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Masashi Hamauzu Talks Final Fantasy XIII and MONOMUSIK

September 28, 2010 | | 10 Comments Share thison Facebook Masashi Hamauzu Talks Final Fantasy XIII and MONOMUSIKon Twitter

It’s old news that Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu has left Square Enix, but he hasn’t been in any hurry to tell the world about his new studio, MONOMUSIK.  We still have no idea what Hamauzu has been up to since his departure aside from the Donkey Kong Country arrangement he created for Symphonic Legends, but we thought we would ask him what he was up to and talk about his amazing work on Final Fantasy XIII at some length.  In fact, quite a great length.

While I normally wouldn’t bother going into this kind of detail, I do need to explain something before you read this, as some of the questions will sound very odd if I don’t.  We wrote the majority of these questions back in November of 2009 before Hamauzu had left Square Enix.  After his departure, we got in touch and added more questions.  While he was busily working on our massive list of questions, the PLUS soundtrack and Piano Collections albums were released and announced, respectively, so we had to add even more questions.  That’s why we ask him about the music heard in the game’s demo and the limited edition version of the original sound as neither were released at the time!

But enough my rambling!  Hit the jump for the interview.

OSV: Hamauzu-san, thanks for taking the time away from your busy schedule speak with us about your work on Final Fantasy XIII and your new studio, MONOMUSIK.

Can you tell us what went into your decision to leave Square Enix, and what you hope to accomplish with MONOMUSIK? As it stands right now, is MONOMUSIK simply your personal studio? Will you be adding additional music staff in the future?

Hamauzu: It is not that I wanted to get away from Square-Enix or game music at all. I just wanted to expand my field, and I wanted to give inputs to the game music in different ways. MONOMUSIK is my personal studio, so I am not planning to add more staff at this point.

OSV: You have many years behind you with Square Enix. Now that you are freelance, do you still hope to work with Square Enix on future titles? Do you already have plans to work with other developers that you’re able to talk about at this time?

Hamauzu: I think I am suited for the Square-Enix stuff which I definitely would love to work on if I have a chance. I cannot really talk about anything right now but I am working on some stuff.

OSV: Much of your work at Square Enix has been specifically for Japanese RPGs. Do you hope to write music for games that are not RPGs now that you’re working on a freelance basis? Perhaps something very different such as a racing game or a puzzle game?

Hamauzu: I do not care what kind of genre or media it is as long as my style is suitable for it and people want my sound. In this industry, you have to adjust yourself for all kinds of situations. In that sense my stance is the same as it was when I was in Square Enix.

OSV: Final Fantasy XIII is not only your most recent project, but also your biggest project to date, so I was hoping you could tell us how you were approached to work on the project and how it was decided you’d be working on it alone.

Hamauzu: One day all of the sudden I got the offer out of nowhere and it was such a surprise. I had not even really met the director yet. I actually have not asked the reason why he chose me, but I guess the producer listened to my past orchestral works and it seems like he liked those.

OSV: You’ve long been known for your use of classical piano and strings to create your own signature sound. When you started work on Final Fantasy XIII, what direction were you given in terms of the how the music should sound? From what we’ve heard, it sounds like you’ve been given the freedom to incorporate your own style into the soundtrack.

I was given the idea, an orchestral and futuristic hybrid sound. They gave me a lot of freedom, but I think the music became a hybrid naturally as I was matching its world.

OSV: Please share with us your experience working on such a massive title with such a big budget. Were you able to accomplish what you set out to do? Are there any moments in the creation of the soundtrack that are particularly memorable to you that you’d like to share?

Hamauzu: I would think “I wish I did this” for any titles afterwards, but that did not happen with the FFXIII soundtrack. There are so many memorable moments, and the satisfaction from everyday work toward the end of the development is particularly memorable for me.

OSV: You were able to record a studio track with Sayuri Sugawara for the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack. Previous Final Fantasy titles have always featured high-quality vocal themes, so we were hoping you could tell us about this experience and how you feel about the final product.

Hamauzu: For that song, I just composed the base of the song to let her know the musical direction, and I left the rest up to her producer/arranger. On the other hand, I arranged the BGM version of it. The song sounds like it is made by a totally different person for its usage and how the arrangements were made. The song sung by Sugawara san might not feel like my sound, but I think the song functions well in the context. I made the BGM version rather freely. I am really satisfied with it and, among all the pieces on the soundtrack, it is my favorite.

OSV: We have to ask your opinion on the decision to use Leona Lewis’s “My Hands” as the theme song for FFXIII in America and Europe as opposed to the theme sung by Sayuri Sugawara.

Hamauzu: That is the singer Square-Enix found for the American and European version of the game. I only checked who it was. I think they thought she was suitable based on the flow of the game.

OSV: In terms of Final Fantasy, you last contributed some amazing pieces to Final Fantasy X. Can you tell us about how that experience differed from your work on Final Fantasy XIII, and whether or not FFX prepared you for FFXIII? Did you feel a lot of pressure being responsible for the game’s entire soundtrack?

Hamauzu: There was a bigger pressure than before because all the responsibilities were on myself. I don’t consider FF10 being a preparation for FF13, but I would assume that there would have been even a bigger pressure if I had not worked on FF10.

OSV: I wanted to ask about some specific pieces. We’re already intimately familiar with your battle theme, “Blinded by Light,” which works in rock elements with a drum set and electric guitars alongside your signature orchestral sound. Can you tell us about the music writing process for this track? Was it a particularly challenging piece to write?

Hamauzu: I made the basic structure of the piece just with the orchestral sounds, and later I added the rock taste later and tweaked the balance. I carefully planned the schedule and adjusted the music because this song was the music for PV at this game event where FF13 was revealed.

OSV: The boss theme we heard in the game’s demo was also quite impressive, focusing on a more epic string progression, and even passing moments with some beautiful high-pitched piano notes. What can you tell us about this track?  Why do you think it is that fans obsess so much over battle themes?

Hamauzu: Thank you very much. I think you are talking about “Saber’s Edge.” I actually have never spoke about this elsewhere – “Saber’s Edge” is a very important piece yet its motif is not used in any other pieces in the game and it does not contain the motif from the other pieces either. I think in a way this piece is a very unique one in FFXIII.

OSV: There are a number of really interesting characters in Final Fantasy XIII from what we’ve seen so far. What can you tell us about the creation of the character themes, including Sazh’s very unique theme using harmonica? Was there a particular theme that you enjoyed working on the most?

Hamauzu: Since the genres and formats are totally different, I was able to switch myself well for all the character themes. Sazh does not have a motif in his theme, but intentionally I tried to imply with the sound. The blues harp song “Afro Blues” was based on a motif initially. I asked for more improvisation and, when we were about to record it, the motif was gone (Laughs) I probably enjoyed his theme the best.

OSV: We’re also very fond of your take on the Chocobo’s theme. What can you tell us about the creation of your two Chocobo pieces, and how did you approach writing them given how much history is behind this track?

Hamauzu: I mainly just supervised and directed those two Chocobo themes, and the arrangements were done by my longer term colleagues, Toru Tabui and Ryo Yamazaki. I made “Pulse de Chocobo” with Tabui in a session. I suddenly changed the groove and chords completely at the last minute, but he gave so many great ideas and did the recording without getting frustrated with the sudden change. I really had fun. Ryo Yamazaki is the same way. He instantly understood what I had in my mind. Also for those two songs, the director, Toriyama san, had a vivid image. He told us the basic style of the songs and thus we did not have to struggle with the direction. I am glad that I was surrounded by very powerful staff.

OSV: What we’ve heard so far on the official soundtrack website sounds quite impressive. Can you tell us what sorts of tools you’re using to create this music? Are there any live recordings featured in the game? Perhaps you played some live piano?

Hamauzu: Of course I used a lot of live instruments. I think there are only a few tracks where I did not use any. I do not play instruments to record normally, but I did record myself playing the accordion and a wind instrument. The main tools that I use are Digital Performer, orchestral samples by East West, and some standard software synth by Native Instruments.

OSV: What can you tell us about the limited edition soundtrack set? What do fans have to look forward to from the drama CD, and will it feature new original music or just material from the OST?

Hamauzu: The drama CD uses the pieces from the actual game. There are no exclusive to drama CD pieces.

OSV: We recently listened to the Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack PLUS album. What went into the decision to put this release together, and do you have any comments for fans in the West who might not understand the concept behind this album?

Hamauzu: We had a lot of outtakes such as PV songs, the pieces that had different lengths, and North America/Europe version. We made a list of those thinking it may be worthwhile to create an extra CD, and the list added up to one CD size. I think this CD represents how huge FFXIII was and the diversity in the musical direction.

OSV: We know that you’ve collaborated with Aki Kuroda (pianist, Final Fantasy X) for Final Fantasy XIII. Was it easier to arrange this piano collection compared to FFX since FFXIII was composed by you, whereas FFX also had music from Uematsu and Nakano for you to arrange as well?

Hamauzu: FF10 Piano Collection got a pretty good review, so first there was a pressure that I had to make something at least comparable. However, the collaboration experience was huge and I felt very secure because I somehow knew Kuroda san can handle that level of difficulty. Kuroda san perfectly understood my intention for the pieces and played. So to answer the question, it was easy to work.

OSV: To talk about some of your past work briefly, on your solo album, Vielen Dank, we noticed that the second half of the album was dedicated to piano arrangements of pieces you had previously written for games, but “Eisblauer Himmel” and “Die Wahrheit” were not credited to any game. What are these songs from? Were they perhaps unused FFX or FFXIII tracks? What can you tell us about these?

Hamauzu: No, those are completely original material. Both are representations of my feelings and how I am for my life work, researching the northern ethnic group. (More details are in the liner notes).

OSV: A lot of game music concerts are coming out of Germany lately, particularly thanks to Thomas Boecker and the WDR Orchestra. Do you think you will have your music performed in Germany or in Europe sometime soon?

Hamauzu: It is just one piece, but my arrangement will be performed very soon. I am not sure if I can reveal the details from my side, so please wait for Mr. Boecker’s announcement. [Editor’s Note: Hamauzu was of course referring to his Donkey Kong Country arrangement from the Symphonic Legends concert].

OSV: Your work tends to be very “thematic.” In SaGa Frontier 2, many pieces were variations of the same main theme. Again, in Final Fantasy XIII, the melody for “Serah’s Theme” was used in over 10 tracks of the soundtrack. This sort of composing and rearranging is typical for game music, but it seems you are very good at using the same melody and making it “feel” different for different scenarios. What part of your musical training made you so fluent in this sort of “variation on a theme” style?

Hamauzu: As I was a kid, I would listen to so much Anime music which I felt was very effective and beautiful. I think that has a lot to do with it. FFXIII has a lot of different sounds and formats for its music, so I used the motifs in a lot of places to have consistency.

Also for the motif from the repeat part of “Prelude” is an image of a crystal, and the Bilge Lake theme has the same motif as it is filled with crystals. Perhaps people might not notice. However, I wanted to make them feel the world rather than recognizing it.

OSV: For years, many game music critics have likened your work to that of impressionist composers Debussy and Ravel. Have you studied their work, and do you enjoy the great music they’ve composed?

Hamauzu: Actually I have not listened to Debussy as much, and for Ravel, I never really had a chance to touch his music. For Debussy’s music, maybe it is because I was listening to it as my mother was giving piano lessons to her students when I was little.  Rather, they were both influenced by the composers whom I was influenced by and that is probably why. Also being able to control a wide range of harmony is a huge thing for composers. There was a time when I was trying to search for voicings on a keyboard desperately.

OSV: There are those who have “come before you” in that they were in Square (Square Enix), wrote music for well-known titles, and then became freelance. Chief among them are Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, and Yoko Shimomura. After you left, many other Square Enix Music staff also announced their departure. What is your opinion of composers working “in-house” versus “freelance”? Is it always better to be a freelance composer, as some say, or do you think there are good reasons for a composer to remain with one company?

Hamauzu: I think there are many differences. Freelancers have freedom to choose gigs and have a better chance to keep the rights to their music, which is the basic premise of composers. On the other hand, employees have a stable income and that is big.

OSV: Having worked at Squaresoft and now Square Enix for so many years, you likely have fond memories of the many projects you’ve contributed to and the staff members you’ve worked with over the years. We’ve also read that you joined Squaresoft after being impressed with their Final Fantasy series.

Would you like to comment on your favorite musical moments in the history of Squaresoft and Square Enix, and tell us, with the exception of Final Fantasy XIII, what your favorite Final Fantasy game and soundtrack are?

Hamauzu: My strongest memory would be when I was working on Saga Frontier 2. I struggled with whether I should put more of my personality in or not, and at one point I was completely unable to work. In the end, I chose to put it in. I learned that it has a huge meaning to let yourself out. It was a turning point for myself and I think eventually that led me to FF13.

Although I have forgotten a lot about those games, my favorite FF games would be 3 and 10.

OSV: Many of your works with Square Enix did *not* have arranged soundtracks. Of the games you worked on that never had an arranged album, what is one you would like to “revisit” and arrange someday?

Hamauzu: There were many that I wanted to arrange for the piano, but I think I successfully concluded it with Vielen Dank. For now there is not much I would like to arrange for the piano. I wanted to make a destructive version of a FF13 piano collection, though.

OSV: Hamauzu-san, thank you again for your time. Congratulations on completing starting up monomusik! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

[Special thanks to Shota Nakama for translating, for the team at MONOMUSIK for coordinating this interview, and to Masashi Hamauzu for answering our endless list of questions!]


FF13はこれまで浜渦さんが手掛けた作品の中で最も大きな作品でした。 先ず最初にお訪ねしたいのですが、どういった経緯でこの作品の音楽を単独で手掛ける事になったのでしょうか?

Hamauzu: ある日突然、何の前触れも無くお話が来たので驚いたものでした。それまでディレクターともほとんど話した事がなかったので、実ははっきりとした理由は聞いていないのですが、プロデューサーに私の過去の作品やオーケストラ系の曲にいい印象を持っていただいていたようではあります。

OSV:どうしてスクエニから去ることを決めたんでしょうか、そしてMONOMUSIKではどういった事をしていきたいですか? 今のところMONOMUSIKは浜渦さん個人のスタジオと解釈して宜しいんでしょうか? 将来的に音楽のスタッフを足していくことは考えているんでしょうか。


OSV:浜渦さんは多くの年月をスクエニで過ごしてきました。 今後はフリーランスとして活動されますが、これからもスクエニの作品を手掛けたいと思っていますか? スクエニ以外でも既に決まっている仕事で、何か話して頂ける事はありますか?

Hamauzu: スクエニのお仕事は自分に向いていると思いますし、できればまたやりたいですね。スクエニ以外の仕事で今現在はっきりとお話しできるものはまだはありませんが、いくつかの仕事はしています。

OSV:これまで浜渦さんが携わった作品の殆どが日本のRPGですが、フリーランスになったので今後はRPG以外のゲームの手掛けたいと思いますか? レーシングゲームやパズルゲーム等、全く違ったものはどうでしょうか。


OSV:クラシックピアノと弦楽器で創られる独特なサウンドで浜渦さんは長く知られています。 FF13の作曲を始めた時にスクエニから音楽的な方向性の指示はあったんでしょうか? 私達が今まで聞いた話によると、割と自由に浜渦さんのスタイルで、という感じだったようですが。


OSV:この様なサイズも予算も巨大な作品に携わった事から経験談を聞かせて下さい。 音楽的にやりたかった事は実現しましたか? サントラ制作の中で特に記憶に残っている出来事等はありますか?
Hamauzu: どんなタイトルでも「もう少しこうしたかった」というのは後になって出てくるものですが、FFXIIIはほとんどなかったですね。記憶に残る出来事はたくさんありましたが、佳境にさしかかってからの毎日の充実感が一番印象に残っています。

OSV:FF13では菅原紗由理さんとスタジオで「君がいるから」をレコーディングされました。 これまでのFF作品でもいつも非常に質の高いボーカル曲がフィーチュアされていましたが、この菅原さんとのボーカル曲について何か聞かせて下さい。 仕上がりには満足されていますか?

Hamauzu:菅原さんの歌については私は方向性を伝える原曲を作ったのみで、あとは彼女のプロデューサーでもあるアレンジャーに全て任せました。一方でBGMとしてのボーカル曲は自分でアレンジしました。 その曲その曲の立ち位置や制作過程によって、全く別人が作ったもののように聴こえるかと思います。菅原さんの曲は浜渦らしさがないように感じられると思いますが、その立ち位置としてはしっかり役割を果たしたのではないかと思います。


Hamauzu: スクウェア・エニックスが調整して欧米版に合う歌手を探してきてくれたものです。基本的には私は確認をしただけなのですが、ゲームの流れを尊重したものになったのではないかと思います。

OSV:FFシリーズでは、FF10に素晴らしい曲を幾つか提供なされました。 あの時の経験と今回のFF13での経験ではどういった違いがありましたか? FF10の仕事がFF13への準備になったという感じでしょうか。 やはりこういった大作の音楽を手掛ける事に大きなプレッシャーを感じていましたか?


OSV:特定の曲についてお訪ねしたいと思います。 ドラムやエレキギター等のロック要素を浜渦さん独特のオーケストラサウンドと融合させたバトル曲「Flash Blinded by Light」がありますが、この曲はどういった課程で創り上げていったのでしょうか? 同曲の作曲は困難でしたか?


OSV:私達がデモ版で聴いたボスのテーマ曲は、壮大な弦パートや現代音楽風のピアノフレーズ等が入っていたり、とても素晴らしかったです。 この曲に関して何かお話を頂けますか? デモ版から正規版のリリースまでに何か変更した事はありますか? どうしてFFファンはバトル曲に非常に拘りがあるんだと思いますか?


OSV:FF13には数多くの興味深いキャラクターが存在します。 ハーモニカを使ったサッズのテーマを等、それぞれのキャラクターのテーマ曲について聞かせて下さい。 特に楽しんで創れたテーマ曲はありましたか?

OSV:私達は浜渦さんが編曲されたチョコボのテーマが大のお気に入りです。 今回チョコボのテーマは全部で2曲ありますが、その2曲についての逸話等を聞かせて下さい。 とても長い歴史のあるテーマですが、どの様な作曲のアプローチをされましたか?


OSV:オフィシャルサントラ特設サイトで視聴出来る音源はどれも素晴らしい曲ばかりです。 浜渦さんが楽曲製作に使用されているソフトや機材を教えて下さい。 サントラでは生楽器も使用されていますか? ピアノはご自身で演奏されましたか?

Hamauzu:もちろん生楽器はたくさん使っています。生楽器が全くない曲はわずかだったと思います。私は基本的には自分で演奏しませんが、アコーディオンや笛は自分で演奏したものを収録しました。普段使用しているのはシーケンサーがDigital Performer、音源はEAST WEST社のオーケストラ音源やNATIVE INSTRUMENTS社の定番のソフトシンセが中心です。

OSV:限定版サントラについて何かお話を頂けますか? あとドラマCDからはどういった事が期待出来るんでしょうか? 音楽はゲームのサントラを使うのですか、それともドラマCD用のオリジナル曲があるのでしょうか?


OSV:最近「FF13 Original Soundtrack PLUS」を聴きました。 このアルバムの発売に至った理由とは何でしょうか。 欧米のファンはこのアルバムのコンセプトをまだ知らないと思うので、コンセプトの紹介をお願いします。


OSV:「FF13 ピアノコレクション」ではピアニストの黒田亜樹さんと再びコラボされました。 今回は浜渦さんご自身の曲をピアノ用に編曲されましたが、植松さんと仲野さんの楽曲を編曲した「FF10ピアノコレクション」と比べるとやりやすかったですか?


OSV:浜渦さんの過去作品について少しお伺いします。 ソロアルバム「Vielen Dank」のアルバム後半は過去に浜渦さんがゲーム用に書いた曲をピアノ用に編曲されていましたが、「Eisblauer Himmel」と「Die Wahrheit」にはゲームタイトルがクレジットされていませんでした。 この2曲はどのゲームからの曲なんでしょうか? もしかしてFF10で未使用だった曲などでしょうか?


OSV:浜渦さんはドイツで音楽を勉強されました。 特にトーマスボエッカー氏とケルンWDR交響楽団のおかげで、ここ最近ドイツでは多くのゲーム音楽コンサートが開催されています。 浜渦さんの音楽がドイツやヨーロッパで演奏される事はあるんでしょうか?


OSV:浜渦さんの作品は「主題的」になる傾向が高いと思います。 「サガフロンティア2」では多くの楽曲は同じ主題の変奏曲でした。 今回のFF13でもセラのテーマのメロディーは10曲以上で使用されています。 この手法での作曲と編曲はゲーム音楽では一般的ですが、浜渦さんは特に同じ旋律を使いつつも全く違う感じの曲に仕上げるのが非常に巧いと思います。 どういった音楽トレーニングから変奏曲スタイルを学んだんでしょうか?


OSV:ゲーム音楽評論家達は浜渦さんの作品をドビュッシーやラヴェル等の印象主義音楽と比べてきました。 彼らの作品をこれまでに勉強されましたか? そして彼らの素晴らしい音楽をよく聴いているんでしょうか。


OSV:スクエニからは浜渦さんと同じく大作を手掛けられた後にフリーランスになった音楽家が存在します。 代表的な例としては植松さん、光田さん、下村さんがいらっしゃいます。 浜渦さんがスクエニを退社した後、他にも多くの作曲家の方々も同社を去っていきました。 浜渦さんの個人的な意見では従業員とフリーランスを比べてみてどう思いますか? 他の作曲家が言うようにフリーランスの方が良いでしょうか、それとも従業員作曲家として会社に在籍する事に十分なメリットがあると思いますか?


OSV:スクウェア時代からスクエニで働いている浜渦さんは、自分が関わった多くの作品や一緒に仕事をしたスタッフに対して色々な思い出があると思います。 それに浜渦さんがスクウェアで働く事になったきっかけはFFシリーズにとても感銘を受けたから、だと私達は聞いています。
スクウェア~スクエニ時代で最も心に残っている音楽的な思い出はありますか? そしてFF13を除いて、他にどのFF作品(ゲーム自体と音楽)が気に入っていますか?


OSV:浜渦さんが手掛けられた多くのスクエニ作品にはアレンジアルバムが存在しません。 それらの作品の中で、いつかアレンジしてみたい作品はありますか?

Hamauzu:ピアノでアレンジしたいものが多かったのですが、「Vielen Dank」である程度補完できたので、今はそれほどやりたいものがあるわけではありません。ただFFXIIIはもっと破壊したバージョンのピアコレも作ってみたかったと思っています。

OSV:浜渦さん、お時間を頂きありがとうございました。 FF13という素晴らしい作品の完成とMONOMUSIKの始動、おめでとうございます! 浜渦さんのこれからの作品にも期待しています!

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