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An Interview with Shigeru Umebayashi

Monday, 21 February 2005
interviewed by George Christopoulos

Mr. Umebayashi I would like first of all to tell us a few words about you. How and in what age your relationship with music started?
When I was 17 years old, I was a member of an amateur rock group composed by my classmates, one of them played guitar very well and loved The Beatles. However, I did not know how to play the guitar at all, so my part was the Bass. It was a very simple story. Since then, I’ve really never imagined to play the music by myself.

So, in the 80’s you were the leader of a rock band, the EX, and one season your group supported Eric Clapton during his tour in Japan. What kind of influence this co-operation had to you as a musician?
Eric Clapton, who is always challenging into finding new music styles, is one of my respectable musicians in the world. However, the best man, men actually, who affected me were The Beatles.

What was the crucial element that made you turn into the film music industry?
It was to meet one of most famous Japanese actor, Mr. Yusaku Matsuda, who played in 1989 in the film “Black Rain”, directed by Ridley Scott. I composed and produced his album (CD). He influenced me. Unfortunately, he has gone when he was 40 years old.

You worked with several directors, and with most of them more than once. Zhang Yimou, Wang Karwai, Takahashi Banmei, Takita Yojiro, Matsuoka Joji and many others. Can you distinct among them the co-operation you enjoyed most and also the director that you believe your relationship in the movie industry will have a promising future?
Every director, who I worked for, has his own style and creative sense. They always please me. I hope I could work them again.

Your two latest projects, “2046” & “The House of Flying Daggers”, were a huge success all over the world and of course in Greece, too. Radio stations play your music constantly and the movie theaters still keep showing these two movies in Athens, even now that we “talk”. Do you think that the year 2004 was the best in your career concerning both your creativity and your reputation?
In 2004, I was so lucky to join those two big projects indeed. Especially, as a musician, I was very excited. But in the meantime, it is very important for me that many people in Greece are interested in my music!

For me personally the film “2046” was a shocking experience, a feast let’s say for my senses. But I think that your music boosted the director’s vision to another level. What is your opinion about the score you composed, how much you think it succeeded it’s objective to accompany the picture and which part of it you prefer as your favorite in terms of impact to the audience?
It is very appreciated for me your opinion. I try to join the Post –Production as much as I can, because the final mixing is one of most important part in film music. I think even the great music will be not perfect if you mistake to use it in film. Regarding “2046”, I believe that for me the music, considering the total sound design, succeeded to a 80%. My most preferable part is end-roll music.

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