Akira Yamaoka (山岡 晃 Yamaoka Akira), born February 6, 1968 in Niigata, Japan, is a musician and video game composer, having scored dozens of titles released by Konami. Yamaoka attended Tokyo Art College, where he studied product design and interior design. He joined Konami on September 21, 1993, after previously being a freelance music composer.
Silent Hill series
He is most well-known for his work for the Silent Hill series of video games, for which he composed all the music and sound effects in the whole series (excluding Silent Hill: Play Novel for the Game Boy Advance, "Esperándote" in Silent Hill, composed by Rika Muranaka and Silent Hill: Downpour, which was composed by Daniel Licht). Starting with Silent Hill 3, he played a more important role as the series' producer, while also continuing with his music composition work.
Yamaoka's sound commonly contains strong melancholy undertones and generally identifies with the dark ambient, industrial, trip-hop and rock genres. Since Silent Hill 3, he has also started working in collaboration with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Joe Romersa for vocal compositions.
Much of his work from previous titles has been compiled for the 2006 Silent Hill film, directed by Christophe Gans. Yamaoka helped compose the score of Silent Hill: Revelation, along with Jeff Danna, who also worked on the soundtrack from the first film.
His music from Silent Hill 2 was performed live in 2005 at the third Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig, Germany. Yamaoka also performed music from Silent Hill at the world-premiere of PLAY! A Video Game Symphony on May 27, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois, and accompanied the orchestra with an electric seven-string guitar. He also composed songs for Konami's Bemani series, which has also featured tracks from Silent Hill.
|“|| In daily life, complete silence in one's environment is unusual, wouldn't you say? And so in the same way, things like footsteps and people stirring are inlaid even in the game. One responds to sounds that are not related to the game and once one is pulled back to reality, one is immersed more deeply into the game world. These sorts of effects are what I'm aiming for. The probability of their occurrence is random, so the point at which these sounds are heard should differ depending on the player. Without the importance placed on atmosphere in Silent Hill, its production wouldn't be possible, right?
—Akira Yamaoka on Silent Hill's sound effects
On December 2, 2009, it was announced that Yamaoka was leaving Konami. On February 3, 2010, it was announced that Yamaoka has joined Grasshopper Manufacture and will be working with Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami (creator of the Resident Evil series) on their upcoming horror game in partnership with Electronic Arts.
Akira also worked on the Shadows of the Damned soundtrack.
Before working as a video game composer, Yamaoka initially sought a career as a designer, but instead became a musician after studying product design at Tokyo Art College.
In 1993 he joined Konami to work on the game Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2. When Konami began searching for a musician to compose Silent Hill's score, Yamaoka volunteered because he thought he was the only one capable of making the soundtrack.
When asked if his studies at Tokyo Art College had helped him in his musical career, he replied:
|“|| At that time, Mick Karn of Japan, Steve Strange of Visage, and a lot of other musicians combined the notions of Art and Music with their own new style. I got really influenced by that. Therefore, every time I write songs, I try to combine Art and Music.
- The A. Y. Guitar in Silent Hill: Book of Memories is his.
- The musical score of The White Chamber was heavily inspired by Yamaoka's works.
- Akira has worked with the dark-electro band Interlace, where he made the Heather Remix of the song 'Missing Link' from their 'Under the Sky' album.
- Yamaoka mentioned during a Q&A session at Arizona's Saboten Con 2012 that his favorite Silent Hill game is the second. He provided an anecdote from the game's development as an explanation: when the development team first sat down to discuss the central concept of the game, euthanasia (which was a very taboo subject at the time) was offered as a possible subject to focus the game around. Yamaoka had personal interest in the subject and was glad it was chosen to be the central concept of the game, and thus his interest in the subject matter makes it his favorite game in the series.
- Akira also mentioned during the Q&A that he finds the original game to be the scariest one in the series.
- When asked how he gets himself into the mindset to write the disturbed, melancholy music for the series during the same Q&A, Yamaoka said that he believes that in order to best feel dark moods like sadness and madness, one must be happy, for if one spends too much time in a dark mood, one can become numb to it. If one is happy and something brings one out of that happy state of mind, it is felt more heavily. Thus, he tries to be in a happy state of mind when he sits down to write Silent Hill music.
- Akira claims he doesn't know how to read sheet music and says he learned to play the guitar by recording video of himself playing various chords and playing the video back, deciding on which chords to use based on whether or not they looked "cool." If he liked the way they sounded after deciding they looked cool, he would use them. This too was discussed at an Arizona Saboten Con 2012 Q&A session.
- At the same Q&A session, when asked about what he thought of Daniel Licht's sound and music work on Silent Hill: Downpour, Yamaoka said he very much respected that Licht put his own personality into the design rather than attempting to mimic Yamaoka's style, and that he enjoyed Licht's work on the game.