History of Cyberpunk: Night City Trax

It all began in 1982. My parents bought me an Atari 800 for Christmas. Within a year or two I was working as a computer class assistant and writing spreadsheet software for a realtor so he could show people amortization schedules on his portable Kaypro computer.

By 1983 I had written a basic step sequencer on the Atari, I just didn’t know what a sequencer was! Mine was very simple- the music notes and duration were data in the program. I converted that to the format needed for the sound commands and played it musical notes (Bach or Mozart, I think). I also experimented with playing chunks of memory directly (using the ‘peek’ command) and randomly jumping around at high speed. This sounded like the classic Sample & Hold effect on an analog synth.

I wrote Tetra in 1983 for an assignment from my piano teacher. It is called Tetra since the pattern is composed of two major 4ths, side by side. I am pretty sure I heard it once on a TV commercial for a drug in the 90’s. Someone stole it from me, since I was never informed. I was writing other songs, too, and they undoubtedly influenced my later music.

In 1984, I graduated from High School.

In 1987 I received a bonus from the Navy for being accepted into the Nuclear Propulsion Training Program and went out and bought a Kawai K1 and a Mac SE. Why a KI? It was polyphonic and multi-timbral. Without multitrack recording, you needed that kind of synth, unless you had the money for several synths, a mixer, etc. (I did eventually get a 4 track cassette recorder and hated it.) I used Master Tracks Pro for sequencing on the Mac. It was many years later before I started working with digital audio recording on a computer.

Running Man was born that year but so was the Schwarzenegger movie. On Night City Trax, the song is called Retro.

I kept writing more and more electronic music into the early 90’s. More tracks began to coalesce. Somewhere along the way I picked up an ART Multiverb for effects AND a 2 second sampler. A friend, Mark Arsenault and his company, Gold Rush Games, put together a deal with R Talsorian Games for us to put out a cassette of music as the soundtrack for the Role Playing Game, Cyberpunk. I began work on the album in earnest in 1993.

Night City Trax was published in 1994. All the music was recorded straight to a DAT deck I rented. Mixing was done in MIDI with volume commands. My friend Mark Arsenault provided many of the song titles. Ironically, Techno was the most popular song, but he liked it the least since too fast.

Since the songs were all on DAT, I eventually pulled the digital files off the DAT and have 24 bit/48KHz master versions. I have re-mastered/re-mixed some of the tracks, and some of those new ones are available with the album. Others I “re-voiced” and completely re-recorded with more advanced synthesizers, since I also have all the original MIDI files! These are in my vault.

Now it is 26 years later and Cyberpunk 2077 is headed back to Night City. It is the same franchise as the original paper-based game and is coming out in 2020 (I hope). I have contacted the business team at CD Projekt Red to see if they are interested in using the original music some way. There was almost a sequel to the music, but I have done much more electronic music since then and it is all on my Soundcloud page. A youtuber, Hammeh, is also interested in using the music in some videos about Cyberpunk.

Here is a remastered track from Night City Trax just for you: https://soundcloud.com/erich-izdepski/tetra

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