CC: Now you came to NFL Films as a music editor and not a composer.
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Well I graduated from Berklee as film scoring major
and so that is what I always wanted to do. To get in the door at
NFL FILMS, I came into their audio department as an music
editor, but what I'm doing now was my main goal.
CC: So from day-one, you wanted to compose
music for NFL Films?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Even when we came in and were mixing some of the
shows we started doing some composing. Before we had the orchestral
stuff, we produced lots and lots of contemporary tracks for NFL
FILMS. We could produce that sort of music for very little
money, so actually I was writing from day-one. Doing that and mixing
got to be too much, so we just moved to composing full-time.
CC: Despite the clear
impact that the music used in NFL Films' productions has made over
the decades, there isn't a ton of information out there on you, Tom
Hedden and Sam Spence. Why is that?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: As far as the web goes, there isn't a bunch out
there on us because we are really staff composers...a part of the
machine. So in that regard, it doesn't really give
us a chance to stand out, but "standing out" isn't our main goal. Years and years ago we used to regularly put out fan
albums, but until recently with the box set, there hasn't been much
released. There was a long, long gap until NFL FILMS
came out...and while we were involved with that release, it wasn't
an NFL FILMS release.
CC: Now when you say, "box set" you are
referring to AUTUMN THUNDER?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Yes. That's what we called it for the
year-and-a-half that we were putting it together! We didn't really
have the name AUTUMN THUNDER until Steve (Sabol) came up with
CC: Let me ask you about SAM SPENCE and the
legacy he has laid down for the music of NFL FILMS. His music is
simply inseparable now from certain images of NFL history. How much
does his legacy play a part in your approach to writing music for
NFL films today?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Sam (Spence) and Steve (Sabol) had a special relationship from the beginning. Sam was over in Germany and
Steve here in the States, so they didn't have what you might call a
normal, day-to-day, working relationship, but they communicated
really well over the phone. Sam just seemed to hit the tone for
NFL FILMS that Steve wanted. Obviously, Sam Spence laid the groundwork
for what people consider NFL Films music. Even beyond that, what
people think of as "sports music" is based on what Sam
and Steve came up with. Now Sam certainly gets credit for writing
the music and coming up with the "sound," but Steve also has been a
huge influence in the direction of the music...almost like a movie
producer. He has a great musical ear. He can communicate to the
composers very effectively without using the musical terminologies.
Steve can vividly describe a scene or piece and, without
actually seeing it, the composer is able to write a piece of music for it.
Steve Sabol and David Robidoux
CC: Now some of what you produce today for NFL
Films is quite contemporary.
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Yes. And some fans feel that some of what we do has gone
away from what NFL FILMS has been. Actually, if you look at what
NFL FILMS was trying to do, it was trying to bring football into that
"Hollywood world." So what Sam was doing at the time was what his
contemporaries were doing: like Elmer Bernstein and so on. Sam's
music was reflective of what was going on in the film world at that
time. So in moving forward, myself and TOM (HEDDEN) sort of picked
up on that idea. That said, there are certain cornerstones that
part of NFL Films' music. There are always big melodies. It's always
dramatic. We always follow along with what is dramatic and what is
going on in Hollywood now. I think that is why the sound sort of
evolved to the point it is now. If we had strictly stayed in the
Sam-Spence-mode, it would sound a little out of place today.
CC: So how are you personally influenced in
what you compose by Sam Spence?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Well, I rely heavily on percussion which is a huge
thing that Sam established. There are points where the entire
orchestra is playing just one melody along with the percussion. The
drama is in the melody but the percussion is just "football." The
two just go together so well. We owe a lot to Sam. When people think
of NFL FILMS music, they think of his stuff. When I hear it now, it
still takes me back to when I used to sit in front of the TV
Sam really stood out in his time and there is a lot of history
there, but I believe we are still holding true to what NFL FILMS is
about. It's not always exactly Sam's sound, but it still get across
the same emotion and what Steve Sabol wants.
Composer Sam Spence
CC: Do you think not having the voice-talent
of John Facenda affects people's perceptions of your projects now?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Steve Sabol has always said that there were three
parts to the NFL FILMS recipe: the picture, the music and the story.
You could almost substitute "the voice" with "the story" because it
had always been John Facenda's voice telling the story. I think we
still keep those three things, but it might not be as identifiable
as when John's voice was the story. It has been hard to do something
different or find someone different that can do what John's voice
did. It was just amazing and everything just came together. Still,
Steve makes sure those things are in every production we do.
CC: Back in 1994, what you did for the award
winning documentary, 75 SEASONS was somewhat of a revival for NFL
it's music. Was there any intention on trying to bring such a
DAVID ROBIDOUX: For us it was 75 SEASONS, SIX DAYS TO
SUNDAY, and BIG GAME AMERICA, as they all came out one
after than another. To us at NFL Films, these three projects are, in
a way, all the same. 75 SEASONS was big melodies, SIX DAYS
TO SUNDAY had the big percussion and helped to launch our more
modern/cutting-edge sound. So I don't think it was much of a
conscious effort to do that. I think by the time we got to
FOOTBALL AMERICA, everyone was behind it and the whole wave
started all over again, so we just wanted to keep moving
CC: Now when Sam Spence was scoring for NFL
Films, he said that he would actually write the music and then the
editors would cut their piece to his music. Is that process still
employed today with you and Tom Hedden?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: I'd say that happens maybe 60% of the time now. SIX
DAYS TO SUNDAY was all written to picture and post-scored. However
with TV production its a little more difficult than film production.
Even as fast as things happen in film production, say a composer
only has 14 days to write a film score, sometimes we'd only have one
and a half hours to write! So a lot of times we do pre-produce the
music. Again though, Steve Sabol would come down and tell us exactly
what they wanted. It's almost as if the film is already cut and so
when you go to write the music they describe the scene like...
It's the '58 Championship and its going to be a tight shot of Unitas'
face and we are going to pull back. From there we are going to go
into a slow-mo shot of them crossing the goal line and so that is
where the music has to get huge. Before that moment the music just
need to be filled with tension. "
So in that case, it's almost like we are post-scoring.
We produce a lot of films each year, but we also produce over 40
hours of programming a week. If you try to post-score everything
that presents a big problem. Sometimes there may be a new show that
can't afford it, so we re-edit our music for use there.
CC: Now that the NFL NETWORK is around,
how has that affected your workload?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Actually, believe it or not, we look forward to
getting into the season! Things become a lot more rigid during the
season which actually makes things easier. In the off-season there's
just a ton of things going on. Right now, I'm in a huge score for an
HBO series HARD KNOCKS, which will start on August 8th. It's
five, one-hour episodes. I actually
branded the whole NFL NETWORK with it's theme and all of its
shows and that only happens in the off-season. So the coming of the
NFL NETWORK has probably more than doubled our workload!
CC: And is it primarily just the two of you (Hedden
and Robidoux) handling all of these projects?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Yes...just the two us. There were some 12 shows, last year,
that came on the network between August and October and so I had to
come up with the theme packages for all of those between the end of
June and August. Those are really the hardest to write, too. After
that, I went into writing the themes for the games. We had a lot of
games on the network last year. Then after that we had a big show
for FOX, ROAD TO THE SUPERBOWL. So there was one thing after
another and it got pretty crazy.
Composer Tom Hedden
CC: Now NBC has John Williams' theme for
Sunday Night Football, CBS has its football theme from E.S.
Posthumus, and FOX has its distinctive title music, since you had to
musically brand the NFL Network, talk about your thought process in
giving the new network a distinctive sound.
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Oh yes. Well, it was tough. The NFL NETWORK
is fairly broad based in the sense that there are entertainment
shows, drama and news. Now each of the shows has its own distinctive
music, but the theme for the whole network we pull and use for many
of the shows. TOTAL ACCESS is the main show and that's based
on the NFL Network theme. We also have GAMEDAY which is
hosted by Deion Sanders and so they want something a little hipper
there. So the NFL Network wants to be a little more modern,
but they don't want to get away from the fact that everything on the
network is being done by the NFL. This is "the official network" so
we have to always keep that in mind and Steve always makes sure that
we maintain some connection to that NFL-film-music tradition. We try
to do that with use of strings, or french horns, or perhaps the
melody is a little more upfront.
Since we shoot the games a little differently then say NBC, they
wanted to make sure the music definitely had an NFL-Films-sound. And
that sound is definitely different from the others. FOX is a little
more "modern," while NBC is more "olympic" sounding. I'm pretty
pleased with how we were able to capture that
One difference is that we only have 8 games in a season and so
compared to NBC, by week 10, you are humming their football theme.
We've only been on one year, but in a couple more years people
should start recognizing our themes a little more. We just have to
get the NFL NETWORK in everyone's household.
CC: Obviously NFL Films keeps you very busy,
but do you ever entertain the idea of going into feature films?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: We'd love to do that, but schedule is obviously a
huge thing. We are there to service NFL FILMS, but
occasionally we do things outside of that. I did the theme for
NASCAR. I did the 2005 or 2006 score for EA Games NASCAR. We
occasionally do TV spots or things for the History Channel. We tend
to do things that are more TV oriented, just because we can fit it
into the schedule easier.
CC: There is a quote the liner notes of
AUTUMN THUNDER that says, "Restraint is often times a sign of
power." How do you apply that to what you do?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Well, you know the sound of a giant orchestra
playing loudly. In every film there is "a moment" and in every piece
of music there is "a moment"...and we try to musically build to
those moments of emotional power. That moment becomes that much more
powerful because you've exercised restraint prior to it. We hold
back a little bit until we get "there." I think we do that quite a
bit. I try to do that in every piece of music at some point.
Especially when we are pre-scoring something, it's vital to build
those moments. That is what films are about and that is what gets
people emotionally. The orchestra allows you to do just that. The
power is always there, but its holding that back until just the
CC: Now NFL teams are starting to get interested in having their own
"themes." Is that right?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Yes. We are starting to do themes for teams now. NFL
teams are starting to want music to brand them. It's actually an
idea we have thrown around for a long time. Now a few teams are
starting to buy into it. The Dallas Cowboys are interested in
something. The Raiders already have a theme.
CC: I assume this Raiders theme is the piece
Sam Spence wrote long ago called, "The Raider."
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Yep...that's the one. He just wrote a piece of music
which he would call something like "NFL 0253" and then when it came
into the building the producers would name it. When that piece came
in, someone said it had sort of a "pirate sound" and so it
should be used with the Raiders. Later the Raiders heard it and
loved it, so we started using it over Raiders' film. Since we are a
part of the NFL, we make sure that gets used for The Raiders. It's
sort of an unspoken thing. It wasn't really written for them, but
its just never been used for anything other than them.
CC: So is that how you are going to handle
these new themes?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: I think so, but it's all bit up in the air right
now. If these themes actually happen and there is, say, a Cowboys
theme, then we will only use it for them. It would be great for
them. We would do their coaches' show theme and the music when the
players run out into the stadium. We might have a big orchestral
version that we can use in their highlights and just really help
brand that team musically. We did something similar for the Super
Bowl with the Lombardi Trophy theme. It's one thing to write the
theme, but then we have to make sure it gets played every time it
should be played - sort of the same idea as the Olympic theme.
CC: With FOOTBALL AMERICA you were able to go
London and record at Abbey Road Studios. What was that experience
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Well, Steve Sabol was just ecstatic. It was
absolutely incredible. We had recorded in all different places and
tried a lot of different things, but finally we were able to go. We
would have long ago, but it costs a lot of money. As soon as we got
the budget to do it, we went over there. Sitting out in the room
while the orchestra is playing is just...well, its hard to explain.
It's something special whenever you can hear a live orchestra
playing, but then when you are hearing a live orchestra playing
something you've written, you hear it come to life. It's just
CC: And today you also have your own studio
facilities right there at NFL Films.
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Yes. We have this brand new facility and ultimately
this is perfect for us. They chose to build in the ability for us to
record an orchestra here. As a kid I used to go the the Philadelphia
Orchestra all the time and so I knew the level of musicians that
were around here. I used to say to Tom (Hedden) and the vice
president at the time, that I know we could do it here. So they had
faith and built the place and now we work with some amazing
NFL Films Recording Studio
CC: How often do you contract musicians and
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Sometimes we have them in there several times a
month. We get the same musicians over and over and so they really
know our stuff. We can get an assignment on Monday and by Wednesday
we can have a full orchestra in and recording!
CC: Who are some of the composers that
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Well, from the orchestral side, since I studied at
the Berklee College of Music, I really listened to ALAN SILVESTRI
a lot and just feel I connect with him in some way. His sense of
rhythm is just amazing. He had such a unique sound that that I
connected to which helped shape what I do. He has probably had the
greatest influence on me, especially right after finishing college.
As far as other modern day composers go, I think JAMES NEWTON
HOWARDS' work just "plays" so well when
performed by an orchestra. Even scores like TREASURE PLANET just
has such an unbelievable sound. I think he'd make a great NFL Films
composer, that's for sure! (laughs).
Of course, you can't help but be influenced by the Zimmers and the
Elfmans, especially in regards to production technique. They just
have a great sound that works with football.
I also write other, more contemporary things, influenced by other
sources. We really don't consider it NFL Films-type material, but
when there is a specific need for such a piece we use it. We are
very careful now to not veer to far away from the classic,
NFL-Films-sound. It's our orchestral music that drives everything.
CC: So is that NFL Films' commitment now...to
the orchestral side. There may be some contemporary elements, but
there will always be that through-line of the orchestral in the work
that you all produce that will keep the music timeless?
DAVID ROBIDOUX: Exactly. You said the right word there. I think from
many stand points it makes the most sense to do just that. We can
pull out orchestral music we wrote ten years ago and it will still
hold up in a film because it just emotion really. When you hear an
orchestra, it's not so much about production, as much as it is
simply getting some sort of emotional response out of it. You can
take some pop piece and it may have some emotional impact, but its
very fleeting. After 10 or 15 seconds you have to cut to something
else. An orchestral piece can evolve and have more subtleties. I
think our music will continue evolve, just as it has since Sam
(Spence) but I don't think that those core elements will ever go
CC: Talk about that and what else is upcoming
for you with the new football season at hand.
DAVID ROBIDOUX: The big project right now is HARD KNOCKS.
This is sort of a reality-based show, where we are following the
Kansas City Chiefs through their training camp to their first game.
This time they are wanting it to be a bit more dramatic. They'll be
using slow motion and so on to make it different than your average
reality show. As a result I'm trying a few different things
musically. We're approaching it a little bit more as a film score.
After that, we have all of the music for the TV shows.
CC: Thank you for taking time out of your busy
schedule to talk today.
DAVID ROBIDOUX: I love talking about what we are doing and
appreciate you covering it.