|Dr. Robert J. Hubbard|
Rob Hubbard is a British composer and sound designer who is known to be one of the most (if not the most) renowned video game musicians of all time. He could be considered the Koji Kondo of the Commodore 64.
Hubbard has been playing the piano since age 7 and has also played flute, saxophone and guitar. His favorite subjects were math, physics and music, whereas he hated history, economics and metalwork. With O- and A-Levels, he went to university, but dropped out to play keyboards in bands. At age 21, he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear. Before or afterwards, he attended music college for 3 years.
In 1983, Hubbard read in Electronic & Music Maker about the Commodore 64 and American educational software for platforms like the Apple II. He also considered the Memotech MTX500, but bought the C64 when its price dropped to £230. Dreaming of writing the first British educational software, he showed a sight-reading game to companies, to no avail. In 1984, he ported and scored two games for Ubik Software, which went bankrupt before release. The few who saw the games liked the music most, so he decided to specialize on game music and spammed for about 8 months by mail and phone.
His fourth released job, Monty on the Run (C64), made him famous in the industry. Still, he found it a little strange to explain this new career to family and friends.
In early 1987, Hubbard's Sanxion (C64) won the first Golden Joystick Award for Best Soundtrack. At the ceremony in Cadogan Hall, London, he was photographed with presenter Jools Holland, and Mark Lewis of Electronic Arts asked Hubbard if he wanted to work in the USA for a couple of months. After Skate or Die (C64), EA offered him a permanent job in California as their first audio guy. So in early 1988, Hubbard sold his ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Ataris, his PAL C64, gave away the Amiga and moved to the USA with his wife, fulfilling a childhood dream and changing his life. In late 2001, they moved back to East Yorkshire with an NTSC C64 and two disk drives.
On November 25, 2016, Hubbard received a honorary degree from Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland. His popular games include Monty on the Run (C64), Commando (C64), Skate or Die (C64), and The Immortal (NES).
Hubbard's favorite musician was David Whittaker.
Hubbard would write the music on paper in normal musical notation and alongside the notes, he would write hexadecimal numbers which he would then type into his sound engine. Hubbard would always ask the programmers what kind of music they wanted in the game, but they usually didn't care. He would sometimes write music on his Casiotone MT-40.
In mid-1986, Hubbard started using SID's built-in filter. Unfortunately, the filter varies with every machine and several of Hubbard's melodies sounded muffled to many gamers. In VICE 3.4, they sound best with 6581 (ReSID) and a bias of at least 540, although how close it is to what Hubbard arranged on is unconfirmed.
For samples, Hubbard recorded on an Amiga with a newly-bought FutureSound sampler, used a dynamic range compressor to avoid volume fluctuations, transferred them to the C64, and used an electronic tuner to see if they are in pitch (eventually 1455 to 8315 Hz). Samples include chords from a Yamaha DX7, an oft-ripped electric guitar, and voices, including his own.
Hubbard was paid by Elite Systems to come in and write the music to their conversion of Capcom's Coin-Op arcade Commando. Hubbard came in the office late at night and worked throughout the evening to compose the music. According to Hubbard, Elite Systems had the arcade cabinet of the game in the office, and he drew inspiration from the arcade game's music, but didn't actually arrange the arcade soundtrack to the Commodore 64 version. Hubbard finished the music by morning. Mark Cooksey witnessed that. According to Hubbard, he put the music on all the work computers before he left the office so the Elite staff could hear his composition.
Hubbard only scored three games for the NES; The Immortal, Skate or Die 2, and the unreleased Chuck Yeager's Air Combat. Hubbard wrote the music driver and audio in pure 6502 assembly machine code. While some NES games used the DPCM channel for drum samples, Hubbard was one of the very few who used it for instrumentation, as a triangle-shaped pulse wave is used in his music for The Immortal, and he programmed it in himself. Hubbard also used drums for some of his songs, but it is unknown where the drums were sourced from. Skate or Die 2 uses not only digitized drums, but also digitized voices and electric guitar, but it is unknown where or who these sounds were sampled from.
In Samantha Fox Strip Poker, he is credited as John York. This was probably because the game was a pornographic title, and he wanted to remain anonymous as a result. Because his middle initial is J, John could be his middle name, but it is unknown exactly how he came up with the name.
- mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,6/ - MobyGames.
facebook.com/rob.hubbard.31 - Facebook(Hubbard closed the account ("too many opinionated people") and the username has been given to another Rob Hubbard)
- uk.linkedin.com/pub/rob-hubbard/47/83a/853 - LinkedIn.
- soundcloud.com/user-533729915 - SoundCloud.
- web.archive.org/web/20010223105648/http://www.analogue.org:80/network/rob_hubbard.htm - Interview from Electronic & Music Maker, circa late 1985.
- archive.org/details/CommodoreHorizonsIssue261986Feb300dpi/page/n31 - Interview from Commodore Horizons, February 1986.
- archive.org/details/computer-video-games-magazine-056/page/n71 - Interview from Computer + Video Games, June 1986.
- www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl?issue=016&page=040&magazine=zzap - Group interview with Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Antony Crowther and David Whittaker from ZZAP! 64 No.16, August 1986.
- archive.org/details/CommodoreUserIssue391986Dec/page/n119 - Profile from Commodore User, December 1986.
- www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl?issue=021&page=047&magazine=zzap - Profile from ZZAP! 64 No.21, December 1986.
- www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl?issue=026&page=052&magazine=zzap - News from ZZAP! 64 No. 26, June 1987.
- st-news.com/issues/st-news-volume-2-issue-5/features/interview-with-rob-hubbard/ - Interview from July 25, 1987.
- craigsretrocomputingpage.eu5.org/robhubbard/robhubbard.html - Interview from The Games Machine 001, October 1987.
- zakalwe.fi/~shd/texts/imr/c09hubba.htm - Interview from March 15, 1996.
- web.archive.org/web/20010714072715/http://mono211.com/gamegeekpeeks/robh.html - Interview from circa 1997.
- sidmusic.org/sid/rhubbard.html - Interviews from Commodore Zone in 1997 or 1998 and Happy-Computer 7/86 (translated from German).
- karsmakers.nl/metal-e-zine/robb.htm - Interview from September 1998.
- web.archive.org/web/20020211210207/http://www.freenetpages.co.uk:80/hp/tcworh/int_6581.htm - Audio interview and transcript from September 28, 1999.
- web.archive.org/web/20060929094802/http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/tcworh/int_game.htm - Interview from circa 1999.
- web.archive.org/web/20010723113418/http://www.freenetpages.co.uk:80/hp/tcworh/intviews.htm - Interview from October 17, 2000.
- remix64.com/interviews/interview-rob-hubbard.html - Interview from March 30, 2001.
- web.archive.org/web/20021017140546/http://www.freenetpages.co.uk:80/hp/tcworh/profile.htm - Profile from June 12, 2001.
- web.archive.org/web/20101228205440/http://www.c64.com/audio/Rob%20Hubbard%20%5BBack%20in%20Time%20Live%202001%20interview%5D.mp3 - Audio interview from 2001.
- c64.com/interviews/hubbard.html - Interview from circa late 2001.
- web.archive.org/web/20021223070805/http://c64audio.valuehost.co.uk/edge/ca_hubbard.htm - Interview from November 2002.
- archive.org/details/Sinclair_ZX_Spectrum_and_Commodore_64_Book-2012/page/n133 - Interview from 2012.
- youtube.com/watch?v=DiPdjbsiQqM - The Golden Days of Computer Game Music
youtube.com/watch?v=kJ_xk_sfNRE - Hubbard on composing Commando (C64)
- youtube.com/watch?v=Mf09oRuF3Eg - Hubbard on creating music and sound effects on the Commodore 64.
- youtube.com/watch?v=ao92PVEHG3c&t=21m40s - Audio interview from June 8, 2017.
- arcadeattack.co.uk/rob-hubbard-chris-abbott/ - Interview from October 26, 2017.
- retrogamesmaster.co.uk/rob-hubbard/ - Interview from December 23, 2017.
- abertayuniversityadmin2.azurewebsites.net/life/alumni-and-supporters/articles-videos/rob-hubbard/ - Interview from August 22, 2018.
- youtube.com/watch?v=0OxRyOSTHDM - Audio interview from November 11, 2019.