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Interview: Aubrey Hodges (Doom/Quake)

Interview: Aubrey Hodges (Doom/Quake)

Interviews - Interviews

(59 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


Aubrey Hodges: Doom, Final Doom, Quake, Doom 64

Full list of games worked on HERE.

Here I get to speak to a personal hero of mine, to put it simply I think Aubrey Hodges wrote some of the most important ambient music ever put to video games.

The first time I played a demo level of the upcoming Playstation version of the classic and genre defining Doom, and more importantly heard it, I was absolutely hooked, that soundtrack is still the best soundtrack ever made for a video game in my opinion.

Here is an interview with the guy who wrote the soundtracks for Doom and Final Doom on the Playstation and Doom and Quake on the Nintendo 64, music that helped shape a generation.

Check out Aubrey's work in our Music section.


Shane - Firstly Aubrey, how did you get to write audio for computer games, how did you get into the field in the first place?

Aubrey - My career began in 1985 with a live performance in an international touring group called Toymaker’s Dream. After spending a few years on the road I decided to settle down in Fresno, CA. I took a job selling recording studio gear and one of my clients was Mark Seibert. I didn’t know it at the time but he was the Audio Director at Sierra Online. I got a call from Mark asking if I would deliver some gear to the studio and check out his facilities. I was simply amazed by the place and loved their products. I had actually played a Sierra game called Hero’s Quest and there I was in the studio that actually made it! It was surreal.

At the end of the tour he asked me if I would be interested in a job there. I told him that I was intimidated by all of the computer stuff and wasn’t sure if I had the skills. But, he said that he was sure I would be able to learn…but my music skills were something that were hard to find. So, I said yes and ended up doing about 20 games or so with Sierra. I have very fond memories working there…those were some challenging projects. One of which was the remake of Hero’s Quest (later renamed to Quest For Glory).

Shane - There has been great interest surrounding your work on the Playstation port of Doom and Final Doom, how did you get the job? Did you apply to do it or were you headhunted for the project?

Aubrey - I was the Manager of Music Development at Midway (San Diego) when Id partnered with Midway to do the console versions. Id was in the middle of a dispute with their original composer and decided they needed a new audio guy. After taking a tour of the Midway San Diego audio department and spending some time with me, Id decided I was the guy they wanted to do the sound and music. I was honored that the company placed their trust in me and I wasn’t about to let them down.

This track was used for the Doom demo, it still gives me chills...

Shane - For any aspiring music artists can you shed some light on what tools you used for the audio, software etc? We understand if you want to keep this to yourself!

Aubrey - I used the development tools created for the platforms by Sony and Nintendo. Both allowed me to create sample banks and add effects and then trigger them via midi. There were serious limitations with available ram so I had to be aggressive with sample rate and sample length in order to fit what I needed. In the end, those limitations forced me to think of alternative uses for those samples which is why they sound so creepy at times. In some cases instruments are being played 6-10 octaves below the pitch they were sampled. This in conjunction with the low sample rate created a grittiness and detail that really added to the effect.

Shane - We are big fans of Doom, as most gamers are, but always felt the original heavy metal soundtrack on PC never fit what was essentially a spooky, creepy game, I for one turned the music off when playing to get into the atmosphere, however with your soundtrack on the Playstation version the music track got turned up. When you first started the project what did you initially want to do with the soundtrack, and did the end result fit this, were you happy with the final outcome?

Aubrey - In my opinion one of the most dangerous mindsets for anyone to have when doing creative development is to focus heavily on what you think people want rather than do what you think should be done. I trust my instincts. At first I was getting pressure to deliver a clone of the original. But, I had a vision for a soundscape that would enhance the tension and suspense similar to what happens in movies. To my knowledge this had never been done before in a game and I felt like game music had fallen into a rut. Everywhere you turned there was high energy, crank it all the way music from wall to wall in most games.

There were the exceptions here and there, but, never anything like what I wanted to try. There was very little dynamic range and no one seemed willing to go out on the edge. So, I started sampling weird things like a bee in a coke can or a faulty fan in a laptop and made those "instruments" to be played in my compositions. These bizarre instruments along with a core set of traditional samples gave me the textures I needed to create the first truly ambient score in a video game. Nowadays the style is used often and I am proud to have paved the way and set a high standard for other composers to emulate. The players deserve no less.

Shane - The soundtrack for Doom wasn't music in the true sense, it was an ambient atmospheric background that helped generate that true Doom atmosphere, it was so atmospheric in fact that without it the game was only half finished in my opinion, what influences, if any, have you experienced that made it into this work?

Aubrey - Hmm…I would have to say that I really didn’t approach the project with any preset "style" in mind. I just had a sense of a sort of dissonance and textural complexity that I thought would sound disturbing. I then combined that weird stud with music phrases and motifs that were somewhat traditional in approach to create the end result. Since the pieces were using midi I was able to create longer compositions and vary the intensity dramatically throughout.

Shane - The ambient audio you created literally sent a chill down the spine of the player, admittedly the better sound effects (zombie groans etc.) of the Playstation version also worked with this to create a unique soundtrack to a video game, and to this day I don't think it has been bettered. Just how much did you want to invoke fear into the player with what you were creating?

Aubrey - I really tried to put the player on the emotional edge. The tension, suspense and fear comes from never really knowing what you’ll hear next combined with the dissonant and haunting sounds used in the pieces. To this day I have yet to outdo the weird stuff in those products. Hehe

From Doom 64 - This track is just evil!

Shane - Video games these days tend to miss the mark when it comes to audio, they can have photorealistic graphics and great gameplay all day long, but without a good soundtrack, a thing you would think developers would want to nail down, the game can seem inferior to what it could have been. How true do you find this comment? Any examples of any games that you felt could have done better with better audio?

Aubrey - The soundtrack can make or break the product. Period. The synergy between what is happening in the game and what you are hearing creates the emotional response in the player. The purpose of the music should be to help define what the player is feeling at any given time. Yet, some approaches use a generic "I am playing a video game" mood that does nothing for the connection of the player to the game world.

In some cases this may work if you are talking about casual games. But, in any game that seeks to immerse the player the only result of just throwing a piece of random music behind the game is to hurt the product. There are plenty examples of this in a ton of games but I really don’t want to get into any sort of product bashing here.

One disturbing trend is the over usage of licensed tracks. In some products this seems to make sense but in others it kind of feels like the developer opted for the easy way out. I for one like to hear music that was specifically crafted for the product I just purchased!

Here are Aubrey's sound effects and music at work in PSX Doom. - Level : Entryway

Shane - Doom was one of the first games to be released on the Playstation, we had come from Atari computers and 8 bit consoles to this new machine that delivered digital sound without compression that sounded CD quality, we weren't used to it in gaming, I come from the age of midi samples, this new sound blew me away and Playstation Doom truly did hit home with me at the time just how important sound can be in gaming. How important do you feel sound is in gaming?

Aubrey - Well…the interesting thing is that most of Doom on the Playstation was in fact midi. What made it unique was that I was able to create a custom bank of samples for each song that were designed specifically with that one song in mind. The CD quality music came in the form of the main theme, level complete, demo level, credits, and one bonus "club doom" track. So the primary experience was still using midi. One new feature on the Playstation sound chip that helped dramatically was the on board reverb…which gave the music a washed out almost dreamy feel.

Now, as far as how important I think sound is to a game…

George Lucas has been quoted as saying "The sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie". What seems odd to me is that while no one can argue against this guys success his advice often gets ignored in the game development world. For anyone to ignore him or disregard his wisdom on the matter is simply proving that they have no business in charge of a multimedia product.

I have often been stunned by how many people in the game development world simply don’t value sound and music in their games. It is no shock to me that their products usually meet with failure when they clearly treat sound as an afterthought. In terms of the emotional connection I would go further and say that 80% of the emotion is delivered via audio. All it takes is some bad voice acting, inappropriate music, or annoying sounds to ruin a gaming experience.

I have never understood folks who can’t see the return of investment when it comes to audio since it costs far less to do stellar sound than it does other disciplines. I am of course biased but I am objective enough to realize that ALL of your assets need to be top notch to really create something worthwhile.

Shane - I have a site visitor who has stated he can't sleep without having your Doom soundtrack on repeat play on his headphones when he goes to bed, admittedly this guy probably has issues (!) but comments like that, people still loving a project you did over ten years ago, how do you feel about that?

Aubrey - Well, I am thrilled that fans still enjoy those compositions and those products. I took a risk and it paid off in the end. I had a feeling that the gamers would connect with the material and it feels good to see that validated. I am working on a project currently that I hope will have the same lasting effect.

Shane - A personal request of mine, something that's been bugging me for years, there's a track on the 9th level of Doom - 'Deimos Anomally', and I am sure there is a time stretched sample of a voice saying "tell me why", am I right? Can you confirm this, if so where did it come from?! Any other weird samples in there you can shed some light on for the fans?

Deimos Anomally - 3mins 19 secs!

Aubrey - I did use a spoken phrase in that piece from a previous game but I can neither confirm or deny it’s exact content. Hehe

I used the sounds of mini blinds being lowered, a defective/humming lava lamp, a baby crying, whispers, a bee trapped in a can, a squeaky old rusty metal door, and my favorite technique was to use a massive Taco Bell drink cup (like 64 ounces!) and make weird sounds into it. Most of the monsters were done using that cup.

Shane - You have worked on many projects in the gaming world, any you are especially proud of? Also, anything we can look forward to from you in the future?

Aubrey - I am still happy with the work I was able to contribute to the old Sierra games like the Quest for Glory series, Robin Hood Conquest of the Longbow and Freddy Pharkas. I feel like I was able to take the Madden franchise to the next level and provide a level of realism and immersive sound that really makes the game more fun to play.

I still have a warm feeling every time I listen to the sound and music I created for The Sierra Network’s "The Shadow of Yserbius" which was the first online game with music and sound effects. In some ways I have come full circle since my latest project is an MMO.

And speaking of my latest project…I am thrilled to be a part of 38 Studios and it’s IP codenamed; Copernicus. This is the largest project that I have ever done and will include over 50 hours of original compositions! I am doing everything from heroic grand sweeping orchestral music to tavern jigs. Also, I am taking the creepy ambience/music thing to a whole new level! I can’t say more on that although I can say that this body of work will be the pinnacle of my career.

I have never been more excited about any project. Curt Schilling has put together a fantastic company that is doing AAA top tier work. I get to work alongside R.A. Salvatore who has created the world and story. Not only is he a great guy but he along with an insanely talented group of artisans has created something truly magical here. Todd McFarlane is another of the visionaries and brings his amazing flair and creative genius to the IP. So, for me, it is an amazing experience to work in a genre that I love with such an amazing product as my sonic canvas. I wish I could share some samples but we're not ready to go that far…yet.

Shane - Finally, as this site is based not only on video games, but scary ones, do you have any favorites you would like to tell us about, with good sound or otherwise?

Aubrey - It’s hard to single out games in these terms because so many games these days have excellent audio. In terms of games that evoked a scary…almost "Doom-like" feeling…I really enjoyed the sound in Bioshock. Very dark material. Both sound and music fit the world perfectly. It was a fun game too which always helps. Fallout 3 was also very good in terms of sound and music. The voice acting was superb and well scripted. I know I am forgetting many other great products out there and I apologize for that because I know how difficult it can be to make these things!

----------------------------------- 

I'd like to sincerely thank you Aubrey for taking time out to do this with us, you sir are a legend and we wish you all the best with your future endeavors, we are especially looking forward to the epic sounding 'Copernicus', many, many thanks.

I'd also like to thank the guys at 38Studios.com for their help in making this happen, cheers guys.

I couldn't finish this article without having the 'Club Doom' track in here so here it is for a bit of fun, this level was a super secret level that you really had to work to find, and once you did you were treated to this piece of music, it literally came out of nowhere and after the chilled out haunting ambient sounds you had experienced up until this point it literally blew your head off, and if you had your speakers turned up, probably killed them too... So now turn up your speakers and listen to the awesome track for 'Club Doom':

Club Doom: Serious nose bleed gabba techno - Not for the feint hearted...

 



Comments (42)
42 Friday, 22 March 2013 18:32
KKlass
This is a FANTASTIC read ive been wanting to know about the PSX doom music for years, thanks Aubrey!
41 Friday, 14 December 2012 21:58
Shane - Admin
OMFG! Doom fans the definitive collection is here from the man himself, thanks so much for letting us know Aubrey, as you can see there is much love for you round these parts. :)

Track names as well at last, AWESOME.
40 Tuesday, 04 December 2012 23:28
Aubrey Hodges
I have just released the DOOM Playstation Official Soundtrack.

You can find it here:

http://aubreyhodges.bandcamp.com/album/doom-playstation-official-soundtrack

All tracks are from the original digital transfers. All level tracks are in their original LONG length version. (Most were shorter on the PSX due to memory restraints) This is the highest quality possible and the source files are loseless 44k Stereo .wav files. I will add a few bonus tracks to the download area for this soundtrack in the next few weeks)

Enjoy!
39 Saturday, 06 October 2012 22:45
Shane - Admin
@Mart1001 - Wow, thanks! Great to see he's still making music, and the tracks have a very Doom like feel. Awesome. :)
38 Saturday, 06 October 2012 00:11
Mart1001
For anyone that might be interested, Aubrey Hodges has just released a new album of scarey 'doom like' music.

http://aubreyhodges.bandcamp.com/album/journey-into-the-dark-places

Mart.
37 Tuesday, 21 August 2012 07:38
ben
oh ok
36 Monday, 20 August 2012 13:23
Shane - Admin
@ben - Who knows? :)
35 Monday, 20 August 2012 10:15
ben
so where did he get the noises from then
34 Friday, 17 August 2012 12:48
Shane - Admin
@ben - Yes he says he used the sound of 'a baby crying'.
33 Saturday, 11 August 2012 18:38
ben
so i wanna know whats actually making those noises in altar of pain is it babies
32 Saturday, 23 June 2012 17:44
ben
hey aubrey
31 Wednesday, 04 April 2012 21:14
Mr. Smith
I have to say, for as great as Aubrey's work in the PS1 Doom port was, his Doom 64 soundtrack was just outstanding. It fit a lot better, what with the darker, more frightening theme, tone and graphic effects. The reworking of the Mt. Erebus track (Altar of Pain) is even scarier, if that were at all possible. It's been almost 15 years and the soundtrack/game itself STILL gives me chills. Props to Mr. Hodges.
30 Sunday, 18 March 2012 21:07
ben
so shane where do those sounds come from
29 Saturday, 18 February 2012 23:43
Shane - Admin
Yeah Ben, Aubrey used samples of babies crying for the soundtrack, its not a reference to anything going on in the level specifically, its just a background noise to unnerve the player, babies crying within the horror genre has been used before, and to great effect, very creepy.

As for your question asking Aubrey himself, I highly doubt he'll respond, but you never know. ;)

Thanks for visiting.
28 Saturday, 21 January 2012 23:41
ben
hey aubrey so how come there are enemies nearby in doom 64 altar of pain
27 Saturday, 21 January 2012 21:12
ben
so you know the altar of pain why do people do tose noise i cant stand it i think its zombies and babies crying
26 Saturday, 21 January 2012 21:00
ben
so where can i find a sample of the moans
25 Saturday, 21 January 2012 20:58
ben
so in doom 64 is it different then because at the end of the music theres moans like maaaaaa is it babies or is it just monsters its making me unhappy
24 Sunday, 08 January 2012 22:08
Shane - Admin
Oops, sorry, a bit late answering this one ben....

Yeah there were maons added to the music tracks as well as manual groans from nearby enemies, so bit of both yeah.
23 Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:55
ben
is it monsters or something else
22 Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:52
ben
doom on the ps1 had a level called mt erebus i cant uderstand why there are people moaning
21 Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:51
ben
how come the level mt erebus on the ps1 had moans in it
20 Sunday, 21 August 2011 23:12
W3arped1
This guys is a genius, so atmospheric --- Love it, thank you sir. :D
19 Wednesday, 19 January 2011 10:25
Jim
Thanks for this interview.

To this day Playstation Doom is my favourite game of all time and wouldn't be possible without the soundtrack.

The soundtrack to this game has influenced me in so many ways. My love for first person shooters, horror, making my own music and all things strange!

I'll be playing it at my funeral, then maybe some Club Doom to cheer everyone up :>
18 Thursday, 28 October 2010 17:41
Shane - Admin
Hah, nice comment John, thanks. :)
17 Wednesday, 27 October 2010 21:01
John Rydholm
I've been a longtime fan of the PSX/PSOne Doom for years, and reading this made me smile. Especially that Taco Bell technique! I cracked up when I read that. Mr. Hodges, my respect for you has raised up to the BFG-10K level. That's like the BFG-9K from Doom only more Quake. (Better.) :P You're awesome! I'll never forget the "Geryon" and "Nessus" tracks from Final Doom...creepiness
16 Sunday, 03 January 2010 21:29
Steve
Great interview, I'm taking a course in game sound design and although Aubrey is a fantastic artist it hurts that he seemed to be in the right place at the right time, man I hope I get a break like that!

Taking nothing away from the man though, he wouldn't have had the chance anyway unless he was good, like REAL good.

Thanks for the tips, that midi work is purely awesome.
15 Wednesday, 16 December 2009 01:11
Steiner
Deimos Anomally definitely says "Tell Me Why" - What game though? Hmmmmm!!
14 Tuesday, 15 December 2009 23:53
Stix
Interesting reading, I also enjoyed the Ben Leffler interview, makes a change from just reading up on game reviews, can we see more interviews though? I know it must be difficult to procure them with all the competition but in my opinion they are a lot more interesting to read than reviews etc that most gaming sites do.

Good work hope there are more soon.
13 Tuesday, 15 December 2009 17:48
Craig
Great Interview Shane, just shows what a talent this Aubrey chap is!!

Mind boggling to realize all the different methods used to create such an awesome soundtrack!
12 Tuesday, 15 December 2009 01:06
Sn1persk1llz
psx doom was what got me hooked on fps and the spooky sounds were what made the game nice job dude :D :D
11 Monday, 14 December 2009 22:41
Inmost Dens
Exceptional soundtrack, a great addition to an awesome game which made even awesomerr err!
10 Saturday, 12 December 2009 00:42
Shane - Admin
I'd also like to highlight the question whereby I thought the soundtrack was made up without the use of midi samples, as you can see Aubrey states that most of the soundtrack WAS in fact made from midi samples, this just goes to show just how amazing this soundtrack was, I couldn't even tell the difference...

AWESOME.
9 Saturday, 12 December 2009 00:27
Shane - Admin
By the way, an Aubrey's "best of" soundtrack cd is a great idea Jim, all the Doom and Quake tunes on a cd or 2, I'd buy it!
8 Saturday, 12 December 2009 00:18
Shane - Admin
Thanks for the comments guys, totally positive so far, really glad to see your appreciation, especially you Jim, when asking Aubrey these questions you were always in the back of my mind, thanks for the detailed response, I'm sure Aubrey would appreciate it. :)
7 Friday, 11 December 2009 22:22
Jim.
... Cont

So, much respect and thanks to Aubrey Hodges, who STILL brings me joy and scary moments, even WITHOUT playing the games ;) And of course, good luck with the new stuff and i will try to find them as soon as they come out! Maybe a best of game OST's cd? That would be nice :)

Cheers // Jim.
6 Friday, 11 December 2009 22:21
Jim.
...Cont


I reamember the first time i played DOOM on my PS1, i didn't want to finnish the stage because of the music, walking around and just sucking in the atmosphere...

And of course, when it's bedtime...hehe...the phones comes on, let the nightmare begin! Beasts from hell crawling into your subconscious, when i'm on the edge of falling asleep with this soundtrack in my ears and my mind, it's like i can touch them, smell them.
5 Friday, 11 December 2009 22:20
Jim.
Good interview, really good, usually they're not this long, on the other hand, it needs to be, to understand the genius behind the product, The Doom OST, i don't know how many thousands of times i've listened to this scary, yet calming, in a scary way(?) wonderful art piece.

Cont..
4 Friday, 11 December 2009 17:18
Doom Fan
by the way club doom is just insane!!!!!!
3 Friday, 11 December 2009 17:15
Doom Fan
it was great spooky music, not many people talk about the n64 doom but that had gr8 music as well.

Any chance of hearing the Quake64 music tho??
2 Thursday, 10 December 2009 19:34
RobS
Truly fantastic sound design and remembering Doom on the Playstation wasnt about the vuisuals, hell they didnt look great even back then but the sound was something special and back in those early days of the PSX it was somethign to remember.

In fact I remember playing this late at night with the headphones on, there were literally tons of levels to get through, you had great value with this game, but hearing those sounds still haunts me now, with the sound up those groans and the background of babies crying and stuff it was pretty damn horrific to be fair!!
1 Thursday, 10 December 2009 17:46
Steiner
Brilliant read, a real scoop for ya Shane. Love the Taco Bell cup comment!

really interesting article, Aubrey sounds like a great guy - roll on Copernicus. :)

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