Tyler Bates on the Joy of Writing With Marilyn Manson

Tyler Bates is touring with Marilyn Manson.
Courtesy of Tyler Bates.
Tyler Bates is touring with Marilyn Manson.
When Tyler Bates first encountered Marilyn Manson on the set of Californication about five years ago, the meeting with the shock-rock star was awkward, says the film and television composer. Bates was exhausted and thinks that Manson, who’d been guest-starring on the show, was, as well; despite that, the two had interesting chemistry.

After a year of getting to know each other, they decided to try creating music together. They hit it off and wrote what became Manson’s 2015 album, The Pale Emperor, in roughly three months, while Bates was working simultaneously on film and TV projects.

“We have a lot of fun,” Bates says. “There are a lot of laughs. We get to take it out in music. He’s one of the last, if not the last, rock icon. I can do stuff with him that there’s no apology necessary for — whatever it is that’s said or done — and we can do whatever the hell we want. It’s a great feeling to be able to write music that way.”

Over his lengthy career as a composer, Bates has scored blockbusters like 300, Guardians of the Galaxy and John Wick, creating hundreds of minutes of music for big films that have a lot of visual effects. Scoring film and TV projects, he’s constantly under the gun, creating music every day. After all, studios are paying for it.

“When you’re in a rock band, it’s like, ‘Oh, we haven’t written for three months because we’re not feeling it.’ [In Hollywood], you can’t do that. They have deadlines, and they want your best stuff, so you’ve got to find a way to be there. I think that’s one really positive quality that has impacted my cooperation with Manson, because I work with him probably one-fifth of the time it takes him to normally do a record, because we write on the spot. Obviously, I do some things on my own as a producer, and I play pretty much all the instruments besides drums. I do some of that on my own, but we pretty much do it together, because I’m always thinking about music.”

Bates toured as lead guitarist with Manson in support of The Pale Emperor, and they teamed up again on Manson’s new album, Heaven Upside Down, which was released in October. Bates, who produced the album and has been touring with Manson, says Heaven Upside Down is “definitely a much higher-energy, probably more immediately harder album by far than The Pale Emperor. I love The Pale Emperor. This one was created after Manson and I had shared some touring experience together. It was really written to be performed.”

Bates says his film-scoring brain also turns on when he's writing and producing an album. He thinks of an overall story, even if he even doesn’t know every twist of the plot or the conclusion.

“I’m thinking along that line, and oftentimes Manson will hear people suggest that the work we do together sounds very cinematic, and it’s probably because it comes from that culture, even though I’m sure when people hear the new record they’ll know that I still like to throw hard punches,” Bates says.

"I think more along those lines: storytelling. It’s not like I’m a guitar player who stockpiles riffs and tries them out. A guy like Marilyn Manson isn’t going to have the patience to sit around for hours while I search out how to make a drumbeat or to come up with a progression or a guitar riff. I have to have it on the spot, because it’s happening out of a conversation that we’re having. We still have the conversation, and before you know it, we’re recording next to each other in headphones and I’m playing live, and he’s singing. If we develop ideas, it has to have a narrative, so the music has to have its motivation. I’m always looking for that narrative in all of my work. Luckily I’ve worked with directors who are also excellent writers, and I’ve learned so much from having to interpret their storytelling in music."

Marilyn Manson, 8 p.m. Saturday, January 20, Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson Street, $49.75-$55.