Matt Gray 64

In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, aspiring novelist Gil Pender sits on the steps of a cathedral at midnight, awaiting a car that will magically transport him to 1920’s Paris. There he will meet, among other famous artists and musicians, literary giants such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Stein. Gil lionises this era, returning there night after night, his infatuation deepening after he falls in love with the beautiful Adriana. But Adriana lusts after her own bygone artistic utopia, and as she leaves Gil for 1890’s Paris and the company of Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas, the viewer is handed the story’s moral: ‘Everyone wishes that he or she lived in another era, even people in that other era’1.

No doubt. Though what captured my imagination more about this film was its reminder that throughout history there are localised peaks of creative individuals, spells of often just a few years where a city becomes home to a community of artists whose impact outlives them. Having just watched Gil journey to his idolised era, I considered what my own might be. Given a single choice, to where and to what time would I travel? For which era of creative confluence do I harbour the greatest nostalgia?

No contest. You wouldn’t find me sitting on the steps of a Parisian Cathedral, but leaning against an oak tree in Knole Park, West Kent, England. I’m waiting not for the midnight chime of a clock tower, but the late-evening hum of city workers travelling home. No car will arrive to collect me, but a motorbike2 on which I will dink. Ahead of me are not crowded cafes, lively bars and endless beautiful streets, but a small suburban bedroom with a cream-coloured computer, where I will be introduced not to Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Gertrud, but to Hubbard and Fillon and Gallway.

My guide? A young Matthew Del Gray. The year is 1987.

 

Commodore logo

 

Growing up I never owned a Commodore 64. No one I knew had one, and by the time my father bought our first home computer in Christmas 1988, the Amiga 500 sat atop the game console market. It had ‘512KB of RAM, a built in floppy disk drive and four channel sterio [sic] sound’3. That means little to me now, and it meant even less to my eight-year-old self, who cared only about destroying his older brother with team Lacerta in Speedball, or trying to escape from hospital in It came from the desert. That Amiga eventually went to ‘silicon heaven’4, and by the time I farewelled computer games in 1999, a Super Nintendo and a Sony PlayStation had gravestones either side of it.

But there’s a special retirement home in my head for some childhood memories; playing the Amiga 500 is one of them. And like so many of the other residents, it has enjoyed unlimited access to the fountain of youth in the retirement home’s courtyard, each time emerging younger and more beautiful than it ever was in real life.

So when two years ago my friend Andrew Sylvester—who does not believe in silicon heaven—hosted a retro-game night, I arrived smuggling the kind of butterflies that might otherwise only bloom with the thought of seeing your first crush at your high school reunion.

 

amiga500

Amiga 500

 

It was no Virna Kane, but it was still beautiful. Its sloping keyboard with a sliver of red power light, in the semi-darkness of Andrew’s lounge room looking every bit like a tiny millennium falcon; the translucent hand on its insert-disk prompt screen, raising high a blue hard-disk as though pumping out a salute; the sound of each game loading—when it worked—cranking and grinding like some industrial-age lathe: these were the unfolding aluminium foil squares and blackening bent spoons of my middle youth. And into the early hours of the following morning I sat entranced, and a little melancholy, as I and others took turns and shared stories in the glow of our communal time machine.

But of course there was another machine there that night. Overweight and unpretentious, it sat quietly on a table in the far corner of the room, the plane-old-Jane classmate at the reunion that you swear you never knew, but more likely just never noticed before.

 

Commodore machine

Commodore 64

 

Others noticed. As guests arrived they began to gather around her. At some point the person next to me touched my shoulder and, nodding at the woman, said, “Do you remember that girl? Boy could she sing.” Then a great cheer erupted as finally upon her dull blue face one capital eye steadily winked, an invitation for a command that no one seemed able to resist. Even Andrew—to whom all the machines in the room belonged, and who would spend the remainder of the night racing between them like an attending physician—had to fight for the privilege of being the first to choose a game.

 

 

Comic Bakery … Of the actual game I’ll say that for me at least the title was misleading; only its latter word was true. But that hardly mattered. The game was chosen for its title tune, which from the moment it began had almost everyone in the room smiling and shaking their heads.

I would soon join them. Not because the music was particularly amazing—at least not when heard by someone in 2013—and not because it sounded extraordinary—though I have since come to love the sound of the SID (Sound Interface Device) chip, which to a music-history illiterate like myself might easily be mistaken for musicians’ first attempts at breaking-in electricity. I began smiling, with equal parts bewilderment and amusement, because someone finally dragged a chair in front of the Commodore 64 and pressed the start button.

Now at this moment one might—as indeed several guests did that night—leap to Comic Bakery’s defence. The game was phenomenal for its time! Enjoyment is relative! If you never played it before you wouldn’t understand!

Probably all true (what would a child of the PlayStation say of my beloved Speedball?).

 

ykofog81skdpw

Speedball (1988)

 

And I should have had no cause to be disappointed with the game’s pixelated graphics or repetitive gameplay—thirty years of computer development seems to equate to about three-hundred years of development in other technologies; consequently, watching a computer game released in 1984 was always going to feel like reading a doctor’s advice from the war of the Spanish Succession. Neither should I have taken exception to the appearance of an industrial long-line bakery, an infestation of switch-flicking racoons, and an obese but super-fit laser-wielding baker—the game’s title was a clue, so too the game’s box cover, which featured said racoons. And yet, in spite of all of this, I was disappointed. I did take exception. I may have even walked away.

The blame, of course, lay with the title tune; it set me up for that fall. It had hinted at something more impressive, some visual show that would match the music’s spark and pulse. Only later, long after my expectations had been so spectacularly unmet, did I think back to that night and wonder how less than a minute of computer game music from 1984 had me jostling strangers and rising up on my toes just to see what accompanied it. Not since I first heard Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of Izabella eight years earlier had music inspired such a physical response (on that occasion leading me to storm a friend’s parents’ kitchen for answers).

Maybe plain-old-Jane really could sing; she certainly sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard before. And if so, who taught her? Who were the first musicians to try, to succeed, to truly build and bend and blaze those unremarkable ‘blips and bleeps’5?

 

Commodore logo

 

Matt leads me through the house he shares with his parents and his two brothers to his bedroom on the second floor. From beneath his bed he pulls out a beanbag, which he drags and then drops next to an office chair. He gestures at the beanbag, and then excuses himself from the room, returning a few minutes later with two cups of tea. Handing me one, he sits down in the office chair, glides a quarter turn to face me, and says, “So what do you want to know?”

In front of us is a large white desk. Taking up almost half the bedroom, it is cluttered with machines, most of which are keyboards, musical and computer. Matt will later identify these as a ‘Korg synth, a Moog synth, a Roland TR606 keyboard, a Roland TB303 keyboard, a Casio cheap synthesiser, a four track tape recorder’6 and a Commodore 64, attached to which is a 1702 video monitor, a VIC-modem, and a 1541-11 floppy-disk drive7.

Taped to the wall above the desk are sheets of manuscript paper, and above these the ‘brief for the games he is working on’8. To the right these papers—perhaps where it could be better seen by someone reclined, daydreaming, on the bed—is a giant poster of Tangerine Dream.

 

 

I straighten up in the beanbag. “Tell me everything.”

Matt winces when I say this. He turns back to the desk and switches on the Commodore. While the computer starts up, he says, “You code?”

“I beg you a pardon?”

“Programme?” Matt says. “Can you do assembly language?”

I shake my head.

Matt takes a long drink of his tea. Still looking at the computer, he says, “You’re a musician, though, right?”

“I’m afraid not. Just a listener. Perhaps you can begin by telling me how you got into all of this?”

Matt begins typing commands into the computer. He is a touch typist, his fingers gently and almost soundlessly depressing each key. “Writing for games?”

“Yes.”

He takes a deep breath and leans back in the chair. Turning his head toward me, he opens his mouth to speak, then closes it again. Suddenly smiling, he says, “I’m sorry, but what is going on with your hair?”

I touch my hand to my hair, momentarily fearing that time travel has transformed it into a style similar to Doc’s from Back to the future. And though to my relief my hair is not long, white, and standing on end, I realise that to Matt it looks no less ridiculous.

I had taken special care with my clothes—a pastel polo shirt and cream pants (every decade has a preppy look), and closed the sale with a pair of Chuck Taylors (those have been cool since 1921). But I forgot about my side-swept bangs, which Zac Efron, one month from being born in an Illinois hospital, won’t make fashionable again until the first High School Musical movie. My suspicions are confirmed when Matt adds, “You look like my dad when I was a baby.”

“Give it another twenty years,” I tell him. “It’ll be cool again. You were telling me how you got started writing tunes for the Commodore.”

“Soundtracks,” Matt says. “‘I hate the word tunes’9”. He is quiet a moment, then he says:

In the early days most of the music was simply done by programmers who
did not understand music or the SID chip. It was out of tune and had many
wrong notes and was simply just horrid. I figured I could do a lot better, so
that’s what I set out to do. I understood synths very well so all I had to do
was learn programming.10

When I ask Matt how difficult it was to learn programming, he shrugs, “Doesn’t matter, ‘You [have] no option but to be a programmer to get it to work’11, ‘because of the need to use assembler or even machine code (basically only a list of numbers) to make instruments and sequence notes’12. Plus, you want to be able to:

work around bugs in the sound chips, experiment with samples and expand
the computers possibilities in general. These tricks [are] not rational
mathematical programming, but rather trial and error based on in-depth
knowledge of the computer. [We manage] to accomplish things not intended by the designers of the computers.12

“When you say ‘we’,” I ask, “you’re talking about other musicians?”

“Yeah. And any other ‘cnetters’13 doing graphics or text or code.” He studies me a moment. “You’ve heard of Cnet, right?”

On this, at least, I have done my homework. Cnet was the name its users gave to Compunet, a ‘United Kingdom based interactive service provider, catering primarily for the Commodore 64 but later for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST’14. A popular feature of Cnet’s services was Partyline, or P-Line, ‘which allowed users to create their own [chat] rooms’14.

 

compunet 2

Compunet logo

 

I say, “This was the demoscene, where you went online and shared files and chatted to each other?”

“You talk about it like it’s been and gone,” Matt says. “It’s still ‘well cool’15. We’ve basically got this brilliant culture that has grown out of what is going on in Europe right now. It’s a ‘community that [has] evolved round the machine, and people [get] to know each other’16. We share ideas and techniques and build upon each other’s knowledge of the machine. ‘It [has] led to a lot of innovation’16.

“So you’re quite active in this then?”

“Not as much as I used to be. ‘I have to save all my original ideas for game soundtracks’17. You see Cnet is also a platform to get yourself and your work noticed. You put some music or graphics up there, or you collaborate with others to make a game demo, and the ‘content [can] be voted upon by the users’14. You’re basically building a profile—or at least a lot of us are—in the hope of getting the attention of the software houses. ‘Almost every software house is on Cnet’18. ”

I nod at the game brief above the computer. “And now you have their attention.”

Matt leans further back in his chair and looks up at the ceiling. He places his hands on this head, then slides them forward until they cover his eyes. “To be honest I’d love more of it. ‘I’m sick of my office job. I long for the day when I can make a living outta making music for games’18. He drops his hands to his sides and straightens up in the chair. ‘Any road up’19, you didn’t come here to listen to that. Do you want to hear my latest demo?”

“That would be rad.”

While Matt loads the demo, he says absently to himself, ‘I must stop these remixs’20. Then, standing, he says, “It’ll load soon. It’s about eight minutes long, so I’m just going to leave you here for a while and check out what my brothers are up to. Do you want another ‘cuppa’21 when I come back?”

I tell Matt that I’m still working on my first, and no sooner has he left the room than I topple out of the beanbag and slide into his vacant office chair, my fingertips tracing the surface of each key as though reading braille.

 

Commodore logo

 

Between 1986 and toward the end of 1987, Matt released twenty one22 ‘demotunes’18 on Compunet. (During this time he was also ‘busy doing music for demo crews’18; that is, ‘Full disc demos’23 by groups comprising ‘members who were skilled in composing music, drawing graphics and programming’23). These demotunes ranged from original pieces like Pump up the SID and Timed Out (the latter would be tweaked into the title track for the game QueDex) to a cover of the theme music from the television show Equaliser, a detective drama starring Edward Woodward. He also covered song sections from contemporary songs such as Fan mail, originally composed by Blondie, and Magnetic Fields, originally composed by Jean-Michael Jarre.

Many of these demotunes, however, were also remixes of other Commodore 64 composers work. Like the hundreds—if not perhaps thousands—of musicians who have remixed Matt’s work over the past twenty-five years, Matt did the same with his contemporaries’ work, releasing, among others: Holiday Remix, based on Holiday morning by Chris Huelsbeck; Phantom Rock, based on Phantom of the asteroid by Rob Hubbard; and the Jukebox 64 series, based primarily on the work of Commodore 64 musicians.

It is part 1 of this Jukebox 64 series that now plays on the Commodore.

 

 

In addition to the introductory music, there is also a composer’s message. Though unlike Matt’s earlier demotunes, where text scrolls across the screen in a ‘duck shoot’14, here it fades in and out, small white writing on a black background:

MATT GRAY PRESENTS … JUKEBOX 64 … A COMPILATION OF CMB 64 MUSIC … ARRANGED ON ROCKMONITOR 3 BY MATT GRAY … POSSIBLY MY LAST RE-MIX … HELLO TO: GRAHAM, HEX, TOB, DOKK, HAGAR … HI ALSO TO: MOLE, MEANTEAM, PERDITA, JEAN … AND CHAZ, HERO, KKY, PLASMA, PSY, STOAT, TIM … AND THANKS TO THE COMPOSERS! … I KNOCKED THIS ARRANGEMENT UP ON 6/9/87 … HERE GOES …..24

The demotune runs just over eight minutes, during which Matt remixes sections from twenty-two game soundtracks, one movie soundtrack and one popular song25. Though eclectic, the song choices are unified by smooth transitions and an underlying melody and drum beat. And though Matt’s intention may have been to further advertise his musical talent to software houses, there is also arguably a level of care and enthusiasm on display that goes beyond self-promotion.

For me, the jukebox 64 series—along with several other of Matt’s remixes—is the work of someone celebrating the sound of the SID chip and the musicians who defined that sound. For a traveller from the future, these remixes are also prescient of Matt later transforming this celebration—of sounds and of musicians—into a career.

 

Commodore logo

 

I am on my second viewing of Jukebox 64 part 1 when Matt returns to the room. I stand, but he waves me back down before dropping into the beanbag. After talking me through how to stop the demotune, he says, “My brothers just asked me what magazine you were from. I couldn’t remember.”

“Open Access,” I tell him. “You may not have heard of it yet. It’s just starting to get off the ground.” When Matt looks away and nods vaguely, I hurriedly add, “I like the demo. It’s bitchin’. A lot of Rob Hubbard.”

Matt brightens at this. “You like Rob?”

I tell him that I do, but that I have trouble understanding why he is so revered over other Commodore musicians.

“Are you kidding me?” he says. “Have you heard the loading track for Sanxion?”

 

 

Before I can answer, he says, “Anyways:

[Rob] was the first, and pretty much the best. When he started writing for
the Commodore 64 he—well the first thing he did was write a whole load
of extremely cool sound routines, which did some—well, incredible things
with the chip, really. Everybody else was just writing plain tones, but he was the first guy to start using wobbly chords, phasing square waves, using filters creatively, and stuff like that. Certainly for me, it was when I heard a piece that Rob had done that I thought ohhhhhhhh, you can do that can you … .16

“Unfortunately,” Matt continues, “he’s just taken a job with EA (Electronic Arts) and so will probably move to the States early next year.26

“He was a big influence on your work then?”

“Massive. It was Rob’s soundtracks that first made me ‘stop the tape from loading the title screen, just to hear the track all the way through’27. Plus when I was starting out he would sometimes be on P-Line, where he would give me tips on how to generate sounds18. And like I said before, he’s just always setting the bar, ‘always trying to find new ways to get better sound and push the envelope artistically’26.” Matt looks down at his hands and studies his fingernails. “Which is why one of the games I’m working on right now is about the most important thing I’ve ever worked on; it’s for a game that also includes a piece by Rob.”

Bangkok Knights,” I say. “That is big.”

Matt looks up, his brow furrowed. “I didn’t think they even had a preview out yet?”

“They don’t,” I say, “Just industry buzz. May I hear what you’ve written so far?”

Matt shrugs. “It’s pretty much finished anyway.” He jerks his head at the Commodore 64. “Square up to the keyboard there … ”

 

Commodore logo

 

If Comic Bakery’s title tune convinced me of the incongruity that existed between a Commodore 64’s game music and its subject, then Bangkok Knights’ loading tune was one of the tracks that sent me back the other way. It somehow belonged to the game, and in so doing lent weight to Matt’s insistence that the pieces he composed for the Commodore should not be called tunes but rather soundtracks—that is, music that is ‘synchronized to the images’ of the accompanying media28. Done well, this synchronisation can immerse the player more fully into the game; done early, it can suspend the player’s disbelief before the gameplay even begins.

A Commodore game’s loading tune was, as the name suggests, the tune that played while the game loaded. It accompanied a loading screen—a ‘huge piece of beautiful 2D pixel art’29—and together they were ‘designed to cover the necessary evil of tape loading’, which often took ‘five consecutive minutes at least’29. Though rather than ‘merely a way to make the wait before playing a game more bearable’29 … ‘the best loading screens teased and hinted at the thrills in store for the waiting player, and helped build up the tension and excitement’29.

In short, they created atmosphere. And while Bangkok Knights loading screen—a pair of sweaty, dirty-red, unlaced boxing gloves—set the tone for the violence to come, for me it was the music that really transported the mind to some illegal Mauy Thai fight in the basement of a disreputable bar.

 

 

Even now, listening to this piece of music in Matt’s bedroom, I can see the two glistening, ribbon-clad fighters, dirt and chickens flying from beneath their bare feet as they shake out their limbs and take in a last mouthful of cloudy water. Surrounding them—heaving like the lungs of some giant primordial beast—is a thick circle of howling men, each clutching and thrusting forward a betting slip as though it was a fist aimed at the face of their unfancied fighter. And after a cowbell is raised and rattled, and the callused knees and feet and elbows of the two fighters begin to strike forth at one another like angry snakes, so the night’s first blood comet arcs across the dim light, made phantasmagoric by the tiger moths that beat and burn their wings against a single naked light bulb.

“I beg you a pardon?” I say. Matt is looking at me expectantly from his reclined position in the beanbag.

“I said, what do you think?”

“I like it,” I tell him. “It’s vivid.”

He smiles. “Really?”

“Really. I think you might even outshine Rob with this one.”

The smile disappears. “As if. But you think it’s got the right feel for the game? I mean for an Asian fighting game?”

I study Matt for a moment. Gone are the restless, uninterested eyes, replaced instead by ones that are narrow, keen, focused. They search my face for clues of how I will respond to his question. It is perhaps the first time since we met—albeit less than an hour ago—that he has shown vulnerability.

“Forgive me for being forward,” I say, “but this isn’t about working alongside Rob, is it? You’ve done that previously in the demoscene13,19. This soundtrack is important to you for other reasons.”

This time it is Matt’s turn to silently study me, after which he asks if I wouldn’t mind putting down my pen and notebook for a minute.

Momentarily confused, I look down at my hands and see that I am indeed holding both, props purchased earlier this afternoon to lend credibility to my claim as a gaming journalist. It is, however, still Mickey Mouse o’clock for this junior reporter. I have failed to remove the plastic seal on the pen’s cap, and the price tag—a small square of cardboard attached to a length of string—still dangles from the pen’s shaft like a cast fishing line. That I have not yet made a single mark inside the notebook also seems to have thus far mercifully escaped Matt’s inquiry.

After I place the pen and notebook on the table, Matt says, “This is my first piece for System 3.” He pauses, his eyebrows held high. “Not exactly a small time player.”

I nod. Formed in 1982, System 3 was (still is) a ‘UK-based publisher and developer of international award-winning videogames across all formats’30.

 

System 3 logo

System 3 Software Limited (1987)

 

In September 1987, as well as being renowned for scandalous publicity—two years earlier at the PWC (personal computer world) show in London, System 3 ‘had their stand shut down and were subsequently banned from future PCW shows’ after employing ‘scantily clad women’ to roam the floor and promote their latest game, Twister: mother of harlots31—and a high-profile lawsuit—in 1986, after releasing International Karate, System 3 ‘faced a lengthy court battle with arcade publishers Data East, who claimed System 3 had ripped off their game Karate Champ’31—System 3 were also gaining a reputation for creating highly innovative, highly successful games.

Only months before, they had released what would become ‘the most successful original game ever on the Commodore C64’32. Along with its sequel, the game ‘set the standard in arcade adventuring, hitting number one around the world and garnering the company with armfuls of awards by the turn of the decade’30.

That is a lot of exposure—a lot of attention—and, even before Matt opens his mouth to speak again, I nod once more, this time because I already know what he is going to say.

Last Ninja?” Matt asks.

“Great game,” I say.

“Incredible game. I don’t know what they’re doing over there but they’re taking gameplay to another level.” Matt leans forward in the beanbag and lowers his voice. “But that’s not even the best part.”

I speak as though reading lines from a script. “Ben Daglish and Anthony Lee’s soundtrack.”

 

 

Matt levels an index finger at me. “Ben and Anthony’s soundtrack, right? I mean they nailed the atmosphere in that game. The mood they set in that wastelands section was pitch perfect.” He smiles and shakes his head. “And System 3 allowed them to do that. They gave them all three channels to be able to reach for that.”

Unfortunately, Matt’s last line isn’t in my script, and I have to ask him to explain what he means by ‘all three channels’; a shame, because judging from the look that moves across his face—a flash of surprise followed by gaze-dropping disappointment—I see that my question has done as I feared it would: it has broken the brief spell of camaraderie between us.

For a moment there I might have been mistaken for another Cnetter, just chatting about games and software companies and ‘pitch-perfect’ soundtracks. Even better, I might have passed as a fellow musician, talking sounds and critiquing music and generally hanging out with a lover of the craft.

As it is, my ignorance—never far from any conversation about computers—comes crashing back in, reminding Matt that the man with whom he is speaking knows almost nothing about the Commodore 64 beyond the location of the power switch.

But then I’m time traveler, so I get do-overs.

“Actually,” I say, “let’s pretend that I didn’t just ask that question.” I pick up my mug, force down the last mouthful of tea, now cold and bitter, and, wincing, add, “You were telling me about your plan with System 3.”

Matt also winces. “You didn’t have to drink that.” Then he says, “It’s not a plan as such. I just—you’re not going to put this in your article are you?”

I shake my head, hoping that the passing of twenty-six years will forgive my lie.

“Okay, so basically Mark Cale and System 3 are going to make a sequel to Last Ninja. They’re probably already working on one. They’d be crazy not to be. And I’d just about kill for that contract. I’m not joking. It’s massive. They had six levels in the original. That’s twelve tracks, loading and in-game for each level. And all three channels for each, as well. You see ordinarily ‘sound effects steal one channel from the music’33.” He waves away his last remark. “Anyway, if I can impress with Bangkok Knights then I think I’ve got a good shot at being a co-writer or even writing every piece for the Last Ninja follow-up.” He looks away and nods to himself. “I think I could do a something pretty special with it, too.”

When Matt looks back to me, he frowns. “What?” he says. “What is it?”

Aware of the danger to the space-time continuum, I am nonetheless powerless to stop the open-mouthed smile that has spread across my face. I have no desire to change any part of Matt’s pre-ordained journey, but some signposts are simply too beautiful not to inspire visible joy.

And so I remain ecstatically dumbstruck, a response akin, perhaps, to another time traveler charged with explaining the same beaming look to an inquiring Vincent Van Gogh, who, only moments earlier, they have witnessed gazing thoughtfully out of his asylum window towards the village of Saint-Rémy on a clear night.

 

 

“You think I’m kidding myself, don’t you?” Matt says.

This awakens me. I immediately retract my smile into thin, tight lips. Then I shake my head, this time with unwavering conviction. “Absolutely not,” I say. “I think it’s a fine ambition.”

Matt eyes me doubtfully, then says, “Thanks. I just don’t want everyone knowing about it. I’d prefer to fail quietly, if you know what I mean?”

“I understand.” We are silent a moment, then I point to the computer and ask, “Could you show me how you work? I’d be interes—I mean my readers would be interested to know how you compose your music.”

Matt pushes out his bottom lip and shrugs. Then, with a flick of his thumb, he gestures for us to exchange places.

This time, though, when he retakes his seat in front of the computer, it is less in his previous mold as amiable host—tea in hand, open posture, occasional smile—and more like a pilot entering a cockpit. With one hand he types in various commands on the Commodore—letters, numbers and characters assembling on the blue screen in staggered rows, like tiny mismatched soldiers on parade—while with the other hand he illuminates several buttons on several of the musical keyboards. Both hands then briefly come together as Matt rises from his chair and checks the connections of the numerous black and grey cables that snake away toward the back of the large table and disappear over its edge.

During all of this, the pilot’s posture is slack, his movements languid but precise, and his eyes—the lids having been gently lowered to half-mast—once more begin to seek out the ceiling, presumably driven by the kind of deep boredom that accompanies demonstrating a task one could do in their sleep.

But then perhaps it is not boredom at all. Perhaps it is not even that close cousin of boredom: arrogance. Instead, I wonder if Matt is merely shy, if his detachment is actually a shield, the armour of a humble man who, embarrassed by his talent, feigns boredom to deflect the interest it brings. (That is an unsteady bridge, built with no more than a passing look, but it is a look that bears striking resemblance to the modest emotion Matt will present twenty-two years later at the United Kingdom Music Week Awards while he and the rest of the ‘Xenomania writing and production team’ receive the award for UK producer of the year34.)

When I see Matt’s hands appear to hesitate above the Commodore keyboard, I say, “Just assume I know nothing.”

He smiles and throws me a sideways glace at this. “It’s not that,” he says. “I’m trying to think which piece to show you.”

Few invitations, indirect or otherwise, have so lighted a fire beneath me. Indeed, it is only a slight exaggeration to suggest here that a lesser-made beanbag might have burst at my sudden forward shift in weight. Nor is it unreasonable to suggest that Matt’s brothers might have ascended the stairs two and three at a time and forced the bedroom door had my outburst lasted beyond a few words.

I couldn’t help it. I didn’t need to look at Matt’s current brief on the wall above to know that among the list of games is one whose music redefined what I previously thought possible on the SID chip. I had been convinced early on that the bleeps and blips could be ordered and manipulated in such a way to produce emotive, atmospheric music, but before hearing this soundtrack I never considered they could be arranged to incite the kind of gradual and sudden fluctuations in mood more commonly associated with classical music35. The chance to view that score—if you will, to see that beauty stripped bare—caused me to temporarily lose control, as though Matt had just asked me which of my favourite celebrities would I like to see naked.

After a brief silence, during which Matt rechecks cable connections to allow me time to recompose myself, he says, “I haven’t done anything for Epyx.”

More silence. I am about to ask him what he means by this when I suddenly realise the source of our misunderstanding. “No. I apologise,” I say. “I didn’t mean the game company; I meant that perhaps you could show me something epic”—a poor word choice, influenced by its modern-day slang, which has no place in 1987 (though there are many who would argue it has no place in 2013 either)—”Something long,” I say, “detailed.”

Matt is nodding. “I know what you mean. I’ve got something like that.” He taps a few more keys, folds his arms across his chest, and turns toward me. “Have you heard of Driller?” he says.

 

 

I smile. “An epic game.”

Matt shrugs. “I wouldn’t know; I haven’t seen it yet. All I know is that it’s a dark puzzle game where you have to ‘place drilling rigs around a moon’36.” He pauses. “Is it good?”

For a moment I only stare at Matt. Then I say, “You haven’t seen the game?” I haven’t actually seen the game either (beyond a few screenshots) but then I’m not the one writing music for it.

“No one I know has. We’re all waiting for the demo to come out on the Spectrum in next month’s Crash sampler37.” Quietly, he adds, “Evidently we don’t travel in the same circles as you do.”

Still unprepared to disclose to Matt the true extent of my travel, I ask him instead if it is unusual not to see a game before he writes its music.

He shakes his head. “Not really. ‘Some I never [see] at all—a verbal description over the phone [is] as near as I [get]’38. I ‘talk to them about the game—things like time period, characters and mood setting. After we [agree] on a direction, I then write the music’26.”

“Which looks like that,” I say, looking toward the Commodore’s screen, which is now filed with the aforementioned tiny mismatched alpha-numeric-character soldiers, though on this occasion they gather in intimidating numbers, like a military parade commemorating an independence day. (That is not to say, however, that a lone line of this assembly language wouldn’t be as equally intimidating to me; I have always viewed any computer as a kind of god, one that has all the mysterious workings and motivation of those in old stories, and who, like any benevolent force, inspires similar reverence and fear).

“You might want to come a bit closer,” Matt says. “You won’t see anything from there.”

I rise and tentatively step forward.

“So all you’re doing here,” Matt says, running his finger from left to right across the screen, “is telling the computer in what order you want to put the notes, and also what you want it do with each note.”

“Where are the notes?” I ask.

“Everywhere.” This time Matt touches his finger to random parts of the screen. “‘Three C Hex [is] a C. Four eight Hex is a C. Three zero is a C’39.”

I kneel before the computer. “Don’t you have to look these up?” I ask. “From a key or something?”

“‘I … know these numbers backwards,’39” he says absently.

“Okay. So the C chords you just mentioned, are they—”

“Notes,” Matt says, “Chords are different, trickier:

If you would compose one chord, you run out of channels. So, you have to
be creative. By quickly switching between three notes on one channel, you
[save] two channels. For example, you [would] have a baseline and a drum
both on one channel. That way you [save] up some space and so [would]
have room for a melody. And then you also [try] to put in some extra rhythm parts or fill-ins.11

He pauses, then looks across at me. “Too fast?”

“Too fast. Start with the channels. The three of them; are they different?”

He shakes his head. The Commodore has three channels, or ‘three voices, which a couple of the others [have], like the BBC Micro and stuff like that also [have] three-voice sound chips. But whereas they just [do] a plain square wave, generally, the SID chip [does] much more’16. It has available waveforms like:

pulse wave, the timbre of which [can] be varied by modifying the duty-cycle; square wave, a   symmetrical pulse wave producing only odd overtones; triangle wave, which has a fixed timbre containing only odd harmonics, but is softer than a square wave, and sawtooth wave, which has a bright raspy timbre and contains odd and even harmonics.40

“‘And you [can] vary things such as the pulse frequency of the tones. And white noise as well, it [can] do, so you [can] do drum sounds’16.” Matt is silent a moment, his eyes briefly widening, and one corner of his mouth turning up. “I like drum sounds,” he says.

He continues: “You can set a ‘volume envelope’38, which ‘controls the way that a sound’s volume changes as the note progresses from start to finish’41. This includes the ‘Attack—how fast the sound appears … Decay—how quickly the initial sound settles … Sustain—at what level the sound will “hold” once it’s settled in … [and] Release—how long it will take for the sound to die away’42. You can also fool around with filters—‘low pass, band pass, and high pass filters’—which cut-off or ‘[alter] the volume levels of just a few of the harmonics of the sound’ and mean you get a better pitch43. And then of course there’s ring modulation where you ‘create more complex harmonic structures through synchronisation … of two voices’44.” He pauses. “Shouldn’t you maybe be writing this down?”

I wave a hand between us. “I have the recall capacity of Truman Capote. Please, go on.”

“Okay. Well, the other thing is, you don’t have to do it this way. ‘Instead of using programming language to make music’ [you can] ‘use an interface to make music’12. And I’m not talking about ‘Commodore Music Maker’ either—that’s ‘not efficient enough to be used for games and demos’12. You need programs like Electrosound or Soundmonitor or Rockmonitor. They let you ‘write small sequences of notes with [your] instruments of choice’, and you can ‘add portamento, arpeggio or transpositions’12.”

 

Rockmonitor

Rockmonitor 5 by the Dutch USA-team (1988)

 

“And you use these programs?” I ask.

Matt nods. “They make life a lot easier. Plus ‘they give away a lot of techniques—such as phasing a square wave and so on’27. Though, ‘I have been using electrosound a lot less recently as many of my pieces are more suited to SM (Soundmonitor), although running SM under interrupt is a bitch!’9. I’m also a big fan of Rockmonitor 3.”

Doubtless in response to the look of strain on my face, Matt briefly laughs and says, “You still with me Truman?”

“Just about.” I rise and return to the beanbag, dragging it closer to the Commodore before sitting again. “Tell me this, though,” I say. “What you’re describing sounds like a lot of different features and options. And yet from what I’ve read about Commodore music it is supposed to be limited in what it can do.”

Matt is silent a moment, then says, “Yeah, don’t get me wrong, the machine has its limitations. Having to work with only a ‘handful of waveforms, pitches, tempo and polyphony’33 is brutal. And there are plenty of musicians out there who’ll tell you that composing on the Commodore is ‘like trying to write music with boxing gloves on’11. But the ‘so-called constraints’12 needn’t be constraints at all. Instead, they force you to be creative, where you just ‘have to maximise what [the machine] [can] do well, and avoid what it simply [can’t] do’10.”

He shrugs, then says, “But then that’s nothing new; it’s just ‘part of the skeleton of composition’45. It’s no different to a composer who has to do what they can depending on the size of their orchestra, or even anyone who plays a piano—I mean we’ve only got ten fingers, right?33

“We do,” I say, “but is that a fair analogy? You’re able to make it sound like you’ve got more than ten fingers. Or at least, more than three voices.”

Matt smiles and begins to swivel to and fro in his chair. He seems to be enjoying himself now, and I am reminded of Stephen King’s memoir, On writing, in which the novelist reveals that his motivation—or rather, justification—for writing a book about the ‘art and craft of telling stories’ came via fellow writer Amy Tan, who, when asked ‘if there was any one question she was never asked during the Q-and-A that follows every writer’s talk’, replied: “No one ever asks about the language”46.

“That’s one of the best parts,” Matt says. “‘Trying to invent new sounds through work-arounds and audio illusions’33.” He pauses. “Do you remember that pitch-bend sound in the Bangkok Knights piece I played you?”

“Sounds like a fire-engine riding a rollercoaster?” I say.

“Close enough,” he says. “That’s just a combination of ‘vibrato, pulse width modulation and glide’33. Then you’ve got other work-arounds like the:

Flange effect: that’s when you play the same sound in two channels at the
same time but you detune one of the channels—it’s a little bit out of pitch.
If you do this for every waveform then suddenly you have double the amount of waveforms to choose from.33

“And then there are ‘Split parts’33 as well:

two melodies going on at the same time but the rests in one melody coincide with the notes in the other melody, then of course they can share a channel because they don’t play at the same time. And if they are distinct enough, for instance one is the base and one is the treble, then the brain is going to hear two melodies going on, even though they are sharing a channel.33

“And of course you’ve got ‘ultra-fast arpeggios’40, too. It’s what I was saying before about chords; you don’t want to waste all three channels, so instead you emulate the chord by using only one channel and ‘rapidly go through the notes in the chord’33. It creates a ‘living sound, like a tremolo in the string section’33.

At this moment I raise my index finger alongside my face in the hope of asking a question, but Matt is too lost in thought to notice. He vacantly stares at some distant point above me, seemingly no longer aware of my presence in the room.

“Then you’ve also got things like ‘a limit to the amount of memory, and that means you want to compress your music, and a good way of achieving compression … [is] patterns’33. Basically, you need to ‘nest to save memory’47. You use the:

computer memory to store a pre-recorded sound, which may be played back at a fixed or variable pitch, and can be repeated in a continuous loop to extend the duration of a sound without increasing the memory requirements.40

“So that means I can ‘designate repeats anywhere I want—and hardly use up any more memory, so it’s possible to get quite lengthy, interesting tunes out of a small core of material’8.” Matt pauses, then drops his eyes to mine before saying, “Sorry, did you have a question before?”

“Only if you’re finished?” I say.

“Best if you stop me,” he says. ‘I could go on for hours’33. ”

“Sure. You mentioned before that you were limited by waveforms, pitches, polyphony, and tempo. You’ve spoken of the first three, but what about tempo? Why is tempo an issue?”

“Because,” he says, “I ‘don’t want my music to sound different in different parts of the world’33.” When I offer no response to this, he adds, “I’m going to have to explain that, aren’t I?”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” I say.

“You might want to get your pen and paper for this,” he says.

“Truman Capote,” I remind him.

After a long, deep breath, he says: “So obviously television is just a series of frames running in rapid succession?”

I nod.

“And the ‘frame rate is the number of frames or images that are projected or displayed per second’?”

I nod again.

“Good. Now ‘in between the frames there’s a little period called a vertical blanking gap’33, sometimes called a ‘vertical interval’48 or ‘VBlank interrupt’26, which ‘is the time difference between the last line on one frame … and the beginning of the first line of the next frame’48. That gap:

is where you don’t need the CPU to do graphics, so then you can do music instead. But that means all your updates to the SID register have to occur in multiples of 20 milliseconds, which correspond to 50 Hertz.33

I hold up my hand. “Why 20 milliseconds and 50 Hertz?”

“Because that’s the standard frequency in Europe49,” he says.

“But not the standard elsewhere?”

He shakes his head. “The Americas and Japan run at 60 Hertz49. And I probably don’t need to tell you that the television frequency affects the frame rate, which in turn affects the vertical blanking gap and consequently your choice of tempo:

So then you’re stuck with the choice of tempo, and in Europe you’re stuck
with … 107, 125, 150bpm. I mean there are some slower ones and some
faster ones, but you’re on a grid of tempo. And in the US and Japan … you
have a different set of tempo to work with … [113, 129, 150bpm] … And so
if you’re a game soundtrack composer you think: well, I don’t want my music to sound different in different parts of the world, and then you have to choose 150bpm.33

“The tempo that is shared by both,” I say.

“That’s right,” Matt says. “‘There’s a lot of chip music composed in 150bpm—it’s the ubiquitous chip-music tempo’33”.

I point at the computer screen again. “So take me through Driller. Presumably you come up with the music on one of the keyboards and then type in the code on the computer?”

“It varies,” he says. “Sometimes I ‘work things out first on the keyboard, developing the bass, tune, and harmony, while working out the general mood and style. I might even use a drum machine to get the rhythm pattern’8. Then ‘I play the piece through, decide that particular sounds aren’t right, go back to the player, reformat the tune with the corrections and repeat the whole process again’8.

“Other times”, he continues, “‘you don’t kind of get a vision of a melody and then put it down; you have to work with the machine, and the machine is helping you compose your melody because you have to obey these constraints that are available’33. So:

maybe if you start with a melody—and you listen to that. And you get into
the split parts thing—and you think, what can I put in the gaps here, and
how does it sound if I add an arpeggio channel here. Maybe that’s too much, so I remove that. So it’s a very iterative process—you make small changes and you listen to them, and you often run into constraints and the you only have one choice, so that’s how it influences your composition.33

“Regardless of how you approach the composition, though, you’re normally aiming for a few key stylistic criteria. And that’s ‘short phrases, very percussive, try to be melodic, and have a strong bass line to hold it all together’10.” He is quiet a moment, then he smiles and says, “And fill the gaps. As a rule we tend not to like silence:

That break leaves a kind of nagging feeling in the seasoned chip-tune
composer because he knows he only has two or three channels to work
with and it feels like a waste to just have silence in there—so you get into
the habit of filling the gaps.33

“And that is what you’ve done with Driller?” I ask.

“Actually no,” Matt says, “Driller isn’t a great example. It’s a bit of a departure for me. I’ve tried to do something quite different this time, mainly because the soundtrack needs to be very dark and tense, which is why I’ve ‘borrowed pretty liberally from Halloween and Phantom of the Opera’50. ”

I nod, thinking that I knew I remembered that tune from somewhere. “Is that common practice?” I ask.

“Borrowing music for games? I suppose it is. ‘Video games have a long and storied history of borrowing heavily from popular music’51. Mostly it’s forgivable, though, because it’s about paying ‘homage rather than an outright bit of theft’52. And by homage I mean the work ‘is clearly … influenced by another work, yet still retains some unique aspects’53. It brings ‘something new to the table’54.”

I nod again, though this time it is less in understanding at what has been said and more in hope that readers of this essay might extend me the same forgiveness.

“Just a moment ago,” I say, “you mentioned that Driller was a departure for you. Does that mean you have a particular compositional style? Like a signature style that runs through your work?”

Matt stares at the ceiling for a long time. Then, without lowering his eyes, he says, “Probably not yet. I’m still experimenting, still trying to find my voice. Other guys, the guys who’ve been around a bit longer, while they’re still ‘always looking for ways to squeeze more out of this thing’39—here Matt nods at the Commodore—“you can still ‘tell if a tune [is] by Rob Hubbard or Martin Galway just by the sound of it. Not the actual notes, but how their audio routines [are] playing the SID’27.” He pauses again, then says, “Someone did once tell me though that I had a tendency towards ‘gritty base, thumping drums and wibbles’55.”

“Wibbles?” I ask.

“I know, right? Sounds like the runt of The Wombles‘ family. It’s just a wobbly chord: ‘arpeggios with a pulse wave, where the pulse width is modulated. It starts out narrow, and then gradually becomes wider until it approaches a square wave towards the end of the chord’56. It’s a brilliant sound, though. I used it in Hunter’s moon, a game I just did for Thalamus.”

 

 

At this moment Matt looks down and glances at his watch—a Casio CD-40, the same data-bank calculator model on which my brother once performed amazing feats of basic math.

“I won’t keep you much longer,” I say. “I imagine you’ll want to eat dinner shortly.”

“That’s fine,” he says. “I was just thinking that ‘the omen is on TV’21 tonight. This’ll be the ‘hundredth time’21 I’ve seen it, but …” He shrugs. “Hey you don’t need a picture for this article, do you?” After I tell him that won’t be necessary, he says, “Good. I don’t mean to sound vain, but I like to be ‘able to walk around [computer] shows without being mobbed, unlike Rob Hubbard … Once people [find] out who I [am] they … follow me around, like a pack’57. That’s not my thing.”

“No pictures,” I say. “I just have one last question. Can you give me a final impression of what it’s like to be a game music composer?”

He laughs. “You mean is it romantic? Glamorous?”

“Is it?”

He laughs again and sweeps his hand before him. “In case you didn’t notice, ‘I [am] still living with my parents … Nobody really [does] it for the money. It [is] just for the fun of it’27. Having fun also makes freelance work bearable, because sometimes it almost isn’t. I mean:

‘the pros are that you can work whenever you like. If you get inspired at 4am, that’s fine. But, that’s also one of the cons. You can’t just get away from your work, and it’s easy to forget what else there is in life. Also, obviously with freelance work, you have to keep looking for more work, and if a company can get someone else to do it for cheaper, you either don’t bother with it, or drop your price to get the work’27.

“There are ‘real deadlines to work for,’27 too. Then there’s all the other uncertainty. ‘It [is] unreliable, you know, not a steady stream of cash by any means. And companies quite often [will] change their minds—hire me to do something, then change their minds’47.”

Matt pauses here and smiles. “All that said, though, I still get to make music, and be creative. It’s not yet ‘[become] an industry—once the men-in-suits [start] to be involved’38. There’s still a ‘sense of absolute freedom and the sense that you [can] do whatever you want’39. Plus let’s face it, ‘I’m getting paid for something I used to do for nothing. Which is nice’27. ”

I stand and offer Matt my hand. “It’s been a pleasure,” I say.

He shakes it, then asks me if I need a lift anywhere.

I tell him a walk will do me good, and we make or way to his front door. We are almost to the bottom of the stairs when Matt suddenly stops, a vacant look in his eyes.

“Are you alright?” I ask.

“Fine,” he says. “Just, ‘I feel another music idea coming on’18.”

“Go and get it down,” I tell him. “I’ll see myself out.” And I do.

 

Commodore logo

 

I am part-way across Matt’s front lawn when I stop and pat myself down—I have forgotten my pen and notebook. Neither have any value to me, but I don’t wish to leave anything that will remind Matt of my visit. This butterfly has beaten its wings enough in 1987 already.

I return to the front door and gently knock, hoping to stir one of Matt’s brothers, who might be persuaded to go upstairs and discretely grab my stationary.

Instead, it is Matt’s mother who answers the door. She is younger that I imagined, and heavily pregnant.

For a moment we only stare at each other, then I say, “Good evening. I was just speaking with your son.”

She looks down at her bump, then up at me again.

“Your middle son,” I say. “Matthew? He’s upstairs in his room. I was interviewing him for a magazine article.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, “You must be mistaken. No one by that name lives here.”

Then a man appears behind the woman. He places one hand on the woman’s shoulder and with his other hand he half-closes the door. “Whatever it is you’re selling,” he says, “thank you but we can’t help you.”

I open my mouth to protest, to tell them both that this is impossible, that I was just inside their house. Then I stop. Looking down at the woman’s bump again, I see now that the man is right: they can’t help me.

And so I say nothing. I just keep staring at the woman’s bump. I am still staring at her bump when the man closes the door.

The pregnant belly is fascinating, but that’s not what arrested me. Rather, it was the logo on the shirt that was stretched across it, the same logo that for two weeks last July anyone in view of a television couldn’t hope to escape: London 2012.

 

Commodore logo

 

If one were to search the Internet in 2013 for Matt Gray, they might receive a similar response to the one I received from the pregnant woman: “No one by that name lives here.” And, but for a few exceptions, this response would be accurate.

Despite being ‘described as one of the musicians that define the sound of original electronic game music’55, and his long history with Xenomania, Matt Gray doesn’t exist online. Or if he does, it is largely as a ghost, no more than a shadowy figure—often just a name—glimpsed in ill-frequented corners of the Internet.

There are tributes to Matt’s work, praise of his ability, sadness at his absence from the Commodore 64 retro scene, but there is nothing about the man behind the music.

So why look for him at all? Isn’t it obvious that he doesn’t want to be found?

Plainly obvious. As to the question of why look for him, I didn’t know the answer to that until one day I went online and stumbled upon one of Matt’s brothers. He was friendly, understanding, and happy to ask Matt if I could contact him, with one stipulation:  ‘Is there anything in particular you wish to speak/write to him about?’58.

Tell me everything.

No, there wasn’t. And so instead I just mumbled the word gratitude a lot, wrote that I wanted to ‘thank Matt for the music’ and that ‘your brother is one of the few musicians who has ever moved me’58.

Painful reading now, but for such a hastily written email I think I got off lightly; the obsessive fan, when told they are but a single door from the subject of their affection, cannot be relied upon to be articulate.

And so I consider myself even more fortunate not to have been granted an immediate audience with Matt, lest I might have blushed a darker shade of red and confessed that his Hunter’s moon loader tune makes me salute the stars like some junior space cadet, that I can’t listen to Fruit machine simulator or Pogo stick Olympics without dancing like no one is watching, and, worst of all, that I might have concluded our correspondence with a clumsy variation on Renee Zellweger’s immortal line from Jerry Maguire: “You had me at Dominator loader version 2.”

 

 

But I never got that opportunity, and I can hazard a guess why. In a 2007 interview with Channel m’s Re:Loaded program, Tim Follin, a contemporary of Matt known for his ‘ambitious and imaginative use of samples’ in game music59, was asked how he felt about being contacted by fans. Later praising his fans’ work, he said that ‘they just remix [my music] and send it to me. I just have to be polite … I think: great, what do you want me to do with this?’47 (The interviewer suggested Tim film himself dancing to the remix and send it to them.)

I suspect Matt told his brother something similar. And though I would have denied it at the time, he was eventually proved right. Because this obsessed fan, given time and space (or even the illusion that he can move across both), does not do things by halves, especially not gratitude.

And what better way to express gratitude to a musician (and to his contemporaries)—to pay homage to them and their work—than to remix it? It just so happened that I cannot remix music, so I remixed their words instead.

RUAIRI MURPHY JUST PRESENTED … MATT GRAY 64 … A COMPILATION OF COMMODORE 64 MUSICIANS’ WORDS … ARRANGED ON MICROSOFT WORD 2010 BY RUAIRI MURPHY … POSSIBLY MY LAST REMIX … SPECIAL THANKS TO: ANDREW SYLVESTER, FOR HIS HELP WITH THE RESEARCH; LINUS ÅKESSON, FOR HIS TECHNICAL ADVICE; AND MARITA QUAGLIO, FOR HER TRANSLATION WORK … THANKS ALSO TO MATT’S BROTHER, FOR BEING SO FRIENDLY; THE TEAM AT CSDB, FOR KEEPING C64 DEMOS ALIVE; AND JASON “KENZ” MACKENZIE, FOR MAKING C64 MUSIC SO ACCESSIBLE … AND THANKS TO THE COMPOSERS! … I KNOCKED THIS ARRANGEMENT UP IN 2012/13 … THANKS FOR READING …

P. S.
I went back to 1987 and fell in love with a girl named Stacey, who, upon learning my secret to time travel, bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco, a flower already in her hair.

 

Commodore logo

 

References

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11.         Hubbard R, Tel J. Interview with Rob Hubbard and Jeroen Tel. Originally recorded by ON tv (http://www.oninternet.nl). Presentation uploaded to YouTube by ClanWasti. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 2006 [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQNK3n3F31o

12.         Collins K. From Pac-Man to pop music: interactive audio in games and new media. Burlington, VT: Ashgate; 2008. p. 157; p. 155; p. 157; p. 162.

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14.         Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. Compunet. San Francisco, CA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; 2012. sec. 1, para. 1; sec. 2, para. 3; sec. 2, para. 2; sec. 2, para. 2. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compunet

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16.         Daglish B, Hubbard R, Abbott C, Follin T, Role Model. Chiptunes – Commodore music. Originally broadcast as part of the chiptunes series on Flat Four Radio. 2005. para. 10; para. 10; para. 12; para. 4; para. 4. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.mcld.co.uk/flatfour/chiptunes/commodore/

17.         Gray M. Always on my mind. Commodore 64 Scene Database; 1987 [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://csdb.dk/release/download.php?id=36800

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25.         Gray M, HardSID. Jukebox 64: tune comments. Hungary: Hard Software; 1987. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.hardsid.com/s.php?Jukebox%2064%2038d3

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27.         Page J, Carr N. An interview with Jason Page. United Kingdom: Remix64, High Technology Publishing Ltd; 2002. para. 14; para. 3; para. 7; para 11; para. 10. para 11. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.remix64.com/interviews/interview-jason-page.html

28.         Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. Soundtrack. San Francisco, CA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; 2013. sec. 1, para 1. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soundtrack

29.         Cundy M. A celebration of C64 loading screens: the art of waiting, Commodore style. South San Francisco, CA: GamesRadar, Future plc; 2009. p. 1, sec. 2, para 4; p. 3, sec. 3, para 1; p. 1, sec. 2, para 4; p. 3, sec. 3, para 1 [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.gamesradar.com/a-celebration-of-c64-loading-screens/

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33.         Åkesson L. Elements of chip music. Originally presented at Revision 2011, Saarbrücken, Germany (http://2011.revision-party.net/history/2011/seminars). Presentation uploaded to YouTube by lftkryo. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 2011 [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEjcK5JFEFE

34.         Xenomania news. Xenomania win producer of the year. Xenomania news: Unofficial Xenomania fansite; 2009 [cited 2013 February 20]; Available from: http://xenomanianews.blogspot.com.au/2009/04/xenomania-win-producer-of-year.html

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38.         Daglish B. An interview with Ben Daglish. Interview done by Ali Pouladi for Lemon64.: LEMON64; 2004. para. 5; para. 14; para. 20 [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.lemon64.com/?mainurl=http%3A//www.lemon64.com/interviews/ben_daglish.php

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40.         Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. Chiptune. San Francisco, CA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; 2013. sec. 1 (Overview), para 4; sec. 2 (Style), para. 2; sec. 1 (Overview), para. 2 [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiptune

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42.         Butterfield J. Commodore 64 music: happy birthday. Originally published in Compute! Magazine, Issue 53, October 1984, p 177. 1983. para. 9. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue53/079_1_Commodore_64_Music_Happy_Birthday.php

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47.         Follin T. Tim Follin Interview about video game music 2 of 2. Originally aired on Channel m’s Re:Loaded program. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by mikydeewilliams. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 2007 [cited 2013 February 25]; 7:[Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWjMd5JRclQ

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50.         Gray M. Driller Commodore 64 loader tune. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by gdreyband. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1987. sec. 1 (About), para. 1. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpneomNT6CI

51.         Nelson P. This isn’t pop: when video game music inspired by popular music is a little too inspired. Extra Future; 2009. para 1. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://extrafuture.com/2009/02/22/this-isnt-pop-when-video-game-music-inspired-by-popular-music-is-a-little-too-inspired/

52.         Parish J. Musical miscreants: game music that sounds a little too familiar. San Francisco, CA: 1UPGAMES, IGN Entertainment Games; 2010. sec. 2 (Banjo Kazooie), para. 1. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.1up.com/features/game-music-sounds-familiar

53.         Susanka J. Homage? Or hijacking? Bedford, NH. Crisis Magazine: a voice for the faithful catholic laity; 2010. para. 2. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2010/homage-or-hijacking

54.         Newman J. Plagiarism as art: musical borrowing and copyright law. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University; 2009. p. 131. [cited 2013 February 25]; Available from: http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1281&context=etd_hon_theses

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58.         Matt’s brother. Personal communication. November 11, 2011.

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Image and Youtube video references
(listed in the order in which they appear)

1.            The obsolete techonology webpage. Old computer ads: Commodore Amiga 500. The obsolete techonology webpage; 2013 [cited 2013 19 March ]; Available from: http://oldcomputers.net/amiga500.html

2.            Commodore USA. Commodore 64. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Commodore USA, LLC; 2013 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.commodoreusa.net/cusa_c64.aspx

3.            Galway M. Comic Bakery Commodore 64 Loader Tune. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by gdreyband. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1984 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf29ShkoAiA

4.            Berardini C. Speedball II Comes To Xbox Live Arcade San Francisco, CA: IGN Entertainment, Inc. ; 2007 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/13675/Speedball-II-Comes-to-Xbox-Live-Arcade-Next-Month/

5.            Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. Tyger (album). San Francisco, CA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; 2013 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyger_(album)

6.            Mike. Compunet. Commodore Apocalypse; 2002 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.64apocalypse.com/compunet/compunet.htm

7.            Gray M. Jukebox 64 part 1 by Matt Gray. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by Ruairi Murphy. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1987 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aksfOCm783c

8.            Hubbard R. Sanxion Commodore 64 Loader Tune. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by gdreyband. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1986 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It7yJh-NwPY

9.            Gray M. Bangkok Knights C64 Loader Tune. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by gdreyband. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1987 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEQbxR471Es

10.         Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. System 3. San Francisco, CA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; 2013 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.c64-wiki.de/index.php/System_3

11.         Daglish B, Lees A. 02. Last Ninja, The Wastelands. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by unclejubalon. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1987 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOmin4vmMts

12.         Gray M. 08. Last Ninja 2, The Basement OST. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by unclejubalon. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1988 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x7iwv-Gx_c

13.         Gray M. Driller Commodore 64 Loader Tune. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by gdreyband. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1988 [cited 2013 February 25]; 107: Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpneomNT6CI

14.         Dutch USA-Team. Rock Monitor 5. Commodore 64 Scene Database; 2013 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://csdb.dk/release/?id=10632

15.         Gray M. hunters moon – Thalamus – C64 Commodore 64 game loading music. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by MadCommodore. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1987 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3uCX2P60pg

16.         Gray M. Dominator Commodore 64 Subtunes 2 & 3. Presentation uploaded to YouTube by gdreyband. San Bruno, CA: YouTube, LLC; 1989 [cited 2013 March 19]; Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sjR3aOBURs

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About murphyruairi

This is a test
Aside | This entry was posted in Chip Music, Commodore 64, Commodore musicians, Matt Gray, SID chip and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Matt Gray 64

  1. Dai_bonehead says:

    Fantastic article/story. Listening to Bangkok Nights loader right now. I can feel reality shifting as I type.

  2. Ebnoxi says:

    Amazing stuff, one of the best stories I have read in a very long time. Thanks for putting the time and effort into writing this piece, it brought back many beloved memories. ❤

  3. Thanks to my father who told me regarding this weblog, this weblog is really remarkable.

  4. Pingback: 1 – Matt Gray 64 (2013) - Exploding Ads

  5. Pingback: Bookmarks for October 21st through October 22nd | Chris's Digital Detritus

  6. Eli says:

    And another thank you for taking the time to write this – incredible work.

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