Sound Byte: Meet the Composer behind The 3rd Birthday
We get in touch with one of the composers of The 3rd Birthday about his influences and how he got into the industry.
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Even though the game was not called Parasite Eve III, The 3rd Birthday gave developers the chance to start anew with series heroine Aya Brea, an NYC investigator with no memory of her past. While the gameplay took a new turn for The 3rd Birthday, fans of the series may recognize that some familiar Parasite Eve themes have crept into the soundtrack. Yoko Shimomura was the original composer and has also contributed to The 3rd Birthday score, along with Tsuyoshi Sekito and Mitsuto Suzuki, who worked on the bulk of the compositions. In this email Q&A, we asked Suzuki-san about his work and his approach to video game music. Haven't had a chance to listen to the soundtrack yet? We have a copy of The 3rd Birthday original soundtrack for one lucky winner (must be a US resident). Please follow @gs_soundbyte on Twitter for your chance to win. You can also purchase the original soundtrack at the Square Enix store and the previous Parasite Eve soundtracks online through the links.
GameSpot: Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your role at Square Enix?
Mitsuto Suzuki: I am a composer, and my role is to direct all aspects of sound and music production, including producing video game music, coordinating schedules, and working with our music publisher team to distribute our music.
GS: What is your musical background? What other video game-related projects have you worked on?
MS: In my youth, I would play soccer during the day. By night, I'd be a techno kid producing music at home. Then during my formative years, I joined a band and learned of the joys of creating music; not just alone, but with others. However, when problems outside of my control arose during the creative process, I'd quit and start making music alone again. I pretty much just repeated that cycle. Recently, I've come to feel that the process isn't as important as I once thought and to assimilate anything as long as the final result is good. Maybe my ego has faded a bit, in a good way, and I've become more cooperative [laughs].
GS: What was the first instrument that you picked up?
MS: The first instrument that I picked up was the keyboard.
GS: Is there an instrument you wish you knew how to play?
MS: There are often times that I wish I had a specific sound, but there aren't many times that I wish I knew how to play an instrument. With the advancement of the music equipment, for the better or worse, instrument sounds can be simulated through the PC, so it might be better to say that we selectively choose where to place and use live music versus simulated music.
I must make a note that when using simulated music, it's essential to understand how the music instruments are played. However, that knowledge does not necessarily produce quality music. In today's age, you are able to enjoy music without prior knowledge. This is why music creators should be open minded. In fact, I feel that music should be expanded with even more freedom and openness.
GS: How did you get into making music for video games?
MS: After graduating from high school, I was attending an engineering school but was also searching for a position at a video game company. Fortunately, I was offered a position at a company and immediately took the opportunity. The company focused on outsourcing development, but every day there was stimulating because around that time, the NES was in its late-development phase. What I learned about building relationships and general knowledge is still very useful today, and I consider that time a turning point in my life. By the way, I will never forget my professor's facial expression when I told him, "I'm sorry, but I accepted a position so I will have to quit school." [laughs]
GS: What is your process when composing a particular track?
MS: My process of composing can be summed in four points: Visualize music through art and story, put what I've visualized in my head into a form, be inspired by music equipment, and create in a casual manner.
The first two points are mainly when I'm creating video game music. When I am inspired by the music equipment, new sounds are often born, and I am able to discover music that I wouldn't have imagined. That is one of the benefits of applying electronic instruments to music. And for the last point, what I mean is what is stated (laughs).
GS: How did you approach the soundtrack to The 3rd Birthday?
MS: The song order reflects the situation the player is in within the game. The overall sound, low frequency and high frequency sounds, were emphasized during mastering for the audience's listening pleasure. On the other hand, we have adjusted the mixing and the length of each song based on the overall game. It might be interesting to compare the difference.
GS: Did the soundtrack come out the way you wanted it to?
MS: Of course!
GS: What is it like collaborating with other musicians on the soundtrack?
MS: I like the excitement of being able to come up with phrases and sounds that I wouldn't have come up with. Whenever I collaborate with musicians, I give them a rough image and later leave it to the musician's intuitions. I can always work on adding in the finer details myself.
GS: What other artists in the game music industry do you admire and why?
MS: I admire Hirokazu Tanaka because of his ability to select a catchy part of video game music and excellently balance it with his experimentations.
GS: What kind of music do you listen to now?
MS: I generally don't categorize and choose selectively in order to experience a wide variety of music and extend it to my work. I guess it's worked out for me that way. Normally, I tend to listen to my iTunes on the random play setting.
GS: What are your biggest influences?
MS: My family and Roland are my biggest influences.
GS: What projects are you currently working on?
MS: I am currently working on several projects. I hope that you will all keep an eye out for when I am officially announced as the composer for those projects.
GS: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
MS: Whether a demo or not, it's important to complete a song until the very end. By moving forward with your goal, time-management skills also sprout. A professional is someone who can accomplish that task. Also, you should never blame the specs for not being able to create music. With "magic," you have the ability to create music with any kind of environment and equipment. This is my theory based on my past experiences. Thank you very much.
GS: Thank you for your time!