Interview with Akira Yamaoka (Go! Game! Music!)

Date published: 2005
Source: Go! Game! Music!

Date of Birth: 2/6/1968
Birth Place: Tokyo, Japan
Favorite Food: Sour Pork
Hobbies: Creating Music

Go! Game! Music! (GGM): How did you make the jump to game producer with Silent Hill 3 and 4?

Akira Yamaoka: I never had any ambitions but some how I was named producer. It seems my strong passion for Silent Hill was the reason of the promotion.

GGM: How was the change from going to just composer/sound person to being that and producer?

Akira Yamaoka: The responsibilities are bigger. Being just a creator creating music, you have the freedom to do what you feel like without really thinking about the title as a global product. But when you become a producer, you have to always keep this in mind. On the other hand, to give a bigger influence to the fans, you have to become a producer so I enjoy the challenge that comes with the responsibility.

GGM: How do you approach creating your music? What is your ideal environment to create music?

Akira Yamaoka: I let my imagination construct the music and I believe that my personal experience is reflected to my imagination. There are no special rituals that I go through. I sit in front of my tools, PC, keyboard etc and I build up the sound through trial and error. Also I always try to take a different approach or method so that the completed music will not always sound the same. I appreciate the Silent Hill franchise and the fans and that I have the privilege to create the sound for this series.

GGM: Several years ago when we last chatted you did not like most video game music. How do you feel about game music these days?

Akira Yamaoka: I still am not fond of game music. There is not a single "artist" (game music) from the game industry yet and we are relying on tie-up music from the music industry, which is very sad. We need to take in to consideration, how to develop music/sound "artists" within our industry. I believe that we are in the same status as 4 years ago, and that makes me not very fond of game music.

GGM: Please share your thoughts and experiences on the following:

Akira Yamaoka:
I did not work on the sound of this title. It was more on the programming side or implementing the data on hardware so no creative work. It was a tough job :-)

Castlevania Symphony of Night-
I was asked by Michiru Yamane to help out with the drum parts. Until today, there is no one on earth who can match my skills in drum programming. This, I have confidence.

Silent Hill-
This is the most memorable. The first job that I really felt motivated in, and inspired creatively. Also I learned a lot about sound/music from this title. It taught me that it is very hard to be original. Wit out this title, my days would have been very boring.

Silent Hill 2-
I always had Silent Hill 2 in mind when I was working on the first game so it was not too difficult. The job was very enjoyable. I switched from the Bristol-like British taste to a more American-like style. The CG was beautiful so I wanted the sound to match the quality of the visuals.

Silent Hill 3-
The main character was a girl so I decided to add a pop taste to it, probably the same method which a hired musician would do. Went back to European taste from American. My first try on using vocal tracks. I had the good fortune to work with talented singers and staffs.

Silent Hill 4-
I had the sound track release on my mind and didn't think much of the game :-) It is dark and heavy and it is also my favorite. Very different from Silent Hill 1.

Contra Shattered Soldier-
I was a fan of this title from when I was a student so I begged to write music for it. It's been a while since I did anything "game music" as I have done on this title. Do to limited time, there where something's that I was not able to put in, to make it more "game music".

I enjoy working on this music title. It's not creating music. It's creating music for it to be an enjoyable item within the game so it's quite challenging.

GGM: What kind of music are you listening to these days?

Akira Yamaoka: I listen to anything, as usual. Related to the work right now, I am listening to 1979 - 1982 German music, heavily. The electric and the analog instruments seems to have not yet bond together at this time. It's more like feeling the music rather than listening to it.

GGM: Is there anything you would change about your music style?

Akira Yamaoka: In this industry, the game comes first. It is important that game itself has a strong impact for the sound to be recognized. Without the game content being strong, the sound will have no influence on the fans.

GGM: Any hints to what games you are working on next? Will you release a non game music CD?

Akira Yamaoka: Oh, there is a lot of things that I want to tell you but I can't at the moment :-) When I am authorized to announce officially, I will let you know immediately. There are things that I would like you to promote on Go Game Music this year.

GGM: Will you be involved with the Silent Hill Movie? (We all hope so)

Akira Yamaoka: I can't comment on this right now. When things are certain, I will update you.

Thanks to Mr. Yamaoka for chatting with us. Thanks to Luc for question ideas.