Lee Jackson (Apogee) – Interview

You know one of the reasons you love Duke Nukem 3D, that kick-ass soundtrack that thrashes through your very soul? This guy did it! Apogee legend Lee Jackson answered some questions we sent over to him for your reading pleasure.


What are your earliest memories of music and of video games?

My earliest memories of music come from listening to recordings of “Switched-On Bach” being blared out of the 8-track tape deck of my father’s 1967 Ford Mustang while my mother was at the wheel. But only then – my father was *not* a classical music fan. His tastes ran toward country, which I never picked up on.

My earliest memories of video games come from playing Computer Space and Pong at a bowling alley where my father had a league. He wouldn’t let me play much for some reason, but it was enough to get me interested.


How did you first get into the video game industry and what was the first game you ever worked on?

The story of how I got into the video game industry would fill an entire page. Let’s just say I got a job in the Tech Support Department at Apogee Software, started bringing up MIDI files after Tom Hall and the Rise of the Triad developers moved in, kept bringing up music for the Duke 3D developers, and finally convinced Scott Miller & George Broussard that I would do better work for the company as a Music and Sound Director than I would as a Tech Support Representative.

The first game I ever worked on – while still a Tech Support Representative – was Rise of the Triad. I was given six weeks to come up with the entire soundtrack at home, but I still had to come up to the office and work the tech support lines while the other representatives went to lunch. It was a very hectic time.


What was your inspiration when creating the awesome music for Duke Nukem 3D?

Many sources, but for starters, an immersion dive into the world of heavy metal. I borrowed albums from several of the DN3D team, as well as from Online Support Representative Joe Siegler, and listened to them all in one binge. This is, in fact, the direct inspiration for the game’s theme song, “Grabbag.” I wrote it immediately after one such binge. Other inspirations came from the actual levels that the designers were working on, such as the songs “Floghorn,” “Calypso Facto,” and “233.778 Celsius” (translates to Fahrenheit 451, which is the basis for one of the levels).



Do you have a personal favourite music track from the incredible Duke Nukem 3D soundtrack?

Aside from “Grabbag,” the theme song, my favorite level song is probably “Stalker.” That’s the music played for the very first level of the game. I believe it sets just the right tone for the entire game (love that tune – Ed).


Can you explain the process and freedom you were given when asked to create the music for Duke Nukem?

The process is kind of hard to explain. I’d fire up Cakewalk Pro for Windows and start kanoodling away. I have several rejects stored away in old directories. ^_^

As for freedom, everything I did had to pass what I called the “George Filter,” a.k.a. the George Broussard filter. If he didn’t like something about a song, it didn’t go into the game. I’d either have to rewrite the offending portion, or add it to my pile of rejects.


When did you first realise that Duke Nukem 3D was a special game, and it would shape the FPS genre?

Probably when we started putting in Jon St. John’s one-liners. They added the spice that put the game over the top.


Do you feel there is room for a new Duke Nukem game, and if so, which direction do you feel this game could take?

Of course there is room for another Duke game, but only if it were done right. I have a script idea in mind that I’d like to pitch to Randy Pitchford, in fact. It needs a little neatening, but I’d love to see it done. Can’t mention it here, of course. ^_^


If you met Duke Nukem in real life do you think you would get along with him, and would there any be anything you would love to ask him?

I’d hope I’d get along with him, and I’d ask if he’s happy with his theme song.


What are your views on the announcement of the upcoming Duke Nukem film and if you would be tempted to work on the music for this movie?

There have been film announcements before, so I’m not holding my breath. I’d be happy to hear my music used in the film, if it does happen, as long as they didn’t mutilate it and as long as they gave me proper credit. Beyond that, I’m not sure if my health would hold out long enough to let me work on the actual score.


Shadow Warrior was another great FPS from 3D Realms. How great was it to work on a whole different setting compared to Duke and did this impact your music?

Shadow Warrior was a blast. Not only did I get to write music, I got to direct voiceover sessions with the great John William Galt. I also got my first taste of working with CD-Audio music, which meant that my musical choices were pretty much unlimited. I was no longer restricted to General MIDI – I could use every synthesizer I could lay my hands on. In the end, I believe I used a Roland SC-88, a Kurzweil K2500RS, a Kawai K5000R, and an E-Mu E4XT.


Did you ever create music for any unreleased games, and if so, can you share us any juicy details of any unreleased gems?

I created some music for a game called “Angels Five.” I only did two songs for it, both of which are available on YouTube, I believe.



How do you reflect on your video game music career and which soundtrack are you most proud of and why?

I don’t really reflect on it yet, because I don’t think it’s quite over yet. I’m in a bad spot right now where I can’t currently write due to my health (we’re sorry to hear that, Lee – Ed), but I foresee a day when I’ll be able to get back in the saddle and do more music – if someone will have me, that is. As for which soundtrack am I most proud of? I’m going to have to cop out and say I’m proud of all four – Stargunner, Shadow Warrior, Duke Nukem 3D, and Rise of the Triad. They each hold a special place in my heart.


Apart from your own work, is there one game that has blown you away with its music score?

First off, I’ll admit that I don’t listen to many other video game scores. However, when I was working in the Tech Support Room, I was seriously impressed with a game called Descent. It had a remarkable score.


Have you played every video game you have ever created music for and do you have a personal favourite game?

I’ve only played them on God Mode. I’m absolutely terrible at video games outside of the arcade arena. If you held a gun to my head, I’d say Stargunner was my favorite.


If you could be transported into any video game you have worked on, and live there for a day, which game would you choose and why?

Oh, none of them. Too dangerous!


What games and projects are you currently working on?

I am fiddling around with a second album at the moment – a follow-up to my debut Calibrations album (https://leejackson1.bandcamp.com/album/calibrations). I am also working on a Science Fiction novel called “Tapper,” which is stuck in rewrite hell.

My new album, Derivations, is due to be released on June 5th, and people can follow me on:leejackson1.bandcamp.com/follow_me for announcements. They can also watch a preview video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LczRmTzg1Lo and find more links under the “show more” section of the comments, including links to Twitter and my Facebook pages.


If you could go for a drink with any video game character, who would you choose and why?

It’d have to be Duke – he’d be buying!




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