Atari ST

How it came about

Back in the early 90’s I was happily making music with an Atari ST, Roland MT32, Casio CZ-101 and a Roland TR-707. It was quite a powerful system for the time given it’s relatively low cost. As I have always done, I had converted a spare bedroom into a makeshift home studio to be able to setup my ever expanding collection of musical equipment. I was writing some of my own original music, was co-creating original music as part of a synth-pop duo (the duo was called “Gotcha” – with the very talented Steve Austin) and was also creating some covers. One of the covers I created to an almost obsessive degree was “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode.

Roland MT32

Their album, Violator, had been released a year or two before-hand and was in heavy rotation amongst my playlist, which in those days meant I had made a mixtape on cassette… yes, that was when mixtapes were recorded on actual tape! Much to my girlfriend of the time’s annoyance (sorry Rachel!) I would spend hours locked away in the spare bedroom busily recording music using Steinberg Pro24 running on my Atari ST. I had recorded quite a few different covers, and the ability to record MIDI performances and edit them to build up multi-part arrangements was the perfect solution to my lesser playing skills at the time.

Roland TR707

Having previously tackled several other comparable tracks, I really wanted to make this one quite accurate and so I set to analysing each beat and note of the original… there were no guitar tab or song chord websites in those days! After a few days of analysing, recording, editing, analysing, recording… ad nauseum, the track was finally recreated as accurately as possible within the constraints of the MT32’s polyphony restrictions. It got gigged with a few other covers mixed in with our set of original music. We would play partial backing tracks on cassette and play along with live keyboards and guitar with Steve singing live.

Placing it in the wild

Violator – Depeche Mode

Not too long after this, I started using (BBS) bulletin boards to get in touch with like-minded people from just about everywhere. This lead fairly quickly to finally getting onto the Internet. This was still the mid 90’s, so the Inernet was a very different place back then. In fact there were still WAIS and Gopher servers hosting documents as the WWW was still relatively new. Eventually, many music and MIDI related sites began to pop up, including several MIDI song collection websites. Amingst them was one of the best, Neil Burton’s “MIDI File Central”. So, in 1996, I dug out my old Atari disks and go the MIDI file transferred onto the PC and uploaded my version of “Enjoy the Silence” for inclusion in the site’s files. It got 4 stars… woohoo! Having put it on the site, it meant it was now available to anyone to download, listen to and use. Sadly, the site no longer exists, but you can view parts of it in the Internet Archive (click here to see the cached copy of the Depeche Mode section of the site). Since that time the file has travelled far and wide around the internet, popping up on hundreds (if not more) of sites from general MIDI collections to Depeche Mode fan sites.

For anyone who is interested, you can download my original MIDI file by clicking this link: Enjoy_the_Silence The file is in GM (General Midi) format and so should play back in just about any sequencer software or audio player on your computer.
If you have used my version of the file as-is or used it as the basis to enhance and change for you own purposes, please get in touch or leave a comment and let me know. It’d be great to hear how the file might have been used and would be even better to hear recordings of what you did with it.