On Fabruary 18th, one day before Castlevania – The Concert, a show dedicated to Michiru Yamane's music, a press conference with the composer and concert producers was organized. The event was held at Hotel Rica, a location close to the Konserthuset philharmonic venue. While the interview was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m, it started about 20 minutes later - Michiru reached the hotel on time, but needed extra time to change into her official kimono.
For the press conference, only Zell arrived on time. The rest of our team reached the hotel about 30 minutes later. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem, and we were able to get all our prepared questions answered by the composer and concert organizers. The full transcript of the conversation is included below:
Simon (English-to-Japanese translator): This conference is being organised on account of Castlevania – The Concert. Here's a brief presentation of the people behind the organisation of the event: we've got Erik Eklund who is a producer of the concert, and then we've got David Westerlund, who is the main spark of the initiative and a co-producer. Of course, we've also got our guest of honour: Michiru Yamane-san, who has composed the music for several of the Castlevania games. I am her interpreter – Simon.
David Westerlund: Let me give you some brief history behind this project, before I open up to your questions. Some of you might know that we had a tour of music from the Final Fantasy series, in the summer of last year. It was called “Final Fantasy – Piano and Vocal Collections”, and we basically took some famous pieces, as well as the more obscure ones, and arranged them for piano and vocals. We've been met with great audiences wherever we've played these arrangements, both in Stockholm and Gothenburg. I've always thought that there is another game series with really great, well-composed music that deserves a live concert – Castlevania. In particular, the music composed by Michiru Yamane-san.
We started planning the event in August last year, and we've been working for about six months, at this point. It was especially hard to write the orchestra arrangements for the people from the Royal College of Music. It's very difficult music to work with, so the task was really time-consuming! We're all big fans of the Castlevania music, however, so we had to make the show finally come true. So we're here now – tomorrow is the concert made by fans! We've rented the Concert Hall, and we've booked the Stockholm Youth Orchestra. This is really the first time that a concert of this size has been produced by fans who are in total creative control of the music selection and the show content [i.e. meaning that the concert was not produced by any of the game industry companies – ad. GameMusic.net].
Let's leave the introduction here, and I'll open up to questions from our panellists.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: Can you remember when you started working with Konami? What was your first contribution?
Michiru Yamane: My first work for Konami was the music for King's Valley 2: The Seal of El Giza, which is a game about soul items. I wrote the main song for this game. It had to be in either 1988 or 1989.
Interview Team (GameMusic.net, Innerworld.pl and Castlevania.innerworld.pl), question to Michiru Yamane: Do you still remember your first experiences composing Castlevania - The Concert promo poster. music for the Castlevania franchise? Why did you decide to stay with Konami and work on the series?
Michiru Yamane: The first thing I wrote was “Vampire Killer”, for the game Castlevania: Bloodlines. I was under a lot of pressure, because it was a game famous for well-made graphics and very good sound effects. When I was told by my managers to “do your best with your music for this title”, I had to live up to these high standards.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: When you were working for Konami, did you have much freedom to compose new music for the games, or were you required to follow previous musical compositions?
Michiru Yamane: I was told to listen to the music composed for the previous Castlevania games, and was instructed to follow the theme set forth by previous compositions. When I was going to work, I was often approached by people I didn't know. For instance, I would step into an office elevator, and people would comment: “So you are doing music for Castlevania: Bloodlines? It's very good music!”. It was a lot of pressure for me to bear.
Interview Team, question to Michiru Yamane: You've brought many external influences into your creative work: for instance, in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you have shown how varying the musical themes of a game's soundtrack can be. Do you have favourite genres, which you like to compose? Do you prefer classical music, rock, or more experimental sounds?
Michiru Yamane: I hadn't done much rock music up until then [the time of composing music for Symphony of the Night – ad. GameMusic.net] so it was particularly interesting to write for Symphony of the Night. I was listening to a lot of rock music, and trying to mix the style of this genre with themes from the game. Apart from that, I was impressed by the beautiful graphics in the game, especially in the Chapel - a place where you are climbing stairs up, up to the right (laugh). So, it was a great experience for me to arrange rock-style music to match the graphical representation of the Chapel stage. Also, there is an underground lake stage, where we can hear the natural sound of bats. Creating ambient music to emphasise the atmosphere of this level was also quite special to me.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: Do you think that composing music for technically limited devices like the Nintendo Entertainment System was an interesting challenge? Did you find the work interesting, or did you view composing for NES games simply as a job?
Michiru Yamane: First and foremost, it was definitely a challenge. All of the music composers at this time had to figure out how to express themselves through only three sounds. Now, if you look back, you can't really believe you composed these pieces (laugh).
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: Following up on the present topic, what made you to decide to compose soundtracks for video games? Is it just a coincidence that you began working on these soundtracks, or you are a fan of the games, as well?
Michiru Yamane: I played games at arcades, when I was small – titles such as Pacman, or the first Mario games. I like the games, but at the time there were no jobs in the industry where you could get a salary each month. And of course, there were no jobs for musicians. When I had to start looking for a job, I found an ad posted at my university. The company happened to be Konami. It wasn't an ad asking specifically for a musician, but I ended up there anyways. I worked there for 20 years, so it was obviously something I liked to do.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: So why have you decided to leave Konami and become a freelance composer?
Michiru Yamane: I left Konami because I wanted more creative freedom. I worked for Konami for 20 years, and while making music for a specific series was a good thing for me, it was time to move on. As a creative person, my heart needs to be able to choose what it wants to do. Nowadays, I want to be a bit choosier on what I'll compose for the rest of my working years.
Interview Team, question to Michiru Yamane: We would like to follow up a bit on this topic. As we all know, you More promo posters.aren't composing the soundtrack for Castlevania's newest instalment - the Lords of Shadow game. Can we expect any contributions to Castlevania games in the future, or do you regard the series as a closed chapter in your career?
Michiru Yamane: It's both a closed chapter, and it isn't. After Symphony of the Night, a lot of composers have contributed music to the series, and the game producers sometimes change their opinion regarding which music to use. Therefore, I regard Symphony of the Night as a closed chapter in itself. However, there is a box published this March, and it contains every piece of music ever created for the Castlevania series. For this release, I have created two new arrangements. I am still involved in related projects, and if I had the possibility to return to Castlevania series, I would be interested.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: Where you surprised when these Swedish guys [producers of the Castlevania – The Concert event – ad. GameMusic.net] contacted you (laugh)?
Michiru Yamane: Yes (laugh). Up until now, there was only me and a computer, and the music could only be played in electronic form. But now, another person needs to interpret what I have written – and a person that I didn't really know, nonetheless! It's very interesting to work with a third party, and not just with a machine. [This was the first time that a concert fully dedicated to Michiru Yamane's music was organized. Before this event, her tracks were occasionally performed on game music concerts – ad. GameMusic.net]
Simon (English-to-Japanese translator), question to Michiru Yamane: I have a question! I have been listening to game music for my entire life, and I've always been interested in how the internal synthesisers for these machines work – like the NES' one with 3 sounds and the SNES' one with about 12 sounds. Because the in-game music of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which was released for PlayStation, sounds precisely the same as your original score for the game, I was wondering whether this game uses the internal synthesiser. Or is it pre-recorded live music, just played straight from the game's CD? What machine did you use to compose this soundtrack?
Michiru Yamane: We used an Akai sampler. We connected this to the computer, and used a composing application called Logic (which I am still using to this day). It wasn't live music, but we were able to use samples that sounded like real instruments, including imitations of a guitar and vocal sounds.
Simon (English-to-Japanese translator), question to Michiru Yamane: Was it a relief for you when it became possible to use real instruments on video game soundtracks?
Michiru Yamane: I was relieved to finally be able to use real instruments. The soundtrack for Castlevania: Bloodlines was composed for a sound chip, which was rather limited. Therefore, it was partly fun to use real sounds and I was partly relieved.
Swedish media, question to David Westerlund: Were you surprised when Michiru Yamane said “yes” [to perform at the Castlevania – The Concert event – ad. GameMusic.net]?
David Westerlund: Yes (laugh). Quite frankly, I was surprised and very happy. As soon as we decided that we should do this concert, one of the first steps was to contact Michiru Yamane-san in Japan. We asked if she would like not only to attend, but also to perform. She is a very good piano player, so as soon as she agreed, I knew we would have something special for the concert. I am very happy.
Swedish media, question to David Westerlund: Was she hard to convince, or did she say “yes” immediately?
David Westerlund: No, she was very open to the idea - not only of attending, but also of performing. I was very pleasantly surprised.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane: Did you ever think, when composing the music, that it would someday be performed live?
Michiru Yamane: When I was doing the music for Symphony of the Night, I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would perform this music live. However, when composing, I did have in my mind that it wouldn't be impossible for my music to be arranged for a live performance.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane (in Swedish): When did you realise that your music is also popular in the West?
Michiru Yamane: The first time I realised it was when an American journalist came to interview me about the music for Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and he told me that I'll have a lot of fun meeting my fans in America. I agreed, “yes, I will”. Shortly after that, I attended E3, met a lot of my fans, and got interviewed again. That was the first time that I saw how my game music was popular abroad.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane (in Swedish): When was the first time that you performed any of your compositions live?
Michiru Yamane: It was probably 2006, in Leipzig. I was playing “Wood Carving Partita”. That was the first time. It was a starting point to actually play my music live, and although I need a lot of courage, I'm quite confident for tomorrow.
Interview Team, question to Michiru Yamane: We've got one more question, because we think this topic hasn't been covered in much detail. You have mentioned Akumajo Dracula Best Music Collections BOX on your website that you're planning on releasing your own solo album. Have you made any progress so far on this project?
Michiru Yamane: Oh, did I actually write that (laugh)? I want to do a solo album, and this is a project that I'll start working on from now on. However, for the upcoming box set of Castlevania music [i.e. Akumajo Dracula Best Music Collections BOX – ad. GameMusic.net], I have composed two songs which are completely original. Additionally, there are two arrangements of the former Castlevania songs [i.e. the originals were created by previous composers of the music from the series – ad. GameMusic.net] and five arrangements of my own Castlevania songs [i.e. the original scores were composed by Michiru Yamane – ad.GameMusic.net]. It's pretty much my own solo material, in that box set.
Swedish media, question to Michiru Yamane (in Swedish): What was your first impression of Sweden?
Michiru Yamane: When I changed my money in Narita, I saw that there is actually sheet music on the 50 kronor bill. I thought, what a wonderful country it is (laugh). You shouldn't have any Euros in this country; you should keep your Kronors so you can have this sheet music!
Interview Team, question to David Westerlund: You've brought us concerts featuring Final Fantasy music, and now we've got Castlevania. What's next? Do you have any plans?
David Westerlund: Well, I have lots of plans. We've grew up with many games and many soundtracks. I think there a few games that haven't been properly represented by concerts. There is still some good music waiting to be performed. I, of course, am very happy to do this Castlevania project because it's something I have been dreaming for many years - ever since I've played Super Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night. I thought about how this music is just too good to be background music. It would be really interesting to have it performed by live musicians, as it already sounds so great in the games. Imagine when real people play it! Well, stay tuned for future projects; we've got some stuff planned.
Interview Team, question to David Westerlund: Any ideas on what it could be?
David Westerlund: Well, I prefer not to say at this point. But as soon as we have the right stuff signed, we'll let you know.
Simon (English-to-Japanese translator), question to Michiru Yamane: I have one last quick question, if possible: I was wondering if you have a favourite game music composer.
Michiru Yamane: I am very fond of Hitoshi Sakimoto, who created music for Vagrant Story. I am also very fond of Nobuo Uematsu. There are many skilled composers in the gaming world. Lately, I've discovered Yoko Kanno, who is not only doing music for games but also for films and anime. I think she is a very good composer.
David Westerlund: Thanks for coming! I hope to see everyone tomorrow at the concert. It starts at 7:00 PM. Be on time, you don't want to miss the opening!
Interview conducted by Piotr "Zell" Serafin (Innerworld.pl). Interview questions for Michiru Yamane prepared by Adam "Nox_A15" Debski (Castlevania.innerworld.pl) and Piotr "Zell" Serafin (Innerworld.pl). Many thanks to David Westerlund for invitation to the press conference.
10:22:58 April 26, 2011
comment author: ~guestAdd comment
That was great!
So interesting. Yamane-san is such a cool person and composer. Thanks for posting this!
00:59:09 March 25, 2010
comment author: ~NoOneSpecial