Originally posted on 5 August 2014
Source: Siren 2 Maniacs, page 176-177

Siren 2: Kuniaki Haishima Interview

― First of all, please tell us what led you to take charge of the game's music.

Haishima: I've worked in a lot of fields outside of video games, like TV dramas, films and anime, though I have worked with Mr. Fujisawa (Siren 2's director, Takafumi Fujisawa) in the past. We knew each other, and that's how I ended up being put in charge of Siren 2's music.

― When you say you worked with Mr. Fujisawa, do you mean on something to do with a video game...?

Haishima: It was on "Doko de mo Issho: Toro to Nagareboshi". I've worked on other games before, like "Kowloon's Gate". I've done all kinds of things, from the quirky to the heartwarming, though (laughs).

― Were there any particular differences from Siren 2, despite also being a video game?

Haishima: When we first started discussing it, I hadn't really heard much about Siren. I knew that the commercial being aired on TV for it was so scary it was removed from broadcast, though... I remember that really well, thinking at the time, "What a horrible advert that is..." (laughs). I was wondering if the world in which it was set was quite profound, when I was told that 2 would be set on an island... Islands have the image of being shut away, but inside the insular space of a whole island, you have "ruins" made up of all kinds of rooms joined together in this encapsulated area. They're constructed with multiple layers, almost nested. Even sound there is muffled since it's airtight. This is important to consider when you think about how the air travels - whether the atmosphere, smells, or anything like that. Siren 2 is suspenseful in a different way, and they're not monsters. It's a game where I think your aim is to express something psychologically, so my mission was to create a nuance that resembled the atmosphere of a shut-away island...

Also, it would be an issue if it ended up as something other than what Director Toyama envisioned, so as I worked I met up with him whenever I could, and things took form as we discussed them. For example, he told me, "I want them to feel a really tense, nasty sensation when they're riding the elevator..." There were certain things he wanted the player to feel, like having a noise behind them and gradually making them more tense, or making them feel like there was someone behind or beside them. Since the game was already partway through development when I joined the team, there was lots of material like storyboards. I combed through them all, trying to get a shared sense of the staff's image.

― You met up with the development team with the image boards?

Haishima: Yes, although for nothing more than simply explaining the story. Sound changes as it's going through the creative process. It's difficult to explain, but I get a sense of what is wanted from me, then once that's fulfilled I try to add something more to it. I think that's where creativity lies.

― Is video game music different to the TV drama and movie music you've worked on?

Haishima: In the case of TV and movie scores, you begin with the "picture". All the music does is enhance it, so it isn't the main focus. You could say that truly good scores are the ones you don't remember. With games, however, the music that plays during a level is looped. Because of this, a lot of it has to be approached like environmental sounds. You can't let people notice when the song ends and then loops back to the start. You've got to make sure they don't know what the beginning actually is...

Next, since it takes a long time to make a game, you've got plenty of time to think things through. TV and movie work absolutely must be completed in a very short timeframe, but it seems as though once a piece of game music gets the green light you end up redoing it over and over afterwards, a bit at a time. It helps to leave a bit of time after you initially finish the song. If you leave it for a week or two and work on something else, then come back to it, for whatever reason you see it in a different way. Maybe you can take a second look in a different mindset... I was glad to have the ability to do that.

― Out of all of the songs in Siren 2, it's obviously "Konagihishoka" that stands out the most. In the first game, the most notable music was the music that was based off of things such as Khöömii, Mongolian folk music. What led you to decide to use a Japanese folk song...?

Haishima: It was proposed to me by the developers.

― What should originally have been quite a pastoral song sounds somehow eerie...

Haishima: Japanese folk songs have a more gloomy air to them than foreign ones. They're full of themes of things from poor times, like Ubasuteyama and depopulation. They never seem happy. There are such meaningful things hidden in the lyrics, such charm, that we ended up with a word referring to the soul of language just to describe it. The lyrics to Konagihishoka were written by Naoko Sato, who was in charge of Siren 2's background and scenario. She gave me the words, and I added the tune. I was surprised when I saw her lyrics, by how well she managed to express the nuance in them. She uses expressions I could certainly never think up. I also thought she did a good job of using old-style words... She's from Iwate, known for Tono Monogatari, so maybe that influenced her in some way.