Amiga PD Charityware
Amiga PD is a charityware site - if you download any disk images you are encouraged to donate to our chosen charity - Mencap - at our justgiving page.
Suggested donations are £1 per disk image download as this was the cost of obtaining a disk back in the 1990s. Thank you.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS HUELSBECK
Amigapd would like to thank Chris Huelsbeck for for taking time to answer some questions about his wonderful music for Amiga games including a unique magazine cover disk game Quik and Silva as well as his more famous commerical projects such as Great Giana Sisters and Turrican.
The majority of Chris' music can be purchased from itunes.
We would also like to thank Lifeschool again from the Lemon Amiga forum for helping with research for this interview.
This interview was completed June 2012.
How did you get involved in writing game music , was winning the computer-music competition held by a German computer magazine the spring board or were you actively creating music before this?
I had already composed the music for a game before the music competition, but without a doubt, winning the competition was a very important step in my decision to start a career in game music.
Do you enjoy playing computer games as well as writing music for them – if so which Amiga games did you enjoy playing ?
Yes, in fact in my early days I was a very dedicated gamer (my parents would say I was addicted ;) and on the Amiga I played everything from Marble Madness to Populous to Sentinel, which was one of my favorites.
Which composers inspire you?
There are many composers in many different styles that influenced and inspired me. On the electronica side there is a band called Tangerine Dream, J. M. Jarre, Vangelis and many New Wave and Italo Disco bands. On the film music side, my favorite composer is John Williams, followed by the late Jerry Goldsmith and many more like Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfmann, Hans Zimmer and John Powell.
What process do you use when creating game music – do you actually play the games or do you have a brief from the designers which describes the mood of music required?
If the game is already in a stage of development where it can be played, I play it myself of course. Or I look at graphics or concept art. Usually there is also a meeting with the producers and game designers to discuss what music is needed and where in the game it should be placed.
You have produced game music for a variety of machines, which one did you enjoy working on most and why?
One of the most challenging but fun consoles was the Sega Megadrive (Genesis in the US) with it's different sound generation options, like the 6-voice FM sound, the additional 3 Voice PSG chip and the 2 channels of sample audio that we programmed ourselves. But the machine that I loved the most was definitely the Commodore Amiga, with its 4 voice sample sound chip.
Which game project did you enjoy working on most and why?
One of the most enjoyable projects was "Jim Power" on the Amiga and other systems. They gave me a lot of freedom and it was a blast converting the music to all the different platforms. And also the recent ZombieSmash project on iPhone, which brought back the small team feeling that I enjoyed very much in the early days of my career.
You are credited with the music for Quik and Silva tell me how this game came about and whether you are still in contact with the coders of this game?
That game was special, because our company needed some money fast (quick and silver, if you get the pun) and we did this very short development (less than 2 weeks) of a small game for a disc magazine. In the end it turned out very cool, but since our company didn't want to be directly associated with the game, we invented funny pseudonyms for the credits (except mine) and they are a homage to Andrew Braybrook (a famous coder and key person at Graftgold) and Mark Coleman (a cool graphics artist for the Bitmap Brothers). In reality, they were the very same guys that founded Kaiko with me and I'm still in contact with them today..
Video of Quik and Silva
You were the musician on the Great Giana Sisters – during the games development was there any indication that Nintendo would take action against it for being too similar to Mario?
Yes, the company I worked for was threatened by Nintendo some time after the game was released. At that time it had already made quite a bit of money and our company didn't want to risk a long legal battle, so they decided to take it off the market. A follow up game with a changed graphics style was released as Hard'n Heavy, but it failed to get the same attraction with the audiences.
What hardware and software did you use to create music on the Amiga?
I had a self-build hardware sampler and midi interface and created my own music software, called TFMX, which had a special scripting language called Sound Macros that could do some cool tricks with the audio. For the midi stuff I used mostly Music-X.
Your game music tracks are available on itunes and as audio CDs, which tunes are proving to be the most popular?
First and foremost, there is the incredible Symphonic Shades Album, which is sold out as a real CD, but lives on in iTunes and the other online shops. And then there's of course the Turrican Soundtrack Album, which still gets a fair amount of buyers. But even my newer releases like the R-Type EP or Zombie Smash are received well and are selling nicely, though I'm not getting rich with it.
A lot of games seem to get lost to the public as the rights get bought up by different companies resulting in confusion in terms of who actually owns the copyrights to the game. How do you manage to keep the rights to your music and are there any tunes you wrote which are owned by a software house preventing you from making them available on itunes or your website?
From a very early point in my career, I had this wish and feeling that I should be selling music albums directly to my fans, so I asked every company I worked or did projects for always to retain this right outside of the games, which was granted in most cases and that enabled me to sell my music later on in album form.
You received a lifetime achievement award by the Game Audio Network Guild in 2011, was this the highlight of your career so far?
I was very honored by the award, but people usually get something like this much later in life, so I said during the ceremony that I'm not really done yet, which got me some laughs and cheers from the audience. But the best highlight of my career so far has to be the Symphonic Shades concert, which was performed in Cologne in 2008 with the WDR Radio Orchestra and Filmharmonic Choir. They played over an hour of the most wonderful arrangements of my music and I was constantly moved to tears by the performance. A recording of this concert is also available on iTunes and other online music stores.
What has been the highlight of your involvement with the game industy so far?
It's been strangely gratifying finding web pages and videos and even an infinite lives trainer for this game that I wrote all that time ago. It seems to have some relevance to people now, maybe just from a retro angle, which is fine, but I think the idea still entertains, even if it's basically a lateral variation of the original.
How have the advancements in technology made your job as a composer easier?
We went from typing in a lot of numbers and programming in assembly language to midi, digital audio workstations and even working with real orchestras. Most composing tasks are definitely easier today, since there are much less limitations of what you can do in terms of sound and better tools, but projects are larger and it remains a lot of challenging work.
AmigaPd would like to thank Chris Huelsbeck for answering the questions and wish him all the best with his current projects.
We hope you enjoyed reading the interview - remember AmigaPd is charityware - please visit our just giving page to support our chosen charity Mencap.