E for All 07: Interview with Akira Yamaoka (GAF)

Date published: 2007.10.19
Source: GAF

When Silent Hill V was first announced back at E3 of this year, Konami was quick to confirm that longtime series music composer Akira Yamaoka would return to work on that aspect of the game. On the advent of the release of Silent Hill Origins for the PSP, another game on which Yamaoka-san contributed, we sat down with him at the E for All Expo to find out what his strategy was while working on both games.

GAF: Silent Hill Origins comes out in a couple weeks, and you did 15 songs for it, right?

Yamaoka: There are more songs than that, like 30 to 40.

GAF: What was the creative process like developing those 40 songs? Was it difficult? Was it easy? Was it quick?

Yamaoka: It wasn't hard actually, because Origins tells the story of the original Silent Hill characters like Dahlia. There was a certain connection from the original Silent Hill, so I tried to bring that back when creating music for this title. It wasn't that difficult.

GAF: Did you do anything different because players would be playing on a portable system and maybe using headphones? Was there anything different done for the music?

Yamaoka: You know, I didn't change too much from the console game music. I wanted to try to see if PSP could create the same feel of the console Silent Hill series. I am excited to see how people will see that.

GAF: How closely did you work with the development team, given that they're Western? And also that goes for Silent Hill V; was it everyday, or when did you start the process of creating the music? Was it in the pre-production stages?

Yamaoka: We communicated with them a lot. We exchanged emails with them on a regular basis and also exchanged a lot of data using FTP and gave a lot of feedback to each other. So it's not just like 'I finished this, here you go,' we communicated and created together.

GAF: As far as developing the themes and the songs, do you have an idea of what you're going for first, and then you see maybe some concept art from the development team and you change something, or do you wait for the first images from the game and then try and fit something to how it looks?

Yamaoka: It's like half and half. Half I had created music before seeing the actual image, and then half later I composed music after I had seen the image. Of course what I had before the image had to be adjusted later after being implemented in the game. But dramatic scenes I created after I had seen the images. So it's half and half I'd say.

GAF: The Silent Hill series over the years has sort of gone through an evolution and now the two newest games are being developed in Western [development houses], and yet you are still sort of the face behind the franchise, you're the one consistent thread through all of it. What does that mean to you or how do you feel about being identified with Silent Hill when someone says 'Akira Yamaoka, Silent Hill'? What's it like being the face of the games?

Yamaoka: [pauses] When we started I did not realize I had become the face of the Silent Hill series [laughs]. When that started, I'm not sure. Some people started to say that 'Silent Hill is your work' or something like that, and I looked from literally outside, like objectively; it's really strange, like 'I'm in Los Angeles right now.' At the same time I'm really honored, really honored. It's music in a game and it's not just about music, but somehow people really talk about the music and I'm really honored and really privileged to have that recognition.

GAF: How has work on Silent Hill V been for you? What do you think of the developers and what do you think of their creative vision, and is there anything you've adjusted in the music for that game that reflects where they're taking the series?

Yamaoka: I didn't specifically change the music because of the developer or title. I tried to keep the same feel for the world of Silent Hill and the series and I tried not to change that Silent Hill feel. Also at the same time, I tried to create something new, but still something people would think "that's Silent Hill."

GAF: When people hear your music, what do you hope they think about? In a general sense, not in the sense of playing Silent Hill, but wherever, if they happen to be in a car and hear it on a CD player. What do you hope they think about or feel outside the context of a game if they just heard it for the first time?

Yamaoka: I don't want people to just think that this is a sad song or a dark or a great song. Not just that, but I want to pull out people's emotions, some new emotions. Sort of like draw out those emotions those people have. It's not just about emotions, but something new. Like when you're eating fish, for example, you get some little bone stuck in your throat, and when it comes out, say 'ah, this is it.' I like to pull out that kind of emotion when they hear my music.

GAF: Someone who right now is a music student or into creating music and likes video games as well, if you could tell them one thing to achieve their goal to be in the gaming industry and be a musician, what would it be?

Yamaoka: I think it's different from being a solo artist or a designer, if you're creating games or music for the game. You have to work with a lot of people. If you're in a music band, at most it's four or five people. But [with games] you have programmers and planners and creators and many other people in your team, and the team could be over 100 people sometimes. So you need to remember that you work with those people, respect each other and achieve one goal. You have this person who creates illustrations and I make music, and other people program, and you get this illustration from the person and you look at this illustration and think, 'this is an illustration I can do this type of music' or you look at the programming or try something different with the illustrations. Creative communication is important, not just talking. Creative communication is the key. You cannot just do it on your own, you have to respect each other.

GAF: Are you working exclusively on Silent Hill V or is that finished? Are you working on anything else right now?

Yamaoka: Silent Hill V isn't finished in development, so I'm working on that and at the same time I've been working on new projects.

GAF: Thank you very much.

Yamaoka: Thank you very much.