Tsuyoshi Sekito Profile
|Also Known As:
関戸剛 (せきとつよし) / Zenji Pekito
|Date of Birth:
April 3, 1963 (Osaka)
The Black Mages, The Last Remnant, Space Manbow
|Konami||Game Developer||1986 – 1995||Composer, Sound Designer|
|Square||Game Developer||1995 – 2003||Composer|
|Square Enix||Game Developer||2003 –||Composer|
|The Black Mages||Music Group||2002 – 2008||Co-Founder, Arranger, Guitars|
|The Star Onions||Music Group||2004 – 2007||Guitars|
|GE-ON-DAN||Artist Collective||2010 – 2011||Member|
Tsuyoshi Sekito is a senior composer, arranger, and guitarist at Square Enix best known for his work with The Black Mages. Born on April 3, 1963 in Osaka, Sekito developed a passion for music while at high school. Utterly obsessed with guitars, Sekito’s favourite artists are those that use the instrument principally, including Van Halen and Dream Theater. Though inclined towards uptempo West coast American rock, most music that uses guitars prominently appeals to him. Though Sekito considers himself a good example of an instrumental rock performer, he regrettably feels he lacks the ’rock n’ roll’ spirit of his idols — middle-aged, conscientious, and shy. After graduating from high school, he pursued further musical activities and foreign language studies at the Kansai Gaidai University. Desiring to create music professionally, he noticed that Konami were recruiting composers after a string of arcade successes. After submitting a demo tape, he joined their Osaka branch as a part-time employee in April 1986, shortly after graduating.
At Konami, Sekito initially worked on sound development for the MSX alongside an ensemble team of musicians. One of his earliest projects was the MSX version of Gradius 2, though to his disappointment all the compositions he submitted for the project were rejected. He nevertheless developed a close friendship with several other composers during the project and often ate out at Chinese restaurants with them. He bounced back from this disappointment to lead the audio of one of the computer’s defining games, Space Manbow, as a full-time employee. During the product’s long development time, he introduced several innovations to the MSX Room as a sound designer, including providing waveform changes on the custom SCC chip. As a composer, he also helped to define the tone of the space shooter with upbeat melodies and the occasional darker soundscape. Following this project, he contributed moody music to Hideo Kojima’s SD Snatcher and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake as part of large collaborative efforts.
After game development for the MSX ceased in 1990, Konami was transferred to work at other divisions of Konami. He persevered to create upbeat chiptune compositions and convincing sound effects on Double Dribble 5 on 5 despite the major hardware limitations of the Game Boy. He subsequently co-composed the music for the console’s beat ’em up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back from the Sewers, blending 8-bit renditions of the series’ classic theme song with punchy new compositions, and created some lively pieces on the Genesis’ Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure. Sekito’s final years at Konami were spent composing music and location testing in their arcade division. He scored the popular action title Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters, developing the ’rock meets Morricone’ sound that his colleague Kenichiro Fukui had helped to create on the previous game. He closed his time at the company recreating the atmosphere of a soccer stadium on Soccer Super Stars.
In 1995, Sekito left Konami and joined the Osaka development team of Square together with his friend Fukui. During his first two years at the company, he single-handedly scored the action RPG Brave Fencer Musashi. In his largest work at that point, he composed some 137 tracks for the various scenes of the game and felt liberated by the more advanced technology of the PlayStation. Most of his tracks were straightforward orchestral compositions that fitted seamlessly with the gameplay without necessarily standing out on their own. The soundtrack release nevertheless proved quite popular and introduced listeners to some of Sekito’s fingerprints. The subsequent year, he contributed 12 more orchestral compositions to Chocobo’s Dungeon 2, an ensemble score also featuring some composers at Square’s Tokyo branch. He introduced plenty of mystery, darkness, and action to an otherwise light-hearted score, often in an intentionally exaggerated way.
Sekito also participated in several projects as an arranger and guitarist during his initial years at Square. For Chrono Trigger’s PlayStation remake, he created quasi-orchestral arrangements of popular themes and several new compositions for the FMV sequences. He was also selected to reimagine the entire score of Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy II for its remakes on the WonderSwan Color and PlayStation in 2001. He rearranged the entire score with thicker parts and richer samples, while also composing two new battle themes. Surprisingly, he had still not met Uematsu — still an Osaka employee while Uematsu resided in Square — but that was soon to change. In other roles, he handled the music for the WonderSwan Color’s Front Mission and Game Boy Advance’s Chocobo Land, staying faithful to the series’ roots. He also made a grungy guitar performance on Parasite Eve II’s opening theme, duetted on steel-stringed guitar for Final Fantasy X’s “Jecht’s Theme”, and composed the adventurous rock ballad “Go dream” for a tribute album.
In 2000, Sekito contributed to the ensemble score for the All Star Pro-Wrestling alongside Fukui. Given his love for hard rock music and previous experiences working on sports games, he was able to capture the desired sound for the title. He produced guitar-laced rock compositions throughout the score to capture the intense action and appeal to mainstream audiences. As Square’s first effort for the PlayStation 2, he also introduced some technological innovations on the score. After impressing his seniors, he was asked to go solo for the second’s game score — also the only one to be released on an album — and returned in a leading role for the final game in the trilogy. While the games were not the first examples of hard rock in a Square game, they firmly represented the company’s efforts to musically diversify in the Sony era and set precedent to the formation of The Black Mages. Sekito was quickly emerging as Square Enix’s King of Rock.
In collaboration with Fukui, Tsuyoshi Sekito created the breakthrough album The Black Mages in 2002. Early that year, guitarist Sekito and keyboardist Fukui messed around with several Final Fantasy battle themes during a jam session. Adding a rock touch and improvised solos to the original themes, they showed Nobuo Uematsu and Michio Okamiya the results at Square Enix’s Tokyo branch; they were so impressed that the album The Black Mages was commissioned. Arranged, performed, and implemented solely by Sekito and Fukui, it featured hard rock arrangements of various battle themes such as FFVII’s “J-E-N-O-V-A” and FFVI’s “Dancing Mad”. Inspired by the album’s international success, Sekito subsequently joined a six-piece band to perform the arrangements live in special concerts at Tokyo and Kanagawa; he adapted existing arrangements and penned a new blues arrangement of “Matoya’s Cave” for the event. Suddenly the self-confessed “diligent salary man leading a lawful well-regulated life” became an energetic swindling showman!
In 2004, Sekito was extensively involved in productions for two bands. He arranged four classic themes for The Black Mages’ eagerly anticipated second album — “The Rocking Grounds,” “Vamo’ Alla Flamenco”, “Hunter’s Chance,” and “Battle with the Four Fiends” — and appeared on the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange. Soon after, Sekito led the band into their second Japanese concert and overseas debut at the More Friends concert in Los Angeles. Given his experience with live performing, Sekito was also asked to become a founding member of the Final Fantasy XI performance group The Star Onions alongside Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka. He was part of the band’s acoustic debut on the Chains of Promathia Special Night and subsequently performed a number of jazz tracks on their first album The Other Side of Vana’diel. He also joined the band at Japan’s FFXI Summer Carnival 2005, California’s FFXI Fan Festival 2006, and the Tokyo Game Show 2007.
Following the success of The Black Mages, Tsuyoshi Sekito appeared as a rock arranger and performer in numerous other projects in Tokyo. Alongside Kenji Ito, Sekito arranged and performed various themes from the Super Nintendo’s Romancing SaGa for its PlayStation 2 remake. At request of Michio Okamiya, he provided a hard rock feel to the game’s battle themes and often extravagantly improvised over them on electric guitar. He was also responsible for numerous short themes placed on the album’s fourth disc, the various ’From a Window’ themes, and the original composition “Isthmus Castle Raid”. Sekito took a major role on the highly anticipated film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in 2005. The artist enhanced some of the title’s most intense fight sequences with intense rock and electronic arrangements, including new renditions of “J-E-N-O-V-A”, “Those Who Fight”, and “The Great Northern Cave”, while also creating the brief original composition “Materia” and the majority of the piano-led “For the Reunion”.
Sekito subsequently arranged a large portion of Uematsu’s compositions from Final Fantasy III for its DS remake. While he modernised the chiptune originals with new orchestral and rock samples, most arrangements were conservative ones and were heavily downgraded for the DS. Starting to experiment with fusion sounds, he also offered three electro-acoustic arrangements on Front Mission Online and an edgy rock-orchestral blend on the Square Enix Music Official Bootleg Vol. 1. In further guest roles, he produced two trumpet-led battle themes and a Morricone-influenced Final Fantasy arrangement on Hanjuku Hero 4, between guitar performances on Kingdom Hearts II and Front Mission 5. In 2007, Sekito reunited with the Romancing SaGa team on 2007’s Dawn of Mana, working primarily as a composer. He brought considerable darkness and drama to the game’s cinematics with orchestral cues, some directly inspired by Jerry Goldsmith. In addition, he explored a riff-heavy rock-orchestral sound for many of the game’s action themes and also contributed a few nostalgic arrangements.
Sekito recently left Tokyo to return to the Osaka branch of Square Enix, but continues to be involved in a number of scores. In his largest composing role to date, Sekito complemented the enormous yet personal feel of 2008’s Xbox 360 RPG The Last Remnant with a three disc score. He explored his musicality during the long development time and produced a large variety of themes, spanning imposing brassy overtures, multifaceted sprawling setting themes, interactive hard-edged battle tracks, and even a rare vocal theme. He also reunited with The Black Mages to produce their third album Darkness and Starlight. His arrangement role was limited to the gritty bass-focused “Premonition” and the opening section of the opera. He nevertheless shined as a guitarist, performing a stunning solo at the climax of “Distant Worlds”. He also squeezed in time to rehearse with the band for a special concert in Yokohoma Blitz. To the disappointment of many fans, the band disbanded shortly afterwards due to the time limitations of its members and its restrictive ownership by Square Enix.
Despite ceasing his roles on bands, Sekito was able to produce more arrangements of Final Fantasy classics as a guest on 2008’s Dissidia: Final Fantasy. He integrated his characteristic rock touch into many arrangements, spanning FFI’s “Main Theme” to FFVII’s “Don’t Be Afraid”, but was limited in his exuberance due to memory limitations. He also produced some original music for the game with Takeharu Ishimoto. The following year, Sekito returned to the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children project to create some music for its extended ct, notably expanding the tracks “Those Who Fight Further” and “Battle in the Forgotten City” to accompany the title’s extended exuberant action sequences. His services as a guitarist were also requested on two eminent scores for the series, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers and Final Fantasy XIII. In other guest roles, he co-composed two rock-orchestral fusions on the original album Music for Art , penned an uplifting Christmas remix of Final Fantasy VII’s main theme, and contributed to an album inspired by Sengoku IXA.
Despite moving to the Osaka branch of Square Enix, Sekito has recently composed more original scores than ever before. He currently focuses on producing scores for games developed by external development teams for Square Enix, often in collaboration with arranger and synthesizer operator Yasuhiro Yamanaka. Producing the entire soundtrack for PopCap’s puzzle RPG Gyromancer, he built on the daring stylistic fusions he explored with The Last Remnant. Sekito went on to pen two edgy contributions to Premium Agency’s bloody shoot ’em up Death by Cube and channeled influences from Hollywood scores on feelplus’s futuristic first-person shooter MindJack, blending urban electronic influences with epic orchestrations. In each of these projects, Sekito explored new musical directions while working with unique development teams and experimental game ideas. However, one of his projects — the bizarre cartoon shooter Gun Loco — was cancelled after the poor reception of some of the company’s other experimental productions.
Between such productions, Sekito’s services have often been requested on projects developed by Square Enix’s Tokyo team. Offering a handful of tracks for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, he complemented Yoko Shimomura’s work with some light-hearted compositions and revitalised some series classics with rich arrangements. In a further work alongside Shimomura, he underscored several key scenes in The 3rd Birthday, matching its the urban setting with electro-orchestral compositions. In arrangement roles, he offered diverse contributions to Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy — ranging from ethereal interpretations of dungeon themes, to familiar rock-themed battle arrangements — and arranged numerous classic battle themes on Lord of Vermilion Re:2. Sekito was also among those that joined the music team of Final Fantasy XIV in 2011; since then, he has supplemented the MMORPG’s patches with several new pieces of music, preparing for the release of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Many of Sekito’s recent works have been on behalf of casual games. Thanks to technological advances, the composer has been able to produce exuberant high-quality pieces for a number of titles. For example, he contributed several beautifully mixed electronic tracks to the iOS’ Imaginary Range, offering a preview of the score on a charity album released by GE-ON-DAN. Sekito also enhanced the browser title Monster x Dragon with enpowering orchestrations, and went on to score the epic titles Crystal Conquest and Legend World single-handedly. Despite the quality of their music, these games have yet to receive soundtrack releases of any sort. After over a decade away, Sekito also recently received the opportunity to work on arcade systems once more with Gunslinger Stratos. In a further work, he provided music data support for the 3DS and iOS iterations of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy alongside Keiji Kawamori. As the most senior member of Square Enix’s composer team, having been with the company for 12 years, it is likely plenty more projects await him.
– Various Game & Album Credits
– VGMdb Discography
– Official Profile (Japanese)
– Development Blog (English)
– Interview with CocoeBiz (English, January 2005)
– Interview with CocoeBiz (English, May 2005)
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on December 30, 2012. Do not republish without formal permission.
Posted on December 30, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on March 21, 2014.