The band Darumaya has performed for multiple original and arranged role-playing game soundtracks. Hiroaki Machida's work as a percussionist can be heard on near death experience: Shadow Hearts Arrangetracks, while singer Kyoko Kishikawa has lent her voice to Yasunori Mitsuda's Armodyne and Kenji Ito's Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song. If you have heard the scat form of non-vocal music in a soundtrack by Hirota, Ito or Mitsuda before, that voice you may recall is Kishikawa's. Though the videogame music of Darumaya typically contains many layers of synthetic instruments, the two musicians occasionally perform numbers from Shadow Hearts live and on stage in Tokyo.
The release this month of the Hyper Game Music 2007 Live Album Vol. 1 features Kyoko Kishikawa's performance in a song she originally contributed to for Kenji Ito's Culdcept Saga Original Soundtrack. "The Phoenixion -Extra Mix-" also includes Shadow Hearts lead composer Yoshitaka Hirota performing on bass guitar. It marks the third time "The Phoenixion" has been recorded, incorporating the singer's improvisational vocal style. RPGFan had the chance to hear from Darumaya on their unique ongoing involvement in Japanese game music and their collaboration with composers of console role-playing games.
Vocalist Kyoko Kishikawa and composer Yoshitaka Hirota
RPGFan: Kishikawa-san, thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us a little about how the song you performed for Culdcept Saga was adapted for the Hyper Game Music live album?
Kyoko Kishikawa: Usually when I am performing at a live venue, my performance of the scat form of music is very improvisational. But while singing "The Phoenixion" I was very careful to preserve the image that had taken shape around composer Kenji Ito's arrangement. The entire performance is in the scat form, but one device that we decided upon was to alternate between audible Flamenco and Japanese-style vocals.
RPGFan: What sort of group preparations went into the live performance of the song?
Kyoko Kishikawa: We had a total of three rehearsals before the "Extra" live concert. Two guitarists performed together with the band, so it was the first time that section of the song was apportioned in that way. The percussion was really influenced by the atmosphere of the composition, as during rehearsal we had tested out a variety of instruments and arrived on just the ones that everyone felt were appropriate. A completely new arrangement was arrived upon during this rehearsal process, so the time turned out to be very well spent. I am really glad that when compared with the initial phases I was able to more fully develop my voice to sing "The Phoenixion."
RPGFan: Machida-san, as Darumaya's percussionist, how were you involved in the band's formation?
Hiroaki Machida: We started in 2004. The band was organized in an attempt to fuse electronic music with the vocal improvisation style of Kyoko Kishikawa, featuring drum-centered percussion and mixing techniques. At the beginning everything was very experimental, and we endured a lot of trial and error. Gradually, the character of Darumaya has revealed itself. The band's purpose now extends to creating music collaboratively for forms of art, visual images, theater, movies and games.
RPGFan: What is meant by the word "Darumaya?"
Machida on the drums and Kishikawa at the mic
Hiroaki Machida: A "daruma" in Japan is a kind of lucky charm in the form of a doll. The round shape carries with it some other meanings, such as "generous feelings" and "weathering the ups and downs of life." It represents perseverance because if you push a daruma down, it always comes back up again. We wanted to make music that reflects this spirit.
RPGFan: Kishikawa-san, when did you first begin training your voice as a singer?
Kyoko Kishikawa: After high school, I moved to Tokyo to study theater. In my free time I was playing in a band with some friends of mine. I was 28 at the time and I was attending a jazz session when someone brought up the idea of my training my voice. I decided to try it out, and my band members, some of whom I really looked up to, supported this decision. I focused on developing my skills as a singer and it was during this period that Yoshitaka Hirota brought me on board the Shadow Hearts project. This was the first time my voice was a part of a published album. It was a very pleasant way for this musical experiment to turn out.
RPGFan: How did you come to incorporate the scat form of singing into the band Darumaya?
RPGFan: What is next for Darumaya?
Kyoko Kishikawa: To tell you the truth, I had never considered this form until people in my surroundings started suggesting it. I began working on it very gradually. By the time I had delved into the form seriously, it took some effort to transition away from a more traditional mode into a free-form style. At the present moment, improvisation interests me more than anything else. People I admired kept telling me to work on my voice, that my voice could express any number of feelings, and I still feel that is the case.
Kyoko Kishikawa: It has not yet been decided when it will be, but a new album called "Digitroid" will be released through the iTunes store. If you have the chance, please give it a listen.
RPGFan: You have of course contributed vocal tracks to albums by a number of contemporary composers of game music. What experiences as a musician have you taken away from being involved in these projects?
Kyoko Kishikawa: Yoshitaka Hirota, Kenji Ito, and Yasunori Mitsuda have let me sing freely during their recording sessions. We talk about the melody while improvising and connect the musical ideas together, then polish the final result. It can be difficult to make full use of a vocalist when you are composing videogame music. The composers who have worked with me have trusted my judgment and inspired my talent. They have earned my respect and gratitude.
Interview conducted by Jeriaska. Translation by Takahiro Yamamoto.
Coordinated by Patrick Gann.