| Rob, you have recieved
a lot of fan mail from people all over the world with
praises of your old work. It must be great to get comments
Yes it is always nice to hear those comments. During the
mid 1980's I had no idea what this would lead to. It was
very suprising that a computer music culture developed.
How much music experience did you
have before you started to do computer music?
I had a lot. I started playing at age 7. I started playing
in bands when I was at school and later went to music
What did you do before your C64
I was always a musician, working in bands or clubs and
doing arranging or transcription work.
Tell us about the first years on
I started learning the C64 in 1983 and wrote some music
educational software. I then did a game that was never
published as the company went bankrupt. After that experience
I was fairly good at machine code programming. Most people
liked the music I did in the game and so I decided to
just do the music and sound. The first games were Thing
on a Spring and Action Biker. Back then I thought that
this computer stuff was a passing trend that would last
a year or two. I had no idea how it would grow into the
business it is today.
From where did you get offers to
do work? Did you at one point use Compunet?
Initially I made a mailing list and sent them all a 'flyer'
- that is like an information sheet offering to do work.
It took many months before anyone made me any offers of
work. After I did a couple of games I started getting
lots of work. I got to know many of the guys through sending
demos through the post and talking on the phone. I did
use Compunet for a while too.
The early days must have been a
lot of fun...
Yes it was a very exciting time to be involved in the
early days of computers and software. There were no rules
and you could do anything you liked. The audience was
more of a hobbyist than they are today, and all the developers
tended to know each other. The industry took many years
to mature and develop into the mainstream entertainment
that it is today. I am very lucky to have been around
and working in the old days, as it was a lot of fun.
What kind of contracts were written
and how much could you influence them?
We really had only a word of mouth type of contract, that
agreed on a price. After the first 6 months I could pretty
much call my own shots.
Was the income from your computer
work good enough to live on?
Yes it was possible to make a very good living in those
days - certainly a lot better than just playing music.
I was working very hard, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How could a typical composing day
I would start work at 10.00 AM and work till 4 PM. I would
then sleep till 5.30 PM. I would then eat and watch the
news on TV and start working at 7 PM. I would finish working
at 4.00 AM.
How long did that last? I mean,
you got to have some free time as well.
It lasted from 1983 to about 1988. I really had very little
personal time and holidays.
By working at home, did that give
you the peace and quiet you required?
Well, you have to let people know that when it's time
to work, you don't want to be disturbed. You get more
freedom working at home and you don't have a commute either.
Working this hard must have left
you quite unimaginative sometimes. At that point, where
did you search for inspiration?
Well this is very true and happens to everyone. Sometimes
the pressure of having to get it done really makes you
write good stuff. Sometimes ofcourse the ideas dry up.
I had 3 ways to work. Sometimes I would write directly
with the C64 by poking bytes using a machine code monitor.
Sometimes I would write using a pen and paper. Other times
I would sit at the keyboard and play until the ideas come
out. If everything fails then you can get inspiration
from existing music or CD's.
How did the working progress on
a game soundtrack look like? Were you able to see a preview
of the game so you could do adjustments if necessary?
I would make a business trip to visit the companies and
look at the early demo's of the games. I would talk to
them about the game - things like the time period, characters
and mood setting. After we agreed on direction, I would
then write the music. Most of the time I didn't have to
make any changes. A lot of the time there simply wasn't
any time to make changes.
During your most active years, 1985-87,
did you recieve any offers from companies to work in-house?
Yes I had a few offers, but they wouldn't pay what I wanted.
But still they hired you.
I worked for them only as a contractor.
Sometimes it seemed like the game
companies hired you because they knew people would buy
a game you'd done music for, even though it (the game)
was really really bad.
I don't know, maybe they did... It's not really for me
to say. There wasn't a lot of people doing music and SFX
and writing all the code in those days, so there wasn't
After seing a finished game
with your tune in it, did you at times feel like "these
guys have no idea what they are doing in terms of product
Yes it sometimes happened, but you have to realise that
publishers have to ship games and therefore it becomes
a business decision - for example to release the game
for christmas or before someone else ships a similar game.
One of your strengths was that you
were able to make the compositions sound like there were
more than three channels used. The SID was very limited,
what techniques did you apply to?
Most of it was simply done by multiplexing the three channels.
If the lead line has two beats rest, put a fill or some
effect in there. Other techniques were based on what you
could do every VBlank interrupt, creating those warbling
chord effects etc.
Martin Galway thought that your
strength was to make tunes/parts without a drum beat.
W.A.R., Dragon's Lair 2 and Thanatos are examples of just
Well, disagree. My strength was always in arrangement,
melody and harmony.
The style on your songs was changing
over the years. Was that something that came naturally?
The early tunes were very simple and safe. Later on it
seemed that people wanted more complex adventurous music
and that developed into a computer music cult scene. I
think that later on some of the music went too far and
Was that the case with the music
in Wiz? It has some really obscure parts and weird turns.
Wiz was more of an attempt to do something with a mystical
magical quality about it. I think other tunes were more
weird - Knucklebusters, Bangkok Knights and I, Ball.
the mood in the songs some what reflect your personal
mood at the time of making? So when doing Knucklebusters,
you felt weird?
No, I never let my personal mood affect the music - I'm
paid not to do that. The truth is of course that sometimes
it was very difficult to be not affected. There was a
lot of pressure to always try to do something new and
different and not sound like just another 'Rob Hubbard
Tune'. Wiz was a genuine attempt to be different. After
a certain amount of success, many people turn against
you and start to dislike everything you do - after all
SID was very limiting!
People turned their back on you
because of that? For an example?
Well, there was Wiz and a few others. Thrust was not very
well received. I certainly don't have a problem with any
of this, it's perfectly natural.
How often did you re-program the music drivers?
I did change the music driver code fairly often to either
add or delete some features, bearing in mind that your
code had to be as quick as possible. Sometimes I optimized
for space (code and data) and sometimes for processor
speed. Later on I added the ability to play samples -
you could do that on a title screen, but never in the
Talking about samples, you worked
quite a lot with that at the end of your C64 career (Jordan
vs Bird, Kings of the Beach etc). Was that the natural
next step to create a new dimension to your C64 composing?
Yes. I did write a driver that could play 2 samples plus
SID, but never used it on a game.
Tell us about the people you worked
with in the past. Who was important for your career?
The first people I remember were the Thing team. Jason
Perkins. There were a lot of people at Mastertronic that
I worked with including the Darling Brothers. Archer was
great to work with. I became a good friend with Gary Liddon
from Zap and later with Sanxion. David Whittaker and I
became good friends and we used to pass jobs to each other.
Barry became a good friend. Martin was also a good friend
and later worked for Origin. Steve Bax was a great guy
who I worked with on GoldRunner. I also met Yak and nearly
worked on one of his games. He was always a hero on the
C64. Tony and Ben from Gremlin were great to work with.
John Twiddy was someone I worked with and got to know.
There are just too many names to mention...
Well, not to be forgotten: Simon
Nicol (picture). You two cooperated on Crazy Comets and
the follow-up Mega Apocalypse. What kind of relationship
did you two have?
Simon and I became good friends and I used to visit him
in the south of England. After the first Comets, Mega
Apocalypse was very well understood. We basically just
did a sequel.
Any special memories you can tell
from the old days?
During 1987 I was approached by a major record producer
who wanted me to do a single. His main mixing engineer
had heard my stuff on the C64. It was very scary meeting
this guy and talking to him and thinking about the possibility
of becoming a famous recording artist. As it turned out
the legal and copyright technicalities prevented it from
happening and I took the job with EA and moved to the
When did you start working for Electronic
It started in 1987 and I finally made the move in early
1988. I had always wanted to go to the US (ever since
I was a kid) and was really attracted by the high technology
of Silicon Valley. At the time EA was making by far the
most interesting products and I was eager to learn.
What was your first job for them?
The first thing I did for EA was Skate or Die C64.
It's going really well for EA today.
Why do you think the company has become so successful?
When I joined EA there were only 200 employees. I have
seen EA grow from a small computer software business to
a world leader it is now. I think EA has some very smart
people working for them. They control all their own distribution
worldwide and are always looking for new territories to
sell software like Korea and China. EA is also good at
being one step ahead of what is happening and generally
does good products.
You didn't compose music while you
were there. Correct?
Well, it was more technical direction and management of
audio. These days product development is huge - sometimes
there are 30 - 50 people doing one title. We also localized
our games into many foreign languages. I still did some
The composing techniques must be
very different from the old days because now there are
so many more posibilities.
In the old days you had to do everything, code, music
composition, sound effects. Today we use many people to
do these tasks. It is now getting easier to use traditional
composers to write MIDI music and create Red Book tracks
for CD-ROM games. In other ways the music is more restricted
than it used to be - big production titles tend to be
conservative in nature.
If you compare working as a freelancer
and as an in-house musician, what's the positive and negative
If you work freelance, you have more individual freedom
with your schedules and holidays. The bad news is that
nothing is certain - you might not get paid or the work
might dry up. If you work in-house you get a regular pay
check but give up some of the individual freedom.
to the second part of the interview