Tommy Tallarico talking in Toronto!

That title is an alliteration win if I’ve ever seen one.

So I’ve seen Video Games Live three times now, but ironically, none of those times have actually been in the city where I live. So I figured that I’d head down to one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen at Massey Hall in Toronto this past Monday and check out the show. Of course, it wouldn’t be Video Games Live without interviewing Tommy Tallarico, the mastermind behind it all, and so he and I sat down in the emptied theatre before the show and had a chat. I’m going to throw up a rather length review of the show as well, but right now, it’s all about what Tommy had to say. PS, he even mentions some upcoming LA show details for the famous E3 show extravaganza!

Eggplante!: It’s been almost a year since we last spoke! You’ve been back to Toronto something like four times now!

Tommy Tallarico: Has it been four shows, now? You know, Charlie Sheen was here!

E!: Yes, he was! He went out on the balcony and shouted out to people and… hey you know, you kinda look like Charlier Sheen. I mean, minus the crack and stuff…

TT: Yeah, minus the coke and the hookers and all that stuff, yeah.

E!: So how have you been?

TT: Good! It’s been crazy! This is the fifteenth show – we’re doing 16 shows in Canada in 21 days. So we started in Vancouver and we moved all the way over. And then from here, after we play Kingston tomorrow, come back to Toronto to fly out right to Mexico City to do the first video game show ever in Mexico City, and it’s the biggest city in the world. We’re doing two shows and it’s already been sold out there! And then E3 of course! And that’s the last time I saw you!

E!: See, now I’ve never seen you on Canadian soil. So we’ve met like six times, but always where you’re at, never where I’m at!

TT: Well this LA show is going to be completely different than the one you’re seeing. There’s not one single thing that’s the same – it’s completely all brand new shit! We’re playing Halo: Reach, Diablo III, and we’re going to do so many world premieres at the E3 show – Resident Evil 5, Red Dead Redemption, just some great games.

E!: So you’re serious – this is going to be big! I don’t know how you do it man. I mean, we talked in LA this past year and, at first people thought you were crazy, and now they’re coming to you, so are you getting people coming to you pre-announcement for a game like Halo 4, for example, before the public even knows about it?

TT: Some of them do. I mean, Blizzard has been the best, because they really understand their fans and understand what people want. I wouldn’t say the same for Nintendo, I wouldn’t say the same for Microsoft….

E!: But that’s pretty atypical of Blizzard, isn’t it?

TT: Exactly, but that’s why they connect so much to the fans. They get it. That’s why Blizzard is Blizzard. And yeah, more game companies should be coming to us saying “hey, we’ve got this new game coming out, is there anyway to put it in your show?” where thousands of people can see it in action, but they don’t get it. I still have to beg and go through a thousand hoops to get them to agree to something small.

E!: So I haven’t noticed that podium over there before – is that new?

TT: Yeah, that’s the podium we had made for our PBS special – it’s a big joystick, of course – it lights up and looks like a freakin’ spaceship; light beams come out of it!

E!: So what’s new for tonight? Because you’ve never played the same show twice – and I know you’re not going to start now!

TT: Right, we’ve got Mega Man, Street Fighter II, we’re doing Civilization IV with the original singer because he lives in Toronto, as well as the singer from our PBS special, Assassin’s Creed 2 of course. Martin has a whole new Mario thing that no one thought was possible – wait till you see tonight; he does this Super Mario World thing, he’s added to his Final Fantasy thing. And Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Still Alive from Portal. And of course a new presentation. We’ve got all these really funny videos now, and you’ll see God of War, but we’ve set up a storyline for it before the song comes in, and it’s just a lot more funny and entertaining.

E!: You’ve still got the poem “Roses are #ff0000, Violets are #0000ff, All your base are belong to us!”, right? Because my brother hasn’t seen that one yet!

TT: Well see, that’s the thing, I can’t change everything because people come up to me in tears saying “how come you didn’t play Kingdom Hearts?” This is the first time I’ve seen the show. I mean, we’ve created 80 segments, but I can only play 18 of them per night, so come after the Meet and Greet and tell me! I write this shit down, I really do!

E!: So is there a way to set up something pre-show where you put up a poll for people to select what they want to see and hear?

TT: Yeah, so that’s what we do on our Facebook page and we also do a mailing list where they can say what games they want to hear.

E!: Have you ever played a show without Zelda, without Mario, or without Halo?

TT: No. Uhhhhh, no. I mean, in some ways it’s represented. In the past, you’ve seen the games played with the orchestra. You will not see that tonight. But Laura Intravia is here and she does her Zelda thing, and Martin does his Mario thing. You know, I’m working on a whole orchestral Ocarina of Time thing just for Zelda. I’m working on a whole Super Mario World orchestral thing just for Mario, so yeah there’s so much content. I could do Mario every show and do it differently every year! But tonight, you’re going to see more of a soloist experience. You know, after being here the fourth time, it’s like people saw the orchestral version three times now. Let’s give them something new, so that’s what it is.

E!: So what’s next? I mean, you’ve done massive distribution with Blu Ray, DVD, 200 shows, been playing for 6 years now what’s next?

TT: I mean, there’s so much stuff we haven’t got to. We need to do Pokemon – we’re doing Ash, Misty, Brock, Squirtle, Charmander, Bulbasaur – and that’s the shit right there! Maybe we’ll do some Mewtwo, I don’t know, haha! We’re putting Devil May Cry in the show, we haven’t even touched Namco stuff yet like Pac Man and Katamari Damacy, Phoenix Wright. I mean, we’re just scratching the surface. We only do Final Fantasy 7 and 8, but we could do the opera from 6, the stuff from 10, there is just so much that goes on and on. I mean, we’re at 80 segments now, talk to me in two or three years and we’ll be up to a hundred and fifty! And there will still be more content coming! New stuff!

E!: Are you playing any music from High Heat Baseball 2003?

TT: You know, I gave that game a score of zero, and while I will never allow High Heat Baseball on stage here, I may however play a big orchestral version of Color A Dinosaur – I think that deserves its own thing.

E!: Alright, so let’s do the Eggplante Crap Shoot – I’m going to throw out a bunch of stuff and you just say the first thing that comes to mind. Let’s start with Kesha.

TT: What the hell’s that?

E!: Alright so you and Scott Jones have that in common: who the fuck is Kesha?! Next: Oprah.

TT: Oh wow, respect! Mad respect for Oprah! Man, she’s a woman in charge and I love Oprah. I think she should run for president. And she’s vegan! Well, when she’s thin she’s vegan. But yeah, a female person who is in so much power is like awesome to break all the moulds. Again, I really think she should run for president.

E!: Okay, so speaking of president: Donald Trump.

TT: I love him. I love him because everything that I’ve heard him say about what he would do if he was president, I’ve been like “YEAH! That’s what I’m talking about!”, because see he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. Politicians need to care because they need to try to make everyone happy. Trump doesn’t care if he pisses people off. Look, I’m going to get it back on track, and this is how I’m going to do it. And I listen to it, and it’s like “That’s what I’m talking about!”. He says if a country wants us to help them out and we’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of the US’s money and put our sons and daughters lives on the line, we wanna get paid. You want us to help you out, we’re taking half your oil. Business!

E!: So what I find interesting about what is so important to you is that connection you have with people. You do 16 shows in 21 days and you still find the time to comment on Facebook photos, and still find time to connect with people. I mean, there are a lot more than just me, so if you’re leaving a couple of comments on my photos, there’s another million people out there wanting the same thing. How the hell do you find the time to do it? Literally – how do you find the time?

TT: You know, I do too much of it. I should be spending more time with my girlfriend and not commenting on your freaking page. But, you know, it’s something that I think I always wished that when I was growing up, it would be so cool to communicate with that person I liked, and now that I’m kind of in that position, I wanna hear from people! This show isn’t for me! This show is for them. Without them, it’s just a rehearsal! And so, I want feedback from everybody. The way I look at it, as a video game composer, we’ve been trying to get respect our whole careers. It’s like people don’t take video game music seriously, but these people do. So for me to talk to someone online, even if it’s like ten or fifteen seconds. I mean, how long does it take to leave a comment on Facebook saying “glad you liked the show”. To make that connection, it’s like you get a fan for life.

*Tommy’s phone went off here, which was of course none other than R2-D2 informing him of a text message!*

TT: You know, I don’t need to post on Facebook. It’s not an ego thing. Having a crowd here is ego enough for me. Cheering is ego enough. But every show we’ve done a meet and greet and I’ll stay here two or three hours until everyone’s taken care of. I just like to do it. I like to give back to the people who make this possible. And I say that on stage – you’ll hear me say it two or three times tonight. And I tell people – be proud! – I’m tired of people being embarrassed to tell people they’re gamers, or that they watch Pokemon, like fuck that! Be proud – it is what it is! And you know what, we’re all having a lot more fun. Who would’ve thought ten years ago that this would be possible!?

E!: What a way to end it. Thanks man – that’s it! Incredible stuff, have a great show tonight, and I’ll see you at the meet and greet!