Daisuke Kurosawa is a composer and guitarist responsible for many music games including pop’n music and GuitarFreaks & DrumMania. Every music game fan knows his name. He attracted public attention with his song ‘Hanamaru Pippi wa Yoiko Dake’, which was the first opening song for TV anime series Mr. Osomatsu (Osomatsu-san) in 2015.
I asked him about his music and about stories regarding the production of ‘Hanamaru Pippi wa Yoiko Dake’. I believe this interview will interest not only fans of his music games and Mr. Osomatsu, but also aspiring sound creators.
‘My music is rooted in the J-Pop that I listened to while I was living in the US.’
First of all, could you tell us the roots of your music? Did you have any favorite bands or musicians when you are a student?
Kurosawa: Although I favor hard rock music and often listen to it nowadays, I was originally a J-Pop fan. The first CD I bought was Sharam Q’s. I used to listen to GLAY, LArc-en-Ciel, and Southern All Stars quite often then. I lived in the US for a while when I was a junior high school student due to my parents’ job. The experience made me realize how great Japanese culture is.
I started learning how to play the guitar because most of the students in the school I went to in the US were learning some sort of musical instrument, such as the violin and piano. It was when I was looking for a music piece for my guitar practice that I came upon hard rock music, and started listening to it. I returned to Japan when I was a university student. My university friends introduced me to many hard rock bands, including Dream Theater. I’ve been totally into hard rock music since then.
I didn’t expect that! I was convinced that you had always been a hard rock fan from listening to your music. Tell us what motivated you to create music by yourself.
Kurosawa: I have always liked creating things. Playing guitar naturally made me want to create music. Around that time, making music using computers was normal, so I followed the trend. Although you can get DTM easily nowadays, ordinarily students at that time were only able to buy a machine which was just capable of recording sound. Obviously, we didn’t have such things like Vocaloids or YouTube, so I uploaded and released my music on a website called ‘Muzie’. You probably don’t think much when uploading your music now, but it was innovative and exciting to do so with ‘Muzie’ then. I created my artist page and uploaded my own music pieces as well as other artists’ and bands’ music I played.
You also play in Daisuke Kurosawa Progressive Band. Did you play in a band when you were a student?
Kurosawa: I was already pursuing a career in music when I was a student, so I tried finding band members or joining other bands. However, I felt that playing in a rock band wasn’t my thing at that time. I enjoyed making music more than performing it in front of an audience. I guess from then on was when I decided I’d prefer to work behind the scenes.
You work as a sound creator now but worked at Konami composing music for games until March 2017. Your music is ‘hard’ in many senses, and often classified as the most difficult to play in a game. Could you tell us how you composed them?
Kurosawa: They let me do it my own way. We had to update between 40 and 50 songs a year in one go, so we spread the task by their genres to create a variety of songs. I often got the hard rock genre. Songs for music games must consider gameplay first, rather than musicality, because if all the game songs were difficult, it wouldn’t be fun to play. So I arranged some songs for skilled players, and others for beginners.
How do you arrange the difficulty? Can your intuition tell you the difficulty levels?
Kurosawa: We can control the tempo and density of songs. Adding more sounds in slow songs makes them difficult to play. On the contrary, we can reduce the density of fast songs for beginners.
What do you consider or focus on when you compose game songs?
Kurosawa: My principal is to compose songs which can entertain players. After all, that’s the most important thing for game songs. While maintaining the level that I’ve decided for a song, I add something original and playful to it. It’s a fun part of composing songs for music games.
‘The collaboration with Taiko no Tatsujin went viral because it was too difficult to play’
You left Konami in March 2017 and joined sound production company INSPION, a subsidiary of IZENE, Inc., as a sound creator.
Kurosawa: Takeshi Kuramochi, the managing director of IZENE, and I went to the same school, and were colleagues at Konami. We never had the chance to work together, as we belonged to different sections. We were talking about working together sometime in the future, and our plan was finally realized after a decade or so.
You collaborated in Taiko no Tatsujin [an arcade game where players pound on a drum in time to music] and composed ‘Infinite Rebellion’ by arranging the original music ‘Yugen no Ran’ this summer. The original song was difficult enough to play, but you made it much more difficult.
Kurosawa: When we were offered the collaborative work with Taiko no Tatsujin, our plan was to cover the renowned music pieces of Taiko no Tatusjin. That’s how it ended up like that.
What did you focus on when composing ‘Infinite Rebellion’?
Kurosawa: It’s always the ‘most difficult music to play’ music pieces that always go viral in every music game. Therefore, we decided to create game music that is hard to play. While arranging the originals, my intention was something like, ‘I’ll compose music that is impossible to play’. It was like throwing down the gauntlet to players.
IZENE has two more subsidiaries, the music school ‘Otonoajito’ and the bridal music production company ‘WEMU’.
Kurosawa: I’m not involved in these companies, but IZENE is an integration of three companies: the sound production, the music school, and the bridal music production. For instance, WEMU, the bridal music production company, offers the creation of a personal song based on an appreciation letter written by a bride to her parents, which is usually read out by the bride at a wedding ceremony in Japan. She can sing by herself, or hire a professional singer to sing the very personal song which is one-of-a-kind at her ceremony. A music score will be supplied on request if she wants to play piano or other instruments.
Collaborating with the wedding industry is quite ground-breaking, isn’t it?
Kurosawa: The wedding industry is thought to be conventionally defined. However, there is still space where music can do something new. I’d love to be involved in such a new challenge. I think it’s a service which you’d think already exists but never actually had in Japan.
Can people overseas order the service? Can they designate you as a composer?
Kurosawa: No problem! I think I can as I work for the same parent company. [laugh]
Next Page: ‘Hanamaru Pippi wa Yoiko Dake’ Is The Song That Demonstrates the Roots of Kurosawa’s Music.