Ben Daglish - an obituary October 10, 2018 10:15 2 Comments
BEN DAGLISH (1966-2018)
Ben Daglish was one of the best Commodore 64 composers, an outstanding multi-instrumentalist and a great showman in the retro scene. It was my privilege to call Ben a friend after being a fan of his music for many years.
When Ben's family moved to Sheffield, it opened up a world of music to him. He learnt several instruments, including flute, piano and guitar. He played with the schools orchestra, as chief percussionist and later as conductor. Ben won a national essay contest, and the prize was a BBC Micro for the school. This brought him into contact with young programmer Tony Crowther. Ben and Tony wrote educational software together, with Ben’s first sounds being bird calls recreated on the BBC. The first tunes Ben did were for Percy the Potty Pigeon on the C64, Tony writing a music routine for Ben so that he could type in musical notes and the SID chip would play them back. Chopin’s Funeral March and the theme tune to All Creatures Great & Small marked Ben's entry into commercial games.
Sheffield was also home to Gremlin Graphics and Alligata, and Ben and Tony made games for both companies. The pinnacle of their partnership was Trap. Ben's epic title tune was even more impressive when listened to alongside the synchronised hidden animation, known colloquially as the Gladiator demo. By recording two C64s simultaneously, a special stereo mix was created for the game's audio tape.
Ben worked with another legend, Rob Hubbard, on Auf Wiedersehen Monty. Ben described this time in the Gremlin studio as being immense fun, kicking back and sharing ideas. The two also took part in a classic ZZAP! magazine feature (with Tony Crowther and David Whittaker) known as The Musicians' Ball, filled with jokes and hilarious photos.
The game most synonymous with Ben now is The Last Ninja, with System 3 using Ben and Anthony Lees (who sadly passed away in 2016) to create the multiple tracks needed for their ninja epic. Ben's Wilderness and Wastelands themes were truly memorable. In 2016 Ben would perform live with Fastloaders for the Ninja Musicology concert, with Ben in awe of how well the rock band captured his original arrangements. But as the games industry became more professional, Ben bemoaned the "suits" taking over and would move away from composing.
Ben became a familiar face at retro events, especially the Back in Time concerts. He would be the compere, introducing acts with real enthusiasm. He would share anecdotes, make jokes and even insult people with his dry, acerbic wit. He was at the heart of super-group Stuck In D'80s swapping between guitar, flute, penny whistle, bass and keyboards as the songs demanded. His vibrant persona on stage was matched with his modesty off it, self-effacing, generous to the other performers and always approachable. He would also provide fascinating interviews for documentary films From Bedrooms To Billions and The Commodore Story.
His story included so much more - performing with bands such as Cold Flame and Loscoe State Opera, touring in professional productions, working with orchestras and running music workshops for children. The one thread throughout Ben's life was his love of music and sharing that with others. Our thoughts are with his wife Sarah, his children, family and friends.
Andrew Fisher, October 2018