I recently had the tremendous opportunity to interview Gerard Marino, a BAFTA nominated film and video game composer. Below is my written profile of Marino.
It is morning at his studio, and a coffee-fueled Gerard Marino immerses himself in new material. A script, art designs, or just a concept could be filling Marino’s head, waiting to be brought to life by music. Depending on the material, Marino will be composing music that fits acinematic experience, or that occurs in a temporal plane. Marino waits until the last possible minute, until fear gets him going.
This is where Marino wants to be, 24-48 hours behind of his production schedule.
Marino, an accomplished music composer, has composed music for film and video games, most notably for the highly regarded God of War games series, which earned him a BAFTA (British Academy Film Award) nomination for best original score in 2007. Marino is also known for his music in films, such as The Matrix Reloaded and Swordfish.
Currently, Marino is finishing boss battle music for a Mexican side scrolling shooter game with bugs.
“It’s like a contra game, an old NES game series. It’s not the regular Gerard Marino type stuff, dramatic and all of that,” Marino says.
Marino has conducted all over the world and loves to perform. It reminds Marino of his high school days and his youthful dreams.
“I was gonna be a rock star, I played in band in high school, so the fact I get to perform music is great,” said Marino.
Marino became interested in music long before high school. Marino recalls that he became interested in a career in music when he was in fourth grade.
“Somewhere around fourth grade, a combination of a plastic recorder, and Star Wars,” Marino explained. “Star Wars was a life changing movie for me, as a young lad it was the coolest thing to ever happen. I bought the soundtrack, it was the first thing bought with allowance money.”
Marino would imagine himself playing the trumpet, and all of the other instruments in the orchestra, daydreaming of being able to play every instrument.
“Before I knew it, I was giving myself orchestration lessons,” Marino laughed.
Marino’s first job was flipping burgers when he was 16, saying he had “a million” jobs that weren’t music-related. Marino paid his way through music school, working as a strip club dj for five years.
“You can’t just run out and start making money in music, unless you’re Beethoven,” Marino says. “I had to squeeze every amount of talent that I was born with out of me.”
The five years of hosting a show every night as a dj not only supported Marino through college, but also prepared him to host the Orlando Nerd Fest in 2014, an annual celebration of nerd music and culture.
“They asked me and I said yes,” Marino said. “That was fun, I had a good time. I had no idea the level of nerd culture with music. There were 50-60 bands, rock and heavy metal, dedicated to their favorite sci-fi and video game characters. I really seriously considered putting a band together after seeing it.”
Marino says he isn’t a stranger to nerd culture, he’s been to San Diego Comic Con “a million times”. Marino has even done a few cosplays, dressing up as a character from a movie, video game, or pop culture.
“I did Nick Fury at Comic Con once. I signed autographs, did interviews, and took pictures as Nick Fury (Avengers), it was hilarious,” Marino laughs. “I also cosplayed as Kratos (protagonist in God of War) for the Video Games Live show in San Bernadino.”
“I think my best work is the God of War 2 score, I felt I really accomplished something special, personally,” Marino explains. I really pushed my own boundaries, it was definitely the most intense of all the God of War music.”
As for being awarded for a BAFTA, Marino says, “It was pretty cool. I always wanted to visit London, then I was nominated for the BAFTA, so I thought now is the time.”
While Marino did not win the BAFTA, Marino has had other major accomplishments in his life. In 2005, The Los Angeles Philharmonic performed Marino’s God of War soundtrack at the Video Games Live, a live orchestra concert that performs music from video games, at the Hollywood Bowl.
“These 2 famous game composers, Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, put together Video Games Live, and it almost died but they managed to put it back together with the Hollywood Bowl orchestra,” said Marino. It’s been on tour for 11 years, and it has been quite a blessing being a part of it.”
Marino enjoys that concerts bring the music out, instead of having gamers listen to it on their televisions.
“Concerts and orchestras bring people out of their living rooms and dark rooms, and they get out in public and don’t have to listen to the music alone,” Marino said.
Marino feels that his biggest artistic achievement was God of War 2, while he listed other major achievements over the years.
“As far as professionally, to have music performed at the Hollywood Bowl and Kennedy Center was a huge achievement, I feel like I’m part of the artistic conversation of western music in the U.S and the world”, Marino reminisces. “I feel like I’m part of the team, and there are really heartwarming moments for me, all that hard work and sacrifice paid off.”
Marino not only recalls the shows that he has conducted for, but the fans he has encountered at worldwide concerts.
“I’ve conducted all over the world, and the fans are great, like in Brazil when they love something they love it, and they love God of War,” Marino said. “Everybody stood up and screamed like I was Mick Jagger. I couldn’t believe it.”
Marino also recalls some of his other achievements, such as teaching Masters classes and occasional private lessons. When a young person tells Marino they became interested in music because of his work, Marino feels very humbled.
“It’s rewarding to teach, it makes me feel like I want to be responsible, to make sure I’m not ever faking, I’m pouring everyone into it,” Marino said. “Whether it’s God of War or a cute bug commando type game, if people are looking up to me I should set a good example.”
Marino has not only scored for video games, but film and television as well, composing trailers for movies, and scores for the hit CW show Supernatural. He says that there are different challenges in each of those mediums.
“Video games are going for a cinematic experience, same experience and effects that you get as film or tv show,” Marino said. “Film and TV happen in a temporal plane, precisely at the same time, so music can be written to do exactly that. Video games have essentially the same music, but you don’t know when player will get close enough to trip the enemy. The music depends on what the player does.”
As for the future, Marino says that Cecil Kim, a concept artist, and his team recently reached out to him and he will score a game for them.
“We’ve been wanting to work together for years, so its finally happening,” Marino said. “We met at an award show for God of War 3. He told me he listens to my music when he is creating story boards, and I said no, I look at your story boards when I make my music!”
Marino says he will continue to put his best effort into his work and aiming high.
“There is shallow music out there and sometimes good enough is good enough, but I want to make sure everything I put out has substance, underneath all the flash and cool sounds,” Marino said.