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Nightshade 
Handle: Nightshade
Real Name: Andrew James Barnabas
Lived in: United Kingdom
Ex.Handles: Night-Shade, AB, AJB, NS, Andrew Barnabas, Andrew J. Barnabas, Andy Barnabas, Barn
Was a member of: Amiga Musicians Freeware Magazine (AM/FM - AMFM), Crusaders (CRS), Dens Design, Ecstasy (XTC), The Pornos, The Silents (TSL), Tristar & Red Sector Inc. (TRSI)

Modules: 70  online
Interview: Read!
Pictures: 9  online

Interview


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            TLb.  ,dMP'          all rite, now you get the chance to read
             TML.dMMP            some facts about some of the major amiga
          ,nmm`XXMPX              musicians. read about their history in 
       ,#MP'~~XNXYNXTb.          the scene and their plans in future.yes, 
     ,d~'     dNNP `YNTb.       that's meant to be read while listening to  
    ,~       ,NN'     `YNb   their modules. read 'em over and over and over..
             dNP        `Yb.  
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    Handle: Nightshade

    Group: Crusaders

    Date of birth: 11 May 1973


  • 1-How did your interest for computers start? Which year was that?

  • Well, my first introduction into computers began when I joined the local
    computer group at age 7, sitting around with lots of old people discussing
    how to do simple graphics on a 480Z research machine. That was in 1980.
    My mother put me up for that because she noticed from a very early age that
    I had a fascination with all things electrical (watching eagerly as the
    washing machine repair man opened up the washing machine!) It was all
    downhill from then on!

    My secondary school had a computer room full of Commodore Pets, which I
    joined in 1983. You couldn't prise me away from the place!


  • 2-What machines did you previously have? What did you do with them?

  • We were given a Commodore 64 for Xmas 1986. My brother and I went through
    the stages of eagerly playing as many games as possible (my faves at the
    time being Uridium & Ghosts'n'Gobins). Many other school kids had them,
    so we started the usual game swapping etc. I became more interested in
    the workings of the machine and did a helluva lot of basic programming.
    A friend at school lent me the 'Programmers reference guide to the C64',
    which gave one an insight into machine code programming. This I found
    fascinating, and started to dabble. At this time my brother decided to
    write to the addresses for pen-pals in the back of Zzapp! 64. Our first
    tapes back contained about 20 games, this was our first initiation into
    the 'scene', something none of my local computer friends had done.
    In May 1988, I was given an Action Replay Cartridge (v5!) That was it, I was
    hooked on coding.A few of us locally decided to start our own group with swappers, a graphic
    artist, and me doing the coding. At the same time we were creatin demo's,
    each one getting progressively more complex, but I was doing *all*
    the coding from the machine code monitor in the Action Replay cartridge!
    Hard core! The group was called 'The Zarathustrians', and my brother and
    I were 'Zax' & 'Lui' respectively. We also managed to get hold of games
    fairly quickly, so I could 'crack' them, and recompress them with various
    crunchers of the time (babyface, timeline). It wasn't real cracking, but
    it helped! Then in 1989, whilst working on one of the demos (we usually
    pinched the music from another demo!) someone sent me Maniac of Noises'
    Future Composer. Having to write music by hand in such a fashion didn't
    appeal to me at all (write note, delay etc, new note, delay, etc..) however
    I wrote the music for 2 demo's.

    Then Xmas' 89 we were given an Amiga 500. I had already been using one
    'cos a few friends locally had one a lot earlier. In fact, I wrote my first
    amiga music before I even had one, a friend of mine, (Hi AH!) rang me one
    day saying that I *had* to come round to check out this new composition
    program he'd been sent called Soundtracker. He'd printed out the instructions,
    and we spent hours figuring out how to use the thing. I was instantly hooked,
    from my horrible experiences with Midi (in the school's recording studio)
    to using Aegis Sonix (yuck!) on his amiga and Future Composer on the C64
    this was a fresh breath of air.

    I remember that within 3 weeks of owning my first amiga, I was asked to join
    a group - The Silents UK with my 3rd Soundtracker tune I'd written! I was
    absolutely addicted to writing modules. In fact, the hi-score music for the
    game SWIV I wrote after only having the amiga for 4 months. I was composing
    between 5-10 tunes (some unfinished) a month. I went through various groups,
    mostly following my friend in the amiga scene Guardian, and ended up joining
    a local group in my home town of Croydon called Ecstasy. I got my first
    commission in September 1990 to write music for the game SWIV.

    The A500 was used until '93, when John Twiddy of Jaguar Software (coder of
    the Last Ninja series, Tau Ceti, and various Disney conversions
    (e.g. Aladdin) and most recently Constructor on the PC) who I was working
    for bought me an A1200. I became very interested in 3D graphics (from a free
    cover disk copy of Imagine), and purchased a 68030 + loads of fastmem so that
    I could use Lightwave.

    In 1993, I bought my first PC (a *lightning* quick 386 DX40!) and got to
    grips with Windows and Midi (Cakewalk is a great Midi package).
    Unfortunately, this was the time that the Amiga kind of lost the race
    (Commodore were utter fuckwits), and PC's became far more powerful, and
    cheaper, and had some great software, so I've stuck with PC's ever since.


  • 3-For what specific reason did you end up making music rather than gfx, coding?

  • Well, I started piano lessons at the age of 7, and I've had a parallel
    interest in music and computing, it wasn't until video game music that I
    actually realised that I could merge my two interests into one career!
    I've played in orchestra's, bands, and always stuck myself in recording
    studios as much as possible. My actual desire is to do film music, but
    I'm perfectly happy using video game music as my vehicle into that arena.
    I love computers, they have given me insight's into other art forms which
    I wouldn't necessarily be any good at without e.g. I can't draw but I can
    create Photoshop 'montages' - I can't animate, but I can create 3D
    animations in Lightwave. I've done a lot of coding on the 64, but chose
    to concentrate on different art forms when I got the amiga, and have stuck
    by that principle ever since. I am a classically trained musician, and
    my university degree was in music, so it just made sense!


  • 4-Which composing programs have you been using? Which one in particular?

  • Well, I'm quite lucky in the fact that I've used at one time or another
    virtually *all* of the available composition tools. It took me a *long*
    time to enjoy what MIDI could offer over the ease of use of modules.
    Protracker was in my opinion, the pinnacle of module composing (although
    I haven't really used Fastracker yet!) In 1991, I would've said that
    Noisetracker 2.0 was the top program, and in 1989 I would've said
    Soundtracker.

    In MIDI, I've used Performer, Cakewalk, Music-X, Cubase, Opcode Studio
    Vision, Steinberg Pro-24, Bars & Pipes and Logic Audio. I really rate
    Cakewalk for the PC, although I have to say that I think Logic Audio 3
    beats all of them. I'm not going to go into detail why, MIDI sequencers
    are a matter of personal taste, but IMO Logic can do everything all of
    the other sequencers can do, and a LOAD more. If anyone reading this wants
    to know why, they can mail me and I can tell them personally!

    For sound effects and dialog layering, I use Protools 4, which beats the
    others hands down. The ease of use, and enormous range of plugins
    available mean that the facilities at your disposal for sound editing are
    virtually limitless. It's not cheap tho'!

    All of our audio software is Mac based, which I still think has the best
    audio software (although PC's are gradually catching up). In fact, the
    best 2 track stereo sample editing software I think is Sound Forge for
    the PC, it absolutely blows away any Mac equivalent..

    I also use a separate Mac linked to our samplers for use with Recycle
    (sampled loop editing software) and Mesa II which is a front end to the
    Akai samplers on the Mac.


  • 5-With which module did you feel you had reached your goal?

  • Hard to tell, the one I was most happy with was Water II
    (title track for Double Dragon III on the amiga). I spent the most time
    on that one. Technically I think it was the best module that I created,
    but aesthetically I think I've done far better. A lot of modules I felt
    frustrated with basically due to the 4 channel limitation.


  • 6-Is there a tune you would like not to remember? For What reason?

  • There are quite a few, but fortunately I have an internal censoring program
    built into me which dictates that I don't release anything unless I am
    100% happy with it. I have probably a 900 modules which know-one else will
    ever hear, and probably only about 100 modules that have been released into
    the scene in some form or another. I don't like what a certain games
    company (remains unnamed) did to a few of my modules before releasing
    them but since that's not directly my fault, I can't say that I would not
    like to remember it. Obviously I can look back at my very early music
    and cringe at the thought of it (if you were brought up in the 80's and
    have seen 'The Wedding Singer' in the cinema you'll know what I mean!)
    but I realise that at the time that was the best I was capable of. Music
    is all about growing and learning, and you can't do that without making
    some cock-up's on the way. If you learn from your mistakes, and make better
    music as a result of it, I don't see the problem.

    If there was one tune that I absolutely hated, it would the game complete
    music on the PC game Deadline which came out in 1996. They told me at 10 AM
    they needed a game complete tune finished and mastered by 12:30, it was the
    worse thing I had ever done. Fortunately, the game died without a trace,
    and I doubt anyone was mad enough to complete it anyway.....


  • 7-In your opinion, what's the value of a music in a demo, game?

  • (I don't think you mean valour, I think you mean value, (ed.that is, sorry!)
    and I'll answer the question accordingly.)

    What's the definition of a demo? It's a showcase for graphic artists,
    mainly programmers and musicians to show off their talents in a form which
    is self-contained and mutually beneficial. To my mind, a demo is the
    cinematic artform for computers, a combination of a wealth of different
    talents into one tangible result. In the 20th century, the culmination of
    that is film, and the direct parallel is the demo (both are linear and
    non-interactive (apart from the odd demo which allows you to move the
    mouse to animate the vector balls or something equally mad)).

    The difference between the two are :-

    1. Cost
    2. Time taken and man power required.

    A demo costs nothing to make, it's a hobby. It doesn't make you a lot of
    money (even if you *do* win a demo compo, you can't exactly live off the
    earnings for a year until another one comes around). It's normally a group
    of mates who get together and design a demo. They have a lot of fun, and a
    few months later something impressive emerges. People don't write demo's
    for a living, they have a lot fun making it by hand. The music is an
    integral part of that process, I think the best demo's are the ones that
    sync up audio to video, the two complement each other perfectly, and
    enhances each others effect. Music is integral to every part of the demo.
    As a film music agent in the States recently told me, you don't walk out
    of a film humming the dialog?

    With games, it's slightly more complicated due to the most important aspect
    of any game. To be interactive and non-linear. The player is supposed to
    be the one making the decisions, NOT the game itself. That factor alone
    makes composition far more difficult. Unless the musician was to write
    music to suit *any* scenario within the game environment (faster music
    when you're doing well on a racing game - slow when you're not doing well)
    the music cannot be interactive, it has to be mood setting and atmospheric.
    That by it's very nature makes the job of the video game musician harder
    than that of a film composer.

    You still have to work on the same principle of choosing your palette of
    sound (the instrumentation) and composing themes to certain characters /
    events, but the use of that has to be far more subtle insofar as the player
    cannot realise what he/she has heard is in fact a theme of the enemy
    he/she heard 5 levels previously. Then you have to bear in mind the
    delivery medium of game music - normally a TV or a crappy set of PC speakers.
    Unlike the Dolby Digital 6 speaker system at cinema's the video game
    musician has to be able to evoke the passion of a game thru a crappy set of
    speakers.

    Sound is vital in all things visual, it enhances the effect... The value
    is the same as that of the visuals.


  • 8-At present, are you still composing? For professional or leisure purposes?

  • At present I work for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe as 1 of 3 composers
    who work on all the Sony projects inside Europe. I have no plans to change
    that at the moment.

    I also play keys in a fairly well-paid 7-piece covers band (where I am by
    far the youngest member).

    I am also slowly building up a studio of my own at home so that the other
    composer at my place and I can compose for TV/Film/Advert/Radio work
    outside of work hours. That is a slow process, musical equipment isn't
    exactly cheap.


  • 9-What do you think of today's pieces of music such as mpeg,wave,midi,etc...?

  • (To be honest Crown, the question doesn't really mean anything,
    the formats you mention are used for such different things and you can't
    really compare them with anything else anyway (apart from mp3). Midi is
    Midi, and Wav is Wav...)


  • 10-Could you tell us some of your all times favourite tunes?

  • Spell-Ameloration is my all-time favourite amiga mod, written by Uncle Tom
    in 1989 (I am fortunate enough to have the completed version which he sent
    me personally and never released). The composer I most respect on the Amiga
    was Bruno of Anarchy, he wrote some absolutely fantastic acid-jazz music
    (e.g. listen) and as Tip of Phenomena quite rightly stated, his music is
    full of so much humour. I'd love to know what he's up to these days.
    Cream of the Earth by another great muso Romeo Knight is also superb,
    as is Graveyard by Fleshbrain & Space Deliria by Dr. Awesome.

    As for game music, the only tune which really springs to mind is
    Chris Huelsbeck's R-Type theme tune.


  • 11-Are you planning to make an audio cd with some of your music remastered?

  • Well, as you may already know, I released my debut CD Shades last year.
    The CD contains one amiga tune which I re-wrote for synths. I personally
    am not a big fan of converting music from amiga mods to synths, I don't
    think it has ever really worked properly, the conversions tend to lose
    the charm and character that the original module had in abundance. I
    personally won't be re-recording any of my amiga music for synths, I
    prefer composing for the medium itself, rather than re-hashing old music.
    I plan to release a new CD next year.


  • 12-What bands are you currently listenning to?

  • I love film music (James Horner, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri & John Williams).
    The majority of my music collection is made up of jazz fusion predominantly
    from the GRP label in the States (Dave Weckl, Spyro Gyra, David Benoit,
    Tom Scott etc.) I also enjoy a lot of british instrumental bands e.g. Chemical
    Brothers, Orbital, Photek, Future Sound of London. Finally, I love synth
    new age music - Jarre, Vangelis, Christopher Franke's Babylon V music,
    Mark Snow's X-Files music & Kraftwerk. I'm currently listening to James
    Taylor Quartet's 'a few useful tips about living underground' album, and
    I've just finished listening to Jamiroquai's 'Travelling without Moving'.
    Basically, funk, jazz, synth, ambient & film scores.


  • 13-What does/did the amiga/c64 scene give you?

  • A job, a career, inspiration and loads of mates! What more could you want?


  • 14-Are you still active in the scene these days?

  • Well, I am the speaker for 'The Gathering' held in Norway every Easter.
    Two of us go there every year, and absolutely love it, we're treated like
    kings, and have an absolutely splendid time with all the various Crusaders
    members. Regarding working on demo's, they're still thinking about creating
    another demo, but at the moment it's not really happened, they're getting
    too old, lazy and having lives of their own (oh no! They're all growing up
    and having kids, buying houses etc.!)


  • 15-Anyone to greet? Anything left to say? Feel free...

  • Don't underestimate video game sound, a lot of work goes into it's
    creation and it's normally swept under the carpet in favour of the
    wonderful graphics. Sound is 50% of the overall effect, sometimes more.
    Know-one bothers about a second of black, but everyone notices a second
    of silence....


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    please note: this interview is ©opyrighted in 2001 by crown of cryptoburners
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