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Star Fleet Soundtrack History

For a 29-year-old from Birmingham with no formal training but a passion to write music, ‘Star Fleet’ was the challenge I’d been looking for.  After 12 years or so playing in bands, having my own band, and enjoying some success as a songwriter, writing for film and television was something I’d dreamed of and harassed my publisher about - but as the saying goes: ‘be careful what you wish for…..’

Paul Bliss

“How did you decide on the format and sounds for the series?” is a question I’ve frequently been asked. Well, it was, like so many things in my life, about timing.

I had the good fortune in 1981 to be working in California with one of my good friends and song-writing partners, Steve Kipner, when the synthesizer company Oberheim announced the release of a brand new system. This featured the OBXa - an 8-voice synth, the DSX sequencer, and the DMX drum machine. This was a complete production system that once seen, I knew I had to have. I had no money, but Steve (who’d just had a worldwide #1 hit with Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’) bought us both one, and said to pay him back when I had some! It turns out that Steve was a better investor than he knew, because the first thing we wrote using this amazing system was ‘Heart Attack’ – Olivia’s follow-up single, which stayed at No.2 in the US charts for four weeks. The second thing I wrote was ‘Star Fleet’. There was something new and exciting about working in this way that just seemed an obvious choice for the Star Fleet music.

As I remember (it was 26 years ago!) pretty much the whole of the soundtrack was recorded using this Oberheim system. I also had a Roland VP 330 Vocoder, and when we were in the 24-track studio recording the opening tune and end title song, I used a grand piano and added some guitar parts. The incidental music was all recorded in my bedroom to an 8-track Fostex tape recorder, and because of the tight production schedule I would drive up to Anvil Films in Denham to deliver each episode on a ¼” master tape for dubbing to the film. By the time we reached episode nine the decision was taken to simply re-use music cues from earlier episodes, as the majority of the themes were already established by then. It certainly was a ‘baptism of fire’!

So, after languishing in my loft for 26 years (I didn’t even remember they were there until the call from Gerry Forrester!), I had the original tapes baked and transferred to digital, so I could get to work on editing and compiling the CD. For the major part it is all the original recordings, with just a few exceptions. Some of the sounds, particularly strings, really didn’t sound very good (sorry, Roland VP330!) and as these were going to be heard for the first time in stereo (yes, the TV series is only mono), I replayed most of these parts using new sounds. There were also some drum tracks that I’d recorded badly, so these too were replaced.  I have added sounds to some of the cues – what works under dialog can sound a little ‘empty’ when heard without the action and sound effects, so apologies to the purists! In retrospect it would probably have been less work to simply re-record all the cues again, but I think I would have lost some of the character and originality that people remember the series for.

Paul Bliss

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