Hisayoshi Ogura(OGR)

Date of Birth:
April 2nd, 1959

Favorite Book:
I enjoy reading psychology books. I’m more of a Jung follower than Freud.

Favorite Movie:
You could say it’s more than just my favorite. The movie that cut into my young heart by making a powerful "impression" on me was director Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What kinds of things did I receive influence from? I grew up receiving influence from every possible thing. Toys, dramas, sci-fi novels, philosophy books, and games, to name a few.

My hobby since high school has been magic tricks. It may sound strange, but I’ve learned a lot of amazing things through this hobby. Namely, "the importance of stage direction." If you simply perform a magic trick from memorization, it appears merely as a puzzle. But if you add stage direction to that, it completes the entertainment value to 100%. You could say this aspect of stage direction has commonalities within game music and other kinds of soundtracks.

Go Game Music:
Well then, how and when did you become interested in music in general?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
When I was about 13, there was kid in my class who could play the guitar. Watching him play made an impact on me and I began learning the guitar through self-study. Once I was good enough to play to a certain degree, I began composing songs. Soon after that, I wanted to compose something more authentic, so I began learning the piano. Sometimes I’d even practice for 12 hours a day. But I still wasn’t good at performance.

Go Game Music:
So, how did you get involved in game music? And what is your current role at Taito?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
I got involved through an ad in the paper. The company wasn’t recruiting for any sound-related jobs at the time, but when I told them in the interview I could compose music, it was decided in an instant that I would compose music for games. Presently as well, I’m composing for as many games as possible at Taito.

Go Game Music:
Tell us, what’s the meaning of the word, "Zuntata," if any? What brought it to mind?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
It’s a musical rhythm. It’s something expressed in a Japanese way. This name signifies the projects our company specializes in, and was thought up by a friend of mine.

Go Game Music:
What particular style of music you do identify yourself with?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
If there’s one thing I consider important about style, it’s composing music based on "concept." Music is often composed with feeling alone. That is in fact, one way to enjoy doing it I think, but I don’t compose music from just a vague image or sensation. Instead, I choose a keyword, then construct an outlook on the world for each game. Through this method, it becomes possible to create a project with "intense meaning" and persuasive power.

Go Game Music:
Next, would you mind sharing some memories or experiences working with the following people?

Yasuhisa Watanabe
At the time he joined Taito, one could outright say he knew nothing about compositional theory. So I gave him advice on composition "know-how," and taught him through the help with practical projects. Fortunately, he carried imaginative power, so his growth went well, I’d say.

Masahiko Takaki
Mr. Takaki and I always relied on each other during Zuntata’s live events. The reason being, seeing as though we were both working for this game company Taito, we felt that if we couldn’t perform what we specialized in, we couldn’t truly call ourselves musicians. So for us, making a performance that wouldn’t let down the fans was a difficult task. If it wasn’t for the cooperation and trust we had in each other, I don’t think our yearly live events would’ve been such a success.

Kazuko Umino
I occasionally received the help of Ms. Umino for album recordings since her skill at playing piano was so excellent. In a single day, she could master a complicated musical score I’d written, with only a few rehearsals. Her piano playing was as accurate as data played through a sound synthesizer.

Tamayo Kawamoto
Ms. Kawamoto had been a composer for another company before switching jobs to Taito, so she already carried some compositional firepower, and she was able to demonstrate that power to me quite well. During our live events, I felt at ease just by her performing at my side. I was relaxed, as though she’d be there to cover for me, even if I made a terrible mistake.

Norihiro Furukawa
His presence in Zuntata Live is unmistakable. We always play the song "Daddy Mulk" for the encores of our concerts, a song that became the main theme from the game Ninja Warriors. And, there’s a solo performance in the latter half of the song using the Tsugaru Shamisen instrument which no one in the world can perform on a keyboard besides him. Therefore he always stole the biggest moment of the shows. (Laughs)

Hideki Takahagi
The first time I’d actually spent a large amount of time working with Mr. Takahagi was during the recently released Zoids Infinity. I handled the music production, and was considerate in letting him compose enough to make the most of his best musical style. He had composed four songs, but when the music clashed with the image I had for the game, I said to him in one word on the phone, "No-good," and hung up. This may sound a bit harsh, but doing so was what ultimately allowed for the job to end favorably. If you ask me, there’s no room to be cozy in the work place.

Go Game Music:
So, was it a difficult change going from the chaotic score of G-Darius, to the more orchrestral sound of Zoids Infinity?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
In the case of Zoids Infinity, the game already had an established vision of the world, so it wasn’t necessary to reconstruct a new world that could be imagined from the music. So in that sense, it was easy going. However, it was a struggle coming up with a keyword necessary for my composition. But, once I homed in on the keyword "A Boy’s Heroism," the composition was a breeze. I’m always like that. Kneading over my conceptualization and choosing a keyword, like in Zoids Infinity, usually ends up taking more time than the composition itself.

Go Game Music:
What would you say were the prominent influences on your music?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
I used to listen intently to the music of a man named Kyohei Tsutsumi, who was a pop song writer in the 70’s and 80’s, and even composed for the game company Hit Maker. I’d say it was him that had the biggest influence on me. As for international musicians, Earth Wind & Fire made a huge impact on me as well. In my opinion, their music is simply unforgettable.

Go Game Music:
What are your thoughts about music in shooting games? Would you like to compose for a shooting game like Darius again?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
To be extremely critical, shooting game music often ends up being established with a fast tempo, no matter what kind of music it is. But I’m not satisfied with just that, and I’ve considered that to be an incorrect method of writing for a long time now. The way I see it, the music must have a narrative quality to it; a certain presence, as if each note is converted into words and is conveyed to the player. This can be a very complicated process, but at the same time, it can be a load of fun. If I have the chance to compose for a shooting game like Darius again, I’d love to, by all means. I’ll just need a decent amount of time to finish it. (Laughs)

Go Game Music:
Then, how would you say your music has changed from the beginning of your career to the present?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
For two years after joining Taito, I was constantly composing music with the mindset, "adjust to the game." As long as the music matched the game, I felt good about it, even if it lacked any inspiration. However, my outlook on game music changed after Darius. Rather than simply adjusting "to" the game, I began adjusting "with" the game. By forming a clear-cut concept, I began devising frameworks that were mixed with my own, personal advocacy. Resultedly, the music I wrote began fusing together with the games like a chemical reaction. Ever since then, I’ve constantly thought about making my music evolve. In the beginning, I was bound to musical theory, but around time of G-Darius, I felt I’d been liberated and began composing "free music."

Go Game Music:
Next, could you please share some of your thoughts or memories regarding the following works?

Legend of Kage
At first it seemed inevitable that this game was to be scrapped. But over various circumstances, I was asked to do the music anyway. And, I fondly remember composing it at ease. Those were the strange days when we’d do things like transfer sound data from a KORG to the FM chip, and have a song’s data programmed into each and every sound source. So in reality, two types of sound source data exist in this game. What everyone heard was the FM sound version, but actually, there exist several other versions out there.

For me, this was an unforgettable project. I would spare time from my afternoon breaks to work on this game, doing data input while eating. My heart raced when I came up with the main phrase of "Chaos," the BGM from the Van Allen Belt Zone.

One time when I was on the train commuting to work, I heard a high school student humming the jingle that plays when you start the game. This made me ecstatic. I bet the kid had no idea the composer of that melody was sitting right next to him.

Full Throttle
As far as this game goes, Masahiko Takaki was the composer, and I only provided some advice and helped out a little with the sound effects.

The Ninja Warriors
We were thinking about using Hitler’s voice in the opening song during the planning stages of this game. But when we requested the authorization to use it from the German Embassy, they told us they wouldn’t allow it for something that wasn’t based on historical facts, so we had to abandon the idea. Being that this was the first game I used the Yamaha 2610 sound chip, my supporters, and of course myself, worked on it for three straight days. Then, on the morning of the fourth day, we finally completed the ROM. I clearly remember the person in charge of business-processing presenting us with a Japanese rice ball that morning. It tasted quite good.

Darius II
I’d never keenly felt the pain of composing for the second title in a series like I did with this game. Struggling through Darius II’s music felt exactly like I was in the middle of giving birth the entire time. I didn’t want to make the music’s atmosphere the same as Darius, so I was lost and perplexed about how to go about it. On a last whim I finally came up with the theme, "Bible," and decided to go in that direction. This was how the Jupiter theme, "Say PaPa," came about, though it wasn’t anything religious, it was meant to invoke a feeling of hope.

Darius Gaiden
I wrote the main theme "Visionnerz" based on a tip I got from Jung psychology. I was madly reading Jung’s literary works…for the purpose of game music! He uses the term "visual hallucination" in several of his books, so I made this my keyword for Darius Gaiden. It seemed quite applicable to something sci-fi oriented. In the latter half of Visionnerz, a line of opera comes in that is sung in Italian. It says, "Don’t believe what you see before your eyes – the truth lies elsewhere." The song title "Visionnnerz" is a word that I made up meaning, "people who see illusions."

It took some time coming up with a concept for this game too. What ended up saving me from another painful experience of giving birth was a single scientific experiment: When the DNA from a quail’s brain is transplanted to the fertilized egg of a chick, a creature bearing two types of features, called a "chimera," is born. When the chimera hatches from the egg, it has the body of a chick, but chirp’s like a quail and has the fur of a quail growing out around its neck. However, the chimera dies after only a few hours, as if it went to sleep. Using this as an idea, I tried to express the short-lived transience of Darius’ characteristic fish-like bosses (which are actually a living body made up of organic and inorganic parts, having in other words, the extremely short life span of a chimera) through the music. In my method of composing the music, I also mixed organic qualities (instrumental sounds) and inorganic qualities (industrial sounds), and in accordance with my concept, was able to come up with this "chimera music." There’s more to the story, but I’ll leave it at this.

Zoids Infinity
Most Taito arcade games have a system where only one composer writes all the music for a game, but Zoids Infinity was an exception. This was because we didn’t have very much time to do the composition. Therefore I took the role of sound producer, and chose two other composers to complete the soundtrack with. My keyword for this project was, "A Boy’s Heroism," how the boy is immersed in heroics for the first time through the course of him entering the war to put an end to it. Figuring out how to convey this notion, along with the grief in the boy’s heart, proved to be a task harder than the composition itself. Again and again, I had to thoroughly explain the concepts I’d written in my memos during our planning sessions. In the end, I think our music, as a three man team, effectively accomplished its respective goals and we were able to demonstrate each of our individualities.

Go Game Music:
How about some memories of having you music performed live?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
I’d say the first live event back in 1990 made the deepest impression on me. It was only a short, one hour performance with about ten songs, but the performers made a rare attempt at doing an instrumental concert with dramatic elements and dancing. I loved the part during the song "Chaos" (from Darius) when all the members faced the crowd and saluted them at the same time.

Go Game Music:
What about any dream projects? Besides game music, what other types of music would you like to create?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
Of course I’d like to do TV shows or movies, but I’d also like to try composing something dramatic for figure skating or synchronized swimming.

Go Game Music:
Do you have any advice for those who want to create music?

Hisayoshi Ogura:
What I think is important about writing music is strongly envisioning what you want to convey. By keeping this "image-inducing music" in mind, and making the listener think for example, "this is something depicting the terror on the battlefield," without any verbal explanation, you’ll be able to create music that’s profound and won’t deteriorate over time.

Go Game Music:
Lastly, how about some comments for your fans reading this around the world!

Hisayoshi Ogura:
Thank you all for reading my interview to the end. My music has grown and become cultivated along with Taito games. If you happen across a Taito title, please be sure to pay attention the music and its direction. You’re sure to discover a world you won’t find anywhere else. The fastest short cut there is to play Zoids Infinity. For those of you interested in hearing more of my music, try typing "z-field" into a search engine like Yahoo or Google. We at Zuntata, will be waiting for you.
We’d like to thank Mr. Ogura for taking the time out of his busy schedule to complete this interview!

Questions: Anthony Farah
Translation: Justin Pfeiffer
Special thanks to Luc Nadeau for submitting questions


About HyperIris

Wild Scientist


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