Akira Yamaoka is a master of horror and arguably one of the industry’s most notable composers. Slitterhead, Bokeh Game Studio’s debut title, is his latest project, reuniting Yamaoka with some of the same talent that catapulted his work into the spotlight 20 years ago, like Silent Hill director Keiichiro Toyama. A new video from the team gives Yamaoka a moment to speak to those experiences and his time working with Toyama on both Slitterhead and Silent Hill.
The Bokeh Game Studio interview, posted to their YouTube channel, takes us back to when Yamaoka and Toyama met. Apparently, even legendary composers from classic video game series occasionally strikeout, as Yamaoka explained how his first piece for Silent Hill’s trailer didn’t impress the director. “When Toyama listened to it, he seemed unsure about it,” said Yamaoka. “It definitely wasn’t a ‘Great, awesome!’ reaction. I don’t remember the exact words he used, but it was something saying that it was off.”
That’s when Yamaoka went back to spinning his wheels before he decided to try “sounds that weren’t relatable to horror.” The composer’s creative alternatives led him to try a mandolin, and Yamaoka says he made that iconic intro track from the first Silent Hill “in about 30 minutes or so.” It takes me half an hour to write a sentence sometimes, and then there are people just out here creating universally beloved pieces of art in less than a fourth of my workday.
Yamaoka goes on to speak quite highly of Toyama and that he felt compelled to work on Slitterhead. While it sounds like there’s plenty inspiring him from those experiences decades ago, Yamaoka seems just as determined to exceed the old bar he’s set for himself and turn Slitterhead into something topping his classics. In Bokeh’s clip, he again speaks to how looking at sounds you wouldn’t expect in horror find their way into Slitterhead—à la Silent Hill mandolin—and he scraps tracks that are “too fitting” for scenes as it makes them uninteresting.
The whole thing is a pretty neat dive into both games, but it’s worth a watch even if you’re only there to reminisce on Silent Hill. As for Slitterhead, it’s high up on my radar—though I also absolutely hate saying this game’s name. Yamaoka’s new work at Bokeh Game Studio was revealed during this year’s Game Awards just weeks ago. And even though I still don’t quite understand what’s going on in Slitterhead from its event previews, a team of talent from Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Japan Studio that worked on Siren, The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush, and more are the reasons I’m so interested. As a liker of all things spooky, sign me up.