Interview: Gordy Haab talks composing Star Wars: Battlefront, Squadrons and more

Gordy Haab. Photo credit: María José Govea
Gordy Haab. Photo credit: María José Govea /

What would a Star Wars game be without its music? Flying an X-wing without the exciting, triumphant music blasting beside you? No thanks. Storming battlegrounds like Endor or Starkiller Base with nothing but crickets in the background? That just won’t cut it.

Unmistakably, yes, great Star Wars video games like Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Squadrons are all about the fantastic graphics and the immersive gameplay. But without the music, well, these games just wouldn’t feel complete; they’d be missing that emotional element that only music has the ability to add.

To learn how the thrilling music comes together for some of EA’s best Star Wars games, Battlefront I and II as well as Squadrons, Dork Side of the Force had the opportunity to speak to composer Gordy Haab over the phone. The life-long Star Wars and gaming fan composed music for those three games as well as EA’s insanely popular Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. And now was one of the best times to catch up with Haab, considering the soundtracks for Battlefront I and Battlefront II are finally available!

Read on below the video to learn more about how Haab and his team composed scores for these games, how they finished Squadrons in the midst of a global pandemic, and much more!

Interview with Star Wars games composer Gordy Haab

Dork Side of the Force: First, can you explain your role as a composer for these two projects [Battlefront and Squadrons]?

Gordy HaabYeah, sure! So my role actually started, you know, maybe about a year before full production of the game. I had started speaking with the audio director, Ben Minto. And I worked on a couple of other Star Wars games prior to this. So I had enough material to send him and demonstrate what I can do. And he was really interested, and one thing led to the next, and he decided to hire me to be the sole composer for Battlefront I.

And of course, that was pretty successful as a score. And that led to Battlefront II as well. Both scores were about a year of work each. And so my sole role was as a composer and also orchestrator and producer.

Awesome! And generally speaking, what are the steps in going from “we need you to come up with a whole score” to actually having it complete? 

So with a project like this… the process can be pretty trying but also pretty exciting at the same time. Typically, what I’ll do is coordinate and collaborate with the audio director and figure out exactly — musically — the style for each piece of music in these games, what its purpose is, etc. And then I begin writing. And the writing process for me is very old-fashioned. I still use pencil and paper. And I have guys that work for me that will build synthesized mock-ups of everything I write.

And that’s what we use to sort of demonstrate to the audio director what my ideas are, and they test it in the game. And then once that’s approved, then it would go to EA for approval, then it would go to Disney for approval, and Lucasfilm.

Then at that point, it either gets kicked back to me with revisions or it’s good to go. And then the next step in the line would either be to revise it or start orchestrating. Once I’ve started the orchestrating, getting prepared for the orchestra, it’s usually about a month of work. And then we go to Abbey Road Studios in London with the London Symphony and record the score and mix it, master it, [and] deliver it! So it’s about a year process from start to finish.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 key art. Photo: EA.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 key art. Photo: EA. /

I recently read that Squadrons production was taking place during the early days of quarantine. How did you all have to change gears at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yeah, that was a very interesting process. Because with the Squadrons soundtrack, we actually had recorded about 70% of the score with a full orchestra in Nashville. And so most of the score is, you know, an entire 100-piece orchestra playing at the same time. But then, of course, COVID hit. And the remaining 30% that we had booked to record — in I guess what was about late March, early April last year was when we were going to record the remainder of the score — was no longer possible.  So we had to come up with a solution. And our solution was to coordinate instruments one at a time.


And it’s complete social distancing, as we found a studio in Nashville that had just one room with a separate entrance for the musician and a separate entrance for the engineer, there are only two people present — the engineer on one side of the glass and musician on the other. And in between each musician, we’d have a professional cleaning staff come in and sanitize the whole room so that it was ready for the next player.

We did one instrument per day for about, I think was about 14 days of recording each part for every name that was remaining. And then there was the puzzle of assembly. [The] part that was probably the most difficult/sort of challenging part of that process… taking all of those recordings and piecing them back together and trying to mix it to match the live recorded orchestra so that it would feel like you couldn’t tell the difference. And I think it was pretty successful, to be honest!

Well, just to me (as an amateur), I would have never known. It still sounds great! And, you know, these two games have their own distinct feel. When scoring them, how did you try to get them to be different from one another? 

So I’ve worked on quite a few Star Wars game projects, and each one of them has had a different musical aesthetic that the audio directors were after. Battlefront I, for example… my direction was to write the B-sides to the original albums for the films.

But Battlefront II is very different because there was a single-player component to the game, there were new characters, it has a new storyline. And they sort of gave me — I wouldn’t call it carte blanche — but sort of free rein to create my own aesthetic for that storyline and create new themes for the new characters, etc.

Squadrons, because of the type of game that is — as people say, it’s sort of a flight simulator. It’s exciting; you’re jumping in a TIE fighter; you get to fly around. And it’s like every kids’ dream, at least for my generation, was to be able to get an X-wing and fly around. So the music needed to be sort of exciting in a fast-paced, energy-driven type of score. You know, like with Battlefront II because of the storyline, you add a little more drama. A little more emotion to it. Squadrons was all about fun.

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And what do you love most about working on these games?

What I love most about it is the fact that I grew up with Star Wars. I mean, [it’s] my favorite film franchise. It was the thing I was most into as a kid. I would act out all the scenes with my action figures, and the thing that I really latched on to was the music.

So never in a million years would I ever have thought that the opportunity would be given to me to be able to write music for my favorite film franchise growing up. And so for me, it’s that excitement. It’s sort of like a childlike dream come true. And it’s so much fun to work in the franchise I love so much.

I was going to ask if you had a favorite song to score, but I became more interested to know if you had a favorite type of theme, character or event to score? 

I always am partial to scoring anything that has sort of a high emotion drama. Writing music for Iden Versio’s theme for Battlefront II was probably my favorite thing to do with that score because the character was interesting. There was an arc to the character’s story. And I thought it was a lot of fun to be able to compose music that would sort of enhance and follow that story arc and really kind of hit all the emotional points.

Because she starts out as — and I don’t think we’re worried about spoilers. But I needed a theme that felt like a strong Imperial character’s theme but also had the ability to — over the course of the single-player campaign — for that theme to morph and sort of be reimagined as she sort of transitioned and her arc grew as she became more sort of a Rebel sympathizer. And by the end of the single-player campaign, her theme is still the same, but it’s now gotten a bit more uplifting. So that’s kind of an interesting challenge. But I also really enjoyed doing that.

Great! And do you have any final messages for fans now that all the titles are available for purchase and streaming?

Yeah! My message would be, I hope that you enjoy it. And both soundtracks are available on all streaming platforms. And just a general, a big thank you to the whole community of Star Wars games fans and players. Because a lot of these soundtracks may not have even been released had it not been for an outpouring of desire to have those soundtracks available from the fan base. So that certainly helped. So this one’s for you. And I hope you all enjoy!

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This interview was edited for length and clarity.