round to his house in Newcastle - I was starstruck.

D: Rob is known as very friendly person... So, did you chat with him for a while?

A: I think so, I can't remember much - I was impressed by the number of different computers in his studio tho'

D: I know you were working as freelancer only. Is it only due to fact that you were learning at university during that time ?? Or is it safier for a game composer like you anyhow ?

A: Yeah - I was a student at the time so it was perfect as a part-time job. In the late 90's I took a job at Codemasters as a producer. During that time I met the in-house musician - it looked like a great job - all that equipment and time to work on BIG compositions. I couldn't do it now tho' - I think the current game musicians are a lot more talented than I am/was.

D: Maybe, but your 8-bit tunes still sounds very nice!!

A: In a simple way.

D: I came from Atari scene so I'm mostly interested what do you think about Atari XL/XE computer. Your Atari music is still much appreciated here!!! Unfortunately you did few tunes for Atari (in comparison with

A: The Atari was a great machine for music - 4 channels!!! And if you mixed 2 of the channels together you got great bass sounds. It had a much sharper sound than the C64 which was great for punchy tunes but lacked the warmth of the SID chip.

D: So, you suggest both POKEY and SID are equally good chips, right ?

A: Both good chips but in different ways - now if you had a chip with POKEY punch and SID filters....

D: Have you heard some digitised atari tunes (mixed with samples), done by e.g. Polish musicans like Tomasz Liebich ???

A: I haven't heard them but I will download and check them out...

D: ...and what do you think after listening ? ;)

A: Nice - the emulator sounds really good.

D: I definitely prefer your Atari tunes to C-64 equivalents. :) Which version always come out first - Atari or C-64 ? And was it hard to convert music between these two systems ? In my opinion, your Atari music sounds more clearly, louder and just nicer than C-64. :)

A: As far as I remember all of my Atari music was ported from the C64 - it was all Zeppelin games and they did the C64 versions first. They weren't hard to port as I wrote the Atari player and it used the same hex format as the C64 player so it was just a case of retyping it and tweeking the sound programs.

D: Well, to make Atari's music-player full working, you needed an original hardware, I suppose. :) So, what Atari 8-bit model did you use in the past???

A: I had an Atari 800xl - i think i borrowed it from Brian Jobling - don't know where it is now tho :(

D: And I think your best game music is definitely in "DRACONUS" ! Even now I feel shiver when listening to that piece of music. How did you manage to compose such perfectly fitting game soundtrack ???

A: I liked Draconus, but that music was originally written for an Activision game called Corporation. Kevin Franklin (the Draconus developer) heard it and wanted it in his game so he had it I had to write a new tune for Corporation - which I think turned out well. The key to Draconus was the amount of time I spent trying to get filter programs like Rob Hubbards.

D: There have been released quite many atari scene demos with your music (ripped from games ;) ) and remixes of your musi are still being made. For example, listen to this cool remix: michal_baner-draconus_rmx.mp3. :) What do you think about such signs of popularity ? :)

A: I'm flattered.

D: By the way: what are your impressions after being at "BACK IN TIME" party in 2002 year that took place in London ?

A: It's amazing the amount of people involved in the retro scene - I still want to remix some of my stuff - I need to make the time.

D: Good luck!!!

A: Thanks

D: I would also like to know what you think about 8-bit demoscene (C64 and Atari) - do you like its productions and which one(s) ?

A: I haven't seen any - can you mail me a link?

D: I'm a bit surprised at your response because I saw your face on one of the demoscene sites for C64 users - you have been under "GIZMO" nickname (is it your informal scene nickname or what?) ;))

A: Gizmo is a name I got when I was at school and everyone knew me by that name until i moved to college in London - then it was Adam - only my friends from Newcastle know me as Gizmo (or Giz).

D: Let's back to your request - I can give some examples, of course, so take a look at "NUMEN" demo for Atari 8-bit. :) There is also its webpage where you can download it and learn how to run it.

A: The demo is excellent!!! Not suprising it won. I particularly like the wireframe dancer - also, did X-Ray do game music at all? The soundtrack is superb - especially the drum sounds.

D: Yes, X-Ray do some game music as well. :) Let's back to your works... Are you able to count how many tunes you have composed (for all computers) ? :)

A: I haven't got a clue - probably about 50 tunes for C64, 10 Atari 8-bit, 10 Amiga/ST (soundtracker) and 20 for PC.

D: By the way, where your Amiga MODules can be found? Is there any music archive with them?

A: I haven't got a clue - I don't think I've even got the disks with the mod files on anymore :(

D: Tell me what's your favourite... :

- 8-bit tune (yours and somebody's else)

A: Mine - Draconus or Afterburner (even tho' it was a port of the arcade music)
Others - Bump, Set, Spike (Rob H) ; - Thing on a Spring (Rob H)

D: game (all-time)
A: Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC)

D: game, that you were involved in
A: Zybex (Zeppelin)

D: music band and/or singer
'Alice in Chains' band

D: movie
A: Day of the Dead (by George Romero)

D: beer (yeah!)
A: Stella Artois - tho' I used to drink Newcastle Brown Ale when I was writing tunes :(

D: Did you sometimes composed your cool tunes while being a little tipsy ? ;)

A: Only one or two.

D: I know that Brian Jobling and Mike Owens from Zeppelin Games were (or still are?) your friends. Could you say what's up with them and with Ian Copeland (he was really good game coder, by the way!) ?

A: I lost touch with the Zeppelin crowd years ago. The only person I know what he's doing is the award-winning Brian Jobling who is the CEO of the games developers Eutechnyx.

D: And what's your job nowadays ? Will you back for writing music - now probably for PC or consoles ?? There is also a brand-new market for musicans like you :arrow: mobile phones with polyphonic sound...

A: I'm an software consultant now specialising in the Microsoft.Net platform and Agile development methods Not as fun as writing music but the money's better. I still write music for myself but I don't think I could go back to writing music for mobile phones - ringtones annoy me enough!!

D: Well, but maybe you would like to do something retro in future? There are some nice music-editors for PC platform that enables you to compose Atari/C64 tunes in comfortable way:
- RASTER MUSIC TRACKER - for Atari XL/XE. Will you give a try it one day??? ;) It would be extremely cool to hear your new tunes again...

A: I will check it out.

D: I can't wait for your opinion! :)

A: Have tried RMT - it's quite tricky to work out - will need more time...

D: This whole interview is intended to be primarily published on Polish "AtariArea" website. What would you like to say to all those atarians and to conclude our interview? ;)

A: Thanks for being so interested in the music that i did back then. It's nice to know that all the work that everyone did in the 80/90's is still enjoyed. Also, it's good to see people interested in 8-bit assembler programming rather than all the C#/C++ stuff that drives me mad now :)
Adam (aka Gizmo)

D: Thank you very much for taking your time to answer. All the best!

Interview done in September 2004.

Some photos of Adam:
Posted Image
(Photo taken from composers.c64.org)

The two Adams: Adam Lorentzon (SIDplay for Win) and Adam Gilmore on the BACK IN TIME party in London, 2002:

#2 Schmutzpuppe OFFLINE  



  • 833 posts
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Posted Thu Dec 2, 2004 7:11 PM

A very good interview, thanks.
I would like to see more :wink:

#3 nights OFFLINE  


    Star Raider

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Posted Thu Dec 2, 2004 7:12 PM


#4 Lost Dragon OFFLINE  

Lost Dragon

    River Patroller

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Posted Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:17 AM

Fantastic.Stumbled across this by sheer chance and a delight to read.


Been hoping to see an interview like this in all the time i spent as a subscriber to Gamestm and Retro Gamer Magazine, but never saw it, nor did it ever appear in EDGE.So my utmost respect for it appearing on here.

#5 Heaven/TQA ONLINE  



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Posted Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:04 PM

Magic word... slayer ;) that's the reason of zybex and draconus being so riff and metal orientated...

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