A while ago you had a chance to ask composer George Sanger about making music and sound effects for games, television, and film. Below you'll find "The Fat Man's" answers to those questions.Getting Started
How did you get into the video game music business, and what advice would you have for aspiring artists looking to follow in your footsteps?
FAT: A good question--but do bear in mind: Anybody you ask that of has only gotten into the business approximately once. How's the old saying go? "Ask a man who has caught one fish to teach you to fish, and you will soon realize you would have been better off if he'd given you that fish." Hmmm. It goes on to say, "Do this enough times, or apply the one example to enough different situations, and you might see some patterns, understand something about life, shout 'Ah Ha!' jump up in delight, and fall backwards into a pond full of fish."
The thing I got into in 1983 is not the thing you think of as "the video games business." If you imagine an office building for a company that makes kids' toys along the lines of Barbie or Hot Wheels, and then picture further that the corporate committee decided to set up a separate building for a new line of toys that seemed to be selling well, you'll get a sense of the level of glamour that surrounded the Mattel Intellivision offices. I only went there once. Oh, wait, maybe I only drove past.
In 1983, there were no video game magazines that I know of. No trade organizations, no conferences. People who made games were called "programmers," and they worked by themselves and to be social read Dr. Dobbs Journal, a technical publication, because that was the only place they could find relevant communications from other people. The video game culture was mainly made up of kids and singles who hung out in arcades. This was occasionally portrayed in movies or novelty songs. That's about it, I think. What else? There was no Internet, telephones had cords, answering machines were still a bit of a novelty, bla bla bla, that kind of thing.
My '80's LA eigth-notes power pop new wave band had just broken up, and I was ready for something new, but my music degree and dabblings in other arts and sciences hadn't really prepared me for anything. Besides that, I had decided that games were more exciting, dynamic, and alive than Rock N Roll was. I thought there was more unexplored frontier, more potential. And I liked that they were, like early rock, completely undiscovered or misunderstood by adults, other than the few "cool ones" who ran arcades or repaired machines.
My brother had a college roommate, Dave Warhol. When I found out that he worked for Intellivision, I volunteered to empty trash cans for him, or whatever he wanted, for free. He said, "Weren't you a music major? I need a 10-second tune for an ice-skating penguins game." I was very insecure in my abilities as a composer. I got out my tools--a guitar, 4-track recorder, pencil, manuscript paper, and noodled two tracks of guitar until I had a pretty good oompah tune. Then I transcribed it onto the staff paper and turned it in. Dave, an excellent musician, very much thought that it sounded like ice skating penguins. He wrote code to play the notes and tones. The execs insisted I be paid. I billed for around $1,000, and got it. Billing was done by typewriter and US Mail. I kept a carbon copy, literally, of the bill, bla bla bla that kind of thing. Intellivision went out of business a few weeks later.
So, what can we learn from this and Get a Job?
I had a deep love of arcade games, and Dave W. picked up on that as a way to solve a problem he had, and he was in a position to get me hired. Also, the timing was right. Game programmers had generally worked alone--Dave was on one of the early game development _teams_ at Intellivision, so it was only _slightly_ unheard-of that he should go to somebody else to help out on music; something that a programmer traditionally would have done himself.
I think we can see indications of some things I believe in anyway, from having observed many one-fish wonders:
--Keep track of the things that you love; the ideas in the night that make you sit up in bed and laugh. Make them known. People will pick up on that, and you will be a happier person for it.
--Be aware of the people around you and what they need. I don't think anybody gets a job except for when they are solving a problem for somebody. Be especially ready to notice when somebody needs something that you love to do.
--Love many things. Of course, you can't decide what you love and what you don't love. Or can you?
--Be in the right place at the right time. I don't know what this means, but pay attention nonetheless. It's like pondering the phrase "Be yourself." How can you possibly be other than that? It's the one thing you can't help but be. How can you go about being in the right place at the right time, or NOT being there? Think about it enough, and BOOM! Enlightened.
PS: AH! I just found out that Dave Warhol will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award for game audio from the Game Audio Network Guild. Congratulations, Dave!
Re:audio production software
What would you consider to be the dream workstation for a composer? Any specific sound cards or other equipment a "must have"?
FAT: Ewwww, I don't like to talk about equipment.
I can start with some crabby dogma, type at you for a while, and see if that gets me to a good, happy place.
Crabby Dogma: There are absolutely no "must haves."
You can compose perfectly well using a piano and a pencil. Get any MIDI sequencer--they all come with enough tones to get you started now--and an Internet connection, and you can compose professionally. Do it in your head. Mozart could get a gig.
Equipment is a troublesome necessity, and sound cards are an excellent illustration of that.
As a musician, I want the pretty noises to get into and out of the computer. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there is a hangup or a crash or a fuzzy noise or a time lag. What causes these? Might be the sound card. Should I become an expert and learn all about sound cards?
Answer: No--you are a musician. That is what you love. People will see this love, this focus. You will solve other peoples' problems with this love. See question 1 above.
Other answer: Yes. Oh, crap, you are now a Legendary Game Audio Guru. You will realize that no one person is smart enough to know all about sound cards. You will co-found a think-tank to solve the problems they cause. (projectbarbq.com, since 1996) It will be the place where most of the significant advances in audio on computers happen. You will notice issues in General MIDI that make it fail to work, and will establish a testing lab (Fat Labs) and a working group that will turn General MIDI (that's the MIDI files that, when you play them, the correct instruments play) into a viable standard. And you may ask yourself, "Where does this highway lead to?"
OK, OK, sound cards. I currently use a Presonus Firestudio Mobile because I have learned Presonus' quirks over the years. It is the devil I know, and I prefer it to the devil I don't yet know.
OK, OK, "Must haves" at the low end:
To work professionally as a composer, you "Must Have" at least this:
--Some kind of computer/software, and Internet. An iPad and $100 of software will do. See "Favorite Advancement" below.
--A place where you like to composeor at least a mental state in which you like to compose.
And the more other stuff you have, the harder it is to compose.
"Must haves" at the high end do not apply to composition, they apply to production:
OK, OK, "Must Haves" at the high end:
The dream workstation, like any dream, arises in the mind of the person who needs to dream it. Yours will be different. Listen. Do you hear? It calls you.
The toys that awaken my love, that make me chuckle at night; those that pop into my attention right now, today:
--Nuendo 6 with expansion pack, on a big fat PC. It does everything I need, which is good. And there are features and features and features and features that one could dig into for a lifetime and never master. Which is, actually, bad, because you can again become an expert at something you don't love. BUT, when I imagine something that I need, I can usually find in the many features of Nuendo, buried somewhere, something that will do the job or something close enough, or often something even better than I had imagined.
--A bunch of mics; with one really nice mic. A Neumann 87. I accidentally bought a silver-plated Anniversary Edition one that comes with a white glove, a presentation box, and a certificate. I never need feel embarassed by my mic again. Inspiration flows easily when facing the glowing talent substitute that is my Neumann 87. Do I like having a talent substitute? Some days everybody does--they're fun! Do I need it? Dude.
--UAD card, especially Dreamverb, Neve EQ, Fairchild limiter. These feel like "secret weapons" when I use them. Very little tweaking is required to get beautiful sounds--and they tend to be sounds that other people find beautiful, too.
--A pretty good trumpet and a Cascade "Fat Head" ribbon mic for recording it.
--Lots and lots of guitars. Old. New. Broken. Homemade. Classic. Unique.
--Lots and lots of instruments that I can't really play well YET. Saxes, trombones, cello, accordion. Play 'em one note at a time. Struggle. Explore. Love.
--Analog synths with patch cables. So silly. So fun. So scientific-seeming. They are the embodiment of joy--like a riding lawnmower.
--A nice workroom full of junk that can make sound effects, cables, and a soldering iron.
HAVE HAD, WOULD LIKE AGAIN:
If I'm missing anything myself, I'd say that I'd like a big room on a quiet street that's near a good deli.
And I miss having a lot of friends nearby who can come over and play. That'll take care of itself given time.
HAVE NEVER HAD:
Funny. There's nothing in this category. I don't know why.
Oooh! I'm in my happy place! Thank you, sycodon.
by Traksius Egas
Mr. Sanger, If you could point out just one favorite advancement in gaming audio, be it hardware, software, or something else in your experience what would that be?
FAT: Hmmm. Hardware, software, standards and systems again. I’d advise against reading my answers, they will be incomplete, and will bring you no lasting satisfaction in life. On the other hand, one could say the same of reading the Musician’s Friend catalog or going to a good dance. So, what the hell, take a break, and let’s dive into the Hell of Ten Thousand Things.
#1: MIDI and affordable personal computers, as an aid to composing: In school (I graduated in 1979), I was never that good at any one instrument, nor at hearing and writing conventionally notated music. I wasn't sure that I could ever be an effective composer, and this caused me a lot of insecurity and stress. When I finally got my hands on a MIDI composing rig (My friend Mark Hill let me borrow his Dr. T's sequencer, on an Amiga, around 1986), I got the relief and satisfaction of finding out that, yes, if you take away the time pressure of live performance, and let me work as long as I want on a piece, I can make cool music. I've since been able to add plenty of live sounds, conventional and otherwise, to my music, but almost always using MIDI as a skeleton upon which to hang the flesh. Whew. Thank God. Thank Dave Smith (co-invented MIDI). Thanks, Mark.
Some other things worth mentioning:
----MIDI as a medium for sound delivery. You could never be sure it would sound that good when it reached the listener. But it was soooo much nicer than the alternatives; writing things out on manuscript paper, or, worse, typing the music into some programmer's proprietary "this is the format we need the music in, George" system.
------Soundcards that play the same kind of files and mostly work. Before they had the capability of playing "WAV" files, there was a long time when sound cards were all different. Each had a different number of oscillators, different sounding boops and beeps, and so forth, and you had to write different versions of your music and sound effects for each one, never being sure of how things would end up sounding. This changed.
-----IPADS. So many possibilities, sooooo cheap.
I would encourage a new composer on a budget to start with an iPad, and challenge them to fill it up with software using the $5,000-$50,000 they just saved. Go nuts--you'll never exhaust the budget!! I've created sounds that have suited my clients needs very well, using the following iPad apps:
--Cubasis: a pro workstation on you iPad. Are you KIDDING?!?! Amazing.
--Cubase IC Pro: Use the iPad as a control surface for the big, expensive Cubase/Nuendo.
--MorphWiz: No bad tones with this synth by Jordan Rudess. Beautiful interface.
--Korg iMS-20: Analog synth emulator de LUXE. I've gotten 45,000 hits on my YouTube tutorial for it, too!
--iKaoscillator: Can't make a wrong note here. Just touch the screen, get a groove. Korg has such great tones, always.
--Animoog: Yeah, I could have used the _real_ Moog, but this one is different. Tricky interface, LUSH, motion-filled sounds.
--Symphony Pro: Notation software. Beautiful.
I also like to jam with:
--OnSong: Keeps track of my hundreds of jam charts. Thorough, useful software, worth every penny and more. I project the jam charts from the iPad to a big screen, so's everybody can read 'em and see the chords. Invaluable.
--Mugician: For some reason, even as a keyboard-challenged guitar player, I can play riffs on this interface and jam comfortably. The notes are laid out like stacked bass strings. It's related to GeoSynth and Cantor, but this is the one I seem to have the best success with. Buy 'em all. They're cheap, and we need to support these geniuses.
And I have a blast tinkering with:
--Mixtikl: I think I'll be able to use this one to create one of my holy grails: perfect predictable yet ever-evolving ambience for napping.
--GarageBand: Yeah, I'll admit it. I've used the "smart instruments" in a pro production. Once. Is it cheating when it sounds perfect in context? You tell me. I also use it to sketch quick backing tracks for songs I'm writing.
--Hex OSC full: I invented this hexagonal keyboard layout myself when I was in high school. Dad took me to see a patent lawyer to see if we could make money on it. I never got a chance to fiddle with it 'till this app came out, but they didn't _quite_ get the key touch or tones right. SO I'm still wondering if it makes for a good instrument.
--TouchOSC, MIDI Touch, V-Control
--GuitarAtSight, BetterEars, NailThatNote, etc. Ear training, sight reading apps. A little trip to boot camp never hurt the Fat Man. Maybe I'll get good at this stuff someday.
--I just heard great things about Twisted Wave.
Did I mention that I hate talking about equipment? Did you ever notice that sometimes when somebody tells you who they are, they're really telling you who they _aren't?_ Like when they say, "I'm a really funny guy." or "I'm a great bass player." or "I'm the Fat Man."
My favorite, ever.
by i kan reed
I'm playing some of the Master of Magic soundtrack right now, when this article appeared. I love the sheer range of composition you managed over the course of the 90s.
Anyways, my question is: Has the demand for live instrumentation on soundtracks negatively impacted the flexibility of game composers like yourself? Or were the midi device days harder?
FAT: Thanks for the kind words!
The composer/producer’s flexibility is improved when we widen the range of tones that's available to us. Live instruments definitely move us in the direction of limitless musical expression. Composition for MIDI devices was generally easier (not counting the drudgery of re-arranging the music for several different sound cards), and it was very satisfying--for me, anyway, because I always did as much as I could with the medium, and felt satisfied that there wasn't that much more that could be done. You can spend a thousand lifetimes exploring the entire world, or exploring a single lifeform. Both offer infinite possibilities for accomplishment and learning, but the two infinities are of a slightly different character. I think it’s a trick of the mind, but the latter study would tend less to make a body feel that he’s done an incomplete job, even though, of course, he is.
What does impact our flexibility historically is not a technical thing, it's a creative direction thing.
Now, the following rant does NOT apply to the precious exceptions such as Katamari Damacy and SSX Tricky, nor to the “radio” games like Grand Theft Auto. But it does apply to the majority of the work in what’s called “The Game Industry.”
The idea of a “soundtrack along the lines of John Williams' scores” first came up when we were doing the music for Wing Commander. “Something between Star Wars and Superman: The Movie,” I think, was the request, and, believe it or not, it was a novel and audacious idea at the time. As far as I know, nobody had tried that with a game, so we got to be the first, or at least we got to feel like we were the first, and it was fun--it felt like a creative, outrageous way to advance our medium. Dave Govett, Team Fat member and main composer on that project, was a huge John Williams fan and had had the Wing Commander theme rolling around in his head since high school anyway, it just hadn’t been written down yet. The MT-32 sound module was the first affordable “orchestra in a box,” and it was being considered not only a musician’s tool, but a “computer sound card.” The timing was right, and the soundtrack made a big impact--I got the impression that for a few years after Wing Commander, composers weren't so much asked to do "John Williams-like" scores as "Wing Commander-like" scores.
But, here is where we lose our flexibility: Accelerated by games’ growing ability to make orchestral sounds, and then eventually to play digital linear recordings, it wasn't long before the success of such scores became a formula, and in a way that is somewhat worse than way in which films have become formulaic.
You see, in films, there is at least a pretense and a tradition for being artistic. “Don’t ruin my masterpiece! I want the music to do this and this or you will never work in this town again!” etc. But in games
As our soundtracks became capable of “real sound” (I shudder at the term), composers started getting a whole lot of “Give me some John Williams” and “Throw in some Danny Elfman.” This attitude reveals deep ignorance and disrespect for the varied, sensitive work that these composers actually do to support a film’s intent. John Williams didn’t just do Star Wars, ya know. Jaws. Schindler’s List. Comedy stings for Gilligan’s Island. This might happen in films, too, but it gets worse—
Note how the creativity progressed as the capabilities increased:
--Give us Superman meets Star Wars
--Give us John Williams or Danny Elfman. Which is now code for “Superman meets Star Wars.” Next came
--Give us some Orchestral music. Which became code for the above. And finally, the worst of all of them:
--Give us something Movie-Like.
Entertainment without creativity is exploitation, and each step of the above descent becomes less creative and more imitative—an insecure grasping at a safe way to make entertainment. Making something “that people like” can’t be innovative, because if it is, you can’t know that people like it. As similar as movies sound these days in their attempt at safely appealing to audiences, we in gaming have sunk one step lower in our misguided attempt to succeed by doing what’s been done: Nobody ever gets excited about a movie sounding “movie-like.”
Being expected to sound “movie-like,” with all the baggage and disrespect for artistry that goes with that mindset: That’s where we’ve lost flexibility.
The olden days
by Dan East
Back in the late 80s, computer music was written in 4 channel trackers (Amiga, I'm thinking of you), and you had to try and cram as much "music" into just 4 channels as possible. Now the sky's the limit. I'm curious which you like better. The old days, where hardware limitations were always in your face and you had to use clever tricks and a lot of thought to work around them and keep it all in a few kilobytes of space, or the way things are now, where you have an unlimited number of tracks and instruments available and you just blow out static audio tracks (aka mp3)?
FAT: You have made an accurate summary of the situation.
To answer: I seem to like where I am. I think I liked where I was, but I am almost certainly remembering it inaccurately. And I expect I’ll like where I will be, but of course I can have no idea about that.
Thanks for the opportunity to sound all fancy and wise. It makes me giggle.
Have you tried composing interactive music, that dynamically changes according to choices the player makes "on-the-fly"? If so, what technology do you prefer to use when composing for interactive soundtracks?
The first time I remember hearing highly interactive music in a game was "Shogo: Mobile Armor Division", back in 1998; they used a program that was similar to the old Amiga "Bars & Pipes" to help compose that music. All I remember is that the program was part of the DirectX suite at the time.
FAT: My second game, Paul Edelstein’s “Capture the Flag” for Atari 800, used an interactive score. That was 1983 or 1984. The technology is irrelevant to the interactivity The parts were simple, and I had in mind how they would go. Paul implemented the “interactive” part in code—I just gave him the linear bits of music. But just for fun, I will tell you: I used the Atari Music Composer cartridge. Paul hacked into the saved music and used that for his code.
Wing Commander was widely acclaimed for music that reacted on-the-fly to various battle situations—that was 1990. And, not to appear to be less of a genius or anything, but the main battle theme, this great monument to innovative audio in gaming, was written as a linear piece ( see “Combat Full”).
After it was written, Chris Roberts decided on an interactive score. He asked us to chop the battle music into bits, such as “you are chasing a ship” or “a missile is chasing you.” Nothing brilliant was done there, except for Dave Govett’s excellent style of composing. When the game state changed, the music changed, instantaneously and unceremoniously, without regard for beat or measure, and it worked. And again, no special software was needed, but for the record, Dave used Dr. T’s sequencer on an Amiga to create MIDI files that would play on a Roland MT-32. It was a clean, straightforward toolkit, and we were unburdened with unnecessary technical issues.
On the other hand, my buddy (now, not so much then) Marc Schaefgen worked in the coal mines at Origin at the time, and he had the job of converting all that MIDI into code. Poor little fella! Hi, Marc! Look, I’m getting all the glory and you’re doing all the work! Oh, what the heck, I gotta say it Marc’s a real mensch, and he kicks my ass at blues guitar, among many other things.
More recently I did an interactive tune for Cosmic Highway, a racing game for Wii U by Monty Goulet in which the soundtrack changes musical style, depending on which of 6 different racers is in the lead. This was a fun, excellent idea and a delightful challenge. I simply used Nuendo to write the music in one style, then wrote the next version using the previous one as a reference track. Before long, I had six tracks I could pop into “solo” mode at any time to test the transitions.
As far as specific software for creating and experimenting with interactive works; For some reason I have never used FMod--an hour ago I promised a client that I would download it and learn it—and I expect that is what I would be recommending here if I had used it. Failing that, I would recommend Microsoft’s XAct tool, which is part of the DirectX software development kit. I’ve used it to develop and test some interactive audio schemes for slot machines, and it works great. And it’s free. AND if your client/developer doesn’t want to use DirectX to play back the files, he can fairly easily hack together an audio engine that plays the output files from XAct, because they are, to a programmer-type, very readable. Note how I use the phrase “fairly easily” for a task I am not intending to do myself. Ho Ho!
Integrating Game Voice/Sound into Music
by Jonah Hex
I, like so many, was blown away by the soundtrack for 7th Guest and a big part of that was the voice clips integrated directly into the music. Question: What do you think about integrating a games voice acting clips and/or sound effects directly into the music tracks?
FAT: Thanks for being blown away that’s nice of you.
Here’s the soundtrack.
I’m not sure quite how to answer your question: I don’t know that I did integrate voice clips directly into the music. Let me go down a little list of what might be what you mean
I wrote a bunch of in-game music, which had nothing to do with voices or sound effects.
Then again, for each game (7th Guest and 11th Hour), I scored some “cut scenes,” which are also now known as “Cinematics.” (We didn’t have a name for such things at the time, as they were such a new thing, just then appearing in games like Wing Commander and The 7th Guest. So I put forward the suggestion that they be called “FAT’s,” for “Finite Amount of Theater.”) For these I timed things so that the voice-over, if any, would fit into the music. It probably felt like something new to you to hear voice at the same time as music.
The 7th Guest was the first game to use General MIDI, so there was kind of a deep novelty to the way it sounded, which might also be part of what you were impressed by. The way the musical stings would sometimes come up with a yell from Stauf—I bet that’s the bit you liked. It was fun! But I just wrote the music, I didn’t have anything else to do with that.
One thing I did do was to talk the producers into including some “real music” (shudder, meaning “more than MIDI”) with the game, on the CD. This was kind of a special thing, since this was a very early CD-ROM game, and nobody was very sure as to what to do with a CD-ROM, what it was capable of, etc. I remember asking one of the producers, Graeme Devine, “So, this game is going to be on a thing called a ‘CD-ROM?’ Is it kind of like a regular CD? Could I, like, give you guys 20 minutes of extra music to include with the game? So, I could, like have singers and use a violin player and stuff?” His beautiful answer was, “Sure, Fat Man, whatever you say!”
Either way, you ask me what I think of integrating the music and voice, and of course, I’m all for it, whatever it means to you or me or the next person. We’re trying to do something effective and beautiful—we might do well to avail ourselves of all tools available. Let’s make the people smile. Why discriminate? Why separate?
Especially between voice and music—they’re made of the same stuff.
interaction between game designers and soundtrack
Greetings George, thanks for taking the time to do this. Video games were some of my earliest exposure to types of music that my parents never played and has stayed a consistent influence on the music I create now some 20-30 years later.
I'm curious how much of a back and forth process it is to design music for games. At what stage are you often approached about creating music? Is it when there is a finished product for you to see, or during the early stages are you brought on board to share some sounds to inspire coders? Is there a standard timeline for bringing together visuals and gameplay and sounds, or does it vary from project to project? And if it does vary, has there been a general shift over time in the interaction between gameplay design and music design?
FAT: That’s fun, how people who are serious about their music got started on video game music. Who knew? I wonder if the producers of ‘60’s TV shows are surprised at how often people my age reference them. I admit, I had kinda hoped it would be like that but I had hoped that our “movement” would have had more of the freedom and creative energy that ‘60’s pop music had. I wanted games to be a little more like Woodstock. Which the indie games are getting around to!
The back and forth process in designing music for games is, as you would imagine, as varied as the companies that make games. The general shift over time, to my mind, has been away from “you’re the only guy we’ve ever heard of who can do this,” and more towards “do it like it’s supposed to be done, and if you can’t, move aside and let the 500 other kids outside that door do it for you.” There can be some merit in the latter approach, but it won’t deliver brilliant results, which equal beauty and entertainment, which is what sells and which is why we’re here. For my money the best attitude for a producer to take is something like this: hire somebody you trust to the ends of the earth to do no wrong, tell him what you want (a picture is worth a thousand words) and get out of his way. And make it known that this is your attitude.
You can still have complete control of the direction of the audio, through meetings and feedback loops and all, but with the respect expressed above guiding the relationship, your musician will still support your intent very well, and in addition you will get more, better, faster, better, more, and fantastic, and better music, and happier, and better. Which is, you know. Better.
Hello George, I love game soundtracks so much, that I have a folder dedicated to it on my drive, and it's one of my go-to when I do my work. I have played a number of games for which you composed the music, including Loom, Wing Commander II, Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra, Ultima Underworld, etc. and I love them all.
Which one of your work do you look back on with the most feelings? Which is your favourite piece?
FAT: Thanks! Love is good. Excellent question, too.
The project I most look back on with feelings is Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo.
Anyway, Team Fat had established itself in a little house in Leander, Texas, and it was a beautiful scene. We all worked together on that game, and you can hear everybody’s strong points shining through. Dave Govett did his orchestral stuff for the “three gates,” Joe McDermott had the quirky, atmospheric jungle music, Kevin Phelan did the whistling for Baldini’s store, and I got to do the Topiary Creatures song. We had a lot of fun doing the rhyming monkeys, too. It felt like being The Monkees, living like they did on their TV show. Somebody once said about us, “It’s like you guys are playing in the tree house. And Mom and Dad aren’t coming home for a long time, still.”
I think my favorite tune to listen to, though, is The Final Hour from The 11th Hour. It feels free and good—clever but not too clever. I like the lyrics, and I like how the 7th Guest theme comes back in as a countermelody. It was done in Leander, too, and has that fun feel of a bunch of guys doing something cool. All of Team Fat is playing or singing on it, and my brother Dave (7 Grammies with Asleep at the Wheel) is playing drums (Track 6, here).
I used to run into you at trade shows . . . gosh, going on 24 years ago. Do you still have that big red jacket with the gold coins?
Is your comic book a collector's item?
FAT: Hi! I hope you’re well! 24 years ago there weren’t that many of us in the industry, I bet I’d know who you by sight if I saw you.
Something beautiful happened around the red Nudie suit, so I took the hint from the Universe and gave the thing back. But I still have the black Nudie suit, and the blue “Snakes and Stars” suit that Susan Penn hand-embroidered for me (over the course of 3 years!) Those things carry some power.
I don’t know if the coloring books will ever catch on as collectors items. Who would collect such things? They are beautiful things, though, aren’t they? In 1994, Team Fat’s Joe McDermott drew those as an act of love and misguided promotional savvy. They depict the glory days of Team Fat at the Leander “ranch house.” We’re driving around in hot rods, trying to rid the world of General MIDI sound cards that don’t work right. The whole thing is highly symbolic and bizarre, and not so far from true.
I take it you have one. Want to scan it and post it so’s folks can see? We promise only to say nice things about your coloring.
FAT: THANK YOU for reading this, and for caring about game noises.
As good as they are, I feel that the questions asked in this AMA lean more towards the technical and business side of events that happened in a relatively short part of my career. And that career has been such a limitless laugh-riot of random junk that should provide sufficient belly-laugh candy to you, the World’s Greatest Nerds, to last each of you a lifetime. But it was hard to point you to that embarrassment of riches, in the context of these questions. Also, there’s just very little music in this format, and the noises are what it’s about.
So as a little respectful gift to you: I think the best way to expose you smart folks to the “they’ll never fit this in the movies” aspect of The Fat Man and Team Fat (whoever that really is) is to send you to a YouTube search for George Sanger.
Wander through this topiary garden, and see where it takes you. And remember, there’s more where that came from
And please accept my deepest thanks to you all for helping take me to where I am (wherever that really is!)
George “The Fat Man” Sanger