The name will ring a few bells for this is ace retro game tune remixer and sound guru David Burton! His work on the ill-fated Streets of Rage Remake has been brought to the fore over the last couple of years. To be honest, we can’t stop listening! Adrian managed to track him down and he kindly agreed to a quick interview and it’s a cracker…
How did you first get into the gaming industry?
Well, I’ve always been an avid gamer, starting out with the Acorn Electron when I was really young. After that I got a ZX Spectrum 128k +2. Even back then I used to love listening to music programs included on the cover of magazines such as Sinclair User, Your Sinclair and Crash. In my early days I would remix music from games such as Breath Of Fire 3, Lemmings and Shenmue. I then would post on forums asking people if they wanted any music for homebrew games. I then received a couple of others and things progressed from there.
How did you first get into composing music?
Around 1993 was when I first started, I would steal a go on my sisters keyboard when she used to go out. I then basically messed around, learning things as I went along. Eventually I bought myself two keyboards of my own. The Yamaha PSR 330 and the Yamaha DJX.
When you first started composing and remising music did you know you wanted to work within the gaming industry?
No not really, I only ever really wanted to make music for fun and for myself. When I found other people actually enjoyed listening it was really awesome. Even now I’m still grateful for all the support I get because I will never ever truly believe I am a master of my craft. I’m always looking at ways I can improve my sound.
You helped provide music for the Streets of Rage remake – how did this opportunity first come about?
Around 2006, I became a member of the forums and I would constantly be uploading remixes I created from Streets Of Rage for people to listen to. Just before V4 released at the end of 2006, Bomberlink emailed me asking if I wanted to contribute a few tracks and of course I couldn’t resist.
Have you always been a fan of the Streets of Rage games? And if so, which of the original three was your favourite?
Indeed I have, when I first got a Megadrive back in 1992 and played the first game I loved it and when Streets Of Rage 2 released I loved that also. The music in particular stood out, especially in the first game which I would say is my personal favourite.
The Streets of Rage remake was controversially banned by SEGA just before it was meant to be released to the public – can you help explain exactly what happened?
Well from my own viewpoint, one minute it was out there and the next I heard it was banned. It was kind of a shock to hear.
When working on it, did you ever get the impression the game was going to be banned?
No, not at all. I basically kept out of all matters other than music.
What was it like working for Bomberlink?
Bomberlink is a good guy, I used to chat to him quite a lot on MSN and we got on really well. I don’t know how he got the idea for the remake but he did an incredible job of putting all the pieces together.
How did Bomberlink react after the game was finally pulled by SEGA?
Probably disappointed, though I don’t recall actually ever speaking to him about it. With all the hard work everyone had put in over so many years it was tough to deal with.
What are your personal views on SEGA and did you agree with their actions?
I’m still fond of Sega and can understand why they did what they did. At the time they were releasing classic games onto the app store which to be honest felt like very lazy ports and here comes Bombergames with this incredible game which was probably a little too good. I know that might sound a tad over the top but over the years we have seen Rage Of The Streets and other mods which were very impressive but I don’t recall hearing anything being banned. Streets Of Rage Remake was just a little bit too polished and Sega didn’t like it. I hear recently they are also being funny about certain youtube videos too.
How long did it take to make Streets of Rage Remake and did you or any other people working on the project regret making the game?
If I remember correct, the project began in 2003 and took 8 years to be released (crikey! – Ed). I can’t speak for other people but I did feel a little annoyed though I could still throw all my remixes on youtube so it was not all bad for me. As for people like Bomberlink who worked really hard for so many years. it must have been a very bitter pill to swallow.
The Streets of Rage series of games are well known for their excellent soundtracks – are you a fan of the original music and did this help influence you when composing music for the fourth instalment?
In all honesty back in 92 when I played the games, it was the music that really made the game for me.
Streets Of Rage 1 and 2’s gameplay felt a little sluggish compared to my favourite arcade game at the time Final Fight, but the soundtrack really made the game unique and worth replaying again and again.
If it wasn’t for Streets Of Rage and Yuzo Koshiro’s work (especially in the first game) I would never have been inspired enough to even want to learn about music.
For the remake I basically tried to remix songs I liked but some of the best tracks often ended up being remixes of songs I didn’t like. It gave me more creative freedom because I could rework parts I didn’t like.
The new music really works well within the game – what was it like working on the this big project and how do you go about creating music for a game?
It was fun, everything for me has to involve fun. If it all begins to feel like a job then everything will suffer as a result. For this game though I really worked hard at trying to use mixture of classic sounds and modern synths. Moon Beach for example features the FM (frequency modultation – Ed) piano patch just with a hint of reverb to make it stand out.
Do you think SEGA should finally allow you to officially release the game to the public?
To be honest I doubt that would happen now, too much time has passed. Still it would be good if it did.
Who is your favourite Streets of Rage character?
Axel, I always seem to play as him
Pier Solar and the Great Architects was another great game you have been involved in – what was it like working on this particular title?
It was interesting, I created sound FX for the game and it was cool to try and look at sound in a totally different light. especially with FM synthesis, it takes a great deal of vision and knowledge of how FM works to not only create a good sound effect but to get exactly what’s needed.
Pier Solar and the Great Architects was only released in 2010 and only on the Mega Drive (Genesis), why was it not released onto other platforms?
Recently within the last few months, Pier Solar HD finally had a release on all major platforms. Which I think was great, the Megadrive is a great console but at least now the game can be enjoyed by a much wider audience.
It’s gained really positive reviews and has built up a strong cult following. Would you rather work on a mass market game or a highly respected niche title?
I don’t mind either to be fair, both have advantages and disadvantages.
What other games have you helped compose and produce music for?
Recently I’ve just completed the soundtrack to Project Y which is another game by Pier Solar creators Watermelon. It’s a little bit like Streets Of Rage but with some big differences. Around 60 tracks were produced by myself and my good friend Trevin Hughes (Jredd). Also, a number of homebrew games feature music from myself and Trevin
What projects are you currently working on?
Project Y, is all but finished and I have now moved onto another game which I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take about yet but is a pretty big niche title. It’s going to be a tough soundtrack but I’m up for the challenge.
If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who wanted to compose music/sound for video games – what would you say?
Do what you feel like doing and don’t do what you don’t want to do, take the advice you want to improve yourself but don’t listen to every single piece of criticism or feedback. Also it takes time to become good and develop your own sound. The best thing I ever did was to try and not be like everyone else (good advice indeed – Ed).
What software do you use to help compose music?
I’ve used Reason and Fruity Loops mostly for Streets Of Rage Remake but most recently I use Korg Gadget on the Ipad and VGM Music Maker on PC which is capable of creating authentic Sega Megadrive music
What is your favourite retro gaming title of all time?
I’ll say Wonderboy III: The Dragons Trap with Phantasy Star IV a very close second
Which games console do you have the fondest memories of?
The Sega Megadrive, it will always be my favourite. Great graphics and sound and even today you can stick a game like Sonic into the cart slot and just have 5-10 minutes of pure fun. No tutorials or cut-scenes just pure fun.
What are your views on the video game industry of today?
I’m not a fan of it, sure there are some incredible games out there but so many games are being released broken and require patching. Also I am not a fan of DLC or season passes.
If you could share a few pints with a video game character who would you choose?
Nathan Drake ( popular choice it seems! – Ed), just so I could finally see in person on the heck he manages to scale almost any obstacle in his way. Also he’s pretty handy in a bar fight. 🙂
Awesome! Many thanks for your time David and all the best in your future endeavours!