Reprinted from Rocketbaby
RocketBaby: At what age did you become interested in music?
Yasunori Mitsuda: I became interested in music when I was in high school. Back then, even though I composed as a hobby, my songs were very amateur sounding and I knew that in order to become a professional composer, I had to first get a proper education in music. That's why I decided to enter a junior college of music. I think the first song that I ever wrote was back in elementary school, during music class.
RB: When and why did you start working for Square?
YM: I began working at SQUARE from around April of 1992. I left a little while after Xenogears came out - around June of 98. Please refer to the English version of my homepage for more information...
RB: Please describe your thoughts on the following games:
Chrono Trigger- I remember I worked like crazy on this one because it was my debut title. One of my memories from this game is that I got ulcers from working too hard.
Gun Hazard- I wrote the songs for the Satella-View game, "Radical Dreamers" while working on this game.
Radical Dreamers- See Gun Hazard
Tobal No. 1- I was caged inside the studio for a month and a half for this project. I started working on it during the beginning of summer, and when I finally finished, it was already autumn outside.
Xenogears- I got to travel to many different countries thanks to this project. I remember that at the very end, during the soundtrack mastering process, I had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Chrono Cross- The best thing about this title was that I had a chance to work with Masato Kato, and that we were free to create our own world - any way that we liked. Work-wise, the main difference between "Chrono Cross" and "Chrono Trigger" was that we weren't tied down by any strange restrictions from our superiors.
RB: Do you admire any of your former Square colleagues?
YM: Mr. Masato Kato and Mr. Hiromichi Tanaka. Mr. Kato, because he's simply the best scenario writer in SQUARE. Mr. Tanaka, because even though his title is a "producer", deep down inside, he's a true "creator".
RB: Why do you create music and how do you create your melodies? ?
YM: Hmm... I don't know. I wonder why? I just fool around on my keyboard, and melodies just flow to my mind.
RB: It is challenging to work within the parameters of game music. How do you sustain your creativity with such narrow limitations?
YM: The way I look at it, "game hardware may come with limitations, but there's no limitations to music".
RB: You have a job that a lot of people would envy. Please tell us the best and worst parts about being a game composer.
YM: I think it's the most exhausting and also the most difficult genre to work with. Many famous musicians in Japan have tried to take on this genre also, but I don't think a single one has succeeded yet. It's not as easy as it seems. As a job... I don't think there really is a good point. The worst part is... you can't sleep.
RB: What do you think makes a good game composer?
YM: I think it really depends on how well the person understands the game as a form of entertainment.
RB: What do you think is the most challenging impediments for aspiring game composer?
YM: I think it's having to learn how to use all these new complicating equipments. There are even some professional composers out there that don't really understand how to use these equipments either, but if you want to raise the quality of your music and your sound, it's mandatory that you learn how to work with your gear (of course, we're talking only in the field of game music here, but). If you're a composer and you really want to create a good piece of work, you have to study music AND also at the same time, learn how to use your equipment.
RB: What do you thin about the PSX2 and are you excited about any other next-gen consoles?
YM: The PSX2 library isn't particularly good, so it's a rather difficult platform to work with. As for other consoles, sorry, but I don't have any interests in game consoles.
RB: Would tell us some information about your work on your first PSX 2 game?
YM: The most recent project that I've taken on is this role-playing game called "Tsugunai", due out from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. I think the first time that I was contacted for this project was about a year ago. I wrote 40 songs in total, and I was given complete freedom.
RB: What is your criteria for picking your jobs?
YM: I have 2 criteria's in choosing my jobs. One - how interesting the project sounds, and two - how much the project calls for my strengths as a composer.
RB: What is your criteria for choosing songs to be included in the soundtrack?
YM: In the case of game music, I look at things such as whether the scene really "desires" the sounds, and if the song creates a synergetic effect with that particular scene. I also make sure that the songs do not sound too monotonous or tiring when played in a loop. For anything other than game music, I take a listen to the song, and make my final judgment based on "whether I'd be willing to pay for such a song myself".
RB: What is your process when arranging your own music (Creid) and other people's music (SFEX2)?
YM: When arranging songs, I constantly think about how to bring out the "best parts" of that particular song.
RB: How has the process of making music changed for you from your early days until the present?
YM: During my earlier days, I was always being pushed by deadlines, but recently, I've learned to pace myself so that I don't run into such troubles. Consequently, I have more time and leeway than before, which allows me to work even harder to perfect my songs.
RB: Of all the music you have written, what is your favorite and least favorite and why?
YM: Sorry, but that's a secret... However, I CAN tell you that I would be lying if I said, "I like ALL the songs that I've composed." (Laughs)
RB: Will you perform your music live?
YM: I would really love to, but I'm just too busy with my job as a composer. I'm not really a good performer either so...
RB: How did you pick the name Hopeful Weeds for your fan club?
YM: Basically, I think of myself as a "weed" because I wasn't born a gifted musician, and was also never given any special education in music. But I DO however, feel that I keep a very strong hold of my hopes and aspirations, and also work hard to bring those dreams to reality. That's how I came up with the name "Hopeful Weeds".
RB: What will people of future generations think about Yasunori Mitsuda and his music?
YM: Hmm... I wonder too!? What WILL they think? I hope they think that I'm an adventurous person who's always taking the road less traveled.
RB: Any last words?
YM: Thank you very much for taking time to read this interview.
Translation by Makoto Washimi
RocketBaby would like to thank Mr. Mitsuda for chatting with us. Special thanks to Procyon Studio and Makoto Washimi.