A few days ago a came across a stunning article on a superb game music blog called Hadouken, detailing SEGA's "Sound Unit" band known simply as "H." In an age of post video game music "bands" which boomed on high during the early through mid-90's, H. has the heritage intact as many of its current members were once apart of various past SEGA band projects like the S.S.T. Band and B-univ.
I first heard of "H." a year or so ago on the OutRun 20th Anniversary Box, gushing at the sheer quality of their "Passing Breeze" arrangement, largely keeping me wondering since just who is "H." ...and how can I get more of them?!
"H." is a electronica-jazz-fusion cover band consisting of veteran SEGA sound team members who perform rockin' cover arrangements to plenty of well-known SEGA arcade franchises including After Burner, Hang-On, Galaxy Force and others (though only the hardcores will know most of its source material) though they have branched into other territory. The band's initial members include such SEGA sound team veterans: Hiroshi "Hiro" Miyauchi (keyboards), Takenobu "Daytoooona" Mitsuyoshi (keyboards/bass guitar/vocals), Kentaro Hanada (guitars), Takahiro Kai (guitars), and Mitsuhara Fukuyama (trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone and/or sax). The band later saw F-ZERO GX composer HidenoriShoji take on the band's other guitar member, mainly for live performances. The group's preferable one letter identity is suspectedly that of leader and legendary SEGA composer Hiro or "H.".
Game music bands, the funky and energetic "H." preserves what fans miss most about their childhood games and its music, bringing most into the 21st century. With many of them withered away since the golden 90's like CAPCOM's Alph-Lyla (or Alfh-Lyra, according to the late Scitron Records), Konami's KuKeiha Club lead by Motoaki Furukawa, Nazo² Project (Konami), Nazo² Unit/Suzuki (Treasure), Taito's ZUNTATA, and some newly formed like Square-Enix's THE BLACK MAGES, a metal band consisting of many golden Square sound members including the legendary Final Fantasy series composer, Nobou Uematsu. H. is that of a spiritual evolution of SEGA's past bands: S.S.T. and B-univ.
In 2004, H. began making plenty of live performances covering various SEGA themes even making an appearance at the EXTRA Hyper Game Music Live show in 2007 with cuts featured on the later released album featuring a previously unreleased rendition of the classic Daytona USA "Let's Go Away", performed live.
So what's next for H.? Without my own dreams of them taking on covers of much needed Sonic the Hedgehog arrangements or even Rockman/Mega Man (preferably 1~6, though mostly 3, 4 & 5), the band continues to reprise its role in unexpected places, recently showing up with a new arrange track on the Fantasy Zone Complete Album, soon making an appearance at EXTRA 2008 along with other game music composer legends.
I think it's time SEGA recognized H., giving them their own debut album, maybe let us Westerners at some of their live performances. Until then, some of my favorite H. arranges are as follows (links to Hadouken, check your volumes at the gate!):
"Battle - Destruction Begets Decay" from Sekaiju no MeiQ (Super Arrange Version)
"Passing Breeze" from OutRun (OutRun 20th Anniversary Box)
"Beyond The Galaxy" from Galaxy Force (Galaxy Force II & Thunder Blade O.S.T.)
"Town - The Wind Doesn't Draw Heroes" from Sekaiju no MeiQ 2 (Super Arrange Version)
"Quartet Medley 2005" from Quartet (SDI & Quartet SEGA System 16 Collection O.S.T.)
Title image courtesy of scan from EXTRA Hyper Game Music Live Vol. 1 featuring "H." (left-to-right): Hiroshi Miyauchi, Hidenori Shoji, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, Mitsuhara Fukuyama and Kentaro Hanada.