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Motoaki Furukawa :: Biography

Overview Biography Discography Game Projects Interviews

Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of using it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. Many thanks to Addison for his translation assistance creating this biography. It was last updated on August 27, 2008.

Born in Kobe on November 7 in the 1960s, guitar-obsessed former Konami composer Motoaki Furukawa is famous for his work on various shooters, Guitar Freaks, and as an independent artist, having founded the Kukeiha Club, created two solo albums, and led the band Voyager. He initially became interested in music when he listened to The Carpenters during his first years at school. In his middle school years, he joined a brass band club and began to play the clarinet. The club leader introduced him to The Beatles in an experience that greatly influenced his musical career thereafter. He was initially shocked to learn "Help!" and "Ticket to Ride", two of his favourite Carpenters songs, were actually originally created by The Beatles. As he listened to more from the band, he felt especially moved by their penetrating sound. Together with his friends from brass club, Furukawa assembled a band to cover The Beatles. After his friend lent him an electic guitar, he practiced with a chord book and copied Beatles songs by listening to them by ear over and over again. As he entered commerce school, his father bought him a semi-acoustic Epiphone Riviera guitar that John Lennon and George Harrison used. With his school friends, he assembled a full scale band called SGT. The band was well-received at its gigs and began to diversity by incorporating traditional Japanese music, an area Furukawa had become interested in.

As he entered Kobe Commerce University having performed music for four years, his musical interest became even greater as the fusion boom emerged. Furukawa started to listen to the music of Masayoshi Takanaka, Casiopea, Larry Carlton, and Lee Ritenour, his long-term protegé and current favourite guitarist. After buying a Yamaha SG-3000 electric guitar and forming the band Shiranzo, he played a mixture of Takanaka covers and original works. His subsequent band, Mint Blue, was more successful. They played Casiopea covers and original songs, often performing frequently at a Kansai venue. The band entered numerous contests and Furukawa won many awards dedicated to excellent guitar performance. He then further committed himself to Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton. Furthermore, he mastered jazz theory through self-study, paying particular attention to the works of guitarists Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, and Pat Martino and saxophonists Charlie Parker and Sadao Watanabe. He stopped playing covers subsequently and formed Voyager, a band dedicated to creating original music. Influenced by Ritenour, he performed with a handmade Schecter and the semi-acoustic Gibson ES-335. Voyager had successful gigs across Japan, in no small part due to Furukawa's creative compositions and energetic performances. Even though their activity subsided as its members went on to other projects, the band remained committed to an eventual reunion. While wishing to create more solo and band works, Furukawa required reliable employment after graduating university.

Furukawa started work with Konami under the Sound Design room in October 1986 and begun work on a string of Arcade and MSX scores. He was the consistent contributor that binded the scores to the MSX's Gradius 2, the Arcade's Gradius II Gofer no Yabou, and the latter's MSX sequel; he and his various collaborators maintained the light-hearted melodic feel established in the original Gradius but introduced a light rock flavour to the series. His flair for creating shooter stage themes encouraged Konami to also use him in the MSX's Salamander, the landmark Arcade sequel Super Contra, and the stand-alone A-Jax around the time, all of which have been prominently commemorated by record labels for their solid scores. Other early collaborative efforts included the scores for Hino Tori, King's Valley II, Final Round, Gang Busters, and the especially popular F1 Spirit, as well as two works under Hideo Kojima — a few compositions for SD Snatcher and the original Metal Gear. The almost universally positive reception of the scores within the games and their success as album releases reflects the endearing and timeless quality fo Furukawa's early compositions. He became internally regarded as one of Konami's musical heavyweights along with collaborators Masahiko Ikariko, Mutsuhiko Izumi, Kazuhiko Uehara, Seiichi Fukami, Tomoya Tomita, and Yoshinori Sasaki, but his name did not became popularly known due to the company's lack of individual credits in album releases.

At the end of 1989, Furukawa was transferred to Konami's CD production sector, where he was involved in game music arrangement, original composition, and arrangement recording for various albums as Konami released an influx of new albums under King Records. During his initial months there, he composed the majority of the original album Sound Locomotive. The album mostly featured smooth guitar-led jazz-rock fusion music performed by several studio musicians, including Furukawa himself on guitar. Sound Locomotive was also performed live at Tokyo and Kobe by Furukawa and several others. Furukawa also led three arrangements for the album Gradius III with the Konami Kukeiha Club (also confusingly credited with the composition of most of Konami's older albums despite having no relation to the cover group). Its success inspired Furukawa to form Konami's in-house band the Kukeiha Club in 1990. Their self-titled debut album included five original fusion tracks and five Konami arrangements, though its musicians were chiefly external to Konami. Between 1991 and 1995, the band — with the line-up of Konami musicians Motoaki Furukawa on lead guitar, Mami Asano and Kenichi Mitsuda on keyboards, and Tappi Iwase on drums and percussion — performed at the annual Game Music Festivals; their tracks were not featured in the album releases for the series likely due to copyright issues, but a few of their performances appeared in Konami compilation albums. In 1993, the trio composed and, with assistance from guest musicians, performed the original album, the more serious and jazz-oriented Kukeiha Club ~ Hope.

Between these efforts, Furukawa composed several scores nevertheless. He maintained his relationship with Hideo Kojima by creating the several new compositions featured on the TurboGrafx-16 version of Snatcher, otherwise musically similar to the original. In 1991, he scored the Arcade's Sunset Riders, his first known solo effort, and Xexex, another catchy shooter score. In 1994, Furukawa marked his full return to the field of composing with the diverse PC-8801 score to Hideo Kojima's Policenauts. To commemorate its PlayStation remake, the composer formed the F/N sound unit with Koichi Namiki and produced an arranged album from the source material. Also for the PlayStation, he performed the emotional acoustic guitar solos of "Theme of Sadness" and "Main Theme" for Suikoden and assisted in the arrangement of Vandal Hearts ~Ancient Lost Civilization~. After the Kukeiha Club evolved into a cover band, the Konami Kukeiha Club, Furukawa led them on several productions. Among them were some Twinbee Paradise arrangements and the three instalments of the Pro-Fusion arranged album series; for the latter, Furukawa and others arranged and performed material from Tokimeki Memorial, Salamander, and Twinbee Yahho! mostly in a jazz-rock fusion style while emphasising the character and melodies of their original scores. Furukawa's own compositions had also remained a popular subject for arranged albums — the Gradius series, Xexex, and F1 Spirit were commemorated in the 'Perfect Selection' series, while Policenauts and the Gradius series were subject to MIDI Power Pro albums.

In March 1998, Furukawa was transferred to Konami's Consumer Software Division of Sound Design resulting in the disbandment of the Konami Kukeiha Club. With Masahiko Kimura and Mariko Egawa, he scored Castlevania 64 (aka Akumajo Dracula: Apocalypse), resulting in his first and only involvement in the series. To mixed reaction, the trio rejected the melodic rock feel of preceding scores in favour of chilling ambience and dabs of synthetic orchestration. He subsequently scored the sixth instalment of the baseball series Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu with Kazuhiko Uehara and Nobuyuki Akena. He worked on behalf of a Kojima production for the final time in 1998 by contributing "Heavy Metal Gear" and "Exit" for the Metal Gear >> Solid Snake Hideo Kojima Music Collection Red Disc. He was transferred again in May 1999 to the AM Business Head Office. Here, he principally worked on the Guitar Freaks series, a line of games established in 1998 dedicated to using a controller to perform guitar passages of music created by Konami's artists. Since his debut with "Body Operation" on 1999's 2nd Mix, he has joined recurring artists such as Mutsuhiko Izumi, Koichi Namiki, and Naoki Maeda on the regularly released subsequent titles. He tends to compose a few pieces per game and do some MIDI programming, finding the series ideal vector to express his love for composing for the guitar. He was also obliged to contribute to little-known titles such as Boxing Mania: Ashita no Joe, an unreleased Hawaii-developed golf title, and Mambo A Go Go, a stand-alone bongo-beating music game with Latin compositions.

Furukawa decided to leave Konami in January 2003 to become a freelancer. He has since maintained a steady output of compositions and arrangements each year mostly in his trademark style. Some of his biggest productions since going freelance are the pop rock mini-album Sunshine Blue and his second fusion solo album Under the Blue Sky ~Include Gradius Arrange~. In 2006, he reunited the band Voyager and marked their returned with some concert appearances and the Maxi single "Ultra☆7". He has also been the arranger of choice for many Konami tribute albums, namely the Gradius Arcade Soundtrack, Salamander Arcade Soundtrack, Game Sound Legend Series Speed & Wind, Konami Famicom Super Medley, and Gradius Tribute. Despite the overall popularity of the source material and his style, he has risked exhausting his style with a plethora of similarly styled arrangements; over the last five years, he has produced nine such Gradius arrangements alone across four albums. He has also been a guest arranger on other commemorative albums such as Street Fighter Tribute Album, Famicom 20th Anniversary Arrange Soundtracks, Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange, and Gunstar Heroes Sound Collection. The legacy left by his Konami years has resulted in him becoming a game music celebrity in Japan, meaning he has been well-received at appearances at concerts such as The Black Mages Live "Above the Sky".

Despite contributing to few conventional game scores, Furukawa has become a Guitar Freaks regular since leaving Konami. He has released pieces such as "Smile For You", "Dance for Your Future", "Street Runner", "Hello You", "Ano Hi no Kaze", and "Just in My Heart". Many of these tracks have become classics with those that play the music game and have made appearances in the series' various album releases. For its latest 14th instalment, he contributed the vocal track "True Love and Valentines" and the Gradius tribute "Tabidachi". In October 2007, Furukawa set up the M's Art online record label and has released new EPs on a monthly basis. Each album features five or six tracks inspired by various daily experiences ranging from travelling to weather to sports. Also recently, Voyager performed a mixture of original tracks and Konami arrangements at 2007's Extra: Hyper Game Music Event. At the end of the year, the band will perform special concerts at Tokyo and Kobe featuring Koichi Namiki and Furukawa release a DVD to commemorate them. Also this year, Furukawa will be one of four composers for Thunder Force VI, marking his first conventional game score since going freelance. Furukawa's Konami legacy, while often distorted by the widespread misconception that he once led the sound team, is still enormous and, unlike most of his contemporaries, has been given plenty of exposure due to his prominent solo and arrangement work there. He remains a popular, productive, and commercially successful musician whose works generate a lot of anticipation in Japan.