Video Games have made Martin ‘Tain’ Taylor immortal. How you may ask? Well through hours of practice and training, Tain eventually mastered the iconic 1990s side-scrolling arcade shooter ‘Metal Slug 2’, going on to obtain the official World Record High Score for the game!
A heroic feat that resulted in Tain’s name being etched onto the digital hall of records at ‘Twin Galaxies’ – the Universe’s official verifiers and recorders of video game world records.
And like the previous heroes of myth and history, whose deeds and names were recorded on monuments and papyrus millennia ago, Tain’s name stands, recorded in digital code, were it remains as a monument to his feats… until a new challenger comes along that is.
In order to get to the bottom of Tain’s mythic and superhuman video game skills, we asked him some questions about his heroic journey through life, his other creative feats, his approach to the high-score-hustle, thoughts on the ‘Metal Slug’ series, the use of performance enhancing drugs in gaming, and a whole lot more!
Read it all in the interview below.
Name + D.O.B?
Martin Dennis Edward Taylor
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Petersham, NSW Australia.
City, State and Country you’re from?
Katoomba, NSW Australia.
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: music, art, toys, romance, comic books, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
My family moved to the Blue Mountains in 1988 when I was about 3 and I remember very clearly all of the nature on our doorstep compared to the city.
Lots of bushwalks, native birds, the occasional blue tongue or snake and so many beautiful plants and trees.
I was obsessed with Lego and my sister and I played together all the time. She’s always been a positive fixture in my life since she came along, except when she would steal my Lego and hide it.
* Age 10 – continuations:
By this time my parents had each lost a parent and had divorced. I started getting bullied a whole lot and the world was starting to show it’s teeth a little bit to young Martin.
I was very lucky I had my friends and started learning about a lot of different games and comics that I became obsessed with – D&D, Warhammer, The Far Side and X-Men were the main ones.
Hell, I even started trying to draw my own comics inspired by The Far Side.
We’d go on long bush walks and then pull out some dice and snacks and play our own version of Dungeons and Dragons on big flat rocks and make up stories.
Even though we were a single-parent family for the most part, our mum made sure we never felt we were doing without – looking back on this period I have no idea how she did it!
Through my dad I also started getting into music and got tapes of Killing Joke’s “Pandemonium” and Rollins Bands’ “Come In And Burn” which set the tone for more music I’d be getting into soon.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
I’d been paying more attention to the music my dad would play me and had started playing bass, growing my hair, listening to metal and smoking weed with friends in a cave we found on the outskirts in Katoomba.
This is also when I started being calling Tain (a cousin of mine couldn’t say Martin properly and other people started picking it up too).
I was also painting and drawing, had started getting into martial arts and reading Aldous Huxley.
In short, I was every hippy metal head in the mountains at that point.
I still love every one of those people I spent time with in those days, even if one of them tried to kill me with a civil war cavalry sabre once on a night in the bush under a nickel coloured moon…. That was probably a relatively violent time up in Katoomba come to think of it.
A guy from my school was shot dead at a party and one time we were clearing out a part of an old TAFE building a cop burst into the room I was in and just held a gun in my face before he led my friends and I away into a paddy wagon and called us faggots for having long hair.
Ahh the mountains.
Between all of that my friend Russ and I were getting seriously into video games and this is actually where I started to play Metal Slug and Metal Slug 2 at The Escape Hatch, an amazing old video arcade in Katoomba. Russ was always better than me but this rivalry we had was part of what inspired me to start playing the series again.
* Age 20 – young adult:
After High School I moved down to the city and made a choice to pursue music instead of visual arts.
I went to JMC music academy, played bass in about 6 different bands ranging from Jazz and Hip Hop to Industrial Metal and then started meeting a lot more metalheads when I started playing with Electric Fetish and doing regional gigs as well as shows in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
I also started working at APRA entering album info for all the major labels which also exposed me to a lot of new music and music history as well.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
I met an amazing couple of people from Sweden who stayed with me for a while and they insisted Electric Fetish come and stay with them in Stockholm.
I was the only one in the band to actually save money, but I decided to take time off from work and go and check out this place that had so much history and music and beautiful nature in it. I was there for three months and if I hadn’t run out of money I could have stayed there forever.
When I came back, I moved back to Katoomba to save some cash and ended up living next to a blacksmith and carpenter who were both into medieval re-enactment (think fighting with blunted steel, lots of training but no foam weapons, LARPing or any of that lameness).
Had a blast, lost a tooth to a langseax (long sword) in the mouth at one point but hey I had friends who’d lost fingers, had their ears cut in half and such so it could have been much worse.
* Age 30 – fully formed:
This was around the time I met my amazing partner Maz and we have now traveled to a whole lot of new places together.
I’ve been painting more again and starting portraits and album covers for friends. It’s super soothing and I can do it by myself so I don’t have to rely on anyone else to be creative anymore.
I also started the Deaf To All But Metal shows at the Valve with my friend Gary Grim. The shows were meant to be a spectacle so we’d have bands, burlesque performers DJs, circus freaks and also have party games like “Black Metal Tvistër” for the whole crowd to play. We even ended up running a live gameshow called “Quiz ‘Em All” once with members of well known Sydney bands playing for members of the audience – I’d love to do that again.
Gary and I then also started the Deaf To All But Metal Podcast which features us dicking about with comedy skits, interviews, reviews and even the occasional existential crisis, where we went to see fortune tellers, talked to a metalhead Presbyterian reverend, a representative of the Church Of Satan and try to sell our souls to the devil at a set of crossroads live at midnight.
* Age 35 – meanderings:
At the end of 2018 though, we got back from a trip to Japan to find out my dad has stage 4 cancer and in the following weeks I lost a number of old friends to suicide and overdoses.
Gaming, whether it’s analogue or digital has definitely been an escape for me during this time which is why I’ve thrown myself into it so much again.
Maz and I also rescued two neighbourhood cats who make life better as we both love the hell out of animals and it’s great to make a difference in their lives too.
Very luckily, just as I went for my world record attempt for Metal Slug 2, my dad was given the all clear for his treatment, something most people battling stage 4 cancer don’t get. Now as I’m about to turn 35 I’m sussing out what I’m going to tackle next. Honestly, I have no idea but another world record attempt at another Metal Slug game looks to be on the cards.
I often find myself saying “Nice by itself doesn’t cut the mustard”, but I think something that has always stuck with me is quote from the Havamal (Editor: an ancient collection of Nordic poems from the Viking age), which roughly translates as:
and the same with you;
but I know of something that never dies
and that’s a dead person’s deeds.“
Whilst the world knows you through your gaming achievements – please share with those at home the details of your other creative endeavors… if any?!
While my creative endeavors are erratic, I’d like to think some of them are still well remembered.
My time with The Swingtanic Sextet was something I’d never trade and that mix of cabaret jazz with metal, nudity and debauchery was some of the best fun you can have on a stage. Hell, there’s not many bands that get to play in the snow on top of a hotel whilst getting pelted with bits of exploding fireworks at the Winter Magic Festival.
My paintings were getting some attention for a while and I’ve been part of a couple of exhibitions but I need to get off my arse and actually paint more to really make that happen again.
These days I’m probably most known for being one of the hosts of the Deaf To All But Metal Podcast.
When and why did you first start to play computer games?
… and any pivotal gaming moment(s) / influence(s)?
I first played an arcade cab version of Asteroids on a family holiday to Kiama when I was five and from that very first time I was hooked.
Moving to Katoomba meant being closer to The Escape Hatch which was also the only place you could play pool when you were underage in that town. I met a lot of people there over the years until they closed in the early 2000s but that place exposed me to every genre of game, but that was also the place I first played Metal Slugs 1 and 2 and my friend Russ would have pumped hundreds of coins into those machines.
Russ was a couple of years older than me and we’d hang out most afternoons playing so many different things. Besides Metal Slug, we played anything on Sega Master System, D&D, Warhammer, Magic: The Gathering, Blood, Duke Nukem 3D but then also playing games we were making as well.
It was a magic time to be alive.
We know cheating and performance enhancing drugs are a big issue in traditional sports – what impact do they have on gaming culture?
… and what are some of the biggest substances and tricks used to cheat in video games?
I think it’s only relatively recently that a light has been shined on performance enhancing drug in e-sports. Adderall and Ritalin seem to be the big choices due to increasing focus, but since there appears to be an over-representation of people with ADHD in the gaming community, it took a lot longer for people not suffering from it to realise either of those drugs’ potentials.
It’s strange since the main drug I’d associate with gaming otherwise is just weed but that’s more a hindrance than a help when it comes to reaction time.
Still, I suppose we’d balance that out with No Doz usually, so hey even back as a teenager I guess we were trying to get the balance right!
Arcades machines Vs. Console machines Vs. Computers – When it comes to gaming enjoyment, what wins and why?
Different horses, different courses is my attitude here.
Most people seem to gravitate to what they grew up with as they get older, which is why we are seeing such a rise in retro gaming now and the release of things like the Mega Drive Flashback and Nintendo Classic Mini. I was lucky to have exposure to each of these platforms and so I have a love of each of them.
Favorite computer games of all time – and what is it about them that you find so enjoyable?
* ‘Metal Slug 2‘ from SNK and released in 1998.
It’s art, humour, the satisfaction you get when making it through a storm of bullets and the plethora of secrets it contains really make this game a paragon of arcade gaming.
* ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn‘ from BioWare and released in 2000.
One of the all time best RPGs to be created. As close to playing D&D with seven other people as you can get by yourself and the story is a thing of beauty.
* ‘Diablo 2‘ from Blizzard and released in 2000 (and the ‘Lord of Destruction‘ expansion also from Blizzard and released in 2001.)
Probably one of the most replayable games in history. Twenty years old and people are still playing ladder games of this. The loot system makes you WANT to grind but this is just before Blizzard entertainment went to the dark side of MMOs.
* ‘The Simpsons‘ from Konami and released in 1991.
This four player arcade version was the best value for money with friends at the arcade and honestly still is. A lot of laughs and fast paced but fair gameplay.
* ‘House Of The Dead‘ from Sega and released in 1996.
The arcade version of this needed a curtain around it to stop it from scaring the shit out of kids. It’s punishing, but also one of the best adrenaline rushes you will have on an arcade cab.
If you were trying to explain the joys of competitive gaming playing to some recently crash-landed aliens. What would your pitch be?
Imagine having a competition with people who love the same things as you, where you all push each other to be as good as you can be!
Metal Slug 2 Arcade Questions
Why do you love the Metal Slug series so much anyhow?
…and why did you first start playing it?
I think the artwork for these games is the still the pinnacle of sprite-based games but that’s just part of the experience.
The music is cool and original, the freedom in the gameplay is honestly unparalleled and the game still makes me laugh with the jokes it has and the secrets it is still revealing!
There are SO many easter eggs in these games. The “not nazi but nazi” enemies drive tanks with 88 written on the side of them, the four sparrows that fly off from the ground before the first mini boss represent the four players you can chose from to play the game, the pig driving the train on level 5 – it’s all gold!
Before knowing any of this though, I started playing the game because as soon as I saw it in the arcade it looked fucking amazing. I heard the explosions and screams first before I saw it and I KNEW I needed to play this game!
How many hours all up do you think you have spent playing ‘Metal Slug 2 Arcade’ all up?
Easily hundreds over the years, maybe into the thousands. Before even thinking about the record or having access to playing it at home, I would hunt this game down to play wherever arcade machines lived.
After school from 1998-1999 through to now I’ve been playing it, even if there’s been periods I’ve not had access to it.
What are the trickiest aspects and parts of ‘Metal Slug 2 Arcade’?
Learning your hit box (whether something will hit you and kill you or not) and dealing with the slowdown that is part of the hardware trying to deal with so much stuff happening on screen.
There are certain frames during a slowdown where everything moves in slow motion briefly and the console does not take input commands, which means you won’t be able to attack or jump and that can be the difference between life and death.
…and can you share your tips for getting past them with our readers?
It sounds silly, but practice. If you die somewhere and you think you’ll start again, don’t – play through it and take risks to see how far you can push yourself.
Figure out why something killed you or what you could have done, then after that you can have another go!
Best aspect(s) of the high score hustle?
Challenging yourself to be better and hanging with friends while you train.
Doing something like this in an arcade means you aren’t locking yourself away from the world and you also learn to deal with unplanned situations coming up while you are playing.
Worst aspect(s) of the high score hustle?
After working all day on a computer, sometimes the last thing you want to do is look at a different screen for a few hours.
It’s a miracle I don’t need glasses…. yet.
(Below is a video of Tain’s complete World Record High Score run on ‘Metal Slug 2 – Arcade’.)
You set your world record and also spent most of your time practicing for it at ‘1989 Arcade Bar‘ in Newtown, Australia:
* What impact did the crew at 1989 have on your recent world record?
The people at 1989 are all legendary. Ben, Ross, Adin, Jess and everyone else are all so friendly and supportive and make it a real pleasure to be there even if I’m in the back room for hours at a time!
Ben Campbell in particular encouraged me the most and made it all happen – he has such an enthusiasm and it’s very contagious!
The regulars at the bar have all been fantastic as well and many of them are also world record holders. Evan Weston, Marc Bell (founder of ‘Game the System‘), Matt Tolhurst and Benn Banasik were all introduced to me at the Battle of the Arcades and those guys are all responsible for encouraging me to take the plunge into competitive gaming.
* How did they set up the bar for your world record attempt?
We moved the Neo Geo cab to the front of the bar and then set up a tripod for the camera, which in turn was hooked up to a projector in the large room with most of the cabs in it.
The attempt was made at the end of a the High Score Armageddon Weekend and so I played and made three recorded attempts, but the one we used was my first recorded one which also had the biggest crowd so I think the energy from everyone really carried me through!
* What is it like playing live in front of a crowd, as opposed to playing at home?
There’s definitely a bit more pressure and focusing can sometimes be a bit of an issue.
During the record run, there’s a part where I had to ask a drunk guy to stop leaning over me and over the edge of the screen which was not really planned.
Home is nice and all for practice but those unexpected things also make getting something like a world record all the sweeter and sharing it with people is one of the best bits. As I said, it’s a rush to have a crowd cheering you on!
What did you actually score as a result of your world record man – money, immortality, bragging rights…?
The world, and future pro gamers want to know!
Well, I’d be lying if didn’t tell you I wasn’t required to provide hair and tissue samples to Twin Galaxies for creating an army of super soldier gamers with ten times the skin conditions and five times the stench….
Jokes aside I’m actually a little bummed that Twin Galaxies actually stopped sending out certificates for this kind of thing early in 2019 so I literally just missed the boat on having any physical thing at all to say I’ve achieved a world record.
I mean I’m on the website and I guess I have bragging rights but besides that there’s not a whole lot you “get” from Twin Galaxies from what I understand.
I think the main thing I can take away from it though is a certain sense of personal achievement. I’ve been able to get so much enjoyment from something that has been a part of my life for so long and that really does feel like something that I’m happy with.
If people wanted to game with you, have a chat or learn some tricks – how should they get in touch?
I’m always happy to help people out with advice on gaming!
You can find me on FB under Martin Tain Taylor, talk metal on the Deaf To All But Metal podcast pages or otherwise you can usually find me at 1989 Arcade Bar.
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
I think I’ll have to go with trading along the Baltic Sea around the 7th-8th century before the Christianisation of the area. Beautiful scenery and nature, travel, the occasional chance to crack someone’s skull open and a whole lot of mead, herring and meatballs – can’t argue with that!
What role did toys play in your childhood(s)?
A massive role.
From a very young age they were vehicles for visiting other worlds, from playing in the dirt with G.I. Joes to visiting space with Lego men and Warhammer 40k.
Many toys were also exposure to history and mythology though as well and mythology in particular has always fascinated me – Monsters In My Pocket are a great example of this!
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Depends on the drug.
For me though, gold tops mushrooms were the keys that opened the doors of perception. One of the best things you can do to open your mind if you treat them with the respect they require.
What do you think the Australian zeitgeist is today?
I think it’s fear and outrage at having people’s ways of life destroyed. The only difference is that some people want their 50s conservatism with nothing to answer for and some people want an environment, civil rights and a future for themselves and their children.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
A girl called Rosemary who I went to primary school with in Springwood when I was about nine.
I remember she was first girl at the time to talk to me like a regular human instead of a freak.
Does sex change everything?
I think it can, but not necessarily so.
What are the top 3 items you own?
This was the first painting I’d finished in years after a massive creative drought and is inspired by the the birds and trees from my mum’s garden. They represent my mum, my sister and I and it makes me smile every time I look at it.
“The Green Man”
My tribute to Peter Steele of Type O Negative and Carnivore. I have hated all but about five pictures of people I’ve created but this one was my first serious portrait after that creative drought I had in my mid-late 20s.
The use of perspective is something I’m really proud of here!
My 5-string Schecter Stiletto bass. I held off from getting a 5-string for years fearing it would make me lazy in my writing and that I’d just rely on the low B, but it in fact opened it up with giving me a double-octave on the fretboard.
She’s called Ducky because when I first got her I would walk around the house in inflatable duck legs and play her.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I was in Estonia with friends and family hitting a bunch of different bars and suddenly my friend Sue Telfer was there who passed away earlier this year.
I couldn’t believe it and she was laughing like I should have assumed she wouldn’t just up and die. We were hugging and I was crying with happiness and laughing and so happy she was still here.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Doing the right thing, even if that thing might be hard or unpopular – It makes the world a better place.
I could say my art or my music or DTABM or a whole other bunch of things, but there’s a million talented people in the world who are fuckstains personally and I’d rather be remembered as a good person who sometimes did cool things as opposed to a prodigious talent who was a right bastard.
- Martin ‘Tain’ Taylor – Official ‘Twin Galaxies’ High Record Score Entry for Metal Slug 2 Arcade
- Martin ‘Tain’ Taylor – ‘Twin Galaxies’ page that details his Metal Slug 2 Arcade world record
- Martin ‘Tain’ Taylor – Video of his succesful High Score attempt
- Martin ‘Tain’ Taylor – Facebook
- Deaf To All But Metal Podcast – Soundcloud
- Deaf To All But Metal Podcast – Apple
- Deaf To All But Metal Podcast – Spotify