Tim Follin/Interview

From ExoticA
This originally came from the Follindrome, then from http://www.mono211.com/follindrome - both sites are now down so it has been reproduced here.

Background Info

This interview, originally done by Tim Forsyth for a now defunct webzine back in 1998, is not available anywhere else on the web right now, and is useful + interesting since it asks Tim Follin varied + different questions about his entire career. This was just after Tim had finished "Batman + Robin", which I was surprised to find wasn't completely executed by him, and before he started his work on "Ecco".

[web-exclusive interview with Tim Follin - as made by Tim Forsyth back in 1998, _THANK YOU_ to the TimF-s, both of them :P]


Q: To begin with can you give me a little bit of info on your background (age, place of birth, hobbies etc...)

I'm 27, born in St. Helens (between Manchester and Liverpool, near Wigan and Warrington). I'm still living in St. Helens, and currently renting a 160 year-old lodge in the town cemetery, near a 15th century 'abbey' ruin. Actually, although everyone calls it an abbey, it's really a chapel for saying final prayers for the dead before burial (apparently). Forgive me telling you this, but it's the first place I've lived in with character! I hadn't thought that I had any hobbies apart from playing the violin, which is really still connected to music. But then I realised that I've been writing stories more or less constantly for about six years. When I say stories, I mean scripts; I've been writing with a view to making a (very) small budget film, some day. I have no aspirations, however, to be a 'movie director', as some people accused me of recently. Everyone should try writing.

Q: So, what have you been doing since leaving Software Creations in 1994?

I left Software Creations to join Malibu interactive, which lasted for 18 months. That was really interesting. Oh hang on, my mistake, sorry; it was crap. I did one project on the Sega Megadrive (Timetrax) using a music driver a collegue wrote just for the game (I don't know what happened to that music driver, but it was really good!). After that, I spent about a year doing virtually nothing and getting paid for it. Weh-hey! But then I had to go on the dole immediately afterwards. After that, a group of us ALMOST got to devlop an original project for Psygnosis. Almost - but not quite. They pulled the funding at the very last moment, after stringing us along for two months. Idiots. Afterwards, Geoff and I put together an idea for an adventure game which we called 'an interactive radio play' (whatever that means). We sent it to the BBC, who were initially optimistic. Then everything went quiet. Again. Never mind - the demo souded nice, but the game was rubbish really. It depended on a system of character intelligence which was rather labyrinthine and confusing. So Geoff and I did a few contracts for Probe and Funcom, which didn't pay enough for two. Then I got to do the Batman & Robin music for Probe last Summer, around the same time that Geoff decided to go back into teaching. And hey presto - it's now!

Q: Has any of the music you have written since then been published?

Well, Timetrax was published. I don't know if Batman Forever was published. It WAS terrible though - we just wrote some tunes on the AW32 and Probe's musician had to convert them. He had our sympathy. I don't think the Funcom game was published, but I presume Batman & Robin will be published.

Q: Over the last 13 years or so, what one project are you most satisfied with? Why?

13 years. Jeez! I'd chose Batman & Robin, because I didn't really compose the music! I can't listen to things I've done once they're finished; they just sound out-dated. I like odd tunes here and there I suppose, like bits from the Amiga Ghouls & Ghosts and occasional bits from the SNES. I did a NY NY big band finale for Xmen, which at least made a few people laugh!

Q: Which computers have you loved and hated writing music for in the past?

I hated the AY chip. Wasn't it designed as a doorbell chime? The NES wasn't much better, but at least it had a bit more character. I liked the C64 and the SNES best. I could never make the Amiga sound very good. I like the 'CD' chip now...

Q: What equipment do you use now that you are producing Redbook CD music?

Very little. An Ensoniq ASR 10, a roland JV-880 and an Alesis Midiverb 4. Assorted guitars. I sort of want a digital multi-tracker, but I think I'd rather spend the money on a better tape multi-track. There's something friendly about the sound of a good tape machine!

Q: Have you ever considered writing an album?

No. I'm not good enough. And I hate sampled music. I spend most of my time trying to make samples sound like they are real instruments being played by real people. If I thought I could get enough musicians together to play on an album, I might try it. The problem is that I've always written music to be part of something else. I think music is basically an unconscious experience - it doesn't and shouldn't engage your intellect - but unless your intellect is engaged by something relevant, like the lyric, you're liable to bring all sorts of random focus points to it. I actually like a lot of non-lyrical music, including lots of classical peices (although I hate a lot of opera), but I know that I'm inventing an intellecual focus for it, like imagining an image or a 'scene' which the music provides the context for. So rather than wanting to make an album, I decided that I wanted to make a film, with the idea that a film would (in theory) provide the intellectual or conscious focus. And I've been trying for six years! Perhaps I've set myself too big a task. Should I give up?

Q: Do you have fond memories of the sounds you could create using the Commodore 64?

The thing I liked about computer music, especially on the C64, was that it was like playing an instrument in its own right. I also liked the fact that you couldn't be pretentious with something that sounded so unreal. But this is also its curse. The general public thinks computer music and computer sound FX might as well be the same thing; unless you know the limits of the sound chip, you won't understand what the composer is doing. If you expect an orchestra and get an electric guitar solo, you'll be disappointed. If you've never heard an electric guitar, you'll just be confused!

Q: There are overtones of Hawkwind, Mike Oldfield, David Bowie and other 70's groups/musicians in your music. Would you cite these as being some of your major influences, if not who are?

I never consciously listened to Hawkwind or Mike Oldfield, or David Bowie, but I'm sure you can't grow up without being influenced by the music around you, from radio and television. My first proper record was ELO's 'Out of the Blue' (and I still long to multi-track my violin!). Both my older brothers were listening mainly to Rush, Genesis, Yes and Vangelis as far back as I can remember. These obviously influenced me. My own preference in my early teens (sqashed by peer pressure) was for Quincy Jones; I realised that everytime I heard something on the radio which jumped out at me, it'd have something to do with Quincy Jones. This is quite odd to think now - you only hear his name on Jazz FM these days! I got into Jethro Tull in my teens. More recently, I got into Stevie Wonder again. There were always Jazz people and classical people who I liked, however.

Q: I hate top 10-type questions, so can I ask you to name some of your favourite albums in your collection (in no particular order)?

I'm not sure I can answer that! It changes all the time. At the moment I'm listening to the Led Zeppelin BBC sessions tapes. Last month it was Debussy's 'La Damoiselle Elue', before that it was John Adams' 'Harmonium' and before that it was probably something like Vaughan Williams' fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis, or his sixth symphony (which is very filmic). That sounds pompous, doesn't it?

Q: I hear you are quite an accomplished player of the piano and guitar, are there any other instruments you are adept at playing?

There are many others which I am inept at playing, yes. Oh adept? Oh right; no, sorry. I violin with the fiddle a bit, like I said. But I can't play any real lead instruments, which really annoys me. I can't play any instruments you blow into. Apart from the penny whistle, a bit.

Q: Are you or have you ever been in a band?

Twice. Once, briefly, with my cousin, when I played the keyboard. But there's no crotch factor playing the keyboard. I could have bought one of those keyboards you wear like a guitar, couldn't I? That's if someone didn't take it off me and set fire to it first. I was in another band for a few years, playing the bass. We did one gig. Then we sacked the singer. So without a singer, we couldn't play any more gigs. Logical really, isn't it? In the end it just fell apart, I think mainly because we didn't admit that we needed a singer. Silly really, considering how close we were to being brilliant! When you're writing as a band, I think you should probably have a singer who does singing and nothing else. Well, I think that's what ruined it for us.

Q: There seems to be very little information about you, both on the web and in magazines. Do you see yourself as a very private person, or do you simply not have the time?

I have the time, God knows! I can't see any reason why there should be any more on the web about me. Who's interested? I'm surprised by the amount of stuff about me, actually.

Q: Many artists feel that drugs play an important part in writing original, innovative music. Do you agree, or does this statement offend you?

It doesn't offend me, but other than beer and caffeine, I haven't taken any 'recreational' drugs. I've just never liked the idea of messing with my brain, frankly. Call me soft! I've found other ways of reaching certain levels of consciousness, mainly though dreaming. That would be read as a joke by anyone who knows me. But in fact it's true; I depend on dreams as a source of unconscious 'revelation'. I discovered Carl Jung about five years ago, which for me was like finding someone I once knew in a past life or something, but had forgotten. You have to read through the turn-of-the-century period he was writing in to some extent, but he made sense of a lot of things I had seen but was unable to understand. Frankly, I think that unless you understand what you experince, whether it be through drugs or dreaming, it's no use to.

Q: Have you got any music which has never made it into a game? (if so, can I have a copy!)

There was some stuff I did at Malibu for a game called 'Firearm', which never heard the light of day. Then again, that's probably a good thing. I did some demo tunes as well, which nobody heard. I'm lucky enough to have had almost all the things I've done published, which I realise is a great advantage and privilege.

Q: When writing your earlier pieces of music, for example Agent X II or Chronos, did you arrange and write these pieces using REAL instruments, or were the tunes constructed and written using just the computer?

They were written directly into the computer. When you're confined by so many arbitrary technical limitations, you have to do it that way!

Q: Do you have any recordings (once again using REAL instruments) of your earlier work?. There are lots of people around (including me) who would love to hear fuller versions of your music.

I'm afraid there aren't any 'fuller' versions of those tunes. What you hear is all there is!

Q: The Amiga's Ghouls and Ghosts (on level 1) had a reversed sample of someone whispering "SECRET AUTHORITY". Is it your own voice? Is there a story behind it? Did you ever think anyone would discover this?

I'd completely forgotten about that! Did I really put that in? It's just me messing around and trying to be spooky, I'm afraid! Although, of course, there has always been a secret authority...

Q: What does the future hold for you?

Hopefully something interesting. Anything but blandness! There are lots of things I want to do. Perhaps I'll get around to making that film! Who knows?

If you could be doing something else, something completely different, what would it be?

I've answered that - making a film. That's not completely different though, is it. I'd like to have been an architect, just so I could design my own house and know how to build it. Actually, I'm reasonably happy with what I'm doing. Hey! I've never realised that!

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