David Whittaker is a British video game musician. He is one of the most popular video game musicians in the world. He is known for composing such gems as Lazy Jones, Shadow of the Beast and Glider Rider, which are the top soundtracks that made him popular. Whittaker has scored around 100 video games on many platforms each, probably more than any other video game musician.
Whittaker attended local Derby Grammar School. His favorite subjects were French and geography, but not music because there was much more history than theory and practice. After leaving school, he had 14 full-time jobs, including electronics assembly, office work, forklift driving, cloth dyeing, and making cardboard tubes. Musically, he started out performing on keyboard and vocals full-time in Clive Farrington's New Romantic band Beau Leisure, which got quite well-known around Altrincham, Greater Manchester, but never made money. Whittaker also plays a Strat, an Ovation, has been a DJ and met Kraftwerk in Liverpool, Merseyside, in 1981.
In February 1982, aged 24, he read about the Sinclair ZX81, but could not afford £80. Instead, he bought a Commodore VIC-20 and paid in installments, starting with £10-£20. He learned BASIC programming from the manual and started programming games for Mr. Micro using a machine code monitor. As his game music was better than that by other programmers, music became a full-time job. He bought a Commodore 64 from Mr. Micro, went to Terminal Software, then freelance, then Terminal's successor Binary Design full-time, and then founded Musicon Design. From that point on, he was sometimes offered so many game music jobs that he had to decline and have given to Rob Hubbard and other composers.
He was the main composer and sound designer for various developers such as Audiogenic and Bits Stuios, the former in which he was on great terms with. According to Whittaker, he was always asked by companies to produce music, as he never contacted them about doing music for a game. Whittaker also said he could do an entire soundtrack, sound effects included, in less than a day. He also considers his ability of doing music for many platforms at the time his reason for being hired for many projects. Whittaker was usually good about lending his sound drivers to other companies, but some also used them without permission. In 1999, Zombie Nation, a techno group, stole David Whittaker's Lazy Jones tune for their single Kernkraft 400. When Whittaker called them up, they apologized and paid him £9000 to use his song, which he claims was more than he got paid for the game.
In January 1993, Hubbard worked for Electronic Arts in the USA and phoned Whittaker. EA desperately needed a Genesis and SNES sound designer. In March, Whittaker went to an interview, and on June 29, his wife and he moved to the USA and got a mansion. Around March 1997, he switched to dialog scripting, directing, recording and editing which he currently does with Traveller's Tales. All the time, though, his wife and he were homesick, and when EA laid off a third in February 2001, Whittaker decided they move back to his hometown, which they did in July.
While some fans call him the best SID composer, Whittaker has only claimed to be the most "prolific", having scored more games than any other video game musician at the time, and believes that Rob Hubbard is truly the best. His favorite computers that he liked to compose on were the Commodore 64 and the Commodore Amiga, with the Commodore VIC-20 being his least favorite. Whittaker says he appreciates the fans' support over the years. When asked in 1986, he said he is the nephew of Roger Whittaker.
When asked if he would return to video game music, Whittaker said he would not, as he no longer writes music.
Whittaker has been notorious for copying and pasting his music and transposing it to a different key. This is especially true in his NES soundtracks. This was probably because of the difficulty of having to write most of his music in machine code.
He wrote his own audio driver which used a form of Music Macro Language. Whittaker said his instrument samples were taken from his Korg M1, a popular keyboard at the time, and also programmed some waveforms of his own.
For Loopz, he used Quartet, which utilized digitized instruments, resulting in the music sounding identical to the Amiga version.
Whittaker converted his NES music to the Game Boy using his own audio driver. The music was written in assembly. When Dark Technologies developed The Lion King (GB), they used Whittaker's sound engine without his permission.
Game Gear/Sega Master System
Whittaker created a sound engine and wrote the music in assembly. Because David Whittaker did not know FM synthesis programming, he never made a sound engine for the Genesis/Mega Drive.
Because David Whittaker wasn't familiar with FM synthesis, he used Don Veca's sound driver. He created MIDI files in an unknown sequencer which were converted into Veca's driver.
Whittaker converted his Commodore 64 sound driver to work on the NES. Not too difficult since they both used the same assembly language, but he had to account for the difference between the Commodore's SID chip, and the 2A03 that the NES used. Whittaker also arranged Neuromantic Productions music in many ports of Krusty's Fun House.
For Super Turrican (NES), Manfred Trenz licensed Whittaker's sound driver, modified the code, and used the driver. Though Whittaker licensed his sound engine to Trenz, he was not involved with the game. While Trenz wrote a few original songs, most of the game's soundtrack is arranged from other Turrican games.
The Lion King (NES) also uses Whittaker's sound engine. According to Whittaker, he never gave permission to Dark Technologies, the developer, to use his sound engine, so it's possible the company reverse engineered it. It is also possible Whittaker did in fact license the driver to them under the company name Enigma Variations, and isn't familiar with the Dark Technologies name they went by.
Whittaker wrote his own audio driver in 65C816 assembly. His instruments were sampled from his Amiga samples from the Korg M1. He would sell his sound driver to companies like Psygnosis for £5000. He lent his sound driver to the Japanese developer Imagineer.
David didn't really use any aliases per se, but his last name was sometimes misspelled, leaving out the second "t" in Whittaker, being credited as David Whitaker.
- mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,800/ - MobyGames.
- facebook.com/david.whittaker.9210 - Facebook.
- linkedin.com/profile/view?id=43051881&locale=en_US&trk=tyah2 - LinkedIn.
- twitter.com/dialogueguru - Twitter.
- youtube.com/user/DialogueGuru - YouTube.
- www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl?issue=016&page=040&magazine=zzap - Group Interview with Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Antony Crowther and Whittaker from August 1986.
- craigsretrocomputingpage.eu5.org/davidwhittaker/davidwhittaker.html - Interview from Sinclair User, August 1987 No 65.
- st-news.com/issues/st-news-volume-2-issue-7/features/interview-with-david-whittaker/ - Interview from October 31, 1987.
- karsmakers.nl/metal-e-zine/david.htm - Interview from September 1998.
- youtube.com/watch?v=iFH5vS1EqNs&t=1m34s - Video Interview from 2001.
- web.archive.org/web/20101228171348/http://www.c64.com/audio/David%20Whittaker%20%5BBack%20in%20Time%20Live%202001%20interview%5D.mp3 - Audio Interview from 2001.
- c64.com/interviews/whittaker.html - Interview from July 2001 or later.
- remix64.com/interviews/interview-david-whittaker.html - Interview from October 2, 2001.
- web.archive.org/web/20021223073607/http://c64audio.valuehost.co.uk/edge/ca_whittaker.htm - Interview from November 2002.
- archive.org/details/Sinclair_ZX_Spectrum_and_Commodore_64_Book-2012/page/n133 - Interview from 2012.