Recently, the Gaming Intelligence Agency had the opportunity to interview Yuzo Koshiro, the composer of Shenmue's stunning soundtrack. With a wide array of games under his belt, Koshiro is generally recognized to be one of the top names in video game music today. In the interview, he discussed his influences, his work on Shenmue, and his plans for the future. Some excerpts from the discussion are below.
GIA:How do you think the game music industry has changed from your early years to today?
YK: I think that many aspects of creating game music has considerably changed. Nowadays we use CD/DA or compressed-streaming like mp3 for creating gamemusic. Those sounds are rich, fat, and enthusiastic. But it's not necessarily good in some cases. Take Gameboy for example. It's more efficient to play with the old-style sound. On the other hand, the case is difficult for musicians to program up for a single sound device, however creating CD/DA sound is becoming much easier than the process of the old MIDI era. If you ask me which music is good, I'd rather choose old-style one, cause I love it :)
GIA: At some point, most if not all musicians are influenced by someone else. Who are your influences/inspirations?
YK: I love many classical composers that have influenced me in all ages. I listened a lot of classical like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart from when I was a child. And gradually I was into Rocks and Fusions during my school days. After graduating high school, I started listening to many dance musics like house, hip-hop, and techno. I was deeply into them for a long while.
GIA: Your most recent production is the highly acclaimed Shenmue. Like your previous Streets of Rage works, you worked with director Yu Suzuki. How did you get involved in this epic project? What was it like to work with Mr. Suzuki?
YK: Actually Mr. Suzuki offered me to join in the project. I had always admired him and his works. So I gratefully joined them!
GIA: Can you explain your creative process behind your work with Shenmue? You worked with 4 other composers; what was that experience like?
YK: Above all Mr. Suzuki planned the way how we composers should compose any of Shenmue's music. First we made several pieces of sound-ideas like he mentioned using normal MIDI system, and demonstrate them at the sound-meeting once a week. He checked them up carefully, and followed the additional ideas if they're in need, or demanded us to create them from the scratch if they relatively didn't match for the game. Once the demo got O.K, we lastly recreated them to adapt for the Dreamcast sound chip. That's it!
GIA: Shenmue's soundtrack is clearly classical with heavy chinese influences. Did the music end up that way by accident? Was that planned from the start?
YK: From the start point, Mr. Suzuki planned the music style like that.
GIA: Shenmue 2 is already in development. Will you be working on the game?
YK: No I won't.
GIA: Lastly, what are your upcoming projects? It has been reported that your company, Ancient, is producing a Dreamcast game. What can you tell us about this? Will you be doing music for it or will you be producing it, or both?
YK: I'm wondering where exactly you got the information of our new title ...? ;) I say Yes anyway, we Ancient have been running the project for Dreamcast since late last year. At this project I'm going as a director, not as a composer. This title is extremely brand-new. Now that the whole thing is a secret, unfortunately, I can't tell you about all of this. Could you wait for that till next spring?
It is disappointing to find out that Koshiro will not be working on Shenmue 2, but it appears his schedule is busy enough as it is. The full text of the interview can be found here.