Interview with Alexander Brandon
(formerly known as Siren/Sandman^KFMF)
<The Update> What do you have to do with tracked music right now?
<Alex> I still track quite a bit on my own time... tracking is an extremely fast way to lay down certain aspects of songs such as basslines, drums, even some synth work. Its also a very easy way to flesh out an entire piece without dealing with the hassles of a sequencer editor.
But those are easy, one might say. Well... imo its easier to be able to lay out an entire song by creating a list of patterns rather than take chunks in Logic or Cubase and copy and paste them, but that's me.
<The Update> How did your interested in music start?
<Alex> It started around 1986 or so when I heard an Imax theater production in Richmond, Virginia at the Science Center there (some kid won the Batmobile that year too so it was on display). I loved the music there and it set off a chain reaction.. when I got home I started learning a number of pieces by ear using my Casio (can't remember the model number but it was an old home commercial version). After that I got an AdLib sound card in 1987. Composed like mad on it.
<The Update> How did you learn about trackers? What were your first experiences with trackers?
<Alex> A friend of mine, Josh Rodman, now working in Alameda, CA, had an Amiga 500 at our boarding school. I scoffed at it, thinking my PC was superior. What a stupid mistake. One look and one listen at "Shadow of the Beast" and I was astounded and completely won over to the Amiga. I wrote around eight or so MED 4 channel pieces in the period between 1992 and 1993, thus my tracking education began. I started somewhat late... by that time The Captain had released the infamous "Space Debris" and had been tracking for at least a few years already, along with a few dozen or so others.
<The Update> Why did you start composing game soundtracks and what do you use for them (hard- and software)?
<Alex> I loved games since the Atari 2600 and (the one my Dad got me) the Bally Supercade consoles. My friend Jason Emery coded a multi-parallax scrolling background engine and we made a 2d scrolling shooter called "Tyrian" which was published by Epic Megagames. It was an achievement we're very proud of since, thanks to Jason's coding and our artist's artwork (Danc, formerly of Megawatts), it became something of a top shooter on the PC and I think still is considered so, even over such titles as "Stargunner".
I use trackers and hard disk recording software (MX51 by Minnetonka) as well as the MIDI sequencer on my Korg Triton ProX synthesizer.
<The Update> There's MIDI and cd-audio, sometimes mp3, but not many pc-games use tracked music. On the other hand, the unreal soundtrack with's it's low filesizes and different subsongs for each level showed that even "old" file formats like s3m are far more flexible than those concepts. Why aren't there more modules?
<Alex> I disagree on the 'not many pc-games' part. Unreal, UT, Dark Vengeance, Crusader, Epic Pinball, over two dozen games for the PC use tracked music that I can think of, and I think there are probably two dozen more that I can't. Several N64 games use tracked music as well such as Wetrix and The New Tetris.
The reason tracked music isn't used as much, however, is because its a very difficult way of composing to learn for people used to using more conventional methods such as MIDI sequencing. My former team Straylight wanted to use MODs for all Origin games, and the people at Origin were very enamored with them... but the in house music guys were very confused by the format, it wasn't very intuitive. So General MIDI was used for another year or so even though quality wise MODs still made the "Crusader" series better.
<The Update> What do you think about the future of modern trackers like buzz, madtracker or the not yet existing it3? Will they be able to compete with MIDI software speaking in terms of professional music of any kind or will they stay as they are?
<Alex> Since the rapid infusion of MP3s into pop culture MODs have taken a pretty s evere blow. While MODs overall are still smaller in size and still widely supported, the next level of compression, whatever it is, may deal MODs a crippling blow, but never a death one. MODs are still imo a very excellent way to get into computer music!
Buzz is clearly the tracker of choice for our king of tracking here in the US, Necros. As for IT3 I emailed the creators excitedly offering support but heard absolutely nothing, so either they didn't get my email or they're just ignoring me, so maybe they'll read this as I'm very much looking forward to seeing IT3 but don't much like being snuffed. ;)