From Supertramp to Space Quest III: An Interview with Bob Siebenberg

By Kirk Green

For someone who has seen the heights of superstardom in the rock band Supertramp, Bob Siebenberg is a pretty down to earth guy. He gets up every morning and is at work in his home studio by 9:00 am and works till early afternoon when he heads out to a local baseball field to coach little league.

"Hey, my greatest day is working in the studio and then heading out to baseball practice by 4:15 pm," said Siebenberg.

Married, with two children, the 39-year-old Siebenberg has worked in his ranch home studio over the past few months on the soundtrack for Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon for Sierra. We spent some time with him recently, after he finished putting the final touches on his new solo album, to see how he became part of the Sierra family.


Most people are surprised when they hear that the drummer for Supertramp is producing a musical soundtrack for a Sierra 3-D Animated Adventure Game. How did you become involved in the project?

There was an advertisement in the paper.

No, really.

Yes, I was reading the Sierra Star (a local paper) and there was an add for someone who knew how to work with MIDI. I had just come off the Free As A Bird tour with Supertramp and I was looking for something new to get involved with. I met with Rick Cavin (Sierra General Manager) and right away he realized I wasn't the nine-to-five guy he was looking for, but on the other hand there might be something I could do — write music for some of the new games.


So one thing led to another and soon you were writing a soundtrack for Space Quest III.

That's right. I got some equipment from Sierra: a Macintosh, a Mastertracks Pro and the MT-32 and used it with my own equipment. That includes MIDI keyboards, my 24 track Otari tape deck, and a Neoteck recording console. I do most all of my work at home in my own studio. Over the years, I've spent so much time away from my family — that is why I moved up here, to be able to work and spend time with my family. In fact, my last solo effort was completely recorded at home.

How does the whole proces unfold when you are working on music for a game? Where do you start?

I like to start with the image. The creators, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, give me a VHS cassette of what the game looks like. I pick their brain about what a certain character's personality is like. The music should enhance the personality. Then I just put in the time writing and producing. I look at the game as a little movie and the music as the soundtrack for that film. It is challenging to come up with something that Mark and Scott want in the way of music. The feel of the music, rather than simple melodies, using the MT-32, Adlib or IBM music cards adds a vibe to the whole screen.

Some of the music on Space Quest III is very beautiful, on a level of an epic film score. Then you have music such as "Festers Theme", which is light and funny. Where do you draw your ideas from?

I just pull it out of thin air in a sense. I just put in the time needed to produce the music. Something I tried to achieve with Space Quest III is to expand the size and dimension of the game with music.

How does the work on Space Quest III differ from your solo album or work with Supertramp?

Working in the band (Supertramp), you have four or five people and I'm part of that band. For my solo projects and working on the soundtrack to Space Quest III, it is down to me. There are no shortcuts, it is just me putting in the time producing the music. WIth the game music I can be a little goofy, like with "Festers Theme," that wouldn't work in my solo projects.

Sierra has had William Goldstein and you write and produce music for our games. Do you see any of your fellow musicians doing similar projects?

Some of the people who worked on my solo record thought that the graphics and music was a great concept. I'm sure there are people who would want to jump on it, but I still want a job too! (laughing)

You've talked a lot about this new album you have been working on…

Yes, that is "Long Shot," an album I've done with a band I formed with Dennis O'Donnel called Heads Up. For right now it is beng released in Germany under Polydor Records. Germany is actually the second largest market for music in the world. So we'll see how it does and eventually we might release it in the UK and the US. The album has a lot of keyboards and new sounds from different keyboards, but it is not computerized. We've got Reno Wilde doing lead vocals, Scott Gorham from Thin Lizzy on guitars and three members of the Supertramp tour band playing on the album. It has got a Procol Harem feel to it and we had John Punter, who worked with Procal Harem, produce the album.


How about Supertramp?

Supertramp is still together technically. Sometimes when you are with a group for a long peroid of time, wou want to branch out and get away from the pressures that are part of the band. Then when you've spent some time away you appreciate different things that made up the band. I would like to hope that someday the five of us (Supertramp) would get together again.

So what is in store for Bob Siebenberg in the coming year?

Well I hope to do more for Sierra. I enjoyed working on Space Quest III. I want my solo work to do well and I'd like to win the 13-year old All Star Divisions in little league.

Sounds like Bob Siebenberg has the best of both worlds and has his priorities straight.

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