Mar 102014

Here’s another track from THD, my garage band from the early 80’s.

I pulled in the track from the same cassette tape containing the track “Turnaround“, though this one has had more “post production” work. The original version was recorded with Andy Walker on lead vox and guitar, Andy & myself on backing/chorus vox, and the Clef Master Rhythm drum machine (programmed by moi). There’s one overdub on this (backing vox), but we did not yet possess a bass guitar, so the original had no bass.

I brought the original track from the cassette tape into Garage Band and adjusted the tempo to an even 146 BPM. Then, I overlaid a replacement drum track (very simple & repetitive, matching the original, which is lurking in the mix underneath), added a bass line, and a “guitar break” (solo is not quite the right word) to fill in the place we’d originally left for it (but never added).

Very simple song, about one man’s love for his ten ton truck, or something. The vocals here are very tentative, we became a bit more confident in later work, but I think that adds some charm. It’s like a cross between 10cc and a future Offspring. It also has the most amazing fuzzbox effect on the guitar, with full bar chords being played. Don’t recall which distortion pedal was being used, but at the time I had made my own by taking the preamplifier from inside an old cassette player (the one that takes the input from the tape head) and feeding my guitar into that. Oh yes, that distorted alright! Perhaps that was in use here.

[EDIT: the sound quality on this YouTube video is pretty rough. I need to upload a cleaner version.]


 Posted by at 10:07 pm
Mar 092014

This is the drum machine I had in the early 80’s. I bought the kit version, which meant soldering all the components to the circuit board, mounting the switches, etc. There were dozens of diodes (literally), and I must admit I did make the mistake of soldering them all in back to front (got anode mixed with cathode, oops). I managed to desolder all of them and mount them all the correct way. The drum machine worked perfectly. 🙂 This is the drum machine used on the THD recordings, of which one has been featured on this site, possibly others to follow.

Here’s a link to a site I found while, on a whim, searching for “1980’s drum machine”, hoping for my memory to be jogged (could’t remember the name of the device until I saw the photos posted there). Using the Clef Master Rhythm (and some deft, real time sequence switching shenanigans), my musical accomplice, Andy Walker, and I managed to record cover versions of White Man and Tie Your Mother Down by Queen, as well as Rock Bottom by UFO, and others. Amazingly, the drums were not the worst part of those covers. 🙂

I’ve long since parted with the drum machine, given away during a move a long time ago. Of course, today there are much more capable options (such as Garage Band, which is essentially free, assuming you can afford a Mac), but there is a certain charm to the Master Rhythm’s typically analog sounds.

 Posted by at 9:36 pm
Mar 012014

THD Master Tape

When I was around the age of 18, a friend – Andy Walker – and myself started a garage band called THD (for Total Harmonic Distortion). We never got beyond the garage, nor did we ever expand beyond 2 people, but we did create some music.

At the time, funds were extremely limited, so we made do with what we could scrape together. We were into metal/rock, with some other eclectic elements. I recently came across a TDK ADC90 cassette tape proclaiming itself, “Overdub April ’82 T.H.D. master tape”.

I spent a little time rescuing one of the more reasonable tracks using a cheap USB cassette tape converter. I pulled the track into Audacity, and found that the vocals were on the left channel, everything else on the right. Given this, I took the opportunity to brighten the vocals using some tracking tricks, then remixed the whole thing. “Turnaround” probably falls into the “eclectic” range. 🙂

The original track was recorded using the following gear:

  • Casio VL-Tone keyboard. This was a cheap calculator/keyboard introduced by Casio in the early 80’s. It was monophonic, but I modified it so that the “sequence” mode (you could press a button to step through a recorded sequenc of notes) could be triggered by an external pulse.
  • Tape echo box. Andy picked this up from a music shop in Manchester. It was a standard tape echo box, and we fed the VL-Tone into it. The echo was approximately in sync with the tempo of the sequenced VL-Tone, leading to a polyphonic effect.
  • Drum machine (Clef Master Rhythm). I built this from a kit, and used it to trigger the VL-Tone in sync with the drums.
  • Cheap Les Paul copy guitar (by Kay, I think). This was my first guitar, and I used this for the background chording.
  • Second Les Paul copy guiter (Andy’s). This was detuned an octave, and used for the “bass”.
  • Cheap microphone. Again, Andy had picked this up in Manchester. It wasn’t a very good mic, but better than what we’d used before (which was one of the little plastic mics you used to get with cassette recorders).
  • We used a couple of cassette decks for overdubs. I think we used an Akai and a Toshiba. Lots of generation noise!

In terms of who did what, Andy was on vox and “bass” guitar. I programmed the VL-Tone and drum machine, and played rhythm guitar. It’s a sort of psychedelic little track, very repetitive, and containing lyrics written by angsty 18 year olds. The rendition here is quite noisy due to an evil Panasonic cassette deck I once owned, which would inject noise spikes onto each tape it played.

I haven’t heard from Andy in over 20 years, last known living in Barnsley, South Yorks.

Anyway, here it is, “Turnaround, by THD”:

 Posted by at 5:15 pm
Feb 112014

Since I’ve been covering various game music remixes here I thought I’d post these links to remixes of the Nodes of Yesod music. The original music was by Fred Gray,  these versions originate in the iOS version of the game (the 25th Anniversary Edition).

I’ve included a couple of tracks, firstly, the main “theme” music. This version was created by Julien Nevo in MIDI format, to which I added instrumentation and production for this PCM version:

And then the in game “Moon Music” by Matti Paalanen:

 Posted by at 11:27 pm
Dec 012013

Time for another Projectyle cover by Flavien Morel (Benighted Soul)!

Check out the Devils theme – this version has a more layered arrangement than the original, and makes changes to the overall chording, giving a different feel to the melody lines. I like this one a lot. 🙂

 Posted by at 10:28 pm
Nov 242013

Here’s another Projectyle cover by Flavien Morel (Benighted Soul) – up this time is the Vectors. The treatment here is more elaborate (vs the original) and sounds pretty good to me!

 Posted by at 4:26 pm
Nov 152013

Flavien Morel, keyboard player & sound engineer in the band Benighted Soul, commented recently on this blog site about how he remembered the Projectyle music from when he was a kid. It’s always cool when something you do has an impact on somebody, but I was pretty amazed when Flavien followed up on his friendly threat to make a cover version of one of the Projectyle tracks.

For your listening pleasure, here’s the Manic Moose theme, as arranged and performed by Flavien Morel!

 Posted by at 10:37 pm
Sep 222013

The First MOBA!

Try to imagine a game, a game based upon a popular RTS. In this game, instead of placing buildings and creating hordes of units, you would control a single unit. There would be no structure creation of any kind, though there could be armed defense towers placed in the map at strategic locations. During the game you could perhaps collect power-up items to increase armor, movement speed, weapon damage. This would be an online-only game, fought between two sides. At the start of each game, maybe players could pick the unit they want to control for that game.

No, I am not talking about Defense of the Ancients (DOTA). That was a mod for Warcraft 3 released in 2003. I am talking about Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor, a game released by Westwood Studios back in 1997 (6 years before DOTA!), which was essentially a giant mod of Command & Conquer, released at retail as a standalone product.

At the time, C&C Red Alert had shipped, C&C Tiberian Sun was in development, and Westwood wanted to try a small experimental game based in the C&C world where each player basically control one C&C unit in a massive battle between Nod and GDI. For what it was, the game had its moments, though it ultimately failed to catch on commercially (and was not without design balance issues, though capture the flag mode could be fun). Free-to-play had not been invented by the mid-90’s, and I think most people (including many at Westwood) just didn’t see the point of Sole Survivor as a retail release.

Audio Easter Egg

The game featured music by the legendary Frank Klepacki and had a full sound treatment by the very capable audio department at Westwood. The development team built into the game the ability to swap out the included sound effects and replace them with ones of your own. By way of an example, yours truly dutifully created a set of sounds, which happen to be all electric guitar squiggles, licks and riffs. This stuff was included with the retail CD release of the game, and I’ve collected the samples and included them for your listening … pleasure … below. All the growls, squeals, twiddles and other noises are played on my trusty Yamaha SG style guitar (which is still my main guitar), and recorded through my DigiTech FX pedal. I think I piped this straight into the line-in jack on my PC and used the Windows sound recorder to capture the recordings. It probably took an hour or so to record the lot of these.

As you might imagine, once enabled, the effect was rather chaotic and comical. It sounded like Saturday morning at the guitar store where all the kids try to outdo each other with the new riffs they just learned. 🙂 I’m not sure the audio department @ Westwood were really ever told about the inclusion of this stuff in the game. Sorry guys.

 Posted by at 12:41 am
Sep 212013

Here’s some more Atari ST music, this time from the System 3 game, “Flimbo’s Quest”.

My company, Eldritch the Cat, did the conversion of Flimbo’s Quest from the Amiga to the Atari ST. Mark McCubbin, Marc Wilding and myself did the porting, and I did the music player and music. The music I think is somewhat derivative of the Amiga version of the game, and I forget exactly what might be original and what might be based on the Amiga. I suspect that the Atari ST music was composed by listening to the Amiga and then coming up with something similar. So, I am not taking total credit for the original composition, it’s probably a mixture of things. There’s no friendly YouTube video available for this stuff and I have not yet taken the time to grab samples from the ST emulated version of the game, so for now here is this MP3 collection courtesy of (there are three pieces, back to back, in the player):

This music was created in Quartet, and then played back with my custom Quartet player.

 Posted by at 3:34 pm
Sep 142013

A second musical entry for today. This track was written for Millenium for their Warlock – The Avenger game (sequel to their Gauntlet clone, Druid). This track was composed using one of the myriad Soundtracker clones for the Amiga. I sampled a bunch of muted and unmuted sounds from my guitar, and then composed the track on the Amiga using the Soundtracker UI. To me it definitely sounds like music from its time (late 80’s), and I think the overall sound has a Def Leppard feel to it, electronic drums and processed, layered guitars. Again, I never actually saw the game at the time, so I was basing the whole composition on a verbal brief + the name of the game (Warlock – bad male witch). At the time I had an audio sampler for the Amiga, and I recall grabbing the “Prince of Darkness” snippet from a movie on TV (don’t remember which one). There is some obligatory backwards satanic messaging in there too (it was the 80’s), originating from some samples I had sitting around. Some scallywag did figure out what those samples are saying, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the listener. 🙂

I quite like this one, on balance.

PS To be clear, I had no involvement with the development of the game; I just did the music.

 Posted by at 1:34 pm