Hitoshi Sakimoto was in town this Friday for the opening of the eGames & Entertainment Expo. In between his main stage performances we got a chance to catch up and have a chat about his work, what drives him and the current place of video game music in the world. We sat down with Mr Sakimoto, violin virtuoso Mr Hiroaki Yura, who provided translation and Mr Masaaki Keneko, a sound effects engineer.
(right) and Mr Keneko
Matt: Thanks your spending your time with us Mr Sakimoto, I know you've only been in Melbourne today for a short period but how are you enjoy it so far?
Mr Sakimoto: This is the second time I've been to Melbourne, I think it's a very clean city and a bit of a futuristic one to me.
Matt: So tell us a bit about yourself beyond game music.
Mr Sakimoto: (laughs) What about me? Since I've started work I haven't done anything else but work, I don't know if there's anything fun to talk about! The reason I joined this market is simply because I like games.
Matt: Is there any reason you didn't go for TV or Film composing?
Mr Sakimoto: (laughs) It's just because I love games, but because I do this type of work if there is a request I do other kinds of work.
Matt: So what are the major advantages when you're writing for games?
Mr Sakimoto: It's a completely different genre to other forms of music. Basically game music is interactive music, and it all starts with the input of the player. It's a very free work, there's a lot of things that that are really up to me to do. It's very flexible. The genre of this music is in between music that explains the situation, and music that is there for purely being music.
Matt: So a blend of explaining what's happening on screen but also being able to write some beautiful music?
Mr Sakimoto: That's right.
Matt: So you're working with your own independent company Basiscape after Square's Vagrant Story, what brought about the move of going independent?
Mr Sakimoto: This is my own opinion, but being able to decide what I want to do through my own creativity is a big advantage. Being able to pick the team I want to create sound with is also a big advantage.
Matt: So working independent does give you the freedom to chose, what games do you love to do?
Mr Sakimoto: I want to do a science fiction massive online play game, but I also want to do first person shooter music as well.
Matt: Now probably the most well known of your work in the west is Final Fantasy XII, how was it following on from... now I'm always really bad at pronunciation... Nobuo...
(Everyone cracks up laughing)
Mr Sakimoto: Noobeeuoo? (more laughter) It's Noo-bu!
Matt: Alrighty then! (laughs) How was it following on from Nobuo Uematsu? I'm sure this is a question you get all the time.
Mr Yura (our translator): He understood that question (laughs)
Mr Sakimoto: I play a lot of fantasy games, so obviously I've been listening to a lot of his music. So I understand what the player wants, and I feel Mr Uematsu music is very natural for that game. It was a really big opportunity for me to work on Final Fantasy, and the only way I could make it better was doing it my own way. I took my own approach to it. The result is given by the players.
Matt: After Final Fantasy XII you also had Revenant Wings on the hand held systems, which not only featured a very different gameplay style but also a context sensitive music. What's involved in adapting the themes of a big cinematic console game into a handheld adaptation?
Mr Sakimoto: I wasn't overly involved with Revenant Wings, it was my music but most of it was arranged. I added two or three pieces along with that.
Matt: So we've talked about the end result of the creative process, on the technical side of production, what do you think the biggest advancement in audio technology is that has allowed you to produce bigger and better things with music?
Mr Sakimoto: I'm actually very old school, but in terms of equipment, going digital. There's not a lot of things you couldn't do before, but the main thing is that it's become easier to do. Instead of doing a process to create sound, I'm happy that I've got more time to spend on creating music.
Mr Yura: Mr Keneko is a sound designer, he does sound effects, in terms of technical that's he speciality.
Matt: Well, Mr Keneko, what has made the biggest difference in allowing you be creative instead of dealing with technical problems.
Mr Keneko: It's a strange thing to say, but being able to copy is a big step. I mean there's no deterioration when copying no matter how many times you copy it.
Matt: Now video game music is a big thing in Japan but in the West for many years it's been offside in the background. But now we're having things like the MTV Video Game Music Awards, a big commercial product, what do you think of the fact that it is something that people are getting really interested in?
Mr Sakimoto: When I entered the market I never thought it would be like this. I'm very surprised, but it's a very good thing. When players listen to my music, I get a lot of exposure, I feel really happy about this.
Matt: Recently you've finished up composing for the anime 'Romeo x Juliet'. What attracted you to that role?
Mr Sakimoto: I had no previous business affiliation with Gonzo [Romeo x Juliet's studio] before, but I was a big fan of Kaleido Star and I was approached by the same producer. I thought 'if those people who created Kaleido Star are working on this project, it must be good!'
Matt: And of course finally, what are you working on next, what's the big project?
Mr Sakimoto: I'm multi tasking a lot of work, the only things I can talk about you already know about. There is a title that's been announced called Towers of Druaga, but I haven't arranged a single piece for it yet.
Matt: Cool, well thank you very much for talking to us and spending you time with us.
Mr Sakimoto: Thank you.