Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.
How did the opportunity to work for Rare first come about?
Shared petrol money and a day out from Uni. I just turned up and they offered me a job. That’s it really. What was your first day at Rare like and what were you tasked with working on initially? It was fine… I was pretty nervous but that went very quickly…. I shared a room with Kev Bayliss, and we got on fine. Still do (which is amazing for me 😉 ) My first job was to sketch out and start building the environment for Sabrewulf in Killer Instinct.
In terms of working on the Killer Instinct series, what are you most proud of?
Killer Gold I reckon… Just because it was my first experience with actual polygons in a game, rather than pre-rendered. A whole other kettle of fish. I had to convert my original Nurbs Models from KI2 to work in the new engine. First game out from Rare with actual live 3D models… Quite proud of that. And they look okay I reckon, particularly Spinal’s Slave Galley…. (Early nods to Sea of Thieves there ;)) joke.
Did you ever come up with any ideas for any additional characters for Killer Instinct or Diddy Kong Racing?
I did a couple of characters for Killer Instinct 2 (arcade) which were not used. Fully modeled one of them, a Vampire Prince with long white hair. Even did a set of animations. I wish I still had the frames but nope… All gone.
How rewarding was it seeing your work come to fruition with the release of a game at Rare?
Best thing ever… Really, everyone should try it.
Are there any interesting stories about how the voice of Spinal first came about?
Same as Grunty really.. Scream and Cackle. I’m a one-note pony when it comes to baddies.
The concept for Gruntilda’s voice, I’d imagine, would’ve been one of the most straightforward ones to have had to come up with, but was that the case? Was there another different approach taken where she was concerned?
I just screamed and cackled… That’s what witches do right? 😉
How exhilarating was it knowing you had just voiced a major Nintendo villain at the time?
It was 10 minutes of work, and the tight arses didn’t even give me a free copy of the game… To this day I have never owned a copy of Banjo. Not sure but think it’s probably the same sample they use in the new Smash?? Maybe?
Who was your favorite character to have voiced before Conker?
The ones that didn’t have me coughing my guts up and no voice for 2 days. Conker. it has to be him really… Death, Conkula, Frankie, any with interesting dialogue and motivations.
Which additional character in Diddy Kong Racing (with the exception of Conker) do you feel would’ve been worthy of a spin-off series?
I don’t care enough about Diddy Kong Racing to be honest. Wasn’t there a Tiger? The Tiger then.
What were the Stamper brothers like to work for?
They were great, very hands-on when needed, very hands-off when we were getting on with it. I mean, things could from time to time get fractious but it was usually just clashing egos (mine mainly) Tim’s passion for games when I first joined Rare was in his very being. All he cared about was the game/games. Chris, I saw less of because he tended to be the business side of things, and was a software guy anyway. They had a certain dynamic as brothers, sort of like a video game boss ironically. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts… (hmm, sounds like shade, but I don’t mean it in that way)
Were there any Rare games that you would’ve liked to work on, but never got the opportunity to?
From a purely mercenary cash standpoint? Oh DK 64 and DK Racer. They made fucking TONS of cash for the teams. But creatively? Nah, I’m happy the way things were. But what about Goldeneye, You say!? Cashwise? Nah… old deal. Creatively?? I think I would have done things to stop it from being the game it is now. Not good things… I was still in a DOOM 2 mindset at the time.
Were you scheduled to work in some capacity on Rare’s canceled game Project Dream before it later became Banjo-Kazooie?
Nope. Definitely nope…
If you could’ve voiced any other Nintendo character (or Rare character) at the time, who would it have been and what approach would you have taken to do it?
Never really thought of it. The only character I would love to have voiced which Rare (almost) got to do was Harry Potter. It would have meant I’d have been the first person to perform that character in media. A good one for the CV. Plus I think I’d have made a decent enough game out of the books (only 3 were out at the time) as I was already a big fan, had I been asked… Nevermind.
Who were the funniest people in the Rare office to work with?
That’s a tough one. Everyone pretty much made me laugh, sometimes unintentionally… Grant Kirkhope has ‘funny bones’ just because of his outlook on life and his rock ‘n’ roll stories. Robin’s funny as well, particularly when he’s drunk……. Martin Hollis has a very dry sense of humor and Noz always made me laugh at his various woes over the years…Doaky though, he’s just sick that man.
What was your reaction when you first heard about Microsoft buying out Rare?
Yay!! EA and Activision were the 2 other main contenders. Whatever criticisms people have for MS, I have no doubts whatsoever Rare as a studio would not exist now if they’d succeeded. Nintendo though? They made a great off by all accounts, and already owned nearly half the company… I don’t even want to think about that.
What made you come to the decision to leave Rare back in 2011?
I didn’t. I was happy to stay but things were, shall we say, engineered to make sure I didn’t….. Long story, not a pleasant experience, and some of the people involved, one in particular can go fuck themselves. They know who they are; not that things didn’t turn out well in the end… I got a nice fat cheque to send me on my way and here we are.
What is your opinion on the current state of Rare?
At the time I left it was not very good, what with a combination of Don Mattrick and his cronies not to mention that Kinect abomination. I was 90% sure we would be shut down within a few years… Since then though, along came Sea of Thieves .. Amazing what can happen when you just let a team get on with things and stop fucking them about. I think they’re in a very strong position now, although they really do need to mine that IP goldmine a bit more … Baffles me that they don’t.