|Home/BOING/BOING #6/Interview of Chris Huelsbeck||Last update: 2023-10-05|
Here is an interview with Chris Huelsbeck. Maybe you doesn't know his name but you obviously know his prods as he's the musician of famous video games like Turrican, Jim Power, Apidya, R-Type, ... and he agreed to answer a few questions.
The interview was done by aRes and published in our (French) Amiga magazine BOING, issue #6 (June, 2023).
Hi Chris, your musical compositions are essential for all Amigaists, can you introduce yourself?
I've been doing music for video games since 1986, first on the C64, then a few years later on the Amiga computer. I developed my own sound players and editors, because in those early days, there was just no good software to create music, particularly if you wanted to push the technical capabilities of the sound hardware to its limits and beyond.
Turrican trilogy marked Amiga computers in the 90s, even today these titles remain popular, the proof with the recent compilations Turrican Anthology and Turrican Flashback 30th Anniversary released on Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation. How do you explain that Turrican remains a run and gun reference after all these years?
It's just a super fun game and for me it was also one of the best experiences as a game composer, because I could really make the music I always wanted to, synth-driven with driving rock drums and memorable melodies.
What were your sources of inspiration for composing the music for the three games on Commodore 64 and Amiga?
The main inspiration came from arcade machines and Japanese video games in general. I also spend many hours programming my synths to create the exact sounds and samples that I needed for each composition. It was tedious but also one of the best times of my life.
The three superb Turrican Soundtrack Anthology albums are rearrangements of the original music from the Turrican games : in the second the very famous track The Final Fight was brilliantly played by the Swedish rock band Machinae Supremacy, how did your collaboration with them go?
I had contacted them because of their amazing metal rock remix of the Giana Sisters a few years before and they were super excited to create a bonus track for the Turrican Soundtrack Anthology. They chose The Final Fight (the Title Theme for Turrican 2), because it's probably the best known composition of the whole series. Of course they did an absolutely amazing job!
Jim Power and Apidya's music is also catchy. How did the production of these two games go?
Apidya and Jim Power were also arcade action pieces, partially inspired by Japanese games and I had a lot of fun composing the music for them. Working with Loriciel on Jim Power was great, because they were ok paying half my composer fees again for every port to another platform, so it was a very worthwhile project for me. Apidya was our very own inhouse game for our own Kaiko development company that I founded with 2 friends in 1991 and during that time we were also building a full music recording studio, so it was exciting to use all the high end studio stuff for samples in the game.
Any particular anecdote about your work at the time of Factor 5?
I'm fondly remembering my time with Factor 5 and I've been friends with the founders from the start in the late 80s. It was really sad when the US studio shut down, but we've been in touch and had recently worked on the modernized remakes for the 30th anniversary editions of Turrican. We even added the option to play the games with the enhanced studio soundtracks I recorded in 2013 for my Turrican Soundtrack Anthology Kickstarter. This was a wonderful trip down memory lane and well received by the fans.
In 2022, your musical compositions have accumulated more than 48,000 hours of listening for nearly 100,000 listeners across 145 countries on Spotify alone, not to mention your Bandcamp and Apple Music page! It's a nice success. This clearly demonstrates your popularity, what do you think of it and how do you live with it after all these years?
I think one of my strongest points in my music are the memorable melodies. Fans are rediscovering the music of all the games from back then and listening lets them remember those happy days.
Have you been able to try the recent Turrican 2 AGA ?
I have not played it myself, but I saw a video of it and it looks very good. The fan community of these games is truly remarkable.
You continue to compose music freely, your latest album Lucid Dreaming (Best Of Patreon Vol. 1) released on October 22, 2022 is very successful and inspired, alternating all kinds of music: from electronics to sounds very retro to more contemplative melodies, passing through compositions oriented video games. What are your current sources of inspiration and working methods?
I started my Patreon project over 7 years ago as an experiment and playground for me and my fans. I wanted to create music free from the constraints of video game projects, something I had also done with my Number Nine album in 2007. When quite a number of fans started to sign up and support me directly, I even decided to make all the tracks from the project royalty-free, so anyone could use them on YouTube for example. It's been growing to over 80 pieces and every month I compose a new one!
Your favorite films, music, video games, series?
Oh, these will be long lists and I will probably still forget many favorites :
Your best memories on Amiga?
Right from the start I was hooked on the Amiga. It felt like such a monumental leap from the C64 and we were all marveling at games like Marble Madness and even the included game that came with my original Amiga 1000, called Mindwalker, which was difficult to understand and play, but with all those colors and incredible sounds it was just mind-blowing! ;)
What Amiga have you owned? Are you following Amiga news?
I bought my first Amiga in 1986 from money I made with the Soundmonitor and my winnings from Shades. It was the Amiga 1000. Later I also had a 500 and much later an Amiga 4000, because I was able to do 2 channel hard-disk audio recordings and editing in CD quality for my studio work on that machine. I still own my Amiga 1000 technically, but it is in Germany with Rene Meyer who is exhibiting it in his retro shows at gamescom and other events every year... These days I still follow Amiga news a bit, mostly through posts from fans and on Facebook groups.
What are your future plans ?
I bought land in the high desert of south-eastern Arizona and I'm preparing to build a house, totally off-grid and solar powered. It's going to be quite the adventure! I'm also working on growing my Patreon project and I still do some cool video game soundtracks too!
Thanks Chris, for this interview and for all your work, a last word for the Amiga community?
Thanks again for all the support by the fans and I'm always amazed how wonderful and dedicated the community still is about the Amiga!
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