Game Music

Meet Unique Note: Interview With Tetsuya Shibata and Yoshino Aoki

June 25, 2009 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook Meet Unique Note: Interview With Tetsuya Shibata and Yoshino Aokion Twitter

Hopefully by now you’re familiar with the names of Tetsuya Shibata and Yoshino Aoki. We talked to Shibata at GDC about his role as Sound Director at Capcom Japan. Not only was he responsible for a lot of the music heard in the Devil May Cry series, but he was also responsible for putting together the amazing Breath of Fire Special Box and countless other projects during his tenure. Yoshino Aoki, on the other hand, is the lovely voice behind the Breath of Fire III soundtrack, as well as the composer of Breath of Fire IV and other title during her time at Capcom.

Well, we’re here to break the news to you. Shibata and Aoki have both left Capcom to form their own studio, Unique Note, and we have the first interview with the two about the move and what we can expect to hear from them in the near future.  Join us as we learn more about Shibata and Aoki’s background, why they’re heading out on their own, and what their goal is with Unique Note.

Find the joint interview after the jump.

OSV: Shibata-san, thank you for taking the time out of your surely busy schedule to discuss your new venture, Unique Note with us. We’re very surprised by this move, but are also very excited for you as well. The first question we want to ask is what went into your decision to leave Capcom after so many years to form your new company? Was this a difficult decision to leave the security of a large company like Capcom?

Shibata: I worked for Capcom for over 12 years, and I learned a great many things through my job. I actually worked on over 20 titles since I started at Capcom. Over the past 3-4 years, however, I’d been thinking of the possibility of not only working on games, but taking on outside projects as well. As you know, I was a section head of the sound department at Capcom Japan, so it is getting difficult to find the time to compose music. I needed to make a choice regarding my goal at Capcom: should I be a good manager, or should I be a good composer? I believed that now was the time to decide. Of course, it wasn’t easy to leave Capcom, because I had so many ongoing projects, but my boss told me that I should make the decision on my own, and that Capcom wouldn’t disagree with my decision because my life belongs to me alone. So I finally retired Capcom and am creating my own company, Unique Note.

OSV: Tell us what Unique Note is all about. What is your goal with the company? Are you looking to provide a unique service or sound to the gaming industry, and are you only interested in working on games?

Shibata: We’re aiming to provide a “Unique sound” that people have never heard before, and it’s not only for videogames. We can provide music, arrangement, recording, vocals, and sound effects for every form of entertainment. Videogames, movies, musicals, TV-CMs, trailers, TV dramas, etc.

OSV: What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of working for yourself as opposed to working for others, as was the case when you were at Capcom?

Shibata: One of the advantages is that I can get the work for myself, and it is only my own responsibility. Besides, now it is possible to have work not only for Capcom titles, but for other areas in entertainment, so now there’s no limit. But I think there’re some obvious advantages working for a huge organization like Capcom, because it is easier to gain the trust of a client compared with the tiny independent company. Big organizations have the power to do the huge works.

OSV: We’re seeing more and more composers and even game creators leaving the big developers to form their own independent teams. Why do you think this is? Is it perhaps due to the fact that once you’re at a company for a long period of time, you move up into management and have less time to be creative?

Shibata: Oh, this is an impressive question. Composers who belong to some kind of company may need to make an important choice regarding their work and future careers. Should they be a good manager or a good composer? If they want to be a manager, they may lose the time to create something and they also lose the time to study new musical styles. So this is really important and a difficult choice for them. Then, people like me, who want to work not only for the games may make a choice to be independent from the developers.

OSV: You mentioned in our interview at GDC that you were previously working 7 days a week, and only getting time to write music on the weekends. How do you expect this will change with Unique Note? As the president of Unique Note, you’re likely going to have a lot of administrative tasks, so how are you planning on balancing business with composition?

Shibata: Oh, you remember well from our previous talk! But this is really an important thing for me. To have a good balance is important. I need to have my eyes in two places, one must see the business part, and the other one must see the creative part. I’m going to have a good balance through my work, and I may separate them depending on how much work we have.

OSV: Now that you’re a freelance composer, the possibilities are truly endless as to what you’re able to work on. Is there a particular franchise from another company that you’ve been interested in writing music for, and feel it might be a possibility with Unique Note?

Shibata: As you say, now I’m free to get work from other companies. So I may need to write a love-letter to the other companies! [Laughs] To get a chance to work on a big franchise will be really difficult, as I know well from working in a big company with some big franchises. Now that I’m not working for any specific company, I believe that the good relationships I have in the industry may bring in new jobs. And of course I promise all of them to do excellent work! So, if we do a good job, I think it’s possible for us to work on some big franchises. It’d be a lot of fun to work on the Devil May Cry series as an independent composer.

OSV: You have a partner at Unique Note, who is also a former Capcom employee. Yoshino Aoki is listed as the company’s Vice President as well as a composer, arranger, and lyricist. Tell us how the two of you met and how it is you came to ask her to join Unique Note?

Shibata: Actually, I used to be her boss when we were at Capcom. When I was putting together the Breath of Fire Special Box, I became very familiar with her music and worked with her on her portions of the collection. She did a very good job, and I thought she was such a talented composer and singer. Besides, she already had a good job network as a freelance composer before I retired the company. We talked to each other about work and the business side, and I knew that shared a common goal with me. That’s why I asked her to join the company.

OSV: How are you planning to work together at Unique Note? Will we be hearing lots of collaborative tracks, or will you each be handling different projects or tracks based on your individual expertise?

Shibata: There’re both possibilities, we may have collaborative tracks or individual ones, but it will depend on the project.

OSV: Will the two of you be working in the same office, or will you work separately in your own studios? As a former manager, do you think it’s important to be able to meet with the team and discuss some of the challenges you’re facing? Do you want to run us through your studio setup at Unique Note (software, hardware, etc.)?

Shibata: We are working in the same office. I think it is so important to meet and discuss projects face-to-face as you’ve said. Our software and hardware setups are quite different. For example, I use “Genelec” speakers, but Aoki uses “Fostex.”

Aoki: I use Cubase as a sequencer, but he uses “Acid” as a sequencer! He uses MIDI tracks with the software!

OSV: Aoki-san, please tell us about what you’ve been doing since the days you were at Capcom. We’re huge fans of your work on the Breath of Fire series. When exactly did you leave Capcom, and what have you been working on since then?

Aoki: I mostly worked for the Breath of Fire series while I was in Capcom. It takes such a long time to work on these kinds of games, so I spent most of my time with that series. But I also worked for “Mega-Man Exe” 2, 3, and the 6th. I left Capcom in 2007. After I left, I worked for the other “Mega-Man Exe” series 1, 2, and the 3rd. And I also worked for Sikitei (SCE), Genso Suikoden Tierkreis (Konami), Daletto World (Daletto), Luminous Arc 2 (Marvelous), Yusha-30 (Marvelous), and more.

OSV: As a composer, arranger, and lyricist, what do you feel you bring to the table at Unique Note? Are you looking forward to writing any particular kind of music?

Aoki: Now I feel like it’s possible to get the chance to write any kind of music, because now I’m not an individual composer. Of course I want to compose all kinds of music and not be limited to a specific genre, because I really love a variety of music.

OSV: Aoki-san, there isn’t a whole lot of information available about you in English. Would you like to take the opportunity to discuss your musical background and your career in music up until this point? We’re looking forward to seeing your name associated with more games in the future.

Aoki: Oh thank you, so do I! [Laughs] Of course I’ll tell you my musical background. I started to play the piano when I was 6 years old, and I also started learning the flute when I was 13 years old. Almost at the same time, I had the opportunity to touch a synthesizer, and I started with the “DTM” then. When I was in the high school, I started singing classical music, and at the same time, I also had my own band as a keyboardist. After that, I learned musical education and classical singing at the university. After I graduated, I worked for Capcom as a composer. And now I work for Unique Note as you know!

OSV: Shibata-san, it seems that most big games these days have vocal themes in them. Was this a major factor in the need for a talented lyricist like Aoki-san? Do you feel that this is perhaps an area that is challenging to you as a composer?

Shibata: As you say, there are many titles that include vocal themes these days. And I actually composed the vocal songs for the Devil May Cry series. One of the reasons I think game developers do this is to tell gamers what the theme of the game is with the vocals. Also, the human voice is really affective and it’s easy to convey emotions through music. Oh, Aoki-san is also a vocalist. Of course she sometimes performs for my music as a vocalist, and it will be helpful to me. But it was not a major factor, simply one of the factors.

OSV: Are there any plans to bring on more composers in the future? I can’t help but think of former Capcom composer and former collaborator with Aoki-san, Kaida Akari-san, who is also doing freelance work these days. It would be great to see the two of you working together again under the Unique Note banner.

Shibata: I think I need to find more composers and the sound designers. But I have to find more work first! I couldn’t really advertise my services before because I belonged to Capcom. Now I can finally say “Our studio is open!”

Aoki: It think it will be better to have more people involved with Unique Note. Two are better than one, and three are better than two!

OSV: Are you able to tell us at this time what projects you’ll be working on? We assume you’ll be working closely with Capcom in the future?

Shibata: I can’t tell you exactly, but one of the projects we’re working on is kind of a musical. And of course we hope we can work with Capcom in the near future!

OSV: Well, thank you for talking to us about Unique Note.  We wish you the best of luck, and are looking forward to your first project!

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