Persona 3 Reload Sound Composer Interview

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The latest issue of Persona Magazine, #2024 Spring includes several new interviews for Persona 3 Reload. One of them features sound composer Atsushi Kitajo discussing the process of producing music for the remake.

Previous interviews concerning from Persona Magazine #2024 Spring include:

The Impactful Sound of the Original P3

Kitajo-san joined Atlus around the year the original version of P3 was released (2006). Could you please share your memories from that time?

Kitajo: At that time, I was still a newcomer with not much work to do. I was asked by Shoji Meguro, who was in charge of the sound for P3, to try my hand at it, saying, “Give this a try.” I also wrote reports on my impressions after playing P3 and submitted them. I remember that when I praised the music of P3 a lot, Meguro-san was very embarrassed, saying, “You’re praising it too much~♪” (laughs).

I believe right after P3 was released, at that time, there were only a few members in the Sound Team. Besides me, there was only Tsuchiya-san (Kenichi Tsuchiya, a sound creator who has worked on various Atlus titles), and there was no soundproof room. We worked in an environment where the sound could be heard booming from the room. I remember setting up shelves and desks in the hallway and working with a CRT display on top of them. Ah, those were the days.

What was your impression when you first heard P3’s sound?

Kitajo: At that time, I hadn’t heard game music like P3’s, where lyrics were included in the battle BGM. Moreover, even just walking through the field, stylish music played, and it was cool. In short, it was shocking. When we were producing P3R this time, I checked various sounds from P3 at that time, and I felt that it was made with the intention of creating “music that can be listened to” rather than simply background music. I also felt the unique characteristics of Meguro-san.

Specifically, what aspects did you find characteristic?

Kitajo: For example, the song “Deep Mentality” uses a completely different method than I thought, like “Did he use a filter (a device that changes the tone)?” I was listening to it while thinking, “I can’t imitate that kind of sound.” The music for P4 and P5, which Meguro-san worked on later, also had a different way of making sounds. While I understand the goal of “making this sound,” I don’t know how he thought of those processes to reach that sound… I would really like to ask Meguro-san from that time about it. He might have already forgotten even if I ask him now (laughs).

Change in vocals to express the new P3

About the music in P3, which Kitajo-san worked on for P3R, were there any requests from Meguro-san or any consultations between you and Meguro-san?

Kitajo: Meguro-san has always valued the individuality and creativity of the staff, so there weren’t many instructions or requests from him. Therefore, I was allowed to do it the way I wanted. However, regarding the change in vocalists, I discussed various things with Meguro-san while sharing ideas.

Please tell us the reason for choosing Azumi Takahashi as the new vocalist.

Kitajo: Since there were many young staff members in the production team for this work, there was a desire to emphasize that it was a new P3. Of course, even if Yumi Kawamura, who was the vocalist for P3, remained, the quality would have been excellent. However, we thought that changing the vocalist to express the new P3 would be a good choice. After various discussions among the staff, we decided to ask Takahashi-san.

Takahashi-san’s voice is quite different from Kawamura-san’s, isn’t it? It has both powerful and soft impressions.

Kitajo: It’s powerful and bright… it has a bright tone. While the soft parts are very soft, if she raises her voice, it can be very powerful. Although there are similarities to Kawamura-san, I think their types are completely different.

In addition to changing the vocalist, all the songs in this title have been given arrangements unique to P3R. Please tell us about the concept behind that.

Kitajo: The concept of P3R itself was to be “nostalgic yet new.” If it was just nostalgic, I think it would have been enough to remix the original sound source a little. However, we thought that wouldn’t convey the sense of a new P3. Therefore, while incorporating the evolution of the new Persona series music that players have heard in P4 and P5, I added my essence as well.

Are there any aspects of the sound source choice or BPM (tempo) that you particularly emphasized?

Kitajo: The original P3’s music has many distinctive sounds and effects, so many of those songs songs have already taken a personality of their own. For such songs, I based them on the original sound source and kept the BPM the same while changing the effects. I didn’t make many big arrangements because I thought that changing those aspects would diminish the impression of “nostalgia.” Instead of arrangements, it complements the aspects unique to P3R.

I felt that there were more live sounds, and it gave a richer impression.

Kitajo: Simply replacing the sounds has made some songs significantly richer. Another difference is that Meguro-san, who worked on the original, used distortion effects quite often, but I think there are quite a few differences in the effects and nuances of the arrangements between then and now.

For P3R players, there are those who have a deep attachment to the original P3, as well as those who are experiencing that world for the first time with P3R. Did you feel a different level of difficulty in creating the sound compared to when you were creating sound for a completely new game?

Kitajo: Absolutely. I hope that those who have played P3 will feel nostalgic, and at the same time, I had to ensure that those who haven’t played P3 but have entered the series around P5 wouldn’t find the sound outdated. It was quite a challenge. I think we’ve managed to create something that won’t feel out of place for new players, but I would be happy if those who played P3 back then also liked it.

The new opening song evoking memories of the original version.

The music’s production process has already been shared on X (Twitter) (refer to the bottom for those comments). Are there any other arranged tracks that left an impression on you?

Kitajo: “Memories of You” sung by Takahashi-san, has become a fitting ending theme for P3R, hasn’t it? Of course, “Memories of You” is based on Kawamura-san’s original song, so this time, instead of following Kawamura-san’s singing style, we had Takahashi-san sing it her way. As a result, it took on a slightly different flavor from Kawamura-san’s, and I think it also turned out as a good song.

Speaking of vocal changes, the song “Jika Net Tanaka” also had its chorus re-recorded this time, right? When you see the staff roll after completing the game, the vocalist’s name is listed as ‘P3R Staff.’

Kitajo: That was recorded with the P3R staff, including the director (laughs). I felt it was important to uphold tradition. I heard that during P3, a fellow employee of Meguro-san’s sang, but we couldn’t just use their songs without permission, so we recruited staff members to sing.

Next, please tell us about the concept of the new songs you created, especially the opening song, “Full Moon Full Life.”

Kitajo: Those who have played the original P3 will understand, but I think the impression of the original opening song, “Burn My Dread,” was very strong. So when creating a new opening song this time, I wanted it to feel both new and reminiscent of the old style. I even used phrases that paid homage to “Burn My Dread” and used the same rhythm.

While it’s a completely new song, the goal was to evoke memories of “Burn My Dread”?

Kitajo: Yes. Also, I worked on creating a melody that would make the most of Takahashi-san’s voice without any sense of incongruity. As an aside, in the opening video, after the protagonist selects “Burn My Dread” from the music list, the new song is played. That’s a clever direction by the anime director.

What was the intention behind incorporating Lotus Juice’s rap into the vocals, alongside Takahashi-san?

Kitajo: In my mind, Lotus Juice’s rap is strongly associated with P3’s music. So, for the opening, I wanted a song with vocals from both Takahashi-san and Lotus Juice, and I wanted Lotus Juice to have a main singing part.

Some songs were rewritten based on Lotus Juice’s requests as well.

Some of the lyrics rewritten at Lotus Juice’s request

Were there any specific requests for Takahashi-san’s singing? Also, if you have any memorable impressions from the recording, please share.

Kitajo: While Takahashi-san listened to Kawamura-san’s version of the song, we told her she didn’t need to imitate it and let her sing as she wished. By the way, Takahashi-san is really easy to talk to and friendly, and she kindly responded to our humble directions. I felt this even more during the recordings; she truly has amazing vocal power. When we recorded “Full Moon Full Life,” she started singing in an idle-like manner to warm up, but when it came to the chorus, she sang with incredible volume, more than 100%. Lotus, who was listening with us, couldn’t help but exclaim ‘Wow!’ It was truly amazing, so I hope there will be an opportunity for everyone to hear her live voice.

I look forward to hearing it live! On the other hand, Lotus has been involved with P3 for a long time since the original version. Were there any new requests made for P3R’s recording?

Kitajo: Lotus knows the series inside out and has actually played the games, so we don’t usually order him to do anything; rather, he often tells us what he wants. This time, in particular, he suggested that he wanted to rewrite the lyrics. Apparently, some of the lyrics from the old songs were written somewhat blindly, and he wanted to change them to be more fitting from his current perspective. As a result, there are some songs where the lyrics were completely rewritten. Additionally, all of Lotus’s raps included in P3R are newly recorded.

The original P3 songs were recorded before the game’s release, and considering Lotus’s involvement in the Persona series, including live performances, for over a decade, his feelings must be quite different now.

Kitajo: I believe his feelings are completely different now. He seemed to have a feeling of “I don’t want to lose to my past self from ten years ago” and spoke about it as his own battle. He wanted to show that he is even better now.

Were the recordings done separately for each of them?

Kitajo: Since Lotus was writing the lyrics, he came along when Takahashi-san was recording. Then, they recorded the parts with rap together at the same time. Both of them, as like-minded artists, got along really well.

There will be a Persona live concert in 2024!

I’d also like to inquire about sounds other than music. How were environmental sounds in the game created this time?

Kitajo: Some of the environmental sounds were actually recorded. For example, we recorded several people’s murmurs to make it sound like conversations overlapping each other. We scattered these sounds randomly to create a more bustling city atmosphere. This approach was carried over from P5 and was also adopted in P3R. In P3, the impression might have been that the city was relatively quiet, but in P3R, there are many background characters. So, we recorded livelier sounds to properly evoke a city-like atmosphere.

In a sense, additional sounds were added as a result of increased graphical expression.

Kitajo: There may be some truth to that. We often draw inspiration from the graphics, and for example, when creating the opening song, we considered rough sketches and concept illustrations provided by the art team. The concept of the design, “nostalgic yet new,” influenced the sound’s creative process to a considerable extent.

Please share your thoughts on P3R now that it’s completed.

Kitajo: Since we’re having this conversation before the release, I’m very curious about the players’ reactions, but personally, I think it has become a great game. Director Yamaguchi must have had a tough time developing the game amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but even in such circumstances, I was repeatedly saved by his personality.

Indeed. Just as the concept behind this title, ‘nostalgic yet new,’ I think that’s been realized in the content. It’s impressive to see such evolution when the same work is fully remade more than 10 years later.

Kitajo: I would be delighted if players could enjoy P3R not just as a simple remake of P3, but also as a new work.

Lastly, could you please share a message for the readers of this book and the players who are looking forward to the future of the Persona series?

Kitajo: If you’re reading this, it’s probably March, so it might be a bit off-season, but please look forward to Atlus in 2024. We will continue to cherish each day and strive to deliver as much excitement as possible. Please look forward to the contents of the “P3R: Expansion Pass” in the future. Live events in Yokohama, Osaka, Taiwan, and elsewhere are also planned, so please come and join us. We believe this year will be one where we spread our wings even further into the world, so we appreciate your continued support.

Comments on “It’s Going Down Now”

Kitajo: The normal battle BGM “Mass Destruction” is a rather tense song, designed to make players think and choose their actions. However, since this is the BGM for when initiating an attack, we’ve set the tempo to be faster from the intro to give it momentum.

When I incorporate a new piece into existing songs by different composers, I often try to match the tone so that it doesn’t stand out, or I use existing phrases. However, this song incorporates both approaches.

I wanted to make the best use of Takahashi-san’s lively and expansive voice, so I think the melody mainly consists of long tones to showcase that.

Comments on “Changing Seasons -Reload-“

Kitajo: The original song was instrumental, but for the “Reload” version, we added vocals. While the instrumental version was already great, the inspiration to add vocals came when I thought about combining it with “Want To Be Close,” the BGM for the first semester.

While Kawamura-san was a master of chorus, Takahashi-san’s vocals are beautiful as well. Initially, I had her harmonize under the main melody, but it didn’t quite fit until we raised it an octave, and then it fit perfectly.

We’ve changed the French part from the original version to a rap style, which I think fits the atmosphere of Reload quite well.

Comments on “Color Your Night”

Kitajo: As you can imagine from the title, this is a song about the city at night, added in Reload. It’s simple, so I think the vocals and rap stand out.

I’ll refrain from going into the lyrics here, but initially, we had our in-house staff write them, and then Lotus wrote the rap to fit them.

I feel like in Persona 3, with the presence of the Dark Hour, the moon is depicted somewhat ominously, but I really like how this song expresses the moon’s tenderness.