Posted August 4, 2019 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Interview: Arnie Roth brings Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy to Melbourne this August

After touring the world for more than a decade, the famous Final Fantasy-themed symphony Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy is finally coming to Melbourne for the first time on 24 August. While last year offered the smaller, chamber version of the show, A New World, this will be the first time the full-fledged program, featuring the 100-piece Distant Worlds Philharmonic and Chorus, led by conductor and Grammy-winning music director Arnie Roth, who was able to speak to us earlier this week about his involvement with the show and what fans can expect.

This is the premiere of the Distant Worlds [in Melbourne] and we’re excited that we’ve got Yoko Shimomura coming this time too.” says Arnie, “We’ve got two scores from Final Fantasy XV which of course is her association with the Final Fantasy series. She, of course, is well known for a lot of her other projects including Kingdom Hearts, and many others. She’s a very funny lady and great to hang out with us.”

Yoko Shimomura

One special addition for the Melbourne performance of Distant Worlds is a special tribute to Final Fantasy VII, in anticipation of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake.

“Well, you know we’re looking forward to the release of the remake which we all know is coming at the beginning of March. As such, we are starting to feature a look back at the original VII, so we decided to program all of the songs that we have from the original Final Fantasy VII in the second half. So, the entire second half will be devoted to that, which is a real lot of fun for us, and for most fans around the world too. I mean, we get to look at the opening Bombing Mission, Main Theme, Jenova COMPLETE, Aerith’s Theme… all kinds of things.”

The focus on Final Fantasy VII will certainly be welcome for many fans, for whom not only the game but the soundtrack remain firm favourites since the original 1997 release.

“I wish I could put my finger on one thing [about why it’s so popular], because Nobuo Uematsu has so many other games that people are devoted to the music to as well. Even VI, which is 8-bit, people are actually nuts about the music – as am I! The Opera sequences and things. And VIII, where they finally went to 16-bit and they had full orchestration and voices on it, it has just a tonne of beautiful music as well. IX and X. But there’s something about VII…”

“One thing, because of the timing of the release of these games around the world, VII was the first version for many territories in the world. The very first version of Final Fantasy that was released, for instance, in Europe. And so, I think there’s a special place in everyone’s heart for that particular game. It might be partially for that reason.”

“Everyone cries at Aerith’s Theme, everyone sings with us in One Winged Angel! You know, there’s certain things that are so iconic that we almost have to play it at every single Distant Worlds concert.”

Nobuo Uematsu is famous for giving each character their own theme or leitmotif, but when pressed to choose a favourite from Final Fantasy VII Arnie finds it tough to settle on just one.

“It’s really tough. If I had to… maybe it might be Aerith’s Theme? Of course, who couldn’t love One Winged Angel. I have to tell you, all of these themes I think are fantastic. But, in terms of depth of expression and strong compositional value I would say Aerith’s Theme might be it. And, by the way, that theme has been voted onto the Top 100 of the Classic FM from the UK, several years in a row. The very first year, I think it took the #2 or #3 spot. So, others feel the same way, but there’s so many things in VII… Even the Main Theme I love, and we’re going to be playing Cinco de Chocobo in Melbourne which is a real challenge!”

As Music Director for Distant Worlds, Arnie is also responsible for the show’s program, and working with the original composers from the Final Fantasy series to ensure their music is represented in the best possible way.

“We work very closely with them. They’re involved in a lot of the decisions, whether it’s if we’re doing the arrangement, we’re showing them the sketch of the idea we want to do, we send them MIDI demos of where we’re going with the orchestration, and they will come back to us with some ideas of changes or refinements. And then, if everything’s great we proceed, but yes, we work with them quite a bit. That goes for Sakimoto, Soken, Mizuta, but also especially Masashi Hamauzu, who’s going to be with us in Lyon and Toulouse, and was actually one of the original vocalists for ‘One-Winged Angel’ back in Final Fantasy VII.”

On what separates Final Fantasy‘s music from other franchises or Western approaches, Arnie Roth believes its endearing qualities derive from its entanglement with character and story.

“You know there’s lots of video game series out there that have wonderful main themes or anthems, but they really have kind of faceless background sound design music. Either percussion loops or various other things during the gameplay itself. Final Fantasy is unique in that there’s nothing that’s thrown away. When you’re playing the game you’re very much involved in that character’s theme or a specific battle theme or journey or whatever it might be. And they come back, as characters come back or different battles come back during the series. You know, that’s really part of the staying power for the fans of the music of Final Fantasy and it makes it different from other video games, I think.”


Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy is coming to Melbourne for one performance only on 24 August, 2019 at Melbourne Arena. Tickets are available now through Ticket and the official website:

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.