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Sound Byte: Meet the Composer - Keiki Kobayashi

We have a chat with one of the main composers of the recently released flight action game Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.

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Chances are good that you may have heard music composer Keiki Kobayashi's contributions if you are an avid fan of Namco Bandai games. From his humble beginnings with Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies to doing fight themes for SoulCalibur III and SoulCalibur IV, his forte is epic orchestral pieces and overtures.

While flying a digital airplane is fun, it wouldn't be complete without an overblown musical motif to instill a sense of importance into what you're doing. GameSpot had a chat with the composer on his latest for the recently released Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (AC: AH).

GameSpot Asia: Tell us about your background in music, as well as your musical inspirations.

Keiki Kobayashi: Music was something that was close to me as long as I remember. When I was little, I used to sing along with my sister's accompaniment. When I was seven years old, I started studying music. From there, I ended up graduating from a music university, and now, I am still continuing to study it.

I cannot shrink my musical background into one. From classical music to popular music...rock, jazz. I like every music that sounds like "playing music."

GSA: What are the main instruments you favor for all of your compositions?

KK: I have various favorites, but I always like to use the piano. Beyond that, I am always struck by the beauty of strings.

GSA: What made you work with Namco Bandai in the first place? What drew you to the company?

KK: The reason is I was a huge fan of Ace Combat 2. I thought of how happy I will be if I could work in a company that creates this kind of music. And I went on analyzing the music that the company was making and created a demo to apply. And I sure was able to get in here. I am really thankful the company to took me in.

GSA: Your name is usually together with the Ace Combat franchise. Is it safe to say that the franchise has a deep connection with you?

KK: Ace Combat to me is always a very special title. I originally had a strong longing of flying aircrafts through the sky, as well as watching them continuously. I was drawn to Ace Combat in that sense, as well.

GSA: Would it also be safe to say that you drew inspiration from action movies like The Rock, Hans Zimmer's music, and even aircraft-focused fares like Top Gun and Iron Eagle when making music specifically for AC: AH?

KK: I am greatly influenced by all the movies that I have seen and music that I've heard. Thinking back, Top Gun was the actual movie that I saw in the movie theater for the first time. I just recalled it (laughs).

GSA: Concerning the main overture of AC: AH ("Rebirth" from Sand Storm), how long did it take you do come up with it?

KK: When the backbone of the story was first created, I had a thought in which theme I wanted to take. When the storyboard of the opening scene came up, I decided to go with music that comes up from within the sandstorm, and from there, I made it in two days.

GSA: You work alongside Hiroshi Okubo and Rio Hamamoto for the game's soundtrack. With Okubo's DJ background and Hamamoto's style, was it hard to narrow down AC: AH's music style for fear of the music clashing?

KK: Okubo has many different drawers he can pull out off. He is a composer that has the talent and technique to spectacularly combine various images into his special world. I only tell him which scenes, what's important, and the details thereafter; everything else is up to his originality and imagination.

As for Hamamoto, when the project started, I thought that it would definitely be fun if our styles of music were mixed. My experimentation proved successful when we created the BGM for the first trailer together for the world to hear.

GSA: Which track in AC: AH was the toughest to compose?

KK:There's no particular song that was difficult to craft. However, as composition work inched closer to the last mission, a bit of care and implementation was required since the feelings and situations of the various characters in the game needed to be summed up in the music.

GSA: You were one of the composers for the SoulCalibur series. Your standout tracks are both of Tira's themes from SCIII and SCIV (Wings of Despair and Twilight Dwellers). What made the style of the tune a perfect fit for that particularly interesting character and the Osterheinsburg stage?

KK:Thank you very much. Since the stage is a very old castle, I dared to create it with an antique taste.

GSA: Will you be working on SoulCalibur V's music? If you are, what can you tell us about the general style and theme of SCV's music?

KK: In recent years, I have been putting all of myself in to AC: AH, so I wasn't able to do much else. Probably the only game I composed in between that period was for the recent Idolm@ster titles. I won't be doing Tira's theme this time around, but please look forward to the song.

GSA: You seem to love bringing in orchestra sounds for everything you do, from a fighting game like SoulCalibur to this year's Ace Combat reboot. Aren't you afraid that a gamer's ears can be worn out from so much bombastic compositions with very few silent moments?

KK: To address that, there are quiet songs in AC: AH. Truth be told, I actually like the quiet songs more. If I just do bombastic compositions only, it would be a world lacking color.

GSA: Let's bring up A Night in Fantasia 2009, where you got to work with the likes of Joe Hisaishi and Inon Zur (Dragon Age 2). How did it feel to be with your peers and working alongside Studio Ghibli's famed composer?

KK: I was very privileged. However, the audience was listening to us on the same stage, so I got this rush to keep on creating even better music.

GSA: With video game music live concerts being a norm in Japan, would you and Namco Bandai plan to host a live concert featuring nothing but Ace Combat and SoulCalibur music? Is there demand for it from Japanese and Western audiences?

KK: We do receive demand from many gamers to host a live concert. It is very fortunate, but we are a group that creates music in order for people to have fun with the game. The truth is that we cannot handle live concerts so easily.

Gaming music is not something that you can just simply create and put on the game. Unlike movies, we cannot take the "multi-audio" recording approach and finish it off. A lot of the work we do is quiet dedication that takes a lot of time, and we toil with the game designers and storyboard guys.

Do check out our daily song recommendations on our Twitter feed @gs_soundbyte.

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