As if being given the opportunity to interview the famous game developer, Suda51, wasn’t awesome enough, GameRevolution also scheduled me to interview the famous composer, Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame. What a week!
The Let It Die soundtrack will feature over 100 Japanese bands, which are listed here. For someone whose actual composing work was all I knew of, I was surprised to hear that Yamaoka was leading such a project. So of course, I had to prod him about why he would even try.
Please note that this interview involved a translator, so we’ve edited down some of the filler or third-person speech she used while trying to relay Yamaoka’s responses.
GameRevolution: When you were approached to handle the soundtrack for Let It Die, what was your initial reaction?
Yamaoka: Actually, I wasn't approached by Suda. I have been working with Suda on the Let It Die project from the get-go. There wasn't actually that kind of talk. It pretty much formed on its own.
GR: How do you enjoy working with Suda51?
Y: It is very exciting. He is a very creative guy, so there's always some new discoveries every day.
GR: Do you find that you're an excellent collaborative team? Do you bring out the best in each other?
Y: Um, I don't know if we would consider ourselves a good fit, but at the same time, we do feel that we don't make anything bland. We're pretty much able to make good stuff.
GR: I sense a lot of tension there.
Y: In terms of a good coworker and friend, yes, we are good coworkers and friends. But if you'd ask if we're the one and only kind of A-team, it probably is different.
GR: Getting into the soundtrack itself, I notice that the soundtrack will feature over 100 bands. Are you also composing a score alongside that?
Y: Yes, I will also be composing and making music for the game, about 80% of it, and the remaining 20% will be from the other 100 bands.
GR: What sort of emotions are you hoping to evoke with the score?
Y: Since Let It Die is an action and survival game, I would like the music to fill the tense action and the adrenaline rush that you will be getting from hacking and slashing your enemies.
GR: Do you see this score as largely electric? Are you utilizing any particular instruments or synths?
Y: For Let It Die, I have bought a lot of old synthesizers, and I'm using them a lot in this game. It would be nice if you guys could listen to it while you're playing the game.
GR: What kind of challenges has the score presented to you as you worked on it?
Y: There hasn't been that much of a challenge working on this project, but in terms of trying to achieve a higher standard, I have been trying to evoke more emotion and a tense feeling in designs.
GR: Do you mean a higher standard in comparison to your own work or compared to other popular soundtracks?
Y: For now, it's mostly compared to my previous work.
GR: Moving onto the actual bands, tell me about collaborating with them. What made you want to pursue this massive undertaking with 100+ bands?
Y: I have been working in the game music industry for over 25 years, and I have been fortunate enough to become famous worldwide. I wanted to provide that same opportunity to new artists that are also equally talented. I'm using that as a showcase for their music tracks and to see if other players will like they're music also. Maybe a couple years from now, they will also be famous.
GR: Are all the bands heavy metal and Japanese?
Y: No, their music style varies from hard rock to… it's all over in terms of genres. But yes, all Japanese.
GR: Why did you decide to go that route for this soundtrack?
Y: Nowadays, a lot of the games are doing tie-ins with mainstream artists like Madonna. [I don’t know if this ever happened. I assume he was just coming up with an example to make a point. ~Gil] Yes, they are famous, and they will bring publicity for the game, but at the same time, that's not always exactly what the fans want to hear. I felt that for a game, I want to have music that was more geared towards what I was envisioning for the game even if they weren't famous. But I felt that they were very talented, so why not just use the little guy and show off their works instead? Yes, they're not big names, but it does go with the game.
GR: Did each band create a new song? Or did you license existing works?
Y: All 100 bands worked on their original song. How the project went was that I asked all 100 bands to create a song. I gave them the title, Let It Die, and said, "Please imagine how this title would go with your play style." And from there, all the bands have to do songs like how they envision the title should be.
GR: That must be an incredible project to manage! Is it hard wrangling so many bands together like that?
Y: Yes, it was very hard. I was pretty much running around trying to push some of them, every day, all day, to pursue meetings and do every day work while also just seek each of the bands, bother them, and meet them, and see how they were doing on the project.
GR: I can only imagine! Is it done?
Y: Yes! For now, we've got actually 102/103 bands. But at the same time we could get more. So I've been searching for more artists that I can showcase in Let It Die.
GR: Did you influence their process beyond just asking them the title and asking them to make the song? Or did you give them artwork, scenery, or tell them to compose something for a particular scene?
Y: Nothing. Just the title. And they pretty much ran with just that.
GR: Even you get more than that when you start a game soundtrack!
Y: It was a hard undertaking. Because of the title, Let It Die, it seems a little negative if you just show them the title. But I do hope that it has worked out, and the bands will also create, and I hope that they will enjoy it as well.
GR: What makes you the most excited about putting together this soundtrack with your score and the 100-some bands?
Y: It was very fun. There isn't one thing I could point out that was the most exciting. It was very fun making all the soundtracks and sound effects and working with all the 100 bands and trying to come up with one giant piece of music for the world of Let It Die.
GR: How closely have you been working with Grasshopper Manufacture to pair the songs with the environments or the narrative?
Y: We're pretty much in talks every day and very close, in contact all the time.
GR: Are there any other projects you're working on that you can speak about?
Y: There are some projects that I am working on. Right now, I can't say any of them yet. But I hope that I can announce some of them in the very near future, hopefully next month.
GR: Unfortunately, I was not able to go to the Let It Die concert on Tuesday. How did that work out? Was it more fun that just sitting in this room? [He expressed to me before the interview began that he couldn't go see any games because of all the interviews he had to do. And the room is basically a cubicle with no decorations on the wall. ~Gil]
Y: Yes. It was very fun and exciting to be able to play with all the artists that I have listened to for a couple years now, not just as an artist but also as a fan. It was just a very fun and exciting night.
GR: Do you have anything final you'd like to say about the Let It Die soundtrack to our readers or to your fans?
Y: I hope that my fans will not only enjoy my music but also the music of the other 100+ bands. I believe they will find something that will resonate with them, too.
GR: I know it's ultimately not the composer's decision, but do you know if the soundtrack is going to be made available in the US?
Y: We are trying to get that realized. For now, we don't know if it's going to be digital or actual physical copies. But we are definitely trying to get that as a reality.