Gimmick! – 2011 Composer Interview
This short Gimmick! interview with composer Masashi Kageyama was featured in the liner notes of a Sunsoft remix cd. Though brief, it makes a nice companion piece or appetizer to the longer Gimmick interviews over at glitterberri’s site. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that any samples from this CD are available online for streaming, so one will have to imagine Kageyama’s righteous sax.
—Please tell us how you got involved in game music.
Kageyama: About 25 years ago, I had the occasion to see my saxophone teacher Hisaaki Kanzaki using a computer to create all the backing instrumentation for a commercial he was working on. It was the first time I remember thinking, “Wow, with this I could make complete compositions all by myself!”
After that I managed to borrow a bunch of money and started collecting equipment, but I didn’t know the first thing about computers. I also couldn’t play keyboards very well, so I was stumbling around at the point before you’d even use a sequencer… I was pretty lost.
After that, in order to study computers, I got the idea to take a part-time job at a company that worked with computers. I looked through the job ads and started scheduling interviews. (laughs) One of those companies was the Tokyo branch of Sunsoft.
I chose them because I wanted to learn computers, and they wanted me to compose music… for me, it was two birds with one stone, a once-in-a-lifetime chance. This was also the first time I ever heard about the work of composing game music.
—What kind of sound were you aiming to create for Gimmick?
Kageyama: By then I had already done the music for games Out Live, Benkei Gaiden, and others, so naturally I felt that pressure where you feel like you have to outdo yourself. Substantively, the developers asked for several songs with a “pop” sound. For me personally, game music is something where you’re going to have to listen to the same songs over and over, so I try to make sure that A.) the looping music won’t become grating to the players, and B.) the opening and endings are dramatic. Above all, I was careful to make sure I was writing music that just felt good.
At the time, our programmer Tomomi Sakai was on a mission in pursuit of the perfect controls for Gimmick—for example, how floaty it should feel when the character jumps. He wanted the controls to feel just right. Somehow I had picked up on that, and decided I would try make the music match that feeling somehow. For Gimmick, I wanted the music to sound more like a live “performance” than a “composition.” Sound programmer Naohisa Morota played a big part in helping achieve that.
—On this CD you return to the Gimmick songs with a live band. Please tell us how that came about.
Kageyama: Furukawa (the President of the City Connection label and Clarice Disk producer) asked me about a remix disc, and in those conversations I let slip the words, “I’ll do it.” Probably, deep in my heart I was yearning to do music again. (laughs)
—Why did you choose Siesta and Good Night as the songs to perform?
Kageyama: I was thinking of a song I could do for Alto Sax in 4/4 time, and Good Night was the only option. (laughs) Siesta was just a bonus. I personally really like it, so I forced myself to learn and record it.
—What was it like, confronting these songs from Gimmick again after all these years?
Kageyama: It was like, “Man, these songs are good!” (laughs)
Thanks to this recording session, some strange feelings started to well up in me: once more I wanted play music, and write music again. I hadn’t played sax much in the last 10 years, so performing these songs was very tough. (laughs) In my head, I thought I could probably get a performance that’s a little better… as such, I’m really motivated to start playing sax again.
—You also included some demos on this cd which have never been released before.
Kageyama: These were demos I made for Gimmick before I recorded the official Famicom versions. I only used really simple simple sounds, so as compositions they might be a little lacking, but I hope people will enjoy them.
—Please tell us about your future plans and goals.
Kageyama: The one thing I can say is that, thanks to this experience, I think I want to try and start writing music again. Which means I’ll need to start practicing sax too. It’s been a long period of absence for me, so I’m not going to be working day and night or anything, but perhaps a few years from now I’ll have something to share with everyone. Please be patient. (laughs)
—Finally, please give a message to the customers who bought this cd.
Kageyama: If you’ve bought the Rom Cassette Disc in SUNSOFT Remix, you’re very lucky! This CD is special. In addition to the remixes, it has the Gimmick! demos, and two live performances by us. (laughs) I am very grateful to everyone who has helped light the fire in me to start making music again. Thank you so much! I look forward to the day we can meet again.
If you've enjoyed reading this interview and would like to be able to vote each month on what I translate, please consider supporting me on Patreon! I can't do it without your help!