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
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.
On the Silent Hill Franchise
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.
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
AY: Yeah I've got it! (laughs)
I would love to hear it!
AY: It's on a cassette maybe,
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
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.