What would the soundtrack of a brutally violent, post-apocalyptic Japan sound like? In Suda51’s latest, Let It Die, it’d be a rock playlist of Japanese Indie bands hand-picked by Silent Hill music legend Akira Yamaoka. But for these current times, Yamaoka would recommend listening to Dizzy Mizz Lizzy.
At E3 a couple of weeks ago, Nach and I had a chance to sit down with Akira Yamaoka (along with his translator), the famed composer of the Silent Hill franchise and musical credits to other games, including but not limited to, Shadows of the Damned, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle and Lollipop Chainsaw. We talked a little bit about everything—from his creative process to insight into some of his favorite video game franchises—but we started with the upcoming free-to-play multiplayer survival action game, Let It Die.
Yamaoka’s involvement with the project is an interesting one, with the favorite tracks he worked with and likes, being, “...songs that has tracks from other indie rock bands that I used.” As it turns out, he curated the soundtrack which boasts over 100 Japanese Indie bands.
Let It Die is scheduled for release on PlayStation 4 sometime this year, and he said of the game, “Right now, it’s in final. ...tying all loose ends together right now, and [we’re] finally able to see the big picture as everything is wrapping up.”
The game is the latest in a long line of titles Yamaoka has worked on with game developer Goichi Suda. Yamaoka noted, however, that their relationship is the same as it has ever been, from when they started working together through the present. “[It] hasn’t changed too much. We’re both creative in different fields and that has helped us maintain the consistency and keeping our friendship together,” while Yamaoka has “...free range in terms of creating music.”
For anyone who has played a Silent Hill game, the overall tone of its music is a chilling experience. For the most part, the opposite is true of some of his later soundtracks, with sounds leaning towards rock. With each series’ vastly different styles, working on the Silent Hill franchise has had some impact on Yamaoka’s approach to subsequent games. He explained, “It does not exactly influence the music but in terms of the mentality on how to compose the music, then in that sense I try to emphasize the atmosphere of the towns, and how the sounds are incorporated into the world of the game.”
Yamaoka’s music styles ranges from Silent Hill’s ambient music to more alt and hard rock genres. It’s perhaps unsurprising as he cited, “As a kid, I listened to Metallica and other major rock bands.” One of his favorite bands, which he has seen live, is Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails although he hasn’t, “...met him in person but I have contacted him and talked to him.” His connection to the world of rock is impressive. There was a Let It Die concert at E3 the night prior which Yamaoka performed at, alongside a billing with The Hellcat Saints—made up of alumni from Queens of the Stone Age, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Underground and Nine Inch Nails—and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame.
We sadly didn’t get to attend, and the blow was two-fold, as Yamaoka was sporting an awesome Let It Die shirt. He let us know they were giving them away at the concert. There’s still so much salt in that wound (he laughed too at our saddened reactions). Just look at that shirt:
For as varied as his musical compositions and eclectic musical tastes are, Yamaoka said, “In terms of game music, I don’t try to be influenced by other music.” He instead, “...just goes with what the world offers in that game. And goes from there if it’s more a hardcore, loud noises…I’ll go with that.”
It’s clear Yamaoka is perceptive to adapting his sound to the relevance of current trends, as demonstrated by the versatility of his work on 1997’s International Superstar Soccer Pro. How he came up with the soundtrack was a logical necessity: the game’s sound is very much a product of the 90s. “At the time, [there was a] lot of techno and music that was mainstream, so I wanted to incorporate those into the game,” he explained.
He’s not just a keen composer with extensive video game credits to his name but a fan of the medium as well. When asked for his favorite game soundtrack over the years, it didn’t take him too long to give a surprising but cool answer of, “GTA”. And if he could compose for any franchise, he responded quickly and with ease, that he’d add some of his hard rock and metal flair to, “God of War”. He also expressed excitement for the upcoming Persona 5, and has worked on remixing one of Persona 4’s most well-known tracks “Time to Make History” for Persona 4: Dancing All Night.
Overall, Yamaoka has a general rule when it comes to his song writing process: “In terms of any kind of music I do work on, I always keeps in mind to not target one specific audience, no matter what age or gender, or nationality that person is. I want to make a song that’s appealing that resonates with anyone around the world. That is my first goal when making any music.”
But his advice on what to do and what not to do when writing music for any genre? Yamaoka suggested listening to, “...Flying Lotus, and that will direct you into what music direction you should go into.” It was the second of his recommendations for an artist he was into these days, with the first being Dizzy Mizz Lizzy—which he was kind enough to mention after he playfully said, “it’d take an hour” to give us some.
We have to admit, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy and Flying Lotus are pretty cool. And that’s not a shock—as Akira Yamaoka is pretty damned cool, too.
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