trapped in revamp hell
The third interview from the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World of Tres- pamphlet is one with Yoko Shimomura and Tsuyoshi Sekito! The two discuss how they first met, their composing process and inspirations, work on KINGDOM HEARTS III, and more.
Yoko Shimomura & Tsuyoshi Sekito
February 25, 2019
I had heard stories about a beautiful woman
–Like Ishimoto-san, you were once office colleagues with Shimomura-san, correct?
Sekito: Yes, in Osaka.
Shimomura: But you went to Tokyo at one point, right?
Sekito: I was in Tokyo from 2000 to 2010, but we met before then.
Shimomura: Yes, I think we met several times before you transferred to the Tokyo office.
–Before that time, was there any connection between you two, when you were at CAPCOM, or when you were at KONAMI?
Shimomura: No, not at all.
Sekito: When I first learned about Shimomura-san, I think I was working at the old SQUARE office in Meguro, ARCO TOWER. I had just finished up Super Mario RPG. Or maybe it was after that, in Hawaii…?
Shimomura: It was Los Angeles, not Hawaii. We were working on Parasite Eve.
Sekito: Oh, that’s right.
Shimomura: I didn’t have a home back then. Because I was on a long-term assignment overseas. I got rid of my place in Japan. Wasn’t there some kind of dinner party at the hotel I was staying at in Meguro? Were you there for that?
Sekito: I don’t think I was.
Shimomura: Several of the Osaka dev team members, who had been out drinking, just showed up at my hotel room.
Sekito: Then maybe I was there (laughs). I can’t say I remember though.
Shimomura: The Osaka dev team members, specifically the music team, were coming in once a month to the Tokyo office. They held a kind of welcoming party, and then instead of having an official after party, I remember they just all came and drank in my hotel room. It was around 1997, I think?
Sekito: I joined the company in 1995, so I’m pretty sure that I first met you around then.
Shimomura: Maybe when I had briefly came back to Japan, or right before I first left for Los Angeles.
Sekito: I just remember one thing. When Front Mission was ported to WonderSwan(*1), the music was done by an outsourcer that neither of us knew. I remember you listening to the final deliverables and being like, “What in the world…!?” (laughs) The sound source for the WonderSwan was about the same specs as the Famicon– it could only handle about 3 or 4 sounds. The music data in question was using something called MML(*2), and you insisted on fixing the data with someone who knew how to use MML–that is, someone you could say “fix that like this” to, and then they would fiddle with the MML to implement the fix. Well, I happened to fit the bill, so from about 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning, I remember sitting in front of a computer with you and Matsueda-san(*3), fixing about 40 songs together (laughs). That was one of the rare occasions when we worked together.
–(To Sekito) What is your impression of Shimomura-san?
Sekito: Well, I don’t mean to put her on a pedestal, but…
Shimomura: Do it! Raise me up! (laughs)
Sekito: I had heard stories about a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman who had composed Chun-Li’s theme music in Street Fighter II.
Shimomura: Nobody has ever said that about me directly… and why the focus on Chun-Li, I wonder? (laughs)
Sekito: So, when we first saw her, the entire office was like, “Wow, the stories were true!” I mean back then, she was quite…
Shimomura: ....a hot number? (laughs) I admit I was a little over the top back then.
Sekito: But then you went to LA, and became all Americanized…
Shimomura: Oh, come on!
Sekito: No, it’s true! You came back looking like Fujiko-chan(*4) (laughs).
–(To Shimomura) And what is your impression of Sekito-san?
Shimomura: How do I say this…
Sekito: I’m just a shadow on a wall (laughs).
Shimomura: No, no! With Sekito-san, what you see is what you get. Someone who speaks in a soft Kansai dialect. I use the Kansai dialect too, but mine is much more aggressive version. My standard image of a composer is someone who is a little too much, a little off-kilter. But Sekito-san, he’s more… I want to say soothing, but…
Sekito: Just ordinary.
Shimomura: Not ordinary, there’s a kind of an aura of softness about you. I mean, if we were a comedy team, you would definitely be the straight man and I would definitely be the foil, the two opposing archetypes of Kansai (laughs). Most straight men would just mercilessly rebuke the foil’s antics, but Sekito-san would just be like, “Oh, is that right?” It can come off as a little condescending, but my overall impression of him is very positive. I felt that I would never clash with someone like him.
Sekito: Thank you.
Shimomura: It’s a great thing to be able to say, because music people can be very self-centered, so clashes aren’t uncommon. Then again, maybe Sekito-san is just constantly trying to grin and bear my existence (laughs).
Sekito: Of course not! (laughs)
I’m not the only one who can write cheerful battle music
–What are your impressions of each other’s work, then?
Sekito: What just popped into my mind is The 3rd Birthday. Suzuki-kun(*5) was the main composer, but the theme and the music in key areas were written by Shimomura-san.
Shimomura: I remember writing a couple of songs.
Sekito: I was just helping out Suzuki-kun, handling the parts that he was too busy to do.
Shimomura: Is that right? I had already become a contractor, so I really couldn’t see the whole picture anymore.
Sekito: I can still recall the impact of hearing that theme. Both Suzuki-kun were sulking, thinking to ourselves, “We’ve been outdone!” I can’t really explain how or why, but The 3rd Birthday has this key visual, and when you hear the opening at the beginning of the adventure, and you just say to yourself, “Wow, that’s incredible!”
Shimomura: The theme of The 3rd Birthday is the one that’s reminiscent of Aya’s theme, right? The piano piece?
Sekito: There are several impactful songs, but the order we made to Shimomura-san was to infuse her taste into key areas of the game, and she delivered to perfection. All I could think to say to her was “Thank you” and “Great job!”
–What was your impression when you first heard Sekito-san’s music?
Shimomura: What really made an impression on me was not the first song I heard, it was that one, the one that was also done with the wind instruments.
Sekito: The song in 3D.
Shimomura: I really love that piece. It matches with wind instruments so well that I insisted on including it… Ice-hot Lobster, that’s the title. When I’m asked to describe the general characteristics of the music in KINGDOM HEARTS, I often say that it’s “cheerful battle music.” And when it came to creating cheerful battle music, I had a degree of confidence. But then I heard Sekito-san’s song, and I was blown away by the cheerfulness. It made me think, “Wow, I’m not that special after all.” It’s a boss theme, isn’t it?
Shimomura: The boss themes that I write always tend to get gloomy. Your song is so full of cheer and positivity, yet it’s still battle music. In that sense, it had a great impact on me. I said to myself, “Uh-oh… I’m not the only one who can write cheerful battle music.” (laughs) I really do love that song.
Sekito: You’re too kind.
Shimomura: There are other songs I like, too! Like for this concert, I was really conflicted about the Dream Eater song.
Sekito: UNTAMABLE and Majestic Wings?
Shimomura: For the Dream Eater boss battle, I felt that UNTAMEABLE was more appropriate, but I had a personal preference for Majestic Wings, so I wanted to use one or the other. I asked Sekito-san to make the choice, and he chose Majestic Wings, so I was very happy (laughs).
Sekito: I had heard that Shimomura-san was having a hard time making the selection, so I just said, “Why not this one?”
–A question about composition to Sekito-san: Are there any chord progressions or keys that you are especially fond of?
Sekito: For me, when it’s guitar, I find it easiest to create the foundation of the song with the open strings E, A, and D(*6), so they key tends to go in that direction.
Shimomura: And it makes the orchestra happy, too!
Shimomura: I’d say those 3 chords are relatively easy to play. There aren’t many shops and flats (laughs).
–You mentioned the guitar, but is that what you mainly use to compose?
Sekito: No, it really depends on the song, but I rarely use a guitar to compose. When I do use a guitar, I tend to use the chords I mentioned before. The other composition tool I use is a keyboard, but I can’t play the piano like Shimomura-san.
Shimomura: I’m not that good, either (laughs).
Sekito: In terms of software, I use Logic(*7).
I love the sound of the oboe
–Can you tell us what your favorite guitar is?
Sekito: I really like the guitars made by Suhr(*8). I also like Fender Strats(*9). I don’t own many guitars. I have about 5.
Shimomura: That’s not a lot?
Sekito: It really isn’t. 2 acoustics and 3 electrics.
Shimomura: So, that’s not considered a lot. People would think you were crazy if you owned 5 pianos (laughs).
Sekito: Serious collectors own 70 or more.
Shimomura: Can I ask you a question? I know you compose at the office, but do you compose at home, too?
Sekito: Not at all, lately.
Shimomura: Not at all lately… meaning you used to do it?
Sekito: A long time ago, I bought a tiny keyboard and a Mac with Logic Pro so that I could work at home. They’re both collecting dust now (laughs).
Shimomura: When I worked at companies, I never composed at home. Now that my situation has changed, the only place I can compose is at home, so I’m just genuinely curious about what other people are doing.
Sekito: I kept the bare essentials around the house just in case I was suddenly inspired, but honestly, that just never happens.
Shimomura: Do you play the guitar at home?
Sekito: Honestly? No. (laughs)
Shimomura: So, you keep your 5 guitars at the office?
Sekito: Yes, all except one that I keep at home. I occasionally play when I feel like it, but that’s about it.
–Are there any instruments you like or tend to use a lot in your work?
Sekito: I really love the sound of the oboe.
Shimomura: Wow, me too!
Sekito: Really? I’m not well versed in symphonies, but I really do love the oboe. I first learned about the oboe through Nodame Cantabile, but I understand it’s very difficult to play?
Shimomura: Yes, it has a double reed that you have to shave and craft yourself.(*10)
Sekito: One time during a recording (that wasn’t for KINGDOM HEARTS), the oboe sound cracked, and the arranger asked, “Who’s on oboe?” The performer got called out and was apparently never used again. I learned that day that not only is the oboe a difficult instrument to play, but that the professional oboist world is a harsh world indeed.
Shimomura: I really love the oboe, too, so there’s a song in KINGDOM HEARTS that uses an oboe for the melody.
Sekito: I see. My knowledge is quite limited, so all I can say is that when I hear that sound, I think to myself, “That’s wonderful.” Not to say that other instruments aren’t wonderful, but there just seems to be something about the oboe that pulls on your heartstrings.
Shimomura: It’s hard to explain, but there’s a kind of delicate sorrow within the sound that with one wrong turn can suddenly become comedy.
Sekito: I totally understand.
–Any other favored instruments, or some instrument you feel is perfect for certain melodies?
Sekito: Well, I feel that when all else fails, you should bring out the strings (laughs). Also, trumpets are a real weakness for me. I just don’t know how to use them…
Shimomura: Again, that’s the same with me! When I make demos, I often don’t use any brass at all. Oh, except the French horn.
Sekito: Yes! The French horn is great!
Shimomura: It may just be that I don’t possess the sense of sound that’s necessary to use brass instruments effectively (laughs).
Sekito: I’m with you in regard to the French horn, though.
Shimomura: When all else fails, bring out the strings and French horns!
What I love to do is use as many instruments as possible
–In regard to your work outside of composition, do you possess any particularities or idiosyncrasies?
Sekito: What I really love to do is use as many instruments as possible. Of course, when you have too many, things can get messy very quickly, so I revel in the challenge of making everything fit neatly. So generally, I use a large number of instruments. For example, when I want to cut a layer, I say there’s a piccolo, there’s a double bass, and there’s this and that. Then I put in some synth bass to widen the sound and add some pads(*11) in there as well, so there really are no spaces in between (laughs). Also, I have to be very careful to not make frequencies clash. I know that orchestra recordings are mostly one-shot takes in the concert hall, but I would do things like cut under the strings (laughs). I would then maybe add more bass drum to the break(*12) to compensate.
Sekito: I want to incorporate as much as possible, so I cut whenever I can cut. I’m willing to pay that price.
Shimomura: I’m generally moved right now. I don’t even touch the EQ(*13) during a song.
Sekito: Well, I would say in most cases, a natural sound is best.
Shimomura: I figured that’s how you get that streamlined sound. I always felt that your music is really sharp and streamlined, whereas I feel my music is pretty blurry. I’m really bad at mixing, so I always ask the engineers to do it for me, but they seem to interpret the direction I’m aiming for in any which way. Why? Because my sound isn’t sharp and streamlined enough. So, I gained a lot of insight into your sound just now.
Sekito: The truth is, I don’t have a lot of confidence, so I just put in a lot of instruments to feel safer!
Shimomura: There you go again!
Sekito: I find it difficult to create a simple, clean arrangement from the very beginning, so this is what I end doing. Put in as much as I can, trim away the clutter, and make sure the sounds don’t clash.
–Did you study techniques like this? Or was it born of experience?
Sekito: I mainly developed it through experience. You can call it an ambiguity technique. I think it’s used a lot in pop and rock music. Loud rock uses low tuning(*14), which causes the guitar and the bass drum to interfere with one another. In that case, you cut one of them out.
–Did you formally study music?
Sekito: I never received formal music training, so everything I know is pretty much self-taught. I was in the light music club during my student days. At the time there was a very popular Japanese fusion band called CASIOPEA(*15), and I spent a lot of time copying their songs. I graduated from a university of foreign languages, so I initially took a job in trade administration. Then…a lot of things happened (laughs), and somehow, I started frequenting KONAMI’s game package design room. A person who worked in that design room just happened to play in a band, and just happened to love CASIOPEA like I did. So, we said, “Let’s jam together!” And we quickly became friends. Later, this friend told me that KONAMI was hiring music staff, so I decided to apply. And that’s how I got started in the game industry.
Shimomura: So many things I’m hearing for the first time!
–What was the first instrument you touched?
Sekito: The guitar. I had been made to take classical guitar lessons by my parents. But I found it fun, so I continued going for about 3 years. When I was in high school, Deep Purple(*16) was very popular, and some of their older students started to Deep Purple cover band. When I heard them play, I started thinking, “Acoustic is kind of dull,” so I switch to electric. I didn’t join any of the official club activities in high school; rather, I just joined up with other like-minded kids and played music. During my heyday, the popular bands were Van Halen(*17) and RC Succession(*18). When Van Halen came to play at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium in 1978, I couldn’t get tickets. So I put my ear against the outside wall and listened (laughs). That band was ridiculously loud and clear the whole time.
Shimomura: You put your ear against the outside wall? (laughs) I guess back then, you could get that close to that gymnasium without a ticket.
Sekito: I copied Van Halen songs too, but we’re talking about high school level guitar playing here, so it’s laughable in hindsight (laughs). Although at the time, I felt I was doing a pretty decent job. I’m sure piano is the same, but guitar is a really hard instrument to play fast. Holding down the strings was just...impossibly difficult. The synchronization…
Shimomura: Ohh, yeah...one slip and it’s all over.
Sekito: Some kids really worked hard at it though, as if it was a professional sport.
–Do you have a favorite guitarist?
Sekito: I’d say Guthrie Govan(*19) – I just went to see him last month. He’s just one guitarist, so I don’t know how he’s rated musically. Some older guitarists I really like are Eddie Van Halen and Steve Lukather(*20). Steve Lukather was a studio musician that played on a lot of albums, and I bought all of them. TOTO, of course, but I even bought Olivia Newton-John’s(*21) Physical when I learned he played on it.
Shimomura: By the way, I’m a big fan of fusion as well. For me, it was more SQUARE(*22) then CASIOPEA. Oh, and I also liked Shakatak(*23).
Sekito: Shakatak is great.
Shimomura: How about Mezzoforte(*24)?
Sekito: Mezzoforte is great, too!
Shimomura: Wow, I’m so glad you know about them! (laughs) Oh, how about Level 42(*25)?
Sekito: I went to see them last year.
Shimomura: For real!?
Sekito: Mark King(*26) uses the slap technique(*27), so when he’s playing bass, there’s really no “boss.” That why at the show, they run a synth bass(*28) in unison. But the sound of that synth bass was so soothing that people around me were getting sleepy (laughs).
Shimomura: I loved Mark King so much that I bought his solo album, but it was so different from his Level 42 stuff. Just super-complex slap bass riffs that kept going on and on and on (laughs). It made me realize just how much he was holding back in Level 42. He can play–or should I say slap–so fast.
Sekito: Yes, he’s really amazing. And he still had the chops last year.
–What are your favorite songs by the artists you just mentioned?
Sekito: For Guthrie Govan, I’d say Waves. It’s such an intricate, difficult piece. There a video of him performing it, but it’s not regular guitar playing. With guitar, there are so many ways to play “Do”(*29), and he can connect them all while using a slide(*30), and he can still weave that melody. The average guitarist could not play that song.
Shimomura: Wow! With piano, you just kind of keep playing like Hanon(*31).
Sekito: That’s not how he plays it.
Shimomura: So, it’s difficult to jump between sounds.
Sekito: Yes, there’s a certain pitch where it’s difficult to jump around.
Shimomura: Only people who play guitar could understand that.
Sekito: When you’re just listening to the song casually, it doesn’t seem all that spectacular, but when you actually see it being played, it’s unreal. I’ve never actually seen him make a mistake, but at the last live concert I went to, he performed the song as an encore. It was staggering, to say the least. The song has a melody part and a solo part, but one little error in the timing and you would never be able to recover; the transition is just too intricate. But he would deliberately play the solo part a little longer and transition a little later than he’s supposed to, but it would still be seamless. As for TOTO, I like Child’s Anthem and other instrumental tracks. Georgy Porgy is good. It’s a little jazzy. ASAYAKE and DOMINO LINE are my favorite CASIOPEA songs. Van Halen, I like Ain’t Talkin’ About Love. The riff is just amazing. The song is in E Minor and G, but they just mesmerized rock fans all over the world with that riff.
–Are there any composers that you admire or strive towards?
Sekito: Shimomura-san, obviously.
Shimomura: I don’t need to be put on that kind of pedestal (laughs).
Sekito: But it’s true (laughs). I was really blown away and beat down by you this time. More recently, I’ve come to admire Yuki Hayashi(*32). You often hear his work in television dramas, but I learned about him through his work on the anime Haikyu!! His songs are melodious, yet you never get tired of them.
–How do you create melodies when you compose? Shimomura-san said that the sound “descends” upon her.
Shimomura: That’s the coolest way to put it (laughs).
Sekito: With regard to the order of constructing a song, I work on the rhythm extensively to begin. Then I put the harmony and melody on top at the same time. I basically think in chords, so I guess I tend to prioritize chord progression.
Shimomura: So, you have an established order.
Sekito: Well, if I felt like taking the melody in another direction, I would change it.
–Were there any songs in KINGDOM HEARTS III that you found especially troublesome?
Sekito: I think it’s written in the Ultimania strategy guide, but the Gummi Ship area has 5 layers: a peaceful area of space, a less peaceful area of space, a not at all peaceful area of space, the battle area, and the boss area. I’m not certain that I did a perfect job of differentiating each layer but working on 5 songs within the confines of the Gummi Ship was not an easy task.
–What was Nomura-san’s reaction?
Sekito: I submitted 3 of the songs first, and he said, “They’re all no good. They’re pretty, but not fun.”
Shimomura: But Tetsu-san said you had the least amount of rejections.
Sekito: He was talking about the retakes, I think (laughs). My thought was, I needed him to hear how I was differentiating each layer, so I presented the 1st layer song, which is has no beat, the 2nd layer song, which has a little bit of rhythm, and the 3rd layer song, which was pretty raucous. But then he just said, “These are no fun at all,” so I redid all of them. The other 2 songs didn’t have these subtle differentiations, so they were pretty much in line with what Nomura-san was looking for. For instance, the Remy song sounded like it fit the world of the movie, and Rapunzel’s theme was folklore-esque(*33). But this just made me worry all the more about the Gummi ship. As I was making the songs, I kept asking myself, “is this fun? Does it lack tension? Is it just no good?” And so on.
–What is your impression of Nomura-san?
Sekito: I think he cares greatly for developers and creators. During production, he’ll of course criticize and even reject your work, which can really make you worry, but once the project is done, he becomes incredibly nice.
Shimomura: …I don’t ever remember him being incredibly nice to me (laughs).
Sekito: Before, his checks used to start at 10 p.m. and go on until about 6 a.m. the next morning. Everyone was so tired, but Nomura-san had someone buy rice balls and miso soup for everyone. I don’t think there are many producers or directors that would do that for the crew.
Shimomura: He can be very compassionate, but I don’t think he likes to show it very often. He’s pretty strict, but he does have a softer side.
Let’s do something stupid!
–Is there any kind of project that you would like to do specifically with Shimomura-san?
Sekito: We’ve collaborated before.
Shimomura: Really? I don’t remember…
Sekito: You let me put a guitar part into one of your songs.
Shimomura: Oh!? Which one…?
Sekito: GO! GO! Buriki Daiou.
Shimomura: Oh! From Live A Live!
Sekito: I’m the one actually playing the guitar. I remember having a great time.
Shimomura: I remember now! When we re-released the soundtrack, we made a single as an e-store exclusive!
Sekito: I hope there are more opportunities like that in the future.
Shimomura: You’re right, that was a lot of fun! I definitely would like to do something again. Let’s do something stupid!
–Can you tell me what your favorite songs from the KINGDOM HEARTS series are? Please start with one of your own songs.
Sekito: Hmm… The thing about your own songs is, you listen to them over and over again while you’re making them. Especially for a recent project like KH III, it’s really too soon for me to even think about a favorite. If we can go back to about 3D, when I listen to Majestic Wings now, I think to myself, “Wow, I was really trying hard back then!” (laughs)
Shimomura: That’s a very third-person observation (laughs).
Sekito: If I don’t go back that far, I can still telegraph the next bar of any of my songs before they play. As far as songs by other composers go, I like the Olympus field and battle themes from KH III.
Shimomura: Which ones? There are two versions of each.
Sekito: I think both versions of both. I also like the Toy Box field and battle themes. The battle theme especially reminded me of The 3rd Birthday song I mentioned earlier. I heard it and thought, “Wow, this is a battle theme!?” It was pretty amazing.
Sekito: Yes, I love it.
Shimomura: It’s kind of a busy song, don’t you think?
Sekito: Yes, I think it’s filled with all kinds of messages.
Shimomura: I wanted the wong to be like an open toy box that’s been flipped over, so maybe I can kind of see why that might be up your alley.
Sekito: I heard the song when I was playing, and I thought, “I just can’t compete…” Once again, I felt beat down.
Shimomura: Why!? I designed the song to evoke feelings of joy! (laughs)
Sekito: Another example from an older game is the song in 3D. I can’t seem to recall the title, but I think it was a battle theme… with a very fast piano sequence.
Shimomura: A song with a fast piano sequence?
Sekito: The piano was being used like a rhythm instrument, and then a break beat came in. It was a very courageous-sounding song.
Shimomura: It’s Deep Drop. That was actually an arrangement.
Sekito: The piano in that song just grappled onto me and never let go.
Shimomura: The original song is from 358/2 Days. It’s a very different song, but maybe within the same…genre? Wow, it sure brings back some memories.
Sekito: The direction of both songs is the same, but it’s really all about that piano…
Shimomura: I myself can’t play it, but… (laughs).
Sekito: Just hearing the piano being used so percussively is enough for me to go “Whoa!” Forgive me for saying so, but I had a hard time believing the song was created by a woman (laughs).
Shimomura: In the old SQUARE days, the female composers were known for writing masculine songs, and the male composers were known for writing feminine songs. Like with Itoken-san(*34), his battle themes are intense, but he could write the most gentle-sounding songs as well, so people would say that we swapped genders long ago (laughs).
Sekito: For me, it’s songs like this that most clearly carry the Shimomura Mark of Excellence, so it blows me away every time.
–This question is about the game itself, but do you have any favorite characters? Incidentally, Shimomura-san’s favorite is Riku.
Sekito: I think my favorite is Goofy, because my daughter does an impersonation (laughs). It’s understandably burned into mind, so yes, it’s Goofy.
–How about Disney movies? Do you go see many?
Sekito: I don’t watch them all, but I do watch quite a few. I love the song in Pocahontas. Colors of the Wing, that’s performed by Vanessa Williams. I like the story as well. But the ending, where that song plays, I watch over and over. It has a Los Angeles AOR-feel(*35) to it, but it’s also very symphonic at the same time. The backbone of the song is very AOR, it also reminds me of the fusion music that came out of the GRP label(*36), it’s fantastic.
–What about characters in the Disney movies?
Sekito: This again stems from an impersonation, this time by the daughter of a friend, but Rapunzel’s mother Gothel. This friend’s daughter can do a dead-on impression of the Japanese dub. She’s even memorized entire scenes.
I myself am not very good at writing cheerful songs
–Are there any difficulties or special precautions you take when you create music for Disney characters?
Sekito: I’m always told this, but the place where I put in music are especially cheerful places, so I always look great care to think cheerful, although I myself am not very good at writing cheerful songs. I tend to get a little frivolous.
Sekito: I really do try to be careful though. I start off very cheerful, then start emphasizing a relative minor key, although I then to lean more in that direction…
–Are there any orchestrations that you’re especially excited about?
Sekito: It can be said of the recent wind concerto as well, but for fantastic events like this, I am excited about every single piece. That’s why I am very grateful to Shimomura-san, because she gave me this wonderful opportunity. I humbly ask that the next time she feels a little swamped with work and thinks, “Hmm, maybe I can get that old guy to write this for me,” that she not hesitate to contact me. I’ll be ready to catch anything that spills off her plate (laughs).
–Finally, a message to all the fans and supporters attending the concert.
Sekito: I myself am very excited and giddy about seeing the concert. Just the appeal of hearing so many songs from throughout the series guarantees that everyone will have a good time. I plan to go to the Osaka show but…will I be invited to the Tokyo show? (laughs)
Shimomura: Of course, you will! (laughs)
Sekito: Well, in that case, I look forward to spending a magical time with everybody.
(*1) WonderSwan: A portable game console released by Bandai in 1991.
(*2) MML: Short Music Macro Language. A machine language that displays music in text. It was utilized by many early home video game consoles.
(*3) Matsueda-san: Noriko Matsueda, a composer that joined SQUARE in 1994. Worked with Shimomura on Front Mission.
(*4) Fujiko-san: The heroine of the animated series Lupin the Third. A prime example of the sensual adult woman archetype.
(*5) Suzuki-kun: Mitsuko Suzuki, a composer for SQUARE ENIX.
(*6) Open strings E, A, and D: Guitar strings that are played without holding down any frets are called open strings. These strings can be played without the use of the off-hand, so chords that are based on the lower strings E, A, and D are very easy to play (in the case of standard tuning).
(*7) Logic Pro: Music production software created by the German company Emagic (formerly C-Lab), currently published by Apple under the name Logic Pro X. Having changed its name from Notator SL >> Notator Logic >> Logic, the software has a long history during which it has become the go-to software for many music professionals.
(*8) Suhr: An American guitar company. They focus mainly on order-made, high-end guitars.
(*9) Strat: Short for Fender Stratocaster, a guitar made by Fender since 1954. Arguably the most recognizable electric guitar in the world.
(*10) Shave and craft yourself: Oboes are wind instruments that use double reeds, and these reeds are often crafted by the players themselves. Some players claim they spend more time crafting reeds than actually playing…
(*11) Pad: A constant sound playing in the background of a song. They are used to harmonically stabilize and fill in vacant spaces in the music. Synthesizers are often used to create this sound.
(*12) Add more bass drum to the break: The “break” in this case refers to the “break beat,” a dance music method to create a rhythm using edited pre-recorded drum sounds. The bass drum is the largest and lowest drum in a drum set that forms the foundation of the rhythm.
(*13) EQ: Audio Equalizer. A machine used to make precise volume adjustments by dividing the sound in various ways, such as treble and bass. A vital tool for mixing. EQs can be used, for example, to perform the action described in(*12).
(*14) Low tuning: In the rock genre, guitars and basses are sometimes intentionally tuned to a lower pitch to accentuate the bass sound. As a consequence, this may interfere with the sound of other lower-pitched instruments, thus proper adjustments must be made.
(*15) CASIOPEA: The premiere fusion band of Japan. They formed in 1977, entered a hiatus in 2006, and resumed activities in 2012. They are renowned for their technical skill and elegant sound.
(*16) Deep Purple: A British rock band active since the 1960s. They are one of the pioneers of the hard rock genre and have influenced multiple generations of musicians.
(*17) Van Halen: An American rock band known for their signature song Jump. The lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen is known for his virtuosic playing skills and pioneering the “tapping” method.
(*18) RC Successions: A Japanese rock band that was fronted by Kiyoshiro Imawano. Contributed greatly to the development of rock songs in the Japanese language. Formed in 1968, entered a hiatus in 1991.
(*19) Guthrie Govan: A British guitar player. Also known for his work in the band Asia.
(*20) Steve Lukather: An American guitarist and a member of the rock band TOTO. Before he joined TOTO, he had already made a name for himself as a brilliant studio musician.
(*21) Olivia Newton-John: A female vocalist born in England and raised in Australia. She had many hit songs in the 1970s and 1980s. She tours in Japan often and has many Japanese fans.
(*22) SQUARE: A reference to the Japanese fusion band T-SQUARE. Formed in 1977, they went by the name THE SQUARE until 1988. Fans of fusion music often speak of them in the same breath as the aforementioned CASIOPEA.
(*23) Shakatak: An English fusion band formed in 1980. They are one of the major names in the world of British funk fusion.
(*24) Mezzoforte: An Icelandic fusion band formed in 1977. Their signature song Garden Party was often played in the background of television shows. Perhaps some of you will recognize it…?
(*25) Level 42: An English fusion band formed in 1979. Alone with Shakatak, they represented the British funk fusion scene.
(*26) Mark King: An English bassist/vocalist, and a member of the band Level 42.
(*27) Slap technique: A bass guitar playing style where players stop the strings with their thumbs and plucks the strings up with their index and/or middle fingers, simulating a percussion instrument.
(*28) Synth bass: An electronically synthesized bass sound that is often used by itself in dance music but is also used together with live bass to create a thicker sound.
(*29) So many ways to play “Do”: Unlike the piano, string instruments such as guitar and bass can create the same sound and/or pitch in various ways using different combinations in sequence to create the same sound.
(*30) Slide: Chiefly a guitar playing technique, players slide their fingers while still holding down the strings to change pitch seamlessly.
(*31) Hanon: A reference to The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises, a famous compilation of 60 exercises created by the composer Charles-Louis Hanon. The exercises stress machine-like training of the pianist’s fingers.
(*32) Yuki Hayashi: A Japanese composer born in Kyoto. Hayashi creates compositions television dramas, anime, and related soundtracks. Recent works include music for the television drama Oh My Jump! And the anime Star Twinkle PreCure.
(*33) Folklore: A reference to the Spanish word “folklore,” used here in the Japanese context to describe South American tribal music.
(*34) Itoken-san: A reference to Ito Kenji, a composer formally of SQUARE Co., Ltd. that is known for his work on the SaGa series.
(*35) AOR: Short for Adult-Oriented Rock, a term created in Japan chiefly for the LA rock scene, with representative bands such as the aforementioned TOTO.
(*36) GRP label: An American record label that mainly produced albums in the genres of fusion, AOR, and Smooth Jazz.
Interviewers: Tomoko Kanemaki/Taketeru Sunamori