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GDC 2010: Akira Yamaoka Talks Grasshopper Manufacture

March 12, 2010 | | 10 Comments Share thison Facebook GDC 2010: Akira Yamaoka Talks Grasshopper Manufactureon Twitter

Okay, so it took us longer than we expected to get our interview with Akira Yamaoka, but it’s finally here. We had to track him down in person to get it done, but at least we’ve discovered a number of interesting things about his decision to leave Konami and what his role will be at Grasshopper Manufacture moving forward.

Will he contribute to the Silent Hill series in the future? Was he involved with the No More Heroes 2 soundtrack? Will he be working on a follow-up to his solo album, iFUTURELIST? And what will his first major project be at Grasshopper Manufacture?

Find out in our interview after the jump!

OSV: Hello Yamaoka-san. So the biggest news with you is that you recently left Konami after working there for many years to join Grasshopper Manufacture. How did you come to this decision?

Yamaoka: It was actually surprising to me that this was such big news. In America, it seems pretty common for people to move around between companies. I’ve always loved Grasshopper games, and I’ve known Suda-san in private, as we have gone out drinking often. That’s how I ended up joining.

OSV: Even though composers in the United States do move around a lot, they’re usually freelance. So when you left Konami, I thought, “Oh, he must be going freelance.” A lot of composers have left major companies lately in Japan and gone freelance. That’s why it was so surprising that you joined Grasshopper. Did you ever consider going freelance, or were you immediately settled on Grasshopper Manufacture?

Yamaoka: I never really considered going freelance because I’m not really interested in doing a large variety of styles of music. There are particular kinds of music I want to do, and I wanted to join Grasshopper to put some musical force into their projects and add something a little more artistic.

OSV: Over the years, you’ve also built a name for yourself as a game producer as well as a composer. Can we expect to see you producing games at Grasshopper Manufacture, or will you only be working on music?

Yamaoka: I’m definitely interested in doing some production later on, but not right now. I think my main strength is music, and I want focus on that for now. I feel like I’m destined for this path.

OSV: Do you feel that as you took on more responsibilities as a producer at Konami, you had less time available to write music, and did this factor into your decision to leave?

Yamaoka: That’s not the case at all. I actually had a lot of time to work on other things at Konami, and I wasn’t particularly overworked. I actually feel I have a responsibility to help the next generation of game developers, and I think that was part of the reason why I took on producing games.

OSV: A big questions that your fans have is what will happen to the Silent Hill series in your absence. You’ve acted as the series producer for the core series in the past, and the composer for even longer. What do you think will happen to the series, and can we expect to see you moonlighting over at Konami to work on the Silent Hill series in the future?

Yamaoka: It’s not like I dislike the franchise now that I’m not at Konami, so if they ask me to contribute, I’ll definitely consider it.

OSV: You’ve said in the past that you’re the only person who can write music for Silent Hill, and the day you’re willing to turn it over to another composer is the day that Silent Hill has changed so much from its original vision that it’s no longer Silent Hill in your mind. Has the series reached this point? Are you ready to hand off the torch?

Yamaoka: I think the franchise is following its path. I wouldn’t try to keep anyone from working on the game’s music whether or not the series had changed.

OSV: Who is currently on the music team staff at Grasshopper Manufacture? We know that Takada-san left some time ago to go freelance, but Fukuda-san is still in the department. Are you looking forward to collaborating with the team, and what is your role in the department?

Yamaoka: There are four members of the audio team including me, and I’m the director of the sound team.

OSV: So you’re the audio director, Fukuda-san is a composer, and the other two members are sound designers?

Yamaoka: Right. The other two don’t do any main composing, but mostly sound design.

OSV: Did you contribute any music for the recent release of No More Heroes 2? We had heard that you contributed some music, but you joined so late that you weren’t included in the credits.

Yamaoka: Yes, I contributed one track to the game.

OSV: Do you recall which track it was? I just finished the game, and would love to know which one.

Yamaoka: Well, it’s actually credited, but not under my name.

OSV: Like a pseudonym?

Yamaoka: Yes.

OSV: You guys need to put out a soundtrack release! So you’ve said on a number of occasions that game development in Japan is lagging far behind the United States and the West. Do you think you’ll be able to work towards changing this trend by working with Grasshopper?

Yamaoka: Yeah, well, mainly I think Grasshopper is unique and can offer something that nobody else in Japan or in the West can offer.

OSV: Will this move perhaps open your schedule up to working on another solo album in the near future? We’re huge fans of iFURTURIST, so when will we hear a follow-up?

Yamaoka: Hm, I would definitely like to do it…

OSV: [Laughs] When?!

Yamaoka: [Laughs] Well, it would be very difficult to do it this year. Maybe next year.

OSV: We know you’re already busily working away on new projects, but would you like to tell us your favorite games that Grasshopper has created?

Yamaoka: Killer 7.

OSV: What about No More Heroes?

Yamaoka: Of course I like it.

OSV: You’re not just saying that because you just joined the company?

Yamaoka: I think it’s great because there aren’t any other titles like it on the Wii. It’s challenging.

OSV: Can you tell us about title you’re working on at this time? We’ve been told you’re working on the music for a game that’s being published by EA. Can you tell us about the musical direction at this time, or how much music you’ll be writing?

Yamaoka: I’m doing the sound design and composing for this title, and it’s not determined at this point what direction I’ll go, but later on I’ll have a more solid idea of what it’s going to be.

OSV: Do you have a message for your fans?

Yamaoka: I feel my fans are much closer than before thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and these kinds of online tools. I would definitely like to have them closer. I hope my next series will be as big as the past projects I’ve worked on like Silent Hill, so please look forward to it!

OSV: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We wish you the best of luck on this new phase of your career!

Yamaoka: Thank you!

[Special thanks to Naoko Mori at Grasshopper Manufacture for coordinating this interview and to Shota Nakama for translation]

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