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|Interview with Nobuo Uematsu & Yasunori Mitsuda - Making of Gun Hazard
Interviewer: Yoko Sugimoto
First off, you, Mr. Uematsu, are the composer for the Final Fantasy series, and you, Mr. Mitsuda, the composer for Chrono Trigger. Up until now, you've both worked on fantasy RPG style games, prominently displaying what I think is a very melodious style. With this being a completely different type of game, did you suffer any bewilderment or resistance, thinking, "Man, I'm out of my element"?
U: Bewilderment? There was that, sure.
M: It's like that for any game.
U: Really, even for Final Fantasy, for any game, I experience confusion and resistance. Anyway yeah, for Gun Hazard, I figured since it was an Action RPG, it would include action stages, so there would be long action-packed scenes, with a need for melodies to undulate and carry the drama. I found these sections very difficult to compose for. In the end, there were many parts where I combined loud dynamics with stylish sound colors and cool phrases.
M: Hmm, not being able to write melodious music, that was the hardest thing. I was very conscious of trying to create something stylish, and I put this across using rhythm, and timbres that had a strong impact in and of themselves...
So this game, Gun Hazard, is part of the Front Mission series. Were you conscious of the first Front Mission's music while working?
U: Were you?
M: I'd be lying if I said no.
U: Yeah, hmm, yeah, I guess I'd have to say the same... yeah. When I first joined the Gun Hazard production, I was given the Front Mission CD to listen to, and I thought, gosh they really did this well, I'd better shoot for the same feeling. But I also thought, if I just try to imitate it, I'm not going to be able to come up with the same thing. So I thought it'd be best if we two pursued our own style, but...you know, at the beginning of development, before we'd done any music, the game was temp-tracked with music from Front Mission, and man it fit perfectly! (big laugh)
M: It felt like, hey, we don't have to do anything. (laughs) That was kind of shocking.
So since the music from Front Mission fit the game so well, you felt pressure to live up to it?
U: I wouldn't call it "pressure," but I did feel like I wanted something that would surpass or stand equal to its impact.
That makes sense. Ok, well to look at that from another perspective...each Square game typically has only one composer writing all the music, right? I imagine this must be physically and mentally exhausting, but because this game involved the two of you, did you feel like this was a special case? Or was it just a source of pressure?
U: Both, really.
M: Yeah, both.
U: If I did it alone, everything from opening to ending according to my plan, I could control the entire sound, so doing it alone allows for the greatest degree of uniformity. But lately, it's become necessary to write 60 or 70 pieces just for one game, and it takes ages.
M: That's why, physically, it's really...well, it's not easy at all.
U: Didn't you say you shit blood? (laughs)
M: (laughs) ...as always. Doing a whole game is rough.
Because your sudden debut, Chrono Trigger, was such a huge project, you felt a lot of pressure...
U: A hole opened up in his stomach. (laughs)
How would you compare that experience to this one? I suppose this project had its own difficulties...
M: It wasn't that hard this time, to be honest. After all, I was working with Mr. Uematsu...
U: This again. (laughs)
M: There were certainly times when it was easy. But -and I hope I don't offend Mr. Uematsu by saying this- he's 36 and I'm only 23, so our levels of experience are vastly different. Mr. Uematsu's done loads of games and has a lot of know-how. If we were to work together, I had to raise my skills to the same level. The fans don't know or care how old you are or how much work you've already done; the music is all they judge by. So I felt incredible pressure to try to approach Mr. Uematsu's level.
U: But you know, there's really no difference in levels between us. Except... I was really worn out by this job.
M: Is that so?
U: Well, like I mentioned earlier, the genre here was different from the melodious style I'm used to writing for Final Fantasy, so I had to face a lot of my weak spots. How many pieces did I wind up writing, 20-30? Well, what I typically do is come up with an idea on my Mac and save it as number "M-whatever," and so store up a library of useable ideas. For this project, I wound up with over 200. So compared to my other projects, my batting average on this one was terrible. (laughs) Really, just awful. There were a lot of pieces on the demo tape I gave to Omiya Soft that were discarded. ...but actually, I think it was a good experience. See...Final Fantasy VI was a sort of ending point for me. Not just the music, but the whole game. I thought, if I do this work for the rest of my life, how many more games will I be able to do? With the satisfaction and excitement I felt after finishing that project, I thought I had reached my primary goal, and could quit doing game music with no regrets. That's how I thought then...but on the other hand, there was a part of me that felt that wasn't true. That it couldn't be true. I was very grateful to have worked on FFVI, and the CD sold very well, but I felt that someone like me who could only compose that kind of music shouldn't be able to sell that well. So there was a wedge driven into my heart. There were still many things I had to do, and I knew what my limitations and weaknesses were. Doing Gun Hazard at this time made me fully realize these things, and I returned to my original intentions. I became keenly aware that I wasn't done yet, and I'm very glad for that. As Mr. Mitsuda said previously, he's 12 or 13 years younger than me, and the feel of the sounds he produces is quite different. It's fresh and new, it's the product of the digital era. (laughs) It's really sharp, you know? So working with him was also instructive for me. Tired me out, but it was a good experience. So maybe my next work will sound like it's been spruced up... Anyway, like I said earlier, there's not much difference between our levels. No difference, or maybe I'd lose out (laughs). What I can say is that my procrastination method is excellent and I'm always full of arrogant self-confidence, no matter what the project. (laughs) That's all.
It seems you have a thorough understanding of how to control your body and spirit.
U: Yeah, yeah. But you know, you just learn how after 10 years of doing this. Your body does only what's necessary, nothing more. (laughs) So sometimes it's scary when I look at Mitsuda. The young never stop moving, you know? Doing things like not going home, working all night without sleeping, laboring meticulously over sounds the users will never even hear. (laughs) And in the end, of course, you start shitting blood! (huge laugh) ...ah, but really, I do love that method. After all, I was like that too, long ago. I wanted to exhaust myself doing everything I possibly could, so it makes me feel good when I look at someone like Mitsuda. But the fact that he's bleeding and gets holes in his stomach, that stuff is kind of scary. His physical problems are more of a concern than his musical...(laughs).
And on the other hand Mr. Mitsuda, what do think when you look at Mr. Uematsu? How did you feel while working with him this time?
M: Hmmm. Well, Mr. Uematsu sure is a fast worker. When they were programming the sounds into the Super Famicom, in the spirit of competition, I would think, "Since Mr. Uematsu put 2 pieces in today, I'm gonna get 3 in next time!" So working with Mr. Uematsu impelled me to do my own work quickly. It was an incredibly valuable experience for me in terms of writing game music. When I was doing Chrono, writing just one piece would take several days. But this time, I felt a constant prodding from behind.
U: And just spending a lot of time on something doesn't necessarily make it good. Sure, sometimes it turns out that way, but working quickly causes you to focus your energies.
M: But I believe the tone colors and musical ideas I came up with are more interesting than they were in Chrono. So I think my method worked well for the most part, but you never know, I guess. (laughs) Arriving at work early and leaving early, getting a good night's sleep to be fresh for each day...I think I acquired greater control over myself through what I could manage of that regimen, but...I still get confused. (laughs)
But of course. (laughs) Next, can you each say which of your pieces was your favorite? The one you're most confident in?
U: Hmm, the Opening Theme, I guess...yeah.
M: Mine's the shop music, "A Store Keeper."
U: Ah...of course.
M: That piece was the most fun for me to make. Letting the rhythm run and playing a solo over it...I really enjoyed writing it, so I guess it's my favorite.
How about each other's music? A piece by the other person that made you think, "This is awesome! I could never have done that!"
U: Oh, there were a bunch I couldn't have done, honestly. Hmm, what's a good example...I mean, they're all so good...Umm...ah, the ending theme "Trial Zone," that one's good! Particularly the synth intro. Players would probably say it most resembles Chrono Trigger. It really has that "Mitsuda Sound" ...when you look at my music, it's full of whole note values. My strings and such are always stretched out and sustained. But Mitsuda has a throbbing quality, his music scatters as if blown from a shotgun, and he has a strong sense of color. That kind of sense is...well, I've never written music like that, so...that's most what I'd like to steal. (laughs) I opened the score to see how it was arranged, but it didn't look as if he'd had to go to great effort to come up with it. I realized it was just his unique sense. It's his personal gift, to be able to come up with passages that affect me like that with such frequency.
And you, Mr. Mitsuda?
M: Oh, the opening theme. Mr. Uematsu already said he liked it too, but I think it's amazing. This music, well, I had the score for it, intending to arrange it in various places, but...
U: You couldn't do it, right?
M: I couldn't do it. I can't write music as difficult as this. (laughs) The chord progression is really incredible. You don't know where it's going to go next. I don't have that kind of sense at all...the echoes of those chords left me dumbstruck, and I was kind of shocked. (laughs) I felt like I couldn't do anything. That opening was truly superb.
U: It's the kind of thing someone who doesn't know anything about music would write. (laughs)
M: No, no, no! (laughs) What are you saying!
U: Well, at a so-called music school, that chord progression wouldn't get good marks. Moving from the dominant to the sub-dominant like I did there, it's not organic voice leading.
M: Ah, I get it...it's not the kind of thing that can be analyzed in terms of theory...
M: Yeah, originality.
U: It was luck.
Luck? (Laughs) Really? Can that be luck?
U: It's luck, you.
M: No no, look (laughs), you say it's luck, but luck can't produce things like that. ...Really, I mean, I don't know if they're going to release a piano score, but people should study those chords! (laughs)
Of course. Well, lastly, what are your future plans?
U: What are you doing after this is over?
M: I'm taking a vacation after this is done. Are you also...?
U: Me...I started my vacation before Gun Hazard was finished! (big laugh. At the time of this interview, the music production of Gun Hazard, Mr. Mitsuda's part in particular, isn't finished)
Mitsuda: Already, huh! (laughs)...that's great.
U: How long will your vacation be?
M: I hear I'll get ?til the middle of February.
U: That's wonderful.
M: I don't know...do you think I'll get it? (laughs)
U: No, no, don't worry, don't worry. As for me, I already have my next project lined up, starts at the end of January. So...
And so saying, their conversation continued long afterwards, so let's end it here. Thank you very much for today.
(December 12, 1995, at the Square Offices)