To celebrate the release of KORG M01D on the 3DS eShop and the publication of our review, we present to you an exclusive interview with its creator Nobuyoshi Sano, conducted by dedicated fan Graham Ellaby.

Since its launch in December 2010 on the Nintendo DS, KORG M01 has become something of a cult classic with some music fans. The software was only released in Japan, but as there was no language barrier to contend with, some keener musicians duly imported the game and found it to be a real gem of a release.

The software supported 12 note polyphony, 342 sound banks (of which several were distinctive drum kits and sets of percussion sounds) and stylus-controlled Kaoss pads that determined pitch and gate (length) of a note. Also included were 2 adjustable Master effects — Delay and Reverb — and these could be set to apply individually to the 8 assigned ‘voices’ of the sequencer. Extensive cut and paste options controlled by the stylus were a key feature of the software and enabled quick and easy composition of a piece of music. 4 demo tracks were included on the software that clearly showed that KORG M01 was a serious compositional tool.

I remember the day that KORG M01 was released in Japan and I sat in the UK eagerly awaiting the first YouTube postings of the software in action as I waited for my copy of the software to arrive. I was not disappointed. As the tunes were posted, I relished what my favourite piece of technology — the humble Nintendo DS — could achieve. Being a recent KORG DS-10 convert (I had to import an American DSi console and a copy of KORG DS-10+ to gain the extra features that region locking had denied us European musicians) I discovered that KORG M01 was a complete contrast to KORG DS-10; you could hardly touch the sounds on M01 but the sequencer was sublime for composing. Both cartridges were equal works of genius, but in different ways.

One thing that was wrong here was that hardly anybody outside of Japan had a copy of KORG M01. Fortunately, this has all changed recently as KORG M01D has been released on the North American and European 3DS eShops. I was very privileged to meet up with Nobuyoshi Sano — the creator of both KORG DS-10 and KORG M01D — whilst on a recent trip to Japan and had the pleasure of sitting down to chat about the latest entry in the series.

Sano-san, thank you for this rare opportunity to speak with you about your work on Korg M01D.

Nobuyoshi Sano: No problem, it is my pleasure — a rare opportunity for myself also to connect with Nintendo users outside of Japan. ..

The original KORG M01 was released three years ago — how did the creation of that come about?

Nobuyoshi Sano: When we made KORG DS-10, it was a software focused on making unique and fantastic sounds and was a great success in doing so — there are many examples on Youtube and Soundcloud of DS-10 in action. Next, as a contrast, we wanted to make something that focused on making songs and compositions. We chose a digital synth that we loved as much as the original Korg MS-10 analog synth — the KORG M1.

How closely did you work with KORG on the creation of M01D? For example, did they provide the samples used within the program?

Nobuyoshi Sano: We worked with KORG very closely indeed. Not only did KORG create the sound data for M01D but they also assisted with the overall sound tuning and direction.

Having written for the Nintendo DS, was it a natural progression to move to 3DS and would this ‘updated’ version have happened without the eShop?

Nobuyoshi Sano: The eShop was instrumental (no pun intended) in Detune being able to update M01 to M01D. There were a number of reasons why KORG M01 couldn't be released outside of Japan, and these reasons apply to and restrict any physical release by any developer. But we then found out that we might be able to do a release overseas through the Nintendo eShop, and that's how we got started working on KORG M01D. It was natural to update the software to be used on 3DS — the extra use of the circle pad, increased polyphony, bigger memory and allowing us to have more save files for songs. Also, better screens and resolution and even the 3D effect of the synth body on the top screen!

KORG M01 D on 3 DS

Do you think the success of the eShop is vital for developers such as yourself?

Nobuyoshi Sano: I believe so, we are small niche companies needing as much audience for our products as possible and the eShop is helping us achieve this.

M01D being released in the EU and North American eShop is a revelation for us western Musicians! Do you think that this will go a long way to creating a wider and more varied user base?

Nobuyoshi Sano: I truly hope so. It is the first time that M01D is available to users outside of Japan and the eShop makes it easy for anyone to obtain.

Which brings me onto my next question - In Japan, was M01 viewed as a ‘specialist' piece of software?

Nobuyoshi Sano: Actually, a surprising answer! It is just the opposite. It seems that M01 is especially appreciated by non-specialist users who are interested in creating music. The software is very easy to use at a simple level yet is capable of creating truly complex arrangements.

I know you also develop for iOS, but how important is the hardware in producing music creation software and does the 3DS enable you to do things that can’t be done elsewhere?

Nobuyoshi Sano: The hardware is very important — especially anyone playing live DS music would appreciate. The details of the screen layout of KORG M01D are geared especially for the 3DS — this design would not work on a smart phone. Also, the stylus that the DS consoles use is very useful — the human finger is much fatter than people think...[this is] something you have to take into consideration when designing for Smartphones.

How does 3DS help musicians use M01D to perform live?

Nobuyoshi Sano: A good point! The stylus allows more precise control compared to the touch-based-control of smart phones and tablets. The kaoss pad can be very accurate with a little practice and the use of the extra physical controls such as the Circle pad, the D-pad, the ABXY [buttons] and especially the shoulder buttons can allow a musician to ‘perform’ with more fluidity. A musician using the Nintendo 3DS when playing live? From the audience's point of view, it may look as though you are just playing a game. This could be a downer.

I have seen several ‘lively’ KORG DS-10 musicians but I get your point! You have recently posted an M01D users compilation on Soundcloud; how did you choose the pieces that were included in this?

Nobuyoshi Sano: Well, Every day I searched the net with the keyword "M01D" and chose each song based on my personal choice. Don't you agree that this is a good selection?

I’ll have to say - yes! It is a very varied collection and that is the point of such a collection. Visiting Japan, I have attended a couple of music events that socially included M01D as performance tool — is there a social/performance culture for M01 in Japan?

Nobuyoshi Sano: The social movement has been very interesting since DS-10 was released. There were many people who were interested in making music, and Korg DS-10 and M01 enabled them to easily start making music. DS-10 and M01 events that were held created a social community where people could share ideas and files!

KORG DS 10 Synthesizer 000 A

I have been amazed at the number of people attending small gigs with their 3DS console in their pocket and a KORG DS-10 or M01 playing. I have swapped songs with these people despite the language barrier (I don’t speak Japanese). I have also seen, first hand, the culture of always carrying and using your Nintendo 3DS everywhere you go in Japan. What made you include the StreetPass Feature on M01D?

Nobuyoshi Sano: The StreetPass feature is something unique to the 3DS and we definitely wanted to make use of it. We decided that the sharing of a song would be the nicest way to do this — however, the song data received from StreetPass cannot be saved due to copyright issues, and the details of the sender will remain anonymous, You can only play the song until you change to the next song or exit M01D and you may never know who wrote it! I feel that this feature is a pleasant example of the refined modest side of the Japanese, especially in this day and age where information is too readily available.

Do you carry a 3DS yourself on a daily basis?

Nobuyoshi Sano: Yes I do. However, I have to apologize to all those I have StreetPassed, as the phrase that I currently have set for StreetPass is pretty bad...

Ha ha! I won’t ask! Do you have plans to develop more software for the 3DS? If so, can you tell us what?

Nobuyoshi Sano: Yes! We have yet to really get started, but yes we do have something planned! The details of the software are top secret, but I can say one thing — Detune will be making it, which means it will be something that has to do with sound. And we plan to make full use of the 3DS display! Stay tuned!

Thank you for your time today, Sano-san. Finally, is there anything you would like to say to any budding KORG M01D musicians reading this?

Nobuyoshi Sano: Yes! Happy composing on KORG M01D!

Thanks to Chaki Mistyminds for assisting with translation.