Anime! Anime! – Evan Call

(The original interview can be found here.)

– First off, I’d like to ask how you wound up composing music in Japan. What shows led you to have an interest in Japanese anime?

Evan Call: When I was kid, a friend of mine who liked Japanese anime got me to watch shows like Pokemon and Digimon. The show that had the most impact on me was Samurai 7 (2004, GONZO). I got hooked on that show and got into Japanese anime that way.

– How did you become affiliated with Elements Garden?

Evan: That was a real coincidence. After I graduated from the Berklee College of Music, I was wondering whether I should head to Hollywood to do film scores, but the Japanese anime and games I liked had a lot of different genres, so I thought that if I could break into that industry, I’d be able to write a wider selection of music, so I came here on a tourist visa. But, if I couldn’t find a job in 3 months my visa would expire, so I thought that if I couldn’t find a music job by then, I’d become an English teacher. Around that time, a roommate at the share house I was living in invited me to a party. It was a foreigners’ “Super Otaku Party”, so I thought I’d go (laughs). There, when I told a friend of my roommate that I wanted to write music, he said he’d talk to a friend of his, and introduced me to Junpei Fujita from Elements Garden. I sent him a demo and got invited to an interview, and I ended up joining them.

– So you didn’t get in through their recruitment process, but with a demo tape and interview.

Evan: At the time, they weren’t looking for people, but I think it was rare for them to get an application from a foreigner, so they set up an interview for me.

– What did you have on your demo tape?

Evan: A lot of things. Some songs I wrote in college and some orchestral samples.

– Was Elements Garden president Noriyasu Agematsu at the interview?

Evan: A lot of people were there, including Agematsu-san. They were all watching me and I got really nervous (laughs).

– I remember Agematsu-san mentioned you on Twitter in 2014. He said you were a composer to watch out for, and mentioned at the end that you were in fact a really good singer.

Evan: I do sing (laughs). During the application process for college there was a performance test. I wasn’t confident with an instrument so I chose to sing for my test. Lately I like singing rock but I also sing opera.

– You mentioned that you liked metal until you were 18, so what artists did you like?

Evan: I liked European power metal like Blind Guardian and Rhapsody of Fire. Those bands are symphonic power metal. I also liked northern European black metal. Guys who would use death vocals. I actually sing using death vocals for the Schwarzesmarken music (laughs).

– Your music often has a memorable symphonic metal sound to it, so that makes a lot of sense. I thought I heard a track that sounded like that in the Schwarzesmarken PC game, so were you involved with the game as well?

Evan: Yes, I was in charge of both. The anime and game BGMs are linked, so while there are some tracks that are only for the game, there are also some that will be in both.

– I assume you did the vocals for the song track?

Evan: Yes. In the middle I have the main theme motif, and I put the death vocals on top of that.

– You did the death vocals too?

Evan: That’s me (laughs). I hurt my throat then, and for a while I could barely speak (laughs).

– You’ve done the arrangements for songs like Nana Mizuki-san’s “Avalon no Oukan” and Minori Chihara-san’s “Arigatou, Daisuki”, and you’ve composed many other songs, so how do you go about that?

Evan: Generally I follow the orders of the producer, but as much as possible I always try to bring something even more than what they asked for. While I’m bringing my own originality into it, it’s not good to stray too far away from what the producer wanted, so it’s best if I can get something within that range. For example, on Mizuki-san’s “Avalon no Oukan”, we all submitted our own demos. They decided on Junpei Fujita-san’s catchy pop melody, but they also asked for the arrangement to be like my demo. I put in a bunch of orchestral tones.

– How did you get involved with Schwarzesmarken?

Evan: First, the offer came to our company. I was very interested in robot anime, and I thought my melody would be a great fit for it, so I wanted to do it no matter what. I submitted a demo and my profile, with a picture of me riding a horse attached.

– . . . A horse?

Evan: Well . . . (laughs), I didn’t have a lot of pictures of myself, and I thought I might as well send them one that stood out (laughs). It sounds like they really liked it (laughs).

– So they decided it based on your demo and the picture of you on a horse. Is the reason you “wanted to do it no matter what” because it was a robot show?

Evan: Yes. I knew it was a robot show, and when I heard the story I knew it would interesting. I felt I wanted to go all-out on this. I’m very happy to have been asked to do this.

– There have been a number of Muv-Luv franchises, so how did you approach the BGM for Schwarzesmarken?

Evan: Before I started production, I listened to all the previous Muv-Luv series soundtracks. But, I was told that even though this is the kind of BGM they had up to this point, I didn’t have to worry too much about matching them.

– How did you envision the music for Schwarzesmarken?

Evan: Schwarzesmarken is a dark story, just like the other Muv-Luv series. At the very first meeting, I was told to create something very serious. Actually, one of the composers for the previous soundtrack was Taku Iwasaki-san. The truth is, he is someone who influenced me very much. I felt very honored to inherit a project that he worked on. I was very moved when I heard Iwasaki-san’s music for “Rurouni Kenshin”. He is someone who inspired me to become a composer.

– When you become the composer for this series, what kind of meetings did you have with director Watanabe and sound director Satoshi Motoyama?

Evan: Their initial order of music had a ridiculous number of battle tracks (laughs).

– How many were there?

Evan: There were about 60 tracks total. About 15 were battle tracks. The main theme is pretty much a battle track in atmosphere, so there were a lot.

– What kind of image did you have in mind when making them?

Evan: Above all else, I wanted a sense of despair. The main theme is about 3 minutes long, and at the first meeting they told me they wanted each section to have a lot of different twists to it. What they wanted was for the first section to quickly lay out the main theme motif, the middle section to paint a drop of hope in a sea of despair, and the last section to blast out the main theme. I made sure to follow those instructions when creating it.

– I see. By the way, those 60 tracks are for the anime and game combined, right?

Evan: Yes. That would be too much for a 1-cour anime.

– Did sound director Motoyama put together the music order? Did director Watanabe say anything about it?

Evan: I spoke mostly with sound director Motoyama. Also, the game was going to come out first so in the beginning I had a lot of meetings with the game director Hayato Tashiro.

– Did you struggle with any tracks?

Evan: I did with the main theme. It’s a long track, and I was very particular about the orchestration. I also worked hard on the song track, since I did the singing as well. They were all a lot of fun.

– Did they ask you to include the death vocals?

Evan: They didn’t say anything about that. I included it on my own. It was just for my own self-satisfaction (laughs).

– Did you ever hear any reactions from anyone?

Evan: Hayato Tashiro-san told me it was very interesting. I felt like with almost 60 tracks, it would be OK to have one just for my own self-satisfaction (laughs). Of course, I would still have to make it fit in with the story.

– It’s a good match when the music you like to write also fits perfectly with the story.

Evan: Yeah, I really like Schwarzesmarken as well, so making the music was a lot of fun.

– What tracks in Schwarzesmarken do you really want people to listen to?

Evan: I want people to hear the song track I wrote! I haven’t heard whether or not they were going to use it in the anime, but I hope they do.

– What kind of story do you think Schwarzesmarken is?

Evan: It’s a story of people try to grasp hope while surrounded by despair. I almost cried when I read the story. I think it’s an amazing story.

– How did you feel after you finished writing all the music?

Evan: Sometimes I listen to it while I’m on the move. I’ll think to myself, “Hey, this is pretty good!” (laughs) There were times when it was painful, but it’s a show I like very much, and I had a lot of fun.

– What kind of music do you hope to make in the future?

Evan: I like this kind of story, so it would be nice to go in this direction. Of course I like the more slice-of-life stories too, and I want to work on more cheerful shows too, but I think right now the music for a world like Schwarzesmarken fits me best.

– Thank you. Finally please leave us a message.

Evan: I did my very best working on the Schwarzesmarken music. I would be happy if you enjoy the music alongside the story. I hope you enjoy the link between music and story!

– Thank you!

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