A Conversation with Saori Kobayashi

My good friend and CEO of Brave Wave, Alex Aniel, recently quit his job to focus his time and energy on what we do here at the label. We've been squeezing time since 2012 but we finally decided that one of us has to quit his job and attend to Brave Wave's daily operations. Seeing as he lives in Japan and around our friends and composers, Alex took a huge leap of faith and is partaking in a new chapter for us — and himself — with a set of new goals and opportunities. So, what does attending to Brave Wave means exactly? Well, for one, our meetings with our Japanese friends and composers don't have to be set for late at night — Alex just came back from an energizing meeting with Saori Kobayashi (of Panzer Dragoon) and Yumiko Takahashi (of Suikoden), one of many more to come. We're working with Kobayashi-san on two different albums, and currently neck-deep into helping her finish her band's 2nd album.

We had the pleasure to have a compact conversation with Kobayashi-san about her history as a composer for Sega and her plans for the future with us. I'll leave you now with Alex and Kobayashi-san!

Saori Kobayashi on stage

Alexander Aniel: Hello, Kobayashi-san. Thank you for agreeing to speak with us today about your background. Can you please introduce yourself?

Saori Kobayashi: Hello. I am Saori Kobayashi.I’m from Yokohama. I’m a pianist and composer and graduated from Musashino Acaemia Musicae, where I majored in music. I worked at Sega from 1994 to 1998 before becoming a freelance musician and forming a band called AKANE with Yumiko Takahashi (of Suikoden). I worked on Panzer Dragoon Saga and Orta, as well as Crimson Dragon and other titles.

Alex: Indeed, fans in the West do know you for the Panzer Dragoon games. You became involved beginning with Panzer Dragoon Saga. How did you end up joining this project?

Saori: The development team at Sega was looking for people who were interested in composing for the game. At the time, I was eager to do soundtrack for an RPG, and I really admired the world that the series Director Yukio Futatsugi had created with the first two games. So I asked to compose for the game and they let me do it.

Alex: The main theme of Panzer Dragoon Saga is quite memorable. What was it like to write it?

Saori: Actually, I have a funny story about that. I created a few different songs that I was thinking of using as the main theme, but it was hard to pick. One day, when I had to decide what that theme would be, a coworker of mine told me that we would go drinking in 30 minutes, so I should finish up my work and get ready. So, I ended up composing the theme before leaving work that day as I had no other choice but to finish the song and go out drinking. (laughs)

Alex: You mentioned experimenting with multiple theme songs. What became of the other ones?

Saori: I have decided to bring back one of them for my next album with Brave Wave for my band, AKANE. It is called Pirika. When the album comes out in September 2014, please listen to it!

Alex: Can you talk a bit about Panzer Dragoon Orta and your involvement in that game?

Saori: Sure. I had actually left Sega already, so I was working with them again as a freelance composer. Thus, I actually had less material to work with in terms of trying to come up with the soundtrack. Plus, I had never done a shooter title before and wasn’t so sure how it would turn out, but I was happy with the result.

Alex: You’ve done a few games since then, and the most recent was Crimson Dragon.

Saori: Yes, I was asked to do Crimson Dragon as well. Like I mentioned earlier, I really admire the game worlds that Futatsugi-san creates, so I was only too eager to compose for the game. My rendition of the main theme is also going into the next AKANE album, and I recently performed it live at BitSummit in Kyoto last March. The video is up on YouTube! (laughs)

Alex: Please tell me a little bit about AKANE.

Saori: I am a member of AKANE alongside Yumiko Takahashi, who is known as the vocalist of Suikoden. Takahashi-san was a fan of my work for Panzer Dragoon Saga, and after we were introduced to each other, I asked her to do the vocals for Panzer Dragoon Orta. In 2003, we formed AKANE as Takahashi-san just asked me to do so. (laughs) We were active until 2011, and then we went on hiatus as we were busy. But we’re ready to make a comeback, and BitSummit was just the beginning. We look forward to working with Brave Wave on our next album that will come out this year.

Alex: What do you hope to achieve by working with Brave Wave?

Saori: We are very interested in connecting with fans from outside of Japan. It’s an honor for non-Japanese listeners to enjoy our very Japanese-inspired music, so I look forward to the people Brave Wave can connect us with!

Alex: Can you tell us about your upcoming solo album?

Saori: I am definitely making it, thanks to Brave Wave and their interest in my work. It is an honor to be working with you. I don’t have details right now, and I want to focus on the next AKANE album first, but please look forward to it!

Saori Kobayashi x Brave Wave

Alex: Thank you for your time, Kobayashi-san!

Saori Kobayashi: My pleasure. Thank you too. Let’s talk again sometime!

Mohammed Taher

Director of Koopa Soundworks.