Interview with Tyler Bates

Tyler Bates is one of the most well known composers. Some of the projects he has worked on has been 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, “Rob Zombie’s Halloween”, “Halloween II”, Zack Snyder’s “300” and “Watchmen”. Movie Mikes had the chance to ask Tyler about his career and how he got started in the music business.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you get into the music industry?
Tyler Bates: I have played music my entire life. I began on saxophone, and once my cousins turned me on to KISS and Led Zeppelin I dropped concert band for a Les Paul copy. I spent much of my life in rock bands, and when I moved back to Los Angeles many years ago, my band, Pet, was signed to Atlantic Records. I have always had an appreciation for a broad scope of music – studying arrangements and production of music from every genre imaginable. I was offered the opportunity to work on a very low-budget film in 1992, and began picking up small scoring jobs to pay my rent while my band developed. One day I realized that I was actually in the film business, and I shifted my focus to scoring movies more than pursuing life as a touring musician.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you have any other passions?
Tyler Bates: NFL, NBA, and of course my family. I do like to experiment with instruments and musical gadgets not directly related to my work.

Mike Gencarelli: What is the process for you when you develop a score? How do you start?
Tyler Bates: After watching the film, I begin by discussing it with the director. I find it important to develop an understanding of the director’s taste and sensibilities – generally via conversation not directly related to the film at hand. If the time line permits, I will let the feeling of the movie build inside of me until I can’t stave off writing any longer. I am not procrastinating per se, it is just a way of approaching a project with a sense of intensity or urgency towards the creative process, regardless of the overall timbre and style of the film.

MG: After doing over 60 scores, have you ever thought that they sound alike?
TB: Of course! Some of this is intentional, some is by request of director’s I work with but mostly, it is the stark reminder that I need to consistently challenge myself to grow and add new techniques and dimension to my approach to film music. I think a distinctive style is essential as an artist, but overall you’re touching on the artists “love/hate” relationship with his or her work. It can be painful! Lol.

MG: You worked on all of Rob Zombie’s films, how did you come to get that arrangement?
TB: I did not work on “House of a Thousand Corpses,” but I have worked on all of Rob’s subsequent films. Rob and I were introduced through a close mutual friend many years ago. I heard Rob liked my score for “Dawn of the Dead,” so I offered to help out with the score for “The Devil’s Rejects.” I didn’t know that Rob wasn’t terribly interested in scoring his own films until he asked me to do “Rejects.” It was a rewarding experience despite the brutal nature of the film. We bonded through that movie, and have become good friends over the years. I really respect Rob as an artist, so it for me, it is a great collaboration.

MG: Do you always interact with the filmmakers or do you have creative control over your projects?
TB: The concept of “creative control” in its purest conceptual form does not exist in film scoring, especially the higher the budget. That said; once you earn the trust of your director and the producers, you then have much more support to approach the score from your sensibilities, and in your distinct style. This process requires a bit of “show and tell.” They key is to get it right the first time as much as possible, which means beyond the idea of creating a good piece of music, you have to show that you are thinking about the film as a whole, and the specific function of the score throughout.

MG: Do you have a favorite score that you have created?
TB: Hmm. There are things I like about some of them. The great personal experiences I have had along the way are typically what make me fond of any work I have done in particular. Maybe “The Devil’s Rejects,” and “300?” I don’t know. I just completed the score for Emilio Estevez’s new film called “The Way.” It’s very personal, acoustic, organic music. It was definitely a welcome departure from much of the violent material I have done over the last several years.

MG: Which other composers do you get your inspiration from?
TB: I love Bernard Herrmann and Penderecki. Henry Mancini. I also like Don Ellis’ work on “The French Connection” movies. Great stuff!

MG: In the last six you’ve scored basically sci-fi/horror films? Is that your favorite genre?
TB: I appreciate the opportunity to work with good people and to grow as a composer/artist. The genre doesn’t quite matter, but there is no doubt that Sci-Fi/horror offer the greatest opportunities to implement odd ideas…

MG: Any exciting projects you have planned for the future?
TB: “The Way.” The “Transformers Origins” video game is released soon. Season four of “Californication” begins soon. And of course, Zack Snyder’s new film.

Click here to purchase Tyler’s scores

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