At Anime Boston, famous Final Fantasy composer and video game music icon, Nobuo Uematsu, took questions from the fans. Some of the questions included what his favorite Final Fantasy game was to make music for and play, how legendary Final Fantasy Prelude was made in five minutes, and his initial aspirations to go to college in the U.S. As you watch the videos, you can hear the quivering voice of fans who sound like they're seconds away from breaking down on the floor. It goes to show how powerful video game music is. Below is a transcript of the questions he was asked at the panel, and the videos are below it.
Question: When can we expect the 4th Black Mages album?
Nobuo: I don’t know, but expect something in the Spring of 2011.
Question: How difficult was it to leave Square Enix?
Nobuo: The company is far away from my house, so it wasn’t that hard. (sardonic)
Question: What is your favorite Final Fantasy score?
Nobuo: Final Fantasy VI.
Question: What is your favorite character theme?
Nobuo: Aerith’s Theme from FFVII.
Question: When you compose music, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nobuo: There really isn’t an inspiration so much as a deadline.(laugh)
Question: What advice would you give for a new composer looking to get into the Japanese video game music industry?
Nobuo: Usually in the music industry, you have to worry about popularity, the video game music industry is more about individuality; creating something that no one has done before.
Question: What influence did teachers have on your career and what advice do you have for music teachers?
Nobuo: I didn't have a lot of teachers (self-taught). As advice to the audience, treasure your individuality. I gets a lot of demo tapes, but they all sound the same. Figure out a way to express yourself in your music.
Question: What advice for people looking to break into the video game industry in writing? Looking for advice or caution about the industry?
Nobuo: When Square started, it was small, actually started as a part timer. The best way is through nepotism. Apparently, if you can speak Japanese really well, you already have a foot in the door.
Question: Who are your favorite composers of the past that served as inspiration and admiration?
Nobuo: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is his main inspiration. The Beatles and Sir Elton John for rock.
Question: How do you immerse yourself in the characters and what is the biggest aspect of drawing out their personalities in the music you write?
Nobuo: Usually I start with reading the script and looking at character artwork. If there is anything in the script that speaks to him about the character, that’s how the music comes out.
Question: How does your experience at Mistwalker with Hironobu Sakaguchi differ from your experience at Square?
Nobuo: At Square, he gets a deadline every month but they are pretty much the same. Sakaguchi was closer back in the day, hovering over him, but with email these days, it is pretty much the same. Also, he approves of those who play Mistwalker games!
Question: Was the introduction of vocal themes (Liberi Fatali and Eyes on Me) in FFVIII a big challenge to you?
Nobuo: I've been writing songs since elementary school, so it is not really a challenge to go back to that �little boy� when writing non-instrumental music.
Question: When you became a musician, did you have an overall goal other than to make money?
Nobuo: People don’t become musicians to make money, at least true artists don’t. One of the most important things about music is its universal appeal. Make music, not war. I am glad to be involved in something that allows him to do that.
Question: Do you feel as if you’ve accomplished your greatest musical achievement? If not, when do you think that will be?
Nobuo: When I finish a song, I naturally feel it is a good song, but it is up to the us the audience to judge it as well. I think that I am capable of even better songs still, and time will tell.
Question: Do you like Boston?
Nobuo: I want to tour around the city more, but having a cold at AnimeBoston made it difficult. I want to visit Berkelee. When I was a college student, I wanted to go to Berkelee, but being poor, not speaking fluentent English, and being unsure about his music precluded the possibility. Now that I am in Boston, I am excited that the school of his dreams is right there.
Question: Now that we know your favorite music is VI, what is your favorite Final Fantasy game to play?
Nobuo: Final Fantasy VI.
Question: What was the source of your inspiration for Eternity (Melodies of Life from FFIX)?
Nobuo: Specifically the director Hiroyuki Ito, said I want to make a song that even if I die, I want the song to live on, where I will be remembered. What kind of song would I make for my wife and others to remember me by?
Question: Can you recall any stories that inspired you to write one of your songs?
Nobuo: The song Prelude, from pretty much every game. The first game was practically done when Sakaguchi rushed in and asked for one more song. I threw together this arpeggio in like 5 minutes. I am still really embarrassed that something I threw together in 5 minutes has been used for everything
Question: Are you composing the music for the Last Story?
Nobuo: Sorry, no comment possible.
Question: How long does it take you to write a song? If you didn’t have a deadline, would your songs be necessarily longer?
Nobuo: It depends on the song, as there is no definite time period to write a song. Even though I have a deadline, it doesn’t mean that matters when considering the length of the song.
Question: Are there any significant differences between writing for video games from composing for movies?
Nobuo: Movie and anime have a set amount of time that they need the music for. In games, it’s not really like that. Some of the songs for a game will be for a location that will just loop. Another big difference is that in an anime or movie there are people talking so the melody is more of a background sound. If you have too much of a song, it interrupts the movie. In a game, there’s not a lot of talking, so a lot of expression of what’s going on comes from the music and not the people talking.
Question: Why wasn’t FF Prelude used in FF Advent Children?
Nobuo: It was something the director decided.
Question: If you were wondering the streets of Boston and you ran into a random encounter, what would you do if your friends have fallen? What would your limit break be?
Nobuo: Drink as much beer as I can. (It was this time that the translator asked if he tried Sam Adams beer, he replied that he loved Sam Adams)
Question: You’ve done orchestra concerts in Japan and a few in California, do you have plans to do any near here on the East Coast?
Nobuo: I’d love to come do a concert. I’m not the one that decides that. One person that works for the company decides that, and she’s from Chicago so they get a lot of my concerts. But I do want to come to the East Coast so I think I’ll let her know.
Question: I was that the video game symphony last night and saw you were playing some of the music, what’s it like playing all that Final Fantasy music after it’s been written some time ago?
Nobuo: For a lot of the Final Fantasy songs, I actually play as a guest for the different concerts. I really don’t feel like it’s been a long time for me because I play them frequently. The games have been out for awhile but I play them often.
Question: What type of feelings did you have when writing the music for final fantasy X. for yuna and tidus, what emotions did you go through when you wrote that music?
Nobuo: When I think about that story, it is a little sad. It made me a little teary eyed.
Question: What do you do to get inspired to write music?
Nobuo: For me, like everyone else, there are times where I just have to do it but if you force yourself too much, then it’s not going to happen. Sometimes I’ll get ready to bed, get undressed, take a shower, but then I realize that I’m not satisfied with what I wrote so I put everything back on and get right back to work. You need to decide for yourself what you’re satisfied with.
Question: What kind of music do you like? How do you manage to make your music so unique?
Nobuo: I don’t like to listen to music on the TV and radio. It just all sounds the same. I’m constantly looking for new songs and sound. Right now I’m into music from Uzbekistan. I look for music from other countries and other places. When I make music, I try to make music that I wont get tired of and that doesn’t sound the same.
Question: I really love your music in Final Fantasy X especially �To Zanarkand.� I’d love to know your inspiration for that song.
Nobuo: That song actually not meant for the game. The song came about because I was asked to make a song for the classical flute performance, but because it’s a flute song, it’s kind of sad so I put it away. Then one day they came to me saying they needed a song right away. So I played around with it and rearranged it, then we put it in the game, and it was perfect. When I watch when the orchestra plays it, it makes me cry and it’s not cool for the person that wrote the music to be bawling.
Question: If you had gone to Berkelee, do you think you would be in the same place you are now?
Nobuo: No, I don’t think I would have been the same person. If I had went to Berkelee and studied the music properly, I think I would have been tied down by the rules. Of course I’m jealous of those that really learn and study music, but in a lot of way, I’m really grateful that my music is unique because I don’t have that proper musical background. In some ways, I’m glad that it didn’t happen.
Question: I’m going to be off to college to find my place in the world. What do you think is the best way to go about carving your own niche or persona?
Nobuo: What I believe is don’t do the things what other people tell you to do, what’s safe, or what other may point and laugh at you. Do what you want. By doing that, you’ll become a unique individual.
Nobuo's Final thoughts: My dad is 83 years old, and he fought against this country in the war. The thought that I can be here in front of you now in a time of peace and happiness, I think it’s amazing to be here at this time to share these moments together. I’m really happy to be here and thank you very much.
You can see the panel in the videos below.