Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nobuo Uematsu (Figure)

Nobuo Uematsu (植松 伸夫 Uematsu Nobuo?, born March 21, 1959) is a Japanese video game composer, best known for scoring the majority of titles in the Final Fantasy series. He is regarded as one of the most famous and respected composers in the video game community. Uematsu, a self-taught musician, began playing the piano at the age of eleven or twelve, with Elton John as his biggest influence.
Uematsu joined Square (later Square Enix) in 1986, where he met Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. They have worked together on numerous titles, most notably the games in the Final Fantasy series. After nearly 20 years in the company, he left Square Enix in 2004 and founded his own company called Smile Please, as well as the music production company Dog Ear Records. He has since composed music as a freelancer for video games primarily developed by Square Enix and Sakaguchi's development studio Mistwalker.
A handful of soundtracks and arranged albums of Uematsu's game scores have been released. Pieces from his video game works have been performed in concerts worldwide, and numerous Final Fantasy concerts have also been held. He has worked with Grammy Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth on several of these concerts. In 2002, he formed a rock band with colleagues Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito called The Black Mages, in which Uematsu plays the keyboard. The band plays arranged rock versions of Uematsu's Final Fantasy compositions.

Early Life
Nobuo Uematsu was born in Kōchi, Kōchi Prefecture, Japan. A self-taught musician, he began to play the piano when he was eleven or twelve years old; he did not take any formal piano lessons. He has an older sister who also played the piano. After graduating from Kanagawa University, Uematsu played the keyboard in several amateur bands and composed music for television commercials. When Uematsu was working at a music rental shop in Tokyo, a Square employee asked if he would be interested in creating music for some of the titles they were working on. Although he agreed, Uematsu considered it a side job, and he did not think it would become a full-time job. He said it was a way to make some money on the side, while also keeping his part-time job at the music rental shop.

Career with Square and The Black Mages
The first game Uematsu composed for Square was Genesis in 1985. While working at Square, he met Hironobu Sakaguchi, who asked him if he wanted to create music for some of his games, which Uematsu agreed to. From 1986 to 1987, he created music for a number of games which did not achieve any success, and Square was near bankruptcy. In 1987, Uematsu and Sakaguchi collaborated on what would originally become Sakaguchi's last contribution for Square, Final Fantasy. The game turned out to be a huge success, and ultimately saved Square from bankruptcy.
Final Fantasy's popularity sparked Uematsu's career in video game music, and he would go on to compose music for over 30 titles, most prominently the subsequent games in the Final Fantasy series. He scored the first installment in the SaGa series, The Final Fantasy Legend, in 1989. For the second and fifth games in the series, Final Fantasy Legend II (1990) and Romancing SaGa 2 (1993), he was assisted by Kenji Ito. Uematsu signed on to finish the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed 1995 title Chrono Trigger after the game's composer, Yasunori Mitsuda, contracted peptic ulcers. In 1996, he co-composed the soundtrack to Front Mission: Gun Hazard and created the entire score for DynamiTracer. He also created music for three of the games in the Hanjuku Hero series.
Outside video games, he has composed the main theme for the 2000 animated film Ah! My Goddess: The Movie and co-composed the anime Final Fantasy Unlimited (2001) with Final Fantasy orchestrator Shirō Hamaguchi. He also inspired the Ten Plants concept albums, and released a solo album in 1994, entitled Phantasmagoria. Feeling gradually more dissatisfied and uninspired, Uematsu requested the assistance of composers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano for the score to Final Fantasy X in 2001. This marked the first time that Uematsu did not compose an entire main-series Final Fantasy soundtrack. For Final Fantasy XI from 2002, he was joined by Naoshi Mizuta, who composed the majority of the soundtrack, and Kumi Tanioka; Uematsu was responsible for only eleven tracks. In 2003, he assisted Hitoshi Sakimoto in scoring Final Fantasy Tactics Advance by providing the main theme.
In 2002, fellow Square Enix colleagues Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito asked Uematsu to join them in forming a rock band that focused on reinterpreting and expanding on Uematsu's compositions. He declined their offer at first because he was too busy with work; however, after agreeing to perform with Fukui and Sekito in a live performance as a keyboardist, he decided to join them in making a band. An employee at Square Enix, Mr. Matsushita, chose the name The Black Mages for their band. In 2003, Keiji Kawamori, Arata Hanyuda, and Michio Okamiya also joined the band. The Black Mages have released three studio albums, and have appeared at several concerts to promote their albums.

As a Freelancer
Uematsu left Square Enix in 2004 and formed his own company called Smile Please; he also created the music production company Dog Ear Records in 2006. The reason for Uematsu's departure was that the company moved their office from Meguro to Shinjuku, Tokyo, and he was not comfortable with the new location. He does, however, continue to compose music as a freelancer for Square Enix. In 2005, Uematsu and several members of The Black Mages created the score for the CGI film Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. Uematsu composed only the main theme for Final Fantasy XII (2006); he was originally offered the job of creating the full score, but Sakimoto was eventually assigned as the main composer instead. Uematsu was also initially going to create the theme song for Final Fantasy XIII (2010). However, after being assigned the task of creating the entire score of Final Fantasy XIV, Uematsu decided to hand the job over to the main Final Fantasy XIII composer, Hamauzu.
Uematsu also works closely with Sakaguchi's development studio Mistwalker, and has composed the games in the Blue Dragon series, Lost Odyssey (2007), and Away Shuffle Dungeon (2008); he was also the composer of the canceled game Cry On. He is currently composing the music for another Mistwalker title The Last Story (2011).
He scored the PlayStation Portable title Anata o Yurusanai in 2007 and the arcade game Lord of Vermillion in 2008. Uematsu created the main theme for the multi-composer game Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008. He composed the music for the 2009 anime Guin Saga; this marked the first time he provided a full score for an animated series. He recently worked on Sakura Note for the Nintendo DS and is currently working on another DS project for Level 5 and Brownie Brown called Fantasy Life.

Personal Life
Uematsu currently resides in Tokyo, Japan with his wife, Reiko, whom he met during his college days, and their Beagle, Pao. They also have a summer cabin in Yamanakako, Yamanashi. In his spare time, he enjoys watching professional wrestling, drinking beer, and bicycling. Uematsu has said that he originally wanted to become a professional wrestler, and that it was a career dream when he was little.