Long before he cemented himself as a highly sought-after composer, guitarist, songwriter, and record producer, Tyler Bates resided in a haunted rural Illinois log cabin ranch previously owned by none other than Al Capone. Between two exorcisms on the property and an “odd” job unwittingly digging graves, the multi-talented musician indubitably developed an infinite imagination during his formative years.
“Any time I had to do chores outside at night, I’d run as fast as I could to seek refuge inside a haunted house,” he laughs. “The experience definitely ignited my imagination for creative places.”
With an intrinsic understanding of an environment’s power, perhaps it’s no coincidence that Bates has become not only an artisan at architecting music for film, television, and video games, but an in-demand multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer. Through the nineties, he logged 1,200-plus live shows in his bands, including Pet, released on Igloo/Atlantic records, under the guidance of Tori Amos, before segueing into the world of film score. He started to make waves by creating the menacing audio backdrop for the popular Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead reboot in 2004 followed by his soundtrack for the filmmaker’s 300, which remains one of the 21st century’s biggest-selling score albums. His oeuvre expanded to include Watchmen and Sucker Punch both helmed by Snyder, several collaborations with Rob Zombie including The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween, and Halloween II — and Killer Joe directed by Academy Award® winner William Friedkin.
Bates is always seeking what he refers to as “a music moment.”
“It’s a musical event that we as a duo or a group experience together,” he elaborates. “When I meet a director, producer, or artist in my studio, based on our conversation, I’ll often play guitar or create music based solely on that initial exchange of ideas or current events. So, before we engage in the formal process of creating music for a movie, TV show, or an artist album, we’ve already begun a creative conversation that results in actual music as opposed to hypotheticals. It creates excitement. With everything that I do, I try to create a process that is referential to the project we are working on as opposed to pre-existing entities.”
By 2017, his vision would audibly enhance two of the most successful franchises in recent memory: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and John Wick. In addition to composing for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 and winning a BMI Film Music Award for the first, he co-wrote and produced a fan favorite “disco version” of “Guardians Inferno” [feat. David Hasselhoff], performed the second installment’s score at the 2017 MOSMA Festival in Spain, and crafted the music for the Disney California Adventure attraction Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout!
“How insane is that?” he smiles. “I never thought I’d be writing music for an attraction at Disneyland. It’s entirely different than working on a film, television show, or even a video game. It was another great challenge and learning experience that I am thankful to have had the opportunity to do.”
Meanwhile, John Wick: Chapter 2 represents the nexus of his work as a composer, performer, and songwriter. He penned the closing credits tune “A Job To Do” alongside legendary Alice In Chains guitarist and vocalist Jerry Cantrell and performed on-screen during the climactic “Rock Opera” sequence, rocking a guitar-viol on stage with Le Castle Vania and Nostalghia. Samurai Jack offered a similar experience. After overseeing score production for Samurai Jack with composers, Joanne Higginbottom and Dieter Hartmann, he took the stage to perform a suite of the score at a sold-out Ace Theatre concert.
Samurai Jack just one of his many TV credits. His sonic presence can also be felt throughout Showtime’s Californication, Audience Network’s Kingdom, WGN America’s Salem, and more as well as video games such as Killzone: Shadow Fall, God of War: Ascension, Army of Two: The 40th Day, and most recently the largest first-person shooter app in the world China’s Crossfire. Along the way, he wrote a theme for his favorite NFL team the Tennessee Titans even performing the “Star-Spangled Banner” solo guitar in the rain during a Thanksgiving 2015 game.
2014 saw the birth of a powerful partnership with Marilyn Manson. After meeting on a Californication performance, Bates went on to co-write and produce the 2015 epic, The Pale Emperor. A runaway worldwide success, it crashed the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 at #6 and earned widespread critical acclaim with Rolling Stone hailing it as the “#1 Metal Album of 2015.” Stepping into the spotlight as the band’s lead guitarist, he dedicated over a year to touring in support of the album on the headline Hell Not Hallelujah Tour, an arena run with Slipknot, and various festivals worldwide. In 2017, they once again joined forces in the studio for the follow-up Heaven Upside Down with a world tour kicking off July 20th, in Budapest.
“I make music from the basis of storytelling, narrative, and emotion,” he goes on. “What Manson and I create happens on the spot. Playing live really gives me a different experience than being in my studio around the clock. It’s fun and fulfilling on the most primal level imaginable. The camaraderie of playing in a rock band and performing on stage is something that I don’t get when I’m working alone in my studio. It fuels my fire to get back into the studio and write with a new perspective from having awesome experiences around the world.”
He’s certainly tapping into that fire in 2017 and 2018. Bates handled music for the blockbuster Atomic Blonde starring Academy Award® winner Charlize Theron. For the project, he also produced Health’s cover of “Blue Monday” and re-invigorated and revitalized Ministry’s “Stigmata” with Manson for key sequences in the film. On the big screen, he can be heard in the critically acclaimed The Belko Experiment as well as Public and 24 Hours to Live, while his voice permeates NETFLIX’s The Punisher and Season 2 of The Exorcist.
You could say his infinite imagination continues working overtime.
“My heart is in absolutely everything I do,” he leaves off. “Whether it’s rock or a score, I do my best to always explore new ideas. My primary goal as an artist is to connect with people, understand my collaborators, and hopefully translate that understanding into re-telling an emotion. I’m really excited about the prospect of making more interesting art.”