Gekkayo internet music vol.1 [October 2011]

More Gekkayo content! This time I translated this interview-ish thing with ZUN and various people involved in the Touhou music scene (including our Ranko and Comp). It was made around Summer/Fall 2011, so the “latest Touhou game” is Ten Desires and the newest release they are talking about is Oriental Yumekikou.

Special thanks to Merami fan for sending me the scans!


If that’s the case, it’s better to give them a proper world view.

On a certain evening, at a beer hall in the heart of the city, gathered the man behind the creation of Touhou Project, ZUN, along with his Touhou arranger. Various anecdotes were shared alongside plenty of ZUN’s beloved beer
Thank you all for gathering here in such numbers. First of all, could you please introduce yourselves? And your roles, too. Let’s start with Kannushi-san!
ZUN: Seems like I’m unique here… *laughs* I’m ZUN from Team Shanghai Alice. As for my role, I’m in charge of programming… *laughs*
Everyone: Hahaha *laughs*
ZUN: I guess what sets me apart from everyone here is that music isn’t my main focus. I’m more of a person making doujin games rather than doujin music. Although I do compose music, my main focus is on game music. So, my role would be programming, I suppose.
Beatmario: So, are you making music just so people can listen to it?
ZUN: I wanted to make game music, so I made games to make music for them.
Beatmario: Wait, so music came first!?
ZUN: Yes, music came first.
Beatmario: Wow!
ZUN: Although I’ve now I’m just someone who makes games *laughs*.
Beatmario: Alright, I’m Beatmario from COOL&CREATE! I handle vocals, arrangements, lyrics… and much more! I’ve always loved game music, you know? The old game music, it was all about those three chords, you see. Melody was the most important thing. That’s why it sticks with you. It’s not like the fuzzy feeling you get from recent game music… Not that I’m dissing it *laughs* Touhou’s BGM has that scent of old game music. Plus, I’ve always loved shooting games. So, it feels natural that I’ve ended up here!
Comp: Well said! *laughs*
Amane: I’m Amane from COOL&CREATE! I’m mainly a vocalist, sometimes I write lyrics. I also make cosplay costumes for when I sing. I change costumes depending on the character I’m singing as, and all of my Touhou cosplays are handmade by me.
Beatmario: COOL&CREATE is mainly run by Amane and myself, but you know, in otaku culture, cosplay is always involved. I’m not into that, but Amane takes care of that aspect. So, COOL&CREATE is said to embody doujin culture. We’re kind of picking and choosing the good parts, so please take care of us!
Ranko: It’s hard to talk after this energy… *laughs* Um, I’m Ranko from BUTAOTOME! I do vocals and sometimes write lyrics. I’ve always loved fan creations and used to write stories originally. Then I started writing lyrics, thinking about the characters, their relationships with other characters, and how to fit lyrics to match the mood of the music, and I’ve recently become able to do that.
What was your gateway to fan creations?
Ranko: Are you really asking!? It’s so embarrassing, but I’m what you’d call a hardcore fujoshi… *laughs* Ranko no Ane, who’s really my sister, is really good at drawing. So, I read manga and doujinshi in her room, but my mother is also a manga-loving fujoshi.
What a family *laughs*
ZUN: Huh? You didn’t mention any title…
Ranko: It’s just embarrassing… Those titles would be “The Prince of Tennis” and “Pop’n Music.” I also went to Comiket for the first time to get Pop’n Music stuff…
But you got into game music from there.
Ranko: That’s right! I used to hang out in arcades in middle school to play Pop’n Music, and I loved game music. Now, Comp-san…!
Comp: Um, I’m Comp, representing the circle BUTAOTOME. I handle arrangements, lyrics, and various instruments. Touhou was my first doujin-related activity. I’m not a purebred like Ranko’s family.
Beatmario: Elite, the elite! Fujoshi elite *laughs*
Comp: And, with the guidance of these two, the first Touhou arrangement I saw was, indeed, COOL&CREATE’s “Usatei.”
Beatmario: That’s a lie! If Sekkenya was here, you’d say a different song title, right? (laughs)
Comp: No way! That’s not true at all!
Gottu: Ah, it’s my turn. I’m Gottu from the circle K-waves LAB. I do music composition and instrument performance. I record performances of Irish instruments used in Celtic music and upload them to Nico Nico Douga and other platforms.
ZUN: Live performances, I admire that!
Gottu: I’ve always liked how ZUN-san’s music progresses. The assertiveness of his melodies are particularly attractive… Also, I got hooked when I uploaded performance videos to Nico Nico Douga and received interesting responses in the comments.
ZUN: The good thing about doujin is the feedback, isn’t it? Especially on Nico Nico Douga, it’s quick. I think it’s fun when you get immediate responses.
Gottu: Sometimes I also get insults *laughs* But it’s better than nothing, I guess.
Before Nico Nico Douga, you couldn’t showcase your work without a major debut, right?
ZUN: Yeah, if you just want to make music and have people listen to it, that’s quicker and more enjoyable. Buying a major label song through download is faster and easier. But CDs still survive through event sales.
Comp: It’s because with doujin, you are on the edge… Things are done two weeks before the event, so they are fresh. They’re not stale. Maybe that’s the appeal, they are more immediate than major releases.
Fuga Hatori: Um, I’m Fuga Hatori from Republic of Mosaku Hattori, I do arrangements and play instruments like acoustic guitar and piano.
You are a multiplayer, aren’t you?
Fuga Hatori: Basically, I make the newer game music Beatmario mentioned earlier… *laughs*
Beatmario: I wasn’t dissing you!
Everyone: Hahaha *laughs*
Fuga Hatori: I enjoy working on Touhou.
ZUN: It’s not that the music is bad, it’s just that it would detract from the game if it were different. Modern games don’t mesh well with flashy music. So, you can’t just throw in any old song. With the advancement of PC specs, games have become more realistic. You can’t just play strange music in urban scenes anymore.
Fuga Hatori: The presence of voice acting is also significant. I’m asked to create music that doesn’t interfere with that. So, it ends up being more subtle. Moreover, I used to be in a punk rock band (laughs).
Everyone: Punk!?
Fuga Hatori: I just got carried away with my love for game music and realized that I couldn’t do it with my current skills! So, I went to study in France. Game music requires a broad knowledge of genres, right? So, I thought I’d learn the basic techniques and went to a classical music school to study Mozart *laughs* Then I came back and started making game music.
So you do game music as well as doujinshi?
Fuga Hatori: Touhou’s music is the perfect canvas for arrangements. You can mess with it in any way you want. You can do instrumental songs, and the vocal arrangements are delicious.
ZUN: Basically, they’re unfinished (laughs).
Did you anticipate this music culture spreading as much as it has, ZUN-san?
ZUN: I didn’t anticipate it spreading, let alone fan creations. In the end, I’m also part of doujin. I never had the idea of further arranging doujin works.
But it has spread.
ZUN: Yeah, but it’s fun as it spreads. The more it spreads, the more my freedom increases. It makes my activities easier and more enjoyable.
What was the initial impact of fan creations?
ZUN: The first one was surprising. It was a doujinshi. It was an unexpected creation. I was just making games.
Gottu: And then, doujin works started appearing…
ZUN: That was “Tsukihime,” right? Since it was just a visual novel, it seemed normal. But Touhou here is a shooting game *laughs* I was only thinking about making it fun to play. I thought the missing element until then was character. With characters, you can make enemy attacks more interesting and easier to think about. It’s no longer just about dodging bullets. If that’s the case, it’s better to give them a proper world view. So, how do you give characters personality? Music is the best way. Just deciding on music to hype up each character would make the game more fun, I thought. I never thought about derivative works developing further. But looking back now, I think what I did wasn’t wrong.
Beatmario: I used to play a lot of shooting games, and usually, each stage has its own music, but boss music is usually the same for all bosses. But when I played Touhou, each boss had distinct character and corresponding music. It was a huge shock. So, bosses can have character too. Well, I also thought it must be tough since there are so many songs *laughs*
Gottu: In ZUN-san’s case, does the music come first?
ZUN: Actually, I often get dragged along by the music. There’s a stage or a work, and I think about the music, but sometimes, the result of making music changes the setting. Like the characters’ personalities *laughs* But that’s how important music is. I think about all the characters first. Even before the art. Once the art is done, with a rough foundation, the settings can change along with the game. It’s something you can only do when you’re working alone. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out, and I have to rewrite the music or the characters. Or I might use them for a different stage *laughs* Ultimately, as long as the game is good, I’m fine with changing anything.
Beatmario: ZUN-san’s music tends to escalate just as the enemy’s attacks become more intense. As a shooting game enthusiast, it gets me really pumped. And when you defeat them, of course, you end on a high note, which feels great.

16 years!? Have I really been making games for that long…!? *laughs*

Do you have any questions for the arrangers, ZUN-san?
ZUN: I wonder what it’s like to arrange music? I primarily think about games, but when arranging, you have to consider the music itself, right? So, I’m curious about what you think when arranging.
Beatmario: It’s about the tension I feel when playing. ZUN-san’s BGM usually has a BPM of 140 to 160, but my arrangements go up to 180 to 200. That’s the speed of tension I felt when listening to the original music. It’s like, “How do I dodge this barrage without making a single mistake…?” So, naturally, the tension is at its peak.
You’ve been doing Touhou arrangements since the early days, right?
ZUN: Fan creations have been around since 2003. Since then…
Beatmario: Um, I haven’t talked about this much, but I started in August 2003, so I’m probably one of the earliest! *laughs*
ZUN: I made my sixth game in 2002 after a long time, and then fan creations followed. Then, in the summer of 2003, when I made the seventh game, there were a few circles, and that’s when the first Touhou doujinshi was released.
Where were fan creations shared back then?
ZUN: At events like Comiket. There wasn’t Nico Nico Douga back then, so it was mainly through my own website. The same goes for illustrations. At most, it was on oekaki boards *laughs*
Beatmario: It’s been almost 10 years now, right?
ZUN: Indeed, the sixth one was released then! Since ’95… 16 years!? Have I really been making games for that long…!? *laughs* Up to the fifth one, they were made for PC-98, not Windows, and the music was composed on FM synthesis. It’s been that long already…
Amane, can you tell us more about your cosplays?
Amane: I make them to wear them myself. I wear them at events and live performances, but long sleeves are hot! So, I decided to change them to short sleeves. There was a moment when I changed the costume midway through a standing pose, and it was puzzling, so when I asked ZUN-san, he said, “Maybe she just has a different outfit?” and it was an eye-opener *laughs* Since then, I’ve become quite free with it.
ZUN: Characters are essentially symbols. In my case, they’re meant to make shooting games more enjoyable. So, I don’t pay much attention to details like clothing.
Amane: I thought that maybe this would be okay, so I took the plunge and decided to wear short sleeves!
ZUN: That’s fan creation for you *laughs*
Can you tell us more about lyrics, Ranko?
ZUN: I think writing lyrics is difficult. Since I haven’t made songs with vocals, if I were to put lyrics to my own songs, I think I’d have to think about it a lot. You can’t just slap on “a, i, u, e, o”…
Ranko: I think about the character, their background, what they used to do, and what they’ll do in the future. I sing on top of that, so I do it while thinking about how I want to put my own feelings into it. ……, but I am embarrassed to death!
ZUN: Basically, when you sing, you’re saying what you want to say. I think singing is probably better than reciting poetry, but even so, you’re still saying what you really want to say, not just trying to cover up your embarrassment.
Ranko: That’s right *laughs* It took me quite a while to get used to it. I wrote lyrics for four songs on our new album released at Comiket. For the first time, I was able to think deeply about the character and express my own words, I was happy. Lately, I’ve been enjoying deciding what aspects of the character to write about with specific melodies.
Do you differentiate singing based on the character’s settings?
Ranko: Sometimes I try, but sometimes I fail… Let’s just say there was an attempt *laughs*
And you, Comp?
Comp: Since I arrange vocal songs, the challenge is to arrange them so that they become vocal songs. ZUN-san’s characters have rich settings from the start. They have a solid core. So, it’s really enjoyable to create while being led by the character, or betray them sometimes. Plus, I want my arrangements to still be recognizable as the original music.
ZUN: Some people are probably more into the original music. But if it’s an arrangement, I think it’s okay to break the original music.
Comp: I definitely want to preserve the melody and the world of Touhou. But if I’m going to make it singable, I have to break some things anyway…
ZUN: Originally, I didn’t even think about vocals *laughs* Let alone live performances. I was like, “That’s impossible!” *laughs*. Because it’s all done digitally.
Next up is Gottu.
Gottu: It’s fun to see how I can incorporate my own elements without breaking the original music. But sometimes, modulation can be challenging. Since my instruments are ethnic instruments, there are severe constraints on the sound. Live performances are really impossible.
ZUN: But the highlight of live performances is the live aspect, right? I admire that~
ZUN-san, you don’t do live performances?
ZUN: No, I don’t. I used to play the trumpet in a brass band.
Beatmario: You should do live performances!
Gottu: It’s like, ZUNpet and all that…
ZUN: I really like the sound of the trumpet. When I was in the brass band, there were many different instruments, but the trumpet was the best. It’s just so cool! *laughs*
Gottu: Indeed, it brings out the best parts.
Beatmario: You should do live performances! Please!
ZUN: It’s more of a technical issue…
I am sure everyone will be expecting a lot from the original performer~
ZUN:
It’s hard because of the expectations (laughs).
Everyone: *laughs*

But fundamentally, it’s wrong to just listen to the original music.

Um, Hatotori-san, what are your particular obsessions when arranging?
Fuga Hatori: Since I do pops, it’s quite hard to pinpoint. But I think that’s a good thing. It wouldn’t be interesting if I didn’t do what others aren’t doing. Even on Nico Douga, most of the music is dance music and rock. But I do value the worldview of Touhou works. I think about the storyline of fan creations in my head and make albums that flow throughout. Even though various genres mix, I aim for a coherent flow when listening to them all together. While borrowing the original melody, I add my own melodies and make vocal songs. That’s arrangement, but I think Touhou arrangements are the most passionate among all the arrangements now, even In the entire music industry.
Indeed, there is no other arrangement culture that is so strong.
ZUN: In the case of Touhou, it is easier to understand it as secondary creation rather than arrangement. People are free to make their own arrangements, but they are their own creations and belong to them. It is not copyright-free. And nowadays, there are also tertiary creations.
Beatmario: I once wrote lyrics for a ballad and sang it with my own interpretation, and I was surprised when I received an email asking if it’s okay to write a doujinshi based on those lyrics.
Ranko: Oh, I totally understand the feelings of the sender…
Beatmario: I realized how much the culture of fan creation and tertiary creation is expanding and thought it was amazing.
I wonder if that’s how many things you want to say are created as secondary works.
ZUN: But writing lyrics is difficult. You have to express yourself when you sing, so it’s embarrassing.
Beatmario: Oh, isn’t “Warabe Matsuri ~ Innocent Treasures” your theme song? It even has lyrics.
ZUN: It doesn’t have lyrics!
Beatmario: I was curious about what kind of feelings you had when you wrote “yumetagae, maboroshi”
ZUN: It doesn’t have any special meaning.
Fuga Hatori: For you to say “there’s no deep meaning” makes it seem like there’s a profound meaning… Even if we interpret it differently, there might be things you didn’t intend…
ZUN: Actually, I think about it a lot when I’m making things. But it’s kind of embarrassing… Of course, regarding interpretations, there’s that, and there are times when I’ve thought a lot about it but didn’t mean for it to be interpreted that way *laughs*
When I listen to your stories, I can feel your love for Touhou.
ZUN: It might sound weird coming from me, but Touhou equals me. Well, partly because I’m the only one making it. Most people who like Touhou know about me. I don’t think there are many people who like Touhou but don’t know me.
Comp: This is my first time talking with you, but it feels like I’m talking to a deity… well, you are a kannushi.
ZUN: Well, there’s a reason why I became a kannushi. Since I used the name ZUN, at first, I felt really bad when people called me “ZUN-sama.”
Everyone: *laughs*
ZUN: Then I thought it would be easier to call me by my name, so I changed it to kannushi. If I’m a kannushi, people can call me by my name easily.
Lastly, how can people enjoy Touhou culture, especially for those who feel it’s become too vast and don’t know where to start?
Beatmario: Initially, I used to say, “If you’re going to arrange Touhou music, play the games!” Then ZUN-san said, “You don’t have to start from the games. You can start from the manga.” So, does that mean it’s okay to start from fan creations?
ZUN: Yeah! I’m not saying you have to play my games.
Beatmario: I’m amazed at your broad-mindedness. Well, because you allow so much freedom, that’s why it has spread so much. But I still think, “the shooting games!”
ZUN: People like that are actually gatekeeping *laughs*
Everyone: Hahaha *laughs*
ZUN: That’s the way I feel about it. If I were to limit it to music, I would say check Nico Nico Douga.
Amane: Even cosplayers may not know about the original works. But some people cosplay because the outfits are cute.
ZUN: Even that makes me really happy. Rather, I don’t think I’m making a game that everyone can play. Because it’s a shooting game, something not many people can play it. Even fewer can clear it. So, there’s no need for everyone to play the game in order for something to be created.
Comp: If you search for Touhou on Nico Nico Douga or YouTube, you’ll find tons of content, so it’s easy to listen to. It’s natural that those who aren’t into shooters would find it easier to get into it from arrangements. But I think it’s better to listen to arrangements after knowing the original music.
ZUN: But fundamentally, it’s wrong to just listen to the original music. Because it was made to fit the game.
Do you want this culture to spread more, ZUN?
ZUN: Originally, music was meant to be enjoyed purely. But when people gather, it becomes about money, and that’s when rights become necessary. While I’m having fan creations done, I’m not getting any money from anyone *laughs* It’s not bad to claim rights for what you’ve created, but at the same time, it means reducing opportunities for fan creations, reducing freedom. In the case of Touhou, I feel like I’ve broken down those barriers a bit. That’s also the significance of Touhou.
Do you want it to spread more in various ways?
ZUN: It’s okay for it to spread everywhere, but if it spreads indiscriminately, it becomes troublesome, so I try not to let it go beyond my games at least. No matter where you start from, I try to make it so you end up at my place within one or two beats.
Comp: It’s not closed, but it’s a very unique way of spreading culture. When Touhou arrangement circles do live performances, the sense of unity is overwhelming.
ZUN: Ah, that’s it, it’s like a religion.
Everyone: Hahaha *laughs*
ZUN: That’s why I made myself a Kannushi. Well, actually, it’s more like a community. I don’t have a negative image of religion myself. Maybe the negative image comes from new religions. Originally, religion is like philosophy, it’s about thinking about how you’re going to live your life. It’s about being able to live well and save others based on what you believe in. That’s what Touhou Project is about. The game content deals with religion too. But it’s a pretty light religion. A very light view of religion where anyone can join and leave. The important thing is to save people’s hearts. And where this culture is headed is something everyone is exploring, and of course, I don’t know either.

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