We reached out to Makou, aka Makoto Yamaguchi, who has a long and storied collaboration with the DJMAX crew, as well as contributing to such games as Wonder Parade and Lanota.
1.) How did you start composing music?
I started recording music as my own work in earnest when I was about 15 years old, and when I was about 17, I got the chance to have others listen to it.
2.) What is your default DAW/music making software and your most favorite VSTs to use?
I use Logic Pro on Mac with [the mastering software] iZotope Ozone.
3.) How did you start composing music for DJMAX? What was the process like to work with their sound team?
On the website Muzie [Soundcloud-esque Japanese site in the 2000s] the young Korean musician Electronic Boutique found me.
He was just a high school student at the time, but had many connections with Japanese game music composers and the independent music scene.
I’m grateful to him for giving me an opportunity.
Before he started his military service, he was an excellent intermediary between Pentavision and me, and we exchanged various information.
Japan and Korea did not have a good relationship at that time, and there were many failures in business exchanges at the citizen level that stemmed from differences in business practices. For the sake of Electronic Boutique, who trusted me and approached me, we couldn’t afford to fail.
4.) What is your relationship with composer Electronic Boutique?
He once analyzed one of my songs to submit as a report to the school when he was a student.
I don’t know his recent activities, but I know he isn’t an ordinary person.
5.) Hirotaka Izumi seems to be an inspiration for “For Seasons”. Do you like jazz fusion music, and which acts do you like the most?
When the fluent piano melody and simple chord progression, simple rhythm pattern meets up in one (inst) song, it associates me with H.Izumi. The other style of combination may associate me of an other performer.
The more I learned about my ignorance of music, the more adventurous I became. Jazz also is one aspect of my ignorance.
Chick Corea, in particular, smashed my preconceptions in terms of dissonance and rhythmic structure.
6.) You say on your website that “A Lie” was your first vocal song. Was that a challenge for you?
At that time, it was so hard to find a good vocalist and a good recording studio in a local area (where I live).
Good vocalists leave their hometowns for the capital, so the hometowns are always short of vocalists.
7.) Who is the artist “Maniac Garage” you mention in the notes of “Right Now” ?
The first time I saw their name was when I saw a web comment claiming that I had ripped off one of their songs.
This was a problem on samples. not on music. I only used samples in accordance with the EULA.
As I just wrote, it was difficult for local people to find good vocalists at the time, and relying on commercially available vocal samples was the only way to go. I felt I had no choice but to change my musical circumstances if my career was going to be compromised by the false accusation.
8.) What is the song that sounds similar to “Dream of You” ?
I don’t remember the title, but i thought if someone tried to make a jazz song, it would be like this.
And I must say, the same is true for “Dream of You”.
9.) You have a post about “Dream of You” on your website, talking about how the middle portion is difficult and strange-sounding, but you kept it in despite its difficulty. Do you try to challenge yourself like this when composing each new song?
No. There is no current demand for a place to show musical gimmicks.
There are techniques that look more difficult when illustrated, and there are techniques that are used in actual musical situations that look complicated when explained, but are actively used in general.
In my opinion, the difference between difficult and not difficult (not possible or impossible) depends on experience, but there are techniques that need to be explained, and there are techniques that become easier by understanding the explanation.
I don’t think it’s important to be complex, but I’m always aware of the relationship between phrases in a song (so-called “foreshadowing”), and this is one of the perceptions I’ve gained through jazz, fusion, and 80’s Japanese pop music.
I’ve been making music for about 20 years, and the other day someone deciphered the foreshadowing of my music for the first time.
10.) You said that “Sunny Side” and “Your Own Miracle” were hard to remix. Could you explain this?
Mainly because of the transition period of my production environment.
You may know, there may be a large gap between the time of delivery and the time of release of the song.
If you go for a new or quirky style, you could miss the mark significantly depending on the timing of the release. Especially since this is a field where genres evolve rapidly.
11.) Which Flash games’ music inspired the sound of “Smokey Quartz” ?
I saw it maybe on Kongregate, but I only remember that game had a detective-like element to it.
12.) How do you prepare when you make world music tracks such as Yo Creo Que Si, Emblem or Craic? I think Emblem and Craic are great Irish sounding tracks.
No preparation is necessary, as I appreciate world music genres regularly.
13.) Do you prefer to make music with natural instrument sounds or electronic sounds?
I love to merge them.
14.) Why didn’t you like making the song “Beat U Down” ?
A genre with a fixed mold did not feel creative to me. Of course, there is a real thrill in seeing what you can do and how far you can take it within the confines of that mold, but I’ve already experienced that so much that I didn’t feel the need to challenge it now.
I’ve dabbled in various genres not because I want to show off my ability to create them, but because I want to be influenced by each of them, and all the artists I know do that. They just don’t show it. This is because they already have a value that cannot be disobeyed: they are artists who make this kind of music.
15.) You said in the notes for Tromp L’oeil that you sometimes have to “change your personality” when making songs in unusual genres. Please tell me more about that.
When I took a break from studying chords and rhythms, one of the biggest obstacles for me was the issue of scales. The scales of Gypsy-feel music like “Trompe L’oeil” required me to create a new persona to deal with them, even if it wasn’t enough to redo my life, as I had based my musical experience on the Blue Note scale.
It seems familiar to the younger generation under the influence of Electro Swing.
16.) Your “broken beat” songs (such as A Life With You and Voyage) are fascinating. How do you create such tracks?
Strictly speaking, it’s a Pop song based on Broken Beat. People will complain whether I call it Broken Beat or Pop.
After Acid Jazz with a strong Afro-musical flavor was represented as Broken Beat, there was a period in the U.S. when a similar style was being tested within the category of house music. I think “Voyage” is referring to the musical style of that period.
Broken Beat is a style (not a genre) that was recommended to me by my friend Kuniyuki, a worldwide composer, who said, “You’ll definitely like this”.
The recommended “2000 Black” was not available, but after listening to Shur-i-kan, Bugge Wesseltoft, Mark de Clive-Lowe, and other artists with deep knowledge of Jazz, I was enthralled by the Naked Music compilation album.
NOTE: I find it funny that you say “Say It From Your Heart” sounds like “gay music”. I am gay and I enjoy this song very much, especially the long version.
I’m a hetero, but I would like to express my respect for the sensibility and life experience of gay people who created the club music we know today.
By the way, I experienced being bullied as a returnee when I was a child. I was lucky to be able to turn my humiliation into nourishment for myself, but the experience of being discriminated against is not inherently necessary.
17.) What was it like to work with NieN on the guitar portion of “Gone Astray” ? His solo songs are very intense.
I received something so great that I was rather worried that I had done something to offend him. (it’s kidding)
During my previous visit to Korea, I was welcomed by ESTi, Nauts, and Electronic Boutique at Nauts’ studio; at Pentavision’s office, I was welcomed by Planetboom and other staff.
My boss at the company I was working for at the time wanted to accompany me, so I took him along, but he was drunk and talked by himself the whole time, so I didn’t get a chance to have a deep conversation with them, which is still a shame.
I heard from Electronic Boutique that NieN was disappointed because he was too busy to be there, so I’ve been thinking of writing a song featuring him when I got back home.
18.) Tell us about your collaboration with Emilio Buonanni for “Lift You Up”.
When DJMax restarted, I thought that the EDM that was in vogue would have minor tones and that there would be few songs to glamorize the relaunch. I probably would have been asked for EDM, but this song was meant as a congratulatory message from me.
The song was inspired by Gospel, which I was into at the time. And sung by a friend of mine before she goes to study in South Korea.
Emillio lives in Sapporo for several years, as a percussionist, English teacher, etc. “Lift You Up” is his first lyric work.
19.) You said that “Heavenly” was made as a “safe” genre song for DJMAX RESPECT, compared to the “rugged” songs you expected for the soundtrack. Was it a challenge to return to DJMAX?
I made this track after reading the news overseas that Tropical House rises, but there was a possibility that tropical house would die out before my track was released. I meant “in time” (In Japan, we often use the word “safe” in baseball in our daily lives).
However, the definition of the genre at the time of production has changed from the definition of the genre at the time of release. It might be a bit out of sync with the public perception.
In that sense, it was a challenge.
20.) You said that you would have made “Jellyfish” in the Vaporwave genre if you could make it again. What attracted you to Vaporwave in particular?
If I can say “Heavenly” is in time, “Jellyfish” is out of time.
However, I didn’t like Vaporwave that much myself, so even if I had made “Jellyfish” in the style of Vaporwave, I don’t think it would have been interesting.
21.) You also made music for Beatcraft Cyclon/Superbeat Xonic. Was the process any different than with DJMAX or other companies?
Mr. Planetboom did not constrain the direction of the music I was producing. Now I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
I also communicated with him directly in English.
I just want to express my utmost gratitude for the respect with which they treated me.
22.) Please tell me about your work as a music instructor. I see you have many, many tutorials on your website for electronic music production.
I started composing and playing instruments little late in life, and I wasn’t learning from others, so I needed to approach music from a slightly different angle. I’m just keeping a living record of my life in the form of a blog. If someone finds this useful, that’s OK.
If you value diversity, HOWTO is only a hindrance. I believe that leaving the knowledge unorganized on web pages is the way I can repay my debt to music.
23.) What music do you listen to in your free time?
Most of the time I listen to the following production materials. Recently, dark minimal techno.
When I go to bed, I play my own ambient music on my iPhone under my pillow at minimum volume. It’s perfect because I always fall asleep in the middle of making my own music.
24.) Do you prefer Western or Eastern music, or each equally?
Western : Eastern = 7 : 3.
There is no special reason for this.
25.) What is your favorite food?
1 – Sushi
2 – Chinese cuisine
3 – Yakiniku
As my digestive capacity has declined with age, Yakiniku dropped down its rank.
26.) Tell me about your role in the Quadrifoglio project.
Mainly putting a tune to their humming.
All three vocalists are well known in Japan, and although we have existing fans, we agree that we want to keep our activities separate from commercial music.
27.) What would you like to say to your overseas fans?
I don’t feel like I have any fans…
We certainly are fans at System Arcadia!