The prestigious Video Games Live tour, dedicated to bringing classic and current video game music to concert halls, was in Spain on November 22 and 23, 2019, to perform its show at the Víctor Villegas Auditorium in Murcia (Spain). With the show came its creator, the musician and composer Tommy Tallarico, who also performed at concerts (read news).
Tony Alicante Spain attended the event and had the opportunity to interview Tommy Tallarico exclusively for SoundTrackFest, as you can read in this article.
Tommy Tallarico is undoubtedly one of the best promoters of video game music as art form all over the planet. He also has 2 Guinness records: one for the tour and its always growing numbers of video game music concerts and the other one for having the largest audience for a live video game music concert.
Being a musician especially in the 90’s, composer of the soundtrack of countless titles of Virgin Interactive – Shiny Entertaiment mainly, from 2002 he partially leaves his role as a composer and undertakes an adventurous project, risky and unbelievable outside Japanese lands. The project was about performing orchestral concerts with the music of many of the main and most notable themes of the gaming world.
The first concert was on June 6, 2005 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, where more than 11,000 attendees gathered. Since then, more than 500 VIDEO GAMES LIVE concerts have been held, and I had the pleasure of attending one of them on November 23, 2019 at the Víctor Villegas Auditorium in Murcia (Spain).
There, Video Games Live offered its show; and I think from what he said, that it was the fourth or fifth show to be held in Spain. A show that goes beyond the merely musical form, and is more a multi-functional spectacle, since for example, in the interludes between the themes, humor videos focused on video game confrontations were shown; you can enter the YouTube channel “Dane Boe” and see a few of those. But the best thing is that you attend it the next time it comes close to where you live, as it will surely happen.
The focus of the Video Games Live show is to perform the concert with a local orchestra (in this case it was the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Región de Murcia) as well as with a local choir. Chatting at the concert with some girls of the choir, they told me that they had been practicing for almost a year, a couple of times a week, for the 2 concerts that took place on November 22 and 23, 2019 in Murcia.
It should also be noted that there was a soloist singer (Tatiana Martinez Sánchez) and a rocker voice singer (Daniel Díaz Andrada). Tommy Tallarico and both of them were signing merchandising after the concerts.
The following triptych can give you more information on how the two Video Games Live concerts happened in Murcia.
I will use these final lines to tell you an anecdote: in 1995 I rented a video game for a weekend named “The Terminator” (Sega Mega CD). The most veterans will remember that the music of the soundtrack of many CD games from those glorious 90s, in their various formats (Sega Mega CD, PlayStation, Saturn, PC CD-Rom, etc…), was recorded on the CD itself and could be enjoyed in an isolated listening on any CD player, from track 2 and onwards.
But it caught my attention that the soundtrack was mentioned in the instructions booklet, emphasizing that you could listen to it by itself, highlighting the name of its author: Tommy Tallarico and naming the tracks with their duration. For me, as a lover of video game music, this detail seemed great, and what’s more, it should have been done with absolutely all the titles that had the game’s music recorded on the CD from Track 2 (also called Redbook Audio).
I also want to mention that “The Terminator – Sega Mega CD” is my favorite work from the soundtracks that Tommy Tallarico has created, with explosive songs that combine rock guitars with synthesizers and a multitude of sound effects. A soundtrack to highlight in his work, where I would also highlight the eclectic Earthworm Jim 1 and 2 and the always friendly Cool Spot. To be honest, I must also say that several of the rest of his compositions, especially the most orchestral ones, have never dazzled me.
If I had to mention my favorite video games music composers, I would not mention Tommy Tallarico, but with his desire to work hard, and in his attitude towards his creations and music, I can put him in the 1st position and as a clear example to follow. Already in the 90s I remember seeing pages of the North American videogame magazine EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly) advertising his compilation albums: Virgin Games – Greatest Hits Volume One (1994) and Virgin Games – Greatest Hits Volume II (1996), and that is the ideal attitude to have: make your work count.
That is why I admire Tommy Tallarico so much, for everything he did, does and will continue to do, for the world of video games. You can tell that he loves what he does.
On November 23, 2019, at the Victor Villegas Pavilion in Murcia (Spain), and shortly before the Video Games Live show began, I had the opportunity to interview Tommy Tallarico exclusively for SoundTrackFest and here you can read his words.
How did Video Games Live start? How have you seen the evolution of the event and the evolution from the beginnings of Video Games Live in 2002 to the present?
When I did my very first show at the Hollywood bowl, people thought I was “loco” (*risas*) (*loco=crazy , mad in Spanish*)… They said people who play videogames don’t go to symphonies and people who go to symphonies don’t play videogames. Who will ever show up the idea at the Hollywood Bowl, which is the most famous amphitheater in America?… They said ‘You’re lucky if 500 people go to see your show’. They thought that almost nobody would want to see the show… But eleven thousand people went to it! So… What is the biggest surprise about the growing audience of the show? More and more people who don’t play videogames are coming to the Video Games Live show because they hear from other people how beautiful is the music and how amazing is the experience, so they want to feel it. If they’re parents, they are learning something about what their kids do and their kids love that much… This is growing up because nowadays there are more people playing videogames than years before.
How do you prepare the Video Games Live concerts to be so astonishing live as we can see for instance in the Blu-Ray/DVD?
I didn’t want to do a classical show with just the music, because that’s not what the videogames are… videogames aren’t just about the music… so I wanted something more incredible. One of the things I wanted, was people to feel like they were inside a real videogame and so with big screens, lasers, rock and roll guitars and lightings, special effects, interactive with the crowd… a stage show production was crucial… I wanted to create a show in capital letters, not just a symphony performance, because a lot of young people around the world don’t care about orchestral music… So this is my way to bring young people to the experience, to the art and beauty of orchestral music… This is a show, not just orchestral or classical music, but it’s a show.
I know that maybe in the audience today there will be someone who would become a videogame composer in the future. Tchaikovsky, when he debuted 1812, had cannons fire and ringing chimes shooting at the right time. All the composers like him were also showmen, and that’s how opera was created. A bunch of Italians sat around the table and said… how can we get new people to come and see an orchestra… and someone said… What if we tell a story through the lyrics? What if we create a set on stage? What if we dress people on costumes? And that’s how opera was created, so, some people have said that Video Games Live is the opera of the 21st century.
So the best is yet to come! You’ve had the chance to meet a lot of different composers… I’m remembering a YouTube video where you were with many top-notch videogame music composers of Japan; many of them are my idols
Can you appreciate any differences in the way they work and how are they compared to the western composers? What do you think are the main differences?
Ummmm … How can I say this nicely? (*laughs*)
Don’t worry I’ll write it down literally (*laughs*)
You know, there are a lot of cultural differences. Composers from the west are generally… a little more grandiloquent, epic with a big band (*ta!!!… ta ra ra ta ra!!!* Tommy starts to hum a trumpet melody), rock and roll… and Japanese composers are quieter, like their culture. They are able to compose beautiful melodies but they’re not so bombastic. For the concert, in ‘Castlevania’ we take the Japanese score’s melodies but we have Americanized it with strong guitars and powerful orchestral arrangements.
Nowadays most videogames soundtracks are approaching so much to the films, what do you think about this?
Videogame music has surpassed film music. More people buy and listen to videogame soundtracks than film soundtracks.
Well, I was talking about the way to compose, not the sound quality… there are no technical chip-limitations in terms of sound quality since the 90’s, with the arrival of CD-Roms and audio tracks like in Sega Mega CD, PlayStation, etc… but the soundtracks were different in most cases. What do you think about this evolution?
Not everything has changed, with films the composers have to write the music after the film is done, when it’s eventually finished. Furthermore, movie composers have to do what the director or producer asked them, but in videogames the music is created alongside the designers, the staff members. In movies music is considered background music but for videogames I call it foreground music… It’s music that drives the action. So the great film composers would rather be in the game industry (*laughs*), but unfortunately in most cases they don’t pay as well. There is more freedom in videogames, also about what kind of music to compose.
Do you miss your time as a composer in the studio? If I’m right … your last soundtrack was ‘Advent Rising’ (2005) and as collaborator (With Richard Jacques and Jun Senoue among others) in ‘Sonic and the Black Knight’ (2009)
Do I miss it?… Noooo (*laughs*)
So you prefer to be a promoter, a host… let me give you huge thank you for what you’re doing with videogame music.
I composed music for a lot of different videogames, but as a composer, you write your music in the studio by yourself and it’s like putting a message in a bottle and sending out in the ocean… I didn’t know who was going to listen to it…
I was listening! (*laughs*)
In Video Games Live I’m able to bring music to millions of people every year around the world… this is something special and this is more important to me. Showing to the people how important video game music is. I couldn’t accomplish that just as a composer. I mean… I did a lot of soundtracks, most of them in the nineties, but now I’m bringing video game music to the world, and not just to gamers.
Can you tell me a couple of soundtracks that you liked most lately?… From the last year, I could mention Red Dead Redemption 2 and Ace Combat 7.
Anything that Blizzard does is just amazing (Overwatch, World of Warcraft), and Undertale.
Wow! Undertale is an indie game… it is not symphonic music but chip-tune…
Well… Tonight it is (*laughs*) … We arranged an orchestral version.
Last question (*the manager told me there was no time for more*) What else do you want to do in your life?
Have you heard about Intellivision Amico?
It rings me a bell… I knew something that you were in this project.
We know that the concerts Video Games Live are amazing for the industry, and now my higher step is to create a whole new console, that gathers the entire world together, not just people who like music or videogames. Whether you’re a gamer or non-gamer, or casual gamer: bringing people back together into a room. Not online, not with headphones, not on your mobile phone … When I was growing up, we didn’t have the internet; everybody played games together: my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister, my friends in person… communicate, with human contact… ok?… And that’s gone… That doesn’t happen anymore. Maybe a little in Smash Brothers (Nintendo) but that’s for hardcore gamers. This is what we want to do: revolutionize it again. It doesn’t matter the gaming level you have… we’re going to change the world!
Oh! I wish you good luck… I hope the best
You don’t have to hope. It’s happening!
Article by Tony Alicante Spain
Pictures by Tony Alicante Spain & Ana Belén Gonzalez