Hello sinners and repenters, Daniel here with the fortnightly article of Ballarat rants and randomness. I have a confession to make. As well as being a writer, a sound technician and various other career pursuits, in my spare time I’m a gamer, specifically a console gamer, and although this is a common thing in our day and age, I believe it also had a lot to do in influencing my love of music.
Being an ’80s child, I grew up with a Commodore 64 (yes I’m old) and although the 8” floppy discs were quite limited in their audio capabilities, it was through a little research (and asking my mum and dad) where certain background music came from.
Unsurprisingly a lot of it was synthesiser based. With the simple electronic beeps and tones, I remember playing long games of “Pengo” to the beeps of Gershon Kingsley’s ‘Popcorn’. So the Commodore 64 was the origin of my appreciation of electronic music. Living on a small survival budget, the Commodore 64 was part of the family until the release of the Sega Mega Drive in 1990.
Although the Mega Drive had a lot of original scores amongst their catalogue of 16-bit games, one game stood out amongst the others – Earthworm Jim. The charm of the ridiculous sense of humour had me addicted straight away, but also the music score. The levels boasted an odd choice of soundtracks that piqued my interest early – the level What the Heck had the Mussorgsky score ‘Night On Bald Mountain’ mixed in with some torturous screams to elevator music. Earthworm Jim didn’t stop with its classics: the level Jim’s Now a Blind Cave Salamander had Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ playing while you navigated nearsightedly through an underwater cave with painful sea anemone tentacles on the walls and numerous pinball bumpers to hit you into them.
In the late ’90s, the Nintendo versus Sony war started, and there were great arguments for both at the time. My best friend was the first to buy a Sony console, mainly for the scariest game on consoles at the time, Resident Evil 2. However, it wasn’t until he purchased the first third-person Duke Nukem game A Time to Kill that I bought my first CD on account of a video game soundtrack. The introductory FMV video was Duke Nukem shooting Pig Cops to the backing of Stabbing Westward’s ‘The Thing I Hate’. I researched this band and bought their current album at the time, Darkest Days.
My own next console was a Nintendo 64, and although having some classic exclusive games, it wasn’t until 1999 that a game with one of the sickest soundtracks in gaming history was released – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Boasting music from genres such as thrash metal, punk rock and ‘primus’, the tracklist had music from bands such as Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys and Primus. That on top of an unbelievably good control system, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was, to a teenager at the time, the whole package: music, gaming and skating!
Games and music have an almost symbiotic relationship these days, with all of the different ways to interact such as the release of the karaoke game SingStar in 2004 complete with USB microphones, Guitar Hero in 2005 with a guitar-shaped controller and Rock Band in 2007, with the addition of a drum kit to the microphones and guitar controller. 2011’s Rocksmith took the next step, with the true tone cable ¼” stereo Jack to USB being a direct input how consoles can teach how to play a guitar or bass.
I think parents these days would have a hard time arguing that video games just rot the brain.
By Daniel Lock