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[Anime Key Player Interview #14]
Tom-H@ck, Composer, Guitarist, member of OxT and MYTH & ROID, and CEO of TaWaRa Inc. Part.2


What about when you provide music to a voice actor or artist in their own name?

In that case, I ask the client what they want to do first, and then listen to what the artist has done so far and their requests. Then, just like the music for anime, I present them with ideas and discuss and add something extra. Sometimes I don't add new elements, but I create songs based on the artist's level of energy and the intentions of the record labels. What has changed most about composers in the past is that before, there were places for composers to display their talents in the world. However, composers are now being asked how well we can filter what the client is looking for by having discussions and understanding what the client is looking for, and how we can break it down and express it. Of course, some things haven't changed, but in a nutshell, people with excellent communication skills sell well. The most important thing for both composers and arrangers is how to take what people are saying, break it down, put it in their mind and release it. Of course, having musical ability is a must.

So it's a matter of how you interpret and provide what the artist or project wants to achieve.

Yes, but it's a case-to-case basis.

I see. On the other hand, how do you make your songs for OxT and MYTH & ROID?

It’s quite easy to distinguish. With regards to OxT, my partner Masayoshi Oishi also makes songs, so we both feel like artisans. It's more like providing music. It’s like, "we want this kind of song,” and we make it.

Masayoshi Oishi is one guy with a personality as well.

His personality’s one, but since we’ve both been in the industry for a long time, we have what you can call craftsmanship techniques. So we are flexibile while maintaining our personality. OxT, in particular, appears to entirely focus on what fans and anime works want. As for MYTH & ROID, our worldview as an artist is very strong, so we value what we want to express, and we have decided not to include more than 50% of the atmosphere of the anime even when we do tie-ups. We do more than half with our aura as an artist, which is something we decided as MYTH & ROID. Most of the time, it works out better that way in the end.

There's the right balance, a sense that the artists’ personalities and titles match well.

It’s like that if you look at MYTH & ROID alone, and if you look at the “me” as a person, it’s MYTH & ROID that lets me have my way, to put it in a good way. I can force MYTH & ROID to do "what I want to do.” The balance is really great because I can do what I haven’t done elsewhere. With MYTH & ROID, it's like I'm expressing things I’m usually holding back and it has that power.

You may get the impression that it's complicated.

That impression is one of our characteristics, so if it’s not like that I think some fans would think there’s something missing. It's as if it’s one of many anime works.

Is there anything that you find difficult or that you seem to run into when writing a song?

I’m the type of person that doesn't let things bother me much. I'm a very positive person, so I don't worry much about making music. As I mentioned in other interviews, I wrote the opening theme song for K-On!27 times. I think an ordinary composer would be worried or get sick of doing that, but not me. I did it again and again 27 times. I think it’s my natural aptitude, but in life, even if something terrible happens, new good things happen as well. I know that worries and bad things drag my potential down, so I don’t worry much. Maybe I’ve lived my life with a mind that don’t worry much.

I believe it’s a battle against yourself when you’re at home, in the studio, or the office. Do you have ways to vent or divert your attention?

My hobbies. I think my life is going well, and I am happy, so I want to be a person who gives happiness. So, I think it's a good thing that I have many hobbies. I like everything from outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, to indoor activities. I also like playing games so became a professional gamer. At the end of last year, a program featured me playing "Splatoon 2," and this year, I will become a professional gamer with a sponsor. I was originally a gamer, so I wanted to have that “professional gamer” title. I thought that being one would make it easier for me to move around, so I trained for about two years. At the end of last year, voice actress Ruriko Aoki, UNISON SQUARE GARDEN drum player Takao Suzuki, mangaka (cartoonist) Kana Watanabe, and I did a program by Famitsu. It was my first time playing a game on the public stage. "Splatoon" is now very popular overseas and is even gaining popularity in Asia.

Are you on YouTube?

I wanted to do that, so I aimed to be a professional gamer. If I became a YouTuber, well I thought I’m a manager, artist, and composer now but it’s still sort of weak. The game industry and the anime industry have different fan bases; liking games doesn’t necessarily mean liking anime as well, so I wanted to get fans of both industries. I also want to do YouTube, so I've been preparing for the last two years with the idea of starting with playing games first.

By the way, how long does it take to make one song?

In my case, I'm quite fast, so it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. If you include arrangements, it takes about five hours at the fastest, three days at the longest, but that's about it. I have too much work to do these days, so I have no choice but to spend less time writing. It used to take my time. I used to listen to my music for three days to a week. There were times when I did that, but usually, the composition takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, 3 hours long at the most.

Do you mean in the past, you used to worry about what kind of arrangement you were going to make or how you were going to make this melody, but now you can make a quick decision if you think it's the right one?

Yes, exactly. I think experience accumulates and by going “during times like this, if I do this it would be like this,” people grow. I think that’s the end result.

I think there are various ways to create music, such as songs that appeal to anime fans like K-On!and songs like MYTH & ROID’s that resonate with core music fans. Do you feel like you've created each song with the listener in mind?

Well, I don’t say this myself, but others tell me that "more than half my head is a business mind," which seems to be rare for creators. It is usual for me, but Tomoya Tabuchi of UNISON SQUARE GARDEN and Mito of Clammbon often told me this in interviews. Just as you said, what listeners are looking for and what they would definitely appreciate if we did something are not thinking to entertain the customer, but thinking with a business mind. After being told that, I realized it, too. I thought, "That's something I've been doing for a long time, and I guess that's true.”

Not only you amuse your listeners as entertainers, but maybe you’re also thinking of marketing with your business mind and putting your customers first.

Exactly. When I started MYTH & ROID, I thought that everyone would love an artist with that kind of atmosphere. I wasn't really doing what I wanted to do, and even my proposal said that within one year, I was planning to have more than one million MV views. It happened with our debut song, which happened faster than I thought. I think you can call that a business model.

Do you also factor in things you want to do even while being the brain of the business?

Yes. That seems to be just the right balance. If you ask me if what I want to ask the world or what I want to present to the world is not a good business every time, it is actually the opposite. So, I think the best way to achieve this is having a mind that can strike a good balance between business and what I want to do and things will proceed smoothly.

Maybe that's a good thing. If you make something that is only about the fans, it's not as interesting as it sounds.

That's right. If you do that, it will lose the balance.

I understand very well. You mentioned that when you composed the theme song for K-On!you made it 27 times, but is it true that your opinions as a creator often clash with the views of the producer, the anime, or the artist?

Yes, they do. I think it’s not just me, but what all the composers around me have been struggling with. I've heard of this problem, but it's something that can't be avoided. I don't really worry about it that much, but I think clash of opinions do happen.

How do you solve that?

When I was new, I tried to find a different meaning. For example, in the case of K-On!I thought one kind of arrangement would sell better, but the producer at that time suggested a different direction. However, as a creator, I thought the quality of the product is low, and I feel embarrassed once it comes out in public, so I didn't want it out. At that time, I asked the producer why he thought like that, saying, “This is what I think. Why do you think that way?” That person was in his fifties, and when I asked him about it, half of myself thought he was a little old-fashioned, but the other half thought he had a point of view that I didn't see. As I said, I discover meaning there. I didn't see that point at that time, so I did exactly as he said. After submitting the song again, I still could get various answers there. If the product turned out selling well, then that’s another knowledge gained, which is meaningful; rather than bending my will and beliefs to conform to what the other party has said, I can continue working with them with respect. It's better that way for my mental health, and it’s actually like that in my job.

You have many ideas. What's impressive is that you’re reaping what you sow.

Indeed, I am. We are now talking about the good side, but from experience, instances like "if you do this, it will never sell," are piling up. I still say something along those lines. I’d say, "I think this is how it should be, and the trend is like this right now, so isn’t it better this way?" When you get to a point in your career like mine, it usually goes as I say, but there are still times when people say, "No, no, this is better.” In such case, I will switch my thinking to what I answered in the previous question. I think there's a lot to learn from that, so I'll go in that direction without being bitter. I still leave some leeway.

That's wonderful. You’ve been asked to do a lot of work as a creator, but no matter how great your music is, you won’t be asked to do it if you don’t have a good personality or your way of working is not good. Since you have so many jobs coming in, are there things that you strive to be careful of or value as you work?

There’s a lot. If anything, I think that people are surviving in this industry because of this, and if I start talking about them, the list will go on forever. One of the things that I avoid myself is "putting my foot into my mouth." This is very important. If you say something unnecessary on site, the atmosphere may completely change. Because of this, things that are going well sometimes won't go well, so I'm being careful about this. I do actively speak out, but I don't say anything unnecessary. “If I say this, it will be negative, people will get hurt, and people won't be happy...” I always have these things in my mind, both on site and in music production. Maybe that's because I’m also doing management. When nurturing or influencing people, one unnecessary word can ruin everything, so I try to refrain from saying anything unnecessary.

Your views are very helpful. Next, I'd like to ask you about music production related to anime works. For example, how do you receive requests for theme songs and character songs for anime?

Basically, we will first talk about it 6 months in advance. They say, "I'm going to make this kind of animation, and I'd like to have this kind of atmosphere for music production.” Sometimes it's as early as a year in advance, and sometimes it's as late as three months before. As I mentioned earlier, the first step in the process is to read the original work and the script, and then write the songs.

How does the request come? Do you get an email then have a meeting after that?

It has become quite diverse nowadays. Sometimes it's just an email, and sometimes it's an inquiry from our website, sometimes it's through someone I know. If I’m already working on music for the production of an anime series, the studio asks me, "How about the next one?” I also get requests this way so I don’t think there’s a specific method where I get more requests than another. I get them from all directions. As for the process, I often have a face-to-face meeting after reading the materials first. We're people, so we want to have contact, so we have face-to-face meetings, and then we set a schedule and ask, "Can you submit the first draft in two weeks?” and so on. In my case, I usually redo or retake drafts one to three times at most. Once I've gotten the OKs from the creator, the director of the anime, and the people who have invested in the anime, we start recording. We record instruments and vocals and make the music of CDs. I often schedule things so that the recording can begin in as early as a month or two or three months, at the latest, after getting the request.

What kind of people do you have on the other side of the table for the first meeting?

This is on a case-by-case basis, but it's basically a record label's A&R or a producer who is in charge. If it's an artist's work, some have their manager join the meetings from time to time. Depending on the case, the president of the talent agency occasionally comes to visit us. This really depends on the situation.

Do you have a meeting when you offer music to artists?

We do. Sometimes the artist him or herself comes. It depends on how the artist's team works on making music every time. Some people don't have a meeting at all.

Next : Tom-H@ck Interview Part.3 will be published on 2 June, 2020.


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