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Comic Con 2010: Square Enix Music Department Update With Izumi Tsukushi

Comic Con 2010: Square Enix Music Department Update With Izumi Tsukushi

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[From left to right: Akio Shiraishi and Izumi Tsukushi]

Comic Con 2010 has come and gone, and as tradition would have it, we were once again able to catch up with Square Enix’s Music Licensing Division head Izumi Tsukushi and as well marketing and promotions manager Akio Shiraishi to catch up on recent and upcoming happenings from Square Enix’s music department. After a year of steady releases and rumors that the department was shutting down, we were definitely looking forward to getting answers straight from the source.

So, what is the current state of the music department at Square Enix? Will we be getting a NieR lyric book, a Front Mission anniversary box, a Mitsuda-centric “drammatica” album, or a Final Fantasy I-III piano collections album? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our interview after the jump.

OSV: Hello Tsukushi-san and Shiraishi-san, it’s good to see you both again.

The first question we have is that in December of last year, Hamauzu-san left the department followed by Tanioka-san. This was followed by rumors that the Square Enix’s music department was disbanding. I know that that was a rumor and wasn’t necessarily true, but has there been any sort of restructuring or changes in the department that did occur around that time?

Tsukushi: Actually, nothing has changed.

OSV: So basically a few composers left the department, and that was all?

Tsukushi: Yes.

OSV: We’ve been seeing regular music releases from Square Enix on a monthly basis. Has it been your goal to put something out every month for the fans?

Shiraishi: We’re actually not releasing anything in August, but yes, our goal is to continue to provide new releases every month so more people have access to our music.

OSV: I know there’s a backlog of Digicube releases that haven’t been released on Square Enix’s label. Are there releases that you’re still looking forward to getting to?

Tsukushi: As you mentioned, there is definitely a backlog of releases that haven’t been released under the Square Enix label, but the team is really trying to close that gap and make sure as much is available to fans as possible. Some albums, such as the recently released SaGa Frontier 2 Piano Collections, we were able to release that in conjunction with Hamauzu-san’s Final Fantasy XIII Piano Collections CD. We’ve been trying to get albums out that way, but other releases, the content is either a little too old for today’s tastes or contractually, we’re unable to bring some of it out. But we’re working hard to make sure everything is available eventually.

OSV: If you each had to pick one CD from the Digicube catalog that has not been published under the Square Enix label, which release would it be?

Tsukushi: Final Fantasy X Vocal Collection.

Shiraishi: I don’t think it was Digicube, but I’d really like to see the re-release of the Parasite Eve soundtrack. [Editor's Note: it was Digicube]

OSV: Those are both great picks, and we’re hoping those get re-released as well. You mentioned the Final Fantasy XIII Piano Collections that just came out. We’ve seen the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack, the Original Soundtrack -PLUS-, and now the Piano Collections CD. Are there plans to release more CDs based on Final Fantasy XIII’s music?

Shiraishi: We have plans to release the Final Fantasy XIII drama CD.

OSV: Is that the same CD in the Final Fantasy XIII Limited Edition?

Shiriashi: No, it’s the next story.

OSV: Oh, I see. A new one. So those are the only plans for now.

Shiraishi: Actually, two drama CDs.

OSV: Wow. Too bad I can’t enjoy those in English. [Laughs]

I wanted to talk about Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. There were some new tracks written for the game by Sekito-san, I believe. I wanted to ask you if you’d consider, or rather, beg you, to include these tracks as bonuses on one of your sampler CDs or something.

Tsukushi: Well, maybe next year.

OSV: Is the TGS sampler CD already finalized at this point?

Shiraishi: We’re going to have somewhere between 6-8 tracks, but we’re still going over the details.

OSV: Well, we’d love to see The After Years tracks because they were really good, and they’re not currently available to fans.

Tsukushi: Yes.

OSV: I wanted to ask a follow-up question to something we were told at E3 a couple months ago. We were asking about whether or not Square Enix planned to publish Garry Schyman’s soundtrack for Front Mission Evolved. Are you going to be publishing the soundtrack as a standalone release, and more importantly, are you planning a Front Mission 15th anniversary box set similar to what we saw with the SaGa series?

Tsukushi: Hm…

OSV: Was it supposed to be a surprise?

Shiraishi: Did you hear that it was going to be a box with all the soundtracks of past Front Mission titles?

OSV: We actually weren’t given any details. I was hoping you could tell us about it.

Tsukushi: It’s still not confirmed as to what kind of format we’re going to release it in, whether it’s going to be a box with all the different soundtracks or not. While we don’t have a release date confirmed, we are trying to create a compilation of past Front Mission titles so that everything is available in one place.

OSV: Are we going to see a separate Front Mission Evolved soundtrack release?

Tsukushi: It would probably be a part of the collection. We’re not planning a separate Front Mission Evolved soundtrack.

OSV: Okay. Well, we were hoping you could tell us who’s writing the music for the recently announced Final Fantasy Legends.

Tsukushi: Naoshi Mizuta will be the composer of Final Fantasy Legends.

OSV: Okay, so Mizuta-san will be doing the music. Good to hear. I had a question about the iTunes releases back at the end of last year that were compilations of original compositions from the Square Enix staff. How did the idea for these albums come about, and did fans respond to them?

Tsukushi: They were iTunes release as you mentioned, so they didn’t get the explosive reaction that they would have received if they had been released physically. But we received a lot of feedback from fans who enjoyed the compilation.

OSV: I also wanted to ask about NieR. This was a great soundtrack, and a huge surprise. We heard some rumblings that there may be a NieR soundtrack lyrics book. We were wondering if this was in the works, and when we’ll see it available if it is.

Tsukushi: So there’s a complete guide for NieR that they sell at Kinokuniya. That has one of the songs in it with all of the lyrics. Otherwise, there are no plans to come out with a lyrics book with the rest of the songs because the director of NieR, Yoko-san, he wanted to make sure fans didn’t familiarize themselves with the words because the lyrics were all sung in a distinct language unique to the world of NieR. He wanted it to remain different.

OSV: Last year I asked if there were any plans to do a similar album to drammatica with another former composer of Square Enix. You mentioned that you’d love to do a project like this with Mitsuda-san. Has there been any progress on a project like this?

Tsukushi: It will be a little longer before we can explain all the details to you, but something is in the works. Watch for it.

OSV: I also wanted to ask about the SQ series. We got Love SQ and Chill SQ, so I was wondering if you could tell us what musical style you’ll be exploring next?

Shiraishi: We have plans for more SQ albums. Maybe it will be released this Winter.

OSV: So we’ll see Dance SQ and Rock SQ? [Laughs]

Shiraishi: [Laughs] It’s a work in progress, so we can’t really say right now.

OSV: How did these albums come about? Many of these artists are artists we have not heard of before.

Shriaishi: The original Love SQ was formed from a collaboration between the music team and a record store owner. The store owner actually brought all these artists together from his connections. Chill SQ continued the same tradition. We’re not necessarily trying to work with famous artists, but rather artists who have a passion for Square Enix music. So that’s how it got started.

OSV: Well, they’re both great CDs, so we’re looking forward to more. If I can ask since we just saw the release of Piano Collections FINAL FANTASY XIII, fans notice that there are some gaps in Final Fantasy titles that got piano collections albums. Are there any plans to do a piano collections album for Final Fantasy I – III or Final Fantasy XII?

Shiraishi: There are no plans to come out with those piano collections for now. Especially in terms of Final Fantasy XII, there are no plans in the works. But I think it’s an interesting idea for Final Fantasy I – III given how popular those soundtracks are. It might not have individual CDs for each game, but rather a single CD featuring piano music from the first three titles. That’s a good idea.

OSV: Please! We noticed that you’re continuing the Square Enix Battle compilations. Most of what we’ve seen so far as Squaresoft battle themes. Are there any plans to go into the Enix side and bring in some battle themes from those games?

Tsukushi: The idea is definitely there, but right now our focus is to find out when the best time is to come out with these albums. What battle tracks would you like to see? What are your favorite Enix battle themes?

OSV: Hm, that’s really tough. Even though they’re not specifically battle themes, music from Actraiser is great.

Tsukushi: [Laughs] Actraiser!

OSV: I know it’s always difficult with Dragon Quest music given that Sugiyama-san keeps the rights to the music, but that’s great stuff as well. I was actually more of a Squaresoft fan growing up myself, but I know there are a lot of fans of old Enix titles that want to hear these battle themes as well. You should run a poll to select the tracks for the Enix side.

So, to go back to the SaGa series box set, did you see this release as a success, and are there plans to visit any other Square Enix franchises aside from Front Mission?

Tsukushi: We definitely feel that the SaGa box set was a success. We’d like to try this for future titles as well. The thing is, we don’t want to just bring together songs as a simple collection, box it up, and release it. With the SaGa box, it was the 20th anniversary of the series. So we want to find a special occasion for a series and make it like a special present for the fans. So we’re always open to ideas, and want to work on more stuff like this in the future.

OSV: The Final Fantasy soundtrack box! 50 CDs! [Laughs]

All: [Laughs]

Tsukushi: I’ll get working on that!

OSV: Even though Final Fantasy XI has been out for a long time, we’re still getting albums related to the series. We just saw the 8th anniversary album. Are there plans for more albums featuring music from Final Fantasy XI, and will we see more of the Play Online music released in the future like we saw on this album?

Shiraishi: We’re definitely thinking about coming out with more music releases for the series as long as it continues. As far as the Play Online music, this was the 8th anniversary collection, so we thought in order to look back at the past 8 years, it was important to include that music from the earlier days. We also took an online poll, and fans wanted to hear that music, so that’s why it was included. There aren’t any plans to release a CD with only Play Online music, but if fans really wanted to hear it, we’d love to include it in future releases as well.

OSV: Lastly, is there something we should be looking forward to from Square Enix music throughout the rest of the year? What are you two most excited about?

Shiraishi: We have a new CD line-up. There will be four CDs released in September.

OSV: So four CDs in September to make up for nothing in August?

All: [Laughs]

Shiraishi: There will be the Square Enix Battle Volume 2, Volume 3, one of the Final Fantasy XIII drama CDs, and Symphonic Fantasies.

OSV: Oh yeah, we’re very excited about the Symphonic Fantasies CD. While I wasn’t at the concert personally, I watched the live feed online.

Tsukushi: Yes, the one with Thomas Boecker and the WDR orchestra.

Shiraishi: That will be out on September 15. We also have some other surprises, possibly for September, but we can’t say what it is right now. We’ll be announcing some new albums on July 30. [Editor's Note: This was, of course, the Final Fantasy XIV battle and field albums]

OSV: Well, we’ll be looking forward to that. I want to thank you both for your time, and wish you the best of luck with sales here at Comic Con. Thanks again, and I’ll look forward to talking to you next year!

Tsukushi: Thank you!

Shriashi: Thank you!

[Special thanks to Amelia Cantlay at Square Enix for translation during the interview]

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