BEHIND THE SCENES: Interview with Thomas Böcker
Our reporter in the field, Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff, goes behind the scenes of Distant Worlds!
Thomas Böcker, producer and promoter of symphonic video game music recordings and tours.
CLAUDIA: Thomas, you are among a handful of talented and creative people who have generated and energized a whole new concert going experience by bringing video game music to the concert hall. Can you share one of your most memorable live concert experiences?
THOMAS: Perhaps especially memorable for me was the very first concert in 2003. Nothing like this had been done before outside of Japan, so it was very exciting. I wondered, “How many people would show up? What would be the response?” In the end, we had a sold out concert hall, enthusiastic fans and press from all over the world! It was fantastic.
Another very important event was “Symphonic Shades – Huelsbeck in Concert” in 2008. I listened to the music of composer Chris Huelsbeck during my childhood, and he was my personal hero, so to speak. Being able to coordinate an orchestra concert conducted by Arnie Roth, featuring Huelsbeck’s music exclusively in brand-new arrangements, and afterwards producing an official CD with the concert recording was simply outstanding.
The unquestionable highlight of my career so far was the “Symphonic Fantasies – music from Square Enix” concert last year. The Philharmonic Hall in Cologne shook with frenetic applause with a 20 minute standing ovation! We had Yoko Shimomura, Hiroki Kikuta, Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu in attendance, and people loved it. And again, Arnie Roth conducted my concert, and I am so grateful to him for his amazing work.
CLAUDIA: Our U.S. fans might want to know if it is more common for young people to go to the symphony or opera on a regular basis. Can you describe the types of classical concerts or other live events that you went to as a child growing up in Germany?
THOMAS: To be honest, I am not sure if young people in Germany go to the symphony more often. Orchestras are doing a lot to attract them to attend, that is for sure – and one of the biggest recent movements has been the inclusion of video game music to the symphonic repertoire.
I come from a teacher’s family, and we used to attend classical concerts regularly. This was a big plus for me. Another advantage was that as pupils we went to school concerts. For many it was the first contact with a live orchestra. I remember how impressed I was back then, and today I am producing school concerts for young people myself, featuring video game music such as from “Super Mario Galaxy”!
CLAUDIA: You have a real love of the arts. Do you play any instruments or sing?
THOMAS: This must sound pretty strange, but no – I do not play any instruments, and I do not sing (officially). However, I have a real love for arts, as you say, and thanks to the fact that I am constantly involved in concert productions and orchestra recordings, I developed a good sense of this field and gained a lot of experience. I am a fan of video game music and orchestra music in general. This is my passion. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity of being able to combine all this, so that a hobby of mine eventually became a profession.
CLAUDIA: How did you first meet Arnie Roth and Nobuo Uematsu?
THOMAS: I met Nobuo Uematsu for the first time in 2003, when he attended my video game music concert in Leipzig, Germany. I was pretty young at the time, and the interpreter had a hard time making Nobuo Uematsu believe that such a young person was really producing such a big event. Nobuo Uematsu is a regular guest of honor at my concerts, which makes me very happy and proud.
In the case of Arnie Roth, we met in 2006 – in Tokyo! He was there to conduct the “VOICES” concert, and I was invited to dinner together with him, Nobuo Uematsu and his team. I felt very comfortable talking to Arnie Roth right from the beginning. He was very kind and friendly and I knew this was going to become a great relationship. We worked together on “Distant Worlds”, “Symphonic Shades”, “Symphonic Fantasies” – and next year, Arnie Roth will conduct the Nobuo Uematsu tribute concert in Cologne, entitled “Symphonic Odysseys”. It will feel almost like a family reunion!
CLAUDIA: It seems it takes the right combination of people to make the most amazing projects come to life. Can you share a few aspects of your career as a concert promoter?
THOMAS: My favorite parts of concert productions are the artistic aspects: writing the concept, coordinating the arrangements, discussing the arrangements, talking to the artists, etc. There are many people that I have worked with for many years now, such as Arnie Roth and Jonne Valtonen – the main arranger of my concerts. I’ve known him for over ten years now. I think I have the most fun if people share my passion and are as crazy as I am when it comes to perfectionism. With Arnie Roth and Jonne Valtonen I am in very good company!
CLAUDIA: There are two new recordings I have heard that will soon be released in September. What was your role in making this happen?
THOMAS: There are two CDs indeed. One is “Benyamin Nuss Plays Uematsu”, an incredible piano album that will be released by the prestigious classic label Deutsche Grammophon. It features new arrangements from “Final Fantasy”, “Blue Dragon” and “Lost Odyssey”. Benyamin Nuss is a young and very talented pianist, and this album will be his debut CD. It is going to be a huge success.
The other CD is “Symphonic Fantasies”, to be released by renowned label Decca. This is the event I was talking about already – the album is the recording of last year’s WDR Radio Orchestra concert that was conducted by Arnie Roth.
It is an amazing CD featuring over 70 min. of music from “Kingdom Hearts”, “Secret of Mana”, “Chrono Trigger”, “Chrono Cross” and of course “Final Fantasy”. We spent a good amount of time fine-tuning the concert recordings. One could say it has the quality of a studio recording now. We even went to London to Abbey Road Studios for the mastering! It comes in a beautifully designed 16p booklet (in German) that was created by one of the leading design studios here. It is first time in history that a major classic label is releasing a live concert recording of video game music.
CLAUDIA: Where in the world would you like to see the Distant World: music from Final Fantasy Tour go next?
THOMAS: Naturally I would love to see Distant Worlds come to a lot of European towns. It is of such a great quality that I am sure it will be accepted by the top orchestras here. Which brings us back to your previous question about young German people and their interest in attending orchestra concerts. “Distant Worlds” would further increase their passion for symphonic music!
CLAUDIA: What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you aren’t producing video game music CD’s or at the concerts?
THOMAS: I am very open-minded. I love listening to a lot of different music styles, such as electronic, jazz but some pop as well. My biggest passion is symphonic music, though – movie scores and of course classical music.
To learn more about Thomas visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Böcker