HomeBusinessAfter 35 years of Final Fantasy, what’s next for composer Nobuo Uematsu?

After 35 years of Final Fantasy, what’s next for composer Nobuo Uematsu?


If Nobuo Uematsu’s profession was a online game, he beat it a very long time in the past. The world’s most prestigious orchestras have carried out his music from the Closing Fantasy collection to cheering crowds. Grammy-winning hip-hop producer Knxwledge has flipped his MIDI melodies into slick beats. Musician Jon Batiste has remodeled his favourite Closing Fantasy songs into large band jazz preparations and performed them to thousands and thousands of viewers on “The Late Present with Stephen Colbert.” (Batiste’s favourite online game soundtrack is “Closing Fantasy VII,” in case you’re questioning.)

What does Uematsu do subsequent? It’s one thing that the veteran online game composer has lastly discovered a while to mirror on in mild of the famed JRPG collection’s thirty fifth anniversary. The final sport he composed a whole soundtrack for was 2021’s “Fantasian,” an Apple Arcade unique created by his buddy and Closing Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and it is perhaps his final.

Uematsu devoted all of his “physique and spirit” to the project. A typical working day concerned waking up at 5 a.m. with music already in his head and composing till 6 p.m. It’s arduous to consider that it was solely in 2018 that Uematsu introduced by way of a blog post that he was taking an “prolonged depart of absence” as a result of fatigue from wrapping a busy touring schedule round his composition work. Uematsu labored so arduous that he was hospitalized. Sakaguchi had doubts as as to if he’d be capable to work on “Fantasian.”

Regardless of the well being considerations, Uematsu instructed The Washington Publish over a video name that he’s now absolutely recovered. Has his output slowed down in any respect? Not precisely. His schedule is as busy as ever, and he’s nonetheless working comparable hours now as he was earlier than the depart of absence.

“The factor is, I don’t actually have any downtime. All I do is figure!” he mentioned by way of an interpreter.

That mentioned, Uematsu has hung out reflecting on his legacy and the place he invests his inventive time.

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“My work has three foremost pillars for the time being,” Uematsu mentioned. “The primary: synthesizer-based solo performances. The second: stay performances of theme songs that I wrote for various video games with a small group of artists. I play the piano, one other member of the group performs percussion, another person performs the guitar and now we have a vocalist as effectively. The third: writing music and tales on my own and having a voice actor carry out the stay studying with my music.”

The range of the self-taught composer’s music within the Closing Fantasy collection has led to it being organized and carried out in quite a lot of completely different genres through the years. There’s a vibrant scene of musicians creating covers and preparations on YouTube and on-line communities corresponding to OverClocked Remix, whether or not that’s ’60s surf big band versions of “The Chocobo Theme,” lofi hip-hop remixes or classical guitar renditions.

Sq. Enix, the sport studio chargeable for Closing Fantasy, is not any stranger to the demand for Uematsu’s music both. It has launched a number of association albums of its personal, corresponding to “Sq. Enix Jazz: Closing Fantasy,” “Cafe SQ” and the Distant Worlds orchestral preparations it excursions throughout the globe. Uematsu has by no means been straight concerned with the preparations of many of those albums, making his current synthesizer-based solo performances so distinctive.

“Modulation” is Uematsu’s first synthesizer-based challenge, that includes his personal synth preparations of Closing Fantasy music modulated from the devices, sound chips and packages used to file the unique tracks. It additionally marks the composer’s first time releasing an analog vinyl file. Uematsu says the concept for the album was sparked after introducing Closing Fantasy music into his solo performances alongside music from different video games he labored on, together with the Blue Dragon collection, “Misplaced Odyssey” and “The Final Story.”

“A consultant of Sq. Enix heard them and requested me if I’d like to show them into an album, and I accepted,” Uematsu mentioned. He was ready to decide on which tracks from Closing Fantasy he wished to characteristic on the album.

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Uematsu has at all times been keen about performing the music he’s written for video video games onstage. Whereas online game live shows have been happening in Japan since 1987, when Koichi Sugiyama crammed the Suntory Corridor in Tokyo along with his music from Dragon Quest on the NES, it wasn’t till 2003 that Uematsu’s music was carried out onstage within the West. The success of Thomas Böcker’s Symphonic Video games Music Live performance in Leipzig, Germany, spawned a symphony live performance collection that woke up Uematsu to the worldwide recognition of Closing Fantasy music live shows.

“Listening to my music carried out outdoors of Japan was a fantastic expertise and an enormous honor,” he mentioned. “On the time, orchestral performances of Japanese sport music weren’t actually frequent outdoors of Japan. After I was younger, Japan was strongly influenced by American and European tradition, however not the opposite manner round. To suppose that Japanese tradition has now left an impression on American and European youngsters makes me notice that occasions have modified.”

Uematsu was 10 years previous when he heard music from the Vienna Boys’ Choir. This was the primary time within the younger composer’s life that he was moved to tears, he recalled.

“It actually was a formative second in my life. It was the primary time I obtained a style of how shifting music will be,” he mentioned. There’s a cause the tissues come out at Closing Fantasy live shows at any time when the orchestra drops “To Zanarkand” from “Closing Fantasy X” or “Aerith’s Theme” from “Closing Fantasy VII.” “The emotional affect that listening to the Vienna Boys’ Choir had on me is certainly an expertise that I wished to re-create, however I wished to do it in my very own manner.”

Later, American and European bands drastically influenced Uematsu’s musical output. Kraftwerk followers will be capable to acknowledge the three-note melody in “Closing Fantasy VII’s” “Anxious Coronary heart,” and there are apparent similarities between Deep Purple’s “Possibly I’m a Leo” and “Closing Fantasy VIII’s” “Possibly I’m a Lion.” Uematsu cites Elton John, Kraftwork and Sparks as his largest influences, and there’s no escaping how the composer’s love for progressive rock bands permeates his online game scores.

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“Originally of the ’70s, progressive rock was very fashionable in Japan, besides Genesis, perhaps,” he mentioned, though he cites “Foxtrot” by Genesis as certainly one of his favourite albums. “Not lots of people had been listening to Genesis. However Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Sure, and Pink Floyd had been very fashionable.”

In fact, you may in all probability think about Uematsu’s delight when Sony Music introduced a possibility to collaborate with Deep Purple’s vocalist, Ian Gillan, for a boss theme in “Blue Dragon,” one of many first video games that Uematsu scored after leaving Sq. Enix in 2004. “I’m undoubtedly a giant fan of Deep Purple, so I used to be very completely satisfied that this collaboration took place!”

In 2002, Uematsu’s ardour for prog-rock music led to him forming The Black Mages, a band that includes authentic Sq. and Sq. Enix members performing prog-rock and metallic variations of Closing Fantasy music. When the group cut up in 2010, Uematsu carried the idea ahead with a brand new band, Earthbound Papas, including music from “Misplaced Odyssey,” “Lord of Vermilion” and “Blue Dragon” to the setlist.

The group continues to be energetic, however these days, Uematsu is extra fascinated with taking part in stripped-back variations of his music.

“Proper now, I’m not taking part in rock music like I did within the days of Earthbound Papas and The Black Mages,” he mentioned. “I’m making an attempt to shift towards a type of music that you could chill out to. I’m not after taking part in music that’s all about nice rhythm and large beats for the time being. I wish to transfer individuals with melodies and harmonies. That’s why I’m at present specializing in easy acoustic setups as a substitute of a full-on rock band.”

The acoustic setups of Uematsu performing with different musicians are at present being streamed in Japan as a part of the conTIKI reveals, with stay performances scheduled for Europe subsequent yr. These performances and his solo tasks are taking on most of Uematsu’s time proper now, and he appears content material to not be closely concerned in writing music for video video games in the meanwhile.

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In truth, after we requested Uematsu about his favourite modern-day online game scores and composers, he struggled to call any soundtracks which have impressed him in recent times:

“I really feel that everybody, together with myself, I suppose, is solely making music that you just’ve already heard some other place. That’s not very thrilling to me. I perceive that video video games are supposed to be enjoyable, after all. However they’re additionally the chopping fringe of leisure know-how.

“That’s why I’d prefer to see individuals take a extra experimental strategy to them. In that sense, no person involves thoughts once you ask me if there’s a composer who I’m a giant fan of … However wait, I simply remembered one thing. There’s a Czech developer named Amanita Design. What they’re doing is extraordinarily attention-grabbing to me, each when it comes to gameplay and when it comes to the music.”

That mentioned, he instructed The Publish he has an thought for a online game he’d prefer to make. Whereas this wouldn’t be the primary time Uematsu has crafted a story expertise (“Blik-0 1946” is his story of a weaponized robotic launched as an e-book on iOS in 2013), it will be his first time making a online game.

“If I discover a firm that’s prepared to fund it, I wish to work on that.”

Mat Ombler is a contract journalist specializing within the intersection of video video games and music.

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