An Interview with Rob Hubbard

by Neil Carr

What can you say about Rob Hubbard. Well where would we be now if it wasn't for him. Rob inspired countless composers and arrangers. He turned the modest sid chip into a orchestra, like which was never heard before. Rob now works on the Back In Time CD's. You'll be able to hear his WAR on the BIT 3 album. Also coming on a future Bit album is a re-work of a tune that no-one has heard before. Exciting! you bet!

Real name: Rob Hubbard
Nationality: British

Rob Hubbard
What other c64 composers did you like?

I like many of the old timers, Ben, Martin, etc.

What non Rob Hubbard sids did you like?

I liked a lot of Martin’s tunes, Rambo, etc.

Is there an arrangement of one of your tunes that has impressed you?

I’ve heard some good MP3's of Sanxion and Commando. There are also the BIT CD’s.

What tunes that you composed are you most proud of?

Kentilla, WAR and Sanxion.

What were your likes/dislikes regarding the sid chip?

The similarities to the early analogue synths were something that I knew very well. So the concepts of PWM and ring mod and LFO were things I understood.

You briefly wrote some music on the Atari ST, what was the main difference between the Sid chip, and the Yamaha chip regarding the sounds you could create?

The ST was basically a square wave generator plus noise and had very limited sound capability. It was the same as the Amstrad and Spectrum 128 machines.

Was you disappointed that a technically more impressive Atari ST had a massively inferior chip than the c64?


What was your inspiration when composing a tune?

Many different things. Sometimes specific direction came from the game programmer, other times it was up to me to decide. Inspiration came from film and pop music. Also some tunes were things I had written many years earlier that I just thought might work.

The years of 1986/87 was probably the time when you created your most memorable tunes, would you agree with this?

Probably true. Although some of the tunes were actually written many years earlier

Until you joined Electronic Arts you were free-lance, were you ever tempted to become a In-house musician, and was there any benefits to being freelance?

There are many pros and cons, especially back in the late 80’s. Today of course the choice is a no brainer – if you can work in-house just doing music take it !!!

Was there a tune that you knew was sub-standard that you released to a software house?

I don’t know….Sometimes I didn’t like a tune very much and other people did like it and visa versa. I guess I never liked I Ball very much.

Monty On The Run is considered by many as one of your best tunes, why do you think this is, and do you agree with this statement?

No, I thought the later stuff was much better. I can only guess that people liked it because of the energy and the guitar solo.

Later, You started using samples in your music, do you think this improved the musical scores or do you think it detracted from what your earlier music sounded like?

No, adding samples was very hip and added much more. Skate or Die is a good example

What are your thoughts on arrangers remixing your old C64 sids?

I don’t really mind since the stuff is so old.

You are regarded as many as the Man who revolutionary brought real musical sounds to the C64, what would you say about this?

I’m very flattered by this, especially after all those years.

You are regarded as an Hero to many, how do you feel about this status?

Same as above….

You have worked with Chris Abbott on the Back In Time CD's, how did this come about and why indeed did you want to participate?

Just to give something back, since I am always asked about CD’s of old C64 music. Chris has worked very hard with this and gets my full support.

Rob Hubbard, talking to THC Flatline
I recently heard a preview of WAR for the forthcoming Back In Time 3, can you tell our readers the background to this re-arrangement?

It’s something I wanted to do and is one interpretation. I could easily do 2 more contrasting orchestral arrangements that would be very different. I had to leave out the original part 2 of WAR since it wouldn’t work with the orchestral treatment.

What are your thoughts on the Bitlive idea?

It would have to be good in order to succeed. If the Web has bandwidth then a live broadcast would be cool.

Will you be working on future Bit CD's, if so what do you have planned as your next tune/s?

I have done 3 tunes for BIT CD’s that Chris has.

Can you name them, or is it a secret?

One of them is Kentilla which sounds pretty good. The other is a SID tune that no one has heard. I wrote it for a game and it simply didn’t work, so I had to re write another tune. Somewhere along the way the original tune got lost and no one ever heard it. So I did an orchestral arrangement of the tune.

Apart from the money, why did you join Electronic Arts?

I didn’t join EA for the money. I joined because I wanted to move to the US and because EA were doing real innovative software, and I really liked Trip.

Will we ever hear any more work from Rob Hubbard again?

Not on the C64 and not in any games. I will definitely write music at some point.

Many people would like to hear Rob Hubbard do a NEW composition, is there any chance that this may happen, and please give your reasons for it?

Yes, it will happen. Don’t know when or how, but I enjoy writing very much and still believe there is still a little gas left in the tank. Plus I still enjoy playing, which generally leads to writing.

What are you currently doing at EA?

Either Audio Technical Director or Director of Audio. Kinda both jobs. Both of which are management.

What do these jobs entail?

Oh man….do you want me to really answer this? It involves managing and scheduling resources across various projects, managing people, fire fighting, mentoring, looking for new technology, evangelising and many other things.

Do you miss your composing days, and has your work with the Back In Time cd's wet your appetite?

Yes and yes.

Rob's tune 'Master of Magic' probably describes the man himself. He mastered the chip and produced magic. I remember the day when i heard Rob had joined EA. Oh did my heart drop!!! Never would we hear a musical note again from Rob. WRONG! - ok it took nearly 10 years, but we can all hear his work yet again enhanced orchestrally on the Bit albums. Rob Is back!!!

- Neil

Interview date: 30.03.2001