Music plays a starring role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2., as it did with its predecessor. Ahead of the sequel’s May 5 release, composer Tyler Bates breaks down writer-director James Gunn’s orbit of influences for the soundtrack, from Fleetwood Mac to… David Hasselhoff?
Like Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Bates lost his mother, who “was the No. 1 proponent of my dream to become a musician,” when he was a teen. That loss inspired “Dad,” a sweeping theme on which Bates’ 15-year-old daughter Lola plays piano.
Father & Son
The Cat Stevens 1970 hit plays during a tear-jerking sequence. “Even though I’d worked on the music, I was very emotional [when the song played] at the premiere,” says Bates.
Microsoft’s short-lived answer to the iPod, the Zune (2006-2011), makes a cameo in Vol. 2, while Star-Lord’s Walkman from the first movie — a gift from his departed mother — once again gets a featured role.
Two decades ago, Bates’ now-wife made him two cassettes “labeled, I swear to God, Awesome Mix Volume 1 and Awesome Mix Volume 2,” he says. The first soundtrack, titled Awesome Mix Vol. 1, has sold 1.8 million copies since 2014, according to Nielsen Music.
The Feel Good Decade once again powers the franchise, with ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” featured. “The depth and the craft of songwriting from the ‘70s is the best it ever was in pop music,” says Bates.
The Fleetwood Mac 1977 classic is used multiple times in Vol. 2; Bates notes it has long influenced his own work. “It’s my favorite song on the soundtrack,” he says.
The actor and German pop-music sensation plays small but key roles in the movie and on its soundtrack — he handles vocals on “Guardians Inferno.” Says Bates: “David seems like he’s enjoying every day of his life.”
Gunn wanted a disco-fied Guardians theme — akin to Meco’s 1977 version of the Star Wars theme — and though Bates wasn’t familiar with the producer’s work, he says that he synthesized “the cheese factor” and knocked out the music in a day.
Although Bates says that Gunn is “not a religious person,” the director has expressed interest in Hindu mythology and wanted to explore its deeper meanings within the character of Ego.
My Sweet Lord
The director paired George Harrison’s 1970 homage to the Hindu god Krishna with the origin story of Ego, Star-Lord’s father, who is “essentially a god,” says Bates.
This article originally appeared in the May 13 issue of Billboard.