The Music Maestro

Ben Daglish, one of videogame’s finest musicians has died this week aged just 52. Ben was an adopted son of Sheffield, having moved to the city when he just one year of age and started his career in videogames at secondary school with Antony Crowther. Together they formed a lifelong friendship and partnership, beginning with Aztec Software, writing educational software that they sold to other schools.

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[L-R] Antony Crowther, Ian Warby, Ben Daglish and Russell Merryman promoting their school-based enterprise, Aztec Software. (Photo: RetroGamesMaster)
Ben’s true talent lay in music, and he worked with Tony through the pioneering years of the games industry, forming WEMUSIC and adding his sound effects and theme tunes to many of Alligata’s and Gremlin Graphics games including Loco, Trap, Auf Wiedersehen Monty and Deflektor. He had started by transcribing musical scores from existing pieces, but quickly became a composer of sature in his own right, and his talents were high in demand not only by Gremlin, but later from a plethora of high-profile clients including Krisalis, Ocean, Core Design and Virgin.

His most accomplished and revered piece is perhaps his wilderness theme from System 3’s Last Ninja, but it’s his considerable work with Gremlin that earned him widespread praise and respect. Gremlin churned out title after title throughout the 80s, and many coming from the production line were substandard, but thankfully, Ben never settled for quantity over quality in his musical standards. So many games during the period aren’t remembered for their gameplay, but for the rocking soundtracks Daglish produced.

On a personal note I had the pleasure of working with Ben when I ran the Games Britannia event at a Rotherham school in 2011. Ben came in for an entire day and ran workshop creating music for games, specifically the games which featured his music.

We gave the kids silenced video clips of games and set them about bringing them to life with their own sounds with Ben offering his unique advice. He was a delight, a whirlwind of energy and talent, dazzling the kids with his effervescent enthusiasm and good humour. From the small amount of time I spent in class that day I have fond memories of him jamming with members of the school band, moving from vocals to bass guitar to lead guitar and then drums. We were all in awe.

When Games Britannia returned on a much larger scale in 2012 Ben once again accepted my invitation to be involved, and he joined Gremlin founder Ian Stewart, Peter Harrap and Tony Crowther to be part of a game jam judging team on the festival’s final day.

I had the honour of sitting in with their deliberation sessions, watching the four of them bouncing off each other as they must have done back in day, in the dingy Gremlin offices above Just Micro.

Finally, I interviewed Ben for A Gremlin in the Works, my own book documenting the history of Sheffield’s computer game developer and publisher. He was kind and patient, despite being asked the same questions a thousand times before. I hope the book will stand as testament to a man of incredible talent, mirrored in the memories of his friends and colleagues who recall the fun times they shared together. Ben leaves us with such a huge body of work that brightened up so many gamer’s lives, and the retrogaming community will be a duller place without him.

Ben Daglish (31 July 1966 — 1 October 2018)

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