Many people have attributed much of the success that the sequel to Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” has had to once again its music. But it’s not the music from Peter Quill’s mixtape.
I had the opportunity to chat with Tyler Bates, who was the composer of the first Guardians film and was also chosen by director James Gunn to score the sequel. He told me that much of the emotion of Vol. 2 came from James Gunn’s emotional story and wanted to created music that could compliment that on the same level.
DisneyExaminer: What did you think about when writing new music for “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”?
Tyler Bates: “Guardians” globally, as director James Gunn would tell you, is a space opera. That informs me of what my parameters are musically. That genre is (similar to John Williams’ Star Wars scores) heavily orchestral and choral, but also very fantastical and out of this world. That means the music can also have these non-traditional sounds, but what it all boils down to is storytelling and emotion.
DE: What do you mean when you say “emotion” and “storytelling”? How does it relate to this new music you wrote?
TB: Instead of scoring a raccoon and a tree, we consider them as Rocket and Groot, each one a character with emotions and their own stories. The music needs to convey what they feel in order for it to be an effective tool in telling the overall story.
DE: I remember the first time I heard a part of the score when James Gunn used Facebook Live to stream the orchestra recording what is arguably the most emotional part of the film (which is the music titled “Dad” on the soundtrack). What about that music made me feel like crying?
TB: Story-wise, it’s a culmination of what a true father-son relationship is. I had to put myself into that psyche of what it feels like to have discovered how great a father I had either on the verge of losing him or realizing that I even had one. The writing of that music is really coming from that emotion. I don’t look at a scene like that and go ‘oh, I think something like a G minor would really pull some heartstrings!’ It’s written in my head after absorbing the story material and then I just end up transcribing it.
DE: So does that mean you don’t sit at a piano and play around with different chords and sounds?
TB: Nope, I don’t play around on the piano to figure the appropriate music out. It’s in my mind and then I just do my best to write it down accurately.
DE: How long does it take for you to complete a score with that type of process?
TB: It all depends on the film. Sometimes these things come in a minute, while some of the other pieces of music may take way longer. My job was a little easier because James filmed some of the more thematic moments with music that I wrote and recorded prior, a process we liked in doing it for the first film. But we don’t always have that luxury of time.
DE: Can you speak about what challenges, if any, there are having both the “mixtape” of pop culture songs and having to write original orchestral music to fill those gaps?
TB: There really isn’t a challenge for me. In some cases, the mixtape songs might fit with the score or I’ll write music that would continue that beat or feeling it set up. Most of the instances where the mixtape songs end, we also turn the page into another part of the story, so I’ll often use it as a reference point to continue that emotion or feeling that the story is trying to get across to the audience.
DE: While the music in these Guardians films are separate, you did many of those different elements come together with an original piece called “Guardians Inferno.” Can you describe what that song is and how David Hasselhoff made it all come together?
TB: James (Gunn) wanted to close out the film with a funky, disco-driven tune. He told me to listen to a cover of the Star Wars theme song performed by the 80s band Meco because he wanted this closing credits song to sound like it. I’ve never even heard of it before, but I took it and ran with it. I think you get the same feel of that Meco song in “Guardians Inferno,” which really is the sound of the 80s and the era and overall tone of our film. But I think it’s also great to have an 80s icon like David Hasselhoff on it who came to my studio to sing the lyrics to close our film after being that running joke throughout it. He was very cool.
Our thanks to Tyler Bates for taking the time to chat with us!