You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Kacey Musgraves, winner of the awards

    Kacey Musgraves to Present at the Oscars

    Hot off her album of the year award at last weekend’s Grammys, Kacey Musgraves has been tapped to present at the Oscars on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. She joins previously announced presenters Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Charlize Theron, Tessa Thompson, [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Panic at the Disco Concert Review

    Concert Review: Panic! at the Disco Brings Theatrical Flair to Forum

    At one particularly crowd-pleasing point during Panic! at the Disco’s show Friday at the Forum, Brendon Urie played the group’s cover of one of the “Greatest Showman” songs, from the recent tribute album devoted to that film, and it’s not hard to see why he would gravitate to the musical. Urie’s so much of a [...]

  • Ludwig Goransson Black Panther Composer

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Scores

    Unlike the song category, it’s impossible to predict the winner from this year’s quintet of original-score nominees. It’s almost anyone’s game. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson spent a month in Africa recording unusual drums, flutes and vocals, then adding them to a massive London orchestra and choir to create a unique soundscape for the fictional land [...]

  • Oscars Best Song Nominees

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Songs

    This year’s crop of Oscar-nominated songs may be the most diverse in years: a ballad and a pop-rap from two of the year’s biggest films, plus a delicate lullaby from a Disney musical, a political themed anthem, and a novelty tune for singing cowboys. “Shallow,” the top-10 hit from “A Star Is Born,” is widely [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content