EXTRA 2008: Uraken on 8BIT☆iDOLM@STER

By Jeriaska . November 8, 2008 . 6:11pm

Since Uraken first began DJ’ing, his electronic music has been described as powerful and uplifting. In addition to appearing at live performances, beginning in 1996 he organized a monthly event called “Hardcore Kitchen.” The first of its kind in Japan, it introduced Tokyo to the UK Hardcore scene. The musician has since toured Britain and Australia, expanding his scope to working as a producer and promoter. Since last year, he has begun participating in the videogame industry, writing songs for Konami’s Beatmania series of games. Following the warm reception of his appropriately titled game track “Welcome,” he was introduced to 5pb Records’ Famison 8Bit IdolM@ster series. His music will be appearing in “Otomedeus G,” released this Fall from Konami in Japan. We had the chance to hear from the composer at the 2008 EXTRA Hyper Game Music Event where he performed live on stage with the IdolM@sters.


Translation by Ryojiro Sato. Japanese-lanaguge version forthcoming.


Siliconera: Uraken-san, thank you for joining us. You started Hardcore Kitchen in 1996. How was it that you first became involved in UK Hardcore and to what extent do you feel this event has left an impression on the thriving Tokyo club music scene?


Uraken: Beginning around 1994, I became very interested in house, techno and club music. I often went to clubs and picked up a number of records and CDs. At the time I came across a CD called “DJ’s Delite” by an artist hailing from the UK called DJ Vibes, and I became completed absorbed in this music genre.


After that I took a trip to England to attend a big rave party called United Dance, which over five thousand people attended. This was in 1996. To tell you the truth, I was deeply moved by the peaceful atmosphere of the event, and during my stay in England I picked up a couple hundred vinyl records and brought them back with me to Tokyo. I then started this hardcore DJ event, which became known as “Hardcore Kitchen.” Exactly what kind of impression Hardcore Kitchen has left on the Tokyo club scene is hard to determine, but I guess there is something to be said for the experience of attending a rave party.


Siliconera: Your song “Welcome” appears on Konami’s Beatmania series, which marked your entry into writing songs for videogames. Did you have much prior knowledge of the game series, and was it a challenge to create a song that could function as the stage of an interactive game?


Uraken: Previously I knew of the Beatmania series, but just how to go about making music for a game was something I wanted to learn more about. Luckily, the director was familiar with my DJ style and style of sound, so prior to beginning the process of composing the song we were able to plan a meeting and talk over some ideas.


My aim as a producer of dance music was to create a song that maintained a groove that the player could enjoy. I think it turned out to be one of the most compelling songs that I had written up to that point in time.



Siliconera: Do you feel that videogame music differs greatly from other popular forms of music found in Japan?


Uraken: There certainly are properties of pop music to be found in videogame audio, although there are some deeper elements that contribute to music in videogames having a distinct style. Fans pay close attention to every detail of the music, and on the production side, you find that everyone has an interest. The director has some knowledge about music, and the magazines and websites are very informed. It makes for a job that is both challenging and very rewarding.


Siliconera: How did it come about that you became a composer on the first IdolM@ster album?


Uraken: It started with my meeting the producer of 5pb Records, Masatoshi Nakamura, who has been instrumental in deciding the direction of the Famison 8Bit IdolM@ster series. He really enjoys club music and often visits clubs, so he was familiar with my work as a DJ. His concept was to portray DJ-style musical concepts within a mashup of the IdolMaster series and Bandai Namco’s old school games. For this series, he proposed the idea of including one of my songs.



Siliconera: Do you find there are aspects of your experience as a DJ that have proven useful in creating videogame music, such as the IdolM@ster series arrangements?


Uraken: Taking this series as an example, for every song there is always a musical theme that is quoted from a retro game like Pac-Man or F/A. This theme is blended together with a contemporary style of music arrangement, a process that is similar to preparing tracks for a live set. In that situation, my experience as a DJ is directly applied.


Siliconera: The popularity of the Idol Master series might be seen as a testament to the strong feelings among enthusiasts of games in Japan for 8-bit music. How would you describe your own memories of the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom?


Uraken: The Famicom was released while I was in my second year of elementary school. I remember that one of my neighborhood friends was the first to get one. All of us would hang out at his house and play. It was a lot of fun. Eventually, I got one of my own, and I can still remember the excitement of it whenever I hear those Famicom sounds.


Siliconera: What’s your favorite theme from back then?


Uraken: My favorite Famicom tune? You might think it commonplace, but I still think Super Mario is the best.


Siliconera: How would you describe the set you performed at the 2008 EXTRA Hyper Game Music Event?


Uraken: I participated in performing four of the seven IdolM@ster songs that appeared at EXTRA. The first is “Labyrinth.” It is on the first of the five CD series. The song starts with the opening theme from Pac-Man, then my original drum ‘n bass theme comes in, then it is back to Pac-Man at the end. It mixes two different melodies found in the game, and is set to a rhythm you can dance to. One melody is sung by the 8Bit Idol Master, though you might not recognize it unless you listen carefully.


Siliconera: What games were the other songs you performed at EXTRA inspired by?


Uraken: The second was from F/A. It’s an arcade shooting game, not an NES title. The composer is Shinji Hosoe, who also performed at the concert today. I included the sounds and melodies from the game, adding my own original themes. The third song was based on the main theme from Dragon Spirit, also by Shinji Hosoe. It’s sung by the IdolM@ster vocalist and arranged as a dance track. The main theme was not meant to be sung, originally—it has such a wide range of notes. It was no small task for the vocalist, but she pulled it off and the song came out well.



Siliconera: Having arranged two of Shinji Hosoe’s songs, did you have a chance to speak with the musician at the concert=?


Uraken: I sure did! We met backstage in the green room. He even heard my set, and I was pleased to hear that he enjoyed it.


The fourth song I performed is called “Positive.” It’s a remix I created of an original tune from the IdolM@ster game. The sound is done in a hardcore breakbeat style, the essence of which I have personally observed called “Nu-Rave.”



Siliconera: Now that the 2008 EXTRA Hyper concert has ended, what are some of your strongest memories of the event?


Uraken: Of course, witnessing everyone’s live performances. It was also a lot of fun to talk with people in the green room. It was a valuable experience all around.


I just started getting into composing for video games, but I would love to write more. I think videogame music is really interesting. People all over the world listen to music through this medium. It means a lot to me to participate. Oh, and if you want, you can always send me a message on Myspace.



Images courtesy of 5pb Records and Uraken.

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  • jeffx

    Fantastic interview! I’m a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge fan of the Namco Famison 8BIT series.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkASMIiU1Yo matty

    He’s pretty interesting. I guess the type of music he plays is the type to be experienced. I really can’t “bounce” and “trip” at my desk, as funny as it would look.

  • http://whatistheexcel.com James A. Calwell III

    Man, they should have told me about this sooner. I was just about to write this series off as uninteresting.

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