My Favourite Game

The found­ing mem­ber of 65daysof­static talks MIDI noodling and sound­track­ing No Man’s Sky

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65 days of static’s Paul Wolin­ski on Ami­gas and No Man’s Sky

Key­boardist, gui­tarist and elec­tron­ics ex­per­i­menter Paul Wolin­ski formed 65daysof­static along with gui­tarist Joe Shrews­bury in 2001. Af­ter a pe­riod of up­heaval, the four-piece’s lineup so­lid­i­fied with Simon Wright on bass and Rob Jones on drums. 65days has re­leased five stu­dio al­bums to date, and Wolin­ski has also is­sued two solo records: Labyrinths in 2011 and 2014’s Full Bleed.

Given the cover art for Labyrinths, which has a dis­tinctly Psyg­no­sis-era Roger Dean feel to it, and the tex­tad­ven­ture-style video for Stitches, were you a Com­modore kid grow­ing up? I did have an Amiga, but I had a ZX Spec­trum be­fore that, when I was dead lit­tle, with Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner. There was a re­ally big gap be­tween the Spec­trum and Amiga, and I never had a Mega Drive or any­thing.

Was that down to your par­ents? I think it might have been some­thing like that… Con­soles were al­ways toys, rather than ‘se­ri­ous’ com­put­ers. But I re­mem­ber get­ting the Car­toon Clas­sics Amiga bun­dle for Christ­mas one year, which had Lem­mings with it…

Which was pub­lished by Psyg­no­sis, and re­turns us to your cover art – there’s a videogame in­flu­ence at play, right? The guy who did the Labyrinth cover, Cas­par New­bolt, has done 65days stuff for years. I played him some demos, in­clud­ing ma­te­rial that didn’t make it on the record, which were shame­lessly ’80s. I never in­tended to play it to any­one, but I did to Cas­par. It’s the only al­bum I’ve done where the art­work’s been fin­ished be­fore all of the songs were writ­ten, so the art did end up in­flu­enc­ing the mu­sic.

There was plenty of Amiga mu­sic soft­ware – is that how you be­gan to play around with your own sounds? It’s how I first got into MIDI stuff. I had some­thing called Oc­taMED, which I saved my pocket money for. I or­dered this weird box that meant I could plug a MIDI key­board into the Amiga, so that I could learn how to se­quence. I’d just make [New Or­der’s] Blue Mon­day over and over. But there was a demo disc around at the time that I loved, with mu­sic by Utah Saints. It had th­ese early-’90s rave vi­su­als. The graph­ics were amaz­ing. All of the Sen­si­ble Soft­ware stuff seemed to have great sound­tracks, too.

Nowa­days, do the 65days mem­bers share a mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion of videogames? Not re­ally. Si and I were into them as teens, but Joe never had any­thing to do with games. But we were in so many shared houses dur­ing the early years of 65 that ev­ery now and then there’d be an Xbox or some­thing. None of us had money to go out, so we’d sit around play­ing that, and that was Joe’s real first ex­pe­ri­ence with games.

Has that changed at all with the band do­ing the sound­track to No Man’s Sky? Well, when we were out in Las Ve­gas for The Game Awards, in a gi­ant room full of hun­dreds of PS4s, it did seem like some­thing that we’d re­ally like to get into.

When the NMS op­por­tu­nity came up, did you leap at it? Or was the prospect of mak­ing mu­sic for a pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated game daunt­ing? It’s so ex­cit­ing. It’s a big chal­lenge, but we jumped at it. As soon as we saw the first screen­shots, we knew we had to get in­volved. We have to write full songs as well – as stand­alone things – which will make up a sound­track record even­tu­ally. But all the com­po­nents of th­ese songs need to be able to be pulled apart for the sound designer to work his magic af­ter­wards.

Is it cor­rect that Sean Mur­ray at Hello Games is a big fan of 65days? Yes! I turned up to my first meet­ing with him in full sales-pitch mode, but it turned out that he was do­ing the same – he was pitch­ing the game at the band. The more time we’ve spent with the peo­ple at Hello Games, the more similarities we find.

And what about your favourite game? Be­neath A Steel Sky was in­cred­i­ble, and The Se­cret Of Monkey Is­land. Fron­tier: Elite II is prob­a­bly the game I spent the most time on – I’d share con­trols with a friend, be­cause there’s so much you can do when fight­ing off pi­rates. Do I re­ally have to choose just one? Be­neath A Steel Sky is prob­a­bly the clos­est to my in­ter­ests th­ese days – that cy­ber­punk side of sci-fi, which was so beau­ti­fully re­alised.

“I turned up to my first meet­ing with Sean in full sale­spitch mode, but it turned out he was do­ing the same”

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