Interview with Kenji Kawai

Kenji Kawai
Guitarist and music composer, Kawai was born in 1957. His first venture into feature film music composition was with Mamoru Oshii's The Red Spectacles in 1987. This was the beginning of his brilliant career in film music, as he began composing for movies, TV, animation and games. He is considered as Oshii's musical muse and has composed the scores for all of Oshii's movies ever since. He was also given a role as Hamburger Tetsu in Oshii's Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters (2006). The movies he has composed for include Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998), Sakuya: Slayer of Demons (2000), The Princess Blade (2001), Dark Water (2002), Premonition / Yogen (2002), Reincarnation / Rinne (2005), Death Note (2006), Death Note: the Last name (2006), L change the worLd (2008). He had his first film music live performance on November 4, 2007 at Yokohama, Japan much to the satisfaction of his fans. His score for The Sky Crawlers received the Best Soundtrack Award at the 41st Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia.

The Sky Crawlers features a musical box with metallic discs, like in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. So, instead of starting creating the music for the film from the main theme, I began with the melody for that musical box. I composed two alternative test pieces and Director Oshii selected one of them, which eventually became the movie's theme motif!

Whenever we collaborate, Oshii first selects the musical instruments he thinks will best suit the movie. For The Sky Crawlers, Oshii suggested using a harp at crucial junctures in the film. My agenda was to express sentiments that ran through the film with music. Guitar music is suitable for articulating the characters' sentiments whereas harp is more suited to express The Sky Crawlers universe. In fact, I used a variety of different kinds of harps, from concert harps to smaller types like Irish harps and Highland harps. This combination helped me to create a distinctive sound for the movie.

Oshii films usually employ music in the story's background rather than for action scenes and emotional cues. But for The Sky Crawlers, he asked me to compose music that reflects the characters' emotions. Therefore, this time we probably have a higher degree of synchronization between pictures and music. What hasn't changed is the way I can experiment with music. No matter how strange my music can be, Oshii's images always embrace it. It's quite incredible. And this is one of the reasons why working with Oshii is always great fun for me. The images of The Sky Crawlers make a tremendous impact with their unique sensibilities. I tried my best to musically enhance it.