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Koji Hayama :: Biography

Overview Biography Discography Game Projects Interviews

Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. Thanks for the assistance of Dave and Z-Freak in researching this composer. The act of using it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on April 2, 2008.

Koji Hayama, born on August 4, 1965 in Yokohama, is a game musician famous for his original albums, live concerts, and work on the Cho Aniki series. He became interested in music in junior high school after enjoying the music of the folk group ALICE and this inspired him to learn to play the folk guitar to a good standard. At the age of 14, he played one of the band's singles on drums and guitar at his school's annual cultural festival and embraced the stage light while playing in front of a large audience. These experiences inspired him to try to entertain with his music and helped build the spirit that made him so enticing on stage. During the subsequent three years, he joined three bands while a student at Yokosuka Gakuin High School, one of which — Goruji Tai Kids — became well-known in the city. After failing an entrance exam to university, he spent much of the year teaching himself how to compose before entering a specialist medical school. He funded his studies through doing part-time work with the Masaya Corporation after a friend in the game industry was impressed by his original compositions. This resulted in him scoring the PC-8801 RPGs Elthlead, Gaia no Monshou, and Gaiflame, regarded as precursors to the Langrisser series, as well as one other game Hayama forgets. Despite his lack of prior experience or absence of theoretical knowledge, his upbeat tunes on behalf of these games were received and, for each of them, he received around $100.

In 1987, Hayama graduated from university and decided to, as opposed to becoming a doctor, enter the game industry full-time. He found his previous experiences rewarding both financially and in terms of enjoyment, but was hesistant about how successful he would be with little corporate or musical background. He was initially recruited by Brian Gray to score three quarters of the 1988 PC-8801 game Last Armageddon, resulting in his first soundtrack release that, in retrospect, the composer feels is embarrassingly amateurish. Subsequently, he and his friends attempted to establish their own development company, but handed over the production of their game to Masaya after they failed. He subsequently created the company Winds with seven friends and was responsible for half the compositions when they successfully collaborated with Masaya to produce the TurboGrafx-16's Shubibinman and its sequel, as well as Ranma 1/2. After being sacked and destructively criticised by his co-composer, Hayama's resolve strengthened and he worked on compiling and arranging tracks for the album release Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 1 & 2. He concluded his erratic period as an employee with the game music development company Cube for six months in 1991. Here, he contributed the scores to the TurboGrafx-16's Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 3, the Mega Drive's Taiheiki, and the arranged album Blue Almanac, where he arranged Noriyuki Iwadare's "Planet Auri". He quit desiring the freedom of a freelancer, always preferring to work alone.

Hayama made his debut as a freelancer with the late 1992 games Moto Roader MC, Macross: Eien no Love Song, and Cho Aniki. Of these, Hayama's humorous and extravagant music for Masaya's Cho Aniki became a talking point after the quirky action game became a moderate hit across Japan. At record label NEC Avenue's request, Hayama arranged the game into his first original album, Cho Aniki -Aniki no Subete-, in February 1993. With a light rock overall tone, the highly entertaining and endearing album featured frequent musical parodies, copious amounts of hilarious vocal use, and a diverse palette of supporting instruments. The album's 1500 copies sold out on its release day and, after more copies were printed, outsold even the game itself with over 50,000 total copies having been bought. In response to his newly acquired fanbase, Hayama held his first live show Aniki at the InkStick Suzue Factory on April 27, 1993, attended by over 800 fans. Young, fresh, and excited, Hayama was able to reflect his entertainer's spirit and develop an extravagant persona with an unconventional show intended to continually stimulate the listener more than most traditional concerts. The success of Cho Aniki continued as popular demand brought the vocal single Jingi naki Aniki, another best-seller that was No. 16 of the Oricon Pops Chart and made an appearance on a TV countdown show. At the height of his popularity, he was even invited to participate in the Game Music Festival of 1993 alongside many game music legends. Cho Aniki changed Hayama's life forever and made him a legendary figure in the realm of 'screwball entertainment'.

Hayama opened 1994 with the release of the first of his five non-game original albums, Cho Hayama -Aniki Bangaichi-. He felt pressured by the record label NEC Avenue to produce it while exhausted from the previous year, but nevertheless worked hard to produce a respectable and amusing album. Its production was followed by several more live shows and, in response to his continued popularity on stage, Hayama compiled a video release featuring his best performances from his first six live concerts. He also composed the popular duet mini-album Bara-iro no Jinsei, where he sung with Mariko Kouda on "Lucky Rapper Party" and Shinta Furuta on two others. The Kouda duet was so popular that it appeared in three Twinbee Paradise vocal albums and was performed at both the 1994 and 1995 Game Music Festivals. Resuming work as a game composer in 1995, he produced the score for Ai Cho Aniki, regarded as a stronger in-game accompaniment than its predecessor, and Ane-san, crafted into Hayama's third original album. He subsequently composed the instrumental score for the Saturn racing game Cyber Speedway (aka Gran Chaser). It was a dynamic mixture of jazz and rock, featuring prominent use of the saxophone and guitar. While its soundtrack release didn't differ from the game music, Hayama treats it as an original album despite usually making the distinction of game scores as business, original albums as a personal challenge. The year concluded with the well-received 'best of' album Game Music is Dead, regarded by Hayama as a selfish production by record label NEC Avenue despite his fondness for its cover art.

Despite being contracted at Two Five for much of 1996 and 1997, Hayama remained active as an independent artist. His second non-game original album Kinzoku Bat Ichi-go was released under the record label Toshiba EMI; highly regarded by Hayama and fans alike, the release was commemorated with a live show, later released on video. At request, he also did a second duet with Mariko Kouda, "Futari wa Boukensha", commemorated in two further Twinbee Paradise albums and once again highly regarded. On behalf of Tokyo FM, he was also a DJ on the radio program Dengeki Paradise and wrote some magazine articles. Realizing the extent that the notion of 'Koji Hayama = Cho Aniki' and 'Cho Aniki = Homoerotic Screwball Entertainment' had become so deeply fused into the industry and his fanbase, Hayama dedicated much of his subsequent work to reflecting he was a versatile musician. After setting up the studio Hayama Ongaku Seisaku, he was contracted to produce game music for the Saturn's Daisenryaku Strong Style and D-Xhird, as well as the opening theme of Battle Arena Toshinden URA, but the projects received little exposure. He nevertheless found time to compile his third non-game original album, Teikoku, featuring heavy sounds, crazy messages, some themes from these Saturn games, and, at a request from King Records, a remix of a '70s Japanese song. In 1999, Hayama made his sole contribution to Square as the composer of half the score to Front Mission 3. Despite feeling intimidated by the high quality of co-composer Hayato Matsuo's already completed music, he produced some effective ostinati-based orchestral action themes while handling most of the electronic and rock themes.

Also in 1999, Hayama returned to the Cho Aniki series after a four year break. He produced the songs for the Wonderswan's Cho Aniki: Otoko no Tamashii while his trainee Shigeki Hayashi handled the in-game music. Anticipating no further Cho Aniki projects after Masaya announced leaving the industry, Hayama commemorated the series' music with the album release Cho Aniki Densetsu '99 -Best & Super Remix- and an album and live show dedicated to Otoko no Tamashii. He further appeased his fanbase with a series of high-profile guest contributions. On behalf of the vocal album Ten Plants 2 Children Songs, he produced the slow ballad "boy-hood", while at a Mariko Kouda live concert, he performed his two duets with her to the audience's delight. Around the same time, he became involved with the composition of the Super Robot Taisen Alpha series, where he created a mixture of vocal themes and, with others, in-game music. In 2001, he released his fourth non-game solo album, Ashita wa Hareru; containing a number of songs that he had been working on for some time, the album was a more serious effort that contrasted with the Aniki sound. The subsequent year, he produced he final solo album, Genki o Deseyo!!, whch exerted a more cheerful tone than its predecessor and is considered to be one of his best works. Unfortunately, Hayama found its production difficult and independent distribution through a website especially tiring. Following shows dedicated to his tenth anniversary and Genki o Deseyo!!, he took an indefinite break as an original artist, reflecting his age.

In the last five years, Hayama has mostly focused on creating in-game music. 2002's Ape Escape 2 (aka Saru! Get You! 2) brought Hayama's most acclaimed score in the West. Its music was praised for being cute yet fitting while the vocal songs endeared to many listeners. After Cho Aniki: Sei Naru Protein Densetsu was surprisingly developed, Hayama returned and made a mini-album and a live show based on themes from the game. In another quirky role, he composed the score to 2004's Yoshinoya, dedicated to the beef bowl restaurant; it featured whimsical instrumental parts layered on frenetic beats in a humorous way. He has also produced several guest arrangements mostly in the Aniki style for projects he regards as business for the Street Fighter Tribute Album, Mega Man ZX, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. His latest projects were the sentimental score to the PC's Figurehead, five original compositions for 2007's Mega Man ZX Advent, and the opening and ending themes for the Internet-based novel adaptation of Dragon Soul. He will next revisit the original Cho Aniki for its 2008 PSP remake Zero Cho Aniki. In the West, Hayama remains controversial, still underexposed musically yet having antagonised audiences with comments about game composers and his superiority. Nevertheless, he remains respected and popular in Japan, primarily for his 'screwball entertainment' but also for some of his more serious efforts. As long as he continues to write themes charged with intensity and emotion, there will always be something for Koji Hayama.