This interview was originally published in 2015.
Some of it just seems impossible. His pick speed alone is simply amazing, but then throw in the ambidextrous, two-necks at once thing, and shredder Michael Angelo Batio just seems to have the market cornered on near-impossible guitar playing.
Casual Youtube surfers may know him as that guy who caught their eye playing two guitar necks simultaneously, or maybe as the guy with the four-necked guitar. Long time shredders might know him for his popular Metal Method instructional DVDs, such as his Speed Kills and Speed Lives series. And he certainly earned some new fans at the thousands of guitar clinics he’s done in the past 20+ years as well, slowing it all down so we can follow at mortal speed, making it all look easy, and then firing up the engines again and showing off his bad-ass riffage.
But he’s beyond bad, or nationwide. Largely considered one of the originators of the “shred” guitar genre, Batio has been traveling the world, wowing audiences with his phenomenally precise fret- and pick-work for decades now. At this point, he’s cutting back on his clinics to focus more on performing and touring.
And with a new album just out, Shred Force One, Batio is ready to hit the road again. The new disc — proffered as an “Essential MAB Collection by his new label, Rat Pak Records — features such guest artists as George Lynch, Mark Tremonti, Michael Wilton, Guthrie Govan, and Queensryche frontman Todd La Torre.
In this telling Guitar.com interview, Batio discusses Shred Force One and trading licks with the likes of Lynch, et all. He also digs into the design process behind his many Dean signature guitars, his favorite new amp, his recent appearance on That Metal Show, and how he self-engineered a lucrative career in the music biz on his own terms.
Guitar.com: Hi Michael. Where are you today? Are you home in Chicago?
Batio: Yeah, for one day. I got back Tuesday night, and I leave tomorrow for San Francisco.
Guitar.com: I saw on your schedule that you have some stuff going on out there. So you have a new album out, Shred Force One. And you’ve got all kinds of special guests on this album…
Batio: Yeah. It was amazing. I couldn’t be happier.
Guitar.com: I know you’ve got some shows coming up, but you also do a lot of clinics. You match up shows with clinics a lot of the time, don’t you?
Batio: Well, I do about 100 shows a year, and I’m up to 58 countries now that I’ve toured in. I’ve been to China eleven times. But in the past couple years I’ve cut the clinics down dramatically. It’s only going to be about 30 percent of my itinerary.
The majority of shows I’ve done this year, and I’ve done at least 40 shows already, and only one was a clinic. So it’s kind of nice. I love doing clinics and I’ve done probably more than any guitar player out there. But now I’m doing way more concerts, so it’s nice. In fact I’ll be in Chicago May 9 with Eddie Trunk.
Guitar.com: I just saw you on Eddie’s show, That Metal Show, on VH1. You were talking about gear, and there were some interesting things in there.
Batio: Yeah, I was the guest guitarist on That Metal Show about three weeks ago. It was great. It was fantastic. I loved it.
Guitar.com: You were talking on the show about your signature model guitars from Dean — you’ve got a bunch of them, don’t you?
Batio: Yeah, I’ve got more than a dozen. I’ve been grateful. They’ve sold really well. And I learned my lesson: The reason they sell is that my name is not all over it. A lot of times people buy one not even knowing it’s a signature guitar. It’s hard to put your ego aside to do that. I never wanted a signature guitar, because I thought, unless your name is Les, nobody is gonna buy it.
And frankly, I was correct. But I know Steve Vai, and if you notice, Vai’s pretty smart about this. You don’t see Steve Vai’s name on his guitar. It’s called the Jem. And it made it much more attractive to guitar players because there’s not an ego involved — “Well, I’m not gonna play this guy’s signature guitar, man!”
I hear that and read that all the time on all the guitar forums. People don’t like signature guitars. And there’s an ego issue. And that’s fine, but I want the guitar to be judged as a good guitar, not as a Michael Angelo Batio’s guitar. I think that’s the wrong way to judge it.
I want a guitar that people can play and like, not one that’s got my name on every fret, saying “Look at me, aren’t I wonderful!” That was the idea, to make a great guitar.
Guitar.com: These are some pretty hot-rod guitars, aren’t they.
Batio: I think so. I like graphics. But not everybody does like graphics, so my new series of guitars, for 2015, there’s no graphics. We have models with white finishes, with a flame top. It’s not for everybody. I’m a flashy live player, and I like the guitars to reflect that.
But we also understand that not everybody does that, and not everyone likes that. So we have enough guitars in my signature line to hopefully appeal to people who don’t like that too.
Guitar.com: Right. The guitar that you’re holding on the cover of the new album is very interesting. It’s actually kind of a 3-D design, isn’t it?
Batio: Yeah. In fact it was done by a Chicago artist, Stephen Jensen. And Stephen is amazing. You know a lot of times with guitars, I made a joke: “People want Alien vs. Predator,” or some celestial concept. But what I did is — I love history. I just love the history of the countries that I go to.
Like, for example, when I was in China last October, I finally got to see the Terracotta soldiers. It was amazing! And climbing the Great Wall, and all these other things that people do when they’re sightseeing in China. It took 11 visits to see all this, because sometimes I don’t get a chance to sightsee at all…
But what I did with that particular signature guitar, it’s called the Armored Flame . And what we did, because I love history — I love armor. I’m not a fighter, I haven’t been in the military. But I’ve seen so many castles over my career, and seen all these different suits of armor, from Samurais to African to Italian to Spanish Conquistadors to gladiators with Roman armor and Greek armor. I’ve seen it all first-hand.
And so I talked to Stephen and said, “Why don’t we do a guitar with armor, bad-ass armor.” So he made it a 3-D design — and then he knows I like cars — so he did this on his own: He papered it off with NASCAR flames, and underneath the armor is the bullet-proof vest of the Middle Ages: Chain Mail.
So when you see the black finish up close, there’s chain mail there. I was blown away. It just looked fantastic. And Dean developed a process where they have to hand-lay it over each guitar because of the bevels.
And then, as far as the components, we found EMGs sell really well, and I like EMGs. We put in the EMG 85 in the bridge spot, with the SA in middle, and the 81 in the neck position. And it has an alder body, because I like lighter woods. And a maple neck. It’s got great sound, and the neck specs are all mine.
But it is called the Armored Flame because it’s literally NASCAR flames and medieval Knights of the Round Table armor. Even Chris Caffery of TSO used one of those guitars for a Trans Siberian Orchestra tour a couple years ago.
I remember meeting him at the NAMM show, and we were sitting there talking about football, of all things. And I said, “You know, Chris, you’re using one of my signature guitars.” And he goes, “Yeah man, I don’t care. That guitar kicks ass!” And I’m glad.
Guitar.com: Cool. So you said this guitar was designed Stephen Jensen, from Wornstar Clothing?
Batio: That’s right. Yeah, he designed the graphic.
Guitar.com: Yeah, I know Stephen. He’s a great photographer too.
Batio: Yeah. In fact a lot of the photos you see of me online, he did. And I’m talking to him about Wornstar stuff too. But he designed, not just the guitar body, he did the graphics, but he helped in the design of the body as well. I told him what I wanted, and then he did it in Photoshop.
And the phenomenal thing about technology today, we can pretty much make a guitar look in person like it looks in Photoshop. He’s done three graphics for me — my 7-string, the Armored Flame, and then one called the MAB4 Gauntlet. He’s done photo sessions with me, he’s designed t-shirts. I love the guy! He’s brilliant. He’s fantastic at what he does, and he’s a cool guy.
Guitar.com: Yeah, absolutely. So besides your guitars — and again I’m going to refer back to the video I saw from That Metal Show — you talked about the amp that you prefer to use. They had you set up with some Marshalls on that particular show, but you talked about the DV Mark. Is that what you use live these days?
Batio: Yeah. I’m not afraid to use new technology if I really like it. I just never heard anything to me that sounded better than a Marshall. Even the Fractal systems. I played through the Fractals. I don’t like them. I don’t like their tone. It doesn’t sound real to me. And I know John Petrucci uses the effects section. I’ve heard people who run direct. And I can’t think of a guitarist using that stuff who I say, “Wow, their tone is amazing!”
And they even approached me to endorse them, and I couldn’t do it. I don’t endorse a lot of companies. I could, but I don’t need a lot of companies. I just need companies I like. And so when I was on tour in Europe this year, the promoter was Italian, based outside of Rome, and DV Mark is a few hours outside of Rome.
So he told me, “We’ll get you Marshalls if you want, like the last tour, but there’s this new company,” he said, “and they sound great, and they’re a lot lighter.” He said, “It’s easier for the road crew, and the bass player is using a Mark amp, which is the same company.” So he said, “Try them. Try them and see if you like them.”
And I did, and I was absolutely blown away. They sound phenomenal. And they’re super light. The heads weigh about a third the weight of a Marshall head. The cabinets are less than half the weight of a Marshall cab, and they sound great. They sound phenomenal. They’re super light, they’re great.
I programmed my sound. I learned how to program it — it’s not very hard. I A-B tested it against my Marshalls when I got back to the United States, and they sent me one, and I got a great sound. It pushes air like a Marshall. I don’t need microphones anymore.
And that’s another thing: you’re on tour, you’re using different sound systems. There’s always different microphones that people put up to your speakers. And they mic them different ways. I’ve been recording for 30 years, I know how to mic a cab. And I know all sorts of phasing things. I’ve taken courses in engineering. I understand the concept. And some people would mic it at the far end of the speaker, some would stick it right in the center.
Now we just use the XLR in the back, and we’re good to go. It’s always the same sound. It’s just wonderful. I can’t say enough about them. I really, really like them. Just like I love Dean guitars, I love DV Mark amps.
They’re new, but they stood the test on the road. We had a rigorous tour schedule in Europe. It’s eleven different countries, and it was winter, and some of the roads — they’re not like the United States. We were driving back roads. Like if you’re in McHenry [a really back-roads rural area in Northern Illinois]. And the amps handled it. It was great.
Guitar.com: I haven’t had a chance to play through one of these, but Greg Howe told me about them too. So do you use it with multiple settings for different songs, and a pedal board?
Batio: Actually, no. I don’t use a lot of pedals, and I don’t use a lot of effects, and I never have. I like a little bit of delay on my lead sound. If somebody played through my amp, plugging in just a cable, they would go, “Oh my God! This is really dry!” It’s almost like an old-school blues sound. You read stuff on the Internet all the time about somebody saying, “Why does somebody buy a $2,000 amplifier and then plug in a $100 pedal?”
Well that’s because that $100 pedal can have the greatest components on planet Earth in it, because pedals are a lot less expensive to make. And I read this stuff, and I go, “Where are these people coming from?”
But here’s my way of doing it — and it’s not everybody’s way — I do not care for amp distortion. To me it’s not clear. I get a really clear sound. It’s articulate, every note can be heard. That’s on purpose. I don’t want it to sound like a bunch of noise. When I play fast I want every note to be heard.
And a lot of times in clinic environments I’m not using amps that I like. There’s thousands of videos of me on Youtube where I’m not even playing my own guitar, and through an amp I’ve never used. I do the best I can. But when I use my rig, my guitars, my amps, it sounds exactly the way I want.
And so what I’ve learned, I actually roll the overdrive off on the amp so it’s almost like a ’70s rock guitar sound. And then when I roll off the volume, it becomes a clean jazz sound. So I’ve got two sounds in one amp setting. And then when I click the overdrive on, I get balls-to-the-wall metal. And that’s my tone.
Can you get multiple settings [on the DV Mark], yes. There is a foot switch. And I can use that, and I have clean sounds set, but I don’t use it a lot. I’ve got my basic tones, and that’s all I like to use.
Guitar.com: You mentioned a jazz sound. You studied jazz early on, didn’t you?
Batio: Yeah. I play jazz. I know chord melodies, and all sorts of stuff. I incorporate a lot of chromatic tones in my playing. And that’s just from my jazz background. And when you hear the song “What You’re Doing” from the new record, it’s a I-IV-V progression, but I don’t just use a blues scale or pentatonic. I started off playing a blues scale, but when it goes to the IV chord, I use major notes, I use passing tones. There’s breaks. I’m not continuously playing. That’s another thing that I do over the years, even in the song “Eight Pillars.”
I’ll do things now where I’ll play really fast, and then I’ll just stop. And I have a kill switch on my pedal board. I have an overdrive and a kill switch, and that’s my pedal board. And then I have another side, the same, for the double guitar. So it looks like a lot more, but it’s because it’s for two guitars.
But I really stagger things now, more so than I ever have. And “What You’re Doing” is a great example of that. The phrasing is really interesting because it’s not continuous. And then the note choices. I move in and out of different keys, because the I-IV-V you can use different notes. You can play it bluesy, but you can also change it around. You can make the IV chord major, you can make it a 9th. So you get different note choices that are not just in one scale or one mode. I think like that. And I’ve always thought like that.
But I do love playing metal and rock. It’s where my heart is. I just happen to have this background (in jazz). There’s a song off my last album, Intermezzo, it’s called “Oceans of Time,” and in the middle I break into this jazz part. And then we do a fusion song on there too, with Guthrie Govan. He plays on the new album too, but he played on that album too.
I’m capable of jazz, and I like to do it, but I prefer to play metal and rock.
Guitar.com: And you laid down a pretty hot version of “Burn” on the new album.
Batio: Oh, thanks. Yeah, and I had Mark Tremonti play a solo on that one, and Bobby Rock on drums. He was great.
Guitar.com: And Todd from Queensryche singing…
Batio: Yeah. Todd, I have to say, and I’m not just saying this because he’s on two songs on my album, but he’s one of my favorite singers. That guy is amazing. And he’s the coolest guy in the world. I mean, I’m a nice person. I’m a reactive person. I’m not arrogant because I get to play guitar for a living, and do these cool things. I never take it for granted. I’m appreciative of what I’m able to do.
And Todd’s the same way. He’s actually a drummer. That’s where he started off. He didn’t start off as this A-list frontman, but obviously he has the demeanor and the voice to be a lead singer. But he’s actually a drummer, and he has that personality of a drummer, of just a cool, fun dude. He was great. We hit it off really well. And I think he’s a fantastic singer.
Guitar.com: So this album just came out.
Batio: Yeah, that’s right, on the 14th..
Guitar.com: And I know you’ve got some tour dates, you’ve got dates around the U.S., but I noticed also you’re heading to India at the end of May.
Batio: Yeah. It will be my fourth time in India.
Guitar.com: What kind of an audience do you have over there? There are enough players at a high enough level that want to come out and learn from you?
Batio: Well, I don’t know about learning from me. This time around, this will be the first time in India that I’ve done a clinic. Last year I headlined a concert that had 20,000 people. And because of my double guitar, there’s an Indian God called Shiva and it possesses multiple arms. And I’m not saying I’m a Guitar God, but they look at me like a guitar God over there.
But there’s a lot of great players. And even here in the United States, a keyboard player I work with that was of Indian descent, he was in a prog-rock band. They love progressive rock music. In fact I played on a record from a really great Indian band. They just emailed me today, they need a release form for my solo. Progressive Rock, that’s my genre.
I love mixed meters and progressive elements to what I do. So the style of music that I play is really popular, Dream Theater, those bands, Symphony X, and Michael Romeo and Michael LePond on my album, Shred Force One. It’s really popular. Guitar is popular on a global scale, so is rock music. And we have pop music, but rock, in many ways, is alive and well. There’s a lot of great young bands, and a lot of bands that are doing well — bands like Ghost, and Black Veil Brides.
The biggest difference today is that there’s a million different genres. Before we had heavy metal. Now there’s black metal, grindcore, dark metal — there’s a million different variations. The pie is cut into these super small slices now.
But India is a huge area for me. So is China. It’s a global world. Sometimes in the United States we get a little jaded. On the Internet, I get a lot of great comments, and I get people who don’t like me.
I just did a series of things for Youtube and the videographers called me “disruptive.” And I said, “What does that mean?” And they said “You’re one of these guys, that when somebody’s scrolling down a news reel on Facebook, they look at, one of these guys on Youtube that they watch.” That’s why my videos have these wild numbers: 15 million views on one of my videos alone. Eight or nine million views. A million views is not a big video anymore for me.
It’s something that I’ve been able to use to my advantage. You need those people who say you suck, because that’s what fuels the argument. That’s the disruptive thing. If you look at my videos, 90+ percent of the people will like it, but you need that small amount to say “This is not cool.” Because then everybody jumps in and then you have the conversation. And it’s very interesting, but I use it.
But India is huge. It’s a huge market for guitar. China. Europe is still big. In the United States, a lot of bands are doing really well. You just have to find your market. And I think people aren’t stupid.
I play really accurately live. Especially in my concerts, because I’ve got my guitars, and my rigs. Whereas, a lot of times at clinics, honestly, they’re not my guitars. They’re signature guitars, but I have to adjust action, they might not have new strings.
You’re a player: Imagine walking into a music store that’s a tenth of the size of a concert venue, they hand you a guitar that’s your signature guitar, that you designed, but they’ve got the wrong gauge strings, the action is a mile high, the whammy bar is not set up right, and they’re giving you amps that you’ve never used before. How would you feel? I’ve experienced that a thousand times.
And then people film it and put it on Youtube!
But, I make no apologies and no regrets. It’s the best I can do. But it’s so much more fun when you have your own gear. And I control this with the concerts. And my playing is exponentially better, it’s like the records, because it’s my tone. It’s my strings. It’s my set-up, and everything is the way I like it.
And so yeah, India is big, and I love it. I never take it for granted. And it was funny, because the sound system was cutting out, and one day I was the headliner — and it was just insane seeing that big of a crowd. It was a big huge stage. And the next day it was a Bollywood actress that had a band as the headliner. It was really fun. We did it at one of the universities. It was called IIT: The Indian Institute of Technology. I can’t remember the city. I was only there once, not like some of the other Indian cities I’ve visited, like Mumbai. The people are great.
Guitar.com: So how did you work with this Indian band you said you recorded some tracks for? Do you just send some Pro Tools files back and forth?
Batio: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be Pro Tools. It can be anything. It’s a wav file. It’s funny because everybody uses Macs, but the standard is wav — that’s Windows Audio Video. That’s what it stands for. Windows created the wav file.
The Pro Tools type file never caught on. Wav is the universal file. So whatever software a person has — whether it’s Pro Tools, or Reaper, or Sonar, or whether they use a Mac or Windows — it doesn’t really matter. We send wav files back and forth. They’re hi-resolution, way higher than CD quality. And what I ask for is that they mix a stereo version of the track. If they have a click-track they send it separately. Sometimes that’s not necessary. And then it will mark from like, three-minutes-twenty-five-seconds to four-minutes-two-seconds, and that’s where I’m supposed to play the solo.
And then I record my solo. I create a full-length track so it’s measured exactly, and I email it back to them. They just drop it in whatever system they use, and it’s good to go. It’s so much fun.
It’s how we did Shred Force One because George Lynch is too busy to fly to Chicago. To get Craig Goldy, to get Todd — all these people. So everyone has their own studio, or they have a friend who has a studio, and we just move files back and forth. They do their part and send it back, and we give it to the engineer for the master track. It’s awesome. I could not have done it without the technology today.
I mean, Michael Wilton — he’s busy. And George Lynch is busy. So we sent them the tracks, and they did it on their own time, and just sent it back. It’s great. And they’re such top pros. George Lynch actually sent six different tracks back, because he had different mics placed in different areas of the room, so he had close mics, medium mics. Everything was labeled meticulously, and his engineer deferred to us, but told us what they thought the best mic configuration was, which should be the major mics featured. And our engineer took his advice, and it sounded great.
Guitar.com: Very cool. So what do you use in your studio at home?
Batio: I have a really nice studio. I have Pro Tools, but I don’t need it. I’ve learned in my life — one of the secrets of my success — is I know what I’m good at, and I know what I’m not good at. I’m a good tracking engineer, because I understand guitars. But I actually have my engineer, who mixes all my records, come to my studio, and mic up my amps. I like him to do it.
We set the tone of the rhythm tracks together, because I like my rhythm sound to be a lot different than my lead tone. And we scoop the mids [lower the mid EQs] so I have plenty of mids I can use on leads. And then I use a program called Reaper. It’s not expensive software, but it’s really stable. I use it on my MacBook. I’ve got a top of the line Mac. I’ve got four one-terabyte drives. I’ve got it fully loaded with a ton of gigs of memory, and a high-end video card, and audio stuff.
But I don’t mix anything. I only track guitars and bass and keyboards if I play keys there — which I play on all my albums. And so anything I play in my studio, I track there. And Reaper is really cool because I do have effects there, but I record dry.
I don’t like a lot of effects. I don’t use a
lot of effects live. I record completely dry in the studio. With nothing. Nothing. No reverb, no delay. I’m used to it. I hear my sound better. I hear the clarity.
I know when I pinch a harmonic I can hear the tuning. I get it to sound the way I want. And Reaper is so simple to use, it’s super simple — way easier to use than Pro Tools. It’s like and old school cassette deck, you know: press record, play.
And then I just turn over the tracks to my engineer, who has the full-blown Pro Tools HD setup. He’s got every plug-in known to man. And then he mixes. If we bring in a drummer it will be done at his studio. If we bring in a vocalist, it will be done with him. But all the guitars and bass and keys, I do at my studio.
Guitar.com: And you’ve been running your own label for awhile, but for this album you’re with Rat Pak Records.
Batio: Yeah, I love the label.
Guitar.com: I know George Lynch and a bunch of great musicians are over there.
Batio: Yeah, it’s a great label roster, and I’m happy to be with them. I’ve had a truly unique career. I don’t see things the way other people do. I don’t use the same guitars. I picked a company called Dean because I loved them. I was not interested in being a Fender or Gibson endorsee — although I was a Gibson endorsee when they original owner of Dean sold Dean.
I like Les Pauls, but, I don’t know, that’s not the guitar for me. It’s the guitar for Slash, and Les Paul. And so let them use it. Not that I don’t like them. Of course I like them. I like all guitar brands. I have nothing against anybody who builds a guitar.
But I wanted to be different. Dean was different. Dimebag thought the same way that I did. They make fantastic instruments. I invented this over-under guitar technique for live. I invented and engineered the double guitar. I’ve been signed to two major labels, in two different bands, so I understand how the major league works.
It’s the equivalent of being in the NFL, or Major League Baseball, or the NBA. And I’ve been on two different teams. And so I understood that, which gave me the knowledge to start my own label. And I also realized that there are so many different ways to be successful in music, why do I have to be in just one band? What is so awesome about being in a band, unless you’re a Van Halen or Bon Jovi?
And so I found out I was good at clinics. I was doing, at one point, 20 clinics a month. I had an agent who just booked clinics. It was awesome. But I also found over the years that it was time for a change. And it’s time for a change now. I’ve drastically reduced the clinics.
You know, I got off on a tangent (laughs). I apologize. Can you repeat that last question?
Guitar.com: You know, I’m going to have to think about that (laughs). I don’t remember the question, but the answer was interesting. Actually, I asked you about Rat Pak Records.
Batio: Yeah. So when I started my own record company, I was really successful at it. I got distribution. I knew how it worked. So I had my own label, but I had the biggest distributor in the United States at the time distributing my No Boundaries album.
My first check, I was able to buy a house. I was never able to do that on Atlantic Records. And so what I did, is everybody was in bands trying to play local clubs, and I’m playing England. I’m playing Spain. I’m playing Portugal. I’m releasing my own albums. I’ve got my own house.
And again, I’m not arrogant about this. I never take it for granted. But I just quietly figured out all these ways that nobody was thinking about. And when people ask, “Why do you do the double guitar?” I can not play a show without my double. It’s part of what I do. It’s my worldwide trademark. It’s another component of what makes me different from everybody else.
Steve Vai did a version of mine. He gave me credit. I didn’t copy him. And Jack Black, in the movie The Pick of Destiny, did one of my guitars, and gave me credit for it. He did a big interview and said he was a fan of my former band, and he was like “This guy Michael Angelo, that’s where we got the guitar idea! He plays four necks at once!”
So that’s why I do it. iIt set myself apart, which made me stand out, and then all I had to do was back it up with the best guitar playing I could do, with the best songs I could write. And the rest, let it fall where it may.
But with Rat Pak Records, I realized: I can’t do that anymore. I don’t have the manpower. When you’re doing concerts and all this, I realized the time had come where it got to the point where I can’t handle it.
And just like my instructional DVDs, I’ve worked with the company Metal Method for over 20 years. They exclusively handle my stuff now. I don’t get involved in that. I can’t. But with Rat Pak, Joe O’Brien is a great owner. He’s the coolest dude in the world. He understands what I do. He can do this job a million times better than me. And so it frees me up to do the best music I can, knowing I’ve got the best label for me.
That’s why we’re talking today, because they have a fantastic publicist, Kevin. He got me on That Metal Show. It’s all synergy. It all works together. And that’s why I like Rat Pak. And even with Shred Force One, it was Joe OBrien’s concept — even to name the album Shred Force One — and to do this MAB discography record, the Essential.
I have 11 solo albums. I’ve got a lot of music out there. We picked some of the songs because we know they’re popular, but then the rest of the record I deferred to Rat Pak, and I couldn’t be happier. They picked some songs that I would have never picked, but I love the way they did the song order. And it really took a lot of pressure off me, because sometimes I don’t think artists know what their best stuff is.
Look at Rush. They hated “Tom Sawyer.” The rest of the world didn’t think that. But they probably wouldn’t have even put it on the record, and everybody else thought it was amazing. And I’m kind of like that too. I didn’t always know what my best things are. I didn’t even know the song “No Boundaries” would be popular. It wasn’t even written for a record. It was written for an instructional video. So how do I know what’s my best stuff?
And I think Rat Pak is really great for that. They understand the artists they work with, and they just get it, whether it’s George Lynch or Michael Sweet, or the guys in Kings X, or Ray Luzier from Korn. They just understand what they do, and I’m really happy to be with them.
Guitar.com: Do you have any new instructional materials coming out? I know about the Speed Kills and Speed Lives series…
Batio: Yeah, we did a whole bunch of them since then. We did Speed Lives 1, Speed Lives 2, Speed Lives 3. I re-did all that. I have a dozen instructional programs. And then what we’re doing now — Doug Marks, the owner of Metal Method, is a really close friend of mine. We’ve worked together forever.
What we’re doing right now, we’re re-doing Speed Lives, the song “No Boundaries,” because we can make it a better lesson. It wasn’t filmed in hi-definition. The video itself looks a little grainy. It’s a good lesson, but we can make it much better. So that’s my next project. We’re re-doing some of the older works to get them in hi-definition, and as perfect as we can. And then we’re going to be creating some new ones too.
But my next project with them — it’s going to be released in a few months — is the re-working of Speed Lives. So it’s the song “No Boundaries.” And we’re not calling it Speed Lives anymore. It’s just going to be “No Boundaries.” We’re just shining it up and making it better.
Guitar.com: Yeah. All right Michael, thank you so much for your time today. Good luck with the new album, and have fun out there on the road!
Batio: Yeah, thanks Adam. I appreciate it. You had great questions and I enjoyed it. It was awesome. So thanks a lot, and hopefully I’ll see you soon.