Like all things there is a beginning and my musical journey started when I was a child with the arrival of a free-standing electronic organ. It had 4 note polyphonic capability which was adequate for 3 fingered chords and a one figured melodies. It was nothing special but enough to get me hooked and I began to teach myself to play and compose.
The next milestone on my journey, and a slightly unusual one, was the arrival of my first computer, a Commodore 64. Apart from the games its draw to me was programming. Initially this involved keying in long listings from magazines which resulted in a playable game, some with sound effects and soundtracks. It didn’t take long for me to wonder how this device could make all these wonderful sounds and I soon discovered the SID 6581 chip. After learning machine code and hardware techniques like interrupts, I began creating my own soundtracks for games that I would never finish. I was now able to write music (in a fashion)!
My very first instrument was a Yamaha PSS-270 which I received for one of my birthdays. At the time I was blown away but the variety and richness of the sounds that came from this little portable keyboard. I would happily compose pieces on this keyboard then attempt to recreate them in machine code on the Commodore 64. I rarely completed these soundtracks, but many of these tunes continue to exist in my head today; some I have begun to arrange and release (Oriental Dream being the first).
With the exclusion of soundtracks composed for the Commodore 64, the very first time I pulled together a complete track was during my GCSE music at college as a vocational subject during the first year of A ‘levels. There I had access to a Yamaha 4 track tape recorder (MT50) and various synthesizers. Using a technique called bouncing audio, I produced a 6-track soundtrack called Phoenix based on a Commodore 64 game I was writing at the time. I also included some SID sounds to create a wind whoosh type of effect on one of the tracks (bonus marks were awarded for the Basic program I submitted with the track). I also made a 3-track recording named the Restless Sea. Both were submitted as course work for my GCSE. Some 8-10 years later I discovered these tracks were being played to students. One was my younger sister that proudly announced that the author was her brother. I have unfortunately lost the original recordings but will one day re-arrange them as those tunes still rattle around in my head.
The next few years nothing much really happened until I headed to university and purchased a new full-sized keyboard (Yamaha PSR-300). A year later I purchased a second-hand Amiga A500 which came with a collection of discs, one of which contained a program called Pro-Tracker 2. That was my introduction to the tracking scene and I soon began creating ‘Mods’. With the purchase of a sampler called Stereo Master, I was soon recording sounds from my PSR-200 and various other sources into the Amiga to compliment my compositions. There was certainly an art in making reasonable sounding tracks with 4 channels of 8-bit samples and a limit of 330k bytes on my system, but it was the beginning of my music production.
With mixed results and some frustration with the limited resources of the Amiga, in 1997 I switched to the PC and discovered the SoundBlaster card and an awesome piece of DOS software called Scream Tracker. This was Protracker on overdrive and what seemed liked unlimited resources at the time, enabled me to compose pieces more inline with what was rattling around in my head.