01 August 2018

Episode 203: Tim Follin

The Legacy Music Hour finally does a focus on the music of Tim Follin, and more importantly, finally does an interview with Tim Follin himself.  The interview was originally set to happen back in 2011, but for one reason or another, it didn’t happen until now.  Lots of interesting stuff here as well as some clarification regarding composer credits.  Thank you to Tim Follin for taking the time to speak to Brent and Rob and providing insight regarding his work.  Track listing below.

Game - Composer - Song - Company - Console - Year (North American release unless otherwise indicated)

Magic Johnson's Fast Break - Tim Follin - High Score - Software Creations/Tradewest - NES - 1990

Pictionary - Tim Follin - Mini-Game 2 - Software Creations/LJN - NES - 1990

Sky Shark - Tim Follin - Stage 2 - Software Creations/Taito - NES - 1988

Time Trax - Tim Follin - Stages 1, 3, 8 - Malibu - Genesis - 1994 (unreleased)

Treasure Master - Tim Follin - The Moon (World 2) - Software Creations/American Softworks - NES - 1991

Solstice - Tim Follin - Ending - Software Creations/Sony Imagesoft - NES -1990

Time Trax - Tim Follin - Stages 4, 6 - Malibu - Genesis - 1994 (unreleased)


  1. Wow, I can’t believe it! This episode was so good! I’d definitely put Tim Follin in my top 5 list of greatest VGM composers, possibly in my top 2. Since he’s been a bit of a mythical creature until recently, it’s so good to hear you boizz talk to him.

    It was particularly interesting to hear more about how he composed, as well as his thoughts on the limitations and how they inspired him. I had a slightly different take regarding how composers in different regions viewed game music composition. It seemed Tim felt that he tried to make his music sound like real music, whereas he felt Japanese compositions were more ‘chiptuney’, and that it had to do with the cultural associations toward video game music.

    I don’t know if there was really as much of a difference as that. On the one hand, it is true that there were in-house bands that performed live, and VGM soundtracks were an actual thing in the mid to late 80’s. On the other hand, I’ve heard a number of interviews with Japanese composers who’ve stated that there was some negative stigma attached to game programming during that same period. And it’s also true that many of the Japanese composers were trying to break through the same limitations chips imposed, all the while showing their own musical influences. Think of Konami’s own proggy NES sound, or Iku Mizutani’s rock influence, or Yuzo Koshiro’s Rock(The Super Shinobi), Techno(the Bare Knuckles), Reggae(Super Adventure Island), or Classical/Romantic(Actraiser and Beyond Oasis).

    I think it’s more accurate that every game music cultural center tried to make their music sound as legitimate as possible, but they had their own methods of expression that generally sounded more acceptable to them. It’s interesting how Follin seemed to pick up the European arpeggio effect by osmosis, while also adding his own flair to it. It’s also interesting how Japanese composers tended to use arpeggios in a much more traditional way(16th notes as opposed to 64th or whatever it is they do in Europe). It’s also interesting how it seems a cultural thing that Japanese compositions tend to try and pack everything into a 45 second(8-bit) or a 1:30 second(16-bit) loop, and try to make it interesting enough to hear repeated more often, whereas European compositions more often pile on repeating loops and small variations throughout a much longer song(It's also interesting that Follin loops less and is much more melody/solo focused than most of his European contemporaries).

    In all, it was a fantastic interview. I hope the new info uncovered here can disseminate out into the VGM ether and become part of the established history of this music we love.

  2. Great interview! đź’™ Feeling so related in many things... I really couldn’t talk much about my job back in the time and I got basically no feedback either. Still, he managed to influence a lot of musicians like myself without even knowing it.

  3. Superb! My #1 influence, Tim Follin.

  4. An amazing sight to see three veteran composers commenting back to back on this episode.

    1. Shame you interjected. You could have had 4. :)

      Tim really shone on every platform he worked on, both from a technical and musical point of view. He was a real pioneer and always set a high bar for us to aim for.

    2. I don't normally comment on here, but this is just such a cool moment. Seeing all these awesome composers commenting on a podcast about 8 & 16 bit music is incredible.

      When I was a kid, playing video games was considered super uncool and nerdy. Beyond that though, I felt extra weird and alone in my love for the music in those games.
      I had a cassette recorder with a microphone that I would hang next to my TV speaker to record tapes of my favorite NES & SNES music to listen to on my walkman. Never could I have imagined that all these years later there would be a whole community of people who appreciate those old songs like I do and podcasts based on them.

      Love the podcast guys! Thanks for all you do.

      Also, a big thank you to all of the veteran composers who comment here and interview on the show. It's incredibly interesting hearing the details about what went into creating all that great music!

  5. Fantastic show, as usual! During the interview, you kept asking the questions that were coming up in my mind next. In the past I personally gravitated more towards the harmonious stuff from the east. Also I just love the Nintendo sound sets in general.(NES & SNES). The american music that wanted to sound like traditional instrumentation didn't do it for me as much. Though, i do like a lot of it, including Tim's work on Solstice, and others. This interview made me appreciate the western sampled/emulated instrument VGM more, though.

    Loved it. Looking forward to next time.

  6. The popcorn sounds in the Solstice ending track are indeed being played by the triangle wave channel! They're simply short pops a couple of octaves above the bass line, and because they're so short we don't really hear the bass being interrupted. Follin also took advantage of this when he would beef up the noise channel's percussion on the NES: add a triangle wave blip of some sort in sync with the noise, and suddenly you've got a kick or snare sound that you could have sworn was a sample on first listen, and yet the bass doesn't suffer for it because the blip is short and your brain fills in the blank without you realizing it.

    Also, in my time listening to this podcast, I've noticed something: although it's not inaccurate for you to call the arpeggio effect a Western thing in VGM, I don't think I've heard any North American composers using it. The ones that spring to mind as frequent arpeggiators are Follin (English), Jeroen Tel (Dutch), and Alberto José González (Spanish). So I'm more inclined to call it a European thing than a broadly Western one.

    The C64 Ghouls 'n Ghosts soundtrack also has a breathing effect in it, at the end of the title screen music. (That one is synthesized rather than sampled.) I wish you'd been able to cite that as likely the earliest example of Follin putting breathing sounds in his tracks, although I know it's tangential to the realm you've chosen to cover.

    Great interview! It was lovely to hear him appreciating his own work more than I've heard or read in earlier interviews.

  7. Great interview! It's funny how certain entertainment we loved growing up was made with a matter-of-fact, workhorse attitude. The same thing happens with comic book creators: it's a job you barely talk about but you still strive to perform well even though your ambition lies elsewhere and in the end, it is a bit embarrassing. Thru relentless appreciation, we can let these creators know that what they cultivated in a thankless vacuum made an impact on our lives.

    Also, I could've sworn there was a Follin-specific episode a while back (with a subsequent LMH Mixtape by KeyGlyph) but I can't find it -- did I completely make that up?

  8. Amazing interview and so cool to see Matt Furniss and Alberto J. González in the comments here... you guys rock!!!

    1. And Barry Leitch too, one of my favourites since the Amiga days.

  9. Great episode, really cool insight into the reality of making music for videogames. It's funny to hear the guy who made so much great music talk about how he was a little embarassed to say he made videogame music. I've listened to over a hundred episodes of this show and I'd mostly still be a little embarassed to say I listened to videogame music to most of the people I meet! But maybe it shouldn't be that way!

  10. Thanks for doing this interview with Tim Follin, such a terrific listen! I must admit now though that I'm intrigued to learn more about his elusive brother and co-composer Geoff - do you think you will be able to arrange one with him in the future too? It seems like he recently did an interview by email a few months back, and whilst he's a bit cage-y about his former VGM composing days, perhaps he could provide some extra info that fans might be curious about?

    Here's the link to said interview: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqgrpq

    And his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR_lFrzhmS3_MBUoe2YPNCg/?&ab_channel=GeoffFollin

    Can't wait to hear the David Wise one next!

  11. hey, long time user from the UK. So I haven't been able to access any episodes for a few months now. I have tried multiple ways (itunes store, download from this site etc) and on multiple devices but I am always greeted with an error message when trying to download. Something along the lines of "This site can’t be reached
    ia601508.us.archive.org unexpectedly closed the connection."

    I've just been re-listening to old episodes again in the meanwhile to tide me over as I already had them downloaded. But now this episode is out..... I need this episode in my life.

    Is this an issue you guys are aware of? I've tried on multiple connections too. So it's not my internet or devices, im sure of it. I can see by all the comments on recent episodes that no one else has this issue and can listen just fine. Is it because of my location?

    1. Perhaps try using a proxy to connect?

    2. Also, in the meantime, you can hear the interview only portion of the episode here:


    3. Maybe it has something to do with this?


      So try using a VPN (virtual private network) for now.

  12. Ok guys, thanks for the response ( legit feel honoured ). VPN is working for me ! Great episode!

  13. first time poster, just here to say Shane from stardew valley kinda looks like Brent to me. https://stardewvalleywiki.com/Shane

  14. This was a great interview! I was shocked by how humble Tim Follin is. You know, sometimes you hear from your musical heroes and you think "Damn, he's a bit of an ego". But with Tim, he is so self-effacing that it's like "No dude! Seriously! Your music rules! Can't you see that?" I almost wanted to shake him by the shoulders at times.

    I used to have Solstice in the early 90s. I could never just pop in the game and play it. I always had to listen through that rockin' intro song. There were days where I would just pop in the cart and let that song play in the background instead of turning on the stereo or watching TV. He was ultimately my hook into the world of VGM because I wanted to hear more of his tunes, and then I learned more about how to find VGM music, and then I developed a more general VGM obsession.