Jun Senoue interview by (Feb 2002)

From Sonic Retro

This is an interview conducted by with Jun Senoue, on approximately 27th February 2002. It covers his work on Sonic Adventure 2.

The Interview What was your goal with the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack, and how does it differ from the first Sonic Adventure soundtrack?

Jun Senoue: I think the songs for the game should be impressive, have good melodies, and pop... rather than just being background music. The most important point is creating songs that fit the mood and feeling for each scene and situation. We prepared tons of songs for previous Sonic Adventure, as you know. Of course we did our best, and I think every song has enough quality to be "music," but some of the songs didn't match very well.

This time, three music composers at Wave Master and myself worked together, and each of us made up for what the other lacks. We created a pact to write songs that promoted the game's speed and situations while keeping the best tempo of the stage, and we didn't compromise at all. For that, we were able to obtain great results with our music. Tell me about some of the other musicians who worked on the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack.

Jun Senoue: Johnny Gioeli is the singer for a band called Hardline. Hardline featured the legendary guitar player Neal Schon (of Journey), and released the album "Double Eclipse" from MCA. They disbanded for a while but are now reunited with other musicians, and will be releasing a new album really soon. Johnny is the singer for the game's main theme, "Live & Learn." He also sang the previous theme song for Sonic Adventure, "Open Your Heart". We formed a band called Sons Of Angels in 1999, and released the CD "Thrill Of The Feel" for the Japanese market. The songs were used for NASCAR Arcade, too. Now we're writing new songs for our next album, but we had to change the name of the band...

Tony Harnell is the singer for TNT and Westworld. He sang Sonic's theme song, "It Doesn't Matter." Yes, he did both versions of them, and he also did a duet with Ted [Poley] for the City Escape song. He's a great singer with a powerful voice.

Ted Poley is the singer for Danger Danger and currently for Melodica. He sang "Escape From The City" with Tony, and also did the theme song for Big on the previously released Sonic Adventure game. A very funny and happy guy he is...

Paul Shortino is the singer for the band Rough Cutt. When I started writing the theme song for Dr. Eggman, I already envisioned Paul's voice for it. So I contacted him, and we hit the studio. His voice is soulful and emotional.

The Japanese bass player Takeshi and drummer Katsuji helped me so much. They're longtime friends of mine, and they're great musicians. How were the songs for the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack recorded? How long did the process take?

Jun Senoue: I wrote and made demo versions for each song in the game. I tracked my guitars or vocals with an A-DAT system and mixed them with a Yamaha digital console and Mackie analog mixer. After mixing the demos, I edited them with my Macintosh as a waveform for looping music for the game. Then I tried to insert the music into the game, and when I felt satisfied that the music fit the game... I knew I made it! Many times I had to tweak the tempo or some licks, and tried several times to make it good. Once the music was approved by the team, the next step was to finish making the sequence data for the actual recording, then contact the musicians and send them demos to prepare for the eventual studio date.

In the studio, I tracked every instrument again with engineers. Working with other artists is most important for me. They always give me great feedback and help me gain confidence in my own abilities. Often in the studio I wasn't able to reproduce the feeling and energy I had while creating the demo in the office. [laughs]

I started writing songs for SA2 in April of 2000, and finished all the music in February of 2001. The rest of my time from March until we released the game was spent working on sound effects in the game.

I had to divide my recording sessions into five parts, in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and New York. I worked with many musicians and engineers. I like working in the studio very much, but the last three months were terrible. One week in Tokyo, I was tracking in the studio, the next week I was in San Francisco to write some more songs, then I spent another week in Los Angeles to track in the studio... my schedule was so crazy! [laughs]

When I had to write some additional songs for SA2: Battle, I tracked every instrument myself. I decided to do it with Pro Tools LE, and bought digi001. It was a great opportunity to learn how to use the new software. After tracking, I sent the data to the Wave Master studio in Japan, and the engineer mixed the songs. Five years ago that would have been impossible. What was your favorite part of making the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack? What was your least favorite part?

Jun Senoue: I'm always recording brand new ideas with a cassette or MD recorder, by singing or just playing my guitar. Yes, I have tons of ideas and my favorite part is making songs by putting the pieces together.

My least favorite part is writing lyrics! Writing lyrics is one of the worst things to do for me. What is your personal favorite song on the album?

Jun Senoue: "Live & Learn" is my most favorite song. I wrote that song when I worked at the studio in Los Angeles... I only had that guitar riff at the time. Yes, I had already tracked it for the title screen music for the Trial version (which shipped with Phantasy Star Online). While mixing at the studio, I finished writing the rest of the whole song for the main theme.

"Escape From The City" has great energy for the first stage of the game. I think it's cool. As you know, we used almost all the same lyrics for the character theme songs from Sonic Adventure. But the music is totally new and fresh. I like the current version of the theme song for Tails. Well, I like them all! [laughs]

Since there are so many songs for SA2, we released a single disc for the vocal collection and a double disc of the soundtrack in Japan. But we had to put many important songs on a single disc for the U.S. version. Since the space was limited and I wanted to keep most of the tracks on the CD, I created shorter versions of many of the instrumental songs.

After all, the U.S. version has the BEST of the BEST music of SA2! How did you get into music? What are some of your musical influences?

Jun Senoue: I started playing piano and keyboard when I was 3-years-old. I kept playing them 'til 12, then stopped when I moved to Panama, and started playing bass under the influence of the band Duran Duran... I thought the bass player, John Taylor, looked cool.

Then I started playing guitar when I was in high school. The reason I changed from bass to guitar was simple -- I wanted to be the kid in the spotlight! [laughs] During that time, MTV was airing many rock band videos and that made me want to be a rock star. I played in many bands when I was in high school and during my college days. Then... I don't remember the exact reason, but I started writing songs for console games at Sega in 1993. I just wanted to find some work where I could use my music talents, so I joined Sega and now making music is my full-time job! What kind of gear do you use?

Jun Senoue: Lots of stuff! Mainly guitars... many ESP guitars. I have an endorsement with the Japanese guitar company, ESP. I also use a Performance guitar, the amazing custom-built one. The shop is located in the Los Angeles area. If you're a serious guitar player, you'll be satisfied with a Performance guitar. And a Taylor acoustic guitar. I also used an electric sitar from Jerry Jones to record Tails' theme song. I've got almost everything, from guitar amps like Soldano, Peavey, Line6, Rocktron, to stomp boxes, to rack-mounted effects for making all kinds of colorful sounds.

When I write songs, I use a Macintosh with Logic sequencer as the core of my system. Other gear I've collected over the years include some Korg synthesizers, an Akai sampler, a rhythm unit from Alesis, and the list just goes on...

When I wrote some additional songs for SA2: Battle, I also used ProTools LE with digi001 package -- awesome quality at an amazing price. What do you do when you are not working?

Jun Senoue: Spending and sharing the time with my family... That's the most important and rewarding thing for me.

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