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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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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.

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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

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