Game Music

Noisycroak’s First Game Composer Roundtable Discussion -Complete English Transcript-

August 15, 2009 | | 7 Comments Share thison Facebook Noisycroak’s First Game Composer Roundtable Discussion -Complete English Transcript-on Twitter

While many of you may have missed the news, the guys over at Noisycroak in Japan (who you may recall from our coverage of Castlevania Judgment) recently hosted a composer roundtable to answer fan-submitted questions and discuss a wide range of topics involving the game music industry in Japan. Composer and studio head Hideki Sakamoto hosted the unprecedented event, which our own Chris Ling attended along with a number of Famitsu staff, and the results were pretty amazing.

What we have here is Chris’s English translation of the massive transcript that Noisycroak posted in to their website (in Japanese) a few weeks ago. Yes, a complete English transcript of all 17,000+ words! I’m definitely grateful to Chris for doing this for us, as well as to Sakamoto-san at Noisycroak for putting this together, Mitsuyoshi-san for coordinating Chris’s attendance, and to all the participants for taking part in this event and for letting us post the English-language transcript here for your reading pleasure.

While it’s quite long, there’s a lot of great stuff here. Nobuyoshi Sano is particularly hilarious, and it’s funny reading how Sakamoto-san was constantly trying to keep everyone on track (with mixed results). I found some of the discussion towards the end about game music concerts and “young” heroes to be interesting, but let us know what you think!

Read the entire transcript of the event after the jump.

First Game Composer Round-Table Discussion
Organized by Hideki Sakamoto (Noisycroak)

Transcript provided by and republished with permission from Noisycroak
English translation provided by Chris Ling (Original Sound Version)

All photos courtesy of Noisycroak

Participating Composers
Masato Kouda
Nobuyoshi Sano
Shoji Hidenori
Takayuki Nakamura
Shinji Hosoe
Yasunori Mitsuda
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi
Keisuke Itou
Hideki Sakamoto

Special Guest
Tsuyoshi Yukawa


Sakamoto: Hiccup… ahem, it’s time for us to begin! It seems a few of us are looking groggy already.

Sano: Good idea. If we don’t start soon people are going to start falling asleep…

Everyone: Oh no! (laughter)

Sakamoto: In that case… this begins the First Game Composers Round-Table Discussion!

Everyone: Woohoo! Clap clap clap!

Sakamoto: …of course everyone might be wondering what the theme of the discussion is. The topic of discussion will consist of answering user-submitted questions received on Noisycroak’s site and questions collected from staff members of Noisycroak.

Everyone: Ahh.

Sakamoto: In addition, to the person with the best response, the title of MVC (Most Valuable Composer) and an accompanied trophy will be given.

Everyone: (looking at the trophy) It’s… so small!

Sakamoto: My apologies…but since we ran out of budget, I instead went to Tokyu Hands and purchased this for 900 yen last night. In order to appease everyone, I have arranged for a blond-haired Bud girl to serve everyone.

Yukawa (Tsuyoshi): (Door opens and Yukawa appears, crossdressing as a Bud girl in a budlight dress) Pleased to meet you all!

Everyone: … (speechless)

Sano: This… is a bit too cruel…

Kouda: Ahahaha… the mood has taken an amusing turn has it not?

Sakamoto: Looks like the only one amused… is Mr. Kouda… his (Yukawa) outfit took up a considerable part of the budget so please be kind to him. If you want a refill on drinks do not hesitate to call upon his services.

Everyone: (weak laughter)

Sakamoto: Okay… let’s begin with the first question, which was also the most received question.

Sano: Ta-da!

Question 1: When composing music, what is something you must keep in mind? (To everyone)

(Kanagawa Prefecture, White)

[In regards to deadlines]

Sakamoto: This is a rather broad question…

Sano: To think we’d get this so soon…

Everyone: Serious stuff! (laughter)

Sakamoto: What does everyone think? A personal trigger to start composing such as working from a blank slate or the opposite of listening to loads of music to get the ball rolling would be all right to mention. Even something like a good feeling would be okay such as something as simple as saying “today, I decided to wear orange socks…” or something similar.

Sano: Orange socks you say. (laughter)

Nakamura: Would it be all right to mention things we do while composing?

Sakamoto: Anything would be fine. Today we will let it all out! Everyone’s embarrassing and private moments!

Nakamura: Not setting deadlines for oneself!

Sakamoto: Interesting. This is something you understand very well?

Nakamura: In other words, the extra time you have for doing composition. When it is a matter of needing to finish a song, I don’t like needing to think about how much time I need to spend to finish it.

Sano: Eh?!

Sakamoto: When presented with the situation that the deadline is tomorrow, that is something to light a fire under your ass and get to composing too. That works for me anyway.

Sano: Being spurred to action by deadlines……something like that.

Sakamoto: That’s right. Waiting up until the last minute.

Sano: Well, how about (looks at Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Sakamoto) we discuss this further?

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: Ahaha! By the way, Nakamura, when you were in junior high, how would you study for midterm exams?

Nakamura: I studied hard for those exams. Something along the lines of “tomorrow is math, so I’ll study that.”

Sakamoto: Itou and I weren’t like that!

Itou: W-Wait… don’t bring me into this… I think I want to agree with Mr. Nakamura, but somehow (points at Sakamoto) this always ends up happening.

Sakamoto: Mr. Kouda, when you write the orchestration, doesn’t it usually take a long time?

Kouda: I would say that I am similar to Mr. Sakamoto. I hate it when my sense of freedom suddenly becomes increasingly diminished once I start writing.

Sano: Yes, yes yes.

Itou: Are you talking about musical freedom?

Mitsuyoshi: Are you talking about how the form of the music is created?

Kouda: I prefer being able to control all possibilities and outcomes for music.

Nakamura: But, if you require those conditions you will never finish. (laughter).

Sano: Is it ever the case that you just didn’t think of anything?

Sakamoto: That isn’t what you call work. (laughter)

Itou: I like conditions like that, so things just get drawn out up until the deadline.

Sakamoto: Right, right, that’s my impression of it. What type of person are you, Mr. Mitsuda?

Mitsuda: I’m someone who cannot operate without deadlines. I would just keep on writing without end.

Itou: Even for a single song?

Mitsuda: As long as I was permitted to do so, I would do that. (laughter) Just like Mr. Sano…

Sano: Ah, but for me I would grow tired of my own music!

Everyone: (laughter)

Sano: So actually I am more like the opposite. I would think, “how many times have I listened to this song!” Of course that is obvious, since I wrote it. (laughter)

Sakamoto: That happens as well. How about you, Mr. Hidenori?

Hidenori: I’m the type that needs a fire lit under my ass. I was the type who turned in all my homework at the last minute.

Sakamoto: I suppose this is just a habit that stays with you from when you are a kid until now?

Hidenori: I see. There is a time before the sound effects are implemented in the game, but when I have the time to make pieces, I’ll do it at once. But like Mr. Mitsuda, if I finish early, I’d like to tinker around as much as possible. Like changing the base line for no apparent reason.

Sakamoto: How about you, Mr. Sano?

Sano: Eh? What about changing the bass line for no apparent reason?

Sakamoto: No uh… not that…

Everyone: (laughter)

Sano: Just now, when I heard the key phrase “changing the bass line for no apparent reason” I thought to myself “that’s happened to me before.” (laughter) This is completely unrelated to the question but… when writing music, isn’t there a tendency to want to escape from reality? For instance, even in a situation where I have to write a song at all costs, I’m suddenly thinking about where to go drinking later.

Sakamoto: That happens, doesn’t it.

Sano: Usually, it’s like inviting someone (to drink) who you wouldn’t normally invite. But isn’t it the case that you start drifting while writing music? Consider that the (song) length needs to be longer, but like the previous discussion, suddenly you decide to tinker with the bass filter. Even though I’m thinking, “this isn’t good at all! The timeline, the timeline!!” without reason I change something else… you have to quickly increase the length. This of course has absolutely nothing to do with the (question’s) discussion.

Sakamoto: Ah I see, err… everyone please focus on the question! At this rate, White will be disappointed! What do you think, Mr. Hosoe?

Hosoe: Well, there’s nothing really to worry about since I am someone who creates deadlines.

Sakamoto: So you make your own deadlines then.

[Turnaround Time On Songs]

Nakamura: The thing to keep in mind when you start composing is “to make your own deadline.” (laughter) The production side then asks “around when will this song be finished?”

Sano: Huh, that’s a silly question!

Nakamura: Very silly!

Everyone: (raucous laughter)

Sano: This is very important so please mention it on the website! Why do they want to know from me when I will finish this song? I really have no idea!

Nakamura: It’s true that it is tough to answer.

Sano: That’s what I’m saying. This isn’t something you can put together as if there was an assembly line.

Sakamoto: Even if it is something that can be done in a day, sometimes it can drag on beyond your control for even two weeks.

Nakamura: When that happens, how do you respond?

Sano: … exactly!

Everyone: Ahaha!! (raucous laughter)

Sano: Well, you should try to respond with a vague answer! That is the best way!

Mitsuyoshi: For example, if upper management asks how long it will take to do a certain number of songs, it is hard to determine the average time if it is that vague of a statement. Of course it isn’t a good thing either if you can’t come up with a timeframe.

Sano: Well, they will allow you to finish it. They are pros after all! (laughter) But, before working on the song your mental state might not be up for it. This is something that I’d want them to understand… eh, well it looks like I’m off topic (in regards to the question) again…

Sakamoto: I figure some of you have worked with senior colleagues before. In regards to things to keep in mind when making music, what kind of advice did they give you?

Nakamura: They were rather strict. They would say things like “one day, one song!” Where I am, I do not have staff to help me write the music.

Hidenori: Was it like being issued a challenge?

Nakamura: Yeah. The challenge would be to complete around 1-2 songs.

Sano: On the contrary, to be told something like that is probably a good thing.

Sakamoto: Mr. Sano, isn’t that how you normally do things?

Sano: That was only for a certain period of time. I gave up soon after.

Sakamoto: Both you and Mr. Mitsuyoshi said that was “pretty amazing.”

Mitsuyoshi: Yes exactly. I can’t constantly crank out one song a day.

Sano: I’ve been charmed by these keywords. “Nobuyoshi Sano’s One Song Per Day!”

Mitsuyoshi: That has a real good ring to it! (laughter)

Sano: It is abbreviated as “Sano One!” Or so I’d think but I’m having a bit too much fun with this. (laughter) In practice this would be really painful!

Sakamoto: Sano One! To say the least, it would be awe-inducingly terrible. (laughter)

Sano: But, if it isn’t at that level then (one song per day) wouldn’t be doable.

Sakamoto: Well then, I guess that about covers this question then?

Sano: Eh… are you sure?

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: Don’t worry about it! There was meaning in this discussion.

Sano: There was a lot of stuff mentioned and all, but in other words, “always make deadlines” I guess. (laughter)

Nakamura: That is the correct answer!

Sano: With that said, White, “when composing music, something you must keep in mind” is to “always make deadlines!”

Sakamoto: On to… question number 2!

Sano: Ta-da!

Question 2: When composing music, do you ever put lyrics in on the spot and sing to yourself?

(Tokyo Prefecture, Zazen Kid)

[What do you do when a good melody or rhythm comes to mind?]

Sakamoto: So this is asking whether one might unconsciously throw their own lyrics in when working on the melody.

-: When playing a game and listening to the music, users sometimes have the tendency of throwing on their own lyrics on the spot and sing along. Given that, I suppose composers might do that as well. However it might be like Mr. Sakamoto singing the phrase “I love you.” (laughter)

Sakamoto: It’s hard when dealing with 5 beats which corresponds to 5 syllables. (laughter) What about everyone else?

[Chris: The phrase used is “a i shi te ru” which is 5 syllables whereas the translation “I love you” is only 3 syllables. For the sake of not modifying the translation’s meaning, it was left as 5 syllables for the Japanese phrase.]

Sano: Instances like that have happened before.

Sakamoto: For example, is it something that happens when creating the melody? There are those who might have an idea suddenly come to them while composing and there are those who are playing a few notes on the keyboard or guitar while searching for a sound or a melody. I think I’m the latter of the two. Do any of you have those moments before writing or recording anything you suddenly get that feeling of “whoa, I just thought of something amazing!” and start humming to yourself as you go home?

Sano: As for which type of person I am when doing that, I would say I focus more on the beat than the melody itself.

Hidenori: Ahh, I think I’m like that too.

Sano: Exactly. There aren’t many times where I would hum something from the melody.

Sakamoto: Investigating a bit further, do you ever think that the phrases and beats that are forgotten if you start humming before going home that perhaps a lot of it was… bad to begin with?

Mitsuyoshi: That does happen!

Sakamoto: Forgetting all that when I go home or return to the workplace, I feel the things I remember and the things that come to mind suddenly are real. If it was something bad that I don’t want to recall I think I would inform myself.

Sano: I am someone who would want to hold on to all of it. I came up with it after all.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sano: Mr. Sakamoto! You say that the phrases you can’t remember must not be important but I don’t think that is the case. You should hold on to all of that! (laughter)

Sakamoto: What does the melody maker, Mr. Mitsuda think about all this?

Sano: Mr. Mitsuda is one that draws from melodies?

Mitsuda: When I first started composing, I was someone who only used 3 chords.

Everyone: Ehhhhhhh?! (surprise)

Sakamoto: Ahwahwahwah, you mean like C, F, G?

Mitsuda: To be frank, that is correct. That way the melody can come together as the chord changes.

Itou: The theme song from Chrono Trigger was originally done using 3 chords, right?

Mitsuda: That’s correct. I tried to give it a jazzy feel. However it ended up not sounding like jazz at all. (laughter)

Sano: Were you trying to create tension in the melody?

Mitsuda: It wasn’t my intention to create a feeling of tension.

Mitsuyoshi: But it was tense no less.

Mitsuda: So it did become that way.

Sano: Well, it just got binded that way huh.

Mitsuda: Back in the day, my teacher had told me that “great songs from groups like The Beatles were built on the foundation of the 3-chord!” So I thought, in that case I will do the same. (laughter)

Sakamoto: Have you been using that since then?

Mistuda: In general… any song works well that way.

Sano: How about putting out a CD entitled “Mitsuda 3-chord?” Every song up until now written using 3 chords!

Sakamoto: Ah, I want that!

Mitsuda: I wouldn’t let you listen to something that embarrassing. (laughter)

Mitsuyoshi: However, that method of composition is interesting.

Sakamoto: Are you referring to how the melody becomes more important that way?

Mitsuda: In general that is the case. In the case of jazz, you could create a lot of it using chords. The foundation can therefore be built upon with the piano.

[How do you get started?]

Sakamoto: So what kind of interface does everyone use when they get working? Mr. Mitsuda goes with the piano, right? I imagine everyone has their own preference such as using a sequencer or writing out notes.

Hosoe: The piano for me.

Sakamoto: Same for me.

Sano: How about you, Mr. Hidenori?

Hidenori: When I work I prefer the piano as well.

Sakamoto: Mr. Sano, you also go with the piano I assume?

Sano: That is true… however, there are times that I think, “I want to make this without a piano!” Something like, “today, I will use just the mouse.”

Sakamoto: That’s… an answer to the previous question is it not?! The “when composing music, what is something you must keep in mind” one. What is it doing here?!

Sano: Ahh, did I just backtrack there? (laughter) It isn’t that bad to tie it together though. It’s the same with Mr. Mitsuda’s 3-chord discussion.

Hidenori: When creating music, even the things you have to keep in mind change. When writing rock music, for the most part even if you start with the rhythm you will use the guitar for that. However, if you have to write a piano song of course you wouldn’t use a guitar then. (laughter)

Sakamoto: Mr. Kouda, how do you go about writing music?

Kouda: First off, I’d start with the piano although well, anything works for me. Thus, I would really get playing one instrument while switching to another while writing music.

Sakamoto: Thus in the end you would just remove the piano then?

Kouda: Exactly.

Sakamoto: To some degree your composing style is similar to me. Mr. Itou, you often use pen tools to write your music, correct?

Itou: I have to brainstorm before I start. There are times where I just use the mouse while I think.

Sakamoto: How do you go about making music, Mr. Mitsuyoshi? Start with singing perhaps?

Sano: Of course! You can start off with “Daytona!” (laughter)

Sakamoto: “Japan’s Number 1 Singing Salaryman!”

Everyone: (laughter)

Mitsuyoshi: No, no, no… (laughter) When making music, I work on the melody and the chords at the same time. Of course when I approach the chords I somehow end up singing to the tune of an improbable melody. (laughter) Lately, I have been rather fixated on that.

Sano: In other words, it’s all “Daytona.” The lyrics are filled with “Daytona” but there are other “Daytona”’s in there!

Everyone: (laughter)

Sano: I think I’d be in deep trouble for saying that. Thankfully the man himself is laughing. I think the fans will be angry instead. (laughter) But, I am not worried! Someone who has written a song to defeat “Daytona” is here after all. (looks at Mr. Hosoe) Ah, there you are!

Mitsuyoshi: Eh, I think you got it backwards. Ridge Racer came first after all. I have created a song to defeat Ridge Racer instead!

Sakamoto: Ohhhh! Is this is Sega vs. Namco showdown?

Sano: It might be the case but not quite… When Daytona was first showcased at a game show I thought, “Sega is letting you sing…” I recall thinking, “you want to hear yourself sing that badly?!” (laughter) The others on Namco’s sound team were a bit mortified.

Nakamura: But before that Bose speakers were used for Ridge Racer, right?

Mitsuyoshi: I recall thinking, “we’re doomed!” when that happened. Back then we were desperate to top Ridge Racer.

Sakamoto: That about covers this question I think…

Sano: Sometimes you hum and sometimes you don’t! Otherwise, everything will have “Daytona!” in it!

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: We… well then, let’s go on to the next question!

Question 3: To all the composers I say hello. In the future I want to compose music in the game industry. Right now I do compose my own music, but I am wondering if there are any secrets to maintain the motivation to compose music?

(Penguin running through the city)

[Would you listen to your own music again?]

Sano: Ah, it would be best not to consider this occupation, right? What does everyone think about that?

Sakamoto: That is a bit defeatist…

Hidenori: Are you saying that just to not have more rivals? (laughter)

Mitsuyoshi: Under what circumstances would one want to not consider this occupation?

Sano: No, no I’m just joking. Don’t they seem young to you? (laughter)

Sakamoto: Given the assumption… what would be the secret to staying motivated when composing music??

Nakamura: The only thing is to have faith that the music you are writing is good.

Sakamoto: Do you listen to the music you’ve written up until this point?

Sano: Sure, why not.

Sakamoto: I listen to a lot of my older work but Mr. Itou doesn’t do that at all.

Itou: I think my weakness has been exposed…

Sano: Ah, being sober? You can’t do this while being sober. If you listen to your own music while sober, I think you’d become quite sick of it. You might hear yourself saying “Ah, maybe I’m no good…” (laughter) Sometimes when you aren’t able to write you might listen to an older song and think, “this was pretty good at the time…” You might say to yourself, “if I say I can’t write this song this time, I will have to apologize and give up…” None of this is can be the secret to maintaining motivation of course. (laughter)

Sakamoto: Indeed. In fact, your motivation will decrease instead… (laughter)

Hidenori: What should you do to avoid that?

Sano: What should you do?

Sakamoto: How can you bring out the motivational power? I think there are perhaps many possibilities.

Nakamura: Instead of just seeking out the end result, if the process is interesting enough, anyone can do it I think.

Sano: However, this fellow (Penguin running through the city-san, who submitted the question) also writes their own music. Well if that is the case, it would be worrisome if motivation can not be maintained.

Sakamoto: Mr. Nakamura’s talk about his approach to writing music itself seems fairly enjoyable. This is a core principle.

Nakamura: That is true. It would be impossible to enjoy oneself if the focus is on the end result alone I think.

Sano: Ehh, but is the process really that enjoyable…?

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: Ohh! A fresh discussion suddenly developed!

[Composers High]

Mitsuyoshi: Perhaps so. It is a matter of time I think. When you allow for time to lapse in a state of discontent, don’t you sometimes have a sudden rush of adrenaline?

Sano: Even before a single song is completed?

Sakamoto: Ah, I get it!

Itou: Something like “Composers High.”

Sano: Yes, yes like “Composers High.” (laughter) Why is that though? From the beginning to the end you want this to be perfect. Like the feeling of “I’m a genius!” but if that isn’t possible you can’t feel a release.

Nakamura: So that sums up Mr. Sano’s motivation then.

Sano: But… is that really the key?

Nakamura: Only if one naturally believes that. Well for you anyway.

Sano: No… I don’t think that’s quite the key here. “Work.” If you don’t think it is work then you can’t continue on. Is there anything one can truthfully say about that? And personally for me, if it is truly necessary I’ll just take a bath.

Mitsuyoshi: Bath…? (laughter) Why is that?

Sano: When I am in the bath I can do some lateral thinking. In other words, it is like entering another state of mind you might say.

Mitsuyoshi: It is true that the sound from the splashing of water is rather pleasant.

Sano: I really like that!

Mitsuda: But isn’t that a bit scary? When you take it easy in the bath and afterwards listen to your own music, don’t you say to yourself, “what the heck is this?!” when you listen to it?

Sano: That doesn’t happen often. Basically, you enter the bath already thinking, “I am really no good!” (laughter) So while you are in the bath, you start to forget things like that as the feeling of relaxation takes over. Afterwards when you get out and listen to your own music you suddenly think to yourself, “a lot of things have happened, but you can do it, Sano!” (laughter) This exhilarating feeling from entering a bath can be found in other things I’m sure.

Sakamoto: So the conclusion is to “take a bath”… onward to the next question!

Question 4: What brand of alcohol do you drink while at work?

(Representative of Mamachop)

[What is the effect of being drunk while composing?]

Nakamura: While at work, could they really mean drinking alcohol while working?

Sakamoto: That’s what it looks like.

Sano: Do you drink at work, Mr. Hosoe?

Hosoe: Especially so during the winter.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sano: Do you work somewhere where you can only stay warm by drinking?! (laughter) What have you been drinking lately?

Hosoe: I drink rum most of the time. Like hot rum for example.

Sano: Hot rum sounds good.

Nakamura: Why are you into rum?

Hosoe: Because it warms you up. (laughter)

Sano: … You’re like a pirate.

Everyone: (raucous laughter)

Sakamoto: Other than dealing with the cold, do you drink in hopes to find inspiration?

Hosoe: No, even when I’m not drunk I can create music. (laughter)

Sakamoto: Well, it is for warmth only then.

Sano: Does anyone else here drink while at work?

Mitsuyoshi: Sometimes when I’ve hit a roadblock at work and think “I give up!” I clock out, take a seat and knock one back you might say.

Sakamoto: I have taken a drink before at work. When drinking alcohol I might get a flash of inspiration… or so I hope.

Sano: In a case like that there’s something else as well. Perhaps the idea of “escape”…

Mitsuyoshi: At times like that it is not surprising.

Sakamoto: There are times when you hope inspiration may strike when you hit a roadblock.

Itou: Perhaps it is true that when you get drunk something might come to mind that wouldn’t happen otherwise. However, when you are trying to do editing, it would certainly have an effect on your ability to do so. Thus I get the feeling it would still be a roadblock either way.

Hosoe: And then, you might drink more if it would supplement your energy…

Sakamoto: Drinking to give you more energy, now that is an awesome concept! Mr. Mitsuda, do you drink while at work?

Mitsuda: I have never taken a drink while at work. I would be the type who would be completely incapacitated that way.

Sano: When Mr. Mitsuda drinks, talking to him becomes more interesting but he then loses his ability to write music. (laughter)

Sakamoto: I can sort of see someone like you, Mr. Kouda, drinking while at work…

Kouda: I don’t do that at all. I’m just like Mr. Mitsuda where if I did that I would be trashed.

Sakamoto: Is that so! In that case shall we leave the answer as, “Mr. Hosoe drinks rum?”

Question 5: When composing music, do you look at the game screen to take in the atmosphere of the scene to write music? Or do you write music without it? Also, when do you get the inspiration?

(Saitama Prefecture, Sun)

[Writing music while looking at the materials and writing and accumulating music.]

Sakamoto: Perhaps, this is something dependent on the schedule?

Hosoe: There are times when you don’t have access to the game materials.

Sano: But there aren’t many times that music will be written without having any sort of materials.

Sakamoto: For example, are there times where you might write a song you have a liking to, when not working, and think to yourself it might be a good fit?

Sano: That would be rather amazing coincidence.

Sakamoto: That hasn’t happened before for me though. If I were to gather up everything about the game and then try to make music that way, I would feel sick.

Sano: There are those that have a stock of songs though.

Sakamoto: If that was the case it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Of course if you were to say it was wasteful, that is the case…

Hosoe: Kenji Ito seems to have a savings account of songs.

Sano: It seems that Ken Ito does do that… wait but is it all right to be having fun talking about people who aren’t here right now? (laughter) But, I do have a feeling that is the case! The “game composer with the largest stock of music” is Ken Ito!! I wonder who the runner-up is?

Hidenori: I want to say it’s Mr. Nakamura.

Nakamura: No, no I don’t. I have zero.

Mitsuyoshi: I have seen HIRO (Hiroshi Kawaguchi), the composer for Outrun accumulating songs.

Sakamoto: Well, how would we go about answering this question?

Mitsuyoshi: It would be about writing music after getting a feel for the atmosphere of the project.

Sano: Well, when making a game a lot of people are involved you know. For example, from the viewpoints of the composer and the game creator, the game creator might say “oh, this will work for the game” but the composer may then say, “this won’t work at all.” With that kind of correlation (he points at Mr. Mitsuda who is sitting right next to him) certainly, right now, this kind of distance is created. (laughter)

Sakamoto: I… it’s painful it seems. (laughter) Despite how busy you are I do thank you for stopping by!

Sano: But it might be interesting to try writing music with that influence.

Mitsuyoshi: That can be true.

Sano: There are times where you might hear someone say, “in any case, please write it,” but that alone isn’t very interesting. Even up until the end you might want to have a look at it (the game screens)…

Mitsuda: That way is good.

Sano: Whether it is a small or large influence, without that there would be no meaning to the music you write.

Sakamoto: When you go see the game together and want to be completely satisfied it is best to see the game scenes and materials first before composing.

Sano: After all a game is something you have to work together to make.

-: Do you think the days of seeing the scenes in a game that makes you hungry to work on it have long past?

Sano: I think it is more seeing the paper materials than just the game scenes. A “oh this looks interesting, I want to write music for it,” kind of feeling. But a game like that doesn’t really come my way though. (laughter)

Sakamoto: What was your procedure for working on Monster Hunter?

Kouda: It took a long time to do research on the game. In any case the proposition was to make a real-looking dragon, for example it would be the largest object in the game, and thus there was research done on Rao Sheng Long, a monster in the game. During that research, I always had in mind what it looked like. When I was selected to compose the soundtrack, for the theme song at first I thought it wouldn’t be that sort of song and was told to do something more ethnic sounding. But gradually as the game became more complete and I was able to take in the grandness of its world, I asked that an orchestra be used for it.

Sano: You asked for an orchestra for the soundtrack? Hasn’t that been a failure for a lot of companies?! (laughter)

Kouda: I was very insistent about it. I said to them, “this song must be done using an orchestra.”

Sakamoto: What about you, Mr. Hidenori?

Hidenori: Often times I would create an image in my mind when composing music based off seeing everything in the project design materials. Since the schedule is decided long before, often times there’s not enough time to see all the images as they are not ready yet so I often have to rely on roughs and unfinished material. Basically, the sensation you get from the production of a game is stronger than from the production of the music.

Sakamoto: That can be understood. Those who write music first and those who need a total image first.

Itou: When I was working on the music for Pokemon: Mystery Dungeon, I had to consider that this was a game with a happy looking world with a dark development on the inside. Taking that in, I couldn’t give the music a bright feel to it and thus found myself completely submerged in the game while composing the music.

Sakamoto: In front of his house there’s a park and once he told me that “even though today is the deadline, I cannot make music.” When I asked him, “why is that?” He told me “that the lantern festival nearby has been under the spell of the Matsu Ken Samba and if he were to make any music now it would all be Matsu Ken Samba.” (laughter)

[Chris: Matsu Ken Samba refers to a song sung by Ken Matsudaira who is an actor famous for his work in period (samurai) television shows. It was rather popular given the period style clothing in the music video but with a rather, Brazilian flair as can be assumed from the name.]

Everyone: (laughter)

Itou: That was really difficult you know. Somehow the phrase “Matsu Ken Samba” even got into the song I was working on.

Question 6: This is a question for everyone. What do you think about music from games from the West? Also, slowly more games are being made which are geared towards the Western marketplace. Has that changed the way game music is being made?

(Saitama Prefecture, Yasuoku)

[Clearly, a matter of budget?]

Mitsuyoshi: By Western, they mean foreign titles.

Sakamoto: Western games in other words.

Hosoe: There isn’t really that many more though.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: So the question is about how foreign artists write music then?

Sano: Also, in regards to FPS games, they seem to have crazy high budget orchestras.

Itou: It’s almost on the level of Hollywood films these days.

Sano: The Japanese game industry is pretty jealous… with the huge budgets that they have, their film-like creations are on a magnitude beyond anything we have. Thus to answer how we think about this, the answer is that, “we are jealous.” (laughter)

Mitsuyoshi: But in regards to music is anyone that conscious of Western-style tracks? As for me, I don’t really think too much about it… It’s not like I think, “Oh no! We need to make “Halo“-like music!”

Everyone: That is true.

Sakamoto: There is music that sounds like it’s from an FPS game is there not?

Nakamura: Titles like Gears of War… There seems to be a lot of titles that make use of a full orchestra.

Sano: A lot of them tend to have Hollywood-style orchestrations.

Nakamura: For Japanese people, I wonder if there might be game music that is particularly memorable. As for movies, you always have music that people can say they have heard of before. That is why music is so important in games.

Mitsuyoshi: For example, I don’t really have any particular memory for music from Western games like how Mr. Kouda described the kind of unforgettable melody in his songs from Monster Hunter. Certainly, the feeling from music in Western games is rather gorgeous.

Sano: Then, the tracks from Monster Hunter are truly impressive.

Sakamoto: The basis is catchy but it is spread all over the place.

Sano: You could say it is “damp” in a sense. Or perhaps wet. I am a fan of orchestration that is damp. Don’t you suppose Hollywood-style orchestration is a bit on the dry side?

Sakamoto: What do you mean by “wet?”

Sano: Well… there’s a feeling of wetness… I guess that’s all I have. (laughter) Well, there’s something there! Even if orchestration is used, some melodies seem to carry a feeling of wetness.

Nakamura: Are you talking about songs that make you cry?

Sano: It’s something close to that I suppose. In other words, I think there’s an emptiness to Hollywood-style orchestration.

Hidenori: I can’t quite describe the sensation persay, but I am a fan of horror films and always look forward to watching the latest Japanese offerings. However when I watch what one of these films become when they are remade, I do feel that they feel empty.

Sano: Ah, you’re getting closer! Comparing US rock to UK rock, I feel there’s a sort of wet feeling to the latter. It’s something like that.

Mitsuyoshi: I’m in agreement!

Sakamoto: “Pathos”… perhaps?

Sano: Maybe. Perhaps it’s something on the genetic level.

Sakamoto: This discussion has certainly gotten complicated! (laughter)

Sano: Yes, right now we are using a variety of vocabulary that might sound misleading though. (laughter) But it is there, that wet factor.

Nakamura: (Western game music) techniques are impressive and certainly they have a lot of know-how. They have a massive budget and at times their procedures can be different, but that alone isn’t the only difference.

Hosoe: In short, the answer to the question is, “no change” I suppose you can say.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sano: But right now, in regards to the presence of the Western market there’s not much that the industry can do.

Nakamura: Going with things that are distinctly Japanese or shifting more towards Western tastes is a challenge I think.

Sakamoto: As for music that is true but there are also differences in the Japanese and Western approach with sound effects. How does the sound become that way.

Nakamura: Even things like the confirmation sound is different. It’s rather mysterious. (laughter)

Hosoe: In regards to the US, a studio might borrow a military vehicle for use for sound effects. They can also be rather fussy about the sound of a gun.

Sano: Capcom can be like that too. For Biohazard 5 they asked ex-servicemen who still had firearms to fire them so that the sound can be recorded.

Kouda: For Devil May Cry, a mic was setup a few hundred meters away while the sounds of a fired gun was recorded. “The Grand Canyon is a bit too big but I wish we had an area like Monument Valley to work with.” Banter like that was fairly common. (laughter)

Everyone: That’s way too big!

Sano: But that is true. We sometimes hoped that maybe the bubble would happen again.

[Chris: Sano refers to the 1980s real estate bubble which halted the accelerating economy of Japan and led to more than a decade of recession which is still being felt in Japan today.]

Mitsuyoshi: Certainly! (laughter) Right now funding has really been frozen. At the same time we would try to build up reserves but would end up with many things we’d want to do but are unable to do anything about. As Mr. Sano mentioned if the bubble would occur again, things would get out of hand!

Sano: Furthermore, even though there’s less money available, young people sure know how to spend money compared to those of us in our generation! That would be the way to understand the Western market!

Everyone: It would work! (laughter)

Sano: I joined up just after the bubble period. I always wondered why people were talking so much about the bubble. Mr. Mitsuyoshi, you were working during that time right?

Mitsuyoshi: That’s right. The game world’s bubble though was a bit off.

[Chris: I suppose he is referring to the 5th generation of video games when consoles transitioned into disc-based, 3D engine-driven systems. There’s no specific event, like the NA Video Game Crash of 1983 (as referenced in wiki), but the wiki article talks about some stagnation which includes the failing of many consoles around this time.]

Sano: The kind of world where it was okay to say, “do you want to go get ramen? Let’s head to Sapporo!” (laughter) That kind of expression doesn’t work if you don’t know about the bubble but should it happen again then it is no problem! So to the person who asked this question, please bring back the bubble……

Sakamoto: Uhhh, it doesn’t appear that we gave any sort of answer here……

Sano: Well, there is no real change!

Sakamoto: Th… that works! Well then, on the next question…

Question 7: Has there been any projects where you thought, “please, anything but this!”?


[I will not do this project.]

Sano: Oh my… if only for this question today was worth it. (laughter)

Sakamoto: There are many cases of this happening. Isn’t that right, guys?

Sano: There are many indeed that make you feel like that!

Nakamura: Anything but work without guarantees…

Sakamoto: That wouldn’t even be considered work anymore!

Sano: Did that happen before in the past?

Nakamura: It was something that involved getting something else instead of payment. For the sake of getting promoted for example…

Hosoe: And then it leads to insolvency…

Sano: So the answer to the question is insolvency?! (laughter)

Nakamura: That I would really want to avoid. (laughter)

Sano: Ahahaha! So besides the matters of money, what else would be a big factor?

Nakamura: A project that never ends!

Mitsuyoshi: Shenmue was like that… strictly speaking, it finally ended and was released but as the scale of the project grew out of control I seriously thought it would never end.

Everyone: (laughter)

Hidenori: Within the company there’s a section that is often called the “pubic utilities” section. (laughter)

Sakamoto: What about you, Mr. Itou?

Itou: There are times when a ridiculous order is given. Like say having voice on an FM source.

Sakamoto: As a creator that’s a bit too much. (laughter)

Itou: But within the structure of that question it’s not quite what Mr. Sakamoto might have had in mind. If that was the case then I guess I can’t think of anything.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: What about you Mr. Yukawa? Perhaps something like “I’d like to stop with the job of doing Bud girl cosplay.”

Yukawa: No, I’m holding on right now.

Everyone: (laughter)

Hidenori: Perhaps we should go with a generalization?

Sakamoto: That’s a good idea.

Sano: Mr. Mitsuda, what’s the number one thing that would make you say, “anything but this!”?

Mitsuda: Well, I don’t think there is anything like that. But it seems every single time a client selects a sound director it is always a new guy.

Sano: Ah! I see.

Mitsuda: Thus, I always have to show them how I have everything listed in Excel. The list would contain song titles but where the songs are used would not be written down. So when I receive the scenario information, I have to ask them to have everything written correctly each time. But when I work with the next client, it’s the same thing all over again.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: Mr. Mitsuda’s system is fairly useful it seems.

Mitsuda: That’s probably the closest thing for me that would make me think, “anything but this!” (laughter)

Sano: I see. But, then you’d have a rather impressive occupation teaching people Excel and Word.

Mitsuda: True. But then I’d become Aviva. (laughter) Well, I think I’ll pass on that.

Sakamoto: If it becomes too much then it would be a problem then.

[Chris: Aviva is a company that operated vocational schools that focused on information technology.]

Question 8: When I was an elementary school student, I played Chrono Trigger and came to love game music when I heard Mr. Mitsuda’s songs. With the feeling of wanting to make music that can create such a feeling of excitement and emotion, I want to some day get involved in making game music. With that purpose in mind, I would like to know what would be the best way to study and train. Please teach me.

(Kanagawa Prefecture, Feather Mantle)

[For example, watch and observe a movie.]

Sakamoto: Uohhh! Mr. Mitsuda has been personally named! First off, I don’t know exactly the best way to get involved in the industry persay. You could consider going to a vocational school, interview with a maker or developer, or apply at a company like ours. There are many ways to approach this.

Sano: But thinking about a lot of us here, when we were young we didn’t exactly go out and try to study the method to make music right?

Mitsuyoshi: I doubt it. (laughter)

Sakamoto: I didn’t study either but when I was younger I went through the phase of thinking I wanted to make game music in the future.

Mitsuda: I didn’t think I would be involved in games the way I am right now. Just music alone would be boring I thought so I was thinking if I combined art and music together it might be better. As for films I think anything works. That is something I thought about wanting to do.

Sano: Eh, you did think about that?

Mitsuda: I really like films. Even when I was in high school I didn’t do anything. (laughter) I didn’t even get involved with a girl at all.

Mitsuyoshi: You’re kidding!

Mitsuda: No, no it is the truth. That’s why I would be bored when I went home alone. So I ended up always going out to rent or borrow movies. From European to even American films. I watched a lot of Japanese animation.

Sakamoto: Is that how you found yourself wanting to get involved with making game music?

Mitsuyoshi: Perhaps it was from this withdrawal.

Mitsuda: Exactly. I was just filled with sound.

Sakamoto: If you wanna learn how to create music for games, you’re saying it’s probably a good idea to listen to music from movies and stuff, right?

Mitsuda: I wonder about that.

Sano: Even if that was the case, you can’t just sit there and just hope that it happens. You have to find your own purpose. By the way, what films left a strong impression with you?

Mitsuda: Classic films like 8 1/2 and Charade.

Sano: Ehh?! You saw some great stuff. Charade?! Just listening to this talk I imagine it’s something you would take a much older woman to go see. (laughter) Somehow outside of the world of films this doesn’t happen at all.

Mitsuda: Not at all. (laughter)

Sano: But, have you ever wanted to write music that had that kind of atmosphere? Perhaps offer to write music that sounds like that from Charade.

Mitsuda: I would do it in a heartbeat!

Sano: (laughter) Whoa. Well, there you have it folks! Mr. Procyon Studios, I would like to place an order for a “Charade“-style song!

Hidenori: This has become a good keyword. (laughter)

Sano: I want you to go watch Shinkansen Daibakuha! This is an amazingly good film with Ken Takakura playing the lead.

Sakamoto: Is that also a useful film to watch?

Sano: Absolutely. I can’t remember where any of the music is used though. (laughter) But, telling someone to just go watch movies is rather simple advice.

Mitsuda: It’s a good way to build up your perceptions though such as maybe determining a songs timing for example.

Sano: Just like with games, it’s a medium that links up the connection between images and sound.

Sakamoto: Is it all right to just listen to music though? Perhaps you could go and learn the songs by ear…

Mitsuda: There’s a good difference between that and just observation.

Nakamura: There seems to be a lot of folks who write music who are also quite knowledgeable about music in films. The conclusion is simple: Go to the movies!

Sano: Exactly. Listening to this I think we all see eye to eye on this. (laughter) It’s important to be in agreement! But, this person wants to hear a response from Mr. Mitsuda so the response has become, “Go see Charade!” (laughter)

Mitsuda: Either Charade or Poppoya will do. (laughter)

Question 9: What do you do if the music you’ve produced before sounds like something you produced in the past or something someone else did?

(Gunma Prefecture, Akihiro@Kayama)

[Do you discard it if it sounds similar? Or even if it sounds similar it’s okay?]

Sakamoto: What about this one?

Nakamura: … it can’t really helped… right? (laughter)

Sano: In the case that the product has already shipped?

Sakamoto: For example, after finishing a song you think, “I’ve done something great! But, it sounds like something I’ve heard before.”

Itou: In order to defend against that, Mr. Sakamoto thoroughly listens to each and every one of his songs.

Sakamoto: Yes, there’s that.

Sano: Are you serious? That would be impossible. I would recommend that you quit that at once!

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: T-That isn’t my only motive! I actually really enjoy listening to my own music.

Sano: It’s all right, even if it sounds similar to something else! Of course other composers will be in a similar situation but I think for yourself there is nothing wrong with that.

Sakamoto: But, I would think that I would be shocked if something in the finished product sounded similar to another product.

Sano: But at the same time you wouldn’t just give up, right? After all you’ve already put it out. The number one thing to worry about is when you get a “well I finished that quickly…huh, it sounds similar?” kind of feeling. (laughter)

Sakamoto: It happens, it happens. (laughter)

Nakamura: Isn’t there a useful iPhone app that’s out right now for that purpose? The one where you hum a tune into the device and it searches for a matching song. If I think that a phrase I’m using sounds kinda hackneyed, I’d just use the app and search for it.

Itou: If you find a match do you fix it?

Nakamura: If there’s a match I’d discard it. (laughter)

Mitsuyoshi: But, as for arranges you’d have to make changes.

Nakamura: If the melody line is exactly the same then it would be a problem after all.

Mitsuyoshi: I do that though. If the arrangement is interesting enough.

Everyone: (laughter)

Sakamoto: This is something that is hard to determine whether it’s something you’ve put out before or something that you might have heard in passing.

Mitsuyoshi: You are thinking about whether or not your song is good. Thus it would seem similar to your own originality.

Sakamoto: I understand now! The most important thing is that you value your own self worth.

Question 10: Among the projects you’ve worked on in the past, is there any that brings forth any memories?

(Tokyo Prefecture, God Triangle)

Hosoe: I wonder what is meant by that.

Sano: Let’s go with, “bringing forth bad memories.” Besides, talking about good memories would be too boring. (laughter) Something bad enough to make you allergic to the very idea!

Sakamoto: There’s no way we can talk about something like that! (laughter) To phrase it differently, we should consider among the masterpieces, you might say, and select something from there?

Mitsuyoshi: For me, it would be Daytona and Shenmue. Daytona would be the positive and Shenmue would be the negative. (laughter) Although lately, Shenmue doesn’t seem as bad as I thought it was. It was a lot of trouble and all, but even to this day the reaction from overseas has been impressive. I guess it wasn’t a bad game at all.

Sakamoto: To the point that rumors still persist of a sequel…

Mitsuyoshi: “I hope so too.” … I want to play it. (laughter)

Hidenori: You really do?

Mitsuyoshi: Well, things have changed. Back then I absolutely did not want to play it. It brought back too many painful memories of working on the game. But as time has passed my opinion has changed. I guess I became more mature as I got older…

Hidenori: As time passes, good and bad titles suddenly look like amazing games as well.

Mitsuyoshi: I do get that feeling when I see the reaction from overseas.

Hidenori: I can say the same with the Ryu ga Gotoku series, which I’m working on right now…

Mitsuyoshi: Yeah, I know what you mean. We’re at the same company after all. (laughter)

Everyone: (laughter)

Hidenori: Working on matching the motion with voice required a lot of trial and error and when we got there people would think it was Shenmue all over again. I guess it’s meaning as a pioneer has gotten stronger it seems.

Nakamura: Sega just moves too quickly. (laughter) I feel the same way for both of them.

Sakamoto: What do you think, Mr. Hosoe?

Hosoe: It seems everyone has some sort of memories of stuff they’ve worked on.

Sano: Ehh. (laughter) Please give us an example.

Hosoe: Cybersled. There was a certain amount of time to work on the music so I tried experimenting with different things.

Sano: Yes, yes, yes! During that era, this was the number one thing Mr. Hosoe wanted to do.

Mitsuyoshi: Starblade was also worked on by you, right?

Sano: I see footage of it from time to time on YouTube and inevitably it brings me to tears!

Mitsuyoshi: It is pretty cool is it not.

Hosoe: The balance of the ROM’s capacity and the dialogue’s capacity was pretty bad…

Sano: You couldn’t get all the music in, huh. I was a fan and I would be incessantly talking about it. (laughter) The end really teared you up.

Hosoe: It does leave an impression. For the voice, instead of getting a voice actor we got some big-wig at Namco America we poked fun at and called “Mister Starblade.” Supposedly afterwards he left the company and left Redwood City. (laughter)

Sano: That’s a good story! Perhaps he left on a journey to a different star. (laughter)

Sakamoto: Mr. Mitsuda, you had talked about Xenogears earlier.

Mitsuda: The good and the bad that was Xenogears.

Sano: What was the bad part…?

Everyone: (laughter)

Mitsuda: Definitely the lengthy development time. It was a period that lasted about two years. It was really hard to maintain my motivation. Being an RPG isn’t it natural that the most dramatic tracks would be reserved for the end? Whether it was the last boss or the last dungeon. (laughter) Back then it was really important.

Sano: So you had to deal with all the music you wrote for that 2 year period of time.

Mitsuda: That’s right. Irish music at that time wasn’t really popular yet as this was a bit before the screening of Titanic but at that time I had already started recording some Irish-themed music for Xenogears. About a year into the development, Titantic was premiering and when I heard the ending song instantly I had the notion that it sounded way too similar to what I was writing. I was incensed when talking about it, (laughter) that I wrote down under the number of days that the so