Uncle Art, Scarborough and the story of a pioneer of gaming music

Dave Lowe and his daughter Lucy at his Scarborough home.
Dave Lowe and his daughter Lucy at his Scarborough home.
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Uncle  Art started with a Google click and ended as a full-length feature film, set in  Scarborough, about a pioneer of gaming music – Dave Lowe.

Dave’s youngest daughter Holly, a singer-songwriter, and her brother Adam discovered their father was a wanted man on the internet, with gamers wondering what had happened to Uncle Art – the man who wrote the scores to some of the most popular games of the 1980s and 90s.

Lucy Lowe launched her own Kickstarter campaign to fund and make Uncle Art.

Lucy Lowe launched her own Kickstarter campaign to fund and make Uncle Art.

Holly and Adam were happy to report that Dave was alive, well and still making music in the studio at his home he shares with wife Victoria in Cloughton, North Yorkshire.

Holly launched a Kickstarter which raised money to make an album of the games’ scores. The album, A Temporal Shift, includes two tracks recorded in Abbey Road Studios with a 50-piece orchestra as Dave is a massive Beatles fan.

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Enter eldest daughter and actress Lucy Lowe.

She said: “Then the more I looked into dad’s career I realised there was a film to be made. I found he had broken lots of boundaries: he was the first person to get singing to come out of a computer and some of dad’s techniques are still used today in modern dance music.”

Lucy launched her own Kickstarter to fund Uncle Art, which involved going to gaming conventions, speaking to fans about her dad’s music and getting licences to use excerpts from the games in the film.

Dave, 70, created the music for more than 70 early computer games, including Starglider, Afterburner and Street Fighter II for the likes of Atari and Amiga.

He was working in London and a full-time musician when he bought his first computer, a ZX81, and in between gigs worked out how to programme it to machine code level.

The work from gaming companies flooded in and Dave packed in gigging. The couple and their-then two young daughters moved to Scarborough, where they’ve lived for the past 30 years.

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Dave said: “It was a fantastic time because everybody in it was breaking new ground. It was all exciting stuff.

“It was a bit like when rock and roll first started. People were working in their bedrooms and back rooms on this stuff.”

Dave broke new ground, being the first to use vocal samples in 1987’s Starglider, for example.

Lucy, 40, said the house was cluttered with games consoles when she was growing up.

She, Holly and Adam, got to play on the latest games. “It was cool, but it was just normal,” Lucy said.

None of them had any idea that their dad was working in the early days of an industry that would one day rival movie making.

As games companies got bigger and corporate, they started to want people to work in-house rather than employ freelancers.

“They wanted you to be in an office nine to five,” said Dave.

“I never worked in an office and I didn’t intend to start.”

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He went back to gigging. “I totally forgot about the games music,” he said, and he assumed everyone else had.

Discovering 20 years later that he was famous and that there was a new interest in retro gaming came as a shock to him.

“Many of the gamers told Lucy that the music running in the background is a whole part of it. They said hearing that music instantly takes them back to being a kid,” said Dave.

The film, Uncle Art, named after the company Dave produced the games music under, is riding high on Amazon Prime beating bigger budget movies.

Uncle Art is available on Amazon Prime. A Temporal Shift is available on Spotify or at uncleartretrogaming.com