An Interview with Keith Tinman

by Neil Carr

Keith worked for Odin/Thor before later joining Ocean creating works like Hypaball, Scary Monsters, and CABAL. Keith introduced a sound that was very uniquely his. As with Fred Gray Keith brought a different approach to c64 music composing that was refreshing and addictive.

Real name: Keith Tinman
Nationality: British

What other c64 composers did you like?

Fred Gray, Rob Hubbard.

What were your favourite sids?

Mutants & Commando

Are you aware of the remix scene, and have you heard any remix of your sids that has impressed you?

Yeah the remix scene is cool, I was looking for Hypa-Ball C64 the other day as I am compiling a CD with all of my music on, I found a remix of Hypa-Ball by DJ Lizard, it was well weird listening to it, I hadn’t heard that tune for ages and to hear it remixed was really cool.

How did you get involved in writing c64 music?

Well a bit of a long story here but here goes anyway, my brother’s a games programmer and was working for Thor software at the time, it was 1984’ish, his boss asked if he knew anybody who was up for writing music for the game the were doing, well he put my name forward and I have been in the business ever since.

What were your likes/dislikes regarding the sid chip?

I loved the damn thing!, it was so ahead of it’s time, the only dislike as such was the amount of channels on board, but still, people made some great pieces of music with it.

Probably the most popular tunes of your own is Hypa Ball, however would you consider it as your best c64 piece?

Well yes I suppose but coming a close second and third is Scary Monsters and CABAL!

Have you ever considering remaking some of your old c64 tunes using modern sounds?

Yes I am considering remaking some of these tunes, I have a load of music equipment now so eventually I will get round to making a CD of these.

Did you work in-house or freelance, and what were the positives and negatives of this?

I worked in house mainly so I would know that I would have money to live and pay the bills at the end of each month. The problem with working freelance is that you have to chase your money all of the time, I like the idea of getting a known amount of money at the end of each month. The only thing about working freelance is that you get to work for lots of companies.

What are your fondest memories of the c64?

That silly music keyboard that used to sit on top of the C64, it did help a bit but looking back it was horrendous!

Listening to your music, you seem to use some very unusual sounds which amazingly work very well, did you make a deliberate attempt to create something a little more original?

I really just made sounds that fitted the feel of the track; I was really in to analogue synths so I suppose I did lean towards the harsher type of sounds.

You worked mainly for two software houses, Odin and Ocean what can you tell us about your time with these companies?

I had good times with both of these companies and met a lot of really nice
people, it's great to work as part of a team and see something come from an
idea on paper to a finished game, it's really cool.

Did you consider creating c64 music as a serious job, or was it more of an hobby?

Well it was a hobby at first, I had a Roland SH-101 keyboard and was making tracks with that using a tape recorder, then when I was asked did I want a job by Paul McKenna of Thor it then became a brilliant career!

What did you use to create your c64 music?

I used ElectroSound in the early days and then moved over to the in house Ocean music driver.

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

Mutants by Fred Gray, well because it’s such a mind blowing piece of music for a SID chip!

Apart from the c64 have you worked in any other areas of music?

I have worked on Spectrum Amiga, NES, SNES, Game Boy, N64, PC and PlayStation platforms.

What does Keith Tinman do now?

I am still in the industry; I work for Computer Artworks in London, see

I have a web page with details of all the stuff I have done in the past, it also gives details of my equipment (a bit out of date, but it will be fixed soon)

Finally, what would you like to say to our visitors?

The SID chip was the dawn of a new era, what a mark all those composers made in the history of computer music.

Its great that a composer of yesterday is still active in the industry today. Many of the past composers have either given up on it or have moved direction completely.

- Neil

Interview date: 23.01.2002