Jun Senoue interview by T-bird (2006)
The Interview (Part 1)
T-Bird: What made you become interested in writing music as a career?
Jun Senoue: I started learning piano at the age of three. In music lessons at school we were required to get feedback from other students in the class and the comments were always that of praise, which game me a real confidence boost. I then started writing when I was 15.
T-Bird: Do you have anyone in particular who inspires you?
Jun Senoue: Almost every band and musician I hear! At Junior High School I listened to a lot of pop music like Duran Duran, The Police, Kajagoogoo etc… but once I loved to Central America there was a big lifestyle change – We had MTV 24/7, and I could listen to much more music – that’s when I started listening to harder rock. It was different to what I’d heard, and more guitar orientated, and inspired the purchase of my first guitar when I returned to Japan after I’d finished High School.
T-Bird: How did you become a video game composer for SEGA?
Jun Senoue: I was in band that toured Japan; North to South.
Pammi: Did you release an album?
Jun Senoue: We did make a few demos, but nothing was released. My band stayed together until we finished the 4th year of University, which was when the band broke up. I didn’t feel right in the band, so I was thinking about either changing the band’s style, or starting a new band. I had a plan to either work at a Record company, an instrument company or a music company. A friend then suggested that I send a tape to a video game company, and I was like “Wow! Nice idea!” I sent a demo of three or four songs to SEGA and NAMCO. At the time, SEGA were developing the SEGA mega CD, and were looking to use actual recorded tracks instead of a sound chip, and that’s how I started work for SEGA.
T-Bird: Even though it’s a tough comparison, have your ideas and styles, as well as your approach, to making a track for a computer game changed?
Jun Senoue: If I had to compose the music for Shadow the Hedgehog in 1998 I don’t think I could have done it – I just couldn’t have produced the right atmosphere for the game with the technology and music scene at the time. I know what my style is, and I know what my favorite genres of music are. I listen to a lot of metal music, as well as other genres of music, and my inspiration is always there. The style of the music in the game does change, and it gives a great sense of progression.
T-Bird: Sonic has been running for 15 years now; how does it feel to have played an important part in making the music, know the success of the games?
Jun Senoue: 15 years ago I was just a fan too! I remember getting Sonic 2 and I loved it. When I was brought on board to do Sonic 3…Wow! A dream come true! At that moment I was just one member of the massive SEGA team working on the games, and was one of the youngest – It was great! When I had to take control of producing music, about 8 years ago, I realized it was my duty to change the music. Sonic had to change a lot for the Dreamcast games; all of us [The SEGA staff] wanted a drastic change, one of the reasons I was picked to lead the music production. I’ve been able to do it my way since, and it’s been so much fun!
T-Bird: Can you say a little bit about any of the work you are composing for the new Sonic game set to hit the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Are there any other projects that you are working on at the moment?
Jun Senoue: I’m not sure if I’m allowed to comment on some of that! I can tell you a little about the other work I’ve doing though. After Shadow, I’ve been working on a couple of games for the Japanese market – one is a baseball related game and the other is a football game. I’m now doing some music for Sonic Rivals for the PSP, although I’m not actually composing the music.
T-Bird: Any chances of working on a new Crush 40 album in the near future?
Jun Senoue: In 2002 we recorded about 21 songs. When we got together to write stuff for Shadow, we found that our fresh ideas were a lot different to the songs we’d written back in 2002 – our sound had changed. Johnny is pretty busy with his company, Axel is doing his thing; he’s pretty big in his home country. It’s hard finding time for another project, but we are discussing possibilities for albums. I am also very busy; I am writing some music for some friends at the moment, but I can’t comment on that though!
T-Bird: Finally – Do you have a message for the millions of Sonic Fans currently celebrating Sonic’s 15th Anniversary via your website and the Summer of Sonic website?
Jun Senoue: Thank you all for supporting our blue hedgehog and our music! It’s been so much fun, and a great pleasure to be a part of Sonic music, as the games are so great! Sonic is a positive character – I try to write my music with positive messages. I hope all you guys hear those messages, and are positive in the things you do and with the people you meet!
T-Bird: Thanks loads Jun, we look forward to hearing more of your work in the near future!
The Interview (Part 2)
T-Bird: Okay...I'm gonna say a guitarist's name and I want you to rate him on a scale of 1 to 10. Here we go...
Jun Senoue: Steve Vai 9, he is just a God.
Eddie Van Halen - Actually, only 8 since I was not into the Roth era - I like the Sammy stuff.
Richie Sambora - I do love his playing and also his singing too - I think he does play for the song and I like his style of solo...like I can sing his solo, like a solo that has a lot of melodies and humming, that sorta stuff is my favorite...
George Lynch - He's an amazing player - When I was a high school student, I wanted to be like him, that's the reason I purchased the kamikaze. But actually, I did not copy his style so much...8.
Neal Schon - These are all of my favorite guitar players, it's pretty tough to give a score...[pauses] I like what he did for Bad English, 7.
Akira Takasaki - Actually, I was not into Loudness at all. I only have the CD called Soldiers of Fortune with the American singer. Steve Stevens was meant to play in Japan in 1990, but suddenly he canceled his show and then Loudness joined to fill the blank, so that's the reason I purchased the Loudness CD...but I know Akira Takasaki is one of the most impressive Japanese guitar players. 5?
Steve Lukather - I like most of his jobs. These days...the Christmas album was nice. Totally nice. I like his sound and the way he plays. 8.
Slash - I do have all the Guns N' Roses CDs and also Velvet Revolver. I do like Velvet Revolver much better...as a guitar player, about 6.
Warren DeMartini 10! - I'm not sure you know the song from Dweezil Zappa. On his solo album, there are lots of guitar players sharing solo times, and I can hear the differences in the sound. That means he has his own sound, you know? I like his tone, his sound, and style of playing. Just incredible and he is the reason I started playing guitar.
Andy Timmons - He's amazing! I think he is pretty underrated as a guitar player. 9.
T-Bird: How was JXJ received in Japan?
Jun Senoue: It was just fun project for both of us...and for Japanese fans, for my Japanese fans, they didnt know music with the Japanese female singer, and also for Junko-san and they font know Junko's performances on such hard rocking stuff. So, we just we wanted to try and just see what happens with the project and then...actually we do have 10 or such kinda songs. We have a plan to do a hard rocking album, this October or November, then maybe we will do another CD for next April.
T-Bird: Who would win in a fight, Crush 40 or S.S.T. band?
Jun Senoue: Oh, Crush 40, definitely. [laughs]
T-Bird: Last of Jun Senoue...
Jun Senoue: Last book you read? - Not magazine, right? Hmm..I dont remember, I dont have enough time to read long stories...I usually read magazines.
Last CD you listened to? - Click 5.
Last movie you watched in the theatre? - Cars - I like the song performed by Sheryl Crow for Cars. Great telecaster tones!
Last show you attended? - I had a ticket for the Poison singer but I could not go to the show...
Last time you performed live? - 1 1/2 months ago.
Last time you spoke to Johnny? - I spoke to him the day before yesterday.
Last celebrity you met? - Eric Martin or Amir Derakh.
Last time you used chopsticks? - Maybe 2 days ago.
T-Bird: Alright, this is have you ever...I'm gonna ask if you've done something, just say if you've done it or not.
Jun Senoue: Wished you could play the SONIC guitar again? - Oh yeah.
Googled your name? - Mm-hm.
Been challenged to a guitar duel? - No.
Been stalked by a fan? - No.
Sang along to a Morning Museum tune? - [laughs] No no no.
Climbed Mt. Fuji? - No.
Played a guitar solo over 20 minutes long? - 20 minutes long?! No.
Seen a ghost? - No...I've seen a ghost in the movie Ghost!
T-Bird: Preferences, I'm just gonna say two things and just answer with which one you like.
Jun Senoue: San Francisco or Matushima? - San Francisco, I like my current life.
Loudness or EZO? E- ZO.
McDonalds or Burger King? - McDonalds.
Coca Cola or Pepsi? - Coke.
Anthem or Earthshaker? - Actually I don't have anything by both bands...maybe Anthem?
Budokan or Shibuya Kokaido? - Shibuya Kokaido is more familiar to me.
Metallica or Megadeth? - Megadeth...actually so far so good so what, the third CD, was one of my most favourite albums.
Yomiuri Giants or San Francisco Giants? - San Francisco Giants.
Styx or Journey? - Journey.
WWE or Sumo? - Maybe WWE, but I'm not into fighting stuff.
T-Bird: Word Association: I'm just gonna say a word, and you tell me your thoughts on it.
Jun Senoue: X-Japan - Boss...I need to let you know. X is a huge band and they have some kind of management company and also a record company. Extasy something...in 1996, I was in a band with a member of the Extasy group, which means that X-Japan is our boss.
KISS - The band? [laughs] Tommy Thayer's new band.
Marty Friedman - Amazing Japanese guitar player.
Mr. Big - I love their songs..and also both guitar players too.
The Last Samurai - Never seen it...
Domokun - The character from NHK? My drummer (Mark Schuman) has Domokun stuff in his studio. Domo domo..
Minoru Niihara - Samurai Singer, he has a good personality.
Razor Ramone Hard Gay - I've never seen his performance before, I just saw like a picture...so I don't know what he does. Weird Rob Halford.
T-Bird: If you could change one thing in the past, what would it be?
Jun Senoue: Nothing too much but...[pauses to reflect]...when I was 9 years old, I dont know the reason why, but my eyesight was okay in April but in August I had to wear glasses. I lost some of my eyesight...maybe there was some kind of reason, but..hmm.