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Michael Angelo Batio
Michael Angelo BatioIn the age of Internet and totally communication one should mean, it is not to be stepped difficultly in connection with one of your music idols. But in spite of modern technology then nevertheless it often runs according to the good old pattern: I know somebody who knows somebody who has a friend and his friend is a good friend of the person in request. Thus it was also in the case of the interview of wish with Michael Angelo Batio. Then, nevertheless, after some delays and confusion it has worked to meet the guitar virtuoso.

 U.B., 07.06.2010

We asked...
 Hello Michael, you are not only a musician, supernatural shredder, you also have your own record label M.A.C.E. Music and your own music studio Monster Mix, you do more than one hundred shows every year all around the world, present Dean Guitars, do guitar workshops and you have a column in Guitar World Magazine (Time to Burn), you must be a very busy man. I almost feel guilty to pester you with my questions. But hey, I really wanted to have an interview with you. Okay let's not waste any time. Here we go.
Michael Angelo - that does remind me of Michelangelo, the genius from Italy. Was one of your parents interested in one of the greatest artists of all time or did they choose the name because it sounds so good?

I think it was both. One of my Uncle's is names Augustus Paul Batio - we are waiting for Julius Caesar Batio. :)

Michael you studied music (Bachelor of Arts) was that your idea, or did your parents want you to do that?

Getting a degree from the University was my idea. I wanted to learn as much as I could about music. I wanted to become an expert in the field of music. Studying composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and many, many more really helped me have the long career that I have.

It is unusual for a metal musician to study classical music. Did your studies help you a great deal writing your own songs and to develop your unique style?

Yes. It also showed me that many of these Artists had qualities about their music as well as themselves that people still look for today.

You started to play piano at the age of five. The piano requires good coordination of both hands. Is that one of the secrets that you can play the Double Guitar, besides a lot of practice of course?

Yes. I consider keyboards to be my second instrument. I play the keys on all of my CDs. My piano instructor at the University told me that I had the facility to become a concert pianist. I studied everything from Bach 2 part inventions to Bartok and more. I love the sound of keyboards in music.

Your first guitar was an old Fender Strat. A guitar for a right-handed person. You could not afford a "lefty". Do you think that this turned out to be a big advantage in the end - your strong left hand doing the more complicated things?

Yes. That is also what my Father said when I got the guitar - that I would have an advantage because my strong hand is my fret board hand. That is why I developed and invented the "Over- Under" technique on 1 guitar. But, I had to work hard to develop my picking hand. I worked on and practiced Alternate Picking for 2 years before I was able to begin to master the technique.

You claim to be left-handed but that is only part of the truth. Come on Michael be honest, mother nature was very generous and made you the gift of being ambidextrous. Maybe your left hand was a bit dominant but ….. otherwise I can't believe that it is possible for a mortal man to become as good with both hands as you are. The only other person I can think of who is able to use both hands at world class level is snooker professional Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan.

Thank you. Yes, I am truly ambidextrous. I can throw a baseball with either hand. I can bat left handed or right handed. I play Hockey and Golf right handed and (American) Football left handed. My Zodiac sign is a Gemini as well. The sign of the twins!

As a young session musician was there ever, perhaps only the shadow of a doubt in your mind, that you would not be successful? Talent and hard work does not necessarily mean you become successful? Look at Van Gogh; he painted over 800 paintings but did sell only one in his lifetime. He is one of the most famous painters now but was very poor when he lived.

I was a top session guitarist starting at age 19. The time when I had doubts was when I moved to Los Angeles and was struggling just to survive. My band "Holland" was recording demos, prior to our record deal, with the help of a "bigtime" producer named Tom Werman (Poison, Cheap Trick, Motley Crew.) I was recording rhythm guitars at the time. Tom was not in the studio when I was recording but would come in and check on things during these initial sessions. He came into the studio and listened to what I had just recorded. I had never met him before this and all he said - in front of everyone there was that what I played was WRONG! I was stunned. After he said that, I calmly walked out of the control room and went into the Men's bathroom. I looked into the mirror at myself and said that if I can't take this criticism I don't belong in L.A. I walked back into the studio and very nicely said "Tom, the progression is based off of the B Phrygian mode. The notes and parts I am playing are correct." He listened again to the song and said - "Yes, you are right." I knew then that I had what it took to make it big in music.

While I am talking about painters, there is a photo on your website that shows you in the chapel at Chatsworth in England. Do you have a soft spot for arts?

Yes. I love art and history. I have visited many great museums around the world.

You once said that you would love to be on stage with Mozart if he was still alive. Why did you say Mozart and not Beethoven? Beethoven seems to be "more metal". His style is darker and more powerful and he sure did lay down some heavy tunes. In a TV show, a music professor here in Germany once said: "If Beethoven were alive today, he would make symphonic metal." Malmsteen is a Bach fan and you like Mozart, interesting.

Mozart, in my opinion was one of the greatest geniuses that has ever lived. I love the fact that he could use the major scale and still be so majestic. I also love the Classic era style of music that he and Hayden were a part of.

Do you feel a little bit sad because people see you as a shred guitarist in the first place and not as a composer - songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist?

I think people fell comfortable with and like to put labels on things. It doesn't really concern me what people say as long as I feel in my heart and soul that I did the best that I could do.

It started with Star Licks and went on with Speed Kills and Speed Lives. Your instructional DVD's teach young musicians how to play guitar. The DVD's are bestsellers. Even Malmsteen´s Play Loud series is not doing as well as yours. Is it because you give the new generation of guitarists exactly what they want- they learn to play really fast and master advanced techniques? Or do your incredible albums make people curious how you do it and that helps to sell the DVD's as well? With so much influence on other guitarists you sure must be proud of what you're doing.

Thank you. I truly wanted and still want to help other guitarists be better. I love to record and perform as well, but knowing that I have helped and influenced so many guitarists makes me feel that I have made a difference. It makes me feel that my life has meant something - that I gave something back, rather than taking from others.

Besides a weight problem, Malmsteen is unable to hide, he has trouble with the joints of all his fingers ( I do not know the medical term) because practicing several hours a day for so many years left its mark. What advice can you give to other guitarists who practice every day to avoid injuries on the long run?

This is where my education and attention to detail has paid off. I have never had a hand injury. Ever. I practice right handed, left handed, 2 guitars at the same time, over the neck, under the neck and still, after all of this time, I have never been injured. My fret board hand technique is more like a Classical Guitarist. My picking hand moves very economically over the strings. On my Star Licks video I called it "economy of motion." I live by that statement. I try to minimize the movement of my fingers and keep my arm, wrist and hand positioned to be comfortable.

Brian Adams had the song "Summer of 69".
I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played 'til my fingers bled
It was summer of '69
Did you play until your fingers hurt? I know the famous MAB words: "Practice, practice, practice."

I play for hours and hours at a time when I am rehearsing for recording. My fingers really don't hurt.

In some of your video interviews (for example: Dean Guitars owners party - London 2009) you were holding a guitar in your hand and while you answered the questions your fret hand started moving up and down the neck, your fingers dancing on the strings. Does your left hand start practicing all by itself?

My fingers have a mind of their own!

Does the Album title NO BOUNDARIES reflect your attitude? Do you accept no boundaries, no limits, and do you want to push further and further?

Yes. I believe there are no limits to what a human can do. I want to be better this year than last year and be better next year than this year.

What would you say is the key to becoming a good musician? 20% talent and 80% hard work? What do you think?

40% talent and 60% hard work. There are many great players in the world. There are also many great players that sound terrible on CD and have no stage presence live. If talent was all there was to being successful, the world would be full of famous musicians!

I saw quite a few of your video interviews, and read interviews in music magazines and listened to an MAB telephone interview with a radio station. You are always very polite and kind, have a smile on your face, and never use a rude word. That makes such a difference to many other musicians. They chew gum, pick their nose and scratch certain parts of their bodies (I'm not going into details, lol). That never happens in an MAB interview. Are you a "heavy metal gentleman"?

Thank you. I love what I do and I think it shows. I like to be courteous, attentive and will give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

One of the guitar heroes in my youth was Gary Moore from Belfast. After a number of rock and metal albums, Gary suddenly "got the blues" and told his fans he would never record another rock or metal album and that he would play blues for the rest of his life. Can you imagine that you could make such a statement in the future? I hope not!

No, I don't think I would make that statement. I heard that he is now making a Rock Record!

Talking about guitar heroes, the commercial from 2006 for Guitar World Magazine where you smashed the plastic Guitar Hero controller made me laugh. Did you ever smash a real guitar on stage like Pete Townshend or Ritchie Blackmore did all the time? I bet not!

Yes. I smashed one of my Double-Guitars and broke both bodies in half. That was my first and last time doing that.

Guitar Hero is only a game, but do you think that it helps that kids become interested in playing a real guitar?

Yes. I think it helps people stay interested in the music.

You once said and I quote: "Dean guitar is a true American guitar company." Is it important for you that you play a guitar made in the USA? I also noticed in the video "In the studio with MAB" that there is a sign at your door that says: "Land of the free". Are you proud to be American?

I think that Dean Guitars is a great company. I like people to know a bit of the history behind the company. I am proud to be an American. I am also proud of the fact that my heritage is European, that my ancestors are European. I think people should be proud of their heritage.

By-the-way, Land Of The Free was perhaps the best album by the German power metal band Gamma Ray. Do you know Gamma Ray?

I have heard of them, but am not familiar with their music.

The German MAB fans sure love to hear that you put Germany among the top three countries (together with Brazil and England) you like to visit most. Well, I can't blame you Michael if you put Brazil on number one, if I think about those hot-blooded, suntanned young ladies I sympathize completely. But what puts Brazil right at the top from a musical point-of-view. Are the fans more enthusiastic than anywhere else?

My love of Germany stems from the fact that so many of the greatest composers in history are from Germany. Also, I have toured there at least 14 times over the years. There are so many things about Germany that I love. The music, the people, the culture, the intelligence and craftsmanship - I could go on and on. Brazil is unique because there is a strong European flavor to the country, but it is mixed with a Latin culture that just works. I cannot walk around in Brazil without body guards. I was in Brazil last year with David Vincent of Morbid Angel and people just surrounded us screaming Michael, Michael, David, David. It was a humbling experience.

The Germans are proud of their beer and I live in the south were most of the breweries are. In the MAB forum the members discussed which of your quotes was best (Now, assume the shred position!) and you said: "Here is a saying my friends in Germany and I use quite often: just one more beer". Now here comes an important question. What brand do you like best? Did you ever visit the Oktoberfest in Munich?

I have had many, many glasses of beer in every region of Germany. I have also visited Oktoberfest. I drank 1 of the big steins of beer there and that was it for me. I was really drunk after that. Then I went on a roller coaster ride and almost killed myself! I love the beer in Germany. It is my favourite place in the world for beer, as well as many other things.

You seem to like science fiction. You have a song by that name and one is called "Time Traveler". A while ago you said that you loved the TV series "Dr. Who". When I was young, I saw the American series Time Tunnel. Do you remember that one? Joe Satriani recorded the albums "Surfing with the Alien" and "Is there Love in Space". Another science fiction fan. Do you like movies like Alien and Event Horizon?

Yes, I love science fiction. I also remember the series the "Time Tunnel." I liked the swirling time tunnel they traveled through!

Are you the workaholic- can't slow down- always keep moving- I'll sleep when I'm dead- type? You seem to be. What do you do to relax? Do you have any hobbies like playing …

Yes, I am a workaholic. I work 7 days a week. I love sports, but I don't play very much any more.

You seem to be pretty fit. All those tours around the world must be tiring. Do you do any physical training? In a video for Metal Methods "Speed Kills", you are wearing a shirt with the logo of a gym.

Yes. I have been working out at health clubs and professional gyms for 20 years now. I never go more than a few days without working out. Even when I am on tour, the hotels I stay at usually have some sort of training equipment. Staying in shape helps me when I am on tour. It also contributes to my never having a hand injury.

Malmsteen and Blackmore have big egos that is not a secret. Success must have gone straight to their heads. You are so different, very loyal to your fans and with both feet on the ground. How do you manage not to go "over the top?"

My personality is not like that. I like to think of myself as a genuinely nice person and am grateful for the success that I have.

The famous drummer Buddy Rich once said: "I have seen so many musicians in my career who played their guts out but it still didn't sound right because their heart was not in what they were doing." How important is it that you play with passion and love what you're doing?

I think you have to be true to yourself. If you play with heart and conviction, the people will know it.

Hendrix, Dimebag, Rhoads, and Vaughan (just to name a few) all died much too young for several tragic reasons. Guitarists seem to lead a life in the fast lane. Do you often think about the dangers in the music business?

Yes, I think about it, especially because I knew Dimebag, but I cannot let any kind of fear control me or my career.

When other guitarists perform on stage, they seem to turn into limbo dancers with all those movements they make, some of them quite silly. You don't move much only your fingers fly over the frets. Do you believe that the music is important and not the show?

The only "stage moves" that I do are the "Over-Under" technique and the Double-Guitar. I just play with as much emotion, energy and intensity as I can.

When I discovered your videos on Youtube I showed them to some of my friends. The comments were: unbelievable, awesome, etc. The funniest was: "Nobody can play that fast, he must have escaped area 51, he must be an alien." Michael, can you understand that some people have doubts that it's possible to play the way you do?

Yes. I do the very best I can both in the studio and on stage. My goal live is to show people things that are different from other guitar players and in the studio as well as in concert, be the best that I can be.

Your YouTube videos are extremely popular. The Double Guitar Solo reached 1 million hits in 2007 and when I checked today it was up to 6.8 million hits! Speed Lives - No Boundaries (my favorite!!) 3.6 million, Speed Kills Metal Methods 6.4 million. Youtube sure is making you even more popular. Do you plan to put more videos on YouTube in the future?

We are always adding new content on YouTube. I work closely with a video company called Metal Method. I have over 30,000,000 views on YouTube now. I am honored that so many people watch my videos.

I saw photos of two new Dean Quad guitars, one was with the armorflame design. It looks like that the two lower guitars of each set have a different angle than the original Quad. Is that correct? Why did you change the angle?

The neck angles can change with different back plates.

Your fans would love to see you use the Quad more often. Do you intend to play it from time to time?

I will be performing the Quad guitar in concert.

Let's talk about your latest album "Hands Without Shadows 2: Voices". The singer Warren Dunlevy was totally unknown to me. He sure did a great job. Where did you find him? His voice does change like a chameleon. On "Tribute to Dimebag" he is very aggressive, very gentle and passionate on "Clapton is God", and he almost sounds like David Lee Roth on "EVH".

Warren is really an amazing singer. He is also a really "cool" person to work with.

Drummer Joe Babiak had already played on "2X Again". He was on the team for "HWS2" and is an excellent drummer. He studied music in Chicago the city where you were born. Did you meet him there for the first time?

I met him in Chicago through a friend of mine. I toured Asia in 2002 with Joe. That is the first time that we had worked together.

Now that the album is finished, is there anything you would like to change if you still could?

Now that I have played these songs live, I want to change a lot of things! Just kidding. Once I finish a musical project I move on to the next one. Still, there are things that I would like to change with every CD that I have ever recorded. I don't think I am alone in that sentiment.

You once said: "Coming from Chicago, I used to think of myself as a blues guitarist." So why didn't you put a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute song on that album?

I just don't feel blue! :-)

The last song on HWS2 "MAB Forum Shreddathon" was written and mixed by a member of your forum (maxxxwell). 13 young guitarists and you Michael perform that song. It's so great- something nobody has done before and another example of your loyalty to the fans. Who had the idea?

Maxxwell approached me about this when he came to see me at a show in Los Angeles last year. I told him that it was a great idea and if I liked the track I would use it. I think he did a great job. It is also my way of showing appreciation to the fans that have made my career.

Only a few weeks ago you played in Romania. Andy Timmons (ex Danger Danger guitarist and solo artist) was there as well. In 2002, Timmons recorded an album called "That Was Then, This Is Now" where he plays all sorts of different styles in a perfect way. If there is one other guitarist on this planet who could do that as well as Timmons it is you Michael. Did you ever think about an album where you could show the wide range of your versatility?

Andy is a really nice guy and a great guitarist. I might do that sometime in the future. It would be fun and something different for my fans.

Okay, a few questions that are not meant to be serious but I know that you have a good sense of humor. If a wizard would knock at your door and tell you that you have one wish, what would it be? Perhaps two more arms that you can play all four guitars of the Quad at the same time?

To have all of the powers of Superman and to live forever. I am a Gemini - so it has to be 2 wishes!

Now here comes a tricky one (I know I am a bastard). If Bill Gates would knock at your door and tell you that he would give you 10 Million Dollars if you promised not play guitar for the rest of your life, what would you do?
a. Take the money and play keyboards.
b. Hit him over the head with one of your guitars and tell him to get lost.
c. Tell him to invest in Lehmann Brothers and not bother you anymore.

C. I am not motivated by money. I believe that money comes when you do good work.

If George Lucas would knock at your door and tell you that he wanted to make another "Star Wars" episode and in one scene he needed an alien musician, somebody who was able to play two guitars at the same time in a way only you can, would you accept?

YES! I have already been in a movie using the Double-Guitar and it was a great experience. Does it happen very often that you wake up in the morning and you had dreamt that you played guitar while you were sleeping?

Yes. If I don't play guitar for a few days, I start to dream about it. Well, that's it. Thank you very much for answering my questions. You rock Michael!!!!

Thank you for the questions.

  • www.bandname.tld 

    ¬ Michael Angelo Batio
    ¬ 07.06.2010: deu | eng

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