Game Music

Three Days of Resident Evil 5 ~ Day 1: Interview With Lead Composer Kota Suzuki

March 11, 2009 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Three Days of Resident Evil 5 ~ Day 1: Interview With Lead Composer Kota Suzukion Twitter

Looking forward to Resident Evil 5 this weekend? Well, we hope you are because we’ve got three days of coverage for you, including interviews with members of the sound team along with a review of the game’s soundtrack. Having already listened to it, I can tell you right now that it has some serious atmosphere.

Capcom composer Kota Suzuki is not a household name; the major credits to his name are Devil May Cry 4 and Onimusha 3. He is, however, the main composer of Resident Evil 5. We talk about how he came to work on the title, as well as the details about his collaboration with Wataru Hokoyama and the use of the orchestra in the game. He has a lot of interesting things to say, and it’s definitely cool to learn that he made extensive use of Spectrasonics’ Atmosphere software (which Dale and I both use as well). Why can’t we write stuff this good?

Read our review with Capcom’s Kota Suzuki after the jump.

OSV: Suzuki-san, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today about your work on Resident Evil 5. We are greatly looking forward to the game. We wanted to start by asking how it is you came to work on this title? We know that you’ve been at Capcom for many years, but this is the first time you’ve worked on the Resident Evil series.
Suzuki: Well, it was December 12, 2007, and I had just wrapped up working on Devil May Cry 4, and my boss came to me and said, “I want you in charge of [the music for] Resident Evil 5. The Resident Evil series is loved the world over, so I was pretty excited to be able to be part of it; at the same time I knew there would be a lot of pressure on me. I officially started work on the project in February 2008.

OSV: Can you tell us your overall approach to the game’s score? Did you focus on electronic ambient music, or was the focus on an ethnic sound given the game’s setting in Africa?
Suzuki: The main point when creating game music is to create something melodious. For the most part, I made music for the game that was divided into two categories: music that makes you feel the tension and dark ambient music. Africa is indeed the setting for the game, so ethnic sounds are a part of the music, but more for just a nuanced flavor. Why I tried to focus on is that this is a Resident Evil game, and that makes it a horror game. The music composition team and the game’s director sat down and carefully discussed what we all wanted before we made the music.

OSV: It must be intimidating taking on such a well-established series like Resident Evil. What were some of the challenges you faced? Do you feel satisfied with how the score turned out?
Suzuki: Well, we’re talking about a horror game series whose main focus has been depicting these dark scenes, but the focus of this entry was on “fear in the light.” The composition team and I struggled to find the right direction for that musically, and we presented our many attempts to the director to try and get it right. The thing with writing music is that it’s not just something you slug through to get it done. There are times when you hit a creative slump, and you just have to go and work on something completely unrelated so you can come back to it with a fresh approach. As for the score itself, I think it’s the best I could have produced given the time constraints. I’ll need to push myself on whatever I work on next [to make it better than this score].

OSV: You collaborated with Los Angeles-based composer Wataru Hokoyama on this title. Can you describe how his role differed from yours on the project, and the work arrangement given the geographical distance between the two of you?
Suzuki: My role was to write the music and lyrics that were going to be recorded with the orchestra. I did some of the arrangement as well, and once I nailed down the direction with the director, I would pass on the data to Mr. Hokoyama. He would take each piece I wrote and arrange them beautifully, and then he’d write the orchestrated scores. He was also the conductor during recording. When he arranged the music, I asked him not to change the direction or tone for the music, and he was able to brush it up without doing that.

OSV: Will we be hearing any references to Resident Evil music of the past in Resident Evil 5?
Suzuki: We did keep that stuff in mind for some of the scenes, so that’s something fans can look forward to.

OSV: What was the music creation process like for Resident Evil 5? Were you responsible for coordinating with the design team and implementing your music in the game?
Suzuki: First I discussed with the director what direction he wanted to take for the music I had to write. Next, on the composing side, we would get pieces to about sixty to seventy percent complete and then have the director check them. Some were OK, and some of them needed to be redone. When we completed a piece, we’d convert it to the proper audio format for the game with our proprietary tools and then make sure it triggered at the right scene. When we had an engineering irregularity we would get one of the programmers to fix it. We also checked and rechecked the game to make sure the music would play properly. Then the last stage would be to mix and master the music in our studio (bit MASTER studio).

OSV: What sorts of tools did you use for your portion of the soundtrack? Are there software libraries that you were particularly fond of using for Resident Evil 5? Were live session artists used outside of the orchestral music that will be featured in the game?
Suzuki: For most of the music I used Cubase SX3, Acid Pro 5, and Giga Studio 3. For editing the wave files I used Sound Forge 8. Something I particularly enjoyed using was Giga Studio’s orchestra and percussion libraries. I also used Atmosphere (by Spectrasonic) a lot. For RE5 we didn’t use any live sessions in the game.

OSV: How many minutes of music did you write? Will all of it be featured on the soundtrack album that will be released in Japan in March?
Suzuki: I wrote a lot of music, so I actually have no idea how much will be in there. (Laughs) I probably wrote, I don’t know, around 50 songs or so. All the music from the game should be on the soundtrack, with the exception of a few little jingles here and there. (Some of the songs on the soundtrack are a little different from the versions in the game.)

OSV: You worked extensively on the Devil May Cry 4 soundtrack from last year. Did you learn any lessons working on that soundtrack that you were able to apply to Resident Evil 5?
Suzuki: Oh, I learned quite a lot. Since that was the first title I had ever worked on for both Xbox 360 and PS3, I was able to see firsthand the level quality they can accommodate. On top of that, the experience of going through the production process with the company [on Devil May Cry 4] helped a lot.

OSV: Is there a track you created for Resident Evil 5 that you’re particularly proud of? Can you describe this piece and tell us the story behind how it was created, and what it means to you?
Suzuki: I’m really fond of the pieces we recorded with the orchestra. Of those, I would say “Wind of Madness” and “Pray – Theme Song” are my favorites. “Wind of Madness” also happens to be the first song I wrote out of all the orchestra pieces. It was when I first got involved with the project, so I was able to start writing it with lots of enthusiasm. All the time I was working on it I kept saying to myself, “I can’t wait to hear this being performed.” When I finally did hear it, I have to say, it gave me goose bumps!

The “Pray – Theme Song” has lyrics that I wrote, so my thoughts and emotions are really in that one. It was the first vocal song I had written with African percussion instruments and a full orchestral backing, and I think it turned out to be a really emotional, moving piece. I got my rough ideas for the piece out on the piano, and once I knew what I wanted, I arranged it. I can’t tell you exactly where in the game it appears, but I think you’ll like it when you hear it.

OSV: Given that you worked with Hokoyama-san on orchestral music for the game, I’m curious what your thoughts are regarding orchestral music in games. In the West, the emphasis seems to be on film-like quality and live orchestral music. Do you feel the orchestra should have a more prominent place in games in Japan?
Suzuki: I keenly experienced the type of presence orchestral music can bring thanks to the recordings we did. It just adds to the music’s power and elegance, and when it’s used in promotional materials, it really gets people interested in the game. But in the end, music has to suit the game, and sometimes you’ll find that rock or pop music is more appropriate. I think it’s important to select the best possible music genre to match each game.

OSV: There isn’t a whole lot of information available about your past work. Can you tell us about your musical background, how you came to work at Capcom, and perhaps some of the other titles you’ve worked on besides Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 5?
Suzuki: My first real interactions with music came when I joined the chorus group in high school. After that I got interested in playing the piano and the guitar, and I also did a little song writing here and there. I went on to a music college where I studied vocal music. While I was in school, I discovered computer music programming. Since I had always loved video games, I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could get a job making video game music. I took a test to enter Capcom, and here I am today. Some of the soundtracks I’ve worked on that are available overseas include Onimusha 3 and Shadow of Rome.

OSV: Do you see this as your biggest achievement in the gaming industry to date? Has working on this title changed you in any way, and do you have any final comments for fans of the series and the music of Resident Evil?
Suzuki: I can definitely say I now have a piece of work that is hallmark of my oeuvre, and having done it has made my job easier in the long run. I also think my friends and family now have a better idea of what my job actually is. (Laughs)

To the fans I want to say that I and the composition team put our all into making the soundtrack for Resident Evil 5. I hope you all pick up the game and have fun playing it. And if you have a home theater system, you’ll definitely want to listen to it in surround sound! I hope you enjoy this and any future games in the Resident Evil series!

OSV: Are you able to tell us what you’ll be working on next? We look forward to seeing your name pop up more often in the future!
Suzuki: I appreciate that. Unfortunately I can’t discuss publicly what I’ll be working on next, but I’ll make sure to do my best to make something the fans will love.

OSV: Again, thank you for your time, and congratulations for completing your work on Resident Evil 5!

[Special thanks to the audio team at Capcom for arranging this interview]

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