Home/BOING/BOING #5/Interview of Barry Leitch Last update: 2023-03-07
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Here is an interview with Barry Leitch. Maybe you doesn't know his name but you obviously know his mods as he's the musician of famous video games like Lotus Turbo Challenge 2, TFX, The Humans, Silkworm, ... and he agreed to tell us more about his work.

The interview was done by aRes and published in our (French) Amiga magazine BOING, issue #5 (November, 2022).

Hi Barry, you are very popular among the Amiga community thanks to anthology musical compositions ("Lotus Turbo Challenge 2", "Lethal Weapon"). Can you introduce yourself personally for the few readers who don't know you?

Barry Leitch

Hi, I'm composer Barry Leitch, there's a good chance you dont recognize my name, but there's a pretty good chance you've heard my work. I started writing music for video games in 1986, and worked thru the Golden Years of video games, writing music hundreds of games (about 430 at last count). in 2000 I switched to writing music for childrens toys, and I've lost count of how many toys I worked on. More recently I've been working on the occasional video game like Horizon Chase Turbo & the Dark Quest series, but also found time to do some orchestral arranging for the Video Games Live version of my old Super Nintendo Top Gear music.

"Lotus Turbo Challenge 2", a cult game, do you remember your work method to compose the music? (software, inspiration, computer used)

Lotus 2 was inspired. I literally woke up from a dream with this tune in my head. So I quickly sequenced it out on a stock A500. At Imagitec we rarely had enough equipment, so I just had a huge box of floppies full of samples. There was a 20mb hard drive that I got to borrow sometimes if someone was out sick, but that was it. I do still have an A500 but also have an A2000 in my garage somewhere.

You also created the excellent melodies for the TFX flight simulator (tested in this issue). On the Amiga version (never fully finalized and resuscitated in 1997) only the main theme is available with a sound quality however much superior to the PC version, do you remember the hectic development of TFX Amiga?


So TFX is a bit of a story. I started work at Ocean in 92, and quickly got put on TFX & Inferno, both being developed by DID. By that time the Roland MT32 soundcard was king of the hill and literally an $800 sound card. It was an amazing piece of gear at the time, and put the amiga to shame, so all the music for TFX was written on that, with the exception of one piece. The title theme...

About a year earlier, there was the Anarchy party somewhere in yorkshire, and there was a music competition. Me being the arrogant little shit I was, figured I'd simply write my magnum opus, an epic piece, starting slow and moody and picking up tempo, and descending into a chaotic dance beat powered finale! I spent some time writing it at home on my amiga, and the final mod is still knocking around, its about 200k or so, which was MUCH bigger than any other mods I wrote around then, as games usually only had 50-100k for space... I was so sure I would totally win the music competition with it. Sadly, I didnt win, and so I simply sat on the tune until I was at Ocean, and after seeing TFX I figured the music would suit the game for the title theme given its "Epic" nature. I quickly arranged it for the MT32 and adlib and got on with writing all the other tunes that were in the game. Strike Commander by Origin systems (where I worked after Ocean), was king of the hill for flight sims at the time, and had an interactive soundtrack. So I wrote the TFX music to be fairly interactive, switching from tunes as you flew to the mission theater to combat, to win / lose etc. standard stuff by todays technology but at the time, it was new for Ocean.

I left Ocean before either TFX or Inferno shipped, so it was years before I even saw a physical copy. Inferno I co-wrote with Alien Sex Fiend, we worked together at Ocean for about 6 weeks. I only mention "Inferno", as while it didnt receive an Amiga conversion, but ALL the music for that was written with an amiga 3000, with "Octamed" with a midi interface and every synth ocean had. (I had to snarf them daily from the other composers offices much to their annoyance) I never expected Ocean to release TFX on the Amiga, and was surprised that they did.

Any particular anecdotes about "TFX" Amiga (or PC)?

There were 3 versions of the PC music, the MT32, the Sound Canvas and the Adlib card. The MT32 was by far the superior version, it has all custom instruments and sounds the way I intended it to. The Sound canvas was just a general midi version, and for some reason, some muppet recorded that version for the CD rom audio files which was really disapointing. So if you get the chance, hunt down the MT32 versions on youtube, It's on my list of things to do, so it'll show up on my bandcamp page at somepoint as well as spotify etc.

Any other musical compositions (on Amiga or other machine) you want to talk about?

I loved the Amiga, modtracker was a complete game changer for composers everywhere. No longer did you have to be a master programmer to write a complex music driver like you had on the Commodore 64. I loved writing mod files, and to some extent I still write them for certain projects (Super Arcade football 2020 was all written with mod files) I still write in renoise (pc based daw tracker).

Have you personally owned an Amiga? and today do you keep yourself informed of Amiga news?

Still got 2 in the garage, an a500 and a2000. people keep giving me them as they were never really popular in the states, and when they hear I worked on them, they give them to me. the a2000 is loaded with video cards and stuff. so maybe one of these days I'll have to fire it up, or ebay it ;)

In 2018 you excel once again with the very good soundtrack of "Horizon Chase Turbo", a sensational arcade racing game successfully combining modern technology and the sweet scent of retrogaming. How did you get approached by its Brazilian developer Aquiris Game Studio?

Horizon Chase Turbo

They hit me up on Facebook ! it was really organic, nice and natural. Top Gear was massive in south america, like mario popular, so EVERYONE knows the music, (which is what it must be like to be famous!) and we came to an agreement for me to write some tunes, The only images I saw of the game were VERY early blocky graphics.. Just a single JPG really, but I had some time to do it, and I'd been writing for lots of toys, so it was REALLY nice to just cut loose and go absolutely crazy with it.. There's WAY too much in those tunes. it's just a wall of sound, arpeggios on the left, different ones on the right (amiga style), melodies, counter melodies, just a full on assault. They let me have creative control on the melodies, with only very light guidance, so yeah,, I went a bit mental on that one...

You reworked themes from "Top Gear" (a console spin-off of "Lotus Turbo Challenge") for "Horizon Chase Turbo", how did you go about it?

The title theme was an intentional reference to the Vegas piece, it uses the same chord progression, and arpeggios. I basically wanted to continue on from where I left off in 91. I wanted to hook the listener with something familiar, yet different. and a couple of years later I got to combine the Top Gear Vegas theme with the Horizon chase title in a medley for Video Games Live. Most of the other references came naturally. Theres a big piano break in Last Hurrah. I'd been working on the melody, and was sat watching tv when I had the idea to do a big piano solo with a varation on one of the TG themes, six hours later, I had that epic piano break...

Do you work alone or do you have collaborators (Barry Leitch Audio Studios)? What are your overall sources of inspiration?

Usually I work alone, I have some composers I've utilized for general engineering work. Speech editors, sound designers. Usually its just if I have to ramp up for a big project on a deadline.Inspiration can come from anywhere, i hate to narrow myself to any one source.

Barry Leitch, Scottish or American?

BOTH ! :) although, I'm a "God Damned American and I know my rights" ;) It's nice to own guns, but there's a lot of stupidity here, and a distinct lack of art I think. Art has to be monetized here to the point where it kinda loses the point I think. There's a LOT to be said for art for arts sake.. As you're French, you may enjoy that there's an old Metro entrance by the Toledo museum of art here. I quite liked that, as it's so beautiful.

Your most beautiful memory on Amiga?

Speaking of beauty... most beautiful memory, I remember being in awe of the beautiful raytraced artwork. There were some truly great amiga tunes too, I'm still very fond of Heatbeat's mod files. Scrambled mind is a masterpiece.

Your favorite video game (Amiga and/or any machine)?

We played the hell out of Kick off 2. I liked Traffic on the c64, nice little puzzle game. I loved the wing commander series, but overall, I'm all about the RTS games. Supreme commander 2 forged alliance is still king of the hill.

What are your future projects or contributions (video game or other)?

That i can talk about right now ? I think there's a big announcement coming [Horizon Chase Turbo 2] in a few weeks so I'm gaggd on the game front. There are some toys out there, the Baby einstein Together in tune guitar, drum and piano came out recently, I am pretty proud of that one, The toys connect wirelessly but synchronize, and stay in tune, so kids everywhere can bang on their toys, and not drive their parents crazy :)

Thanks to you Barry, a little message for the readers of BOING magazine still passionate about Amiga almost 30 years after the bankruptcy of Commodore?

I'm glad people out there still enjoy the Amiga, we put a lot of work into the games back then, although some were just quick and dirty projects, others like zone warrior or humans or Prophecy the viking child I spent a lot of time writing them.

Thanks !

Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 Top Gear KickOff 2
Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 Top Gear Kick Off 2

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