Otakon 2018 – Uematsu Nobuo panel

Before Uematsu came out the staff instructed the audience to sing out the Victory fanfare when Uematsu comes out. We really tried, but it was so scattered since we didn’t get the cue. Either way, the energy, love and joy at being able to hear from Uematsu was felt from the fans.

First Yoshida-san polled the audience for those at the concert the night before and fans of the music.

    Uematsu: I was very moved by everyone’s reaction watching the concert with you guys in the audience. And I like to express my thanks to Otakon for bringing us out here. This was such a fantastic experience I’d love to repeat over and over.

The floor opened for questions.

    Q: I’m curious out of all the Final Fantasy soundtracks you’ve done which one are you the most proud of?
    Yoshida: Did you just ask him which kid does he like best?
    Fan: I’m sorry!
    Uematsu: So as my translator said you did asked me which one of my children I do I like best. But going through all the years, I mean every single work I’ve ever composed I’ve been very satisfied with. But in terms of its growth as a game and the music that accompanied it. I think it reached a sorta plateau at one point and if I had to say where that was I think it would be around Final Fantasy 6 or 7.

    Q: First off I would like to thank you so much for writing music that has inspired so many of us, you brought so many great feeling in lives. For inspiring writers like myself to become composer ourselves. My question is throughout your course as a composer I’ve notice your music has definitely evolved over time from Final Fantasy 1 all the way through you know like Blue Dragon and some of your later works. What do you feel has inspired you most in your evolution as a composer?
    Uematsu: What would that be…. Well I mean getting inspiration from other forms of music rock, jazz, classical and everything else I wonder what it is that gives me inspiration. I don’t think you can ask any composer asking them where their inspiration for creativity comes from. The most important thing is when you decide to compose a piece of music you do it, you follow through. It might be a strict way; a rather harsh way of putting it. But if you have to ask a composer how do you compose that person will never be able to compose. I think composers myself included, we have music running through our heads 24/7. So instead of being stuck at trying to find a piece for the scene you’re trying to compose for. You’re more looking for all the music in your head what parts from which part of that song in your head do you pull to apply to the scene you’re composing. So I think is important is to get the ability to figure out what it is that you need for what you’re trying to do. Whether it’s listening to other music rock, jazz, classical; whatnot and you know apply that. I think before you can create music you need to understand music. Like having a conversation you can’t converse in a language you don’t know. So if you learn the language of rock, jazz, classical you can use that in your conversations. I think that’s saying something really deep and profound here.

    Q: I’m honored to be able to meet you right now. I got my first playstation way back when I was a kid and the first game I owned was Final Fantasy 7. And immediately I was touched, I’m a forever fan of your work so just thank you so much. My question would be you created so many pieces, and you have done so many character games. The various characters as well as Final Fantasy series. Are there any particular character themes that you created, I’m so nervous. I’ll start my question over. For all the character themes that you’ve done are there any which to this day you’ve feel the strongest connection to in terms of the character themselves.
    Uematsu: What it comes down to it’s really hard to remember all the character themes that I’ve done. I’m sure there are really good ones that I don’t remember. But one of the themes that keep being told as their favorite is Aeris Theme from Final Fantasy 7. And you know I do like that theme so I guess it really fit that character.

    Q: I’m also very honored to be facing you right now as everyone else. He actually took my question so I’m going to ask another question. Out of all the composing that you’ve done all the work you’ve done throughout the years and the hardships that you’ve faced the trials, upside. What keeps you going? What motivates you to keep composing?
    Uematsu: I wonder what that is. So whether it be composing music or for a novelist writing a book or artist drawing an illustration. You find what you’re feeling at the moment and you express it, to music, to art, through words. And it creates a moment where other people who see it, read it, hear it say hey I feel the same way. And it gives you that moment of connection with the audience. And that moment you have connection with another individual, about what you’ve created what you’re feeling. I love that feeling. I think it’s the moment where everyone in the world can be one.

    Q: So Final Fantasy 10 is my favorite Final Fantasy of all time. And I was wondering like if you see the video game first and then comes the music, or you write the music first and then the video game gets made.
    Uematsu: So I think there’s both cases. Lot of the times I’ll get the designs and stories and I compose to what kind of music fits the artwork that I watched. And another times I provide pieces of music what I think will go with the theme of the game. And the artists will create something that matches the music I provide.

    Q: Which one do you prefer?
    Uematsu: I love just getting the story laid out in front of me and just composing, as I’m reading what goes on in the story.

    Q: First off I just l want thank you profusely for composing the music to Final Fantasy 8. Those are songs that still give me strength and courage today. My question for you is in the process of composing for a game or project. Have you ever created a melody that you realized was not a good fit that project and you might have like tucked away for later. And then maybe it resurfaced in another game.
    Uematsu: I wouldn’t say that never happens, but it rarely happens. So when I’m instructed to create 20 pieces of music for a game, I’ll compose 2 to 3 times the amount they ask for. So of the 40 to 60 I’ve created I find the 20 that best fit what they ask me to do. So in essence I do have 20 to 40 songs sealed away in my PC. So but me I create the songs for the moment and for the project so I rarely look back on anything that I’ve created before that I might have saved. I don’t like looking back. I mean there might be a piece of music that I came up with that I really like that I might tuck away for future use. But normally no.

    Q: So my question is actually I’m going to Tokyo in November and I was wondering what are some places you would recommend going to.
    Uematsu: A lot of ramen, and a lot of curry. I’ve never had bad ramen. Can you get curry here? I’m talking Japanese style not the Indian curry. Do you like curry rice? I hear a lot of Americans tell me yeah I love ramen. I’m thinking okay their ramen craze is here, the curry craze has gotta come soon.
    Yoshida: New York has Gogo Curry and LA has a lot of curry houses. Its a good thing. You really recommend someone going to Japan to have ramen and curry.
    Uematsu: Well you already know tempura and sushi. I mean when it comes to tempura its not like we eat that kinda stuff everyday. I swear I have a bowl of ramen once a day. Maybe we should move onto the next question.

    Q: So we all heard earlier this year that you’re working with Square Enix on the Final Fantasy 7 remake. Much to I am sure most of our relief. I would like to ask if there was any of the other Final Fantasies that you worked on, that would be remade. What do you think would be the most fun and interesting to go back and remaster for it?
    Uematsu: So I’m not really fond of remakes and remasters. But if we’re going to start from scratch I’d love to do the first one again. So this isn’t obviously anything in the plans anything, but when I look back on it all of us got together to create the first game. We were barely good enough to call ourselves professional. Who were professional amateur at the time, and to have all of us come back together to redo the art, redo the music. To see how we’ve grown and to see what we can create now would be very interesting to see how it turns out. But like I said its just a pipe dream.

    Q: My question is with the first Final Fantasies , it’s more of a traditional fantasy setting. But like going with 6, 7 was like going for a steam-punk future setting. What were some of the challenges you were looking forward to but also what was it like going to this setting with your music style?
    Uematsu: So first of all when the world view and world setting changes you can’t help but change the music along with the world. As the artwork becomes more and more realistic and the animation quality goes up, it starts becoming more like composing for a movie. And I think that’s the general direction a lot game are going these days. So I’m not saying composing game music like movie music is not a bad thing or anything. I think maybe composing music for video games needs to evolve as well.

    Q: I recently learned that you’re actually or were a fan of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. And which at the same time surprised me but also made sense had a lot the same, similar style motif. I was wondering is there anything currently or like even back then like artist wise or even like prog rock that like inspired your writing and everything in composition.
    Uematsu: So when I first heard Emerson as an artist. When in the times on the radio you hear Carpenters and Simon Garfunkel’s whose always singing about peace. And to hear their technically , if not violent song it was a big shock to my system. I think could say 99% of the composers working in my generation and I’m 59 right now. Were influenced and affected by Emerson, Lake & Palmer “Tarkus” album. So can’t say, I like progressive rock but I can’t really say I’ve listened to whole lot recent ones and my age group I listened a lot of Genesis, a lot of Pink Floyd, Yes. So I think those were all influential.

    Q: So my question is not actually about Final Fantasy but the other games you composed for. Was there anyone that in particular stood out to you that you enjoyed or what do you need?
    Uematsu: Fantasy Life, it may not very well known here. If I were to be asked to you know pinpoint out key works that I’ve ever worked on. Final Fantasy obviously, but Fantasy Life I will have to include as one of them because it’s another side of me. Totally different from anything I created for Final Fantasy so I would have and was very me when I created it. So it would definitely be one of ones I would point out.

    Q: One of my favorite games you worked on is The Last Story, and I was wondering if you have any memories from when you were working on that.
    Uematsu: So in that game the producer Sakaguchi Hironobu from Final Fantasy, he asked me to write music for his game. So I wrote the main theme, the theme for the town, and the battle music. Then I got an email right back from him saying you got it completely wrong. And I remember getting this mail it was long and it said told me everything that was wrong i about what I handed him in detail. To the point where I was moved by the amount of input that he gave me for the music I provided. When it comes down to it I can’t help but feel happy that someone is so passionate of it. Passionate about what their creating that they would write such an intricate detailed complaining email about what I had handed to him. I was actually moved. But when I comes down to it whether it’s a movie director or game director they see in their heads what the completed picture is going to be. So being able to be told right at the starting game what it is they’re looking for and what it is your original direction was; was wrong that’s very helpful really.

    Q: Can you envision a day when you would have to retire and walk away? I’m sure everybody in this room hopes the answer is no. I will say this if you get old and you can’t move around and need a wheelchair I push my girlfriend around in a wheelchair. And I would be more than happy to push that wheelchair. I offer my services for free.
    Uematsu: I’m going to reserved that wheelchair right now. You when it comes down to it composers never retire I’m going to be composing ’til the day I not hearing. It’s not really even work so how can you retire if you’re not really doing work. Although I will say there might come a day where I start taking work; stop composing that I make money on. Would I become a truly old man I’ll just be the old man that composes music.

    Q: Before you compose your music, what do you do?
    Uematsu: So I don’t prepare anything. I like composing in the morning, I get up I go to my synthesizer and my PC and start working. So you might not believe me when I say I don’t prepare. But when I first get up, when I’m not completely awake when your brain’s not functioning, fully awake. You don’t get clutter with oh what sounds should I make next, or if I should do this what am i going to have for lunch. None of that happens when your brain still gotta wake and you just start working. I’m not saying details comes out but bare bones the entire composition will come out of me before I stop.

    Q: How and when did you decide on what to do with your life? When did you decide this is what I’m going to do? And do you have any advice for those of us trying to answer that question?
    Uematsu: So maybe when I sorta started wondering if I could do music as my career I was 15 or so in high school. So I mean I love music, I played around with house piano in the house, and guitars, but no formal training. But I did know that I wanted to do something in music industry. And at that point it’s like I would love to be a composer but I wouldn’t have hated being a Tower Records employee. I mean there’s plenty of people whose in a career will tell you if you work your dreams will come true. I don’t think real life is that simple. Working hard doesn’t 100% guarantee the results you’re looking for. But if you don’t try you won’t ever reach your dream. Its hard to really give advice but if there’s something that you love that you want to do give it your all try, cause if you don’t try you won’t know. So giving your 100%, given everything can to it to achieve your goal. And you achieve it fantastic. But if you don’t and you know gave everything you could give to it. That’s going to leave a big hole in your cheast, it’s going to hurt. But that in itself is going to be one of your treasures. So I feel that in ones youth you should try to collect as many scars as you can the deeper the better. And save it for your youth.

    Q: My understanding, and I hope I’m correct Final Fantasy 9 was intended to be a call back in a lot of ways to the early entries in the series. Did that have any impact on how you approached it when you went to compose?
    Uematsu: You’re absolutely right. I mean 7 and 8 was, I changed the way I composed the music. But 9, I sorta went back to the roots of Final Fantasy series.

    Q: My question is what is the hardest part of composing?
    Uematsu: Following your deadlines. I mean if there was no deadline to worry about there ain’t nothing better in life than composing music.

    Q: What music takes you back to your childhood?
    Uematsu: I mean I love the music of Elton John. I remember listening to him all the time. Heck I listen to him right now.
    Yoshida: What part of Elton John? What song in particular? Which song?
    Uematsu: Levon, Tiny dancer.

    Q: If you could have your one wish granted to compose with any individual, or group you know past, present if not future. Who would it be?
    Uematsu: Nobody. So I mean in my younger days I might have said I would love to work with my upper classmate my sempai to create something. But at my age I want to complete my musical world before I have to leave it.

    Q: Since I’ve been to Japan and have seen the culture and the history of it. What is your favorite place to visit during either where you grew up or when working?
    Uematsu: Since I’ve lived in Tokyo all my life, I love going to Mount Fuji because its close. But if I had more time, more free I’d love to more of Kyoto. Next time please check it out.

    Q: From all of your work which specific soundtrack would you have play in the background of your life. And why? Or which one do you listen to the most?
    Uematsu: Chocobo Theme. I haven’t really thought about it, but if I have to think about it, it might be something sad. I have a feeling that I try to lighthearted and very approachable but thats only achieve by kinda pulling myself back and sorta sealing myself off. And that’s how I’ve lived my life, so if there was music depicting it, it would have to be. I think part of me is thinking I always believed that you have to work hard. But I’m wondering now did I really have to. Yes but because with that realization, it might have been sad music ’til now. But starting tomorrow it will be the Chocobo.

    Q: We’ve talked about your favorite so far, favorite this favorite that. Which one was out of all the games was your problem child?
    Uematsu: A lot of problem children in mind. Truth be told I kind of forget what I finish. Because I’m always working going onto the next project. I’m sure there were problematic pieces that I wasn’t 100% happy with, but I move on. I don’t like looking back, I keep moving forward.

    Q: You made many beautiful pieces for Final Fantasy 14, including my favorite “Twilight over Thanalan”. How does it feel to be on the team that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for most original soundtracks for a video game that won’t be defeated anytime soon?
    Uematsu: I didn’t know anything about no Guinness Book of World Records. I’m really sorry I have no idea what you’re talking about.
    Yoshida: What do you think right now? How do you feel?
    Uematsu: It’s an honor. Its great being honored with an award and everything. But you just can’t be stuck on an award someone gives you. I think I’ve won a couple of awards but I really don’t think about it. I try not to get too excited or happy about any awards I win.

At the end of the panel, Uematsu-san conducted us and we were able to have a more cohesive choir of the Victory theme. Still out of tune…but at least we were mostly together.

~ Transcriptions by Pearl A. Thank you! ~