Why you will love Tommy Tallarico: GAMER OR NOT.
For those out there looking for a hero, seeking that special someone to look up to or even just in need of an icon to pray to at night. I’d like to introduce you to the genius that is Tommy Tallarico. I’ve been a huge fan of Tommy’s for decades and wanted to help spread the word of just whom this industry giant is and what he’s got up his sleeve for you (and your grandma). Tommy and I recently chatted over the phone and this is the contents of our conversation.
Wyatt Fossett: Hey Tommy, how’s your Tuesday treating you?
Tommy Tallarico: Hey Wyatt! I’m busy; I’ve got a lot in the works.
Wyatt Fossett: Well let’s dive right in then shall we?
Tommy Tallarico: LET’S DO THIS!
Wyatt Fossett: All right. For those who aren’t familiar with you, can you give the people a rundown of who Tommy Tallarico is and what it is you do?
Tommy Tallarico: I have been a video game composer for 21 years. Folks from Canada might know me from Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run, which I did for about 12-13 years. In 2005 I launched Video Games Live, well, I created it in 2002 but it took me three years to put on the first show. I’ve been doing VGL ever since.
Wyatt Fossett: How did you get your start with Electric Playground?
Tommy Tallarico: I got my start cause back in 1994 I believe it was, I was approached by Victor Lucas (the producer of Electric Playground) about being interviewed on the show. I had just finished Earthworm Jim 2 at the time and I said YEAH SURE! We did the interview and it went so well and we had a good report with each other that he called me up a couple weeks later and asked if I’d like to be the host of the show.
Wyatt Fossett: How and where did you get your start in video games?
Tommy Tallarico: For my entire life my two greatest loves were video games and music, of course I never thought at the time to put the two together. Growing up in the 70’s there was no such thing as a video game composer. When I was a kid I used to charge a nickel to all of my friends, invite them into my basement and play them recordings that I did personally of all my favorite video game music. I’d put the game visuals on a big screen and give my friends a “video game concert”. When I turned 21 I literally left my parents crying on the doorstep and got in my car and drove to California. I didn’t have any money, no friends and no place to stay. I was actually homeless, for the first week I slept under a pear at Huntington Beach. The first day I was there, I grabbed a newspaper and saw a job selling keyboards, one that I eventually got. My first day at work I wore my turbo graphics 16 shirt (one of the only shirts I owned) and my first customer just happened to be a producer at Virgin. They were just about to launch their video game company. He then proceeded to get bombarded with 21 years of video game knowledge that led to him offering me a job as a tester. I bugged and pleaded with the president to let me compose music for free, and eventually got the chance. The first game I ever worked on was the original Prince of Persia.
Wyatt Fossett: Knowing your previous experience as the basement wonder that was teenage tommy, where did the VGL project begin? How did you put together all of your goals for the project?
Tommy Tallarico: Well, the reason I created the project was that I wanted to show the world how culturally significant video games and video game music had become. I didn’t want to just create a show for gamers like you and me; I wanted to create something for everybody. Even if you’ve never played a game in your life, you’ll walk away from VGL with a greater understanding and appreciation for what video games are. On the flip side of that, it’s also helping to usher in a whole group of young people and help them appreciate a symphony. It’s also turned into a great social gathering of like-minded people.
Wyatt Fossett: VGL is definitely a niche in its own.
Tommy Tallarico: Have you seen a show?
Wyatt Fossett: I’ve been to all of the shows in Vancouver.
Tommy Tallarico: Well I’ll tell you some great news. The show that we are doing this year is 95% different then the previous shows we’ve done. From year to year now we’re trying to really mix it up.
Wyatt Fossett: What is it like being on tour with VGL?
Tommy Tallarico: Well, we always use local musicians, switching up symphonies in every city. People get to listen to their local symphony, which would normally play Beethoven and Mozart, playing Mario and Halo songs.
Wyatt Fossett: To please my own fan boy-ism, I have to ask; Red Dead Redemption is one of my favorite games, are you going to be picking up any of their amazing scores?
Tommy Tallarico: It’s funny you mention that, we’re actually in talks with 2k now. I’m a friend of one of the composers. I’ve been talking to Woody Jackson and potentially will be débuting that at E3. No one knows this yet, so you’ve got the scoop.
Wyatt Fossett: What is the next step in this project?
Tommy Tallarico: Ya known. We’ve played to 100,000 people in china. We’ve done weeks in Brazil. We’ve pretty much hit every major country in the world and we’re nowhere near done. I want VGL to be a household name. I want to be Circe ‘de Soule or the Blue Man Group. Wouldn’t it be great to see a permanent Vegas show? VGL in Vegas!
Wyatt Fossett: VGL draws such high crowds of gamers and geeks alike when on tour, how has this translated into tv/dvd/cd?
Tommy Tallarico: Well, one of my early goals was to play VGL on national television. In the US, there is only one place to do that, PBS. Once you do a special on PBS, you join the ranks of the greats. Our PBS special turned out to be one of the highest grossing/viewed PBS specials they have ever done. Our albums as well have clout, this is the first time that the music to Mario, Zelda, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and Mega Man have ever been released on cd in North America. So sales are great. I wanted to combine all of the power and emotion of a symphony, the energy and excitement of a rock concert mixed together with the cutting edge visual, interactivity and fun that video games are! THAT’S WHAT I WANTED! Video games aren’t just music, it’s not a bunch of old people on stage in tuxedos playing video game music. I wanted VIDEO. GAMES. LIVE!
Wyatt Fossett: What is your involvement with the Canadian Video Game Awards?
Tommy Tallarico: I’m in connection just based on Victor Lucas. We were asked to bring VGL and play for the audience. This year, I think it’s been announced (if not here is your exclusive), VGL will again be playing at the awards show.
Wyatt Fossett: Is this the final stepping-stone in your career? Or is there more ahead for you?
Tommy Tallarico: Well, doing a live performance, feeling that instant connection with an audience, is such an adrenaline rush to me. Performing is who I am and what I was meant to do my whole life. VGL is just my outlet to that scenario.
Wyatt Fossett: Well Tommy, it’s been a blast. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Tommy Tallarico: No, thank you Wyatt. Thanks for continuing to spread the word and help the community understand what it is VGL sets out to be.
After our conversation, I sat in my office chair in awe of how completely inviting Tallarico was to speak with. In all of my experiences talking with “professionals” in the video game industry, Tommy Tallarico sets the bar high for respectability and dignity. I’ve yet to meet another hero of mine that treats people as nicely. Tallarico displays such a passion for what he does and it makes guys like us feel great about working so hard at what we do. The ideas put behind the Video Games Live experience are beyond just video games. Tallarico feels so enlightened by expressing this love to everyone, gamer or not. This is all just the tip of the iceberg into the story of Tommy Tallarico and Video Games Live. One thing is for sure though, you’ll love him regardless.
I’d like to thank Tommy for taking the time aside from his busy life to speak with me on the phone, Teresa Trovato, Publicist at Paul Mercs Concerts and the entire video game community for making Video Games Live as big as it has become.
"Tommy Tallarico is THE deity of our universe! It’s about time you go to church, VGL style!" -Wyatt Fossett
Canadian Video Games Live Tour Schedule:
Vancouver, BC: April 13 & 14 at The Centre for Performing Arts
Victoria, BC: April 15 at Royal Theatre
Calgary, AB: April 17 at Jack Singer Concert Hall
Edmonton, AB: April 18 at Jubilee Auditorium
Saskatoon, SK: April 20 at TCU Place
Regina, SK: April 21 at Conexus Arts Centre
Winnipeg, MB: April 22 & 23 at Burton Cummings Theatre
Thunder Bay, ON: April 25 at Community Auditorium
Kitchener, ON: April 27 at Centre In The Square
Hamilton, ON: April 28 at Hamilton Place Theatre
Ottawa, ON: April 29 at Civic Centre Theatre
Montreal, QC: April 30 at Place Des Arts
Toronto, ON: May 2 at Massey Hall
Kingston, ON: May 3 at K-Rock Centre