The Psygnosis Story: Tim ‘Cold Storage’ Wright, senior sound artist
Throughout this week, as part of our coverage of Sony's closure of Studio Liverpool, we're speaking to key former members of staff about the Psygnosis heyday, when it was responsible for a host of Amiga classics and was a driving force in the early success of the PlayStation. On Tuesday we spoke to Nick Burcombe, lead designer on Wipeout; yesterday it was Neil Thompson, then Psygnosis' lead artist and now director of art and animation at BioWare. Today we speak to Tim Wright, better known as Cold Storage, the senior sound artist who was at the studio from 1994 to 1998 and the man behind the music for a host of classics including Lemmings, Shadow Of The Beast II and, of course, Wipeout. Here, he recalls the highs and lows of his time at Psygnosis, from scoring a game based on a Ray Liotta movie, to meeting The Chemical Brothers and Leftfield, and the circumstances that led to his departure.
What was the ‘vibe’ like at Psygnosis?
When I started working for Psygnosis as a freelance musician in the early 90s it was a really easy-going and dynamic place – a group of talented people who were really into their craft. They wanted to create games that really pushed the hardware, games that were as acoustically impressive as they were visually stunning. When I composed the music for Shadow of the Beast II, Psygnosis consisted of a few small rooms in the Liverpool docks. There was a large room with a huge meeting table and another room where the artists and programmers worked. I think there were around 15 to 20 people there back then, so it was a fairly small company.
In the early '90s Psygnosis moved to new offices. They were brighter and larger, and the staff count increased to fill the space. In 1994 I joined Psygnosis full-time, and our team was based at Century Buildings in the Liverpool docks. We were developing for the Amiga, Atari ST, Super Famicom, Megadrive, SNES, PC and possibly others platforms too. It was a really productive and pioneering time, especially with CD platforms coming to the fore, like the Amiga CD32, FM Towns and Mega-CD. The atmosphere was fairly informal and you felt like you had a voice when it came to making suggestions, or at least that was how I felt at the time.
Can you recall a favourite moment?
I have many great memories from my time at Psygnosis. But I guess the one that sticksin my mind the most was when I was working on the music for the Mega-CD game No Escape. This was to be based on the film starring Ray Liotta, and Sony were keen to launch the game at the same time as the film. To get the ball rolling, we were sent to London to watch a special pre-screening of the film in Sony’s preview suite in Soho, London. It was a great experience, and at one point I was even asked for suggestions in terms of the editing of the film – hopefully not the reason why it flopped.
Three weeks after our London trip, the game producer Steve Cain – who is sadly no longer with us – came in to check in on how my music was coming along. This was the first time he'd heard any of it, so I played him a couple of tracks. "Yeah… it's a great film score, but what about your music?" he said. "No Steve," I said, "this IS my music." He stared at me in disbelief for a while, and then said, "F*****g hell… that's way too good for this game!” He patted me on the back and walked out laughing. Steve Cain was a gem of a man – I still miss his infectious laugh.
What was your worst moment?
There were some less than rosy times at Psygnosis – working with dozens of creative people could be thrilling, but also quite stressful. My worst memory was nothing to do with my colleagues: not long before Psygnosis were due to move to new offices in Wavertree Technology Park, the offices at Century Buildings were burgled. All the electrical equipment was taken, including my own personal musical equipment.
At first Psygnosis wouldn't pay for any personal losses, but after much wailing and gnashing of teeth Ian Hetherington (then MD) finally agreed to reimbursements. I was given money to cover my stolen equipment on the condition that I didn't bring any personal equipment into work again and purchased all my keyboards, mixers and other gear through the company instead. It was terrible that we were burgled, but the end result was a good budget for musical equipment.