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Talking with Tommy Tallarico, Part 1

Talking with Tommy Tallarico, Part 1 (photo)

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Tommy Tallarico’s riding high. Fresh off his third consecutive annual Comic-Con concert, the 42-year-old musician will be seeing a PBS special of his Video Games Live concert tour airing through the summer. The eight-year-old extravaganza delivers orchestral renditions of video game music, touching on everything from back-in-the-day favorites like “The Legend of Zelda” to new classics like “Halo.”

Tallarico himself holds the world record for having worked on the most commercially-released video games, mostly as a composer. He’s done soundtracks for, by his count, nearly 300 games. But his most high-profile gig of late has been as the driving force behind Video Games Live. As the PBS special starts airing across the nation, Tallarico took my phone call to discuss the soundtrack of the button-mashing generation. Expect more from our talk as the week goes on.

People identify so strongly with the soundtracks in certain video games, but don’t often know the people who’ve written that music. Who do you think are some game music composers that people should know about?

Well, I think Nobuo Uematsu. He’s the genius behind all of the “Final Fantasy” music. I think he is just as talented and relevant than any film composer or any classical composer. I really do.

For more contemporary stuff, take a guy like Michael Giacchino. He won the Academy Award this year for the movie “Up.” Well, he’s been a video game composer for 15 years. And then he started doing the TV show “Lost.” He did the latest “Star Trek” film, “Cloverfield,” he worked on, too. The “Mission: Impossible 3” stuff. Not only does he still do video games, he’s doing TV and film as well.

Your guys have to turn old-school 8-bit, 16-bit soundtracks into symphonic music. What’s the process been like for you? Are you referring to other recordings that have happened in Japan or how does that come about?

Sometimes, a lot of the “Final Fantasy” music, for example, has been played — it’s so popular in Japan and around the world — that they have released symphonic albums and arrangements. Nobuo Uematsu is the mastermind behind all of the “Final Fantasy” music and he is just as talented and relevant than any film composer or any classical composer.

Work like his has already been adapted for symphonic concerts, then?

Yeah. But we always want to give the audience, even the hardcore fans something a little different. So for example, our version of One-Winged Angel from “Final Fantasy VII”, we actually call it the Rock Edition, because we kept the orchestra going, but then we had — I play guitar, electric guitar in the show, so we kind of rock it out, more of like the “Advent Children” [movie] version, if you are familiar with that, but our own flavor and our own taste to it, more bass guitar and drums.

And the older games?

All I have to do is take my favorite or the most popular melodies from each of the games — “Sonic The Hedgehog,” the “Mario” and the “Zelda” themes — and kind of put them all together, and then get an orchestra to make them sound even better than the originals. I get to take everybody else’s amazing work and present it to the world. So, to me, I get the fun part. The challenging part-composing this awesome music-has already been done by true masters.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.