‘Gran Turismo”s musical legacy is rooted in Japanese jazz fusion

Bring Me The Horizon are the latest band to have a crack at 'Moon Over The Castle', but the iconic 'Gran Turismo' track has some surprising heritage

Hey! Listen is a twice-monthly column unearthing obscure video game music and trivia. Today’s column explores the rich history of Gran Turismo and the legendary racing game’s no-frills soundtrack.

Most of the music in games you played during your childhood will be stuck with you forever. This isn’t just a scientific fact. It’s one of the reasons why video game music has such a powerful nostalgic pull. It’s why, whenever anyone mentions ‘Halo,’ the first thing you think of is the gregorian monk chant. Sonic The Hedgehog? Nakamura’s Green Hill theme. The Legend of Zelda? Probably Koji Kondo’s overworld theme. Final Fantasy 7? Come on. It’s gotta be Uematsu’s music playing over the top of Aerith getting binned off by Sephiroth.

And if you’ve played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, you’ll have several albums’ worth of punk-rock and metal bangers to call on if you ever find yourself lost at an alternative nightclub in your ‘30s.

For those of you who played the early Gran Turismo games on the PlayStation, the music you associate with the series will differ depending on whether you were in the US, UK, or Japan. In the UK and US, the original Gran Turismo pulled up in style with music from the likes of Feeder, Ash, Garbage and Cubanate. GT 2 followed a similar style with slight variations to cater for varying music tastes in the NSTC and PAL releases. Fatboy Slim was UK-only while Rob Zombie was US.

Gran Turismo 7
‘Gran Turismo 7’. CREDIT: Polyphony Digital

But there was no licensed music in the Japan releases of Gran Turismo and GT 2. Instead, all of the music in the game was composed by Masahiro Andoh alongside video game composer Isamu Ohira. You may not be familiar with Mashiro Andoh’s name, but he was the guitarist and bandleader for T-Square, one of the biggest jazz fusion bands in Japan. There’s also a cool link between T-Square and Mario Kart 8. If you ever wondered why the drum sections in Mario Kart 8 go so hard, it’s because T-Square’s drummer, Satoshi Bandoh, is sitting behind the kit.

He also played guitar in the jazz fusion supergroup Ottottrio, featuring members from Korenos and Casiopea. A lot of the music from games in ‘80s and ‘90s wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for Casiopea. The band hugely influenced Japanese video game composers, including Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo, and Hiroshi Kawaguchi.

Andoh and Ohira’s music didn’t feature in the UK and US versions of Gran Turismo. Instead, composer Jason Page was hilariously given just two weeks to write original music for the game to feature alongside its licensed tracks. But Andoh’s music ended up playing a more prominent role across the series in all territories once more ears started to hear his original track, ‘Moon Over the Castle’.

Written for the first GT game, ‘Moon Over The Castle’ has all the high-intensity energy you’d associate with motorsports. Andoh eventually transformed the song into an actual T-Square track, ‘Knight’s Song‘, and ‘Moon Over The Castle’ has continued to evolve over the years thanks to new arrangements for later GT games. British metal titans, Bring Me The Horizon, recently brushed it up with a flurry of synth strokes and guitar breakdowns for their version of the track.

As for how and why a member of T-Square was asked to write original music for Gran Turismo in the first place, it’s not unusual for music directors to make regional changes to video game soundtracks.

This can be for several reasons, from the challenges of securing music licenses for track releases in multiple territories to simply catering for regional tastes in music. As T-Square were one of the biggest bands in Japan at the time, it makes sense that Sony would want to capitalise on this and get Masahiro Andoh scoring for the game.

Gran Turismo 7. Image Credit: Sony
Gran Turismo 7. Image Credit: Sony

Of course, it helps that jazz fusion is synonymous with F1, at least in Japan. The intensity of jazz fusion is the perfect match for sports cars bombing along a race track at hundreds of miles per hour. So much so, that T-Square’s track ‘Truth‘ was used as the main theme for Japan’s F1 coverage on Fuji television from 1987–1998 and 2001–2006. The band performed live at F1 events, have releases covered in F1 artwork, and even staged a memorial concert for the late F1 driver, Ayrton Senna.

So, the next time you stand for the Gran Turismo anthem, or end up in a moshpit of flailing limbs as Bring Me The Horizon perform ‘Moon Over the Castle’, just remember that this iconic piece of music was the brainchild of world-renowned jazz fusion guitarist, Mashiro Andoh. Cheers to the guys at Sony Japan for making this magic happen!

If you liked this article, check out our previous ‘Hey! Listen’ column pieces here

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