Jun Senoue interview by T-bird (2010)
From Sonic Retro
This is an interview conducted by T-Bird on February 7th, 2010 in Tokyo.
The Interview (Part 1)
T-Bird: So Jun, how are you, and what projects have been keeping you busy?
Jun: I’m working on several projects, at this moment I can only tell you that I’m working on Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll which was released this month. I was not the composer; I took care of finding the singers and talent in a similar way I did for Sonic Unleashed and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. The composers were Tomoya Ohtani and Mariko Nanba. There are eight vocal songs which meant I had to find eight singers; In the end these were two Japanese singers, three North Americans and three from Europe, with the genres of the tracks focusing on dance and club tunes.
T-Bird: To sort of follow on, can we expect any new material from you this year? I think “The Works” went down exceptionally well last year, and the burning question on everybody’s lips is when is the second Crush 40 album due out?
Jun: Yeah…we [Jun and Johnny Gioeli] are discussing when we should start work on the next album, or the next show. Originally I had a plan to do other Crush 40 shows here in Tokyo in early May, but Johnny is quite busy with Axel Rudi Pell [the German rock act Johnny performs with] so maybe we will get around to doing some shows. We had a TGS (Tokyo Game Show) performance in 2008, and a lot of kids wanted to be there. Unfortunately they could not attend as the event was during school time, so the aim is to do some shows during the summer or spring vacations.
T-Bird: Wow, that’d be very cool for the Japanese audiences! I think one of the most impressive soundtracks from last year was the Sonic and the Black Knight OST on the principle it was so musically diverse – how did you go about getting in touch with Tommy Tallerico, and what was it like working with him and Richard Jacques amongst others?
Jun: Talking about Sonic and the Black Knight, I ideally wanted to work with the guys who provided the songs to previous Sonic titles instead of teaming up with the SEGA composers I usually team up with. I asked Richard Jacques, then spoke to Howard Drossin. Talking about Tommy though, he was not an original Sonic composer. I’ve known him for years and we are good friends, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to team up with him and have him as a composer on this title. Tommy provided us with ten ideas for tracks, and basically I selected three ideas from his list. He composed one of them from the start to the finish, and then the other two tracks I used the ideas and took care of them, arranged them and tracked the music with my band. It was a very fun experience!
T-Bird: I bet! Ok…(laughs) I guess this would be a good time to bring up Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 which has just been announced this week. Any thoughts? Anything you can tell us like, are you involved with the soundtrack?
Jun: Uhh…Ok. My answer is this; I hope I can tell you all the details in late spring or early summer!
T-Bird: Haha! Ok, I guess we will just have to wait then! As we mentioned before, you’ve heard of the Summer of Sonic. In 2008 we had TJ Davis and Richard Jacques, last year we had Bentley Jones return to perform…any chance in the near future for a Crush 40 appearance?
Jun: Talking about the shows we’ve done so far: with had a TGS performance back in 2008, and for that we played along with some backing tracks. For our next shows in Japan (more later!) we plan to have full band. If we come over to the UK, we will probably do something similar to what we did at TGS, but yes, we [Jun and Johnny] will be talking about it!
The Interview (Part 2)
T-Bird: Ok Jun, I’ve got some questions from the fans here! First off is from ibbod0; how did you meet Johnny and the rest of Crush 40?
Jun: Wow, good question…actually, I was a huge fan of Hardline. Usually when I compose the songs and write the melody, I think about who would make a suitable singer for the song or a good singer for the melody or something like that. With the song “It Doesn’t Matter”, the original version for Sonic Adventure, it has a very high note-melody. When I was writing it I thought Tony Harnell would be the ideal singer, and in the end he performed on that song; this in now my way of composing. Talking about “Open Your Heart”, I had Johnny in mind, but I did not have any direct contact with him. Actually my friend who lives in Los Angeles knows Doug Aldrich [The guitarist for Whitesnake these days! – T] . For a short time Doug played in one of Johnny’s previous bands, Brunette, and I knew they still had a good relationship and that Johnny had appeared on Doug’s first solo release [on a track called “Face Down” on the album Alter Ego – T]. That meant maybe Doug could get in contact with Johnny, and so I asked my friend to get in contact with Doug, then Dough got in contact with Johnny…and that’s how I first got in touch with him.
T-Bird: Ok, so SoA, Admin for the js.com forums asks, if say you had to replace Johnny, and of course that would be an impossible task, who would you ideally want as your dream replacement?
T-Bird: Yes…if you had to.
Jun: That would mean Crush 40 would be disbanded, seeing as Crush 40 is the teaming of Johnny and myself, in which case you would need to find a replacement for both of us! The lack of me or lack of Johnny would mean…yeah (laughs).
T-Bird: Great answer – I honestly don’t think you could replace him either! Thirdly, Sonic1991 asks how did the collaboration with Emma Gelotte, Tinna Karlsdotter and the legend that is Marty Friedman [Legendary because he was the guitarist on my favourite Megadeth album! – T] come around for the track “With Me”?
Jun: I wrote that song for the final boss in the Black Knight, and I so first I tried to find the female singers for that song. One of my friends in a Japanese record company takes care of dealings with All Ends [Tinna & Emma’s band], and so that’s how I got in touch with them. With Marty, although he was now living in Japan, I didn’t know him personally. I didn’t know his manager or any of the other business guys who dealt with him, so I asked him directly. Originally I planned to ask him to play all of the guitar stuff, but when he came into the studio, he said “hey, we should just keep these backing tracks!” We booked the studio here in Tokyo to record the lyrics and Marty’s guitar solo, but then the other guys came into the studio and wanted me to change the key, so I said “please give me one hour!” Since we use Pro-Tools, it was easy enough to raise the track one note, but it did not have very good clarity. We changed the key digitally anyway, then tracked the vocals, then Marty tracked his guitar. I went back later on and tracked all of the backing guitar in the correct key. Originally my idea was to have that song in a lower key, and in fact we [Crush 40] did the demo in that much lower key, and that was featured on the Sonic and the Black Knight “Face to Faith” album and it is much heavier. (Ha! I was right after-all! – Martin)
T-Bird: I think a lot of fans liked hearing a heavier version…and thanks for sharing the story! Short question: BlueLightning asks, what was your first guitar?
Jun: He wants to know my first electric guitar? Actually, before I started playing electric guitars, I got an electric bass, since I was into Duran Duran at the time.
T-Bird: Haha! That’s awesome!
Jun: Andy Taylor the guitar player didn’t play any solos with Duran Duran or anything and the bass player was so much more…
Jun: Yeah! Originally I played the keyboard, but the drummers and the keyboard players were always at the back of the stage, and I always wanted to be one of the guys in front of the stage. I’m not good at singing, and I was not interested in singing, so I picked up the bass. However, after watching some MTV videos by the band called Ratt [Rock history lesson right here kids! – T] and Night Ranger, I got really into those bands, and so my very first guitar was a duplicate of the guitar the Ratt guitarist had…and I still have it.
T-Bird: Do you remember what make it was?
Jun: I think it was Fernandes, but these days I’ve replaced the neck with a performance neck…I will post a picture of it sometime!
T-Bird: Haha! Definitely! So, Sinister Swiss asks after the remixing of the Angel Island Zone track for Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, have you considered going back and reworking any other classic songs from those classic titles?
Jun: Interesting! It was very fun to do the remix for Angel Island, and also I made another arrangement of Sky Sanctuary from Sonic 3 for the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, and if I get a chance I want to try to do more of those kind of remixes.
T-Bird: Any particular tracks?
Jun: Ummm…talking about Sonic the hedgehog 3 music…*starts humming*
T-Bird: HAHAHA! YEAH! Death Egg Zone from Sonic & Knuckles! I think that would make a lot of the fans would love that! I know we’ve covered this in the previous half of the interview, but Michelle Palmer asks if you are considering any tour dates?
Jun: As I was saying, I am going to try and organise some Crush 40 dates around August time.
T-Bird: Ok, last question…Hawkz asks, what would you say has been the defining moment of your career?
Jun: Hmmm…I’d have to say there are several. The first one is back in ’96, the moment I teamed up with Eric Martin. It was a very special moment for me. From that point I started trying to find direct connection with the artists, and that’s the way I’ve been doing it for years now. Both Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 are very important games for me and very important titles for me, since Sonic Adventure was the very first time I was the sound director for a Sonic title, and I changed the sound of Sonic music drastically. With Sonic Adventure 2, some of us moved to the States, which changed our lives, and this time around we tried to make the music for the American market. It was very fun, and a very special time for not only me, but for the team too. Finally, with Smash Bros. We provided several pieces of Sonic music to be used in the game, and lots of new fans – by new fans I mean the players who did not have any experience playing Sonic games – listened to the music for the first time while playing the Smash Brothers game…to me that was a great experience.
T-Bird: Lots of fond memories, and I’m sure a lot of fans hold some of those moments close to their heart too! Thanks loads for taking our questions
Jun:…hopefully we can talk to you again soon with more burning questions!
The Interview (Part 3)
T-Bird: BlueHedgehog25 asks are you planning on having any Crush 40 or similar songs featuring on the Rock Band Network?
Jun: I’m hoping that we can have some Crush 40 songs on Rock Band in the near future.
T-Bird: Exciting! Sure the fans will be please to hear that! Waaurufu asks who was the designer of your Sonic the hedgehog guitar?
Jun: Yuji Uekawa Sonic Team illustrator and character designer provided me with the artwork. Hiroki Hayashi, one of the people who is in charge over at ESP guitars took care of the rest!
T-Bird: Here’s a good question from SuperStingray: Where did the name Crush 40 come from, and what happened to Crushes 1-39?
Jun: I picked the word “Crush” up because of my favorite soda drink and Johnny added “40″ onto the end. You will have to ask Johnny about other numbers!
T-Bird: A less Sonical pair of questions now! Pelon13 asks what is your favourite food, and what is your favourite colour?
Jun: Mexican food is my favourite, but it is very hard to find really good Mexican restuarants in Japan. Talking about colors, my favorites are Red, Purple, Black.
T-Bird: Moving back to technical preferences, Kasey asks what your favourite guitar is and what amplifier set-up do you preferentially use?
Jun: I like the combination of ESP guitar with Schecter pick-ups and Soldano amplifier with Soldano or Bogner cabinets. I only have small ones from Bogner at this moment though. With regards to “Knight Of The Wind” on “The Best Of Crush 40 – Super Sonic Songs”, I tracked all backing guitars once again with Soldano amplifier and Soldano cabinet.
T-Bird: Gwiz210 wants to know if Bubblicious Blvd. are planning on recording an album or an EP in the near future?
Jun: Nope! Bubblicious Blvd. is not a serious project at all. We [Jun, Mike etc...] just try to have play any dates we can in our spare time at the moment. Jan. 9th was the first day we were introduced to each other and we played the gig without any rehearsals! We’ve only met twice since then back on February the 20th to rehearse and to play another show a day later on February 21st.
We have played just three times, two shows and one rehearsal!
T-Bird: With regards to that gig, how did it go?
Jun: Talking about the show on Feb. 21st, it went much better than 1st gig since we’ve learned the songs I was really surprised that a singer I used to work with back in the early 90’s came to the show to say hi to me! We had a dinner the other day, discussed several things and we will have a show on May 16th in Shibuya, Tokyo. The band was not famous but we had some good memories!
We will have a show with my drummer and bass player this time but I hope all four members from that era can share the stage in the near future.
T-Bird: Sounds like a very busy schedule! Nozwhompolton asks are there any plans to give Blaze the cat a theme? If so, will it be similar to the Sir Percival theme or something different like the Vela-Nova track from Sonic Rush?
Jun: When I worked for “Sonic And The Black Knight”, I had a plan to make her theme song and yes, my idea was to make a full-length version of “Sir Percival Theme”. I could not make it for several reasons…. the main reason being the short instrumental I composed for “Sir Percival” was good enough for the scene, and we didn’t need the longer one for use elsewhere in the game.