Music / Technology

Playstation Classics: The People Behind the Music – Part 2: Tim Wright

In September 1995 Psygnosis presented the gaming world with Wipeout, a futuristic racing game full of destructive power ups, sharp bends and extremely detailed scenery. If you haven’t played it, imagine Mario Kart meets Star Wars. Players race ships competing in the 2052 F3600 anti-gravity racing league, competing across courses set in future renditions of locations around the world with a final unlockable track set on the surface of Mars. The release coincided with the launch of the Playstation here in Europe, giving the console a chance to flaunt it’s edge over competitors from day one

tim wrightTim Wright, aka CoLD SToRAGE, composed the bulk of the soundtrack for the first two games and in response a supportive fanbase grew, built from not only fans of the game but also fans of the stand alone music. Meeting the fast paced action of Wipeout with up-tempo, energetic electronic music, Tim created a soundtrack that worked perfectly and remains a fine example of in-game music really adding that finishing touch. Speaking with Tim, he detailed his journey to becoming CoLD SToRAGE:

In the early 90s, Tim was part of Dionysus, a group who developed demos for the Commodore Amiga. After completing the platforming title Puggsy, the team traveled south hoping to find interest in their work, “We had gone to London to find fame and fortune at a computer show. Back in those days you’d go to these shows and get meetings with the software companies hoping they’d like your work, most companies liked what we’d done but it wasn’t what they were looking for. Ian Hetherington the Managing Director of Psygnosis loved what we’d created so he asked us to meet him the following day up in Liverpool. It was a bit bizarre that we’d gone all the way to London, and Psygnosis were just down the road back in Liverpool..”

In 1993 Sony acquired Psygnosis. Out of this period came a some of the companies most successful titles such as the Wipeout and Colony Wars series. Tim noted how naturally things changed over time after the big money acquisition, “The biggest change was when we move from Century Buildings to big shiny offices in Wavertree Technology Park. At first we were like kids in a sweet shop. An amazing new office, expensive kit, and we pretty much got anything we asked for. This came at a price though, the whole management structure went from being almost flat to being very corporate. I guess this had to happen really, there was a lot more at stake and Sony left us alone to get on with it for a fair amount of time.”psygnosis_logo

“The first track I wrote for Wipeout was not loved at all. People said I should get into the clubbing scene and get a feel for that style of music so I took their advice and went out clubbing in Liverpool. It was a real eye opener because until you’re in a club, feeling the bass in your chest and dancing for 30 minutes to a full on mix set, you just don’t ‘get it’. After that, I pretty much knew what I wanted to do and came up with a formula for creating the music.”

During the late 80s and early 90s, the gaming market was significantly wider than it is today. There were still dominant companies, such as Sega and Nintendo who released an impressive three consoles each between 1985 and 1991, but there was still room for competition, such as the soon to be released Playstation. The last console Tim paid real attention to a was the Atari 2600, released in 1977, a long while before the birth of Sony’s first console. “The Playstation wasn’t something I was interested in to be honest,” Tim explained, “that soon changed when Sony bought Psygnosis of course. We took delivery of the first development kits and the demos we saw were amazing. With Sony behind it and the power it had for the time, there was a great buzz about how console gaming was coming back with a vengeance. I don’t think anyone at Psygnosis questioned it – we just assumed it would be big, exciting and successful. Thankfully it was!”

As the clock ticked down toward the launch of the Playstation, Psygnosis began focusing its attention to developing titles for the console. When the task of creating the Wipeout soundtrack was handed to Tim, he knew game needed a soundtrack to get your palms sweaty and your fingers twitching on the buttons, tracks to make the game feel even faster and intense than it already did. Tim described to me the combinations of sounds which helped him achieve this, “It was like a mad blend of drum breaks, vocal samples and filter sweeps, but with something that much of the dance music of the time didn’t have – a catchy melody line. I got that from my love of 80s synth pop, they all have a little melodic hook or ear-worm that you hum along to, so I made sure I had a few of those in every Wipeout track. We took delivery of some sample CDs from Time & Space full of amazing samples and riffs which feature massively on my Wipeout tracks. In terms of drawing on other music, I did listen to a few CDs people gave to me, just to get the speed of the tracks right. In the end, I opted for speeding up my tracks as fast as they would go without sound silly – something I flipped on the head for Wipeout 2097 with Canada, where I tried to write the slowest track I could that would still sound fast.”

wipeout3

Tim’s on-the-beat bass driven sound featured heavily on the first Wipeout with eight out of the 14 tracks credited to CoLD SToRAGE. The other six tracks include music by Orbital, Leftfield and the Chemical Brothers, who Tim had a contact with during his time composing for the Wipeout series. “The most useful conversations were with Paul and Phil of Orbital – they were really friendly, easy going and happy to share ideas. They really loved my music for Krazy Ivan and said I should release an album. That was a great confidence booster for me. I think they were a bit nervous doing music for a game to be honest, but they did some sterling work in that direction and I took their advice and released my music. I definitely think the Chemical Brothers big beat sound has influenced some of my work.”Studio_Liverpool_Logo

In 2001 Psygnosis became fully integrated into Sony and was renamed to Sony Computer Entertainment Studio Liverpool, releasing their first Playstation 2 title, Formula One 2001, shortly after.  Before working with Psygnosis, creating music had been a part of Tim’s life for as long as he can remember, exploring instruments from an extremely young age. He told me how this lifelong progression resulted in his electronic based compositions, “I’ve enjoyed writing music from a very young age, probably around 3 or 4 years old. I used to make up songs on the piano, then on a student guitar. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, recording your songs into a tape recorder was about as complicated as you could get without spending large sums of money. I had to wait until I was 17 before I got my hands on a 4 track tape recorder and that was very briefly. It was around that time that I realised that I could write music on a computer and get further much more quickly. So I started writing songs on the Commodore VIC 20, then the Commodore 64 and finally got somewhere commercial writing tracks on the Amiga. I’m always writing something or other. I don’t particularly aim to write music for games, I just get asked to do it and so I do it. I think if no-one asked for game music, then I’d just stop doing it and write music just for the love of it. I don’t have any real compulsion to write game music any more, but having said that, I do enjoy it when I’m doing it.”

Sadly, In August 2012 after almost 30 years of activity SCE Studio Liverpool closed it’s doors, leaving behind the Wipeout legacy as employees began new ventures into the gaming industry. The company Firesprite rose from the ashes as former Studio Liverpool members set about continuing their work, developing the visuals for The Playroom, a series of augmented reality mini-games which came pre-loaded on Playstation 4 consoles. Tim reflected on the closure of the studios he’d worked so closely with during a key stage in his career, “I’d been away from SCE Liverpool for a long while when it closed it’s development department but even so, I did feel for the people who were still there. For me it was a sad day, for them it was a massive career change as they looked for other work. Many of the people who left have set up external studios and are making product for Sony, so for some people it’s possibly worked out better for them in the end. I know many of the people who now work at Firesprite and I’m still in touch with them. Hopefully I’ll work with them at some point too…”

NEW LOGO 2014 NO BACK

Tim continues to create game soundtracks and is working under his CoLD SToRAGE alias with a new release on the horizon. “Currently I’m writing music for an iOS game that will come out in 2014, I’m also working on the next CoLD SToRAGE album along with a full image overhaul – that’s why the website is down at the moment. “

— “A big shout out to all CoLD SToRAGE fans around the World – thanks for being so loyal, kind and supportive over the years – I’m a lucky man! A big hug to my friends and family. Good luck with your exams and your acting future Jake. Hugs and kisses to Hamster, Lily, Harper and the kit-kats!”

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s