Martin on vacation in Greece, 1985
3 January 1966
Belfast, Northern Ireland
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Martin Galway (born 3 January 1966, Belfast, Northern Ireland) is one of the best known composers of chiptune video game music for the Commodore 64 sound chip, the SID soundchip, and for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. His works include Rambo: First Blood Part II, Comic Bakery and Wizball's scores, as well as the music used in the loader for the C64 version of Arkanoid.
In 1983, Martin Galway was a 17-year-old student writing games and music for the BBC Micro, along with his friends at Parrs Wood High School in Manchester, England. Parrs Wood's original Computer Studies teacher, Peter Davidson, had already left his job at the school to work at Database Publications in Stockport – publishers of The Micro User magazine. Database Publications had started a software arm, Optima Software, that would advertise its games in the magazine for no charge. They needed some programmers to create the software and Davidson contacted his former pupils. Galway (who had, at the time, only one year of computer experience) was recruited, along with others including Kevin Edwards (who now works at Traveller's Tales). With no tools except the BBC Micro and its BASIC+assembler, Galway whistled the tunes to himself and typed the notes in one by one, providing the music for Edwards's and Optima Software's first game – Atomic Protector (an unlicensed Pac-Man clone. Galway was paid £50 for each of the six weeks of the job (the length of the school holidays).
Continuing to create music and sound-effects for his friends' games into the following year, Galway realised that Eyes (another Pac-Man rip-off) by school friend Paul Proctor could be worth "proper" money, and he picked up a copy of Personal Computer News to look for a publisher. By March 1984, that magazine's back cover was regularly advertising Ocean Software in Manchester, so they were spotted first; Galway approached them as Proctor's agent. The game was liked, and after a meeting with David Ward, Ocean paid £300 for it. Eyes was never published. Keen to offer his skills as a musician to David Collier, Ocean's development manager, Galway brought with him some BBC Micro disks to the office of Richard Kay, who was their in-house BBC programmer (later to start Software Creations). After this demonstration, Ocean saw Galway as a potential replacement for their current music supplier, who lived in Portsmouth, which was a logistical challenge. They loaned a complete Commodore 64 assembly language development system to Galway, who began analysing the system and composing immediately.
During the 1980s, Galway made music for many of the popular Commodore 64 games, and became one of the most famous SID artists. Galway is best known for his soaring, anthemic compositions, for making heavy use of the SID chip's ring modulation feature, and for compositions which made unconventional changes to SID register settings while notes were playing (producing his trademark echoey sound). Perhaps his most famous song is the title-piece for Comic Bakery, a sweeping 3-voice tune. This is also one of the most ripped C64 songs, as it was featured in a number of intros (what crackers used to put before a copied game to brag) and on music discs. A cover of the Comic Bakery tune was also used for the first level of the game Jurassic Park, released by Ocean Software for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993. Another song that many Commodore 64 users remember is his adaptation of the Rambo II theme used in the game.
Galway also made music for one of Origin Systems' first adventure/roleplaying games, Times of Lore, with several tunes that were intended to suit the medieval setting. As he was also a programmer, he wrote an algorithm that randomised the chords that the guitar voice plays, making for a very long and varying piece.
"I figured out how samples were played by hacking into someone else's code ... OK, I admit it ... It was a drum synthesizer package called Digidrums, actually, so you could still say I was the first to include samples in a piece of music. [...] Never would I claim to have invented that technique, I just got it published first. In fact, I couldn't really figure out where they got the sample data, just that they were wiggling the volume register, so I tried to make up my own drum sample sounds in realtime – which is the flatulence stuff that shipped in Arkanoid. [...] After the project was in the shops I gained access to some real drum samples, and I slid those into my own custom version of the tune. The one that's in the shops is kind of a collage of farts & burps, don't you think? [...] Later I was able to acquire some proper drum samples and by Game Over it got quite sophisticated."
Galway has said that he will never remake his songs, as they were made for the SID chip and would sound wrong on real instruments. However, he says that he could possibly start making music for real instruments. His original SID music can be found from The High Voltage SID Collection.
Galway's most recent post was working as Audio Director for Cloud Imperium Games on their upcoming PC game Star Citizen, created by Chris Roberts of Wing Commander. Star Citizen was expected to release Q1 2015. Galway has since left this post.
Video game music
- Atomic Protector (Optima Software, 1983)
- Cookie (Ultimate Play the Game, 1983. An unreleased BBC Micro conversion, unearthed in 2002)
- Daley Thompson's Decathlon (Ocean Software, 1984, includes a chiptune cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Rydeen")
- Swag (Micromania, 1984)
- Sabre Wulf (Ultimate Play the Game, 1984)
- Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Includes a remix of Jean-Michel Jarre's "Les Chants Magnétiques part IV", Imagine, 1985)
- Hyper Sports (Imagine, 1985)
- Kong Strikes Back! (The first C64 song ever [composed in 1984] to use arpeggio which soon became an essential part of C64 sound, Ocean, 1985)
- The Neverending Story (Ocean, 1985)
- Ocean Loader 1 & 2 (The two different songs were used in several games released by Ocean, playing during the loading sequence of the game. Ocean Loaders 3 to 5 were composed by Peter Clarke and Jonathan Dunn) (Ocean, 1985)
- Roland's Ratrace (Ocean, 1985)
- Mikie (Imagine, 1986, like the arcade game, this includes the arrangements of The Beatles songs "Twist and Shout", "A Hard Day's Night")
- Ping Pong (Imagine, 1986, ZX Spectrum and C64 conversions)
- Comic Bakery (Imagine, 1986)
- Stryker's Run (Superior Software, 1986, includes a chiptune cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Rydeen")
- Terra Cresta (Imagine, 1986)
- Green Beret (Imagine, 1986)
- Helikopter Jagd (Ocean, 1986)
- Highlander (Ocean, 1986)
- Hunchback II (Ocean, 1986)
- Match Day (Ocean, 1986)
- Miami Vice (Ocean, 1986)
- Parallax (Ocean, 1986)
- Rambo: First Blood Part II (Ocean, 1986)
- Short Circuit (Ocean, 1986, contains the cover of "Who's Johnny" by El DeBarge)
- Arkanoid (Imagine, 1987)
- Athena (Imagine, 1987)
- Game Over (Imagine, 1987)
- Rastan (Imagine, 1987)
- Slap Fight (Imagine, 1987)
- Yie Ar Kung-Fu II (Imagine, 1987)
- Combat School (Ocean, 1987)
- Crazee Rider (Superior Software, 1987)
- Wizball (Ocean, 1987)
- MicroProse Soccer (MicroProse, 1988)
- Times of Lore (Origin, 1988)
- Insects in Space (Sensible Software, 1989)
- Wing Commander 2: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (Origin, 1991)
- Ultima VII: The Black Gate (Origin, 1992)
- Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (Origin, 1992)
- Strike Commander (Electronic Arts/Origin, 1993)
- Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom (Electronic Arts/Origin, 1995)
- The Kilrathi Saga (Electronic Arts, 1996)
- Starlancer (Digital Anvil/Microsoft, 2000)
- Artist profile at OverClocked ReMix
- Martin Galway discography at MusicBrainz
- Martin Galway's Music at CVGM
- Information about Martin Galway on Certain Affinity web page
- Legends of the C64 article on Martin Galway
- Remix64 Interview Sánchez, Claudio (10 July 2003)
- Remix64 Interview Carr, Neil (28 March 2001)