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Mass Exodus From Capcom Part 3: Interview with Hideaki Utsumi

Mass Exodus From Capcom Part 3: Interview with Hideaki Utsumi

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Sheesh, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on over at Capcom Japan. First it was Audio Director Tetsuya Shibata to form Unique Note, then sound designer and Sound Director Masayuki Endo to form Forcewick. We’ve now learned of a third key employee from Capcom Japan’s audio department that left the company, and that person is Hideaki Utsumi. While his name may not be immediately familiar, the list of titles he’s worked on over the years at Capcom is quite impressieve, including several titles in the Resident Evil series (including Resident Evil 5) and the Devil May Cry series.

As it turns out, Utsumi was the first to leave Capcom of the three we’ve mentioned, and he didn’t leave to go freelance either. As it turns out, Utsumi instead decided to become a music educator at the HAL Osaka Technical School (the sister site to the Tokyo campus where Kenichiro Fukui of Square Enix left to teach). We’ve fortunately been able to talk with Utsumi-sensei about this move, the programs at the HAL Technical Schools, his time at Capcom, and his record label, marth TERIT RECORDS, which has featured a number of awesome releases.

Read and learn in our exclusive interview with Utsumi-sensei after the jump!

OSV: Hello Utsumi-san. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your time at Capcom and your current original works and role at HAL Osaka Technical School. Let’s start by having your introduce yourself to fans of game music and game audio who perhaps aren’t overly familiar with your work.

Utsumi: Hello, I am Hideaki Utsumi. I have worked in Capcom as a sound designer, and from this year, I have been teaching at HAL Osaka Technical School to grow the younger generation for the field. Some of the major titles I have worked for are Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, and for my latest work, Resident Evil 5, I worked as the sound director.

OSV: I guess the first big question we have is to ask is how long were you at Capcom, and why have you decided to leave?

Utsumi: I worked in the sound design department in Capcom for 14 years. The reason why I decided to leave Capcom was I purely wanted to focus on studying sound design, and I wanted to raise the next-generation sound designers.

OSV: It seems that you, Shibata-san, and Endo-san have all left the music department recently, and while Shibata-san and Endo-san went freelance in the music area, you’ve gone on to take a teaching role at HAL Osaka Technical School. What can you tell us about this school, its objectives, and who the typical students are? We’ve been told in the past that certain game developers operate their own schools to train their future employees. Does HAL Osaka Technical School have any relationships with particular developers?

Utsumi: When I was about to leave the company, I heard both Shibata and Endo were leaving the company soon at my goodbye party. It was totally a surprising coincidence that 3 of us quit at the same time. I think we all had different reasons to leave.

HAL Osaka Technical School was founded in 1984 for prospective computer engineers, and we have been doing some very creative things with computers. There are many majors such as Game Design, Computer Graphics, Web Design, Music, Automobile, and etc. Especially we have been putting more focus on the Game Design stuff recently. We collaborate with Nintendo and Sony and have their dev kits in the department, so the students can learn in the same environment as the professionals. Also we often invite some of the top game creators to have special lectures.

OSV: You’ve worked on a number of huge titles over the years, acting as Sound Director and Sound Designer on many big Capcom projects like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. How has the transition been from practicing the art of audio and teaching the future generations of sound designers to do so? Do you see yourself as a natural teacher?

Utsumi: The latest project, Resident Evil 5, was the biggest project I have ever worked on, and it was really tough. The number of the staff was over 400, and even just for the sound effects, we had over 10 staff members worked on it.

Sound design, sound programming, recording voice actors/actresses, Foley, recording weapon sounds, and working as a sound director – I had so many great experiences in Capcom. Sharing those with my students is very satisfying and enjoyable. We, sound designers, do not get as much exposure on TV or magazines, so the students really listen to what I say with so much interest.

I am not sure I am a natural teacher, but at least I have been having very exciting, fun days.

OSV: I was hoping we could ask some questions about your time at Capcom. You’ve worked extensively on the Resident Evil series since its inception, and also on the original Devil May Cry. How was it for you working on the Resident Evil series over the years and being able to work with progressively better technology? Are you surprised by the success of the series today, and do you have any font memories looking back at the series that you helped create?

Utsumi: First of all, the technology has changed so much. The basic idea, playing back samples, has not changed since the first Resident Evil, but the data capacity increased drastically. The sound memory of the first Playstation was only 512k, which is less than the half of a floppy disc capacity. Also the music uses 256k, the half of it, and the other half is used for the sound effects. That is not even close to play realistic sounds, so I was struggling a lot to tweak the sampling rate and the data capacity at the time.

For newer consoles, you can use a lot more capacity just for the sound effects, so you don’t really have to suffer from the capacity limit. However, like the sound effects for moving objects in 5.1 surround sound, now you can have sound effects in very specific spots. Without a clear planning, you will end up doing too many things, and the work will never end! [Laughs]

There also was a big change with the sound team. There were only 2, including myself, sound designers for the first Resident Evil, but there are so many even just for the sound design now. It is really hard to manage the team well, keep their schedules, and assure the quality of the products.

I am not really surprised by the success of the series. However, I am very honored to work for such a big title, and I always appreciate the people who play the games.

There is one particular memory I have, and it is the recording of real weapons in San Diego for Resident Evil 5. They let me shoot the guns, and it was just a great experience. We actually made a 30 minute long “making-of” video of the whole recording process, but it was never released for some reasons. I wish it was released for the Resident Evil fans.

OSV: Can you tell us about your work on Devil May Cry, Clock Tower 3, Haunting Ground, or ELDORADO GATE? How were each of these meaningful to your career, and do you have any interesting stories about your work on these proejcts?

Utsumi: We took a very unique approach for ELDORADO GATE – releasing one of seven chapters every other month and completing the game in a year. Thus the schedule was really tight since we did not have as much time to do the sound. Actually I was also taking care of the sound for Devil May Cry at the same time. It was super busy, but it is all good memory now.

The developer, Sun Denshi, of Clock Tower 3 is in Nagoya, so we mainly communicated via emailing the sound data from where I was, Osaka. It was a very new way of collaboration since we hardly met. Also since the story takes place in England, we went there and recorded the voices in London with local English voice actors/actresses. Normally Capcom would record voices in America, but we really wanted to be specific on the accent.

The current style of game music is streaming audio files, but we used the built-in sounds of the PS2 to play back the music for Haunting Ground. From the best of my knowledge, this is probably the last Capcom game that used the built-in sounds. The advantage of doing that is you can change the tempo of music anyway you want in the game. Using that feature, we programmed the tempo changes when the enemies approach you.

OSV: How is it that you came to work at Capcom in the first place? Perhaps you’d be willing to tell us about your musical background, why you went into sound design specifically, and about your memories working with many talented people on the Capcom sound team?

Utsumi: I have always loved playing games, and I have went through all kinds of games including the original Nintendo and many others. At the same time, I have always loved the music with synthesizers. I choose Capcom because I thought I could work for those favorite things of mine. I initially started Capcom wanting to be a composer, but I have only been doing sound design since when they assigned me to work on the first Resident Evil.

I have way too many great memories with my co-workers, so it is hard to share them all. If I must choose one, I would say my former boss, Shinji Mikami, whom I worked with since the first Resident Evil to Devil May Cry, is the most memorable one.

“Games have to have more reality! We need more dynamic sound with a lot more presence!” – I proposed to Mikami to collaborate with SOUNDELUX, a renowned sound design company for films, to created the monster sounds when we were developing Devil May Cry, and he accepted the proposal.

At the time, it was crazy to spend that much money just for sound design. I am the one who proposed such a crazy idea, but I really fell in love with Mikami’s attitude, accepting the proposal with such generosity, toward game making. Typical producers would only talk about cutting costs.

Well, he kept telling me “You are fired if the game fails!” until the game was released. [Laughs]

OSV: You now operate a record label called marth TERIT RECORDS, featuring a number of albums, one of which was a compilation CD featuring your music and other former Capcom composers (including Yoshino Aoki on vocals). Tell us about this label, your goals with it, and about the releases so far.

Utsumi: This record label is my own private label, and it is an indie music label. I founded it to do the kinds of music that we want to do, not the kind of music you would do for money making. We don’t really have a specific goal, and guest artists change all the time.

Until now, we have released 2 compilation CDs: KIVANDELYAN, Natsu, and a single Daydream from my group, mT. For the compilation albums, Masami Ueda, Yoshino Aoki, Shun Nishigaki, Shusaku Uchiyama, and Saori Maeda paricipated, and you can hear their different taste from their game sound. mT is a duo with a guitarist friend of mine, Tanaka Hit’s, and we were actively performing back then with our original instruments, modded arcade game controllers.

All the music can be purchased from CD Baby as well as from iTunes. Please check out the official website from the link: http://www.happyducky.com/mtrc/

OSV: On that topic, you also write music. Tell us about your musical style and inspirations since we’ve only heard your sound design, and not music in past games you’ve worked on. Is there any chance we’ll hear your music in any games in the future?

Utsumi: Yes, I do write music. All my compositions are indie music, and they are not in games nor big hits, so naturally those works are not very well known. Also I change the names every time I release new indie music. so it would be hard to know if it is me.

Perhaps some of my big works are “Buchikamase,” “Koboreta-mukashibanashi” from KIVANDELYAN, “Hitoyo Yumemigoro” from natsu, and Daydream from mT.

My musical style is pop music with electronic music feel. I like Yellow Magic Orchestra, Meiwa Denki, Tama, Tetsuya Komuro, Joe Hisaishi, and Kitaro.

For games, I would like to make music for vertical scrolling, intense old school shooting game with fighter planes. Only if I get an offer from some company, though.

OSV: Can you tell us at this time what your plans are for the future? We imagine you’ll be happily teaching at HAL Osaka Technical School, but can we expect more music and sound design for game projects or personal projects in the near future?

Utsumi: I do not have any plans right now. I am pretty busy every day studying about music and acoustics as well as teaching since I just started working as an instructor. However now we can all publish our works online quite easily, so I would like to get back to making music when my work is settled.

OSV: Thank you for your time. Congratulations on your new role. We look forward to hearing more from your record label and hope you enjoy teaching!

[Special thanks to Shota Nakama for translation]



OSV:それでは先ずお聞きしたい質問ですが、カプコンにはどのくらいの期間働いていましたか? カプコンを辞めて独立したきっかけとは何ですか?




OSV:これまでに内海さんはサウンドディレクター、そしてサウンドデザイナーとして、バイオハザードやデビルメイクライ等、幾つも大きいプロジェクトを手掛けてきました。そういった仕事から、将来のサウンドデザイナーを育成する教職に移行するのはどの用な感じでしたか? 教員という仕事が自分に合っていると思いますか?








OSV:デビルメイクライ、クロックタワー3、Haunting Ground、そしてELDORADO GATEの事について聞かせて下さい。内海さんのキャリアに、これらのゲームはどういった意味をもたらしましたか? 何か面白い裏話などはありますか?




OSV:カプコンの話に戻りますが、カプコンで働く事になったきっかけは何ですか? それと内海さんの音楽バックグラウンド、サウンドデザインの道に進む事にしたきっかけ、カプコンで一緒に働いた人達の思い出等を教えて下さい。




OSV:内海さんは現在「marth TERIT RECORDS」を経営してらっしゃいますが、フィーチュアされているリリースには、カプコン時代の同僚の作曲家の方々が楽曲提供をされています。レーベルの事、会社としての目標、そして現在までにリリースされた音源について話を聞かせて下さい。

Utsumi:このレーベルは私のプライベートレーベルで、会社ではなくインディーズのレコードレーベルです。商業音楽ではできないような自分たちの趣味的な音楽を発信するために作りました。目標として掲げているようなものはなく、また参加アーティストも流動的で自由です。これまでにリリースした作品は、オムニバスCDの「KIVANDELYAN」と「natsu」、そして自身のユニットmTのシングルCD「Daydream」です。オムニバスCDには、上田雅美さん、青木佳乃さん、西垣俊さん、内山修作さん、前田早織さんなどが参加されており、ゲームで聴くサウンドとはまた違った音楽を聴くことができます。また、自身のユニットmTの「Daydream」は、私と友人ギタリスト「Tanaka Hit’s」との2人組ユニットで、80年代アーケードゲームのコントローラーを改造して楽器にし、ライブ活動なども精力的におこなっていました。

すべての作品は、インターネットのCD BABYのサイトで購入することができます。またAppleのiTunesでデータ配信も行っています。詳しくは公式サイトをご覧ください→http://www.happyducky.com/mtrc/


代表的な作品として「KIVANDELYAN」に収録の「Buchikamase」や「Koboreta-mukashibanashi」、「natsu」に収録の「Hitoyo Yumemigoro」、そして「mT」の「Daydream」です。音楽スタイルは、エレクトロの要素が入ったポップソングですね。YMOや明和電機、たま、小室哲哉、久石譲、喜太郎などが大好きです。ゲームでは、昔に流行った戦闘機がバリバリと撃つタイプのスクロールシューティングのゲームを作りたいと思います。どっかの会社からのオファーがあればの話ですけどね。




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