In a recent issue of Japan's respected videogame magazine, Weekly Famitsu, was conducted an interview with the composer of the Final Fantasy series, Nobuo Uematsu. They discussed Final Fantasy IX essentially, and RPGamer brings you the translation of the interview.
Famitsu: How many pieces did you compose for FFIX?
Nobuo Uematsu (hereon, Uematsu): The number of tracks is probably around 160...I couldn't fit it into a 4-CD soundtrack. It turned out to be about 6 CDs, but you can't really sell that. (laughs)
Famitsu: In what circumstance did you compose 160 tracks?
Uematsu: At first, when I discussed it with the director Ito, I was told "It'd be fine if you compose tracks for the eight characters, an exciting battle track, a gloomy, danger-evoking piece, and around ten tracks or so". Wow, such an easy task, I thought (laughs). But you need more tracks, right? and when I'd finished composing...
Famitsu: ...you'd made 160 tracks.
Uematsu: Indeed I had made 160 (laughs). But even though it's 160 tracks, they aren't all different, you see. 160 includes, for example: a sad arrangement of a character theme, and so on.
Famitsu: This time, we feel that there are many musical phrases which are memorable.
Uematsu: Really!? That's good! This time, for a change, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. Don't you feel that FFVII and FFVIII had a mood of realism? So it was hard to put in exorbitant, crazy music, you see. But because it was fantasy this time, a serious piece as well as silly, fun pieces could fit in. Since I myself thought this was made well, comments like yours make me happy.
Famitsu: The theme song...this being Garnet's theme song as well, we have already memorised it.
Uematsu: That was my aim! (laughs)
Famitsu: Do you often make music to "aim" or with an intention, as you said?
Uematsu: No, no I don't. (laughs) But because FFIX was returning to the roots, so to speak, I did things like using the old intro for battle music, as well as arranging FFI's volcano or FFII's Pandemonium themes.
Famitsu: Did you consider the setting of the game?
Uematsu: This time, the theme for me was medieval music. After FFVIII was made, and I went straight away to Hawaii for development, it was the feeling of an endless summer. But since FFIX had a medieval-style fantasy feel, that wasn't suited for it. So I was given a break and went to Europe. Looking at old castles in Germany and so on. And so I was thinking of getting the elements of medieval music this time. If I made all the tracks medieval-style, it would be unbalanced, so, no, not all the pieces are in that mode, but for example, in the opening demo track, it has that feeling. An RPG has an image of a symphonic orchestra, you know? That's all good, but I thought that that only would be a little boring. Since the setting of FFIX isn't as grand as the previous one, I wanted to go for a simple, warm style. Medieval music was Europe's popular music before classical. So maybe it fits in with the setting. Actually, I used samples from instruments people mightn't be able to figure out, such as a sazoo or dulcimer.
Famitsu: We felt that not only the pieces themselves, but each and every sound was very beautiful.
Uematsu: With this one, the sound source reads each piece without loading it on to memory, so I think the tone quality is very beautiful too.
Famitsu: What are your thoughts on the battle music?
Uematsu: I don't know how players will feel, but I like how music unfolds and develops over and over, so that's how I felt about the battle music. 8-beat music continues and 7-time comes in and so on. I think the sub-boss and last boss music is quite enjoyable to do.
Famitsu: Apart from medieval music, is there any other music that has inspired you?
Uematsu: Well, that would be every piece of music I've ever heard. That's right, I've been listening to ABBA's "Greatest Hits" since yesterday, and I feel their musical sense is very close to mine. Like their construction of pieces. Of course, you won't find an ABBA phrase in FFIX. I feel I could have a drink with them, understand each other. (laughs)
Famitsu: When we talked with Mr. Sakaguchi, he said the theme for this FF was Life and Death, but was the music made to agree with this theme?
Uematsu: In regards to the theme song, the idea of Life and Death was already included in the prepared lyrics. Since I saw that first, I can't say that I'm not aware of the theme (when making the music).
Famitsu: The English lyrics are for commercials?
Uematsu: That's right. It is not used in the game. Although it might be in the overseas version.
Famitsu: Has the overseas release date already been chosen?
Uematsu: As the staff who made the Japanese version are relaxing in Hawaii, it's undecided. (laughs)
Famitsu: With the PlayStation 2 being compatible with 5.1 channel sound, are there plans for FFX to be using that?
Uematsu: Actually, we are experimentally making FFVII movie scenes using 5.1 channel sound, though it doesn't reflect the already released version. Although at present it's only the sound in movie scenes, I think you will be able to experience it in FFX.
Famitsu: How do you plan to use it?
Uematsu: I think we will concentrate on sound effects and environmental effects. I think for example we could do cool things like using it for a moving missile, or an atmosphere of being alone in a jungle.
Famitsu: We feel there won't be enought time to release FFX by next spring..
Uematsu: Oh, we'll do it! (laughs)