Interview with Resident Evil 5 Music Team - Kota Suzuki, Tetsuya Shibata and Wataru Hokoyama
Created by veteran producers Jun Takeuchi (Lost Planet) and Masachicka Kawata (Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles), Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the highest-rated video games in history and one of the most anticipated releases for 2009. The series has sold over 34 million units since the original game was released in 1996 and spawned a multi-million dollar trilogy of films from Sony Pictures.
In the story of Resident Evil 5 the biohazard threat has not ended: Just when it seemed that the menace of Resident Evil had been destroyed, along comes a new terror to send shivers down players spines. Chris Redfield, returning Resident Evil hero, has followed the path of the evil literally around the globe. After joining a new organization, Chris heads to Africa where the latest bioterrorism threat is literally transforming the people and animals of the city into mindless, maddened creatures. Chris must take on the challenge of discovering the truth behind this evil plot. In Resident Evil 5, players will learn to fear the daylight as much as they have feared shadow in previous games.
To ensure the game s cinematic quality is raised to new levels, Capcom has invested in additional talent to match the caliber and sound quality of Hollywood movies while fully immersing players in the new setting of Africa. The game s soundtrack will feature an original song as well as live orchestral music compositions, a first for the game series, in addition to the ethnic and hybrid music styles which will feature prominently throughout the action-driven score.
Top: Kota Suzuki - Composer, Sound Design Section, Capcom
Bottom: Tetsuya Shibata - Senior Manager Sound Management Section, Capcom.
Music4Games recently had the opportunity to speak with the Resident Evil 5 Music Team; Kota Suzuki - Composer, Sound Design Section, Capcom, Tetsuya Shibata - Senior Manager Sound Management Section, Capcom and Wataru Hokoyama - Additional Orchestral Music writer, Orchestrator and Conductor. Following the orchestral recording session in Los Angeles, composer Kota Suzuki is still writing and producing the electronic score and hybrid music. In this exclusive interview the Resident Evil 5 music team discusses the range of music styles and production techniques being employed for the series most ambitious soundtrack to date.
Wataru Hokoyama - Additional Orchestral Music writer, Orchestrator and Conductor.
M4G: Thank you for taking time out during the development process to share insight into your current project, Resident Evil 5. For the benefit of those who may be not familiar with your previous games, please introduce yourselves and tell us about your music background, video game soundtrack experience and respective roles as composer, sound manager and orchestrator for Resident Evil 5.
Kota Suzuki: In addition to studying voice at the Kunitachi College of Music, I taught myself how to compose with DTM (Desk Top Music). I graduated in 2003 and was hired at Capcom. Since, I ve worked on such titles as Onimusha 3, Shadow of Rome, Wantame Music Channel, and Devil May Cry 4. I am the main composer on Resident Evil 5, responsible for composing and editing the in-game and cut-scene music.
Tetsuya Shibata: I studied classical piano almost from the cradle. And when I was in junior high and high school, I taught myself how to play guitar, bass, and drums. That is how I came to know and love music and musical instruments. At university, after having experimented with classical, rock, jazz, and various other genres, I bought a synthesizer and started composing my own music. Later, in 1997 I got hired at Capcom, and since then I ve been involved in more than 20 game titles.
Wataru Hokoyama: I m an L.A.-based composer. I studied composition at Interlochen Arts Academy, The Cleveland Institute of Music and University of Southern California. I ve worked on AFRIKA as composer, orchestrator and conductor. This time, I had the privilege to work on Resident Evil 5 as an additional orchestral music writer, orchestrator and conductor.
M4G: You recently recorded parts of the game score on the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox with a 100+ Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. Since this was the first time Capcom has recorded with a live orchestra for Resident Evil, how important was it to have an experienced music team involved?
Tetsuya Shibata: In Hollywood, unlike anywhere in Japan, perfectly specialized conditions and culture exists to accomplish the recording of a 100+ piece orchestra. This is the first time for our team to record on a scale as large as this, so it was precisely for this reason that we needed the expertise of the team in Hollywood. It could be said that this was an extremely important element in the success of this recording.
Kota Suzuki: With the spread of the PS3 and Xbox360, along with advancements in graphic technology, a cinematic level approach to sound has become increasingly necessary. Resident Evil 5 is a title which Capcom hopes to sell to a worldwide audience. Further, it is the first title in the series for the PS3 and Xbox360. Taking all of that into account, I believe that being able to record on a motion picture scale in the United States was extremely important in achieving the sound and sound effects quality appropriate for a game to be sold worldwide.
Wataru Hokoyama: I think we might all agree that, since the Resident Evil series has already been a worldwide known popular series, we ve all wanted to make sure that the music we deliver would be the highest quality possible to meet the audiences expectations. And to achieve the purpose, we felt that the best way was to record it with one of the best orchestras in the world, in one of the best recording studios, with one of the best "scoring teams (music contractor, recording engineer, music preparation team and so on)" to make this session go most professionally.
M4G: Why did Capcom decide to record the orchestra in the US instead of Japan? Were you impressed by other large-scale video game scores and inspired to follow suit and record in Hollywood, and if so which ones?
Tetsuya Shibata: More than being influenced by any one particular video game, numerous Hollywood movies have made an impression on me. I think that the only way to get music quality proportionate to the scale and weight of the game was to record in Hollywood. Unfortunately, studios and halls in Japan are limited in size, so the reality is that it is extremely difficult to have a recording session with even say, 60 or so people.
M4G: How do you think Japanese game music compares to American/European game music in terms of production quality?
Tetsuya Shibata: First of all, I think not just game music, but the evolution of the respective game cultures is very different. However, because of the change in the game market over the past 5 or 6 years, and because Japanese developers develop games on the assumption that they will be sold overseas, the games themselves have approached cinematic quality, and necessarily, so has the sound. You don t notice much difference in the quality of the tracks themselves, but when it comes to post-production elements like recording and mixing, Japan still lags behind overseas operations.
Kota Suzuki: I get the impression that production at western, particularly American developers are ahead of those in Japan. But, I think that more and more in Japan, the process of making video game music is becoming specialized. More and more Japanese production companies are working together with foreign companies, and sound production quality in Japan is approaching that of the west.
Wataru Hokoyama: I think it is fair to say that many of the Japanese video game music composers have contributed their originality and the varieties of styles to establish a new musical genre called "game music," which became so popular. Today, I feel that both Japanese and the western game music have influences on each other, and that allows us to develop the varieties of styles even further, which makes this genre to continuously grow.
M4G: Since the game has a new setting is there a new Resident Evil musical theme and/or specific style? How would you describe the overall musical approach? Is the setting in Africa the reason why AFRIKA composer Wataru Hokoyama was brought on board the team?
Tetsuya Shibata: To a game, music is very important. It paints an aural backdrop for the player. So, naturally we ve added new themes to match the stages. The Resident Evil movie is being made in Hollywood, and I think the power of the music in the game doesn t betray that fact. Meeting Wataru Hokoyama was coincidental, and his work on other projects really had no bearing on this project. What he brings to the team is purely his talent and his critical ear for music.
M4G: How many minutes of music have been composed for the game in total? What are some of the instruments and techniques used to help immerse players in this environment?
Kota Suzuki: Music for the game is still being composed; I can t tell you exactly how many minutes of music there are in the game at this time. When you take into account the demo scenes, the amount of music in the game is considerable. I believe the number of tracks is 100, give or take.
Many different instruments were used for the special sounds they produce. For example, to evoke the gritty feeling of horror during a creature battle scene, we employ trills of string instruments and tremolo effects. We may also mix in synth sounds which help to bring out the atmosphere.
We worked hard to make the music for the cut scenes dramatic, as the cut scenes fill in the gaps in the game s storyline.
The main theme, which is a vocal track, incorporates African percussion instruments and lyrics deliberately chosen to remind the player that the game is set in Africa.
Wataru Hokoyama: We ve recorded approximately 15 minutes of music with the live orchestra. We ve all envisioned that in order to support such an intense action game with so much power and weight in its story, we would need a 100+ orchestra to musically create the world of Resident Evil 5.
One of the unique instrumentations includes 2 large Japanese Taiko drums on top of the 103-piece orchestra. In the orchestra, the entire brass section would blast to build huge walls of chords, the woodwinds would run in extremely high range to scream, and the gigantic strings section pours on the melodies and rhythms. And by all of those elements together, we kept the intensity and the weight of the orchestral sound to its peak in many action sequences.
M4G: Since only about 15 minutes of the music has been recorded with live orchestra, what kinds of sounds can we expect from the rest of the (electronic) music score; What style of location-based music or atmospheric soundscapes did you create for the game? Will the electronic music convey emotion as well as ambience? Will there be any "hybrid" music tracks featuring elements of both live and electronic music?
Kota Suzuki: Overall, there is a good amount of fusion of orchestra and electronic music. Also, in some cases we ve added instruments which give a very African feel. By fusing the ambient synth sound with live instruments the tracks provide an atmosphere that is a cross between music and ambient sounds.
Not all tracks necessarily contain African-flavored sounds. We used them to the extent we felt necessary.
More than just be "African", the game s director wanted the music in this project to focus on conveying a feeling of tension and urgency to the player.
Also, the game s precise programming plays the appropriate track as determined by the situation in which the player finds himself to provide a close interactive feeling.
M4G: Will the live orchestral music only be used in the cinematics, cut-scenes etc.?
Kota Suzuki: At this point, we plan to use orchestral music in certain battle scenes and in the end credits. Also, we hope to use certain parts in cut-scenes, but nothing has been finalized yet.
M4G: We understand a song was also recorded for the game. Who is the composer/writer and the performer of this track? Will elements of the song be heard throughout the game?
Kota Suzuki: I wrote the song, and Miguel E. Corti on our Localization Team translated the lyrics I wrote from Japanese to English. It wasn t so much a direct translation as it was an interpretation of the meaning of the song. I am thoroughly pleased with the wonderful work he did.
The vocals were sung by Oulimata Niang, a vocalist from Senegal. She was a perfect match for the image of what we had in mind for Resident Evil 5. Eric Gorfain, an engineer at Littlebox Studios where we did the recording found Oulimata Niang for us after I conveyed the image of what we wanted to Shibata, the manager.
We plan to arrange a portion of this theme for use in the game and in cut-scenes.
M4G: What were the main challenges producing the score for Resident Evil 5?
Kota Suzuki: The main challenges were ONE: composing the theme melody and TWO: figuring out how to express terror in broad daylight with music. With regards to ONE, until now theme melodies for games in the Resident Evil series have been avoided because they were horror games. But after the decision to record an orchestra was made, and as a result of meetings with many staff members, the consensus was that it wouldn t be a bad idea to make the melody a little more prominent for this game - because it would enhance the appeal of having a live orchestra. When we were composing the main melody, we tried to isolate it so it did not cross over into other games in the Resident Evil series. The vocal song was especially challenging. The reason we decided to go with a vocal track and not an instrumental track was that we thought words would have a greater impact on the listener/player. We thought that if we are successful, the music of Resident Evil 5 will leave a strong impression on its listeners. So for this reason, we definitely wanted to give it a try.
With regards to TWO, the notion of fighting enemies in the streets during broad daylight is unprecedented in this series. That being the case, the standard music scheme used before in the series wouldn t work well for this game. It was trial and error day in and day out with different composers trying to come up with the right musical formula.
M4G: How is the music being implemented into the game? Do you have your own audio engine?
Kota Suzuki: Music is incorporated using our very own "Capcom MT Framework."
M4G: What do you think is the most unique aspect of the score for Resident Evil 5?
Kota Suzuki: Many of the tracks use rhythm to build suspense. As a result, this game uses more percussion than any other game in the Resident Evil series.
M4G: Capcom recently partnered with Sumthing Else Music Works to release several game scores in the US including the Resident Evil 10th Year Anniversary Official Soundtrack so can we safely assume there are plans to release the Resident Evil 5 Original Soundtrack?
Tetsuya Shibata: I can t tell you anything definite at this point in time, however, the possibility is not out of the question.
M4G: There are a lot of symphony orchestra concerts playing video game music. Do you think the Resident Evil 5 music will ever be performed by Video Games Live, for example?
Tetsuya Shibata: Yes that would be something to look forward to. But many of the tracks would be very difficult to play, so a lot of practice may be necessary.
Resident Evil Music Team - Full Credits:
Sound & Music Director -Tetsuya Shibata
Music composed by Kota Suzuki
Additional Orchestral Music Written, Orchestrations and Conducted by Wataru Hokoyama
Scoring Producer - Tomonobu Kikuchi
Score performed by Hollywood Studio Symphony
Vocal - Oulimata Niang
Proof Reader - Paul Henning
Orchestra Contractors - Sandy De Crescent, Peter Rotter
Associate Contractor - Sandra Kipp
Score Recorded and Mixed by Shawn Murphy
Score Recordist - Timothy Lauber
Booth - Robert Litton
Score Recorded and Mixed at Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox
Scoring Editor - Erik Swanson
Technical Engineer - Denis St. Amand
Floor Assistant - Tom Steel, Francesco Perlangeli
Vocal Recording Director - Eric Gorfain
Recorded at Little Box Studio.