An Interview with David Whittaker

by Neil Carr

David who recently returned back to the UK after a long stint in the US became one of the most respected musicians on the c64. His work on Red Max, Glider Rider and Panther are probably his most popular pieces of work.

Real name: David Whittaker
Handle: DialogueGuru
Born: 1957
Nationality: English

Which other C64 composers did you like?

Rob, Martin, Ben, Fred, Richard & lots of others.

David Whittaker
What other SIDs did you like?

Too many to mention – most of Rob’s and Martin’s.

What SIDs would you consider as your own favourites?

Master of Magic, Spellbound, Commando - and Platoon (by Johnathon Dunn of 80’s Ocean).

Many would consider Glider Rider,Red Max,Panther as your best SIDs would you agree with this?

Probably – mainly it’s because I wasn’t under any time constraints (relatively) at Binary Design, so I could put a lot of effort (twiddly bits) in.

Though I have never heard Glider Rider on the Spectrum I hear that your work on this tune was quite revolutionary as to creating a tune that sounded like it was using more channels than what it really did. What can you tell us about this?

Just the old method of playing quick/short notes of a chord, in quick succession – giving the feeling of more notes sounding than there really were. Most of us C64 chappies did it – especially Rob and me.

What formats have you worked on and what were your favourite/least favourite format?

Just about all formats:
All the old/early 8-bit machines, plus:
Sony PS2, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, PSX, 3DO, SNES, NES, GameBoy, Sega Genesis/MegaDrive, Sega Master System, Sega GameGear, TurboGrafx (PC-Engine), Amiga, ST, PC (all kinds of soundcards).
Favourite… probably Amiga.
Least… probably VIC-20.

What were your likes/dislikes regarding the SID Chip?

I like its similarity to analogue synths – especially the pulse-width flexibility – instead of the usual square/sine wave chips - but I was still disappointed that it only had 3 voices.

What non c64 music do you like to listen to and did this reflect in your own music?

Jarre, Kraftwerk, any early 80s synth bands.

What did you use to create your music on the c64?

Just a synth (Yamaha CX5 and Jupiter 6, mostly) and an assembler – no MIDI whatsoever

Why did you stop creating game music?

Because I specialised into speech/dialogue, which I became quite expert at – at EA.

What did you do at EA?

I started as a musician/FX programmer on the Genesis/MegaDrive & SNES – and then on later formats. In 1996, I started getting more involved with speech – doing tons of stuff for most of EA’s high-profile games, like John Madden Football (US), Tiger Woods Golf, etc. I haven’t done ANY music (or FX) for years.

Have you worked with Rob Hubbard during your time at EA, if so what did you do

I worked with Rob on tons of things, over my 8 years there – too many to mention.

You recently left the USA to come back to Britain, what were your reasons?

Mostly being home-sick – but also because of job-stability fears – American hi-tech economy problems, etc.

What are you looking to do now?

Same thing (scripting, recording/directing & editing dialogue), but freelance / contract work.

Have you ever considered going back into writing music for games?

Nope… Too many good people out there who are a lot better that me.

Will you ever write and play music for the public in future?

No… well… very unlikely.

Many Ex c64 musicians have worked on CD’s such as the BACK IN TIME series, would you consider doing the same?

I wouldn’t mind any of my tunes being used on a CD (with my permission, unlike ZN), but I wouldn’t want to get involved with the production. Those guys seem to be doing a pretty good job, already.

What was your proudest moment in your career?

Getting paid for my first ever bit of computer work (which was rare, as most of the software companies, in the 80s, were assholes, who just abused you and ripped you off).

What are your fondest memories of the c64?

Buying one and getting it home – then reading the manual and the sample programs, at the end of the manual - then realising that there were many mistakes in them – and that I spotted them immediately and fixed them – i.e. I had made it as a (BASIC) programmer. That also happened with the VIC-20 manual.

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

Commando – amazing, at the time… and MOM, which I think I could have composed – and done as well – as my competency was probably up to that standard, at the time – but Rob, obviously had the edge. The technical side wasn’t the important element – it was just pure compositional excellence.

How do you feel when arrangers remix your music with modern sounds?

I have no real knowledge of this, apart from the ZN Lazy Jones thing – and the Zyron Medley thing, which is very good.

Have you heard a remix of your own music that has impressed you?

No. I’ve not really heard any - I’ve been away too long.

Apart from game music have you ever worked on any other projects

Apart from the bands that I was in, in the early 80’s...
I did an 8 minute piece for EA, for an air-show flight demonstration that was aired at many US venues, for EA’s / Jane’s promotional stuff (which was heard by millions).

Did you see working Free-lance more beneficial that working in-house?

No… apart from working at home – which is the best!

Stories have emerged several times in the past where especially Free-Lance musicians where treated unfairly, during your time as a free-lance musician did you come across such things?

Yes... all the time! Fuck-em all, as I’m sure they’re out of business by now.

Could you make a living out of writing c64 music, or was it just more of a hobby?

Yes… it WAS a living, but because of the above question, we had to work unnecessarily hard.

How much can you credit your work with the c64 to your success?

Almost all of my success is probably from the C64 era – the rest is just gravy (translate that in other languages!).

What advice can you give to a musician wanting to make it into the game music business?

Don’t… get a real job !

Are you surprised that the c64 scene is still going after all these years?

Yes… I’m amazed – but, in a way, not surprised.

Lastly, What would you like to say to the scene?

I’m so old, that the question kinda goes over my head – what IS the SCENE? What IS the MATRIX???


As you can see from this interview David doesn't really know much about the scene. His work however hasn't been forgot and there are many quality remixes out there that he has inspired.

- Neil

Interview date: 02.10.2001