An Interview with Jason Page

by Neil Carr

Jason Started his carear at the famous, but now defunct Graftgold where he took over from Steve Turner (who was the founder of Graftgold) as in-house musician. When Graftgold ceased trading he now finds himself at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe where he still writes music and programs 15 years later after he stepped into Graftgold's Office as a trainee.

Real name: Jason Page
Handle: Jay
Born: 1972
Nationality: British

Jason Page
What other c64 musicians did you like?

Well, it has to be the old favourites, doesn’t it? Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Maniacs Of noise (especially Jeroen Tel). Ratt&Ben did some good stuff too. Probably would have sounded even better if it was using MON’s audio routines!

What are your favourite Sids?

Sanxion, Stormlord, Ocean loading music and Rambo spring to mind.

Ok lets start from the very beginning, What initial steps did you take into becoming a musician on the c64?

I bought a C64, and heard Thing On A Spring. That made me realise that this machine was something a bit special. I had always been interested in the audio side of things, and as a programmer, wanted to know how someone could make 3 channels of SID sound so good. Programs like Sound Monitor also helped a lot, as it gave away a lot of techniques – such as phasing a square wave and so on.

How did you get your first opportunity in creating music for c64 games?

Graftgold was based in my hometown of Witham in Essex. I was lucky enough to get a job there when I was 16. I started as a trainee programmer, and then started doing the music for their games also. Steve Turner used to do the audio for their titles before this. He’s a very good guitar player, by the way. I think the first track I worked on was a game called Orion, written by Gary Foreman.

How did it feel when you saw your name on the credits for a game?

It felt great, actually! It was that event that you always wanted to happen. Before working at Graftgold, I had been programming on the C64 for many years. Putting demos and music on Compunet and so on. And through all of this time, I just wanted my name in a game. It was like, whatever happened from that point, at least I could say that I was there once.

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

I started with Sound Monitor and then Rock Monitor. I moved onto using that Maniacs Of Noise rip-off thing (can’t remember the name). At Graftgold, I used the routine which Steve Turner wrote, and at this point, I was also writing my own routine in my spare time. Oh, and what was that other one which Demon (from Psy&Mat demo days) used? Er..ElectroSound! Yeah, I used that for a while too. The code for running their audio data had bugs in it though.

What was your likes/dislikes regarding the sid chip?

The Filters were a little unstable, weren’t they? Only having 3 channels wasn’t really an issue then, as its not as if you had a choice between that or something far better at the time. The thing is, that the SID chip doesn’t sound very good at all unless the audio program does clever things with it. For example, the MON drum sounds were far better than anything else, in my opinion. This was due to them having lookup tables of pitch and waveform data, so the program just ran through this list very quickly. Other people were just flipping between a triangle waveform and white noise, which was nowhere near as good as the MON way of doing things. But that was the best thing about the SID. You could do so much with it. And you could tell if a tune was by Rob Hubbard or Martin Galway just by the sound of it. Not the actual notes, but how their audio routines were playing the SID.

In your opinion what do you think was your best c64 tune?

Probably one of my Compunet demo tunes actually, but I can’t remember any of them now. I used to just give them names like the data or time that I finished the tune. I think I wrote one called 1010pm and another called 1105 ?!
I guess my favourite game tune was Head The Ball or the conversion of Super Offroad racer.

Did you create music for any other platorm apart from the c64?

Well, I didn’t then. But since the C64, I’ve written music for Amiga, CD32, ST, Megadrive, SNES, PC, PS1 and PS2.

Did you work in-house or freelance, and what would you say are the pro’s and con’s?

I worked in-house at Graftgold. But remember that I was also programming games at this point also, so it wasn’t just the audio that I was taking care of.
I have sort of worked freelance since the Graftgold days. The pro’s are that you can work whenever you like. If you get inspired at 4am, that’s fine. But, that’s also one of the cons. You can’t just get away from your work, and its easy to forget what else there is in life. Also, obviously with freelance work, you have to keep looking for more work, and if a company can get someone else to do it cheaper, you either don’t bother with it, or drop your price to get the work.

Was the money you made from making c64 music enough to live on, and did you consider your work more as an hobby or a real job?

Well, at the time I was still living with my parents. I don’t think I could have afforded to move out though! Nobody really did it for the money. It was just for the fun of it.
Because there were real hours and deadlines to work for, it wasn’t like a hobby in that aspect. But it did (and still does) feel that I’m getting paid for something I used to do for nothing. Which is nice.

Were you ever treated unfairly by a games company?

Not really. No more than anyone else. The thing with any creative industry is that its full of creative, emotional people. Who always think they’re getting treated unfairly! This industry is also very fickle. Basically, don’t trust anyone. And always keep as many emails as possible to cover your back, two years later.

Who would you credit most of all for your introduction to making c64 music, and why?

Rob Hubbard, as it was his tunes that I heard before anyone else. Note that its also his fault (!) that I’m still doing game music 15 years later!

If there was a tune that you would wish to call your own, what would it be and why?

Sanxion, because it’s a great track. Who else used to stop the tape from loading the title screen, just to hear the track all the way through?! Ah…Just me..I’ll shut up then.

Of late we have seen a few remixes of c64 tunes on rko by yourself, why did you decide to make these remixes?

I’ve always wanted to do some, but only now have I had the time. Then, last year (2001), I went along to the C64 Bits Live audio event in London. I realised how many people still cared about the old C64 and Amiga music. I was amazed that people knew both of my old music and myself. So I sort of felt obliged to do something else for them.

What equipment/software do you use to create these remixes?

Cubase VST running on a MacG3.
Novation SuperNova
Roland JV1080
Emu Orbit
Kurzweil K2000
Mackie 24-8-2 desk

What other arrangers do you like?

Lots! Chris Abbott stands out as one of the best.

The remixes you have done have been based on other artists, have you considered re-working your own c64 tunes?

Yes. It may happen, but it feels a bit wrong somehow. It would be move of a rewrite than a remix in this case. I’d rather let other people do remixes of my music, and I’ll remix theirs.
Saying that, I may be doing a Uridium2 remix at some point (Although this was an Amiga tune). Mainly due to the fact that I’ve lost the DAT tape which had the unreleased CD32 version of the title music. So I’m itching to rewrite it again!

What does Jason Page do now?

He sits at his desk at work, filling in questionnaires instead of doing what he gets paid for!
Seriously, I’m the audio manager for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. I’m still programming and writing music for the PlayStation and PS2.

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

Thanks to the people who email me saying nice things about my old work. And I’m glad (and somewhat surprised) that so many people still care for the SID. It’s a great.

Jason still knocks around the remixing scene, and has made some very good remixes, you should check them out.

- Neil

Interview date: 27.05.2002