Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Where are they now? - Allister Brimble

Allister Brimble composed the soundtrack for Chris Sawyer's Locomotion

Just the other day I gave a listen to an old favourite game soundtrack of mine: Chris Sawyer's Locmotion. Yes, I know the game wasn't a hit with the Transport Tycoon fans and admittedly, I found the game a bit too fiddly compared to the original (probably due to the game sharing too much in common with Rollercoaster Tycoon instead) but I still have a soft spot for it, especially when we talk about the soundtrack. While the original game's soundtrack by John Broomhall is very good and I'm still waiting for when he finally decides to release his reworked Transport Tycoon tracks as an album, the composer for Chris Sawyer's Locomotion, Allister Brimble, did something really choice; he composed music in the style that was popular for each era of the game. That's really hard to pull off since I suspect composers are usually good at filling a certain niche but it's almost impossible to cover a multitude of musical genres - but that's something that Brimble manages to achieve. Ragtime, jazz, rock 'n' roll, prog rock, funk, synthpop and modern electronica all make an appearance on this soundtrack and it definitely hits the right notes.

So while I was enjoying the Locomotion soundtrack, it got me wondering what Mr Brimble has been up to recently - and when did he get involved in this game music composition business?

Well turns out that Brimble was born in London in 1970 but it wasn't until the mid-1980s that he started to develop music for games professionally. In 1987 the game Thunderbirds was released on the Amiga, the first commercial game he composed music for (although MobyGames claims the game was released in 1989). Brimble would continue to compose most of his music for home computers during the 1980s and early 1990s, especially the Amiga platform. One of his most loved soundtracks is the one he composed for 1989's Alien Breed. The first DOS game he composed music for was 1992's Superfrog (another game by Team 17) and the first game I've played where I got an opportunity to hear his music was 1993's Body Blows Galactic (yet another Team 17 game). The music he composed for the game, especially the main theme ("Come on!"), was on par with a lot of dance music of the era and reminds me of the Mortal Kombat theme aka Techno Syndrome by the Immortals. Coincidentally, he ended up composing the music for the home computer version of Mortal Kombat as well.

Brimble continued to work as a composer and sound designer on a whole variety of platforms but his final PC game that he composed a soundtrack for was, you guessed it, Chris Sawyer's Locomotion! He did work as sound designer on more recent PC games but never again as a composer (apparently).

Around 2005 I believe he started Orchestral Media Development (OMD - no, not Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) with another video game composer and sound designer called Anthony Putson. I only say I think the company started around this time because the copyright on their homepage is from 2005-2015 (so 10 year anniversary this year, yay!). OMD apparently offers "custom sound design from original source material..." and "full dialogue/voice over management".

Brimble has continued to work on game audio to this very day and now has over 400 games under his belt (wow! That's a lot of games - and he must be wearing a big belt) . While he's still working as a composer, and even now is working on games aiming to be delivered later this year and in 2016, it would be nice if he got back to developing a soundtrack for a PC game :).

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