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Hayato Matsuo :: Biography

Overview Biography Discography Game Projects Interviews

Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of using it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on September 22, 2008.

Born on August 13, 1965, Hayato Matsuo is a prolific game, anime, and J-Pop composer represented by Imagine. He was introduced to the electone at a young age by his mother, an organ and piano teacher. A little after leaving elementary school, he started composing for the instrument in order to perform at the Yamaha Junior Original Concerts. He soon became obsessed with progressive rock, notably Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Rick Wakeman, and drew inspiration from the former's Tarkus in particular while composing. During high school, his tastes diversified; he loved Yellow Magic Orchestra, begun to appreciate Western pop music, and also started to enjoy the work of modernist composers and his protegé, late film composer Jerry Goldsmith. He studied at the composing department Tokyo National University of Fine Arts from the late 1980s until his graduation in 1991, which enabled him to refine his compositions and develop his typically grandiose orchestration. He was introduced to computer sequencing while there and soon bought a computer of his own. He did various musical works, including the synthesizer operation of NHK's feature program Shosoin in 1990. These roles led him to meet Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama and, having developed an inclination to compose for video games, he begun to study under him.

Having proved one of Sugiyama's best pupils, Matsuo was entrusted to contribute to the anime series Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken in 1991. While Sugiyama created a few original compositions for the project, the majority of the score featured Matsuo's arrangements of a selection of music from the first Dragon Quest games. He reprised this role for the three Dragon Quest movie adaptations released in 1991 and 1992 and his arrangements were featured in medleys for the accompanying original scores. Through these projects, Matsuo adopted a conservative approach to these arrangements, appreciative of the factors that make Dragon Quest's music so popular in Japan. He nevertheless meticulously arranged each piece of music to complement the scenes they were used in. Matsuo's versatile musicianship and understanding of Dragon Quest music made him Sugiyama's arranger of choice for several subsequent projects. He initially arranged and implemented Koichi Sugiyama's music from 1986's Dragon Quest into the 70 minute drama album Dragon Quest CD Theater. The influential release featured a variety of Japanese voices acting out an elaborate interpretation of the game's story over synthetic classically-oriented orchestral music and some sound effects. Its success inspired Enix to release 12 more drama albums up to 1996, all of which were carefully arranged by Matsuo.

Matsuo also participated in the instrumental band G-Clef as an additional keyboard player from 1990 to 1994. Established by core members Dai Sakakibara, Tetsuya Ochiai, and Yuichiro Goto, the band adopted a unique style influenced by progressive rock music and Queen. Matsuo's most significant contribution to the band was "Maternity Women," the representative song of their third album Kiss to Fence; here he stood in because pianist Sakakibara was involved in a serious traffic accident during the album's production. Matsuo also performed "Umbrella Romance" for their fourth album Happy Box and crucially befriended his current colleague Kohei Tanaka, performer of "Ogre Battle". Another initial reflection of his eclecticity came from his involvement in several of Shinji Hosoe's Synergy and Troubadour albums. He first participated in these albums by co-composing "NUTS" on MCMXCI with Hitoshi Sakimoto. He later created expansive solo compositions on the albums Be Filled With Feeling, Great Wall, Kaki-In, G.T.R., T-O-U-R-S, and 2197, referencing jazz fusion, progressive rock, funk, samba, electronica, new age, and even hip-hop music. His strong reputation established, his relationships with composers such as Koichi Sugiyama, Kohei Tanaka, and Hitoshi Sakimoto were to ensure he had a fruitful career in the anime and games industries.

Matsuo's first game project was the Mega Drive strategy game Master of Monsters. Sugiyama was initially asked to score the game but, wanting to focus on other projects, decided to supervise Matsuo instead. The resultant soundtrack was a convincing quasi-orchestral effort that was was subtle melodically, exuberant harmonically, and rigorous technically. Matsuo used the score as a vector for musical expression and felt relatively unrestrained by style, form, texture, and the expectations of listeners. The title also continued his relationship with long-term collaborator Hitoshi Sakimoto, who programmed and arranged his work. Shortly after its completion, Matsuo was also recruited to compose a few orchestral pieces on the PC-9801's Mercury - The Prime Master, under direction by famous anime composer Taku Iwasaki. He also created a modernist orchestration of Populous' "Ending Theme" for the influential Orchestral Game Concert organised by Sugiyama. The following year, Matsuo was largely responsible for the score to the Super Nintendo's action-packed remake of Syvalion. Again supervised by Sugiyama, he worked closely with Katsunari Kitajima to create upbeat funk-based tunes. In his final project as Sugiyama's student, he made two breathtaking orchestrations for 1992's Orchestral Game Concert 2 from Chunsoft's Otogirisou, composed by his future wife Chiyoko Mitsumata.

Matsuo's breakthrough work as an independent musician was 1993's Super Nintendo strategy game Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. While he composed a mere three tracks — "Krypton", "Dark Matter", and "Accretion Disk" — they exposed his ability to create rasping symphonic action themes to the masses, set precedent for his involvement in other instalments of the episodic series, and solidified his relationship with co-composers Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata. Matsuo took the leading role on the game's 'inspired by' album Ogre Battle Image Album ~ The Entrance, intending it to be progressive rock experience akin to Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Here, he offered four tracks, including an opening theme with narration, a 20 minute medley of Ogre Battle themes, the bouncy piano-led "Spectrum," and the concluding piece "Neo-A Planet's Death," a reprise from Troubadour's Great Wall. Popularly regarded as a rare blotch on Matsuo's discography, the album lacked a coherent and thoughtful execution despite its interesting ideas. In a further collaboration with Sakimoto, Matsuo composed half of the mainstream-influenced action score for Sword Maniac in 1994 and adapted it into a synthetic arranged album. He also created the scores to the two Classic Road horse-racing games, arranged music for the Turbo CD port of World Heroes 2, and offered a few catchy funk compositions for Super Hockey '94.

In 1994, Hayato Matsuo was responsible for composing a major anime series, Magic Knight Rayearth, under supervision from Sugiyama once again. Some compositions retained the RPG feel so prevalent in the story while others went far beyond what he had created up to that date. The vocal themes, particularly the opener "Unyielding Wish", have become famous in Japan. Following this success, Matsuo returned to score its second series and even arranged the score for the Saturn adaptation. Having created a strong impression in the animation industry with these works, he was subsequently asked to score the mecha-based Golden Brave Goldran and magic girl series Kaito Saint Tail independently from Sugiyama. Also in 1995, Matsuo arranged Koichi Sugiyama's work with ethnic and orchestral instrumentation for the Fuurai no Shiren Super Arrange Version and orchestated Kamaitachi no Yoru's "Sequence" for the final Orchestral Game Concert. Another important work was the Hudson Turbo CD fighting game Tengai Makyou: Kabuki Itouryodan. Matsuo impressed Kohei Tanaka with this title and his drama adaptations of the scores for Future-Retro Hero Story and Violinist of Hamelin. At advice from Tanaka, Yuji Saito scouted Matsuo to compose for the music production company Imagine in 1996. He was delighted to be employed at such an eminent company, aware it would increase his opportunities in game, anime, and J-Pop music.

At Imagine, Matsuo has developed a reputation for being an excellent anime composer. He received his first opportunity to compose an animated movies with 1996's Landlock. He subsequently received recognition for his light-hearted mix of orchestral and tribal music in 1997's Haunted Junction and demonstrated his youthful side further by working on Surfside High School and Sensei Shiranaino a year later. Matsuo reunited with Magic Knight Rayearth seiyuu Megumi Ogata to produce her acclaimed vocal album Multipheno in 1996; he emphasised the theme of split personalities in the album by blending frivolous jazz-based tracks like "Coming Out" with soft acoustic ballads like "Dear, My Angel". He has since demonstrated his versatility by composing vocal singles for artists such as Hiroko Kasahara, Yuri Shiratori, Konami Yoshida, Noriko Hidaka, and Mayumi Tanaka. He worked on his final drama CDs in his initial years at Imagine, adapting the stories of Golden Brave Goldran, Landlock, and, for the Falcom Special Box '96, Ys V to music. Nevertheless continuing to compose regularly for video games, he offered a surprisingly diverse score for the Saturn sequel Master of Monsters: Neo Generation and composed elegant orchestral scores for the RPG Chou-Mahsin Eiyuuden Wataru: Another Step and strategy game Dragon Force II. Other projects included the tennis game Let's Smash and the fantastical orchestration of the main theme for NiGHTS into Dreams...

As an established composer at Imagine, Matsuo was assigned several high profile animation projects. His versatility made him a strong choice to score Gosho Aoyama's Collection of Short Stories and his background favoured his assignment to Street Fighter Zero's movie adaptation. He rejected influences from the game series in the latter in favour of a striking orchestral soundtrack recorded with the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra. In contrast, he created mostly light-hearted music for the series Fabre Sensei wa Meitantei and Captain Kuppa. His scores for the modern adaptations of Spirit of Wonder and Cyborg 009 demonstrated some influence from their respective original composers Kohei Tanaka and Koichi Sugiyama. In the realm of video games, Matsuo stayed close to the Fuurai no Shiren series, mixing arrangements of Sugiyama's classic pieces with his own compositions for the series' two Game Boy adaptations and Dreamcast spinoff. He revisited another past work in 1999 with Ogre Battle 64: Personal of Lordly Caliber, creating 29 rich symphonic tracks in a curious reversal of roles of the Ogre Trio. For Front Mission 3 — his first collaboration with Square — he offered a stock of militaristic action cues with funky atmospheric themes that inspired Koji Hayama's eventual contributions. At the end of the millenium, Matsuo beautifully arranged the Shenmue Orchestra Version for performance by the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra and Chinese instrument soloists.

Between 2000 and 2005, Matsuo produced relatively few contributions to video games in favour of anime scoring. Nevertheless remaining close to Sega projects, he sensitively arranged the ethnic vocal themes for Panzer Dragoon Orta and Panzer Dragoon Saga and made several arrangements for Kohei Tanaka's Sakura Taisen scores. He also continued to adapt music for the Fuurai no Shiren series and scored the pre-made full RPG Fu-Ma included in RPG Maker II. He created major animation scores during this period for Transformers: Armada, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor, and the serial and movie adaptations of Kamen Rider 555. He demonstrated flair for orchestral cinematic underscoring in all these projects and produced several noteworthy opening and ending themes once more. Matsuo reunited with Sugiyama in 2003 due to a chance meeting through horse racing, having lost contact despite the Fuurai no Shiren series. The pair became friends again — Sugiyama even become reliant on Matsuo for technical assistance with his PC — and also made several professional collaborations. For Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special and its PSP successor, Matsuo made orchestral arrangements of numerous pieces from the numbered Final Fantasy series while Sugiyama handled Dragon Quest arrangements. Matsuo also arranged Sugiyama's Dragon Quest VIII pieces for its mystery dungeon spinoff Dragon Quest Yangus and received approval to create two new tracks for the DS port of the original Fuurai no Shiren.

In recent years, Matsuo has continued to maintain close links to several artists and companies in his game and anime projects. He offered romantic orchestral scores for the series Yomigaeru Sora and Les Misérables - Shoujo Cosette that conveyed their respective Japanese and French settings. He has also recorded acclaimed scores for the three Hellsing animation videos with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Following his solo score for Chunsoft's short-lived GameCube MMORPG, Matsuo has had several high-profile collaborative roles. At Sakimoto's request, he created seven orchestral compositions for Final Fantasy XII, including the aggressive modernist compositions for the Dreadnought Leviathan and the harmonically lush pieces for Nabradia. He was also responsible for the orchestrations of the opening and ending movies, described by Sakimoto as the best orchestrator he is aware of. Since 2007, Matsuo has been responsible for the sound design of the three Dragon Quest remakes for the DS with his wife Chiyoko Mitsumata. He was chosen for these projects given his long-standing familiarity with the original compositions and his meticulous attention to detail when MIDI sequencing, known for instance to consider where a flautist would take a breath even on MIDI. He has most recently composed the majority of the music for Fuurai no Shiren 3 and Fuurai no Shiren DS 2 alongside Sugiyama. Hayato Matsuo will continue to grace the anime and video games with his music for years to come.