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Lee Jackson (composer)

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Lee Jackson
Background information
OriginAustin, Texas, U.S.
GenresVideo game music
Occupation(s)Composer, game audio designer/director/producer
Instrument(s)Bassoon, bass clarinet, marimba/xylophone, tympani and other percussion, synths and samplers, other MIDI instruments and sample libraries
Years active1994–2002, 2016, 2018, 2020-present
LabelsLee Jackson

Lee Jackson is an American composer. He was the music and sound director for the video game developer 3D Realms from 1994 through 2002.

Game music and audio development[edit]

He is most well known for his work on Duke Nukem 3D and Rise of the Triad, specifically for creating Duke Nukem 3D's main theme titled "Grabbag". He collaborated with Robert Prince to create the two games' instrumental background tracks.

While at Apogee/3D Realms, Jackson also served as the primary composer for the later 3D Realms title Shadow Warrior, and was involved with many other games published by 3D Realms and Apogee Software.[1] His duties also called for sound design on Shadow Warrior and on early versions of Duke Nukem Forever.

Jackson also did voice acting, direction, and effects for games by Apogee and 3D Realms, as well as for the Balls of Steel pinball game,[2] released under the Apogee one-off subsidiary Pinball Wizards label. His own voice acting characters include the "Fat Commander" in Duke Nukem 3D, the "Doug Wendt"[3] character in Rise of the Triad, and "Zilla" in Shadow Warrior. Aside from performing several characters used in Balls of Steel, he also auditioned talent and directed recording sessions for Apogee and 3D Realms games at Bill Reardon's RR Brand Productions studio in Dallas.

Jackson's voice can also be heard in the music for two games. He incorporated his voice into the music for a level of Apogee's Stargunner, and used it as a sampled instrument in a track for Shadow Warrior.

In 2016, Jackson worked with Gearbox Software to create new songs for the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour game.[4]

A series of "Composers Play" interviews published on YouTube in December 2018 covers much of his involvement in Duke Nukem 3D, as well as some of the history behind how he got his start writing music for videogames.[5][6][7] Another "Composers Play" interview came out in late January 2019, this time covering Lee's involvement in Rise of the Triad.[8]

In 2021, Jackson joined Doomworld,[9] a Doom community forum website, after being invited by another member of the forums. There, he has authored and contributed several new General MIDI tracks for community projects.[10][11][12]

Duke Nukem 3D[edit]

Jackson is most well known for his work on Duke Nukem 3D, specifically for creating Duke Nukem 3D's main theme titled "Grabbag". He collaborated with Robert Prince to create the instrumental background tracks for the first three episodes of the game. Jackson created all of the tracks for the fourth episode of Duke Nukem 3D, better known as the "Plutonium PAK Add-On" or as the full four-episode "Atomic Edition".[13] In 2016, a remake and remaster called Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour was released, containing a new fifth episode by the original level designers, and containing new original music by Jackson.

Grabbag has elicited many spin-offs and remixes over the years by both fans and professional musicians, including an officially sanctioned studio version by the popular thrash metal outfit Megadeth. Another version of the song was recorded by Chris Kline in August 2005. 3D Realms featured it on the front page of their website and contracted with Kline to use it to promote their Xbox Live release of Duke Nukem 3D.[14] Grabbag was brought back and used again as the theme song for the 2011 release of Duke Nukem Forever.

Professional memberships[edit]

Jackson was one of the first people to qualify for full voting membership in National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammy organization) based solely on works published with video games.[15] He is also a member of the NARAS Producers & Engineers Wing.[15] Jackson celebrated his 15th year anniversary as a member of both organizations in 2012 and his 20th anniversary in 2017.

In May 2018, Jackson was elected to membership in ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) for publication of his album, Calibrations.


Prior to his career with Apogee/3D Realms, Jackson attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1981–1983 as a Music Education major and was initiated into the Alpha Iota chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in the fall of 1982. He was also a member of the flag section of the University of Texas Longhorn Band and played bassoon in the UT Wind Ensemble and Symphony Band. He left the University in 1983 and went to work for the Internal Revenue Service's Austin Service Center with his wife, Brenda, whom he had married the same year. The two had a son, Nathan, in 1986. Jackson and Brenda both worked at the IRS until 1993, when Jackson joined Apogee Software's technical support department. He was promoted to the Music and Sound Director position in 1996. His wife, Brenda, retired from the IRS's office in Dallas in October 2018.[15]

The Hack report[edit]

Before and briefly after moving to the Dallas area, Jackson published a monthly report that was distributed through the FidoNet network and the "hack-l" newsgroup of the Internet, called "The Hack Report".[16][17] This report was distributed for free to sysop of any Bulletin Board System and to anyone else who offered files for download. It was an attempt to help users and sysops alike avoid "fraudulent programs." Malicious files that contained viruses or did harm to a system when executed were of course covered, but the report also covered programs which were either jokes or attempts to earn "download points" in exchange for uploading "new files," such as ones which had been edited with a hex editor to look like a new version but which were actually the same as the real current version. The report was published through much of 1992 and 1993, with the help of contributors from around the world. It earned coverage in the 1994 book "Cyberlife!", although the authors of the chapter in which it was featured called it "The 'Hacker' Report."[18]

O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships[edit]

In the early-to-mid 1990s, Jackson competed in and won first-place honors in the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships, held yearly at the O. Henry Museum in Austin, Texas. He won the prepared pun category twice ("Punniest of Show," 1992 and 1995) and the head-to-head competition once ("High Lies and Low Puns," now called the "Punslingers" category) in 1991. Jackson is also a charter member of Punsters United Nearly Yearly (a.k.a. "P.U.N.Y.),[19] a support group for punsters dedicated to holding the World Championships competition.


Jackson began working a radio producer and on-air traffic and news reporter out of what was the Dallas / Fort Worth market of Metro Networks in 2004. He continued his position during the purchase of Metro Networks by Clear Channel Communications and stayed on during the eventual folding of Metro into Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network subsidiary in 2011. He primarily provided traffic reports on the 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. overnight shift for 1080 KRLD (AM) in Dallas from 2006 until late 2012, when poor health forced him to go on disability status.

Jackson was one of many former 3D Realms employees who worked on the long-delayed Duke Nukem Forever and who attended the game's Happy Ending launch party held on June 11, 2011 at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas,[20] along with his wife and son.

Debut album[edit]

On March 30, 2018, Jackson published his debut 14-track solo album, Calibrations. He also personally made available a ten-disc signed and numbered Collector's Edition of the album, which sold out. Three of the songs on the album were new, while nine were songs composed for episode five of the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour game. The remaining two tracks include an interview conducted by Jake "The Voice" Parr and a reading of special thanks. Of the three new tracks, Track 12, "Spicewood," was dedicated to Jackson's late grandparents, who lived in the community of Spicewood on Lake Travis, northwest of Austin, Texas.


Video games
Year Title Developer(s) Notes
1993 Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold JAM Productions Support
1994 Wacky Wheels Apogee Software The Tech Support Crew, Thanks
1995 Terminal Velocity Terminal Reality Beta tester
Rise of the Triad Apogee Software With Bobby Prince
1996 Duke Nukem 3D 3D Realms
Stargunner WizardWorks
1997 Shadow Warrior 3D Realms
Duke Nukem 64
Balls of Steel Wildfire Studios Pty. Ltd.
1998 Duke Nukem: Time to Kill n-Space Original Duke Theme
1999 Duke Nukem: Zero Hour Eurocom, 3D Realms Speech editing
Duke Nukem (Game Boy Color) Torus Games Special thanks
2000 Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes n-Space Duke Voice Production
2002 Duke Nukem Advance Torus Games Original Sound
The Tapestry: Prologue - The First Stitch Dylan Downing Reuses music from Rise of the Triad
2011 Duke Nukem Forever 3D Realms Original composer of "Grabbag"
2013 Rise of the Triad Interceptor Entertainment Special Thanks
2016 Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour 3D Realms Wrote new music for "Alien World Order".
Year Title Label
2018 Calibrations N/A
2020 Derivations
2021 Duke Nukem Tank Tracks
2022 Lady Tygress' Suite and Other Commissions
Voice acting
Year Title Role(s)
1995 Rise of the Triad Doug Wendt, Death Monk
1996 Duke Nukem 3D Assault Commander, "Our Queen is born" alien (Ep. 4 intro cinematic)
1997 Shadow Warrior Zilla
2013 Rise of the Triad Doug Wendt, Death Monk

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee Jackson – Music To Play By Archived September 9, 2004, at the Wayback Machine GameSpy, Article by Ryan Kelly
  2. ^ Mobygames Balls of Steel entry
  3. ^ The Apogee FAQ, section, ROTT characters
  4. ^ DukeNukem.com
  5. ^ "Composers Play - "Duke Nukem 3D" with Lee Jackson! (Part 1/3)". YouTube. November 30, 2018. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  6. ^ "Composers Play - "Duke Nukem 3D" with Lee Jackson! (Part 2/3)". YouTube. November 30, 2018. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  7. ^ "Composers Play - "Duke Nukem 3D" with Lee Jackson! (Part 3/3)". YouTube. December 3, 2018. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  8. ^ "Composers Play - "Rise of the Triad" with Lee Jackson!". YouTube. January 28, 2019. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  9. ^ Lee Jackson's Doomworld profile
  10. ^ Jackson, Lee (May 5, 2021). "New Music? For What? DOOM???". D. Lee Jackson. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  11. ^ "Ultimate MIDI Pack" thread on Doomworld
  12. ^ "TNT: Evilution MIDI Pack" thread on Doomworld
  13. ^ Lee Jackson – Interview by Brian Cowell[permanent dead link] Sonikmatter, May 25, 2000
  14. ^ "Official Duke Nukem 3D Xbox LIVE Arcade Trailer". 3D Realms. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  15. ^ a b c Lee Jackson – Music To Play By GameSpy, Article by Ryan Kelly
  16. ^ Jackson, Lee. "The Hack Report for February, 1993". TEXTFILES.com.
  17. ^ Compuserve, Inc (January 1993). CompuServe Magazine Jan 1993. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  18. ^ Summit, Paul M. & Summit, Mary J. (1994) [1st. Pub. 1994]. "Chapter 14: Hackers: Pirates or Patriots?". In Abraham, Marla; Piga, Rosie & Williams, Joe (eds.). Cyberlife!. Sams Publishing. pp. 348–350. ISBN 0672304910.
  19. ^ P.U.N.Y. Group
  20. ^ Goodbye Duke Nukem, Article by Joe Siegler

External links[edit]