|Konami||Game Developer||1991 - 1993||Composer|
|Square||Game Developer||1995 - 2003||Composer, Arranger|
|Square Enix||Game Developer||2003 - 2007||Composer, Arranger|
|The Black Mages||Music Group||2002 - 2008||Co-Founder, Arranger, Keyboards|
|GE-ON-DAN||Artist Collective||2009 - 2011||Member|
|HAL Tokyo Music Department||Academic Institution||2009 -||Lecturer|
Kenichiro Fukui, born on May 4, 1970, in Hyogo, is a versatile musician best known for co-founding The Black Mages. He has created a wide range of rock, techno, and symphonic music as a composer, arranger, producer, synthesizer operator, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist. An extensively educated musician, Fukui attended the Visual Arts College Osaka and later took a doctorate degree. In 1991, he joined Konami’s Osaka branch and started working on a number of releases. He debuted created the sound effects for the arcade’s Sunset Riders and went on to compose a series of Morricone-inspired pieces on the NES’ The Lone Ranger. In both projects, he developed an understanding of how to overcome the limitations of old systems under the supervision of veterans such as Motoaki Furukawa. A year later, he single-handedly wrote the action-packed cop soundtrack for Lethal Enforcers, between writing some upbeat tracks for G.I. Joe. Fukui also spent considerable time at Konami’s CD division, writing arrangements for albums such as Xexex, Konami All-Stars, and MIDI Power Ver. 5.0 Snatcher. Also a guest contributor for the Kukeiha Club, he served as a synthesizer player on their original album Hope and performed at several live events.
Looking for more individual recognition and challenges, Fukui left Konami in 1995 in order to join the Osaka division of Square. During his initial years at Square, Fukui focused on creating the music for Einhänder. Wanted to provide a memorable and stimulating accompaniment to Square’s first scrolling shooter, he produced an authentic techno soundtrack. With its cutting-edge stylings and top-notch synthesis, the score contributed to a revolution of Square’s music. It also emerged as one of the most popular shooter soundtracks ever created, boasting appealing rhythms, memorable themes, and a range of electronic dance stylings. Fukui’s subsequent project, the score for 2000’s All Star Pro-Wrestling, received comparatively little recognition but was equally as significant. In collaboration with Tsuyoshi Sekito, he made a convincing attempt to bring hard rock to Square and produced many of the score’s iconic tracks, including the theme songs. The artist was also responsible for engineering the game’s music and sound effects, pushing technical boundaries on Square’s earliest PlayStation 2 release. Fukui went on to serve as the sound editor for the subsequent additions to the series and returned as co-cmposer on the third game, often providing a light L.A. fusion style in contrast with Sekito’s works.
Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito’s album The Black Mages changed the course of Fukui’s career and set up the most successful video game band to date. One day in 2002, keyboardist Fukui and guitarist Sekito ended up experimenting with several Final Fantasy battle themes in the middle of a jam session. The album The Black Mages was commissioned when they impressed Nobuo Uematsu and Michio Okamiya with the results at Square Enix’s Tokyo branch. Arranged, performed, and implemented solely by Fukui and Sekito, it featured hard rock arrangements of various classic battle themes supported by many improvised guitar and keyboard solos. The success of this album resulted in the formation of a six-piece band to perform the arrangements live, with Fukui taking centre stage. The Black Mages were an international hit, going on to feature in the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange and release a DVD of their first live concert. Released in December 2004, their second album was eagerly anticipated and saw Fukui arrange four themes in a variety of styles — among them the rock-operatic version of "To Zanarkand" and the entrance theme "Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow" Japanese wrestler Takehiro Murahama. Soon after, Fukui and the band featured in a second Japanese concert, which received an exclusive DVD release, and made their overseas debut at the More Friends concert in Los Angeles.
Kenichiro Fukui was a multifaceted influence in the score to 2005’s highly anticipated film Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. In addition to being a percussionist, pianist, and conductor for several tracks on the album, Fukui was responsible for manipulating and refining seven of Nobuo Uematsu’s compositions in a wide range of styles; his arrangements included the enchanting chorale "The Promised Land," the tension-building cues "Beyond the Wasteland" and "Sign," rock arrangements such as "Black Water" and "Battle in the Forgotten City," and the band interpretation of the partly symphonic "Advent: One Winged Angel," premiered at the More Friends concert. In subsequent projects, Fukui performed as an organist on three of Tsuyoshi Sekito’s battle theme arrangements for the Romancing Saga Minstrel Song and made several humorous arrangements for Hanjuku Hero 4: The 7 Heroes, including a rendition of Nobuo Uematsu’s"Otherworld," where heavy metal vocals were swapped with synthesized roars and yelps. For 2005’s Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ Original Soundtrack, the artist revisited the field of electronica once more; his diverse compositions, while unified by emphatic electronic beats and a focus on creating atmosphere, were a significant contrast to Hidenori Iwasaki’s militaristic creations.
Fukui remained relatively prolific in his final years at Square Enix. As lead composer and synthesizer operator of 2006’s externally developed shooter Project Sylpheed, he crafted a vibrant electro-acoustic score unified by a memorable two-tiered main theme. Growing to become Uematsu’s arranger of choice, he arranged The Black Mages’ "This is the Final Battle" for the Final Fantasy III Original Soundtrack and created the English version of Angela Aki’s "Kiss Me Good-Bye" for Final Fantasy XII; Fukui’s emotive arrangement made a number of instrumental changes to the original version of the theme and was so successful that it was used above the Japanese version in all releases. Fukui also worked on Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings, producing minimalistic arrangements of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Final Fantasy XII score that were more suitable for the DS’ limited specifications. Also serving as a co-arranger for Final Fantasy IV’s 2007 DS remake, he stayed faithful to the concept of the original background music. More significantly, he arranged Uematsu’s "Theme of Love" into Megumi Ida’s vocal theme "Tsuki no Akari"; this role was more demanding than "Kiss Me Good-Bye" as it required him to transform an instrumental theme as opposed to take a secondary role to Uematsu.
In the second half of 2007, Fukui left Square Enix after securing a job as a lecturer. Since April 2009, he has taught at Tokyo Mode Gakuen’s HAL Tokyo, a new technology and design college preparing those wanting to enter the increasingly competitive games industry. At his department, he teaches specialist four year courses in game composition, sound engineering, and sound creation. He works closely with two other former game composers at the department, ex-Sega member Taihei Sato and ex-Konami member Nobuko Toda, and regularly invites guests such as Nobuo Uematsu to provide special seminars. The course is one of the first of its kind and has already attracted many students. While preparing for his new role, Fukui’s served as the keyboardist, mixer, and lead arranger on The Black Mages III ~Darkness and Starlight~" at the start of 2008. While most of his contributions revisited the band’s classic rock style, he also co-arranged the band’s rock-operatic interpretation of Final Fantasy VI’s "Maria and Draco" and wrote a soft and romantic instrumental rendition of Final Fantasy XI’s "Distant Worlds" at the centre of the album. Fukui joined the band for the final time in August that year for a lavishly produced concert at Yokohama Blitz. Shortly afterwards, The Black Mages were disbanded for creative reasons and Fukui did not join their successor, the Earthbound Papas.
Despite his teaching role, Fukui has managed to participate in a wide range of album and score projects as an arranger in recent years. Continuing to reflect his versatility, his album arrangements have ranged from a mellow piano-based performance for Kono Aozora ni Yakusoku Wo, a rocking battle arrangement for Etrian Odyssey II, a bubbly jazz-based opener for Mushihimesama, and a pumping techno mix on DeathSmiles, all of which fitted the overall concept of these albums. He revisited his time at Konami with guest contributions to the parodic shooters in the Otomedius series. In addition, he reunited with Nobuo Uematsu to produce contributions to two of his biggest projects in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV and Lord of Arcana, hybridising orchestrations with electronic and rock elements once again. The reputable artist has also continued to pursue vocal music production, having worked on tracks for the R-Mix play Maoutensyou for Megumi Ida, the studio album Songs of the Stars for Manami Kiyota, and the debut album SPARKING!! of Yamasan. Having left quite a legacy with his occasional but diverse contributions to Square Enix, Kenichiro Fukui’s musical and technical experiences will also be an asset to HAL Tokyo’s music department for the foreseeable future.
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on December 30, 2012. Do not republish without formal permission.