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GDC 2009: Interview With Capcom Sound Director Tetsuya Shibata

GDC 2009: Interview With Capcom Sound Director Tetsuya Shibata

March 29, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook GDC 2009: Interview With Capcom Sound Director Tetsuya Shibataon Twitter


[Left to right: Wataru Hokoyama, Jayson Napolitano, Norihiko Hibino, Tommy Kikuchi, Tetsuya Shibata]

Tim’s right when he says its been a long week at GDC. But it’s been a lot of fun too. We were fortunate enough to be able to catch up with Tetsuya Shibata, the Sound Director at Capcom Japan. He made his way to the San Francisco for the sole purpose of being present for the evening’s G.A.N.G. Awards where his vocal theme from Devil May Cry 4 had been nominated in the “Best Vocal – Pop” category.

We briefly discuss Resident Evil 5 and Devil May Cry 4, as well as his other 2008 projects.  We also learn about Shibata’s progression through the audio department at Capcom, and discuss his role in putting the Breath of Fire Special Box together. An interesting discussion is head.

Read our interview with Tetsuya Shibata after the jump.

OSV: We’re here with Shibata-san, Sound Director of Capcom Japan. It’s great to see you here in San Francisco. I know that the team just finished working on Resident Evil 5. I wanted to know how you felt the game turned out, and is everyone over there exhausted?

Shibata: [Laughs] Yeah, tired!

OSV: And how does everyone feel that the work turned out with the audio in Resident Evil 5?

Shibata: Very happy. It took a long time. I wanted to have a recording in LA, and I had to investigate how we could record the Hollywood sound. It was really difficult to realize, just because there are so many things to prepare for the recording beforehand. I was relieved when the files were emailed to me that the sound had worked out.

OSV: Was this your first time being able to record an orchestra for a Capcom title, or did you have experience in the past working with an orchestra?

Shibata: This was the first time in the United States.

OSV: Was this particularly challenging? What were some of the things you had to research for recording an orchestra in the United States?

Shibata: I actually contacted Tommy Kikuchi at Sony Music because they had recorded an orchestra for some previous titles. Do you know AFRIKA?

OSV: Yes, with Hokoyama-san!

Shibata: Yes, he introduced me to Hokoyama-san, actually.

OSV: Oh, very good. And you knew he had experience in film, and from there, he handled orchestration, and already knew the business side of orchestra?

Shibata: Yes.

OSV: Are you guys already busy on the next project, or did you get a break at least?

Shibata: Yeah, we took a break, but we’re not able to say what we’re working on right now!

OSV: So you’re the Capcom Sound Director, so I was hoping you could tell us about some of your responsibilities at Capcom Japan.

Shibata: Oh, as the sound director? [Laughs] A lot! I have to take care of the budget and assign people to work on titles, like we did with Resident Evil 5, and I have to oversee the quality, and basically… everything.

OSV: So how many composers are there in-house at the Capcom Japan team?

Shibata: Hm, about 10 I think.

OSV: Fans of game music are often fans of individual composers. What are the names of some of the composers of the Capcom Japan team?

Shibata: [Laughs] All the names?

OSV: Yeah, the fans want to know these things!

Shibata: Yeah, Kota Suzuki worked on Resident Evil 5, as you know. And he worked on Devil May Cry 4 as well, but I actually can’t tell you all the names, because other companies may try to hire them [Laughs]!

OSV: pLaughs] Okay!  Can you take us through a typical day in the life of Tetsuya Shibata? Are you usually busy with administrative work, or do you get to do some composing? Do you feel your job as sound director doesn’t allow you to write music?

Shibata: Actually, I have to compose on Saturday and Sunday!

OSV: Do you do this in the office or at home?

Shibata: In the office.

OSV: Wow, so seven days a week! So the life of a sound director is always filled with work.

Shibata: Yes.

OSV: And on the weekdays, you’re busy with management and administration?

Shibata: Yes.

OSV: Do you miss being able to compose music more regularly?

Shibata: Yes, I do.

OSV: So you’ve been at Capcom since 1997, and you’ve worked on a lot of projects like Street Fighter III, Powerstone, Biohazard, Devil May Cry, etc., so I’m wondering how you came to work at Capcom, and how your job has changed since you started at the company.

Shibata: First I just wanted to do whatever I could in the music industry. I applied for a lot of regular business companies, and I got some jobs, but I felt it was a different from my goal. So I decided to go back to school take more classes and started doing composing jobs.

OSV: So originally you were a business major, then switched over to music?

Shibata: Well, I actually didn’t get a formal music education, but I did grow up playing piano. I was interested in music, and wanted to give it a try.

OSV: So then you started applying for games. Were you thinking games, or were you trying to go into commercial music? What was your goal in the field of music?

Shibata: I didn’t really care whether it was a game gig or whatever. I just wanted to do something related to music. Some relatives of mine knew some people who introduced me to the videogame industry, and that’s how it happened. As for Capcom, I applied to a bunch of companies and I loved the atmosphere there, so that’s why I worked there.

OSV: Capcom is in Osaka, right?

Shibata: Yeah, it is, actually.

OSV: So far away from busy Tokyo. So how did you job change during your time at Capcom? When did you become Sound Director?

Shibata: Hm… I can’t remember.  I composed for Devil May Cry 2, and I was Sound Director then, too.

OSV: And how did that happen? You came on the team as a composer, and you eventually just fell into the role without an official promotion?

Shibata: So, back in the day, composers were doing everything, including sound design and everything else in audio. I guess because I had been there for awhile, they just started calling me a sound director, and eventually it sort of became official. Over time, I was writing music, then I started doing administration, and now I can only write on the weekends!

OSV: So you’re here in San Francisco because Devil May Cry 4 was nominated for a GANG award. Which category was it?

Shibata: Best Pop Vocal.

OSV: So, congratulations on that. Do you want to comment on the project? There was a large team responsible for the music, so is there something you want to say about the team or the game looking back to last year when it was released?

Shibata: First when I was just doing management stuff for DMC4, the director asked to write a theme song. I said yes, as sure as I could disregard everything I had done in the past for the DMC series.

OSV: So as far as the DMC4 soundtrack, you wrote the vocal theme, and the rest of the team handled the in-game music?

Shibata: Yeah, it was basically a collaboration in that they took stems from my theme track and implemented it into other scenes in the game.

OSV: So Capcom has been busy this year, lots of big titles. Outside of DMC and overseeing work on RE5, what other projects have you been working on this year that are out that you’re able to talk about? Do you oversee all of the music coming out of Capcom Japan?

Shibata: Well, I don’t necessarily direct the entire audio for every game, but I give advice and comment on how the sound should be. I worked on Dead Rising this year as well. I also do a lot of music licensing.

OSV: Did you ever have any involvement with Rockman or the Breath of Fire series?

Shibata: Well, Rockman 9 was all external, but I was responsible for putting together the Breath of Fire Special Box that was released in 2006.

OSV: Oh, so are you a fan of the series? I love Akari Kaida’s music.

Shibata: You know Akari Kaida’s music. It was an interesting project because the music from the original Breath of Fire had never been released on CD. This was true for a lot of the music from Breath of Fire II and III as well. I had to literally locate the backups for these games and have a programmer put in a sound test mode, and I recorded the sound directly from the game!

OSV: That was a really cool thing for Capcom to do. I was sad that some of the music from Breath of Fire III hadn’t made it into the official soundtrack, so I was excited at this news.

Shibata: Yeah, Breath of Fire III has a lot of good music.

OSV: What are your favorite Breath of Fire titles?

Shibata: Probably the first one and III.

OSV: Me too! I’ve found myself enjoying all the odd titles, and not the even ones. I guess this means I won’t enjoy Breath of Fire VI when and if it’s announced.

Shibata: [Laughs] I hope that is not the case!

OSV: So there’s a long history at Capcom with releasing soundtrack albums through the Suleputer label. I’ve been the website and notice they sell all sorts of things other than game music. What is this stuff? Is it a stand-alone record label with pop artists, or is it just Capcom stuff?

Shibata: So, Suleputer doesn’t exclusively sell Capcom stuff. They would like to sell stuff from other artists, but for some reason, it has been mostly Capcom stuff in the past. We need more people to work on this expansion! Do you know where the Suleputer name comes from?

OSV: Yeah, something with Capsule Computer?

Shibata: Yeah, the Cap and Com from Capsule and Computer then the Sule and Puter from Capsule and Computer.

OSV: That’s clever! I’m curious to know what you think. Japanese developers are saying that Japanese game development is falling behind Western game development, so I was wondering if you feel this is true for game audio as well.

Shibata: Nowadays there really isn’t any distinction between the East and West audio-wise. As you said, Capcom is using Hollywood to do the orchestral stuff and foley stuff for sound effects, so now Capcom is saying think globally about the gaming industry, so we’re more aiming towards a Western audience.

OSV: I’m curious, with Biohazard 5, you recorded an orchestra in Los Angeles. I’m curious why you chose Los Angeles over a Japanese orchestra?

Shibata: There are no studios in Japan that can hold a 100 piece orchestra. We were also aiming globally, so we thought it would be appropriate to record a Hollywood orchestra. Also, the sound… the brass in particular sounds completely different than what we can get out of musicians in Japan.

OSV: So will Capcom be looking to use an orchestra more often in their games?

Shibata: Well, it depends on the budget. I record orchestra in Japan, China, and Europe, but it really depends on the game and the budget.

OSV: So I’m curious, you’ve been at Capcom for 12 years now. Is there a Capcom franchise that you’re particularly interested in working on? Maybe you want to work on a Rockman title or something else like that?

Shibata: Actually, I want to make my own game as a producer. I think this would be a fun experience.

OSV: Capcom has been reviving a lot of old franchises with Rockman 9 and Bionic Commando. They’re bringing back these classic Famicom franchises. I’m wondering what your thoughts are regarding how the team can approach these titles in terms of keeping the music fresh while staying true to the original sound or style that the fans grew up with.

Shibata: Basically, classic game lovers know the music, so we try not to change it as much. When we promote the title, we can use new music. We can record a pop artist or something, but when it comes to the in-game music, we need to try to stay true to the original.

OSV: Well, that’s all I have. Thank you for struggling through my long-winded questions. Thank you so much, and good luck at the GANG awards tonight.

Shibata: Thank you.

[Special thanks to Shota Nakama for help with translation]

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