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Interview with Tenpei Sato (Tokidoki Journal - September 2006)

The following interview was carried out by Tokidoki Journal, but was eventually deleted. Square Enix Music Online is hosting the interview to avoid it being lost forever. The interview was conducted by Hayate.

Tokidoki Journal: How did you get into the video game music business? What was the first game you composed for?

Tenpei Sato: I originally worked at the music production company Geinou Yamashirogumi and during my time there I was introduced to the world of game music. After I went independent, I continued to write game-related music on behalf of Telenet Japan. My first music was for a title called XZR II. I helped work on XZR II, but there were also two other musicians who worked on the title. Fortunately, the game received the Best Game Music award from a computer magazine called Login by ASCII.

Tokidoki Journal: What are your musical influences or favorite musicians?

Tenpei Sato: My music has been influenced by classical, pop, rock, computer-related music, and other foreign music. My favorite musicians would have to be Queen, Debussy, Isao Tomita, and Kate Bush.

Tokidoki Journal:How did you end up working for Nippon Ichi Software?

Tenpei Sato: I was introduced to Nippon Ichi Software by a director I knew from another music production company. The company was searching for a musician to do their music, so we were introduced. I've been working with them ever since, though I'm not a resident employee there.

Tokidoki Journal: What exactly was your involvement in Rhapsody: Musical Adventure?

Tenpei Sato: For Rhapsody, I wrote, composed, arranged, and recorded the music. It was a complete musical with both solos and choruses, so it was a fun and refreshing experience.

Tokidoki Journal: The music in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is amazing. How did you approach making the music?

Tenpei Sato: Thank you very much for your compliments. Disgaea was a stunning game, so I tried to create music that was new and exciting. As a result, many popular pieces were born, and I can't thank all the fans enough for their support.

Tokidoki Journal: In 2003, we gave Disgaea the honor of being named the best game of the year. "Red Moon" was also credited as one of the best video game songs of the year. "Red Moon" was quite a bit different from the other vocal songs in the game. What was your inspiration for that particular song?

Tenpei Sato: "Red Moon" was my favorite song, as well. Thank you very much for selecting it as one of the best songs of the year. I really enjoy cultural music from around the world, and I would often play it myself in addition to listening to it. I especially enjoy Japanese cultural music, so when I was asked to write the song, the image for it came up immediately. In order to make it feel like a children's choir, I had the song sung several times and layered the voices to give it that unique imagery.

Tokidoki Journal: You are also credited for the music in the Disgaea anime. Did you compose any original music for the anime series or did they simply use music from the games?

Tenpei Sato: The Disgaea anime started airing in Japan in spring of 2006. The anime director liked the original music from the game, so we used a lot of remixed music from the game. But we also wrote many new songs for the anime, some of them even including a massive orchestra with 55 musicians and a mixed chorus. In Japan, themes of heaven and the final battle have been very popular. Also, the anime soundtrack will be available on August 30, 2006.

Tokidoki Journal: I understand you've also done some voice acting in games. Which characters in which games were you?

Tenpei Sato: I've been in a theatrical performance group for a long time and I love to act. I've voice-acted in several games; one character was a bartender in a PlayStation title called Cocktail Harmony.

Tokidoki Journal: Is there anyone you�ve particularly enjoyed working with musically?

Tenpei Sato: Every gig has been exciting. However working with Haru, the exceptionally talented singer of "Etna Boogie", is a highlight. Listen to the "Etna Rock" in Disgaea 2 — it's simply amazing. Besides singers and musicians, Sohei Niikawa from Nippon Ichi Software is a great producer and lyricist who always asks for new, cutting-edge music pieces. As a musician I always enjoy the challenging gigs he gives me.

Tokidoki Journal: Is there anyone you'd especially like to work with in the future?

Tenpei Sato: Back when I first started as a musician, Geinou Yamashirogumi helped me out a lot. Since then, I think I've grown to be a real professional musician, so I'd love to work with them and make some good music.

Tokidoki Journal: You were in Geinoh Yamashirogumi for a while. Did you have any direct involvement with their score for Akira?

Tenpei Sato: Unfortunately, I didn't take part in Akira's music, but I did help with their musical stages and album creation. I especially enjoyed working on a Kabuki-style rock musical called Torigami. For Akira, most of its music was a recreation of Geinou Yamashirogumi's previous works, so it was very familiar to me.

Tokidoki Journal: Have you released any albums of solo or non-game music?

Tenpei Sato: I've actually released a solo album and produced music for another singer. And for Nippon Ichi Software, I've released a compilation album called Beautiful Days. My music was also used in a movie called D#1, which won the music award at Sweden's movie awards. The soundtrack for this movie is also available. I've recently been working on a theme song for a Japanese marathon runner named Masako Chiba that will be broadcast on TV. For something a little weirder, I made some music pieces for Sony's robot AIBO.

Tokidoki Journal: Are you working on any projects right now?

Tenpei Sato: I'm currently writing music for an RPG on the PlayStation 2. It's going to be emotional, classical-style music with real depth. I'm also working on some pop-style music for a PSP game, as well as the theme song for Masako Chiba that I mentioned earlier. It's been a busy summer.

Tokidoki Journal: Is there anything else you�d like to say to our readers?

Tenpei Sato: There are two really nice things about making game music; one is that players listen to my music again and again, and the other is that people all over the world get to listen to the music. I's wonderful because a musical piece born in a small studio in Shibuya, Tokyo can send a message around the world, and I can get feedback from everyone who enjoyed it. I will continue making music keeping in mind all the fans around the world who look forward to my next piece. Thank you everyone for your continued support.