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Tetsuya Nomura and Yoko Shimomura interviewed at the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra - World Tour - in Japan
In the interview, Nomura shares his music interests and states that he likes Oswald The Rabbit when asked about his favorite Disney character!
Surprisingly, this is your first joint interview. Can you tell us about when you met?
YS: I'll be Mr. Nomura doesn't remember (laughs).
TN: I don't. I don't remember meeting any of the staff for the first time. We should've done this interview then. I don't remember what happened fifteen years ago.
YS: I remember it clearly. When I joined the company, I went around introducing myself to everyone. When I got to Mr. Nomura's desk, he turned around and said, "I'm the monster guy, Nomura." I wasn't sure if "monster guy" was a job title (laughs). Someone then pointed out that Mr. Nomura was working on the monster art.
When did you first come to "notice" each other?
TN: I want to say during the production of Parasite Eve in LA.
YS: I remember asking him about the concept of Final Fantasy VII. I hadn't had a chance since we were never on the same team. We finally were, and that's when I also learned about his doodle art.
TN: That's when I started drawing them.
YS: It was a while before the production of Kingdom Hearts 1.
Why was Ms. Shimomura chosen to do the music for Kingdom Hearts?
TN: She was available (laughs).
YS: That's it? (laughs)
TN: There were a few candidates, but the coordinator of the sound department at the time recommended her saying she showed the most promise. My reaction was, "Oh, her. Shimomura."
YS: What was that supposed to mean? (laughs)
TN: After the first title, I had her stay on because I don't like changing pivotal members of the staff midway.
YS: You probably don't remember, but when I decided to go freelance, you came to see me.
TN: I did?
YS: You asked me about my plans after I quit. When I said I had no idea, you told me you didn't care whether I worked here or not, you wanted to keep me on the series. That's when I realised freelance was a real possibility. It's a pretty great story!
TN: I don't think the guy who said that is the same guy who's here right now (laughs).
YS: Don't ruin my story!
It Was Supposed to be Scrapped...
How do you communicate during the development process?
YS: For Kingdom Hearts I would suggest music to Mr. Nomura--
TN: I usually make requests through someone, so we didn't talk much directly.
YS: For the first title, I brought you a demo MD. I left it on your desk and sent you an email about it. I remember talking to you on the phone too.
TN: I don't remember that at all.
YS: Generally, I would talk to someone else regarding which type of song should be in which part of the game, but I handed your the demos directly. I would submit them to a planner on the project first, though. I remember some of the songs getting rejected because there was no use for them, but then later finding out that you heard and liked some of them. "Dearly Beloved" is one example. I thought it had been scrapped, but then I saw in an interview you had said, "I don't remember scrapping this!"
In your mind, which song is the KINGDOM HEARTS song?
TN: "Dearly Beloved" is used often; it's a great song. But the title is hard to remember. What does it mean?
YS: Someone precious to you.
TN: Oh, really? Well, now I know. "Precious." Like The Lord of the Rings (laughs).
YS: I didn't use the internet back then. I was using a dictionary and saw it and thought, "This is it!" I can't believe it's been fifteen years and you can barely remember the title... Speaking of titles, there's a song called "Sunset Horizon" in the KINGDOM HEARTS II secret movie. I didn't want to use the word "sunset," but you did; the poor mediator had one tough job. Don't you remember?
TN: No... I wonder why I wanted to use that word so badly.
YS: I can't remember why I didn't want to use that word (laughs).
TN: I wonder if it's because I often went to Sunset Boulevard during the production of KINGDOM HEARTS II (laughs). Nevertheless, all your titles are hard to figure out. Some are in English, some in Italian. What is it you're trying to do? (laughs)
YS: They're generally in English, with a little bit of variety thrown in the mix...
TN: None of your titles help me realise, "Oh, that song!" You shold keep them simple.
YS: My English isn't very good... A part of me would like to name them in Japanese...
TN: We've come this far, it'd be confusing if we switched now (laughs). When I'm making a trailer, I have to listen to every song because I can't tell which title goes with which song. You should've named them in Japanese from the start!
YS: There was a discussion regarding naming the songs in English so they'd be understood by a wider audience.
TN: Speaking of song titles, I remember during the production of KINGDOM HEARTS II, we'd been referring to Roxas only as "the mysterious boy," but you named a song after him and put his name out there.
YS: That you remember (laughs). It wasn't supposed to be released yet because it was a spoiler, it went out anyway. It was supposed to be released after the game.
TN: There was a reason we'd stuck with "the mysterious boy" since the beginning... See, this would've been a perfect opportunity for you to use one of your hard-to-understand titles! (laughs)
YS: But all of the other characters' themes were named after them. Anyway, it went on to become a popular song so it all worked out.
Not Living Up to Me
Mr. Nomura, what's your stance regarding the music?
YS: During Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath-, he said something I'll never forget. He said, "I demand only good music." It was a compliment; I was thrilled, but at the same time, I felt I was shouldering a great responsibility. (To Tetsuya Nomura) You must remember that.
TN: No... (laughs)
YS: When I was creating a new song for 0.2, you told me "You're not living up to your own standards." I wasn't living up to myself...
So you're saying all the songs are great.
TN: That's why I give them the OK.
YS: Sometimes the team says yes, but Mr. Nomura says no.
What song required the most back-and-forth?
TN: That I remember. The music from Twilight Town.
YS: "Lazy Afternoons." You said it was lacking "melancholy" and "wistfulness." Remember?
TN: I do. I ended up telling you exactly what I wanted.
YS: After he told me, he green-lighted the first title I submitted.
TN: I generally don't specify what I want.
YS: I wish you would...
TN: It's not a good idea because you'd put too much focus on that. I have a certain image in my head, and I'll keep asking for more until I get it.
YS: I'd love to know what that image is...
Mr. Nomura, what kind of music do you usually listen to?
TN: I don't listen to a lot of music, and I don't play any instruments. I don't know why I'm so picky when it comes to music; at least I'm aware that I am.
YS: When a song is rejected, I ask why, and the response generally begins with, "I don't know much about music" and continues with "I just know something's off." That "something" is what I'd like to know (laughs). But maybe now knowing is how we manage to keep creating something new.
Who's your favourite artist?
TN: There are a few artists I like, but lately I've been into loud rock (a genre born from heavy metal and hard core rock).
TN: I like the tones of a piano.
YS: It's hard to choose, but I've played the piano for a long time; it will always be special.
Are there any other Kingdom Hearts concerts you'd like to see come true?
YS: Rock!? With a band? Weren't you saying before that you wanted a musical?
TN: A while ago. When I watched the movie Les Miserables, I thought, "We should do a musical!" But I wanted to incorporate it into a game, not an on-stage production.
YS: There was a musical number in Kingdom Hearts II. That was rough.
TN: In Atlantica. But that was a music game. I wanted a musical cutscene.
YS: Thank goodness that never happened... (laughs)
TN: Well, I was watching a show the other day, and it had a musical number. It made me want to create a musical, a production where everyone bursts into song.
Who's your favourite Disney character?
TN: I've come to like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Figaro's cute too, the cat in Pinocchio who's always staring at the goldfish. I also like the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland.
Conveying the Concept with Music and Video
How did the concerts come to be?
TN: I've been saying we should do it for a long time now.
YS: So have I, and so have a lot of fans.
TN: We've tried several times, but it just never happened.
YS: It took a while to go from "wanting" to "doing."
TN: Speaking of fans, there's a reason I wanted the opening night to be the day after KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX was released in Japan. This doesn't apply to the overseas fans, unfortunately... After the previous concert, many people said it made them want to play the games all over again. We decided to release the games the day before, so people can go home and play to their hearts' content after the concert.
YS: I hope people don't stay up all night playing the night before the concert and end up falling asleep during the performance (laughs).
How did you decide on the program?
YS: I came up with a rough plan, which Mr. Nomura checked.
TN: I wanted both concerts to be connected, like two halves. This time all the music will be accompanied by video, and that will convey the concept and emotions even better. I can't tell you exactly what the program will look like right now because the video still needs to be edited, and new songs will be announced. The plan may change.
Are you directing the videos?
TN: I plan on working closely with the movie director like I do when making trailers and such.
YS: It's like creating a trailer for each song. It must be rough...
TN: I want to make sure the music fits just right.
YS: It's a live performance; that might be difficult.
TN: I plan on treating this like any other project.
The Concert is Like Any Other Kingdom Hearts Project
Are there different themes for the previous concert and this one?
YS: We wanted drama. We wanted the audience to feel as thoguh they're playing the game; we wanted to tell a story. We needed to keep the popular songs, but have variety. Some songs were better suited for a wind ensemble, others for an orchestra, some both. We had a plan.
TN: The plan was good, but I had to make some changes (laughs). Some songs were too similar. I wanted "Hikari" performed in the last concert; she didn't.
YS: I wanted the concert to end on a happy note, which is why I wanted "Dearly Beloved."
TN: But I stood my ground and that was that. Aren't you happy the concert didn't end with you performing the last song, a nervous wreck on stage? (laughs)
TN: I can just picture you backstage. "I messed up!"
YS: I wasn't that bad! I got better with every performance.
TN: Don't use the concerts for practice! (laughs)
YS: I was nervous; I'd never played on such a grand stage with a wind ensemble. And if it were the last song, I wouldn't have performed!
TN: I didn't get a chance to watch the first concert as a spectator. I only caught a glimpse during rehearsals, too.
Do you plan on participating in the overseas performances?
TN: As many as I can. I want to go to Singapore. The LA performance is around the same time as E3, so there's a good chance I'll make it to that one too. I'm not sure about the others. (To Yoko Shimomura) You're going, aren't you? On your own dime?
YS: There's no way I can afford that! (laughs)
What would you like to say to the audience?
TN: This concert is like a Kingdom Hearts project, just like the games and other productions. We have video to accompany the songs this time, but as they'll be performed by different orchestras in each country, no one knows how it'll all come together in the end. I'm excited to experience the different performances in each country. During the last concert, even the Tokyo and Osaka performances left varying impressions despite both of them being held in Japan. Concerts are live and you never get the same experience twice; it's an appealing factor that I hope everyone is looking forward to.
View the images of the interview from the pamphlet thanks to @RedMakuzawa on Twitter below:
And thanks to @jsjunshen on Twitter for the tip!