interview by Eric Steffen

Interview conducted by Eric Steffen. Use with permission from Eric Steffen, copyrighted by Eric Steffen.

Interview

Eric Steffens (ES): First, lets start off with your background. What made you want to start composing game music in the first place?
Nobuo Uematsu (NU): Mr. Sakaguchi invited me to Squaresoft. That's all. At that time I didn't know what game music was.

ES: I see. Have you had any formal musical training (music school, etc.)?
NU: No.

ES: Wow! I'm sure there are many out there who would like to know what kind of skills, etc. does it take to become a music composer at Square?
NU: We need someone who can compose good music. We don't care about his educational background.

ES: I bet there are many people who are happy to hear you say that. So how do you go about composing your music? By that I mean, do you start off with a melody and add other parts of the song, or do you start out with the rhythm part?
NU: I always begin to compose the melody first.

ES: How long does it take you to complete a given piece of music?
NU: Depends on the music. Sometimes it may only take five minutes, and other times one week.

ES: Changing gears a bit, what kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
NU: I have been interested in Irish traditional music for the past few years.

ES: That explains Celtic Moon! A truly magnificent album if I may so! Speaking of which, which of your works would you consider to be your favorite?
NU: It must be FF8! Once you listen to that, you will know the reason....I hope!

ES: LOL! I can't wait to listen to it! Do you feel that your arranged albums are more or less successful than your original soundtrack albums?
NU: I'm not sure. I guess many game music fans prefer original soundtrack albums.

ES: I suppose so, I know I'm one of them! :-) However some of your arranged soundtracks have been spectacular. Any chance of any more arranged soundtracks down the line (a Vocal Collections III, perchance?)
NU: Not now. There is no time to make a new vocal album, but some day...

ES: Yahoo! I know we'll all be looking forward to that when it comes out! There was a period during which you seemed dissatisfied with the game music genre, as revealed in your liner notes for FFVI: Grand Finale. In fact, you vowed to leave game music entirely to pursue new projects, such as Phantasmagoria. Now, however, you seem very content composing game music. What brought about this return to, and satisfaction with, game music?
NU: I have never decided that I would quit making music for video games. I suppose that the translation of the liner notes is wrong.

ES: Well that's been known to happen. My apologies for the confusion. Xenogears' music was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, whom you worked with on Chrono Trigger and Gun Hazard. What do you think of Mr. Mitsuda? Do you enjoy his music? Is he a nice guy? :-)
NU: He is one of my good friends. Of course I love his works. He sometimes comes to my house with his family, and we play some instruments together. (don't forget about the beer!!)

ES: LOL!! I have this picture in my head of you and Mr. Mitsuda sitting on your porch on a Sunday evening drinking a bottle of suds. :-) So what kind of beer do you and Mr. Mitsuda drink? American, Irish, Japanese?
NU: Any kind!!

ES: (wiping away a tear of laughter) Will you ever do another solo project?
NU: Someday, I will...

ES: How closely do you work with your sound programmer, Minoru Akao? Do you simply compose the music, and let Mr. Akao handle the logistics, or do you work closely with him to establish the exact sound you're looking for
NU: He's my right hand person. We have been working together for eight years. We meet and talk about the limitations of performance on the PlayStation everyday.

ES: Do you listen to other game music? Are there any game music composers, aside from those at Square, that you enjoy the work of? What about Koichi Sugiyama or Koji Kondo?
NU: Yes, sometimes. There are so many geniuses of this world. If you listen to the Ten Plants CD, you will know what I'm talking about. Koichi Sugiyama is a big boss of game music. I think he was the first person to really pay attention to my works. I really appreciate him for that. Koji Kondo is also a good man. I haven't seen him for years, but we exchange emails sometimes.

ES: While we're on the topic of other game music composers, what do you think of Yoko Kanno? Would you ever like to work with her?
NU: I met her at a party after a game music concert, but we didn't have time to talk. I think she's a great composer!

ES: As do I. Will you be making a follow-up album to Ten Plants?
NU: Right now we're making Ten Plants 2! It will be released April or May.

ES: Once again, yahoo!!! :-) Any plans for the arranged Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack?
NU: No plans now.

ES: How was it working on FF8? Was it easier or harder than 7? Why?
NU: It was so much fun for me. It was harder than FF7, but I really enjoyed this project. I especially like "Eyes on Me," that Faye Wong sang.

ES: "Eyes on Me" is a great song. I presume that you wrote it?
NU: Yes, I did it. It is one of my favorite works!

ES: Were you involved in selection of Faye Wong as the vocal artist?
NU: Yes. I really love her voice.

ES: Some of the preview movies of FF8 feature an explosive musical score as a background. Will this music be in the game's soundtrack album?
NU: I don't know which movie you've seen. Was it an orchestral version?

ES: Yes! It also had a choir cha
NU: It might be included in the original soundtrack.

ES: Woo Hoo! :-) Lets change subjects a bit to the upcoming Final Fantasy movie (in theaters 2001). Will you be composing the film's music score?
NU: I don't know yet. If possible, I want to try it.

ES: Can you give us any ideas as to what the movie will be about? Or has Mr. Sakaguchi sworn you to secrecy? :-)
NU: I am so sorry. I know nothing about the movie at this point.

ES: That's fine...and now for my final question....if I ever do achieve my goal and become a big-time Hollywood director, would you ever be open to the idea of scoring music for my films? :-)
NU: Sure! Why not? I will be waiting for the time!

ES: YAAAAHOOOOOO! I'm dancing to the FF victory fanfare as we speak! Mr. Uematsu, thank you for taking the time talk with me. It was a complete joy. You're very kind.
NU: You're very welcome!