|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 studied engineering at University of Southampton, but quickly dropped out. Wanting to learn jazz, he slowed a Jack McDuff recording down, learning transcription along the way. At age 21, he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, to attend music college for three 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 local Ubik Software, who 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 eight 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 Title Theme Music, EA offered him a permanent job in California as their first audio guy. So in January 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.
Hubbard felt unsatisfied when EA merely licensed music for FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer. By June 13, 2001, he was considering returning to Britain altogether and looking for options. In September, after the 11th, 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 would always ask the programmers what kind of music they wanted in the game, but they usually didn't care. Hubbard explained that for his earlier games, the programmers would tell Hubbard to write anything he saw fit, and that most of the time, they accepted the work he sent them. Other times he would see or play the game to get inspiration.
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 respective sound engine. He would sometimes write music on his Casiotone MT-40.
By April 19, 2005, Hubbard told ASMA:
Hubbard's favorite musician was David Whittaker.
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. 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.
For Battle Squadron, Hubbard used Steve Hayes' sound driver.
For Desert Strike: Return of the Gulf, since he didn't have access to Brian Schmidt's sound engine, Schmidt programmed music and converted his samples to same engine.
For the rest of his works, Hubbard wrote the music in assembly, using his custom sound driver.
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 wave is used in his music for The Immortal, and he programmed it in himself. Hubbard also used digitized drums on some songs, and on Skate or Die 2, also digitized voices and electric guitar, but it is unknown who or what they were sampled from.
Throughout his career, Hubbard didn't really use aliases in the games that credited him. However, in the game 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 may be his middle name. It is unknown exactly how he came up with the name. York could refer to his hometown, Yorkshire.
Left, Jochen Hippel right. Taken by Richard Karsmakers at STNICCC on December 19, 2015.
- mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,6/ - MobyGames.
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Hubbard - Wikipedia.
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.
- w.atwiki.jp/gamemusicbest100/pages/3977.html - Atwiki.jp (Japanese).
- archive.org/details/CommodoreHorizonsIssue261986Feb300dpi/page/n31 - Interview from Commodore Horizons, February 1986.
- muzines.co.uk/articles/techtalk-living-off-video/9284 - Interview from Electronic & Music Maker, April 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 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.
- atlantis-prophecy.org/recollection/?load=interviews&id_interview=143 - Interview from March 1997.
- sidmusic.org/sid/rhubbard.html - Interviews from Commodore Zone in spring 1997 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.
- youtube.com/watch?v=e1gFc1sWp30 - Speech from early August 2002.
- youtube.com/watch?v=Qiv4o-fgJ4E - Interview from early August 2002 (part 1/2).
- youtube.com/watch?v=ORMMeHsozqM - Interview from early August 2002 (part 2/2).
- 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=AlCZd07cBV4 - Group interview with Daglish from October 12, 2013.
youtube.com/watch?v=kJ_xk_sfNRE - On composing Commando (C64).
- youtube.com/watch?v=Mf09oRuF3Eg - On creating music and sound effects on the Commodore 64.
- youtube.com/watch?v=rSDz7x5UVIc - Speech from November 29, 2016.
- 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.
- youtube.com/watch?v=EDhCQKOQLpo&t=3m54s - Interview from January 3, 2018.
- 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.
- w.atwiki.jp/gamemusicbest100/pages/3977.html - Atwiki.jp (Japanese).