Otakon 2011
Nobuo Uematsu Q&A

by Gia Manry,

Special guest Nobuo Uematsu was a last minute addition to Otakon. He was available for only a few hours before moving on to his previous engagement performing Final Fantasy music at the Baltimore City Orchestra. His Q&A panel was packed to the brim with attendees, requiring extra time for seating. As time rolled on, the panel started 30 minutes late before audience questions began. Tickets were handed out to audience members asking pertinent questions. As the attendees asked their questions they were handed tickets guaranteeing an autograph from Uematsu with a $20 donation to Japan Relief Aid.

Uematsu's first Earthbound Papas CD will be released in 2011 with a follow up CD coming in Spring 2012. He hopes that this project will continue with further CD releases. Other projects he plans to work on include a one-man gig in Japan where he plays keyboard with a "karaoke" back up. He says that this is an inspiration he just got the day before.

Uematsu expressed a nervousness in performing concerts in the United States compared to Japan because he's more familiar with Japanese audience's reactions compared to Americans', though he is always pleased to see the audience enjoying Final Fantasy music.

Asked about his favorite piece, Uematsu stated that he loves all of his songs like children and can't choose between them. An attendee then asked how video game music has changed from eight-bit to today. Uematsu responded that in terms of composing, it's still the same effort, but now they can use a lot more different instruments and can put studio recording directly into games. making the job a little easier.

The next attendee asked about Uematsu's favorite video game soundtrack outside of Square Enix, made by someone else; Uematsu's answered that he loves the music from the Professor Layton series. Next came a question about Uematsu's favorite American beer, to which he replied "Samuel Adams."

Next came a question about whether Uematsu had ever considered another career path. Uematsu replied that he once wanted to become a pro wrestler. Uematsu also revealed that while he has not really "cosplayed," he has worn a black mage outfit while performing with the Black Mages. Uematsu also favors Coke over Pepsi.

The audience applauded one attendee's question about the music of Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger, asking how Uematsu had felt while composing it. Uematsu revealed that he had actually worked too hard and collapsed during the project. Asked whether he composes more for the story or "journey" of a game or for the characters in the game, Uematsu simply responded "both."

The composer stated that he hasn't had the opportunity to listen to a lot of contemporary music, sticking mostly to jazz and classical, but that he recently did listen to some music by Lady Gaga. Asked about gamers' shifting away from games like Final Fantasy, Uematsu said that it's very difficult to have a grasp of what's popular, but that it's important to keep up with the times. In response to another question, he revealed that he likes the Beatles, but as for classical composers he brought up Tchaikovsky.

The next question was about Uematsu's work before Final Fantasy: did he write anything that he thought would have been good for a game? Uematsu's answer was short: no. Asked whether he played the games that he wrote music for and which was his favorite, the composer responded that he'd played all of them, and although he's fond of all of them he'd have to pick Final Fantasy VI as his favorite.

An attendee asked what inspires Uematsu to keep composing music for his millions of fans around the world. Uematsu replied that it was difficult to describe, but what probably drives him is the knowledge that even if he composes something he thinks is great, he can still make something better.

Uematsu revealed that recreations of his work are not usually done by him but by the game's creators. Uematsu revealed that his most difficult and time consuming piece was Final Fantasy VII's "One-Winged Angel," which took one week to complete. By contrast, some pieces might only take 15 minutes.

Asked whether the popularity of any one particular piece of music surprised him, Uematsu responded that the "Chocobo" theme is one such tune. The next question related to Uematsu's band, the Black Mages. He revealed that currently, Black Mage is no longer together after two members left. Square Enix's ownership of the name "Black Mages" prevents them from continuing to use the name, thus all new work is under the name Earthbound Papas.

The next question was about whether Uematsu remembered the first song he ever wrote, and how he feels about the work of composer Yoko Kanno. A song Uematsu composed at age ten was used in the CD he released last year. He said that he couldn't answer the second question.

Uematsu revealed that he gets to choose his own musical arrangers, and then proceeded to whistle the Final Fantasy victory theme upon request. Asked how he started his career in music, Uematsu said that he always loved music and always wanted a career in it. His first job in the industry was the soundtrack for a pornographic film.

The final question asked was what super power Uematsu would have if he were a super hero. Uematsu responded that he'd have the power to never grow old. The panel then had to end as the next panelists were arriving.

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