Tsuyoshi Sekito is a senior composer, arranger, and guitarist at Square Enix and former Konami member, best known for his work with The Black Mages. Born on April 3, 1963 in Osaka, Sekito developed a passion for music while at high school. Utterly obsessed with guitars, Sekito's favourite artists are those that use the instrument principally. Though inclined towards uptempo West coast American rock, the use of guitars prominently is his primary source of appeal regardless of style. Middle-aged, conscientious, and shy, Sekito regrettably feels he lacks the 'rock n' roll' spirit of his idols, though considers himself a good example of an instrumental rock performer. After graduating from high school, he pursued further musical activities and foreign language studies at the Kansai Gaidai University. Desiring to create music professionally, he noticed that Konami were recruiting composers after a string of arcade successes. After submitting a demo tape, he joined their Osaka branch as a part-time employee after graduating in April 1996.
At Konami, Sekito initially worked on sound development for the MSX alongside an ensemble team of musicians. One of his earliest projects was the MSX version of Gradius 2, though to his disappointment all the compositions he submitted for the project were rejected. He nevertheless developed a close friendship with several other composers during the project and often ate out at Chinese restaurants with them. He bounced back from this disappointment to lead the audio of one of the computer's defining games, Space Manbow, as a full-time employee. During the product's long development time, he introduced several innovations to the MSX Room as a sound designer, including providing waveform changes on the custom SCC chip. As a composer, he also helped to define the tone of the space shooter with upbeat melodies and the occasional darker soundscape. Following this project, he contributed moody music to Hideo Kojima's SD Snatcher and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in a large collaborative effort.
After game development for the MSX ceased in 1990, Konami was transferred to work at other divisions of Konami. He persevered to create upbeat chiptune compositions and convincing sound effects on Double Dribble 5 on 5 despite the major hardware limitations of the Game Boy. He subsequently co-composed the music for the console's beat 'em up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back from the Sewers, blending 8-bit renditions of the series' classic theme song with punchy new compositions. In a further cartoon adaptation, he created some lively pieces on the Genesis' Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure in 1993. Sekito's final years at Konami were spent composing music and location testing in their arcade division. He scored the popular action title Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters, developing the 'rock meets Morricone' sound that his colleague Kenichiro Fukui had helped to create on the previous game. He closed his time at the company recreating the atmosphere of a soccer stadium on Soccer Super Stars.
In 1995, Sekito left Konami with his friend Fukui to become a composer at the Osaka development team of Square. During his first two years at the company, he single-handedly scored the action RPG Brave Fencer Musashi. In his largest work at that point, he composed some 137 tracks for the various scenes of the game and worked with the more advanced technology of the PlayStation for the first time. He focused on creating straightforward orchestral compositions that fitted seamlessly with the gameplay without necessarily standing out on their own. The soundtrack release nevertheless proved quite popular and introduced listeners to some of Sekito's fingerprints. The subsequent year, he contributed 12 more orchestral compositions to Chocobo's Dungeon 2, an ensemble score also featuring some composers at Tokyo. He introduced plenty of mystery, darkness, and action to an otherwise light-hearted score, often in an intentionally exaggerated way.
Sekito also participated in several projects as an arranger and guitarist during his initial years at Square. For Chrono Trigger's PlayStation remake, he created quasi-orchestral arrangements of popular themes and several new compositions for the FMV sequences. He was also selected to reimagine the entire score of Nobuo Uematsu's Final Fantasy II for its remakes on the WonderSwan Color and PlayStation in 2001. He rearranged the entire score with thicker parts and richer samples, while also composing two new battle themes. Surprisingly, he had still not met Uematsu at this point still an Osaka employee while Uematsu resided in Square. In other roles, he enhanced the grungy feel of Parasite Eve II's opening theme "Forbidden Power" with an overdriven electric guitar performance, duetted on steel-stringed guitar for Final Fantasy X's "Jecht's Theme", and composed the adventurous rock ballad "Go dream" for a tribute album.
In 2000, Sekito was selected to lead the ensemble score for the All Star Pro-Wrestling, developed by Square's fifth development team in Osaka. He was able to capture the desired sound for the title, given his love for hard rock music and previous experiences working on sports games. He produced guitar-laced rock compositions throughout the score to capture the intense action and appeal to mainstream audiences. As Square's first effort for the PlayStation 2, he also introduced some technological innovations on the score. He went solo for the second's game score also the only one to be released in a soundtrack and led the final score in the series. While the games were not the first examples of hard rock in a Square game, they firmly represented the company's efforts to musically diversify in the Sony era and set precedent to the formation of The Black Mages.
In 2002, Tsuyoshi Sekito created the album The Black Mages with Kenichiro Fukui. Early that year, guitarist Sekito and keyboardist Fukui messed around with several Final Fantasy battle themes during a jam session. Adding a rock touch and improvised solos to the original themes, they showed Nobuo Uematsu and Michio Okamiya the results at Square Enix's Tokyo branch; they were so impressed that the album The Black Mages was commissioned. Arranged, performed, and implemented solely by Sekito and Fukui, it featured hard rock arrangements of various battle themes such as FFVII's "J-E-N-O-V-A" and FFVI's "Dancing Mad". Inspired by the album's international success, Sekito subsequently joined a six-piece band to perform the arrangements live in special concerts at Tokyo and Kanagawa; he adapted existing arrangements and penned a new blues arrangement of "Matoya's Cave" for the event. Suddenly the self-confessed "diligent salary man leading a lawful well-regulated life" became an energetic swindling showman!
In 2004, Sekito was extensively involved in productions for two bands. He arranged four classic themes for The Black Mages' eagerly anticipated second album "The Rocking Grounds," "Vamo' Alla Flamenco", "Hunter's Chance," and "Battle with the Four Fiends" and appeared on the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange. Soon after, Sekito and the band featured in a second Japanese concert and made their overseas debut at the More Friends concert in Los Angeles. Given his experience with live performing, Sekito was also asked to become a founding member of the Final Fantasy XI performance group The Star Onions alongside Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka. He debuted with the band with some acoustic performances at the Chains of Promathia Special Night and subsequently performed a number of jazz tracks on their debut album The Other Side of Vana'diel. He also joined the band at Japan's FFXI Summer Carnival 2005, California's FFXI Fan Festival 2006, and the Tokyo Game Show 2007.
Following the success of The Black Mages, Tsuyoshi Sekito appeared as a rock arranger and performer in numerous other projects in Tokyo. Alongside Kenji Ito, Sekito arranged and performed various themes from the Super Nintendo's Romancing SaGa for its PlayStation 2 remake. At request of Michio Okamiya, he provided a hard rock feel to the game's battle themes and often extravagantly improvised on electric guitar over them. He was also responsible for numerous short themes placed on the album's fourth disc, the various 'From a Window' themes, and the original composition "Isthmus Castle Raid". Sekito took a major role on the highly anticipated film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in 2005. He enhanced some of the title's most intense fight sequences with intense rock and electronic arrangements, including new renditions of "J-E-N-O-V-A", "Those Who Fight", and "The Great Northern Cave". He also created the brief original composition "Materia" and the majority of the piano-led "For the Reunion".
Sekito subsequently arranged a large portion of Uematsu's compositions from Final Fantasy III for its DS remake. While he modernised the chiptune originals with new orchestral and rock samples, most arrangements were conservative ones and were heavily downgraded for the DS. Pioneering a fusion sound, he also offered three electro-acoustic arrangements on Front Mission Online and an edgy rock-orchestral fusion on the Square Enix Music Official Bootleg Vol. 1. In further guest roles, he produced two trumpet-led battle themes and a Morricone-influenced Final Fantasy arrangement on Hanjuku Hero 4, between guitar performances on Kingdom Hearts II and Front Mission 5. In 2007, Sekito reunited with the Romancing SaGa team on 2007's Dawn of Mana, working primarily as a composer. He brought considerable darkness and drama to the game's cinematics with orchestral cues often directly inspired by Jerry Goldsmith. In addition, he explored a riff-based rock sound for many of the game's action themes and also contributed a few nostalgic arrangements.
In recent years, Sekito left Tokyo to return to the Osaka branch of Square Enix. In his largest composing role to date, Sekito complemented the enormous yet personal feel of 2008's Xbox 360 RPG The Last Remnant with a three disc score. He explored his musicality during the long development time and produced a large variety of themes, spanning imposing brassy overtures, multifaceted sprawling setting themes, interactive hard-edged battle tracks, and even a rare vocal theme. He also reunited with The Black Mages to produce their third album Darkness and Starlight. His arrangement role was limited to the gritty bass-focused "Premonition" and the opening section of the opera. He nevertheless shined as a guitarist, performing a stunning solo at the climax of "Distant Worlds". He also squeezed in time to rehearse with the band for a special concert in Yokohoma Blitz. The band disbanded shortly afterwards due to the time limitations of its members and its restrictive ownership by Square Enix.
Despite ceasing his roles on bands, Sekito was able to produce more arrangements of Final Fantasy classics as a guest on 2008's Dissidia: Final Fantasy. He integrated his characteristic rock touch into many arrangements, spanning FFI's "Main Theme" to FFVII's "Don't Be Afraid", but was limited in his exuberance due to memory limitations. He also produced some original music for the game with Takeharu Ishimoto. The following year, he returned to the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children project to create some music for its extended cut. He expanded the tracks "Those Who Fight Further" and "Battle in the Forgotten City" to complement the more exuberant action sequences. His services as a guitarist were also requested on two eminent scores for the series, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers and Final Fantasy XIII. In other guest roles, he co-composed two rock-orchestral fusions on the original album Music for Art and penned an uplifting Christmas remix of Final Fantasy VII's main theme.
Despite moving to the Osaka branch of Square Enix, Sekito has recently composed more original scores than ever before. He currently focuses on producing scores for games developed by external development teams for Square Enix, often in collaboration with arranger and synthesizer operator Yasuhiro Yamanaka. He produced the entire soundtrack for PopCap's puzzle RPG Gyromancer, building on the daring stylistic fusions he explored with The Last Remnant. He also penned two contributions to Premium Agency's bloody shoot 'em up Death by Cube, the bold brassy theme "Spiral G!" and an anthemic trance experiment "Dance to the Survive". He subsequently channelled influences from Hollywood scores on feelplus's futuristic first-person shooter MindJack, blending urban electronic influences with epic orchestrations. In each of these projects, Sekito explored new musical directions while working with unique development teams and experimental game ideas. His two decades of experience helped him deliver.
Despite these productions, Sekito's services are often requested on projects developed by Square Enix's Tokyo team. Making a surprise appearance on the PSP's Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, he complemented Yoko Shimomura's work with some light-hearted compositions and revitalised some Kingdom Hearts classics with rich arrangements. He also made guest contributions to the browser title Sengoku IXA and the PSP sequel The 3rd Birthday, where he matched the urban setting of the game with a handful of electro-orchestral compositions. In arrangement roles, he offered diverse contributions to Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy ranging from ethereal interpretations of dungeon themes, to familiar rock-themed battle arrangements and arranged numerous classic battle themes on Lord of Vermilion Re:2. One of Sekito's latest projects, the bizarre cartoon shooter Gun Loco, was cancelled after the poor reception of some of the company's other experimental productions. He recently supplemented an update of Final Fantasy XIV with new music and previewed his score for an iPhone project on a charity album released by GE-ON-DAN.
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on December 11, 2011. Do not republish without formal permission.