David Whittaker is an English 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. His Glider Rider (ZXS) got Allister Brimble interested in making computer music himself.
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 in 1973, 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 electric guitar, an Ovation acoustic guitar, has been a DJ and met Kraftwerk in Liverpool, Merseyside, in 1981. When asked in 1986, he said he is the nephew of Roger Whittaker.
In February 1982, aged 24, he read about the Sinclair ZX81, but could not afford £80. Instead, he bought a VIC 20 and paid in installments, starting with £10–£20. He learned BASIC programming from the manual and started programming games for Mr. Micro in 6502 machine code. 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, have given to Rob Hubbard, and employ Jason Brooke.
David Whittaker was the main composer and sound designer for various developers such as Audiogenic, Bits Studios and Enigma Variations, the former in which he was on great terms with for always paying on time. 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, Rob Hubbard had been working for Electronic Arts in the USA and phoned Whittaker. He told Whittaker the company 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 Amiga, with the VIC 20 being his least favorite. Whittaker says he appreciates the fans' support over the years. When asked if he would return to video game music, Whittaker said he would not, as he no longer writes music.
Unless otherwise noted, Whittaker's sound drivers use a form of Music Macro Language.
Whittaker composed on a Yamaha CX5M, a Casio CZ-230S, and a Roland Jupiter-6. He has been notorious for copying and pasting his music and transposing it to a different key, especially on the NES. This was probably because of the difficulty of writing most of his music in machine code.
Whittaker converted his C64 driver (including ADSR) to the CPC.
According to Jason Brooke, game programmers complained about both drivers being slow, so Whittaker asked Brooke to write new drivers. Retroactively dated June 1986, those drivers allow much more flexible chords, envelopes, and combining pitch bends with chords. The driver was first found in Glider Rider (ZXS) (like Brooke remembers), released late September. Whittaker and Brooke updated the drivers separately from each other.
Whittaker used Rob Hubbard's driver.
In autumn 1986, Whittaker acquired an ST to keep up. Ironically, in an ST NEWS interview, Whittaker called its built-in YM2149F "a crap ancient beepy chip which doesn't deserve the light of day".
For Loopz, he used Quartet, which utilizes digitized instruments, resulting in the music sounding identical to the Amiga version.
Whittaker's C16 drivers resemble his Commodore 64 drivers.
Whittaker programmed several drivers in 6502 machine and assembly language. The first ones were minimalist, tuned at 424 Hz, and a few use the SID chip's inconsistent filter, sounding best with a bias of at least -300.
In June 1986, Whittaker had Jason Brooke rewrite the CPC driver (as detailed above). One of them converted it back to the C64, and he used it (without real updates) until 1991. He also stopped using the filter (except on engine sounds).
In autumn 1987, he called the SID chip ancient. However, in a September 1998 interview, he said the SID was his favourite sound chip. He likes its similarity to analog synthesizers, specifically the pulse width modulation which makes him recognizable.
Whittaker's drivers were converted to the PC Speaker, Ad Lib Music Synthesizer Card, and Roland. For sound effects, he has bundled VOC files and Creative Labs's driver into a "wrapping" driver of his own.
Game Gear/Sega Master System
Whittaker created a sound engine and wrote the music in assembly.
Whittaker converted his Commodore 64 sound driver to work on the NES. Not too difficult since they both use a 6502-based CPU (and thus assembly language), but he had to account for the difference between the Commodore's SID chip, and the 2A03 that the NES used.
Whittaker licensed that driver to Manfred Trenz for use (with modifications) in his game Super Turrican (NES), and to Enigma Variations for The Lion King (NES) and an undisclosed amount of money. He was not involved otherwise with those games.
Whittaker wrote his own audio driver in 65C816 assembly. His instruments were sampled from his Amiga samples from the Korg M1. The drums may have been from a Linn LM-1 drum machine. He would sell his sound driver to companies like Psygnosis for £5000.
Whittaker's only TurboGrafx-16 game is Yo Bro. He presumably wrote the music in 6502 machine code, similar to his NES and Commodore 64 music.
He said about the game:
Whittaker programmed minimalist drivers and arranged in a 6502 machine code monitor ("Very painful").
Note: Beverly Hills Cop (AMI) credits Whittaker for music, but he did not actually work on the game. Therefore, it is not included in his gameography.
Also, we have received personal verification from Whittaker about his involvement with Yo Bro (TG16). In an interview, he mistakenly listed Camp California for the TurboGrafx-16 (not to be confused with the Turbo CD version). This is most likely because Yo Bro is a game from the Camp California franchise.
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.
ZZAP! 64 No.16, 1986-07-10.
- mobygames.com/person/800/david-whittaker/ - 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 1986-07-10.
- craigsretrocomputingpage.eu5.org/davidwhittaker/davidwhittaker.html - Interview from Sinclair User No 65, 1987-07-18.
- st-news.com/issues/st-news-volume-2-issue-7/features/interview-with-david-whittaker/ - Interview from 1987-10-31.
- karsmakers.nl/metal-e-zine/david.htm - Interview from September 1998.
- youtube.com/watch?v=iFH5vS1EqNs&t=1m34s - Video interview from 2001.
- www.c64.com/audio/David%20Whittaker%20%5BBack%20in%20Time%20Live%202001%20interview%5D.mp3 - Audio interview from 2001.
- www.c64.com/audio/David%20Whittaker%20%5BBack%20in%20Time%20Live%202002%20interview%5D.mp3 - Audio interview from 2002.
- www.c64.com/interviews/whittaker.html - Interview from July 2001 or later.
- remix64.com/interviews/interview-david-whittaker.html - Interview from 2001-10-02.
- 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.