Legendary music composer Yuki Kajiura talks about the creative process for her renowned anime scores, future projects and more.
Above the hustle and bustle of Anime Expo 2018, the legendary and beloved music composer Yuki Kajiura sat down with JaME to discuss the creative process for her renowned anime scores, future projects and why she could never pick a favorite from her music catalogue.
For a start, please explain why you decided to make your soundtrack for "Fate/stay night [Heaven’s Feel]" a very traditional, orchestral work.
Yuki Kajiura: The piece itself has a very heavy atmosphere to it, but there is actually very little music involved in the movie. There’s almost no score in the first half. In order to make each track heavier, I chose layers of strings, so each song has a presence to represent itself in the score.
What thoughts and feelings did you have when you composed the memory themed songs in the “Sword Art Online -Ordinal Scale-” soundtrack?
Yuki Kajiura: It’s a very complex story. There are so many parts to it that I can’t really narrow it down but, the key point is this girl, Yuna, who is a singer. Her songs are the key point to the piece. Making those songs was pretty difficult, as all the soundtracks became the central points. There are two sides to her; her past is really bitter, yet she still has dreams. The songs were made to catch that idea, that entire divide between light and dark.
Please describe the creation process for Everytime You Kissed Me and explain why you picked Emily Bindiger as the main vocalist.
Yuki Kajiura: Actually in the original piece, there was only a melody and no song. First, the song’s main theme was just a music box melody and it became a song from there. Eventually, it became a pair melody and I already liked Emily as a singer. Her voice is husky, pure yet mature, and I thought it would match the piano. Originally this song was made for a music box and it is played throughout the show. The creative/production side requested that I make it into a song and that’s how it was formed.
Why do you prefer to work with female vocalists?
Yuki Kajiura: I just like them! (laughs) I think it’s partly because I grew up singing a lot in choirs around kindergarten time. It’s easier to imagine how the work is going to turn out and you can try a lot of different things with female voices.
Why do you think your partnerships with Koichi Korenaga and Yuriko Kaida have lasted so long?
Yuki Kajiura: First of all, they are both quite amazing musicians; they are great. Koichi Korenaga is a guitarist who is full of ideas and has an amazing variety of suggestions because he’s really knowledgeable about many different musical genres. I feel like he broadens and widens my ideas, and he often teaches me a lot about musical timing. He’s really fun to work with and that’s why I love it.
When it comes to Yuriko Kaida, she has quite a unique voice for a Japanese. It’s not really like the typical Japanese voice, and it sounds beautiful when her voice gets layered in the chorus and backing. It sounds softer and more mellow, and that’s really interesting for a Japanese singer. She is also very good at bringing tracks to life in a beautiful way, so I hope to work with her for a long time in the future.
Please describe your composition process for battle songs. Are there any particular feelings that surface when you compose battle songs?
Yuki Kajiura: To be honest, how I feel doesn’t really change but it really depends on the battle. It’ll be different whether they’ll win or lose the battles, and even if they win, is it someone they really want to fight? Obviously in battle songs, the tempo is really important and that’s difficult to get right. If it’s too fast, you can damage the story behind it, so they’re really difficult to write. I really have to think about what’s needed and basically make them through trial and error.
Which song or soundtrack of yours do you like the most or has made the deepest impact on you? And can you please tell us what about it you do like or find impactful?
Yuki Kajiura: I have a hard time reviewing and reminiscing upon which ones I like. It’s hard to subjectively judge. There’s no favorite song, but there are songs that are are more popular, or are easier to play, or have a better atmosphere during my live concerts. I can’t really choose just one song though.
Which genres or styles of music do you particularly want to experiment with?
Yuki Kajiura: I don’t really think about genres or styles of music much when I compose music. People who make music don’t really think about that kind of thing, or what’s necessary to make a piece fit into a certain genre. I think the styles and genres will follow after the songs are made and composed. There isn’t a particular genre I want to try. Rather, there are only genres that are possibilities or something I feel I could write, or something that sounds cool to me; so it’s not so much wanting to try a genre, as being open to all genres.
Will we hear from FictionJunction again in the future?
Yuki Kajiura: Basically, it’s my own unit, so I can easily and freely collaborate with amazing artists. As long as I’m here in the world, I can continue FictionJunction activities in the future.
What can you tell us about your upcoming plans? Is there a third solo album on the horizon?
Yuki Kajiura: All my plans have been decided and some have been announced. I will be working on the score for the second film of the “Fate” series. With regard to the solo album, many people have been saying “Hey, when are you going to do it?” I’ve been really busy and don’t have time right now, but I would like to do it when I have the time.
To wrap up the interview, please leave a message for JaME readers.
Yuki Kajiura: Japanese animation has a really wide reach, and is accepted throughout the world, which is something I can truly see occurring. It’s part of my job so it’s really interesting to see. Also, I’m really happy that our culture and music is enjoyed by people all over the world. It’s amazing that that feeling even extends to music. Even if it’s short, I would love to do a live show here in Los Angeles and would love to continue this journey. I’d be really happy if people could enjoy anime and music together.
JaME would like to thank Yuki Kajiura, Resonance Media and the Anisong World Matsuri team for this interview opportunity.
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