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Video Games Live: An Interview with the Creator

Friday, June 18th, 2010 | Posted by Fernando Caire

With E3 just passed, most people have video games in mind. One of the most compelling elements of games that is often overlooked is the music. Where would Mario be if he didn’t have that catchy tune? How less epic would the world be if “One Winged Angel” never existed? One man had a vision to bring some of the greatest video game songs of all time to a concert stage that hardcore gamers and non-gamers alike could enjoy. This man is Tommy Tallarico, Video Game Composer and Co-Creator of Video Games Live. I managed to catch up with Tommy and received some more insight on what has become the greatest display of video game music ever performed.

CG Channel: To begin with, we’d like to know more about your background. What did you do before Video Games Live and how did it get started?

Tommy Tallarico: Well I’ve been a video game composer for over 20 years and worked on over 280 video games which is a Guinness world record — actually inside the Guinness book as the person who worked on the most video games in their life. In 2002 I came up with the idea to create a concert, the reason I wanted to do the concert was to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games have become. So I wanted to create a show for everybody, not just hardcore gamers.

To quickly describe Video Games Live, it is all the greatest video game music of all time played by a symphony and choir. What makes it really special and unique is that everything is completely organized; from the massive video screens, to stage show production, to the interactive elements with the crowd. I kind of like to describe it as all the power and emotion of a symphony orchestra with the energy and excitement of a rock concert, mixed together with all the technology, interactivity, and fun that video games provide. So you don’t need to really know anything at all about video games in order to come out to the show and follow along and understand what’s going on. All the gamers love it because it’s all the stuff they’re into, but for people who don’t know about video games they find a whole new understanding and appreciation of this stuff which is really the goal.

CG Channel: How long has Video Games Live been touring?

Tommy Tallarico: We’ve been touring for 5 years and we do about 60 shows a year.

CG Channel: That’s a Guinness world record too isn’t it?

Tommy Tallarico: (laughs) Yeah! Yeah that’s also a world record as well for the most video game concerts in a year. Big news though is that  July, 31st will be the world premiere of our 90 minute PBS special. So we have a national TV special and PBS is going to be airing it starting July, 31st. We also have a DVD, Blu Ray, and our 2nd album also being released on July, 31st to coincide with the PBS special.

CG Channel: What was it like in the beginning before Video Games Live became the phenomenon it is today?

Tommy Tallarico: Oh well everyone  thought I was completely insane (laughs) including the video game companies. Because I had to go and get the rights for everything, and you know, I would be calling up the companies and everything. Working in the industry for over 2 decades definitely helped, knowing the right people to talk to and all that. They all thought I was kind of crazy like ‘who would go see a video game music concert played by a symphony?’ My biggest challenge over the years has been trying to convince people who aren’t into video games that it’s something they’ll enjoy as well. It was difficult in the beginning because no one really understood the vision or believed that it was something that could sustain itself.

The first show I did was at the Hollywood Bowl. You know…started right at the top (laughs), with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra and over eleven thousand people showed up. So that really helped prove the concept and everyone thought ‘hey maybe you’re not so crazy after-all.’

CG Channel: What does the future hold for Video Games Live? Can you shed some light on some new music we may hear in future concerts?

Tommy Tallarico: Yeah well the show we have coming up next week in LA it’s going to be a pretty amazing show. We’re going to have many guests conductors and guest composers; for example, this week we’re going to world premiere the live presentation of the music from Uncharted 2, which won a bunch of awards last year. The composer, Greg Edmonson, is going to be guest conducting. We’re going to be doing the world premiere of Africa which is this amazing game that came out from Sony Studios in Japan, again the composer is going to be there conducting. We recently added things like Mega Man, Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger,and Assassin’s Creed 2. For things coming soon, well Mass Effect is another one.

We’re working on a thing for Earth Worm Jim, which I did the music for, got a lot of requests for that one. We’re working on a Street Fighter 2 segment. We’re working on some more Final Fantasy stuff as well as a Pac-Man thing.

Our goal really is to be doing a lot of shows — 20 or 30 shows in the U.S. in the Fall. Then we have a European tour lined up in December and then going to countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and even putting together a show in Israel. It’s crazy and amazing how game music and video games in general are popular all over the world. No matter what country we go to, no matter what corner of the planet, thousands and thousands of people are showing up to take part in the experience and that says a lot about video games in general.

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CG Channel: If I am not mistaken you actually play the guitar yourself during some of the songs?

Tommy Tallarico: Yeah towards the end of the show we try to kick it up a notch and rock out the symphony a bit. (laughs)

CG Channel: Well what is your favorite song to perform and why?

Tommy Tallarico: Well I would say it’s a cross, oh gosh, that’s a good question. You’re going to make me pick!?(laughs) I love Castlevania. We do a rock and roll arrangement of Castlevania where the symphony backs me up with that, yeah that’s fun. Then there’s playing “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy 7 is always fun, and then I love playing acoustic guitar on Chrono, but If I had to pick one I have to say my favorite would be Castlevania.

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CG Channel: I actually saw you play that one it was a really great job.

Tommy Tallarico: Oh you’ve seen the show?

CG Channel: Oh yeah, I mean “One Winged Angel”… you guys knocked it out of the park.

Tommy Tallarico: Which show did you go see?

CG Channel: I saw it in San Diego during last year’s Comic Con. I hope I will get to see the show this week in LA for all the new stuff you have lined up.

Tommy Tallarico: Gotchya, actually one of the other new things we have lined up for the show as well is Silent Hill 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3. Also this week in LA we are going to have a bunch of special surprises just for E3.

CG Channel: Well thank you for your time and we look forward to more shows in the future.

To see when Video Games Live is visiting a city near you go to www.videogameslive.com

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