Tyler Bates Balances Careers as Guitarist and In-Demand Film Composer

Composer Tyler Bates is difficult to pigeonhole. At times he’s the maestro of fun, lavish symphonic scores such as the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. At other times, he’s been the heavily made-up guitarist accompanying Marilyn Manson on worldwide concert tours.

He’s also the soft-spoken, philosophical artist who asks filmmakers over to his studio to improvise themes based on their ideas about story and character.The extremes of Tyler Bates’ career are what keeps him fresh, alive and eager to start the next project. “I’ve been through a lot of very challenging experiences in my life,” he says. “That’s manifested in my philosophy about music, about relationships … every experience informs everything. As an artist, it also informs the spectrum of emotion and your intuitiveness about people.”

Although the “Guardians” movies have become his most successful films, those grand-scale orchestral scores are light-years beyond where he started.

Born in Los Angeles, Bates grew up fascinated by all kinds of music. “Led Zeppelin, Kiss and Black Sabbath, Tchaikovsky and Mingus and Frank Zappa, folk music, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Hair,’ I got excited about everything,” he says.

A highly proficient guitarist, he spent the late ’80s and early ’90s in Chicago, returning to L.A. in 1993 to write and produce with other artists. Film scoring inevitably followed. Much of his early work was in the horror or sci-fi genre: Rob Zombie films including “The Devil’s Rejects” and the “Halloween” remake, Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” redo and others.

Tyler Bates in his studio
Courtesy of Victor Colomes

Snyder gave him his biggest canvas yet with “300,” the gory Spartans-vs.-Persians graphic-novel adaptation, and followed it with “Watchmen,” based on the Alan Moore graphic novel. Both demanded big orchestral scores plus choral and electronic elements.Eight years later, “300” stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch hired him for their Keanu Reeves thriller “John Wick.”

“We had a vision about how to make a modern-day myth,” says Stahelski. “We were trying to do an anti-action movie, and everybody we went to gave us the same fast-beat, action-y kind of stuff. We needed a different sound.”The film happened to come along just as Bates had finished co-writing and producing Marilyn Manson’s “The Pale Emperor” album. The filmmakers were considering a Manson song, met the rocker and he suggested Bates as their composer. (Bates recently finished work on Manson’s next album, “Heaven Upside Down,” due later this summer.)

Bates has also finished music duties for Leitch’s next film, the Charlize Theron-starring “Atomic Blonde,” due July 28. “I pestered him for months during production,” Leitch admits. “There’s definitely an electronic influence because we were riffing on Berlin in the ’80s, but there’s a lot of guitar too. That’s Tyler’s weapon of choice. He uses the guitar in such interesting ways.”

Explains the composer: “I always go back to storytelling and emotion. If music is present, its job is to support that. What is the most appropriate way to address the situation, whether it’s action or a very personal moment between people?

Tyler Bates Marilyn Manson at a “Californication” wrap party in 2013
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP

It’s a huge challenge to do that effectively.”It applies to TV, too. In recent years Bates has scored dozens of episodes of “Californication,” “Salem” and “Kingdom,” and he has already started on Netflix’s upcoming Marvel series “The Punisher.”

“There’s definitely a lot of noise in it,” Bates laughs. He describes the score as “broken blues. We really wanted to get into the dark corners of the Punisher’s mind.”“Samurai Jack” creator Genndy Tartakovsky also turned to Bates for this year’s Cartoon Network revival of his animated series.

Says the producer: “My favorite moment with Tyler is when we have long discussions about a particularly difficult or unique piece of music and he will just pull out a guitar and start playing, instantly capturing the emotion and spirit of the scene — as well as giving me goose pimples.”

Bates is working with director Emilio Estevez on “The Public,” their third film together. “Because there are equal parts humor and drama throughout the film, I am leaning on Tyler’s musical tone to let the audience know when it’s OK to laugh,” says Estevez.

Bates, ever reflective and thoughtful regardless of the nature of the project, says:  “I try and learn from the past but I don’t live there. I feel like the best piece of music is in front of me.”

Director Leitch speaks for many of his colleagues when he declares: “I don’t want to do a movie without Tyler Bates.”

Selected Filmography
(With worldwide grosses)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
300 (2006)
Halloween (2007)
The Day the Earth
Stood Still (2008)
Watchmen (2009)
The Way (2010)
Sucker Punch (2011)
Conan the Barbarian (2009)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
John Wick (2014)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Guardians of the Galaxy,
Vol. 2 (2017)
Source: Box Office Mojo

More Music

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • Parliament-Funkadelic and George ClintonIEBA Annual Conference,

    George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Sheila E. to Perform in ‘Grammy Salute’ Airing Friday

    Parliament-Funkadelic stars George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, along with Sheila E. and many others, perform in the “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” airing as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series Friday night. The show, the fourth annual all-star concert offering a primetime spotlight for the Academy’s 2019 Special Merit Awards recipients, premieres nationwide Friday, Oct. [...]

  • Lola Marsh

    Ping Pong Sets the Beat in Hypnotic, Green Screen-Ambitious Lola Marsh Video (Watch)

    Forrest Gump has nothing on Lola Marsh. The Tel Aviv-based twosome of vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau transform into ping pong rivals in the video for “Only for a Moment.” The indie-pop jam combines Cohen’s Lana Del Rey-esque vocals over an upbeat blend of snaps, claps, shakers, and a driving melody courtesy [...]

  • Tekashi 6ix9ine Docuseries Coming From Showtime

    Tekashi 6ix9ine Docuseries Coming From Showtime and Rolling Stone

    Showtime Documentary Films today announced a new limited docuseries profiling controversial rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine. Titled “SuperVillain” and inspired by the Rolling Stone feature written by Stephen Witt, the three-part series will trace how a New York City deli clerk named Daniel Hernandez became superstar rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine — who racked up 2.6 billion streams and [...]

  • Fader Label Logo

    Fader Label Signs Two New Acts, Boosts Staff

    The Fader Label, home to Clairo, Matt and Kim and others, announced two new signings today along with three new hires on its staff. Charlie Burg and Zachary Knowles have joined the label’s talent roster, while Carson Oberg has come aboard as general manager, Yasmine Panah as project manager and Josh Hymowitz as label coordinator. They [...]

  • Kane Brown CMT Artists of the

    Kane Brown Pays Tribute to Late Drummer Kenny Dixon in Tearful 'CMT Artists' Speech

    Country star Kane Brown, unabashedly distraught over the death of his touring drummer Kenny Dixon just four days earlier in a car accident, dedicated his “CMT Artists of the Year” award to Dixon in a heart-rending appearance on the telecast Wednesday night. Brown ceded the performance slot he would have been allowed to friend Chris [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content