An Interview With Hiroyuki Sawano: The Inspiration Behind One of Anime’s Biggest Composers

Music extraordinaire Hiroyuki Sawano is one of those people who wears so many hats and is involved in so many things that it almost feels quicker to ask what he can’t do. Even if you don’t know his name, you’ve heard his soundtracks and lyrics in anime like Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill, The Seven Deadly Sins, Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War, and more. He’s also worked on countless dramas and movies, as well as his own vocal project SawanoHiroyuki[nZk], which has featured talented vocalists like Aimer and LiSA. Most recently, he released his fifth album for this project, titled “V.”

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SACRA MUSIC, the label he’s attached to, gave us the chance to ask him about the inspiration behind his work and more.

Tokyo Otaku Mode: Your scores have many songs of a grand scale which inspire the imagination. How do you develop your ideas for what they’ll be like?

Hiroyuki Sawano: Basically, I sit down at my computer with my music writing software open and start thinking of what it’ll be like by looking at the menu and order sheet. While this is happening, I very frequently incorporate sounds from outside Japan that have influenced and inspired me.

TOM: Having often heard elements of ethnic music in your soundtracks, we can tell that you've been inspired by many countries - for example, bandoneon in The Seven Deadly Sins. Do you usually think about using a certain tone from a particular instrument from the very beginning?

HS: Sometimes, in the process of composing something, I think to myself that it’d be interesting to use a certain instrument. There are also cases where the people making the original work specifically ask me to incorporate something when we’re still in the discussion stage.

TOM: Is there an instrument that you use the most while composing, or one that you're particularly fond of? Or perhaps one that you'd like to use in future?

HS: Well, my main instrument is piano, and for orchestral pieces, strings and horns are the backbone of the sound, so they're quite important. It would be fun to record a pipe organ live someday.

TOM: Your work spans a wide range of fields, not just songs for anime, but is there something you want to do that you haven't tried yet?

HS: I'd like to try my hand at something that's made entirely from abstract music without a melody, seeing as I've never composed anything without an element of entertainment.

TOM: Could you tell us about the differences between performing in Japan versus overseas? Do you have any memorable stories from overseas events?

HS: The audience's level of passion is different to when I'm in Japan, so that really lifts my spirits. The huge cheers when I was performing my song “aLIEz” in China created a kind of space that I'd never experienced before.

TOM: Finally, please leave your overseas fans with a message!

HS: Every year, I feel the fun and importance of being with fans in live performances, so I hope to keep meeting people from many different countries. Thank you in advance for your support!

Image provided by SACRA MUSIC

Thank you very much for your time, Sawano-san! Be sure to catch SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]’s newest album “V” on Apple Music, Spotify, and more.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.