You've heard his music countless time in your favorite Final Fantasy games, but there's more to composer Nobuo Uematsu than "One Winged Angel."
At last weekend's Anime Boston 2010, Uematsu got candid in an interview where he revealed everything from his thoughts on Avatar to his future cosplay plans. Here's a list of some of the more surprising things you might and might not know about the man behind the celebrated music of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and dozens of Japanese role-playing game classics.
He didn't always want to be a composer
In fact, Nobuo said that in his elementary school days, he planned on becoming a pro-wrestler when he grew up. But after learning to play the piano at 11, he began to change his mind. However, he considered his musical career a side job until he started composing for Square in 1985. He said he still watches professional wrestling when he has time.
His favorite composition is not Final Fantasy VII
While he's best known for this soundtrack in the United States, he said he much prefers his arrangements for the lesser known Blue Dragon. This game was released in North America in 2007 on the Xbox 360.
He wants to cosplay... as a chocobo
This year's Anime Boston may have been Nobuo's first anime convention, but he said that after the weekend, he's sold on the idea. He said if he attends next year, he wants to cosplay as a chocobo. Expect to see a lot of hopeful fanboys cosplaying as giant Afros if that happens.
He would have liked to compose Avatar.
Nobuo said he watches a lot of movies to get inspiration for his music. After he watched Avatar recently, he said through his interpreter, Geoff Tebbetts, that "it came so close to being a very good movie" but he wasn't impressed with the battle scenes. On a related note, he said he would have liked to compose for the battle and ending scenes of the movie. If I were James Cameron, I would listen to his suggestions.
But he's not impressed with action movies.
Nobuo urged us not to tell Hollywood, but he thinks the soundtracks to most of the latest action movies are interchangeable. "Even if you have two different action flicks, if you were to switch their soundtracks, they'd both sound the same," he said through Tebbetts. Nobuo much prefers dramatic movies, listing October Sky as a constant inspiration for his music.
He thinks Mario is as important as the Japanese national anthem.
Like any good video game composer, Nobuo said that video game music, especially the Mario theme, is very important to the Japanese. He said he felt that Japan has had a lighter outlook since the song was composed. "I felt they should've run that during the Olympic medal ceremony instead of the Japanese national anthem," he said.
He has his own music company.
After working for Square Enix for nearly 20 years, Nobuo left the company in 2004 and formed his own. It wasn't about hard feelings, he said, just that it became harder to work in an industry where his bosses were increasingly younger than he was. Nobuo formed "Smile Please," which gets its name from a Stevie Wonder song of the same name. He produces "Smile Please"'s music with his own production company, "Dog Ear Records."
And his own band, the Black Mages, formed with two other Square-Enix colleagues in 2002.
The band's genre is decidedly progressive rock and its songs are often built on expansions of Nobuo's Square Enix compositions. Nobuo said the band Bet you can't guess where they thought of the name!
He's still hard at work.
At age 50, Nobuo hasn't slowed down one bit. This month, he is releasing a brand new CD, "Ten Short Stories" in both English and Japanese. According to the press release, the songs tell you "How to live a Fun Life with 100% Uematsu melodies!" Nobuo asked everyone attending the press conference to tell ten more people about his music. But I think we can do better than that, Kotaku.
Photo by Ken Eith Jr.