I am Tommy Tallarico - Video game composer, worked on over 300 games, Guinness World Record holder, creator & producer of the 11 year world touring Video Games Live show, hosted & co-produced 3 video game TV shows, founder of the non-profi...
I've worked on hundreds of video games over the past 23 years with every game publisher and every game system. Have worked with people such as Mario/Zelda creator Miyamoto-san and Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, the Sonic Team, Metal Gear Solid's Hideo Kojima, OddWorld's Lorne Lanning, Epic's Cliffy B., David Perry and developers like Bungie, Blizzard & Valve. Through my television shows I was there for the rise and fall of G4/TechTV!
I've visited over 35 countries in my life both personally and professionally. From Egypt to New Zealand from China to the United Arab Emirates. I currently hold 5 Guinness World Records and gave a recent TED Talk about the influence of video games on art & creativity. I've performed live in front of over 100,000 people, have done a national 90 minute PBS Special, have performed with the Foo Fighters and have held baby pandas, lions, tigers & koala bears. :)
I'm 100% Italian and love playing video games and backgammon. I have an incredible girlfriend and an amazing family. I consistently work too hard to fully enjoy them or the fruits of my labor... I'm in love with what I do so it never seems like a job.
I'm a heavy believer in the power of positive thinking.
I'm currently at the end of my first Kickstarter campaign for the 3rd album for Video Games Live. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1916334303/video-games-live-level-3-game-composers-of-the-wor
Here is my "official" bio:
Tommy Tallarico is one of the most successful video game composers in history, he has helped revolutionize the gaming world, creating unique audio landscapes that enhance the video gaming experience. He is considered the person most instrumental in changing the game industry from bleeps & bloops to real music now appreciated worldwide by millions of fans. As a well-recognized on-air television personality, live performer and composer, Tommy brings his in-depth knowledge, years of experience, and love of cutting edge multimedia and video games to the masses.
An accomplished musician, Tallarico has been writing music for video games for more than 23 years. He has won over 50 industry awards and has worked on more than 300 game titles. He currently holds 3 Guinness World Records including the person who has worked on the most commercially released video games. In 2012 during the Game Developers Conference he received a Lifetime Achievement Award and is also in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. for his contributions to the game industry. In 2013 he was a featured speaker at the world famous TED Conference where he spoke about the impact video games have on art and creativity. Tallarico was the first musician to release a video game soundtrack worldwide and one of the first musicians to ever use live guitar and 3-D audio in a video game. Tommy is a cousin of rock star legend Steven Tyler.
In 2002, Tallarico created the critically acclaimed Video Games Live (www.videogameslive.com), an immersive, audio and video concert experience celebrating video games which is now in its 10th year of touring around the world. Video Games Live is the first and most successful video game touring concert in the world having performed over 275 shows in 30 countries on 5 continents. In 2008 they released the highly anticipated album entitled Video Games Live - Volume One, recorded at the world famous Abbey Road Studios in London, the album debuted at #10 on the Billboard charts. It was the first video game compilation album to ever be released worldwide and won BEST SOUNDTRACK ALBUM awards from IGN.com and the Game Audio Network Guild. In 2010 a 90 minute national PBS Special was aired in over 90 million households across America. A Blu-Ray, DVD and album were released. The second album (entitled Video Games Live - Level Two) debuted at #8 on the Billboard Charts.
Tommy hosted, wrote and co-produced the top rated and very popular Reviews on the Run/Judgment Day television show as well as the longest running award-winning video game television show, The Electric Playground, which has been on the air since 1997. The show is syndicated worldwide and airs daily in prime-time. The Electric Playground won the 2001 Telly Award for “Best Entertainment Cable Program”.
Tommy is the founder and CEO of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.), which is a non-profit organization educating and heightening the awareness of audio for the interactive world (www.audiogang.org). He is an Advisory Board member for the Game Developers Conference, a Governor for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS/GRAMMY's), a spokesperson for the Entertainment Consumers Association, a proud member of the International Game Developers Association and a nominating peer panel leader for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. His popular website www.tallarico.com has received over 100 million hits by more than 5 million unique users.
My Proof: https://www.facebook.com/tommytallarico
I'm all for it! But I think Vic might be a little hesitant because he doesn't want to take attention away from the current reviewers on the show (at least that's the word on the street). I think it would be fun if me & Vic reviewed games... as well as me & FUBAR, me & Scott, etc.
I keep asking! But I never get a positive response. So they keep me alive in classic reruns! :)
Seriously??? All this time I thought it was because you were too busy with VGL. I mean you definitely were when it first started but I guess things aren't has hectic nowadays?
That was the reason I had to leave the show. Just got way too busy with VGL doing about 50+ shows a year! I wouldn't have time to be a full time host/reviewer, but it would be cool to do some guest work on the show from time to time. I think everyone should Tweet Vic and tell him to bring me back as a guest reviewer once in awhile. :)
Sir, I would just like to thank you for the most '90s album cover of them all.
HAHAHAHAA!!! But wait... you forgot to post the Ad for it as well...
Equally as awful!
It takes huge brass ones to own up to that ad. Huge.
It's on the internet so I can't hide! :)
When I clicked on that link, I was expecting a bunch of bleeps and blips. But then I thought again.
HAHAHAHAA!!! The was the best response ever! I LOL'd.
Sure, if by awful you mean totally awesome. By the way everyone, do yourself a favor and listen to Mr. Tallarico's 'Future Shock' from the Terminator Sega CD game, it will melt your face.
Prepare to haz melty face! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l77ipHMORzA
I'll assume you're talking about 2090's, because that's clearly from the future.
Hahahahaaa!! Yeah!! Um... I'm ahead of my time! That's it!!
Hey Tommy! I'm a really big fan of your work on Gamer Warz. You signed my copy a few months ago at the Jacksonville, FL show. Do you have any more plans for working with the Mega64 guys?
Yeah! Of course. Those guys are hilarious!!
I spent a TON of time with them all recently at PAX. I was even a special guest on their panel. Wait til you see it! It was pretty hilarious!! I think they'll be releasing it soon.
In the event of the Kickstarter not being successful, what are your plans for the Video Games Live LV3 album?
I would probably need to wait until I saved up enough money with VGL to produce another one myself. Would probably take a few years unfortunately as recording a full world class 72-piece symphony and 60+ person choir in an incredible studio with seasoned pro's recording and mixing is NOT cheap!
I think we can pull off the Kickstarter though! I just need as many people as possible to PLEASE help spread the word over the next few days. Strength in numbers!!
If it doesn't go through, please consider something like Indiegogo. You can get the funding as you go, rather than all at once if a goal is met.
I can't stress this enough. In currently at VIP level and I haven't seen a KS with so many premiums being given out at nearly every level.
Thanks! Please carry the word to friend and foe alike! :)
It's relatively cheap in Nashville (http://www.nashvillestringmachine.com/).
Will the GANG website ever be updated?
Your work on Earthworm Jim was revolutionary!
The new G.A.N.G. website is in Beta right now.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed EWJ!!
What are some songs that have been requested that you haven't been able to play due to licensing, song complexity, difficulty translating to an orchestral score, or other factors?
The only game company/publisher that we don't currently have on-board is Namco. Namco has never officially let anyone ever perform their music, etc. But I've been working VERY closely with the folks at Namco and had GREAT meetings with the Japan team during E3 this year. Some MAJOR announcements will be coming soon and I'm going after Katamari Damacy, Soul Calibur/Blade & the Pac-Man franchise!
Square-Enix doesn't allow us to show video in the show because they want to keep it exclusive to their Distant Worlds show.
That explains why Kingdom Hearts uses images from Disney Movies... I wondered
Correct! Although it's also a GREAT way to show that video game music can crossover into many different realms and that it doesn't need the video game to survive. It holds up (and is incredible!) even alongside the most iconic films in the world! Pretty cool!! The Disney/Kingdom Hearts segment is also a HUGE crowd pleaser with families and young kids!
You MUST convince them to let you play some Ace Combat 4 music. That music is damn good!
Yep! I'm friends with the composer in Japan. Talented dude!!
I promise never to call you out on a family member's fb again. Haha. But seriously, it almost seems as tho you knew about the big switch to more real, emotionally charged music-rather than a few keyboards and guitar riffs.
I guess I'm asking: When did you realize that the technology was there to score a game as though it were a tv show or movie? How has it simplified in the best way since then? Thanks!
In 1993 when CD-Rom's became viable as a storage medium for video games!
In your opinion what is the greatest video game of all time, and what game has the best music?
Greatest game: Super Mario World Greatest game soundtrack: Final Fantasy VIII
Notable Greatest Games: Shadow of the Colossus, Red Dead Redemption, Medal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto, ICO, Sonic the Hedgehog
Notable Game Soundtracks: Mario, World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Castlevania, Chrono Trigger/Cross, Zelda, Halo... and wait until everyone hears Destiny! Bungie's next game! We already perform it in VGL even though the game isn't coming out until 2014! My good friends Marty O'Donnell & Mike Salvatori (originally Halo composers) wrote the score with none other than Paul McCartney!! And it's MIND BLOWING!!!!!!
Holy crap, that bit at the end just got me even MORE excited for Destiny; The soundtrack in the Halo series was phenomenal!
Destiny is just as good! Here's one of the tunes we do in VGL. And the conductor is none other than the composer Marty O'Donnell!
Great interview with Marty & Mike Salvatori before the song begins! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AXUiCMpRY8
You have good taste.
Clearly you do as well! :)
"The Landing at Dollet" in FFVIII changed my perception of what I could do as a musician. It's great to see that score getting the appreciation it deserves!
What inspired you to get into video game music, especially at a time when it seemed like designers weren't really concerned with the quality of music in games or even thought of using music as part of the complete experience?
My two greatest loves and passions growing up were always video games and music, but I never really thought to ever put the two together until I moved out to California (from Massachusetts) when I was 21 years old. I just got in my car and I drove out west, left my parents crying on the doorstep. I didn’t have a job, money, I had no friends, no place to stay, nothing. I was homeless and sleeping under the pier at Huntington Beach. I just drove to California and the first day I got there I drove to Orange County because the only thing I really knew out there was Disneyland. When I got there I picked up a newspaper and saw a job for selling keyboards at Guitar Center. I went down there and they hired me and I started the following day. On my first day at the new job, the first person who walked in the store, happened to be a producer at a video game company called Virgin. I was wearing a TurboGrafx 16 shirt — a video game T-shirt — which, back then, 24 years ago, no one had video game T-shirts. He saw my shirt and he asked if I wanted a job testing games. I was like “Heck yeah!” I was in California for three days and I was in the video game industry.
Back then there was no such thing as a video game composer you had to be a programmer to do music and I didn’t really know too much about programming. I was hired as a games tester, and I would literally bug the vice president of the company every day, saying, "Whenever you need music, just let me know. I'll learn how to do it, and do it for free, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it." So about three or four months later, one of the first games that I was actually a producer and a tester on was the original Prince of Persia on the Gameboy. I asked him to do the music and he let me. They liked what they heard and made me the full-time music guy after that.
Yes, he bugged me a lot, and I finally caved in. Here's a video I shot of him way back in the day (1991) at Virgin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTsg08KNXs0
HAHAHAHAA!!! Ladies and Gentleman... please welcome Dr. Stephen Clarke-Wilson who is the man responsible for me being a video game composer!!! What a GREAT video!!! Classic!! I gotta repost this on my Facebook tomorrow!
Thanks Doc! Without you... I wouldn't be here right now!
p.s. How AWFUL was my hair!! Baby Mullet anyone??
Was that Monty Python game ever released?
Yeah! Sure was! On multiple platforms too! But not for the home consoles... only computers.
What would it take to play Doom's E1M1 live?
Hmm... not too many people have ever asked for Doom... but it sounds pretty ROCKIN'!
Hey, Tommy! I was a huge fan of Judgement Day and Electric Playground back when they were shown on G4TechTV here in the US. I am hoping to attend Video Games Live the next time you make it to Minnesota!
When I see or hear your name, I immediately think of your High Heat Baseball 2003 review on Judgement Day. Is it still the worst game you have ever played, or has something else taken that title?
Best of luck to you with the Kickstarter!
Hahahhahaa!! Nope... High Heat Baseball 2003 is still the absolutely WORST!! Don't tell Vic though... he still gave it a 4.0!?!?!?! WTF!!!!
Good god man. The nostalgia! Used to watch you guys every day after school.
You're making me feel old!! :)
Wow...nostalgia overload! I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for many hours of entertainment you provided me during those years. You two had great chemistry and your commentaries always came of as genuine and not scripted or forced. I hope we get a chance to see you two in action again. Good luck with your current projects.
Thanks!! Me too!!
Tommy, do you still watch reviews on the run??
No. It isn't on in the U.S. Only Canada.
Yo! Could someone go into the VIDEO GAME section of Reddit and let them know we're doing a IAMA about video games in here?
I've made a post in /r/games, other people have posted to /r/gaming and /r/gamemusic.
Hey Tommy! First of all, thanks a ton for hosting this AMA! My name is Jason Kuntz and I had the pleasure of playing Sweet Emotion / Guitar Hero with you onstage at the 2011 VGL show in Orlando, FL. That is a memory that I hold very dear and it was a huge inspiration for my future goals. Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity! Since then, I’ve obtained a job in the game industry and I look forward to hopefully helping create music for a game at some point in the future.
As for my question, the world of eSports is really taking off. League of Legends sold out the Staples Center for their third world championship. DOTA2 just had a prize pool of $2.87 Million at The International 3. Even Ubisoft is breaking into more casual competitive gaming with their new Next Level series. As a gaming industry veteran, what do you think we will see next? Also, what would you personally like to see happen with the future of competitive video game playing?
Congrats on the GH win and getting a job in the industry! Hopefully we'll be playing YOUR music in Video Games Live someday soon!!
I hosted a show on DirecTV called the Championship Gaming Series for a few seasons. It was really amazing seeing how serious and passionate people were about competing. I wish there was stuff like this around when I was growing up!
I think it really shows how far the video game industry has come! I'm not sure if people will ever watch it on TV like they do football, basketball, soccer or baseball... but I love that it exists and that there is SO much interest for it around the world! Proves how culturally significant and artist video games have become!
p.s. DOTA 2 is now a part of Video Games Live and may be a track on the new Kickstarter album. Also... me & the Riot Games folks (League of Legends) are working up something amazing with VGL as well!
your last name is Kuntz? My last name is Phajyna
I just LOL'd. :)
Dude, well done! How'd you do? You get a high enough score?
Here is a video that someone recorded from the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3VpCSiMa_Q
Was so happy when I found out someone in the audience recorded it. Such an awesome experience <3
Hey Tommy! Coming from a musician that is comfortable with acoustic performance and composition, but is a bit scared to delve into the electronic field of music composition, what pointers would you give as to developing a style and eventually finding people to work for?
If you're a PC guy you should check out SONAR, Sound Forge & Vegas. Everything you'll need to record, edit and put to film. I'm not really a MAC person so I wouldn't know which program is best.
Please see my other response as to how to get in the industry... lots of good info in there. And please let me know if you have any other specific questions.
Tommy, you are literally one of my childhood heroes. The passion you bring to everything, be it such great energy in music (can anyone find any video game song that doesn't PERFECTLY personify a game stage like Banjo Race does?), or listening to you yell out "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, PLEASE PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR THE ONE! THE ONLY! CASTLEVANIA!", or how enthralled with games you were back in the The Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run days.
I have so many questions that I want to ask you, so forgive me if I espouse too much on too many topics:
- What do you think of the future of video game music, and it being accepted in the mainstream? We know that Christopher Tin's Grammy win can be a help, but what do you think can be done in the industry to help it out even further?
- There's word out there that you cannot actually read sheet music, but you still do amazing work. That's not a fault, don't get me wrong, it's just amazing. How would you recommend people get into game music making? Do you think that reading the music is a necessity?
- How'd you guys get to work with The Megas? That was an amazing performance, and so well balanced between their style of music and Video Games Live.
- What's your process for getting songs into the show?
- Finally, any interesting stories to tell about your cousin, Steven Tyler?
Thank you thank you thank you for this AMA!
Thanks for the kind words! It's a huge honor to know that my work has been inspiring to others in some small way.
1.) I think every video game publisher at this point is putting out game soundtracks now! I think G.A.N.G. (Game Audio Network Guild) had a lot to do with helping publishers understand the importance of that (and through VGL... proving to them that people are interested!) It's just going to take time for the industry to fully evolve into the mainstream. In about 20 years... everyone on the planet would have grown up with video games as a form of media. That means there will be grandparents out there who grew up playing games and will be playing with their grandkids! It's just a matter of time. The film/movie industry saw the same thing. All the old people felt vaudville was the real form of story-telling and entertainment... and it wasn't until the 40's & 50's (about 40 years after the start of the medium) that films really evolved into the culture. Same thing is happening with video games! Pong only came up in 1972! We're still a very young and very rapidly changing industry!
2.) It's true. I never learned how to read sheet music. Guys like Eddie Van Halen & Jimmy Hendrix never took guitar lessons either! :) Having a great "ear" is probably the most important thing. I know a TON of musicians who can read sheet music INCREDIBLY... but couldn't write a song to save their lives. There is all sorts of different artistic ways to express yourself. Being able to read notes isn't a requirement. Although I have GREAT respect for those who can... and I hire them all the time because they are a HUGE part of the team.
3.) The keyboard player Brian Didomenico works for Video Games Live! :)
4.) I usually approach the composer first to get them excited... from there I might approach the game designer or producer. Once everyone is hyped up and on board... then I'll approach the internal licensing, marketing or biz dev and/or legal folks. By having the team on board though... is REALLY important. I've been fortunate enough to have a LOT of friends in the industry and have worked with literally thousands and thousands of people over my career. So chances are there is always someone who I've worked with before that is in charge at this point. :)
5.) The biggest thing that Steven has indirectly given me over the years is that when I was child and watching him from the side of the stage... it never felt like his job was anything that was unattainable! I thought to myself... "Wow! That's a cool job! I want to do that someday! And if cousin Steven can do it... then so can I!" It never felt like an impossible dream.
Hey tommy. I don't really have a question because you've answered them all in the past. I just want to say hi. I was a moderator on your official forums back in the day. My name was Chris. I loved judgement day and EP. Thanks for the autograph too
Thanks for stopping by! The old TT forums were a fun time back in the day! Thanks for your help!
Just wanted to say that I really hope the Kickstarter campaign is able to pick up some last minute steam after this AMA - I think adding the $45 tier was a really smart move, although adding an additional tier at an even lower price point (~20) would probably be beneficial for you.
P.S. - I was at the Raleigh, NC VGL a few months ago, and man - it was fantastic! Hope to see you back in NC again. As a side note, you gave me a copy of the first page of the Legend of Zelda score - there's a wrong note in the viola part, bar 4, beat 3! Random, I know.
Anyway, I wish you the best - keep up the awesome work!
Hahahhaa! Damn... I'll need to look into that.
Thanks for the info!!
Yeah... the Raleigh show was WAY overdue! They are looking to bring us back in 2015!
First, I have to say I LOVED your shows in Montreal. I've been there twice. Having worked with hundreds orchestra musicians, and having them play in an entirely different setting than what they are used to: What is a Comment you received from someone who absolutely hated the experience and one from someone who LOVED playing for a video game crowd?
Love your work Tommy! I already pledged to the kickstarter!
Hater who played in one of the symphonies told me that I'm helping to ruin symphonic & classic music because young children are going to think that video game music is legitimate music. I looked him right in the eye and said... "FUCK YOU! YOU ELITIST SNOB! GET THE HELL OFF THE STAGE!" He then left the stage and I proceeded to throw a chair in his general direction. True story!! :) The "East Coast Italian" in me took over! Hahhaha!
One of my greatest symphony moments is when a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes and told me that she's been playing with the symphony for over 20 years and she's tried to get her 17 year old son to come and watch her perform for the last decade. Then as tears started to stream down her cheeks she told me that not only was her son here tonight, but that he brought all his friends with him and all he's been doing over the past few months is bragging about how his mom is going to be performing Halo tonight!
I retell that story in my TED Talk that I did this summer. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6K5B0iBUnA
I would say that 97% of the time the orchestras and symphonies are SUPER COOL and love the fact that we're helping to usher in a whole new generation of young people to appreciate the arts! But there's always one or two old school sour-pusses who just don't get it.
I have a feeling my opinion will be unpopular, but I can kind of understand the orchestral musicians who don't like playing video game music. Hear me out, though.
I have a music degree, and have played in professional orchestras (as a substitute player during my college days). Orchestras are being forced to devote more of their programs to orchestral versions of popular music or video game music or whatever. Because, like the mother found out, that's the only thing that gets people to go to the orchestra these days.
Now, I love video game music. Don't get me wrong. But a Mario transcription for orchestra will never be as good as a Brahms symphony, because it wasn't written for an orchestra, by someone who spent decades learning how to write for an orchestra.
Writing for an orchestra is very difficult. Even games that have orchestral music are often written by video game composers who haven't trained specifically in writing orchestral music. That doesn't make it bad music. Often it's quite good. But it will never be a Shostakovich symphony.
It's hard to justify this opinion to anyone who hasn't seriously studied classical music. So I probably won't be able to convince anyone. I get that. Sorry if it comes off as elitist.
Totally respect your opinion. But I do respectfully disagree with you that some video game music isn't as complex as classical. But comparing Shostakovich to Mario is a little unfair. I could do the same thing with say Skyrim vs. Bach (whom I personally despise) and make the same argument for the other side. :)
But even in regards to Mario... music is often times about "moving" people emotionally... and I'm pretty confident in saying that when people hear the music to Mario Bros. it brings an instant smile and incredible memories and emotions to the surface. Something that Shostakovich doesn't do for many people anymore because it isn't as relevant as Mario currently is.
Maybe that will change in time... and maybe it won't.
But in order to technically compare Classical to Video Games you would need to compare scores that were written for orchestras... not ones written for only 4 voice sound chips. I wonder what Shostakovich would have sounded like if he was working on an 8-bit NES? I bet it wouldn't have sounded as good as Koji Kondo! :)
Reminder: Never piss off Tommy.... Or bring your +1 vs Chair Armor.
Great Story about that mother. I'll go watch your TED talk right now as a matter of fact.
Love this story. I had someone that got excited when they heard I went to a symphony. But when I told him it was a video game symphony he gave me the "oh I thought you might be cultured".
So I let him know the composer was famous and made the top of the last FM greatest composers list and I met the composer (nobou uematsu). He shut up pretty quick and let me know he didn't realize that a lot of video game music is classical in nature and is just as good (if not better) then the "classics". He actually said he was going to check out his music after talking about him a bit (he also didn't know I was a classical guitarist and a fan of the "more traditional" classical music as well)
Some times it just takes educating people on the composers of video game music and them realizing its helping keep that style of music alive. I truly feel classical music might die away (for the most part) if it wasn't for video games and movies. Movies have slowly become accepted by the classical music community and from what I've been seeing Video games are starting to reach through as well.
And that's thanks to people like you that are educating these musicians at the same time as preforming. Thank you for all you do for everyone!
Great story! I've heard MANY like it over the years!
Thanks for doing this AMA!
I'm a student currently, and am planning on working my way into the game business in the audio field - sound design, composing, audio implementation, et cetera.
What would you say is the most effective way to break in?
Also, btw, been a G.A.N.G. member for years now, hope to be on the west coast to join the bbq someday!
Whenever I speak at schools/universities/conferences, etc. I always talk about how passion and networking is just as important as talent! Believing in your dream and working/doing whatever it takes to get there, never giving up, etc. is most of the battle.
As gigantic as the game industry seems, it's also a pretty tight industry and very easy to get into (unlike film/television, etc.) especially if you know and meet the right people.
Networking and keeping a positive attitude will allow you to achieve anything you set your mind to!
You'll want to prepare some kind of demo CD (or easily e-mailed links) of your work so that you'll be able to let people hear what you are capable of.
In regards to game audio specifically, there are a few things you can do to put you ahead. You've already done the 1st one! But I'll add it in case others aren't aware...
Join the non-profit organization G.A.N.G. (Game Audio Network Guild) at www.audiogang.org. Over 2000 game audio professionals from around the world are involved. There is a student membership which you would qualify for. An amazing resource for anyone looking to get into the industry. The website has a ton of info and it's like the Facebook for Game Audio folks! If you join the Guild, make sure to check out this story on "How to get a gig": http://www.audiogang.org/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=How-To-Get-A-Gig.html&Itemid=47
Get the book "The Complete Guide to Game Audio" by Aaron Marks and "Audio for Games: Planning, Process, and Production" by Alexander Brandon (amazon.com has them both). Incredible resources, advice and insight!
Join the IGDA (if there is a local chapter in your area). www.igda.org. They also have some great resources on their website such as: http://www.igda.org/breakingin/resources.htm A great place to meet up and coming game developers and like minded people in your area.
Check out the website www.gamasutra.com. There is a TON of game audio information and they do a monthly magazine called Game Developer Magazine.
Aside from joining G.A.N.G., the BEST advice I could give you is to definitely attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. www.gdconf.com. This is the networking mecca of the entire game industry! Over 15,000 game developers from around the world and nearly 1,000 game audio composers, sound designers, etc. are there. An absolutely fantastic place to meet and network with people. And you'll learn more in 3 days than you'll ever imagine! As a member of G.A.N.G. there is a $50 discount off GDC passes as well.
I hope this helps.
Talent is important, but just as important is "networking". The above mentioned things will really help you to increase your profile among the people who you need to be in front of.
Good luck! And please let me know if you have any other specific questions.
Different person here, with another career question. What general advice can you offer for someone wanting to go into the gaming industry? More specifically, for game development/programming; I am currently pursuing a computer science degree. Since you're on the music side, I know you might not be able to provide much detail about development specifically, but general info is fine.
Edit: oops, I skipped a couple of the points in your above reply. So IGDA and GDC are what I should be checking out.
Yes! Correct! IGDA, GDC and www.gamasutra.com
Also.. buy game programming/design books. There are a TON of them on Amazon!
Hi Tommy, great fan from Rio de Janeiro here and have been going to the concert since 2009. Every year you always say the same thing: Rio's audience is the most energetic and the most fun to play with. How much of this is actually true and how much of it is you just pulling our legs?
Thanks for doing an AMA!
It's 100% true! I even mentioned Brazil as the first country when someone asked me my favorite place to play. The audiences are just a LOT LOUDER in Brazil than anywhere else! Although Chile last year was pretty good and Montreal gives the South Americans a run for their money!
I'm looking forward to playing Peru & Argentina in a few weeks. The fans there are saying that THEY are going to be the loudest! :)
Chilean here - we shall be even louder than last year then! That way we can be the loudest of all!
We love you, Tommy. Thanks for coming again!
Thanks!! Looking forward to it!! Only a few weeks away!!!
Not really a question, but Wild 9 is my all time favorite game, and you helped shape that experience, so thank you.
Thanks! You're the 4th person whose mentioned Wild 9 tonight! Wow! Didn't realize so many people enjoyed it. I always thought it was totally underrated!
Here's an interesting rumor about Wild 9!!
It has been said that the character Wex: http://a3.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/4/ad216a616e504e02a2a6d7ad73ca2426/l.jpg
...is a cross between me & Shiny founder (EWJ) David Perry: TT: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mcdiv3lmIb1r47y1go1_400.jpg DP: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060918/perry01.jpg
Another Wild 9 factoid... I'm the voice of Wex!
"I'm all... POWER-UP!"
How big is Vic's head ?
TOO big! :)
Of the short list of games that I've played in which you've done music, I have to say, I loved MDK. One of the missions (Which, funnily enough takes place in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, my hometown!) has the character riding a surfboard to a tune you composed. I must ask, were you inspired by the campiness of the classic James Bond movie scores when writing that piece?
btw... we're hoping to be back to Scotland in 2014 during our European tour! It's been too long! Save some Irn-Bru & tablet for me!! :)
Recently, "Video Game Pianist" Martin Leung kinda turned on VGL over on his Facebook page and despite your attempts to talk to him there, he seemed to ignore you. You also mentioned that you tried to contact him personally but nothing. Did anything ever come of that? Big fan of the both of you so to see him take a strange turn was sad.
Nope. He refused to contact me and speak like adults. I feel he is VERY unappreciative of me & VGL considering all of the opportunities and audiences that we helped him to receive.
It's a shame he put out all that garbage (most of which he has since deleted) a day after our Kickstarter launched. I think the timing was a little too suspect. From what I can tell and from what people have written to me... he lost some fans because of the way he handled himself. It kinda reminded me of the time he ranted all about Lang Lang. In my opinion it's unprofessional when musicians talk that way publicly about other artists/composers/musicians. It kinda sounds like those people are jealous. But a guy like Martin never needs to be jealous of anyone else considering he's such a talented young man. I wish him well on his journey... I really do. But he definitely won't be performing with us ever again. And because of the way he handled himself, the things he said to personally hurt me, my hard work and the show and how he refuses to speak with me... I no longer consider him a friend.
I never trully understood what Martin's complain really was or if it even has any logical sense at all. You manage a show in wich you play with a full 60+ symphonic orchestra plus a 30+ people choire i.e in three different countries in three contigous days. I mean , that needs extreme rehearsal not to mention technical coordination ( light show installation and setting ). Those things are extremelly hard to acomplish and sometimes things can go wrong. So I kinda don't quite get why is a he behaving in such an unforgiving way , giving any reasonable person can realize about some common live concerts tradeoffs and compromises.
Very quick question, Will the album come out as scheduled even if you don't reach your goal? if so, what will not be there that you would of hoped?
No. I wouldn't be able to put out the album for awhile if it doesn't get funded. Will probably take another 2 years to save up enough to do it on our own.
Since the advent of Video Games Live, more and more companies have begun to take notice of the popularity of game music. Many have started releasing their albums on iTunes and on their own stores. What do you think the role of VGL will be, going forward, in regards to perpetuating accessibility of video game music?
More of the same I hope!!
It's really incredible to me and I feel so honored to be able to bring video game music around the world to the masses. Wherever we go... from China to Dubai, Poland to Brazil, New Zealand to France, Malaysia to Chile... so many people LOVE video games and video game music is like an international language for everyone! You don't need to speak a certain language or be from a specific country to enjoy it, understand it... and be passionate about it!
I put everything I have into Video Games Live... I don't take a paycheck and I put all of the profits right back into it. I want to keep creating and putting out new content around the world. Which is why I've turned to Kickstarter to fund our 3rd album. Kickstarter enables us to get MORE content out quicker! It took me almost 7 years to save up enough money to do the PBS Special and our 2nd album. Everything is self-funded. Instead of having to wait every 4 or 5 years... I'd love to do a new album every 1 or 2 years! I'm hoping our first Kickstarter is successful. We're really close with less than 5 days to go! Please check it out.
What did you think of Aziz Ansari's stand-up special where your website was at the centre of an entire bit?
I've been to VGL twice. Looking forward to your next visit through Edmonton, AB.
I know!! Crazy huh!! Aziz is a big star! To have him talk about me and my website was pretty darn cool! LOVED IT!! For those who have never heard it: http://www.tallarico.com/files/audio/misc/Tallarico.mp3
Yeah! Edmonton, AB always a great audience! I think we've sold out every show we've ever played there! And I think we've done about 5 or 6!
I love your soundtrack for Advent Rising. Such an underrated game. What are some of your own personal favorite tracks?
Whenever I put out a soundtrack album of my work I ALWAYS put my personal favorites in order on the CD! :)
So Muse (Track 1) is my favorite, Poeta (Track 2) is second... so on and so on.
Where in the world have you enjoyed conducting for what reasons?
I don't conduct actually. I create, produce, host and play guitar in the show. I don't even know how to read sheet music! I leave that up to smart folks who actually went to school for music! :)
My favorite places to perform VGL is Brazil, Chile, Taiwan, Malaysia, Montreal, China & Mexico. All SUPER PASSIONATE fans of game music in those places. REALLY AMAZING!!
Hey Tommy, just want to start by saying I've been a huge fan of yours for as long as I can remember! My question is: Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
Wow! That is a GREAT question...
I would have to say that having the balls to leave my family, travel across the country with nothing to become a professional composer is probably my proudest. I still look back on that and say to myself... "WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!!!" :)
Of course putting on the first Video Games Live show at the HOLLYWOOD BOWL is a close second! Everyone told me I was crazy and not many people would show up. Well... over 11,000 people showed up for that first show... and all of a sudden I wasn't so crazy anymore. :)
Will we ever see more of your own classic works in VGL? The Bonus Room themes from Cool Spot and Aladdin or anything from Robocop vs Terminator (Destinationz Unknown!) are in need of a orchestral arrangement!
Thanks!! I'm always a little weary to put my own stuff into Video Games Live. I don't want it to ever seem like I'm trying to use the show to promote my own stuff. I JUST put Earthworm Jim in there last year and I rarely even play that one.
I'd LOVE to do Destinationz Unknown from The Terminator Sega-CD. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMND6dUrbRc
Another one I'd love to do is one of the last songs I produced. It was for a Sonic the Hedgehog game and was called Molten Mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81YUdVvE_6s
Just wanted to say I loved you on Judgement Day back in the good old days of G4. With that said do you think there is a future for an all video games channel with the demise? Or will it be more in the direction we see of streamers and channels on the net. Thanks!
I totally think someone could come around and do it right!
I'd love to do it if I had the time & money/investors! Yeah... G4 really blew it!! It could have been so cool. Such a bummer.
Hey Tommy, loved your work in Earthworm Jim and everything that you've done with VGL. Already a backer and I really hope this goes through for you (and us).
What advice would you give anyone looking to compose video game music? Any just getting started techniques or perhaps any groups or communities to follow?
Thanks for the EWJ kudos!
Question already answered somewhere.
I went to the Irvine VGL show back in July and loved it!
It inspired me to start my own GSO at UCLA after learning about the GSO at the University of Maryland.
Thanks again for creating such awesome music and I look forward to seeing VGL 3! :D
Woo-hoo!!! Awesome to know! Please keep me posted of your progress! Would love to attend your first show!!
We hung out last time VGL was in Ft. Worth and you were great! The Earthworm Jim CD is still rockin'. (Teek says hi also, but she does not reddit)
Thanks for doing this AMA! Given, the state of "video game TV," what do you think of the replacements that are online only? Is the freedom a good thing, or is the more disparate audience and relatively lower ad revenue preventing one in particular from really TAKING OFF?
Yeah... G4 really blew it!! It could have been so cool. Such a bummer.
I haven't really seen too many things online though... not because there aren't good ones out there... but just cause I haven't looked. I love Yahtzee's reviews! And the Angry Video Game Nerd! Would be AWESOME if the 3 of us got together and reviewed games! Oh... and Vic needs to be in there as well so we have someone to fight with! :)
Do you know of any good interview video game shows? I'm sure there must be a ton! I just don't watch or look for them cause I'm always too busy with VGL or my family.
What advice do you have for someone trying to get into your profession?
Thanks for the question. I answered that one somewhere here.
Hi Tommy. I attended Video Games Live last year and in 2008 both in Montreal.
It's really great what you are doing and you are one of the people that I hold dear.
At the end of VGL, you encouraged people to stop by and give you suggestion for next year, but I couldn't stay to give you mine.
I think there should be more music from independent video games and that you should definitively play One Winged Angel every year (just kidding).
Beside that, do you plan to make a full feature full based on "Video Games Warz"?
Hahaha! Yes... more One Winged Angel. :)
Doing a full length feature film based on Gamer Warz is a scary thought!!
However... the Mega64 guys did release all 4 of them on DVD (called GAMER WARZ - THE COMPLETE SAGA) and there's even a Tommentary on each of the 4 short films!
Hey Tommy, just wanted to give a huge thanks for VGL. Come back to SF soon!
Thanks!! Heck yeah!!! The San Fran Symphony shows were really incredible!! Such amazing talent!! And how about the San Francisco Symphony Choir!! WOW!!!!!!! I still get goosebumps thinking about it!
Tommy, been a fan of yours since I first saw you on G4 years ago when digital cable first came out. It was then that I realized you did the music for Earthworm Jim, one of my favorite childhood games. Anyway, I went to Video Games Live in Philly at the Merriam Theater back in 2006. Our college game design class helped promote the show at Wizard World earlier that day. My question is, do you have any plans to bring Video Games live back to Philly? I'd love to see the show again, and I know a bunch of people who missed out on it or didn't know about it at the time who would get tickets in a heartbeat. Thanks for what you do for video game music! Rock on!
Yeah! We're talking with the Mann Center folks for 2014!!
Hey Tommy, Love VGL. Been to most of the L.A. ones. My question is: When is VGL going to be performed outdoors in L.A. again? I have to say I really prefer the Hollywood Bowl and Greek Theater over the Nokia Theater. There's just a really different atmosphere/feel to it.
I'd love to play the Bowl again and we've been in talks with them recently about making it happen! It's a tough one though because the Nokia Theater is right across the street from the L.A. Convention and E3! The folks who run E3 have been great friends of mine for almost 20 years and they really help to promote VGL to the masses and the game industry... which is HUGE for us!
So it's a tough one for sure. But yeah... would love to do the Bowl again. It's being talked about.
Also... you missed our big outside show in Orange County last month! It was at the 12,000+ seat Irvine Amphitheatre with the Pacific Symphony! It's like the Hollywood Bowl of Orange County!
Hey Tommy! Are you ever going to play Red Rocks in Colorado? I could see that as an unreal venue for the show.
edit: And it would make an unreal Concert DVD/Blu-Ray
I KNOW!!! We've been talking to the Red Rocks folks for years now! Would be AMAZING to follow in the footsteps of U2!! And you're right... it would make for a BEAUTIFUL DVD/Blu-Ray!
So, I've wrote you a big ass email one day about how your work amazes me. You claimed it was framed on your studio for inspiration; but even though I'm highly doubtful a fanmail could reach that amount of recognition, here's me once again congratulating you for being a dreamer and such a nice guy on your tours! Same could be said of all your tour crew!!
Keep up the good work!
Yo! You'd be surprised!! I have a TON of inspirational stuff on my walls!
I just looked to my right and I see these....
"His failures towered over other men's successes." - Ptolemy I in reference to Alexander the Great
"To be great is to be misunderstood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible."
And thank-you for your kind words!
You're always busy, do you even have time to play video games? What video game was the last one you played?
I'm still playing Uncharted 3, Red Dead Redemption, the HD version of Shadow of the Colossus and the new Need For Speed!
Hey Tommy. How are you? Do you remember that magazine ad of yours back in the day with the jeans that were ripped at the knees and I think maybe a letterman jacket? That was awesome. Please take another photo like this sometime in the future. Good luck on the Kickstarter!
Hahahhaaa!! You mean THIS: http://extralives.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/tommytallarico_ad.jpg
WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!!! Damn Record Companies! (I'll blame it on them!)
Thanks for the kind words!
YEAH!! Beethoven's 9th Symphony! Just sit in a room and listen to what all of the instruments are doing individually and how it's all different... yet together. Greatest piece of music EVER written IMO.
Also... John Williams - All of the Indiana Jones films.... stunning!!
And for guitar/rock... Van Halen, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Boston, Journey, Pink Floyd & the Eagles.
And for Electronica... BT, Enigma & Delerium!
My question is: how much of a role did Video Games Live have in the production of the concert band arrangements sold online? My school is playing one this trimester! And are there plans for any more of these?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
We basically just gave Alfred Publishing our full scores and they then arranged them all internally. We didn't really have anything to do with the form that they are sold... because they were done for Concert Band's, Drum Corps, etc. for which we know nothing about. We let the pro's at Alfred do all that.
Tell me about viking jesus
Super nice guy!! He's like a big teddy bear! Really talented, totally down to earth and willing to help VGL as much as possible.
How difficult is it usually to acquire the rights to any given piece?
Big fan by the way. Already backed the current Kickstarter. Also I have quite the grudge against the Cleveland Orchestra for being too stubborn to play with you guys, as that would probably be my only chance to see VGL in person.
Yeah... the Cleveland Orchestra has been a tough one to crack. They are one of the more prestigious orchestras in the world and they don't really dig doing Pop Culture type of stuff. But hopefully when they see things like our two recent SOLD OUT shows with the San Francisco Symphony (another one of the most talented and revered symphonies in the world) that they'll take notice and give it a shot! Someday I'm sure! We certainly won't stop trying! :)
I miss Judgment Day. That was a great show. I'm sorry everyone seemed to hate your style back then.
I miss it too!! Yeah... I seemed to have pissed off a lot of fanboys back then with my "brutally honest" style. Hahahhaa! Oh well.
Hey Tommy, long time fan dating back to 1999 with EP. I was wondering what you consider to the be strongest thing you guys brought to the table with RoTR and EP that shows like Xplay and online content didn't? Also, did you guys have the external editorial pressure when reviewing games that a lot of journalists deal with?
I think the thing that made the relationship between me & Vic so awesome was that we were just two good friends talking about video games... just like most friends do! The only difference is that we had cameras on us and it was going out to millions of people! We didn't have any cue cards or scripts... or even meetings! We just played the games... never spoke about them to each other until they turned the camera on. Everything was natural... and I think that made a HUGE difference!
Yes... we had companies come to us upset at my reviews. Nintendo even sat us down and had SPREADSHEETS printed out of all my Nintendo scores over the years!! TRUE STORY!!! I never told that story before. It was me & Vic and higher ups from Nintendo (I don't feel comfortable naming names... as they are still with the company and are cool people.)
Big fan of Prince of Persia.
Thanks! It was the very first game I ever did music & sound fx for! They even put my name down as "Tom Tallarico".... bleech!!
Hi Tommy. First off I am a huge fan of "Falling" which I first heard off the (I believe) first VGL Album. Its so fantastic! Second I grew up watching you on EP and Reviews on the Run. My question is: What are your thoughts on the current state of the two programs and what do you see for the future of them both?
Keep being awesome!
I haven't really seen EP or Reviews on the Run because they aren't aired here in the U.S.... only Canada I believe.
All I hear from people is that they wish I was back on the shows and that they don't have that "edge" that they once had. Then again... the people telling me that are probably being biased because they are talking to me through Facebook/Twitter, etc. I don't know... what do you think?
I have a question about the kickstarter, what will happen if the goal is not met? Will the project continue?
Unfortunately I would need to save up enough money through playing VGL over the next few years in order to afford to do it on my own again. Hoping that won't be the case though!!!!!
Would you rather have done anything else with your life? Why or why not?
I'd love to be an actor. Probably comedic.
Acting is a serious craft that takes years and years of training. Would have loved to have tried it out as a career.
How can I bring or help bring Videogames Live to Bogotá, Colombia?
Find a local promoter and show them how popular VGL is in South America!! Show them our website and tell them you know it would be a HUGE SOLD OUT SHOW!! And then tell them to contact us at: [email protected]
Hope to be seeing you in Colombia someday soon! My brother Mike is married to a Colombian so I know a lot about the culture and people!
Hello Tommy! We keep meeting randomly at video game conventions such as PAX and E3. My question is: How long do you plan on doing VGL? I can see you doing this for quite some time with new music every year.
Yep! I'll gladly do it for the rest of my life! As long as people keep coming... I'll keep performing it and creating new content!
Hey Tommy! I just saw you at your performance at Wolf Trap! You guys are amazing. My girlfriend and I already dropped money on your kickstarter. You mentioned in the show you love getting feedback about songs you guys would like to hear, so I thought I'd mention that there's a lot of fans on this site who would love it if you could do some Civilization music.
Also, if you are interested, this was the first video game score I listened to and thought, "Wow, I'd really like to hear that played by a live orchestra." It's one of my favorite scores from a video game.
We were the first to ever perform Civilization music! It was on our first & second album! (2 different versions!) as well as our Level 2 DVD/Blu-Ray. We even had Sid Meier (Civ creator/designer) at the Meet & Greet at WolfTrap one year!
Hopefully the Kickstarter will get funded this week and hopefully you got a tier that has Volume One & Level 2 as rewards.
Thanks for coming in and I hope to see you in the D.C. area in 2014! Make sure to check out MAGFest.org too!! I'll be there in January!
Are you related to Mia Tallarico of "Good Luck Charlie" fame
I just googled it. I never knew about her. The last name is spelled differently (Talerico) but I know that all Tallarico's (and like spellings) come from Calabria, Italy so I'm sure somewhere along the way we somehow attached.
Are next generation consoles going to be worth me spending a lot of money on?
For sure! I'm most excited about the PS4 though! (and it's $100 less at the time of this writing!)
Hey Tommy, my name is Jesus, you probably don't remember me but I helped you out promoting at the E3 2011 show. I've been spreading the word about your concerts whenever you stop by Southern California. Keep up the good work!
Please help us spread the word for our VGL Kickstarter. Trying to put out a 3rd album! Only 4 days left and we may be short... but with a little luck and a lot of hard work I think we can do it!
Spread the word to friends and foe alike!
post youtube links to your 3 best/favorite tracks you were involved with
Any chance of adding music from the Neverhood? like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBB47j6yR5U
Possibly! I worked with most of the Neverhood team for a very long time doing games like Global Gladiators, Cool Spot & Aladdin (at Virgin Games) then Earthworm Jim 1 & 2, MDK & Wild 9 (at Shiny). In fact... they are now known as Pencil Test Studios and recently got their Kickstarter funded for Armikrog! They blasted out the VGL Kickstarter to all their backers too!! Awesome guys, great friends and talented MoFo's!!
Well done on a very accomplished career!
Which one is the one song you really wanted to play but you were unable to because of copyrights?
Is it difficult to get the copyright holders to let you perform their music or they are mostly glad to let you do it?
All of the publishers are super excited to be a part of Video Games Live at this point. And most of them are calling me now to put their new & old stuff into the show!!
I answered your other question earlier.
Will you ever do shows in europe? ;D
Yep! For sure! We've played a TON of countries and were the first video game concert to ever do so in places like England, France, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Wales & Scotland. We've also played in Germany.
We have new agents for Europe and I put Portugal, London, Paris, Germany, Ireland, Scotland & Spain as the focus for them to get us shows for 2014. These are the same agents who brought us all around Europe 4 - 5 years ago so I'm feeling confident about it this time around. The reason we had to stop using these particular agents is because they left their old company to work for Universal in a different capacity. They recently left Universal and have now started their OWN company and they are focusing on VGL as one of their top priorities!
Thank you for your patience and understanding. It kills me to think people have been waiting so long... but with the economy of Europe and the high price to produce our show (lots of musicians, lots of lights/video/audio, flying in our team from the U.S.... 8 people, etc.) it just doesn't make financial sense for a promoter to put out so much money... only to get very little back. The only way to accomplish the goal is for 5 or 6 other countries/promoters to share the risk and cost so that the price goes down for everyone... and that has been the challenging part.
Please feel free to share this information with as many people as you can.
Thank-you again for your patience and I hope to see you in 2014!!
Will you take my under your wing? I want to learn everything I can as a composer.
I can barely take care of myself and my family as it is now! :)
When will you and Victor reunite to review more video games?
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