Masashi Hamauzu: The Sounds of Fantasy

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Masashi Hamauzu: The Sounds of Fantasy
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Masashi Hamauzu :: He has left Square Enix after nearly 15 years

For nearly 15 years, Masashi Hamauzu had worked at Square Enix as a composer. Video game soundtracks such as Front Mission: Gun Hazard, SaGa Frontier 2, Unlimited Saga, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X belong to his discography. Hamauzu now exclusively talked with Beauty of Games about his work on Final Fantasy XIII, why he left Square Enix and what he is doing now.

Beauty of Games: You were born in Munich, Germany in 1971 and lived there for a certain time. What does this country mean to you?

Masashi Hamauzu: Since my parents and I moved back to Japan when I was about a year old, I can’t remember the time back then. However, my parents told me many impressive things about that period. My birth house still exists and I had the chance to visit that place four and seven years ago. There, I discovered my origin and I believe that Germany means very much to me as a home country. Some day, I would like to live in Germany.

Masashi  Hamauzu  :: He still wants to do video game soundtracks How about your German language skills?

Sadly, I can hardly speak a word in German.

You discovered your passion for music in Kindergarten and you were supported by your parents, who are both professional musicians. Was there ever the possibility to not work with music?

Apart from music, I enjoy painting. At junior high school, I took part in an art club and I couldn’t think of doing something with music until that time. Back then, I believed being a musician is a very demanding and job, which requires a lot of talent.

What makes music so special to you, since you spend your life with it? What are the other things, you enjoy in your life or your free time?

I can’t define what music is, but in my opinion it is very geometric and mathematic. The more I analyze it, the more I believe that the relation between humans and sound is the same as between atom and atom. Despite that, music is born by our emotions. You can get excited or emotionally moved. It’s very mysterious that humans can freely evoke these emotions. I am very happy when I experience that and I can hardly let this happiness go.

I spent my free time with a book about indigenous peoples in north Japan like the Ainu or Uilta. I like to take a look into an atlas from my bookshelf, too.

How about your children? Do they follow the footprints of their parents and grandparents? Have you introduced them to music?

I have got two daughters and both play piano as a hobby. I tried to introduce the violin to them, but they haven't played since a while. Not a long time ago, I suggested my oldest daughter to play the song “Blinded By Light” from the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack on her violin. I accompanied her on the piano and she did a great job. Her ear for music is far better than mine. It’s a pity that she rarely makes use of it.

Please tell us something about your musical education and the instruments, you play.

Nobuo  Uematsu  :: The other famous Final Fantasy composer left Square Enix to  found  his own company  smile  please As a child, I visited a choir from time to time, my father led a teacher. I also learned some piano, too but not on a professional level. Sometimes I wonder if I could have learned more.

In 1996 you started at Square Enix. For many years, Nobuo Uematsu was famous for his music in the Final Fantasy series. In terms of Final Fantasy XIII, you were announced as the composer of the full game project. How did you experience taking over this role?

When I was at high school, I had the strong wish to become a composer for rpg music. One the one hand there was this big excitement that I was able to work on an extraordinary RPG game, but on the other hand the video game composing scene is more different than I expected and the pressure was a lot higher.

When did you start with the composition for Final Fantasy XIII and how long did it take?

For events or gameshows in 2006 and 2007, I did one each, but rest began in autumn 2008. Without any breaks the main work took me about year, I guess.

Parts of the soundtrack have been recorded with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. They have been orchestrated by Yoshihisa Hirano. Did you have the chance to oversee the recordings in Warsaw?

Final  Fantasy XIII Soundtrack :: The Limited  Edition

I put a lot of confidence in Yoshihisa Hirano. Because I previously worked with him, I knew it would go well. I believe the East European orchestra greatly fits to such an complex composition. We recorded the session in the concert hall and I listened to it from the balcony. It was so sad that there was no bigger audience, since it was so beautiful.

The first Square Enix game you scored was Front Mission: Gun Hazard. Projects such as Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon , SaGa Frontier 2, Final Fantasy X, Unlimited SaGa and Dirge of Cerberus - Final Fantasy VII followed. Recently, you finished your work on the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack. How has your way of composing changed during these 14 years?

As a composer I am finally able to make conclusions about how to react on the expectations. It’s important to show ways, no one else could go. But this could mean to break up with traditions and while doing so it’s harder to convince directors as well as the listeners.

Please describe to us, how you actually worked on Final Fantasy XIII. For example: What did you start with?

The promotion video in 2006 started it all. For about two years then, my work rested. Before I really started to work, I tried to collect some motifs.

How did you interact with the rest of the Final Fantasy XIII development team?

Usually, I worked with director Toriyama. He gets an overview about a game very well, gives directions very precisely and has a good knowledge of music. So I was able to continue my work with him very well.

Sayuri Sagawara :: She sang the main theme Kimi ga iru kara, which was replaced my Leona Lewis' My Hands song in the West How did you experience your work with Sayuri Sugawara for the game’s theme song Kimi ga iru kara?

We only met once. Her wonderful voice caught my attention, because I specialized in singing at university. I believed that Sin (Hashimoto Shin) as her producer and arranger can make her voice shine better than I could do.

Please share some thoughts about Final Fantasy XIII, the game.

Graphics, the battle system and several other elements made a giant leap forward compared to other RPGs. It’s a great achievement that so many new challenges were mastered and it all harmonized so well, although tradition is so important for the Final Fantasy series.

The vinyl release of eight selected Final Fantasy XIII songs was a bit surprising. Can you tell us more?

It was the idea by one Square Enix employee and I was very convinced of this project. You can’t skip a track or start from the middle with a press of a button on an LP. If you scratch its surface, the result is a noise. I suppose it’s relevant to produce such a fragile format, so you can enjoy the very special sound of an LP. In contrast, you can manipulate digital music files without any problems.

Vielen Dank :: A tribute to Hamauzu's fans In 2007, Square Enix released your solo album „Vielen Dank“. What were the motivations behind this album?

Back then, I was asked by an employee of Square Enix, if I like to do a solo album. I intensively asked myself how this album should look like. My musicality, my roots, my emotions during that time, my gratitude for my fans and everything around me, I put it all into this album. It’s like my alter ego.

Read the second part of this interview on the next page

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