David Wise is a British video game musician, and is one of the most popular in the industry. He is known for composing music to many popular games such as the Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, and Wizards & Warriors series.
David's passion for music started around when he was 8 years old and his older brother was taking piano lessons. Due to fairness, he had to wait until he was his brother's age until he could get piano lessons, too. He then found out beforehand that he could learn music by ear, but he also ended up getting piano lessons as well. He also learned how to play the trumpet around then and eventually joined a brass band. When he was 14, he had a paper route and used his earnings to save up for a drumkit. After buying the drumkit, he joined a band.
Later, Wise started working at a music shop, working in the drum department until a Yamaha CX5 arrived at the store. He learned how to create music on it. He demonstrated the computer to many customers which led to the sale of many of them. One day, Rare's founders Chris and Tim Stamper came into the music shop and asked Wise to demonstrate the computer for them. While David was doing so, he was playing his own compositions. Chris and Tim were mesmerized by his music so instead of buying the computer, they asked Wise if he would do music for their video games and Wise took the job.
His first work of video game music was Slalom on the NES in 1987. Wise felt confined to writing game music on the NES because not only did he have to go from writing MIDI files on music computers to programming the music in hex code, but he also had only four channels to work with on the NES' soundchip. The fifth channel which used digitized audio, Wise couldn't use because the company didn't have the luxury of cartridge space.
During Rare's NES development, they usually handled arcade conversions, so David Wise had to take the challenges of learning the original arcade's music by ear and replicate a good 8-bit conversion which he was always successful in doing. David composed the music for over 40 NES titles, which is probably more than any other NES composer. He worked on all of Rare's NES soundtracks until the SNES era when Rare hired other composers and sound designers, in which Wise would usually work alongside them. Most of the music he composes consists of hard rock or jazz. Wise stayed with Rare up until 2009 when the company was acquired by Microsoft. Wise also cited major changes to the company as his reason for his departure. Wise still continues to create video game music to this day, and he likes to use Cubase and Pro Tools for his music.
For the Battletoads arcade game, David wrote the music in assembly hex code and sampled his instruments from a Roland U-110 and Korg Wavestation, but composed the songs on an Roland MT-32. The music was then converted to Brian Schmidt's sound driver, as he invented the BSMT2000 sound chip which was used in the game.
From David Wise's OCRemix interview:
David also had this to say about how exactly he composed on the NES:
According to Wise, Chris Stamper programmed the first version of the sound driver, and a later version was programmed by Mark Betteridge. For the arcade conversions, he was sometimes given sheet music for the original arcade music, but other times wasn't.
World Games however used a driver by Stephen Ruddy.
Wise wrote in hex code until after the SNES era. His instruments for his SNES music and the Battletoads arcade were sampled from the Korg Wavestation and Roland U-110 sound modules. He wrote his music in the text editor called Brief. The sound driver was originally programmed by Chris Stamper and later reprogrammed by Philip Wattis.
To prevent their staff being hired by other companies, Rare obscured their employees' first names from staff rolls, with only the employee's first initial + last name shown (D. Wise).
For Wizards & Warriors II, Wise was credited under the moniker Rare Ltd. This was most likely due to Zippo Games being the developer, and the company outsourcing their sound to Rare. In addition, they probably received the music files from some random Rare employee, and the music code either didn't have it, or they didn't bother to check the music code for Wise's name.
- facebook.com/david.wise.9028 - Facebook.
- twitter.com/David_Wise - Twitter.
- medium.com/cuepoint/enter-the-jungle-donkey-kong-country-vs-hip-hop-7b2b5abc8271 - Interview.