For a good hour before my quick interview with Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, I sat in a dark corner booth of a hotel bar nursing a glass of wine and thumbing through my childhood. What do you ask somebody who has scored hundreds upon hundreds of hours of your gaming childhood? An artist who's won countless awards and praise from a planet full of passionate fans. After my fair share of overthinking and humming Aerith's Theme to myself, I paid my tab and proceeded towards the room where we were to meet. Upon entering, all of my nerves were wiped away: There in front of me was "the guy from the pictures." The same warm smile, the same pulled back salt-and-pepper ponytail. A few formal greetings later, we kicked it off -- with a little help from a translator.
Orlando Weekly: How long have you been touring with the Earthbound Papas?
four years? Yes, four years.
For those of us who don’t know, are there any gaming classics from your library that you cover in your sets?
NU: Not just on our album, but including live performances — For Final Fantasy music, we play more than ten songs. But not just Final Fantasy. We also include other works like Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, the TV animation in Japan Guin Saga, and also original music specifically for the Earthbound Papas.
How do you feel about participating in big, local music events like Orlando Nerd Fest?
NU: I feel so nice that every crowd at every convention is so excited when we perform, so I’d love to come back again and again!
Well we’d love to have you back!
NU: Next time, I want to take the vocalists with us. With vocalists in the band, we can do the opera from Final Fantasy VI, One-Winged Angel, Liberi Fatali, and those kinds of things.
Are there any large musical events in the North America coming up featuring the Earthbound Papas?
NU: In the US, we’re performing in Kansas this November with Critical Hit. Outside of the US, we’ll also be touring in Mexico, Sweden, Paris, London, Hong Kong and Berlin!
How does it feel seeing the impact your music has had on North American gaming culture? It’s one thing seeing that love in Japan I’m sure, but I’d imagine it’s very different experiencing it in the USA.
NU: I’m totally surprised. I was just focused on work and composing for the games, not trying to be famous in the US. Just composing as work. But it grew worldwide and I found myself performing outside of Japan — I just feel happiness.
Will you be continuing your work with Mistwalker Studios in Japan? Any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
It was announced already, but I’ve composed for the new iOS game Terra Battle
and I have confidence about the music in this game. I made a good one! I’ve also composed for the game Wonder Flick
, which is by Level 5. There are actually many different things I’m working on at the moment, but they’re difficult to announce right now
but they’re coming up!
I’m looking forward to it! Now, I’m sure there are a lot of people wondering right now: What is your current involvement in the Final Fantasy franchise? Do you ever see yourself coming back to compose a full soundtrack for one of the titles?
NU: Of course, if SquareEnix gave me an offer and the project is interesting, I’d do it. But it’s not my decision, it’s theirs. All I can do is wait. As for concerts, I’ve been talking with SquareEnix’s music publisher about a new concert series. So we’re in talks about planning that right now.
Tough question, but do you have a personal favorite composition of yours?
NU: There are so many, but if I did have to choose, I’d say To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X and Kiss Me Goodbye from Final Fantasy XII.
After working on so many projects, where do you find inspiration? From where do you draw to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
NU: Well, I’m obviously a big fan of music. So I draw inspiration from not just one specific type, but all kinds of music: rap, classical, rock, everything. I’m just a big fan of all of it.
Before we wrap up, is there anything you’d like to say to people like myself who have been listening to your music since our youth?
NU: Well first, I’d like to thank everybody for listening for such a long time, for all the continuous support. I’ve never been interested in politics, and of course I know there’s a lot of fighting between many countries. But when I do a concert like this, and meet actual people, it doesn’t matter where you were born or where you live — we can be friends together, by listening to the music. So I’d like to continue the concerts and visiting many countries, so we all can be good friends.
Here are a few of our favorite Uematsu compositions: