An Interview with Barry Leitch

by Neil Carr

Barry Leitch here gives a quite amusing account of his past and present work. He was resposable for the Techno-mix of Monty On The Run in the gremlin graphics follow-up called Impossamole. So what does barry do now... Well you'll be surprised...

Real name: Barry Leitch
Handle: The Jackal
Born: 1970
Nationality: Scottish


What were your favourite c64 composers?

Rob, Martin, Ben, Fred, the usual…

What music on the c64 of your own was you most pleased with?

Tough question, when I listen to them now I cringe, I think by the time we got our music drivers to sound professional enough it was too late in the day. Xenophobe had a great driver, but I was still learning what worked and what didn’t work as a composer, so the music was pretty poor.. I still like my Marauder music, even though the driver was very basic I really felt like I had accomplished something in creating a piece of music that was complete in that it flowed from the quiet introduction and built up… Also there was a game that I worked on in 87 that never got finished, and I think I released the music as a demo, called Sophistry or Arcanum I cant remember, either ways I was pleased with that because I had managed to continue a theme between the title music, high score music & jingles.. All part of the learning process for me… The Ferrari Formula One title music was probably the best…

What were your likes/dislikes regarding the sid chip?

It was great, its still technically superior to the chips I am working with these days, There were so many great features built into it, the ring modulation, the different waveforms etc.etc. It was a powerful synthesiser for its time, just as the Roland LAPC1/ MT32 was, but nobody really pushed the Roland to its max capabilities..The key to successful hardware, is that its flexible as the sid chip was, Too many new synths and small IC sound chips are technically quite powerful, but as flexible as a ham sandwich…

If there was a tune you wish you could claim as your own, what would it be and why?

Easy… Rob’s Spellbound…

There were some great tunes for the Monty mole series of games, what can you tell our readers about your music for impossamole?

So you thought it was crap then? I did too, but they (Gremlin) liked the amiga one, and the c64 version was an afterthought by that stage… One piece of advice…..
Never EVER listen too closely to games designers asking for techno remixes of a classic tune….
The PC Engine version of Impossamole got excellent reviews which was surprising considering that all the music AND the music driver was written from scratch in 4 days… Scheduling wasn’t a priority in those days..

What are your fondest memories of the c64?

That it was fun…

Why did you start writing music on the c64

To win a bet…

How did you get into the business?

I pestered the crap out of everyone in the business, sent them endless demo’s, called them incessantly and Colin Fuidge at Firebird finally cracked and bought a tune, probably just to get rid of me…

Stories are beginning to appear that some composers on the c64 have been Ripped-off, have you had any experience of this?

No, but its not surprising, the calibre of some of the compositions were excellent, even if quite a few of them borrowed heavily from other scores…

Why did you stop making c64 music?

I was working at Imagitec, and people simply stopped making C64 games…

What formats have you composed on, and which format have you enjoyed the most?

I think I might have written on more than most, Chronologically…
ZX Spectrum,C64, BBC-B, Amstrad, Spectrum 3, Game boy, Game Gear, NES, SNES, Genesis, Atari, Amiga, Adlib, PC Beeper, Roland LAPC1/ MT32, Roland Scc1, N64, Saturn, PSX, PSX2, Arcade, and various low level IC’s EMC, Sunplus, Sonix, Winbond etc.etc. I could give chip numbers but they wouldn’t mean much to anyone… Lets just say theres 3 or 4 different subsets for each of those low level IC manufacturers, and that there are a lot of restrictions to each different IC…

What equipment/software do you use these days?

Depends on what I am developing for… We have a full professional recording studio here with protools 5, Triton, K2500, DA7 etc.etc, and I’m in the process of soundproofing my basement as I’m building my own recording studio at home, equipment at home is a Protools 3 setup, Triton, Trinity, k2500, 2 JV1080’s, X5, Mackie 24-8.
I prefer to compose in SVP on the Mac or FT2 on the PC.. but I’m just as comfortable in Cakewalk, and I despise Digital Performer…

What can you tell our readers about your current work?

Well currently I work for Fisher Price Toys in East Aurora, NY. My Job title is Senior Recording Engineer, which bears absolutely no relevance to my work here really, I’ve mostly been responsible for getting the tool set implemented for the IC’s we use, then composing music and sound effects and using the tool set to get them onto the IC. FP has a strong name in quality, and its been a good challenge to get the audio up to a high quality standard considering some of the hardware we use. I work with some of the most talented people in the world here, and I consider it an honor that they ask me to write music for their toys…
I still run Barry Leitch Audio Studios on the side, and haven’t really been busy lately other than working on the studio set-up at home and I’ve been doing a remix of my Lotus 2 music for the Amiga Back in time people (I cant remember what its called)

There was a competitive streak on the c64, sometimes quite harmless, but some times quite destructive.. Now it’s more of a friendly community and we all work together creating a much-improved scene, what are your opinions on this?

Well on the c64 you were only as good as your driver… People had to protect their technology.

Are you aware of Bitlive…? If so, what are your thoughts on the event?

Sounds like a good excuse for a pint if you ask me…. Currently I’m trying to come up with a good excuse for the company to pay for my flights over to it ;) Although it’d be interesting to see some old faces again, I’ve seen Rob a few times since I moved to the states, met David Whittaker too when I worked at Origin… And I used to work with Martin Galway, haven’t seen Richard Joseph since one of those Olympia computer shows… It’d be nice to get everyone in one place at one time, It would be difficult to have a decent conversation I imagine, with all the Norwegians / trying to get Rob’s autograph ;)

Some musicians have made CD’s based on their past work, have you ever considered this?

I don’t think I’d redo any of my c64 stuff, Maybe FF1, or Marauder… I think most of my best work was on the Amiga… Maybe sometime if I grow another pair of arms…

What was your last project?

Game wise, I did some tentative place holders for Atari’s Joust on the PSX2, before that it was Rush 2049 on N64 and DC and some for the Arcade machine Tournament edition add on pack…
Here at work I’ve just finished writing some lullaby’s for a baby’s crib Mobile thing…

Are you currently working on anything?

I’ll get around to finishing this Lotus 2 remix, I’ve got to find a decent guitarist around here to do some solo stuff for it, and I’ve been working on some Drum & Bass influenced stuff for a small movie studio

So I see you have moved to the USA, why did you go?

Because England sucked…. The quality of life over here appealed to me, The Taxes are lower, Shit’s cheaper, and you can own guns and shoot people who come on your property.. I own a house on 6 acres out in the country here,,, Get off ma land….

It seems many of the ex-c64 musicians have moved to the USA… I.e. Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, David Whittaker, and Chris Huelsbeck and ofcourse your goodself, why is this so attractive to musicians?

Money, Quality of life, nicer weather, plus it’s the land of opportunity…

I see you are currently working for Atari Games, what can you tell our readers about Atari games? Most of our readers including myself remember the Atari Computers and Arcade machines, but know little about Atari Games.

Bzzzt.. wrong...See q13
Actually Atari was a really cool place to work, I mean I was working with Ed Logg on Rush 2 and Rush 2049, Ed wrote the ORIGINAL asteroids arcade machine, I mean how fucking cool was that, We used to play hooky from school to play that game, and there I was in his house, taking his money off him playin poker.. I felt so guilty I almost gave the man his money back ;)

So what does the future hold for you and your music?

Who knows… I can only see it getting better… I learned a lot from John Paul at Atari Games, he was a great teacher and somewhere over the years between the amiga period and the N64 period I seemed to get a bit lost in my compositions, I sort of got into a rut of just churning stuff out, Probably a reaction to having endless fuckwit games designers reject your creative work in favour of something safer, more commercial. And I think that with my recent work I’ve got back into the swing of being a lot more creative and focusing totally on the music after all, that’s what its all about…

Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to the C64 community?

For SALE :- about 1000 c64 disks, contains exclusive one of a kind compositions, Disks may probably even contain the missing Martin Galway Commando Hiscore remix
Highest offer accepted, Will trade for a brand new Audio TT convertible or late model Corvette… ;)


Barry has obviously worked hard to get where he is. But don't go on his land... Remember he's got a gun  :-) - Neil

Interview date: 19.04.2001