A Passion for Collecting
Tommy Talarico's Collection
There are times in ones life when you meet someone who not only has inspired you in one way or another but made you feel like you're looking at a Giant. I can personally count on one hand how many people have made me feel like that and one of them Is Tommy Tallarico. When I first met Tommy at Toy Fair he and Victor were at the Sideshow booth conducting an interview, Frank wanted a picture with the guys so I took it.
He is a considered a veritable video game industry icon, one of the most successful video game composers in history, he helped revolutionize the gaming world by creating unique audio landscapes that enhance the video gaming experience. He is a well-recognized on-air television personality, an accomplished musician, featured on numerous national and international television shows, appearing repeatedly on CNN and MTV, hosts Judgment Day for G4TechTV, the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week TV network fully dedicated to the world of video games. He also hosts, writes and co-produces the longest running award-winning video game television show, The Electric Playground which has been on the air since 1997.
The list goes on and on, I didn't list more because I'd probably be writing forever. Though, this is the longest interview I have ever done it is also one of the most fun to read. I couldn't believe how warm and down to earth the man really is and how dedicated he is to his collection. I only hope that those who like the interview and what Tommy had to say will visit his sight and tell him how cool the interview was and if you didn't like it, as the old saying goes "if you can't say nothing nice don't say nothing at all." for his complete bio visit his website www.tallarico.com
EC: You have an impressive background and list of accomplishments, I know what they are but for our readers who may not know tell us a little about them?
TT: Basically I've been in the video game industry for over 15 years, I worked on over 250 games which I'm not sure if there's anyone else in the industry who's ever worked on 250 games (laughs). I started back in 91' working on NES and the game boy and actually the first project I ever worked on was Prince of Persia the original and I kind of just begged the guy at Virgin, (I started at Virgin Games) and the story is actually quite crazy, when I turned 21 I got in my car and I drove out to California cause that's what I wanted to do, that's what I had wanted to do my entire life is go to California and music and video games were always my number one and number two love so they were both my number one love...but I never thought about putting the two together so I came out to Hollywood cause that's what one does, I had no money, no place to stay and no job, no friends, nothing. I was literally homeless; I was sleeping under the pier at the beach and so I went to Hollywood and I kind of took a look around and thought, "boy, this place is kind of crappy, Its not like what it looks like on television" the only other thing I knew was Disney land so I stopped a bum on the street asked him where Mickey Mouse lived and he pointed me down Orange County and I got a job selling keyboards at Guitar Center. I picked up a newspaper and went down there and they said, you got the job you start tomorrow, so I showed up there wearing a turbo graphics t-shirt and the first person who walked in the store, the first customer I waited on was actually a producer at a new video game company that Virgin started called Virgin Games and it was called Virgin Mastertronics back then and he struck up a conversation cause he saw my game t-shirt. I went down there the next day and I was hired so I was in California three days and I was hired as a tester, a games tester for Virgin I was actually the very first tester that was ever hired at Virgin...
EC: Talk about luck huh...
TT: Yeah, well you know some call it luck I call it fate (laughs)...so I would bug the Vice President of the company everyday and say, hey if you ever need any music if you ever need any sounds whatever, let me know I'll do it for free, you don't have to pay me if you don't like it, you don't have to use it so finally Prince or Persia came up and I worked on that and everyone was really kind of impressed with the sound then the next big game I did after that was Global Gladiators on the Genesis which won best audio of the year in 1991 so that's kind of where it all started for me I ended up winning audio awards for the next seven years in a row, kind of a good run. But then in 94' I was actually the first video game musician and composer to ever put out a cd soundtrack album worldwide on a major record label its was called Tommy Tallarico's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 on Capitol Records so once that happened a lot of different companies kept calling me and asking me to go and work for them and so that's when I decided to start my own company Tommy Tallarico Studios, so when I left I was working on Earthworm Jim and Madden Football, still working on Virgins stuff, all the top titles doing stuff with Capcom working on all the cool titles when I left so I was in a really cool position when I started my company and have been doing that ever since. I pretty much have four companies, there's Tommy Tallarico Studios, my music and audio company we don't just do music but sound effects as well, we do about, maybe 5 or 6 projects a year. Last year we did sound design for the Incredibles, Sponge Bob, Fight Club, Unreal Championship 2 and Lineage II and then we did all of the music and sound effects and voices...the voice over production for Advent Rising we've been working on that for about three years and its just coming out at the end of May and that's really kind of one of my favorite projects I've ever done because of this style of music and the story line , amazing art, I kind of wrote it like a 13 th century Italian Opera its really kind of a departure for what video game music has always been and that's really kind of how I think I made my name and reputation in the industry...I hated video game music, I mean I didn't hate it but I guess I was outgrowing it...
EC: I know what you mean, growing up with "toot toot toot toot toot..."
TT: yeah, just bleeps and blips and like merry go round melodies you know like doot doot doot doot doot doot you know, but I was 22 years old at that point and I grew out of that but I still love games so I want to give the players and the listeners you know what they expect to hear I want to give them rock or electronica or orchestral kind of vibe ...cinematic film score kind of stuff even though the technology didn't allow for that at the time... that's the type of music I was writing and I got a very positive response from the press and from the fans and everything like that so it kind of worked in my favor. So, that's my one company then the other thing of course has been Hosting and Co-Producing The Electric Playground...there's two television shows actually TheElectric Playground,www.elecplay.com , has been on the air for 8 years now and won all sorts of cool television awards and it's the most widely played and longest running video game television show in the world in fact, Victor Lucas, my partner and I we really kind of invented video game television as it relates to showing developers and showing the people who make the games. No one had ever done that before we did it, we're also the first two to review video games on television no one ever did that either...
EC: How does it feel to be the first guys to invent this kind of medium and then see other shows follow in your footsteps?
TT: Well, you know it makes us feel good really, you know because I've always tried to...whether its doing music that nobody has heard in a video game before or doing a tv show or putting out a video game album that no one has ever done before or starting a non-profit organization for the games industry or now my latest thing putting on a video game concert...for me it's exciting to be in this industry that is still so young...think about it there's not to many times in a persons life time where they can be in on the ground level in a completely new form of entertainment its like what the film industry was in the 20's or Rock n Roll and television was in the 50's you know in the 21 st century that's video games so its very exciting to be on the cutting edge brink of a new form of entertainment...
EC: absolutely you're one of the Pioneers it must be so exciting to know that you've contributed so much to the video game industry.
TT: and that's really what gets me up every morning and keeps me excited and motivated, there's so many things that we can bring to light that no ones ever done before, one of the things that we're doing this year with the non-profit organization G.A.N.G. or Game Audio Network Guild is that we've written a proposal so that video game sound tracks will be part of the Grammy awards so we would have our own Grammy category for video game soundtracks and we're going to be finding out about that pretty soon.
EC: Well tell me a little about G.A.N.G.
TT: G.A.N.G. The non-profit organization that I founded and I'm the president of ... over three years ago we started it we have over a thousand paying members, we have major corporate sponsorship from companies like AMD, dts, dolby and Creative Labs and Electronic Arts, its been an amazing experience...
EC: So that would be the third company...
TT: exactly, we have Tallarico Studios, we got the tv shows and then...Judgment Day of course is one of the top rated shows on the network in fact and then there's G.A.N.G. the website for that is www.audiogang.org and then the fourth thing is our new venture which...well not new, we've been working on it for three years but the whole video games live concert tour and this is launching on July 6 th and once again no one has ever seen anything like this in the history of entertainment. Because of the excitement that video games can provide in interactivity were able to evolve live entertainment, what were doing is were playing the most amazing game music from the most incredible game franchises I mean we got everyone Halo, Myth, Mario, Zelda, Sonic, Final Fantasy, Tron, Warcraft, Ever Quest, CastleVania, Medal Gear Solid, Medal of Honor, I mean all of the greatest music of all time.
EC: It sounds like a great idea but how did you know that this was something that would appeal to a mass audience?
TT: I think cause I'm a gamer...you know I do all these jobs in the industry I have all these companies and do all these things but you know its not like I'm just trying to make a quick buck off the video game industry I'm a gamer you know and I do this 24 hrs a day 7days a week I mean I love games so I always put myself in the shoes of the game and I think that's why a lot of my reviews on Judgment Day are a little more faithful to a casual gamer if you will because some of the hardcore fan boys love a bunch of unique stuff that maybe others don't so I think I bring a really interesting perspective to reviewing because I'm not...I don't love everything, people expect you to like certain things if you're a reviewer and I'm also a gamer and I think that's really important when putting together all of these things so I wanted to see a concert of all the greatest music and so I waited around for it and it never happened so I went and I did it, know it was the same back in 1998 I wanted a boxing game for the Playstation and the N64 and no one had made a boxing game in like 10 years and I'd been involved with one originally on the Genesis called Muhammad Ali boxing and I was always a big boxing buff and everything so I said "well, screw this I'll make one myself" so I helped co-design Knock Out Kings for the N64 we won awards for that for best sports game of the year so you know its like screw it if no one's gonna do it I'm gonna do it, you know.
EC: Well let's talk about your hobby which is your toy and memorabilia collection. I've seen pictures and they are as awe-inspiring as your resume.
TT: yeah, you know I've always been into toys my entire life and I think my generation...you know I'm 37 years old now and I still read comic books and collect toys and play video games, I never really grew up or grew out from any of that and so now that I've become an adult as they would call me...I can still remember the feeling I had walking into a Toys R Us when I was 9 or 10 years old and wishing that I could get everything I wanted, that feeling always stayed with me so when I started to become successful I let those feelings still come out and said "Screw it, I'm buying everything I can get my hands on as far as toys"...
EC: Such as
TT: Ah geez, there's so much that I wouldn't know where to start but I'd say the main one first and foremost my Spider-Man collection, I have every single Spider-Man comic book ever made in mint...near mint condition...
EC: Now when you say every single one are you talking about Spidey #1 as well?
TT: I have before #1, Amazing Fantasy 15 in VF condition, yep every single comic book in fact I was fortunate enough to work on the Spider-Man video game and I worked with Stan Lee for a couple of days and of course I got Stan to sign my Amazing Fantasy 15 and my Spider-Man #1 as well...that was quite a thrill.
EC: Wow, those must be cherished items in your collection.
TT: absolutely, it took me my entire life to collect it, it really did, I finished the collection about two years ago at Comic Con and I gotta be honest with you it was one of the saddest days of my life (laughs)...you'd think it would be a happy day but it was like what do I do now?
EC: As a collector I absolutely understand where you're coming from...
TT: You know what I mean?...so I started Daredevil...(Laughs)
EC: Is that your goal now to have the complete collection?
TT: I'm about six shy of the entire collection in mint condition.
EC: Get out of here, incredible, you don't play around do you?...
TT: Nah, why bother you know its fun to me...I love going to comic con...to me Toy Fair is a great show and everything but I think my favorite convention of all even more than E3 which is my own industry...my favorite of all is Comic Con, I love it the most. I also have every single one of my books catalogued and I have them categorized and I have them all in an Excel spread sheet which you know took painstaking hours to enter every single comic cause its not just amazing spider its literally every single Spider-Man comic that's ever came out including the really crappy 2099 Spider-Man which was like the most awful Spider-Man ever but I had to collect them ALL it didn't matter if I read them or not, anyway I would say the Spider-Man comic collection but I've actually built an entire room in my house to Spider-Man...
EC: I was going to mention that; based on the pictures I've seen you seem to really have more Spider-Man memorabilia than anything else.
TT: Yes, I would say absolutely that's the number one collection I own, the other thing I like to do is...I like to create a lot of art and sculptures and things like movie props and mannequins that's what I like to do in my spare time when I have it. So for example that life size Leeloo mannequin from The Fifth Element I created her from scratch.
EC: Oh, you created her?
TT: yes, the entire thing, I had to get the orange suit, I bought a woman's wet suit and cut it, I had to rubberize it and get the orange spray paint and I had to do her hair with an orange wig but then I spray painted the different variations of the color and even her skin all of her skin is totally like eight different shades of skin tone to get the proper tone. and the face I had to match perfectly with like hundreds and hundreds of heads to try to get one that kind of matched Milla Jovovich 's face and then I did the make-up and painted the whole thing. I love doing stuff like that I also have a Light Cycle from Tron that I made completely from scratch and I put it on a grid and I also have the Diva from The Fifth Element as well which was like a resin kit, I love resin kit stuff. But then there's also cool stuff as well like the Wonka bar you know I made a Wonka bar I went into photo shop did it all up made the golden ticket put it in a nice frame... crazy stuff like that. The main things that I love are Spider-Man, Tron, Planet of the Apes, the old one, not the Tim Burton film, Willie Wonka and the first three Star Wars films from the 70's
EC: Did you also make the life size Laura Kroft?
TT: No, that I bought, I love life sized mannequins to me there just so cool...
EC: Yeah, I noticed you have quite a few of them around the house
TT: I have two Laura Krofts, two Spider-Man's, I have an Aragorn, Yoda, a Leeloo which I made and then my next big project, when I get some time is an R2D2 a fully functioning working R2D2 and that's another thing I collect R2D2 stuff, every R2D2 that's ever come out I think I have. Indiana Jones is another one if I can get my hands on anything whether it's the fertility idol that I painted and got the resin kit for, the hat and whip or whatever it is...oh! the other life size mannequin I have is the Han in Carbonite which I bought, that's a fun one I hung it up on my wall just like in the movie and I got the lights beaming down (laughs)
EC: One of the largest life size mannequins if you want to call it that is that large beast in your backyard, the dinosaur.
TT: And of course there's the Dinosaur I almost forgot, yes shouldn't everyone have a 12 ft velociraptor in their back yard?...
EC: Of course I'm picking mine up next week...you have that Jurassic park look going on did you design that look?
TT: Yes, I planted every tree, I did that about two years ago I wanted to create kind –of- like a Raiders of the Lost Ark type vibe...that's why I got the big stone arches and put in all this stuff...I got tropical trees and plants from all over the world from Hawaii from Australia from Africa from South America and imported them all in to make it like the jungle of Raiders of the Lost Arc. There's even my dining room, I modeled it after Tomb Raider, its like an Egyptian dining room...I did all the work myself I hand gilded all of the wood gold I painted the walls...again for me it's a hobby, I like creating stuff whether its interior design or outdoor decorating or even just sculptures or resin kits...
EC: How many rooms do you dedicate to your collection because it seems like the whole house is overflowing?
TT: I would say 1...2...3...Spider-Man 4... the jungle bedroom 5... 6 is the arcade... 7 I have a huge movie theatre which has sideshow collectibles, they're one of my favorite companies, so I have all the big ¼ scale James Bond stuff and the Planet of the Apes stuff and the Lord of the Rings stuff in my movie room and then I have full arcade in my garage which I painted like a big space ship and of course there's outside...I'd say about 12 rooms total in the house...
EC: Now you know when people read this they're either going to hate you or want to move in with you.
TT: Hopefully the wont hate me...(laughs)
EC: I hear all this and I wonder, are you single?
TT: I am and that's the only reason that I'm able to have 12 rooms dedicate to my hobby (laughs)
EC: So what are you gonna do when you find that woman who's gonna want to move in with you?
TT: Well, that's why I'm still single (laughs), my toys are more important...you know I think the trick there is to find the girl who thinks that all of this stuff is just as cool as I think it is...
EC: Well, good luck there...(laughs)
TT: (laughs)...and that's the answer to the reason why I'm single and I've never been married...
EC: Or the other option would be to buy another house...
TT: That's a possibility
EC: You collect toys, life size figures, resin kits, comics, animation cells, video games, it seems like you just about collect everything.
TT: Everything that I've ever loved and wanted to collect I pretty much own at this point so for me its more about what's the newest thing coming out like I'm a Tron freak, and when I heard the announcement of Kubrik over in Japan was gonna make the Tron stuff I flipped out...I was like "oh my God, I got to get my hands on them" and I go on Ebay and I order them from Japan and I go crazy, you know the same thing with the Sideshow Collectibles and that's why I love Sideshow so much...the Green Goblin that they've created in ¼ scale is just un-freakin-believable I'm just waiting for the delivery of it and the Darth Vader, I ordered that stuff right away as soon as it came out directly from Sideshow so I got the Luke and the Han and the Darth Vader and I got all the Planet of the Apes stuff, Lord of the Rings, James Bond, so to me that's the fun part about going to Toy Fair because they're always going to be creating the new Spider-Man statue or the new James Bond stuff, the stuff that I'm really into, that stuff is gonna be around I think for a long time so that's the thing, do I have everything that I've always wanted? Pretty much yeah...
EC: There are so many of us that wish we could say that, which one is your favorite room?
TT: I'd have to go with the Spider-Man room cause my days are always so hectic that its just awesome sometimes to just take a break and go in the Spider-Man room and read a comic from the 60's or early 70's, my second favorite one would definitely be the movie room, I built the movie theatre last summer in my place, it comes complete with the curtains and the electric reclining chairs and 721 audio, 850watts on the sub woofer and 200 watts per channel I mean it literally is better than going to the movies with a 12 ft. widescreen...and playing video games on that sucker is just unbelievable as well...
EC: You play video games on that movie screen?
EC: Do you charge admission?...(laughs)
TT: I know, I should , I got a pop corn machine I make people pop corn sometimes.
EC: If there were a fire, God forbid, and you had a chance to save one item what would it be?
TT: That's a great question, first of all if I had a fire I'd end up shooting myself in the head...cause I couldn't deal with losing all this...
EC: Before you answer that question is your collection insured?
TT: Yes, and its very expensive to insure this stuff, mostly the comic book collection...you know, I would have to say and this is the God honest truth...that the one thing I would go for, I have a box of comic books that were the ones that I collected and I read growing up as a kid and it was the early Spider-Man stuff from like the early to mid 70's, they're beat to shit cause I read them so many times so they're not part of my normal collection where I have them near mint...I would grab those because those to me are irreplaceable, all this other stuff I could buy again, but those would be the first thing I would go for because they mean so much to me, just by looking in the box and picking them up and remembering the wrinkles in the page and sometimes I would write on them, it brings me back to when I was eight years old again and that's a great feeling.
EC: I can only imagine what it would be like to live in your shoes, but do you ever walk into your house look at your stuff and say "My God, I can't believe that I have all this stuff and that I'm fortunate enough to own it all"
TT: absolutely, I can honestly say for anyone out there who is hating me right now because I have all this stuff just know that its getting used its providing complete happiness, it is, and that's why I've kind of created the phrase I have, it is that constant reminder, "Its all about having fun" its all about that feeling you had when you were a kid and who says you have to grow up...sure you can be mature, I'm a business man and I can go into hard negotiation meetings with the best of them but that doesn't mean that I still cant hold on to those things I loved as a kid, I have a teddy bear collection cause I dig teddy bears and I'm not afraid to admit it damn it!...so there's no reason why people have to let go of that just because they feel like society tells them they have to grow up and stuff but I enjoy it every single day...
EC: I don't think you're going to have anyone hating you from our site in fact you might be their new hero
EC: What's going to happen to your collection when you are gone?
TT: Ahh, I have no idea, you know I've never thought of that I...haven't thought of that, that's a great question who knows maybe it'll all go in some kind of freaking museum or something (laughs)...I have no idea, I guess its gonna go up in auction I would imagine it would probably go up on eBay
EC: Where would you hope your collection ends up?
TT: We'll see, that's the thing...that's why its such a tough question because I don't have kids of my own you know I don't have...who am I gonna give it to my dad? What the hell is he gonna do with a Han in Carbonite? Right now in my life there's no one to leave this legacy to so you know maybe I'll leave it to you and Frank how bout that?...
EC: God, that would be so beautiful, we would be so happy... (laughs)... unless we go first you never know. Now have you ever purchased anything that you believed to be authentic and it turned out to be a dud?
TT: That's a good question, I wouldn't say that that's ever happened but I have bought some comic books off eBay that I thought looked a lot better in the picture (laughs) then when they actually showed up I had to bring a couple back but I never got really ripped off but no I've had pretty good luck with that overall...the other thing I collect which I didn't touch on at all and it's a whole room dedicated in my house as well is New York Yankee stuff, the baseball stuff I'm a huge, huge, huge Yankee fan and anyone who watches the show probably can pick up on that, so I collect signed baseballs I have like a Babe Ruth and a Mickey Mantle on the same ball which I bought at a Southerby's auction, I have Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn dodgers hat so even though he wasn't a Yankee, still he's Brooklyn he'll slide he can slide, but I have Mickey Mantle stuff, and Joe DiMaggio stuff, Jeter, Ty Cobb...that kind of stuff. Houdini is also another one I forgot about my magic collection, very much into magic and Houdini is like my man so I dedicated an entire room in my house just to Houdini and I have black velvet walls, an infinity mirror, Houdini sculptures and statues and posters and even some of the things that Houdini owned, he had a key collection a hand cuff collection, I have some original stuff of that, of course his signature as well so yeah Houdini is another big one I forgot about.
EC: What is the general reaction when people see your collection?
TT: (laughs)...YOUR INSANE MAN!!!
EC: Do many people get a chance to see your collection or do you keep it private?
TT: No, no, I enjoy sharing the experience of what has become my house I love it, its hard to throw parties over here with people I don't know, if I ever do something, they stay outside because that's the thing there's so much stuff here...I would say, I love showing people and again its not something that's going to impress the ladies but they usually come in and roll their eyes...but that's ok you know I do this for me not to impress other people its all for me.
EC: What tips or advice would you give a collector?
TT: I would say go back...if your mom threw out all your stuff or it was lost over the years... to me I think the most fun is collecting stuff that I remember when I was a kid and I would say start there and if you're starting to think about what should I get. So getting all those old things for me that's the fun part remembering the stuff I had growing up I'm fortunate enough to have them cause I always held on to them and the other one... statues, aren't for everybody but to me statues are a real piece of art and even the girls when they come in my house and see Gandolf, that big freakin statue and the detail, girls will stop and go, Wow. My mom will look at that sculpture and go that's really nice...perhaps you have a wife or a situation where toys or stuffed animals ain't gonna play, I would recommend people going into the statue stuff because they're just brilliant works of art and the stuff that companies like sideshow are doing is pretty amazing. Another tip I would give is that if your going to buy something retro and buy something old whether it's a comic book or an action figure I would always say go for the highest quality possible because then at that point it becomes an investment so instead of trying to get the Amazing Fantasy with the cover ripped off and seven pages missing for 500 bucks instead go get issue 121 in mint condition the death of Gwen Stacey in mint condition and the value of that is gonna rise a lot more than buying a bunch of crap.
EC: one last question, which is your favorite show to do Judgment Day or The Electric Playground?
TT: Judgment Day for sure only because even though we've been doing The Electric Playground for a lot longer Judgment Day is more of me getting to bust Victors balls and kind of having fun , we get really opinionated and throwing stuff around or whatever, its funny but people on the internet, people who see my show think that that's who I am just some really kind of negative guy who always didn't like some video game that they liked and so people get on the internet and they say like a bunch of stupid hateful stuff about somebody who they've never met, somebody who they see on tv and because of this thing I'm playing they feel like they know me and that's the sad part of it all but of course all of the amazing fans, amazing support that people show me at Tallarico.com on the message boards its just unbelievable I couldn't believe it, initially I wasn't even going to put a up a message board but I'm like, let me put up some forums maybe some people have some questions for me I can ask questions, we put that up about six months ago and we have like 80,000 hosts on this thing I'm getting 3million hits a month on my website its so overwhelming, its really incredible but its just too bad that some people just because they disagree with a score I did feel the need to call me nasty names over the internet but I guess that's just the nature of being in the position I'm in.
EC: Well, Eternal Collector loves you people who read this interview will love you and you probably just made a few more fans, thank you so much for your time. You are definitely an Eternal Collector.
TT: Awesome, if anyone ever wants to come by and say hi I'm at www.tallarico.com feel free to post on the message boards and I usually try to respond as quickly as I can.
EC: Well thanks again for you time.
TT: alright man.