Q&A: Tommy Tallarico on Video Games Live

The game composer behind the growing concert series takes time after his GDC-closing performance to talk about VGL's growth.

SAN FRANCISCO--GameSpot News caught up with Video Games Live cocreator Tommy Tallarico after the concert for a short chat. Having just closed out the Game Developers Conference with a performance of his touring game-music concert series, Tallarico answered questions in between signing autographs for fans and telling them about the most requested additions to the series (Chrono Trigger and Metroid, incidentally).

During the chat, Tallarico discussed the growth of Video Games Live, past setbacks and concert cancellations, working with Square Enix to get Final Fantasy music on the program, and his other game-related ventures.

GameSpot: Are you pleased with Video Games Live in general and its growth?

Game-music composer and VGL head Tommy Tallarico.

Tommy Tallarico: Absolutely. We started doing this five years ago, before anyone else in the US. It took us three years to build this show and we've been touring it around the world for the last two years. But the toughest part, the toughest challenge is raising awareness for what it is. It's hard to put in words, or on paper in two or three lines, exactly what it is. You have to come and experience it.

GS: You guys definitely had some growth problems, like you had to cancel a few shows...

TT: In the summer of 2005 we partnered with Clear Channel, and when we had our first Hollywood Bowl show we had 11,000 people there. And so everyone thought it was going to be a huge thing right out of the gate. But we marketed the Bowl show for six months, and got 11,000 people. So after 11,000, they said, you know what? Let's put on 25 cities, and start the tour in six weeks. And because of that, the growth wasn't [great], because no one else around the world knew what it was. So because of that, we learned a really important lesson: just because it has video games in the title, and because we did our first show at the Bowl, doesn't mean it's going to be a huge success coming out of the gate.

But it takes a lot of marketing, a lot of raising awareness, and that's why you'll notice [with] our shows we spend months and months in each city before we come to it. Here in San Francisco, we have TV commercials and radio ads and newspapers and things like that. So after Clear Channel backed out, we had the company 100 percent again, so we've been doing it on our own ever since those cancellations. It wasn't our fault that it was canceled before, so we made a promise we're never going to [cancel] again. And once it got canceled I think a lot of people would have packed up and went home and said, "Oh well, it didn't work." But we knew the concept was amazing.

GS: And you guys had the control 100 percent once again, so you could do whatever you want.

TT: Exactly. And we believed in it. Even when everyone just canceled it, we were like, "You know what? We believe in this thing." And here we are, two years later, 25 shows later, and we got 40 shows this year. So it's been heart-warming and incredible. But it's still a challenge.

GS: Was there any piece of music that you were particularly proud of getting? Anything you were trying to go for?

TT: It took us a while to get the Final Fantasy stuff for the show. Again, I think you have to prove yourself to Square Enix because they have a very limited...

GS: Strict licensing policy?

TT: Yeah, strict licensing. They don't let anyone at all--no concerts--use video except their own, which they haven't done in couple of years.

GS: The Dear Friends series and the More Music from Final Fantasy concerts?

TT: Yup, yup. But no one else has the video, so we're going to keep asking and keep trying, but you know what? Like I said on stage, that music's so good that you don't even need video. It's unbelievable.

GS: It's also amazing that they had the concert right here [at Nob Hill Masonic Center] two or three years ago.

TT: Yup, three years ago.

GS: Where do you see VGL going from here? Obviously more concert dates?

TT: We did three shows our first year, 11 shows in 2006, and we're doing about 40 shows in 2007 all over the world. We're going back to Brazil. Last year we did Brazil and London, this year we're doing New Zealand, Brazil, all of Europe.

GS: You have the venues all arranged for that and marketing in place?

TT: Yup, we haven't announced all the dates yet, but we've announced about 20 dates so far, and we still have about 20 more to go. And then in 2008 we're doing about 100 shows. So you can see how every single year it's just growing and getting bigger and bigger. It's like Cirque du Soleil, right?

GS: [Laughs.] So what kind of work are you doing for yourself now? Is it all VGL stuff, or are there other things?

TT: It's mostly Video Games Live and still filming the TV shows, Reviews on the Run and The Electric Playground, and I also run the Game Audio Network, a nonprofit organization.

GS: You've been doing that for a bit, right?

TT: Yeah, six years. And so I haven't taken on any projects this year because of the tour. But Video Games Live takes about 80 percent of my time.

GS: Well, it was an excellent concert. Thanks again for talking with me.

TT: I appreciate it.

Written By

Discussion

53 comments
Rizzardi
Rizzardi

2 days ago I went to VGL here, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was amazing, Really. They played music tah they´ve never played before, and some old stuff that are wonderful. And I took a photo with Tommy! xD Congratulations man. Next year I´ll be there too!

vamroc
vamroc

I miss Unscrewed with Martian Sargent aside from The Man Show that was one of the funnest shows on cable. His side kick Laura was a great foil for his offen offensive views which were totally ment to provoke a negative response from her. Because she was a comedian herself she would fake walking off set, dropping F bombs, and really ratcheting up the drama for the sake of a laugh. Who else misses girls gone wired I know you do

ElectrolightSH
ElectrolightSH

Tommy Tallarico is an egotistical but pirate and as someone once said on the GS forums "I hope this guy chokes on his own scrotum."

Shingo
Shingo

I'm glad that people remember Tommy and Judgement Day. Man, what a great show. The best show G4 ever put out. The channel used to be so good. they used to have GAMES. Then X-play came, which was good at the beginning. Then their announcer left and Sarah left AOTS and it went way down really really really fast. I can hardly watch anything on there anymore. But 'The Block' is so edgy cool and hip! Oh and Fastlane! Oh and Cops!?? And Kristen Holt! =P Man, where did that channel go wrong. Lets all make JD come back.

smithy1185
smithy1185

I miss Judgment Day too back when G4 used to be tolerable. I always liked how Tommy would usually have really strong opinions about a game and how Vic would argue with him.

smithy1185
smithy1185

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Reetesh
Reetesh

I hope one day I can see VGL... am a VG Music Fanatic Myself.

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

The concert was fun when I went last year and I'm planning on going back. I missed it when it came to my town, but I took a cool road trip to see it. This year I want to check it out in my own town. It was excellent I can't wai!

icemancell
icemancell

i luv this show, only problem, the commercials for directv on that station bothered the hell outta me. if they continue to do competitive games, itll be a good season

CaptainLunchbox
CaptainLunchbox

All the crap he did on G4 made me hate him. A bit of an egotistical prick

RetroGameFanCom
RetroGameFanCom

IMO Tommy is great. I loved Judgement Day & Electric Playground. (Vic is realy cool too.) Too bad G4 screwed up their lineup and show nothing but crap now. X-Play is not an option in my house. The only time that show was any good was the short time that it was only Adam S. on the show. I think at that time it was called Extended Play. Now G4 & X-Play try to hard to be "edgy" and the junk they show now is not family friendly at all. Too bad, cuz when they 1st bought out Tech TV it was really showing promise and then they quickly messed it up. They need to get Tommy & Vic front and center on that channel to save it. But that is just my humble opinion. :) (I want my video game TV channel back!)

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

We can be proud... because there isn't a Movies Live concert series.

crunchb3rry
crunchb3rry

Cool Spot was the only game he did that I thought had decent music.

markbart0305
markbart0305

Here's one of those untalented rich pricks that you can't stand and wonder how the hell he ever made it in life.

-Squirrel-
-Squirrel-

As much as I love X-play I preferred the two differing opinions of Tommy and Victor on Judgment Day. I don't know exactly why the show stopped, but i would be very happy if those two ever did another show.

Eclipse83Lives
Eclipse83Lives

Yea hes talented and kinda a azz. But alot of musicians are so? lol

Dante200X
Dante200X

Haha, this guy is funny. I remember him on Electric Playground and Judgment Day. He had a few good remarks, but I didn't always agree with him.

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

Isn't he a music guy that wears funny shirts?

NathanHawkins
NathanHawkins

I'm glad that the show is coming to a town near me this year. I will buy the tickets as soon as they go on sale. Can't wait.

Redsyrup
Redsyrup

I was at this show and was totally stoked the entire second half of it. The beginning was a bit weak. Nintendo had a huge presence at the show with Koji Kondo performing mario's theme on the piano, also the voice of mario was there and showed off his talent for everyone and I heard Shigeru was there but I wasn't sitting next to him. When Kondo played on piano, everyone in the audience with a DS turned theirs on and held them up as if they were lighters in a rock concert, something I will never forget.

gilbrod
gilbrod

I think he should release the Terminator Sega CD soundtrack in iTunes and shut his yap about videogames. Talented in music he is. Not so much in giving an "honest" opinion.

nemes1s3000
nemes1s3000

Sorry to say this, but this guy should stay away from Reviews On The Run and Electric Playground. Always the negative reviewer while his partner in crime gives a positive one, it's lame and stupid.

rexoverbey
rexoverbey

This guy is an idiot! Remember when he said he had played all the PS3 launch games before they came out? He claimed they blew 360 games out of the water and looked NEXT GEN.

joshua6775
joshua6775

I always hated that guy, and that show.....and that co-host.

OfficialBed
OfficialBed

i remember him from reviews on the run and electric playground

xelloss88
xelloss88

I saw Video Games Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Now it is awesome, and if you get the chance go see it. Even if the price is high its well worth it for a great night.

Lanowar
Lanowar

I saw him at the UK video game thing he made a pretty bad joke that went down bad with the auidence about asyulm seekers or somthing I forget but apart from that he was ok. Only critisim about Video Games life was they were trying to hard to be UK friendly? Truth is UK games suck rather hear music from GOOD games then just random bad UK games.

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

I remember seeing this guy on a episode of Bonus Round on gametrailers. He was very pro-Sony.

boyblob
boyblob

Reviews on the Run is great. That's all I wanted to say.

demoralizer
demoralizer

I never took the guy serious enough to get mad at him. But for some one who is so harsh with his own opinions he really can't take any criticism. I'm glad the guy got something to keep him busy, because this guy was just a couple nuts shy of a fruitcake.

metroid_dragon
metroid_dragon

I seen VGL here in vancouver at it was amazing, sold out as well, so it's weird that other places didn't get as much sales.

Tamz
Tamz

Saw it in London, people went CRAZY when they started playing One Winged Angel

qux_max
qux_max

To bad the had to screw a lot of us over by cancelling 24 +shows after we bought tickets and where excited to see it

Max_Hydrogen
Max_Hydrogen

I agree with Davideogamer. Tallarico should stick to music; Electric playground was just their personal fantasy fulfillment machine and celebrity meeting device; his reviews sucked.

Impossibilium
Impossibilium

@ Davideogamer Tommy Tallarico knows his way around video games (and Spiderman!). The fun from JD was watching him play the joker against the straight man Victor Lucas but knowing that he's actually well respected in the video game world. As he says at 1UP: "My tastes in video games may differ from yours. In fact, I'm sure that everyone in world has different tastes. I can't stand it when gamers attack others for what they like or dislike. Just because I particularly don't care for a certain game or genre doesn't make me any less of a gamer or person than you."

Madmangamer364
Madmangamer364

A nice interview. I would love to have a chance to experience Video Games Live in person one day. Music is such an important part of what makes video games great, even if it is underappreciated at times.

Oni
Oni

I wish this show could hit alot more dates. It's really great to see video game music starting to get the recognition it deserves. It's an art form that is just as important to any other facet of story telling.

Xanatos11
Xanatos11

I was there at the San Fran show last Friday. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! If it ever comes around you have to see it.

Davideogamer
Davideogamer

I always got angry when I watched Judgement Day, but not as much as when watching some of the recent X-Play episodes. When it came to reviewing, this guy seemed like he had no idea what he was talking about. I hope he stays in the VG music industry, that's the only one he really knows his way around.

icytower
icytower

Judgement Day was the best Video Game review show ever created, beats X-Play by a country mile. It would still be #1, to bad that G4 had to destroy it like the rest of there line up. I had no idea Electric Playground was still being made, too bad it's not as good as JD.

evanball
evanball

yea. that was a great concert! i went there in January they came to edmonton and it was a kick ass show

ssvegeta555
ssvegeta555

Impossibilium, I completely agree. I miss Judgement Day, I wish it was still on. It was one of those shows that truly appealed to gamers. If VGL comes to Oregon I'll make sure to go, I love video game music. Most people see video game music a something sub-par or dumb and don't give it a second glance. It's a shame, there are really good scores and albums. I think VGL is a step into the right direction for video game music awareness.

hangid
hangid

i remember tommy he was one of the hosts for elec-play

h2887
h2887

VGL is quite amazing anyone who gets a chance to see should definately go its an experience that will stick with u for a lifetime

Lorindol
Lorindol

it does say 1969....wow. I like The guys shows, he is a good musician and very creative.