When Konami's Silent Hill was
released in 1999 it looked very different from other video games. But
perhaps more important, it sounded radically different.
With music and sound design by Akira Yamaoka, the sonic environment of Silent Hill was an inseparable part of the game's sepulchral mood. As players explored Silent Hill's fog shrouded streets and decaying halls, Yamaoka draped the world in vast sheets of sound. Often suggestive of air raid sirens, background radiation, or the quiet hum of a dialysis machine, Yamaoka used guitar and electronics to create a sound that was alternately lush and bracing, with melancholy dreamscapes dissolving under a rain of lacerating distortion. Video game music could never sound quite the same again.
Below, we present the full text of the interview with Akira Yamaoka which ran in the December issue of Game Developer magazine, including the musician's controversial comments on the state of game development in Japan.
How did you get into composition from the beginning?
Akira Yamaoka: I wanted to be a designer in the first place, then I started work with CG using a computer, and while working with CG, I learned that I could make music using the computer. So yeah, I was a designer working with CG stuff, but I began to play around with music and thought 'hey, this is interesting!' Granted this is a story from more than 20 years ago, but I guess that's how it started.
So you taught yourself music?
When you were first making
music 20 years ago, it was chip tunes? Like Famicom sound?
AY: It was actually exactly
Famicom sound. Only three sounds at the same time.
Do you have any of that music still?
AY: Yeah I've got it! (laughs)
I would love to hear it!
AY: It's on a cassette maybe, at home.
If you find it, you should make mp3s and release them.
AY: I want to hear it! I have for a long time, if I could find it.
It's worthwhile. You should do it. So how different do you find working on the Silent Hill movie, versus working for the games? Takayashi Sato said that it was like looking into his past, when he watched the movie. I wonder if you felt something similar.
AY: Well with this one, I really didn't feel like I was making a movie. The director Christophe Gans really wanted us to work together on it. So I went to Toronto so many times to really work closely with him, to help the movie do justice to the game. There wasn't really a lot of difference from working on the game.
And he used some of the
same camera angles from the original
Silent Hill as well, which is very interesting.
AY: That's exactly what the
director wanted to do. He had a 40-inch or so TV screen on the set,
and he played the PS2 on the scene. When he gave instructions to the
actors, he looked at the game, and gave instructions.
When you were composing the music -- and I know you say it's an extension of the game -- did you feel you had to put more into it, because it's a different format, or did you have to treat it differently, maybe because of higher-fidelity sound because of better speakers?
AY: Yeah...I didn't want to do that. Basically I didn't want to change the music from the game's feeling. I actually used the sound that was similar to the PSone games. I didn't want to make the game music like a movie, I wanted to make the movie more like the game.