Live Music Preview: Jennifer Batten
by Luciana Lopez, The Oregonian
Thursday May 15, 2008, 4:27 AM
At the age of 29, the only tour guitarist Jennifer Batten had ever done was with an Elvis impersonator. Then came Michael Jackson.”I didn’t even want to think about getting it,” Batten said over the phone last week. About 100 guitarists auditioned for the tour, supporting Jackson’s 1987 album, “Bad,” so she had no way to gauge her chances. “I didn’t even tell anybody I went to audition.”Even after she got called back to play with the band, she wasn’t sure she’d landed the spot. “When I got a plane ticket to Tokyo, I thought, ‘There’s a good sign,'” she said with a laugh. “That’s when I told people.”That tour was more than just a professional windfall to Batten. It made clear to everyone who’d thought a woman couldn’t shred that, yes, indeed, Jennifer Batten can tear up a guitar as well as any man. Since that first tour, she traveled twice more with Jackson, played with one of her heroes, Jeff Beck, has written books and magazine columns about guitar playing and put out a number of solo records, the latest of which she’ll celebrate Friday.That album, “Whatever,” is a bit of a departure for Batten. Electronics, for instance, play a large role in the music.
“That’s influence from Jeff Beck,” Batten said. “He turned me on to Prodigy and some other electronic stuff. It sent me in a whole new direction.”
Batten also will be touring by herself for this album, rather than working with a band, which led to other new avenues.
“Just the thought of putting a band together, paying them, dealing with people not showing up was overwhelming,” she said. “I was thinking of the possibilities of doing a one-person show.”
Simply playing over prerecorded tracks was “too cheesy,” she thought, so she began exploring film. The CD has a companion DVD, so using film in live venues made sense.
She knew nothing about filmmaking but caught on quickly, using, for example, public domain footage. “Now I have the freedom to do films for any song I come up with,” she said. “It’s just fun. I get into these obsessive things. For the first 30 years of my life it was guitar.”
That intensity helped Batten as a young female musician in Los Angeles, working in a genre so often associated with men. Landing the Jackson gig helped change that. The band respected her, regardless of gender.
“I was the new kid on the block, and they were all really good to me,” she said. “That gave me a lot of confidence.”
And there’s no revenge quite like a long career — although the occasional apology doesn’t hurt. Take the band that said they liked her playing but, as the band leader put it, “We’ve always had problems with chicks.”
“I did run into him later,” she recalled, “and he was very apologetic.”
OK, for starters can you give us an idea of what you have been up to in the last few years or so?
I’ve spent a lot of time flying around the earth. This year I went to China, Australia, 4 times to Japan, twice to Canada, and over to Europe as well. Most of it was doing clinics for Digitech for their guitar processing and effects. I also played the World Expo in Nagoya Japan with Taiko drummer Shuichi Hidano and Micki Yoshino last summer doing Japanese traditonal music mostly. It was a great program with a variety of traditional acts.
I also played a concert with Micki Yoshino a few months later which was the 2nd annual “Back Bay Blues Festival”. The stage was filled with great Japanese players over a 2 1/2 hour period. Mickie is a legend in Japan.
I.E. What other artists have you been working with, and what record’s you have released.
Also what does the future hold for Jennifer Batten?
I’m taking a few months off this winter to finish my next CD. There are two records I’m on that came out in the last month. One is called “La Guitara” which consists of 14 great female players like Kaki King and Mimi Fox. It’s the brainchild of Patty Larkin who also plays the opening cut. They’re touring the CD. I saw them in Portland and it was killer. Muriel Anderson was also on that tour. I’ll be playing with them at the NAMM show in Anaheim next month. The other CD I’m on that just came out a few days ago is a tribute to Frank Marino called “Secondhand Smoke” I did a track called “He’s Calling”. It was cool because I was able to produce the track instead of just lay a solo over someone elses production.
Sean from the UK asks: 1. What is it like working with Michael
It was a blast. It was a full time party and we were all able to see a good chunk of the world in high style. We only played a few days a week so there was a lot of time to explore.
What is your favourite song of Michael’s to play on tours?
Human Nature. It’s the prettiest one he’s done I think. I also liked Startin” Somethin” because it was the show opener for a long time and holds special memories.
Mark from Michigan, USA asks: Are you still in touch with Michael and do you know if he is planning any upcoming shows?
I don’t contact him but I’m still in touch with someone who does. I’m not aware of any tour plans he may have.
Kuntay from Germany asks: 1. Did Michael ever take time to be with the crew and have fun?
He was accesable during rehearsals and often shut down amusement parks for us to hang out in without being bothered by fans. While on the road though, he didn’t have the freedom of just going out at whim. There were 100 people on the tours and we took up 3 different hotels for the most part.
Out of the 3 tours you did with Michael, what was your favourite?
The Bad Tour. Everyone got along really well and it was MJ’s first solo tour. It was very exciting and was the first time around the world for me.
What were your reasons for leaving the band during the 2nd Leg of the Dangerous Tour?
There was a 6 month gap, and I got antsy to do something else.
Would you go on tour with Michael again if he asked?
I’m not sure about that. I’m more interested in doing my own touring now.
Did you play during the Royal Concert in Brunei in 1996?
Yes. They were still trying to finish the stage when we arrived. Michael needed a certain amount of space to perform on so they built a stage just for him. Workers were going around the clock to finish in time for us. They also built an enclosure above the audience that looked like a living room for the royal family to watch us in comfort. Only certain people were allowed to
be in the audience but the Royal Family also allowed anyone to come to the amusement park that surrounded the the venue for free and watch the show on large screens planted around the premises. Lots of people flew over from Singapore and other countries for that.
Julian from Germany asks: Who was better to work with musically? Greg Phillinganes or Brad Buxer?
That’s hard because I liked them both. They’re both very different. Greg though I think is on the genius level. His mother said he was playing songs off the radio when he was 4. He’s an amazing talent. He played on Giant Steps on my first CD “Above Below and Beyond”
Are you still in contact with other band-members of MJ’s world tours?
Yes. I just spoke to Ricky Lawson the other day. Most poeple stay in touch with him. I also stay in touch with Chris Currel, Jon Clark, Don Boyette, and David Williams.
Jim from Birmingham, UK asks: 1. How did you feel when MJ asked you to tour with him?
High as a kite. I couldn’t sleep for weeks 🙂
How long did it take you to learn and play the Heartbreak Hotel & Beat It guitar solo’s?
I gave up on learning the Beat It solo 3 times before I got it. I played it in a cover band several years before the Jackson tour came up. Heatbreak Hotel was easy in comparison. It may have taken 30 or 40 minutes.
Has touring with Michael helped your personal music career?
Yes. I played for 1.5 billion people with Michael, so there was a recognition after that whether people knew me as Jennifer Batten or the girl with the hair 🙂
Do you do your own hair on tour?
Funny one. It changed over the 3 tours. The first 2 tours, I had extra hair attached to braids for volume. Karen Faye was the one who made it look like it did. I spent 2.5 hours with her before the show to get the look happening. The 3rd tour was a wig. Much easier to get going and remove afterward. I preferred that though it didn’t look as good.
Daniel from the UK asks: What is it like performing in front of a packed stadium?
It’s very surreal. I always felt a bit detached.
Do you still get nervous each time you go out to perform?
Not always. It depends on the environment, what songs are played and who I’m playing with and how much rehearsal time I’ve had.
Who are your musical inspirations and favourite guitarists.
Jeff Beck is at the top of the list. Then there’s Van Halen, George Lynch, Steve Morse—a very long list. I also love a lot of players that play other instruments like everyone in Weather Report.
Andrew from Dublin, Ireland asks: Who inspiried you to start playing guitar?
My sister. She got a guitar and I didn’t. I was very jealous!
Who would you love to work with most in the music industry again?
Afro Celt Sound System or Crystal Method or Adam Freeland.
Leanne from the UK asks: What was it like being Michael’s guitarist?
It’s the best job on the planet. He treated us very well and I loved the tunes. What is your favourite Michael song that you played on? Human Nature and Beat It
Katrina from the Faroe Islands asks: Do you see MJ personally?
Not any more.
Are you a fan of his music?
Yes. I like the Off the Wall CD the best- a timeless classic.
Preston from Canada asks: What was it like to play along side one of the world’s most legendary guitarists Slash, and was he an inspiration for your own guitar abilities?
It was fun. I headbanged really hard that night and my neck hurt for days! No he wasn’t an inspiration, though I like Guns. I was more into Jeff Beck and Van Halen when G and R came out.
Taylor from the UK asks: What was it like to wear those lit up headsets for Beat It?
It was a pain. At the end of Beat It everyone ran around the stage and sometimes they’d step on my lazer cabling as I was running and I’d get whip lash!!! I had different get ups each tour and one was a 30 pound dragon attached to my back. It was difficult for me to even move, so they changed it right away.
What is your favourite guitar solo?
Goodbye Porkpie Hat–Jeff Beck Wired CD
John from the UK asks: What was Michael like in general?
Very sweet person. I liked him a lot. He was kind and considerate and treated us very well. He’s just a big kid that wants to have some fun.
Steve from London, UK asks: Jennifer, you have travelled loads of places, touring with Michael.
I would like to know, which is your favourite City, and are there any stories that stick out in your mind when it came to touring with Michael?
I have a few favorite places and I’ll name countries instead of cities: Australia, Japan, all of Scandanavia, and Spain come to mind first. Stories: there are a few but one that sticks in my mind was hanging out with Sheryl Crow who was singing on the Bad Tour, when we were in the Tokyo Disneyland which MJ shut down for us all to play in. We were looking at things in a shop when MJ came up behind us and started talking to us. It surprized us because we’d only seen him surrounded by security whenever we were out with him and never bothered trying to get close.
Hunter from Australia asks: Can Michael play guitar or any other musical instrument?
I’ve never seen him play an instrument but he can cover any parts and sounds with his voice. I heard he did the first demo to Billie Jean by multi tracking all the parts with his voice on tape. He’s a great well rounded talent.
Ramón from Puerto Rico asks: How is your relationship with Michael, and what is your perspective of him?
I was an employee along with 5 other musicians. We didn’t socialize much outside of rehearsals but would do a group prayer before every show.
What did Michael expect of you as an artist, was he a strict demandig artist or easy going?
He was easy going. He’d review rehearsal tapes and make suggestions for changes to the musical director. It was not high pressure. He was always nice to us.
Chris from Canada asks: Whose idea were those crazy costumes and did you, personally, like them?
I liked some of the costumes but not others. But ultimately a gig like that is about theatre as much as it’s about music. The costumes were all MJ’s idea. He’d hire people to draw them up and then make them.
How did you manage to get these gigs touring with Michael?
I was one of 100 people who auditioned for him in 1987.
Cezara from Bacau, Romania asks Did you enjoy your time touring with Michael?
Yes–It was an amazing period of time over the 10 years.
Cam from Adelaide, Australia asks: How come you don’t record with MJ, you just play on the tours?
He’s got LA studio musicians he’s hired for years that he uses.
Also there is a little message/question from Cam: And how come you decided to record Wanna Be Startin Somthin’? Is this your favourite MJ song?
I really enjoyed the production he had with that song. There were a lot of little sounds and changes that happen during that song. I used to listen to it on headphones and loved it. Plus being the opening track for many live shows-it holds special memories for me.
I think it is awesome as well as your rendition of “Flight Of The Bumblebee.” Your an incredible guitarist and don’t get enough notority. Hope to see you touring soon Thank you!
Ema from Michigan, USA asks Who had the idea with the big hair?! Cos it’s so cool!
It was all MJ’s idea to have the hair turned snow white and big. He wanted me to stand out on stage and often all you see in photos is Mj and my hair!
Carl from Ireland asks: Do you rehearse for a long time before each world tour?
The first tour was the longest rehearsal—2 months straight with no days off, 6-10 hours per day.
Are there many songs that were rehearsed that Michael didn’t actually perform live at all?
Yes and I hated that. I wanted to play all the new songs every tour, but sometimes he didn’t feel comfortable with them and he’d remove them from the set list after we played them a few times
How does Michael decide what songs to drop from certain concerts (I.E. Bad and The Way You Make Me Feel from the dangerous tour, and D.S and Come Together from the HIStory tour)
It must have to do with the way he feels about them after performing them.
And when are the band informed of the set list change?
Sometimes right before the show. Are the band as devastated as the fans are when these songs are dropped?
No. We’re hired guns that just do as we’re told. There were plenty of great songs regardless of which ones were dropped or added.
Do you write down show setlists to keep track of what songs are coming next? If not how do you know what is next?
Yes, the technicians would have current set lists taped on the floor iN front of us so there were no mistakes.
Daniel from Sydney, Australia asks: Is there some story or anecdote behind the HIStory Tour’s wicked make-up that was worn by yourself and the dancers?
I have no idea. I didn’t like my look on that one, but again, it’s all about theatre at that point.
Again thank you Jennifer for agreeing to this And thank you to everyone who sent in questions.
Biography, career, gizmo and tinnitus.
Interview: Ketil Stokkan.
Created: 2006-12-21 10:34:00
Jennifer Batten began rising from the guitar underground in the late ’80’s. At that time she was in 6 different bands at once, playing everything from straight ahead rock to metal, fusion and funk. A major turning point came in 1987 when she was selected from over 100 guitarists to play in Michael Jackson’s highly skilled band. She then toured the world for one and a half years, playing for over 4.5 million people. Jennifer´s first solo album, “Above, Below, and Beyond” was released in 1992. Then she was asked again to join Michael Jackson for his upcoming “Dangerous Tour”. She accepted, and went to Europe and Japan. On January 31 in 1993, she joined Jackson to partake in Superbowl 27’s half time entertainment. The show aired to 1.5 billion people in 80 nations around the planet. It was the largest audience in television history.
Her video credits have included Natalie Cole’s “Wild Women Do”, Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker”, Sara Hickman’s “Take It Like A Man” and a feature interview in Hot Guitarist’s video magazines premier issue. Being one of the most skilled guitarists of modern times, Jennifer Batten has recorded guitar tracks on numerous tracks as a session guitarist. She completed her second solo record “Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage” just before she was again asked to join Michael Jackson for a two year world tour supporting his newest double album “HIS tory” in 1997.
In the spring of 1998, Jeff Beck asked Jennifer to join his band. They joined forces on the CD “Who Else” and toured the world for a year and a half. Jennifer continued in Jeff’s band in the support of his 2001 release “You Had It Coming”, and she is currently working on a new album. In this interview she talks about her career, a gizmo (“guitar dampener”) and tinnitus.
– How on earth did you come up with an idea to audition for a guitarist gig in Michael Jackson’s band?
I was lucky enough to hear about the auditions when I was teaching at Musicians Institute in 1987. I was getting tired of teaching and really wanted to travel and play. I was a Jackson fan for years so it was a happy time and the band members were great. Sheryl Crow was on that tour as well as Ricky Lawson and Greg Philingaines.
– You know you´ll never get rid of the brand that says “That´s the Mohawk Blondie who plays with Michael Jackson”. Your career as a session guitarist, music-teacher, band-member, solo artist or anything else will come second to the MJ display window for a very long time. Feelings
– It was a great adventure and opportunity for me. I’m happy I did it, and proud of my 10 years with him. If a percentage of Jackson fans still remember me and are interested in my music, I’m happy. But it’s more the Jeff Beck fans that would appreciate my brand of music, I think. Jeff gave me more of a stamp of approval to the snobbier guitar Nazi crowd.
– Having toured the whole planet with MJ and gotten paid well to boot, what comes next?
I’m 1/2 way through mixing my CD for his label. The title isn’t final yet, but everything will be posted on the site when appropriate.
– Have you never felt threatened by all the testosterone in rock and roll? Or has it been a mission to show the world that loud and fast guitars also slip comfortably well into the hands of a hot chick?
– I ignore the testosterone kind of like I ignore the world wrestling federation. I just do what I do and send it out into the universe for whoever is drawn to it. As a rule, I don’t hang out with guitar players. I’m aware of the jealousy that’s out there due to the cool gigs I’ve gotten, and that energy is poisonous to be around.
– I´ve never been impressed by those who believe in God given talents. I always say that in the end it´s really all about discipline and hard work. Care to comment?
– I think there’s a bit of a blend of the two. I think some folks are naturally gifted and others have to work very hard for a similar result. Still others work hard but are hopeless in the end.
– By the way,- what about the Jeff Beck tours? The two of you play so differently, but yet it´s still all about how different personalities affect what you can do with a guitar. Is this an issue that you care to say a few words about?
– He’s always looking for something fresh to light a fire under him. The last thing he’d want is someone who plays just like him. That would be too creepy and suffocate him. He wants people to send him in a new direction. Just adding another guitarist was fresh for him. Jeff hadn’t played with another one since Jimmy Page in the Yardbirds. I think the era I was with him was the beginning of an unusually productive time for him. He’s really been on a roll ever since and I think he’s enjoying himself more than in the past. He’s as fresh as ever and an amazing source of creativity and growth
– I know about your gear (Washburn JB 100 guitars with Floyd Rose tremolos and Seymour Duncan JB Jr./ Duckbucker pickups, Peavey amps and Digitech effects), but I´m curious about the “Guitar Dampener”. This might not be a millennium revelation since the cradle of electric guitars, but it´s certainly not very well known to many guitarists around the world. What is it, and what does it do?
– Just a note …. I’ve switched from Peavey to Marshall. The damper keeps the open strings from ringing out. I started using one called the Kleen-Axe string damper in the early 80′, and I am now having one manufactured in China, which will be distributed worldwide.
– Can you help me with pictures or drawings?
– You can see a history of the device on my site at www.jenniferbatter.com. It’s especially useful for slide guitar and tapping but I use it for everything.
– Doesn´t this bother you when you´re playing power-chords (A, E, D) in between licks?
If you need the first fret or harmonics or open strings, you flip the arm out of the way. I keep it down most of the time. It gives a much cleaner performance in the end.
– Rock and roll has always been a loud place of work. Many musicians have developed tinnitus, a Latin word for ringing? It´s usually described as a ringing noise in one or both ears, but some describe buzzing, humming, whistling, tunes or songs. Tinnitus is not itself a disease, but an unwelcome symptom resulting from several underlying causes, one of them being loud music. The sound perceived might range from a quiet background noise to a signal loud enough to drown out all outside sounds. Incidentally, I know that you´re the right person to ask about this. Care to tell?
– I’ve had a sort of constant white noise in my ears for years but it was magnified after 3 years on stage with Jeff Beck. I also have a sporadic low sub tone in one ear. My ears would be raw and in pain after a show and well into the next day during those years.
– Any remedies, medication, surgery, plugs?
– There is a therapy consisting of an ear plug type device that is designed to retrain the brain into thinking it’s not there by sending out a masking type pitch. It’s said that everyone has it but most people don’t focus on it. There are many therapy centres. One is at www.ohsu.edu/ohrc/tinnitusclinic. I haven’t pursued therapy though.
– How do you live with the symptoms?
– I actually enjoy the white noise part and find it comforting in loud environments like a crap hotel. When I’m trying to sleep it comes in as a comforting wave machine. People pay money for that and I have it for free 🙂
– Any good advice to a whole generation of guitarists on the early steps of loud rock and roll? How do you avoid tinnitus?
– Although I don’t use it on a regular basis, using in ear monitors seems like a good way to go or the custom plugs where you choose how many db cut you want. I couldn’t use it with Jeff though as the set would go from a whisper to 11 and I had to be ready for anything and was paranoid the plugs would mask a cue or two.
– I would like to end the interview by saying that you´re an inspiration and a leading star to musicians all over the world. Thank you very much for your time! I know we didn´t talk about your glass- hobby, but well just let the readers look that up on your personal website: Jennifer Batten.com Thank you for being forthcoming!
Interview: Jennifer Batten
by Randy Allar
About the Interview
Despite remaining busy after the completion of the Michael Jackson tour, Jennifer Batten has released her second record, “Momentum”. She has recently spent time on the airwaves of WCSB. Her wit and determination should propel her to new heights in her role as leader of Tribal Rage. The talent and ability of this power trio is nothing short of amazing.
Jennifer spent a few minutes on the Fusion Show on WCSB (Cleveland) to talk live with Randy Allar about her new CD.
Randy Allar: You have your new CD out, Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage.
Jennifer Batten: Yeah! It’s been a long time coming. It was a long process. It’s finally out and I’m real happy with it. And we’re going to start touring it probably in the states and Canada this summer.
Randy Allar: Are you possibly going to be stopping in Cleveland?
Jennifer Batten: I’m gonna go anywhere people will have me.
Randy Allar: We’ll have you in Cleveland.
Jennifer Batten: Okay!
Randy Allar: What are you doing with the new disc? You have a lot of different rhythms, world rhythms on it.
Jennifer Batten: Yeah, well ever since I was in the (Michael) Jackson band, I’ve been touring the planet for the last 10 years and that’s really one of the things that’s turned me on to a lot of different cultures. In fact we just finished the last tour in October in South Africa. I picked up all kinds of records there that you would never find in America in a million years.
Randy Allar: You also have yourself some fine musicians.
Jennifer Batten: Cool, yeah! I’ve been playing with Ricky (Wolking) for quite a while. I was working with him in another band project and we both decided we’d rather just play together and do this kind of music. Glen Sobel has done stuff with Tony MacAlpine. I saw him drumming live one night and combined with Terry Bozio’s recommendation, I thought I’ve got to snag this guy. So I did and it’s been great ever since.
Randy Allar: The quality of the recording is crystal clear. Did you do something different, or use any new technology?
Jennifer Batten: (Laughs) Yeah, I did something very different. I had speaker chords running across my lawn into the bathroom from the garage. That was my sound cabin for about six months. I had to climb over speakers to take a shower. All the guitar and bass was done at my place with just a Mackie 16 board and a couple of ADATs. Recorded everything pretty much dry and added effects at the mix. I did the drums at a bigger studio ’cause I didn’t have the facilities to properly record them here.
Randy Allar: Is your first record, “Above, Below, And Beyond” still available?
Jennifer Batten: It’s available through the fan club, I have a merchandising thing which I will pull up in a second ‘cuz like a moron I don’t have the address memorized. It was on a little label in L.A. Theoretically, it’s not available, but I’m making sure that the people that want it can get it. (Guitar Nine has it here.)
Randy Allar: You were also with the band The Immigrants?
Jennifer Batten: I was with them for several years and decided female singers are psychos, so I decided instrumental music is more fun. I’m going to piss a lot of people off, but hey, that was my experience.
Randy Allar: Were you doing some of the singing?
Jennifer Batten: (Laughs) Yeah, I pissed myself off. No. You don’t want to hear me sing. I can clear a room in two seconds flat. That’s why I play the guitar. That’s my voice.
Randy Allar: What other projects do you have going?
Jennifer Batten: Since I’ve been off the tour, I’ve been on a massive learning curve and I’m sending myself to computer geek school, pouring through these computer manuals learning music writing software.
Randy Allar: Your press kit was sent out with reviews written in other languages.
Jennifer Batten: Most of what I’ve gotten is in other languages because the Jackson tour didn’t play America. The only English press was in England and Ireland. Most of it is in German and French. I sent it out, hope they’re saying good things about me.
Randy Allar: The new disc has 7 cuts. You are not going to receive much air play because the cuts are long.
Jennifer Batten: When we were working the tunes, none of us had any idea how long they were. It’s just these were our little babies we’re producing. It seemed that they needed all the parts we had. Looking back, there’s maybe two sections on the whole record I would cut. We hacked up a couple cuts for radio play, hacked them from eight minutes to five. It’s a project that we all love to do and we’re happy with and we’re just going to throw it out there and see if people will dig it.
Randy Allar: I’m really disappointed that “Momentum” is not a state of the art recording. Instead, it was done in your bathroom. Especially because the disc sounds so good.
Jennifer Batten: (Laughs) Well, I mean we had the gear. ADATs brings digital theoretically into your own bedroom.
Randy Allar: Or into your bathroom.
Jennifer Batten: Wherever you have the space. It’s wonderful because it gave the independent artist a way of having a record done with out waiting for a record deal. Everyone who’s out there has been rejected 10 time over before they ever get a deal. Now the indies have the power. If musicians would wake up before noon, and spend a couple hours on the business, you can really make things happen for yourself.
headline Randy Allar: In your biography you mentioned about acoustic music. Can you explain this?
Jennifer Batten: (Laughs again) Well, I don’t know how long it’s been going on, at least five years. MTV has been doing the unplugged series, and a lot of the stuff I’ve seen is just horrible. I just kinda have an attitude about it. So I had an idea for a song called “Unplug This”, meaning I will unplug for no one. The cut is pretty manic.
Randy Allar: The whole disc is manic.
Jennifer Batten: Well, okay. There’s some very mellow things on there as well.
Randy Allar: Not really.
Jennifer Batten: Manically mellow? What about “Glow”? That will take you somewhere.
Randy Allar: “Glow” has a nice reggae feel to it.
Jennifer Batten: Yeah, in the bridge.
Randy Allar: I didn’t find it to be very mellow.
Jennifer Batten: Okay, I’ll take that. I’ve got a pretty aggressive personality and I drink way too much expresso, so that’s as mellow as it gets.
Randy Allar: Have you decided to do any writing for a new disc?
Jennifer Batten: You know, I haven’t written one note since I finished the disc. The whole time on the Jackson tour was focused on getting press for this record and it was extremely time consuming.. I have plenty of ideas for new stuff but when I get time to actually put it down, I don’t know. But there will be more, I promise.
Randy Allar: How did you first get discovered?
Jennifer Batten: As far as the Jackson thing, I was lucky enough to hear about the audition. I was 1 of 100 that went to the audition. I called and asked for the last possible time to audition so I could stay home and learn his tunes. Then they wanted some funk stuff, so I played clean funk rhythm stuff and I started soloing and I ended with the “Beat It” solo. I get a call a couple of days later and they wanted to know if I could take a year and a half off. I said take me anywhere for any length of time. They wanted to know if I would change my image. I was a geek with brown hair and glasses so they turned me into a freak. Geek to freak. I ended up with this mile high mohawk looking doo for the first part of the tour. It took two and a half hours every night to get me looking like that.
Randy Allar: Are you planning to go back on tour with Jackson in the near future?
Jennifer Batten: No, we just finished a year and a half and I really hope that my music takes off to the point where I don’t have to go out with him again. At the time it was a wonderful opportunity, but at this point, I really want to do my stuff.
Hi Jennifer. Thanks a lot for accepting this interview for the new french metal Webzine http://www.auxportesdumetal.com
Can you please describe us your projects and activities since the release of “Above, Below and Beyond” in the 90s ?
Right after that CD came out I went on my 2nd tour with Michael Jackson. After that tour I recorded the Momentum CD with Glen Sobel and Ricky Wolking. It was a more focused CD with the theme of world beat ethnic influence throughout. I did the 3rd Jackson tour following it’s release in 97. With only a few months break after that tour I joined Jeff Beck’s band and spent 3 years touring and recording with him.
In which musical direction would you like to go today? With Above,Below and Beyond” your style was really demonstrative as a guitar-hero,with your project “The Immigrants” you were more oriented hard blues/rock,with “Tribal Momentum” you integrated percussions and tribal rhythms. After more than 10 years of maturity, to which style do you want to go ?
The new CD is a completely different direction once again. I was very influenced by being with Jeff Beck. He turned me on to some killer techno and electronica music, so that’s the direction I’ve gone. I’m almost done with my 3rd CD which I’ve programmed myself. It’s all about ear candy, a variety of sounds, and vocal samples as well. It’s also very light hearted with lots of comedy.
With which line-up will you play ?
I’m planning on touring alone with backing tracks and film as a multi media event
What are your other projects ? A DVD ?
Yes a DVD is in the works but the contents will remain a surprise to see if I can pull it off.
Guitar clinics ?
I have guitar clinics around the planet on a regular basis. This year I’ll
go twice to Japan, Canada in July and UK in Sept.
A new guitar method?
The idea of doing a guitar method doesn’t interest me much.
Appearances on CDs as special guest ?
I’m always guesting on others’ CD’s. The latest one is a band in Denver Colorado. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s a bit of a Whitney Houston ballad. I don’t know when it will be released but I’ll post it on my site when I know
What do you think of the guitar-hero style today ?
I haven’t kept up with the new folks coming up really.
Do you think that technique is still important for one part of the metal audience ?
I think that will remain a part of metal
Maybe especially in Japan ?
is sometimes 10 years behind us and still in love with Yngwie and 80’s
hair — not a bad thing
What do you think of the evolution of guitar-heroes who
started in the 80s such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen … ?
I’m happy to see they all still have a loyal following
With which band/which artist would you dream to play ?
I’ve already played with my biggest hero so the rest would pale in comparison. I can’t think of anyone right now though there are many people I admire.
Which artists do you consider today to be the future of guitar ?
I think we’ll see Kaki King carve a healthy niche for herself–very original. Mostly I now listen to other instruments though.
Ron Thal was hired by Guns N’ Roses for the worldwide tour. What do you think of this choice to replace Slash ?
I haven’t heard the combination but I know he’s very creative so it should be
a welcome breath of fresh air.
Would you have liked to tour with this mythic band ?
NO! Axl has carved his disposition as a nightmare. It would be a drag to travel with such a bipolar character.
Were you contacted for this ?
NO — it’s a pretty macho atmosphere as was Ozzy when I tried to audition for him. I don’t think a lot of those bands are open
to having a female
Huge thanks for taking time to reply to this interview and good luck for your next projects.
Jennifer Batten Interview
1. Tell us a little about your early musical roots and what influenced you most in choosing to pursue a career in music.
My early roots involved hearing my fathers jazz records every night when he’d return from work until he went to bed. A combination of his influence and respect for musicians and my own radio listening lead to the career I chose.
2. How old were you when you first began playing? 8
We’ve read your first guitar was a childhood birthday present – what model was it, and do you still have it?
I sold it long ago and don’t remember what brand it was but it was the coolest. I love that my father got me an electric guitar for my first one.
3. You are renowned not only as an exceptionally skilled player, but also as an innovator of the “two handed tapping method”. Can you give us a little insight into how you perfected that technique? When did you realize the impact it would have on the music world?
I don’t know that anyone ever ‘perfects’ a technique but I spent a lot of time on it. I was influenced by Steve Lynch who was in my class at guitar school. He started tapping that year due to a clinic given by Emmet Chapman on the ‘stick’ instrument. I thought it was fresh and exciting so kept in touch with him for several years and learned the technique from him and from his books “The Right Touch” . The technique was made so popular by Van Halen that it was bound to spill into other genres like Michael Hedges and Kaki Kings acoustic style. I tried to take it in other directions as well.The only feedback I get on what impact it’s had is when I get fan mail from fellow tappers. You don’t realize how far your impact goes until you get that.
4. Describe Jennifer Batten, musician, in ten words or less.
Twisted, searching, adventurous, driven, listener, multimedia. There’s a few, but it feels like a moment with a phychiatrist now 🙂
5. In 1987 you were selected from over 100 other guitarists to play in Michael Jackson’s tour, the “Bad Tour.” What was your mind-set going into that audition, and how do you look back on that tour today?
I knew I was just one player of many days of auditions so I just did my best and didn’t get my hopes up. It was seriously life changing in many ways when I got that gig. Many doors opened but I also got to see the jealousy that Hollywood breeds when someone gets ahead. Not pretty.
6. You have collaborated with a long line of some of the most respected and talented people on all sides of the music industry, including Jeff Beck (with whom you also toured). How have the different talents and personalities you’ve worked with influenced your development as an artist?
I think my time with Jackson made my music a bit more accessable and made me think more about image and presentation. The time with Jeff was like a springboard to a new way of thinking about recording as well as catching up with the times via technology and open ears for electronica. I owe him for that!
7. In 1992 between tours with Jackson you released your first album, the critically acclaimed “Above, Below and Beyond” and followed that up with “Momentum” (credited to “Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage”). Momentum showcases a broad diversity of influences – reviewers coined it “world rock”. To what do you attribute the vast difference between your debut album and your sophomore effort? What motivated you to delve so deeply into world music?
My first record was a bit of a guitar geek record. I was just leaving the world of Musicians Institute. I’d graduated and was teaching there when I got the Jackson gig. I was pretty green and pretty much was all over the map as far as direction. I’d recorded 3 demos before that gig and finished it upon return. I had some jazz, some world beat, some classical and other directions. The next record was done on my own with the other players and no outside producer so it was very organic. One of my favorite bands is Weather Report which is very world beat influenced. I guess that’s part of the attraction that lead to my own ethnic music interests and influence. I bought a lot of CD’s from Peter Gabriels’ “Real World” label as well. Those are real roots CD’s straight out of the bush of various countries.
8. You’ve played in small clubs, and you’ve played in huge stadiums. What sort of venue do you find the most enjoyable?
I never felt connected to large audiences in stadium type situations. I prefer the sort of 2 to 4000 seater venues I played with Jeff. The sound is much better. I rarely hear the kind of clarity I want to hear in stadiums as an audience member. But honestly any venue that is enthusiastic about hearing me is fine. It’s more about vibe than size
9. You seem to be very comfortable with the digital aspects of modern recording. What’s your vision of how computers can be best integrated into your creative process?
Computers aren’t going away and give limitless possibilities in editing and comparing, but there’s certainly a down side. I find myself staring at the screen for hours when I don’t even need to because it sucks you in like a magnet. I can only last a few hours at a time doing that before my energy is drained away. I was able to do 8 or 10 hours at a time with ADats. Computers also demand constant upgrades and bring up way more hassles and problems than any past recording method. It’s very yin and yang. I wouldn’t give the method 5 stars.
10. Currently you’re working on a new CD. You’ve expressed that the new recording will be significantly influenced by your experiences working with Jeff Beck – can you give your fans some insight into your approach to this record? Do you have a target release date?
I don’t want to give a target release date. I’ve already missed a few of those due to road trips etc. I’ll just say ‘soon’.The Beck influence was on direction. I’ve completely embraced new technology and the new CD will reflect that in ear candy and loops and samples.
11. As it usually seems to be the case, you have multiple ongoing projects – the new CD, a DVD and your guitar clinics. How have you managed to keep up such a heavy pace for all these years? What is your greatest motivation today?
Some years are way more grueling than others. I’m getting pretty burnt out on travel. Last year I went to Australia, China, 4 times to Japan, twice to Canada and to Europe . I felt so beaten at the end of it that I’ve taken a lot of time off this year. I need time to heal and regenerate and intake before heading out again. It’s hard to balance when you need to make a living, but I’ve cut way back in my living expenses so I can take it easier and enjoy life more.
12. What do you believe is the single, most important first step for a beginning guitarist?
To enjoy playing. If you end up with a teacher that doesn’t make it fun somehow–find another one .
13. When it comes to a beginner’s gear, what advice would you offer?
With the Chinese and Korean imports we’re able to enjoy these days you can get all the gear you need for cheap. I’d just say to go to a store, figure out your budget and see how an instruments feels and sounds to you. It’s not nessesary to get the top of the line until you grow into it. As far as amp gear, it’s the same. There are tons of products available with all in one fx/amp modeling that will keep a beginner entertained for eons.
14. Can you tell us about your hobby with glass art and how fans can purchase one of your pieces?
All they need to do if they see a piece they like on my site is to write to me at email@example.com. The prices are marked on the site. I got into the art several years ago after leaving California and taking some time off. All of my creative juices went into it for quite a while. Now I balance my expression between glass and music. I find a lot of inspiration in beautiful visual artistry and I want to be a part of that too. I’m always going to crafts shows and art galleries these days. It helps the music too in the end via being inspired.
15. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to share?
The Cover Zone: Celebrating Women of Rock
Session, touring and solo guitarist. Jennifer speaks with us about recording, touring, new projects and more.
Jennifer Batten Interview October 23, 2005
Guitarhoo!: Hello Jennifer welcome to Guitarhoo! Thanks for joining us. Which part of the world are you from originally?
Jennifer Batten: I was born in upstate New York and moved to California when I was 9.
instrument and was guitar your first choice?
JB: I started playing guitar when I was 8. My father bought me a killer red and blue electric.
G!: Who were some of your earlier influences?
JB: It was the Beatles early on and in my teen years I discovered blues players like BB King and Lightnin Hopkins. When I first heard Jeff Beck as a teen, that was pretty much it for me.
G!: You are most known for your amazing 2 handed tapping technique. What attracted/inspired you to this style?
JB: I learned it from a fellow classmate at Musicians Institude, Steve Lynch. He started developing it that year – 1978. We kept in touch after school was over because I wanted to learn it. He eventually wrote a book and I memorized it and then started experimenting on my own.
G!: Cool! Your renditions of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Rimsky Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” are unique and dangerous! How much time is involved transcribing pieces like those?
JB: Getting the proper fingerings for Bumble Bee was pretty time consuming. I think I changed it 4 or 5 times before I was satisfied. I had piano sheet music for it from my mother. I also had Coltrane’s Giant Steps solo transcribed already, so it was just a matter of learning it. The hard part was the tapping version
Jennifer performing her version of Rimsky Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”:
G!: Can you tell us a little about how the experience was performing and recording with artists Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck?
JB: Jackson was really intense work but a lot of fun. Once I joined, it was 7 days a week for 2 months of rehearsing. The focus was on sound and groove more than anything. I learned the value of repetition in rehearsal to enable comfort on the stage. Jeff was very intense in a whole other way. There was a lot more freedom in playing the parts and soloing. He wanted to be inspired and challenged in different ways every night. The thing that impressed me most about him live is how differently he’d play from night to night. He’s always a strong creative force. He’s always stretching and taking great risks. He says when he gets off stage after a show he feels like he just cheated death. When you hear him, you understand that statement.
G!: How has working with these artists affected your playing?
JB: I think Jackson helped make my own music a little more accessable overall. Jeff’s influence goes back to my teen years. I learned every solo from “Blow by Blow” and “Wired”. There are things I picked up from the 3 years with him that are not possible to put into words. I was also very inspired by his willingness to listen to anything new. He gets bored easily and is always looking for new sources of inspiration. He turned me onto music I never would have heard otherwise. I think a hunger for the new and unusual may be one of the most important things I picked up from him.
G!: Awesome! Another talent you have is creating Stained Glass Art. I really dig the portait of Django Reinhardt and the Stained Glass guitar string box’s look amazing! What inspired you to get into this?
JB: Thanks! I needed a balance from music and last year I took a lot of time off from travel because I was getting very burnt out. It was the best thing for my creativity to leave the guitar alone for a while and get into a visual art. I took classes for stained glass and loved it. I really look forward to cutting glass when I return from the road now. Especially when I’m up in the middle of the night with jet lag, it’s good to have something like that to go to. When I’m travelling I have a glass software called Glasseye that I work with to create designs for when I return home. I’ll be making a lot of guitar string boxes this winter. I love the idea of art that is useful.
G!: Excellent! You use a “String Damper” to mute unwanted noise from open strings when using 4 fingers to tap on the fret board. That’s quite a cool and useful idea. Did you invent this?
JB: I didn’t invent it. I’ve modified several models over the years, and I now have 2 of my own models which are available on my site or through All Parts. One model is for 3X3 headstocks and the other is for 6-in-line tuner headstocks.
G!: You’ve got a few new projects about to be released around the same time. Your track “Whammy Damage” will be featured on the record “La Guitara”, a record featuring 14 female guitarists, November 1st, 2005. What more can you tell us about this project?
JB: It was the brainchild of Patti Larkin. She says on her site that interviewers always ask her why there aren’t more female guitarists playing. She got tired of saying THERE ARE! So she got 14 of her favorite players together for the CD partly to raise an awareness of all of us that exist, and it’s also partly a benefit project to get guitars into the classroom. Almost all of it is solo playing from the jazz of Mimi Fox to a killer Indian-esque slide thing from Ellen McIlwaine whom I started to listen to many years ago. Kaki King is also another I’ve become very fond of. She’s got a very fresh creative approach. Several of them are touring now and will go into next year, so check out the dates at www.pattilarkin.com. We all may be playing at the NAMM show in Anaheim this January too.
G!: A Frank Marino tribute record to be released soon, this winter. What can you tell us about this one?
JB: A friend of his is behind that project. He’s a biker comedian named Willy Parsons. It’s the first time he’s done anything like this but managed to get all great players on the CD. He’s going through the ugly learning curve of dealing with music industry people right now though. I’m still not sure when the CD will be released but he’s got a contract now at least. It’s the first tribute record I’ve played on that I was given full creative control so I’m very happy with my track. I think Willy was skeptical when he heard it because it’s very different from the original, but he told me Frank loved it when he heard it so that makes me feel good. The track leant itself to an Indian flare and I love delving into various other ethnic kinds of music.
G!: And your 3rd solo album. What can we all look forward to on this one and how is it different from your past works?
JB: I’m taking this winter off to finish it up. I hope it will be out next spring. I’ve programed everything myself this time and used Logic for the first time. It’s such a time consuming effort to do it all yourself and I won’t do that next time. But I enjoyed what I learned using the computer possibilities. I’m using a lot of vocal samples on this one and lots of different drum loops. It’s extremely different from past CD’s.
G!: Great! Will you be touring in support of this record?
JB: I hope so but there are a lot of variables to consider. One is the rising price of gas. It’s a becoming a major factor in whether bands are able to make a profit or not. We’ll see. Dates are always on my site as they’re confirmed.
G!: Your JB100 and JB100 midi – signature guitars with Washburn are pretty slick. How involved were you in the making of these guitars?
JB: They basically had the design and I liked it a lot. It fits like a glove and is very lightweight which is important to me. It was my idea to add the option of a Roland synth pick up, Duncan JB Jr pick up in the bridge and Duncan Duckbuckers, the original Floyd Rose tremolo and wood choice–swamp ash.
G!: Is it true you are working on a new model?
JB: I’m not so sure about changing now. They’re pretty backed up at the factory and I haven’t received anything. It will have to be a really special guitar to make me want to change. We’ll see.
G!: How would you say you benifit the most by having a guitar endorsement?
JB: I really don’t think there’s any benefit at all unless you’re a million seller with your CD’s. It’s a very expensive guitar and doubly expensive for people in other countries to buy. Finland for example has a 25% import duty. There is one model made in China however that is very good and much cheaper obviously.
G!: A lot of guitar synth products out there have issues with the tracking and sensitivity settings. Which guitar synth are you using and do you find you have to go through a lot of tweaking or adjust your playing style a little to make it work properly?
JB: I’ve been using the Roland GR 33 recently though on the Jeff Beck tours I used a Roland GI10 midi converter with their 1080 for sounds. It’s great for pads, but soloing is always an issue and I don’t use it much for that. I did some gigs in the spring however where I used a steel drum sound that worked pretty well. I also covered the trumpet solo in Dick Dale’s “Miserloo” in a sort of comedy medley interspersed with Weather Report tunes. It sounded really good and tracking wasn’t a problem. I was able to emulate that cheesy-assed trumpet vibrato of the 60’s without a hitch. You really need to learn how each sound behaves.
G!: What gives you the most satisfaction as an artist; writing, recording or performing?
JB: Writing. It’s where the magic can happen easiest. Performing has too many variables to be consistent and recording is just a pain.
G!: hahaha… Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians out there?
JB: Yeah–be courageous and break some new ground. Keep an open mind to listen to everything and anything.
G!: Thanks for taking the time out for this Jennifer – You rock! and we all look forward to your future projects!
GES: Hello Jennifer, I hope everything’ s going well for you !
Jennifer: Yeah –lots of work this year. I will have gtimes as well
GES: I know that you have composed and recorded a new solo Album, can you tell us more on it ? Is there already a title, a cover art ?
Jennifer: I’ve had the cover art for several years. It’s a painting of a punk mermaid by the same woman that’s done my others. www.pamelina.com . The CD is not finished yet but will be called. “Off the Deep End” I’ve programmed everything myself this time and have a lot of vocal samples and killer drum loops as well as guitar synth and regular guitar. There’s some comedy in it as well, and lots of ear candy with sounds.
GES: Will some guests make appearance ?
Jennifer: I’ve gotten vocal samples from several friends and am still waiting for a special guest to do a whistling track for one song. I also hired the bassist Andre Berry from my first CD to play on one track. On a ballad I hired a cellist and violinist too.
GES: Is it true that you have been signed by Steve Vai’ s Label Favored Nations ? They also re-edited your previous solo Albums ?
Jennifer: I haven’t actually signed yet but have been offered a contract. They’ll rerelease my first 2 CD’s when the new one is done.
GES: Your last solo Album Momentum was released in 1997, did it take you a long time to compose the new one ?
Jennifer: It takes a very long time to compose and record partly due to my travel schedule. So far this year, I’ve been to China, Australia and Japan twice as well as Canada. I haven’t been home much to work on the CD.
GES: How do you record your solos ? Do you prefer to improvise and keep what you prefer, or are they in your mind before playing them ? For example I remember Steve Vai saying that he had the solos in his head, he could sing them and the difficulty was to find how to play them on the neck…
Jennifer: For this record I recorded with computer. I jammed for 5 or 10 minutes on each solo section and took my favorite parts. It’s very tedious comping solos though. A 5 minute solo could easily take a week to put together. I think next time I’d choose full takes and if it isn’t mostly OK, keep doing a full take until you like it all.
GES: What are your favorite guitar effects ? Did you use a lot of them on the new record ?
Jennifer: My all time fav is Digitech’s whammy pedal for bending notes or chords down a whole step. I always use the whammy a lot since 1991 when they released the first one.
GES: Every person who knows you, has may be heard your “Giant Steps”, “Flight of the Bumble Bee” covers… using incredible Tapping technics ! Are you still working a lot on these technics ? If you had to choose a new cover today, which one could it be ?
Jennifer: I don’t spend time any more working on chops kind of pieces. I spend most of my time recording and writing which I enjoy more than live playing and touring. Bringing an idea to life that you hear in your head is intoxicating.
GES: There are some Artists who give the opportunity to their fans to buy “Bootlegs” Live cds through Internet ( A good example could be Frank Gambale ) . It would be a very good idea to do the same, don’ t you think ? I’ m sure a lot of people would be interested !
Jennifer: I’ve never been satisfied enough with my live shows to allow a bootleg. Maybe in the future when I have a band together that has played a lot together I’d reconsider.
GES: Are you planning about releasing some new instructional book or video ?
Jennifer: I’d like to do a few books of transcriptions of the stuff from my records and also a book on tapping too. I’ve go one tapping book that has ben recently put out of print for a few years by Hal Leonard Publishing. But I have a lot more material to release in book form. I just need more time at home !
GES: I would like to know more about your equipments… What is your basic studio equipment at the moment ?
Jennifer: I record with Logic 6 still and Pro Tools hardware. I run my guitar from the Digitech GNX4 into a Boogie Strategy 400 power amp and into Randal Isolation. It’s a 1X12 celestion speaker in an enclosure stuck in my closet which is wired for a mic. I then run the mic into an Avalon tube preamp before going into the recording device.
GES: Are the computers affecting the way you compose ?
Jennifer: Yes. I like the possibilities of editing but overall I don’t like computer recording partially because I don’t like staring at a computer screen to record. I think it will evolve into a more Intuitive process because lots of people complain about it.
GES: Can you tell us what are your actual endorsments ?
Jennifer: Digitech effects, Peavey amps, Washburn guitars. Dean Markley strings.
GES: Before we finish, some short questions ok ? .. so short responses are welcome !
Touring with Michael Jackson, a really cool experience or just professionnal ?
Jennifer: It was the best. I got to tour the whole planet and get paid well to boot. He was a great boss to have and I was a fan before joining the band. It was an eye opener for me and began a career of globetrotting to follow. He treated everyone really well.
GES: Touring with Jeff Beck, the same ?
Jennifer: The Beck tours were wonderful and more intimate as a band since there were only 4 people instead of 6 and a load of dancers and singers. There were 6 people on the band bus and 6 in the crew bus. We’d always have dinner with Jeff and also party with champagne after the shows. He’s a very social creature and wants to share in the fun from playing a good show.
GES: Your favorite Albums ?
Jennifer: Jeff Beck Blow by Blow, Weather Report Heavy Weather/ Mr Gone, Professor Trance and the Energizers, Deep Forest 1, Afro Celt Sound System-(first 2 cd’s).
GES: Your favorite movie ?
Jennifer: Forest Gump
GES: Your favorite food ?
GES: Some hobbies ?
Jennifer: Stained glass projects
GES: Do you know some French Guitar players ?
Jennifer: The Gypsy Kings are French. I love their stuff. I play it on car rides.
GES: Thank you so much for your responses ! A last question, but very important for your European Fans, any European tour plans soon ?
Jennifer: There are no plans for Europe as yet but I may do a guitar festival in November. Dates will be posted on my site www.batten.com/tourdates.htm
GES: I hope we will get your new Album as soon as possible in the Shop, and I really want to thank you very much for your time. I wish you the best for the future !
“Hi JB, welcome to 6 stringheaven.com”
Describe a typical Jennifer Batten day?
There’s nothing typical about my days. I wake up to chaos, but postpone it with a cup of coffee while staring out the window. And although coffee gets slowly into my brain, it takes going to the gym to get blood into it. I’m trying to finish my 3rd CD right now, so most of the rest of the day is in my studio on Logic, and also just trying to keep up with requests and bookings. Keeping ones life organized is hugely demanding. There are a lot of hours of communications and e mails that suck time away from my day. But that just makes music time more precious.
*So what does 2005 hold for instore for you?
I’ll finish my CD in the next few months.–hopefully before the slew of work begins. I’m slated to go to China, Australia, Japan and Canada in the 1st 1/2 of this year for Digitech clinics. I have a new band also, and we’re booking some dates around my other schedule as well.
* I just called by your website http://www.batten.com it makes for interesting reading, do you think the internet has generally helped musicians or like the labels keep saying it’s ruining the industry?
Labels might say it’s ruining the industry because we don’t need them as much any more. We’re now able to reach fans directly and let them know where we’ll be performing. We can also let them have direct access to our music, which is great because if you don’t have the high dollar push behind you, people can’t find your music in stores. The free downloads are what’s hurting both the industry and the artists. Kids don’t see it as stealing but that’s our income….stolen. It’s like working for months on a project and never seeing your paycheck because the company has gone out of business.
*Here’s one all guitarists should answer and you will be no exception, do you ever put your own cd‚s on when you are chillin at home?
Never. You listen to it so much during the process, and you’re so emotionally involved that it’s no longer like a pleasant, removed experience that you get when listening to someone else’s music.
* How long have you played guitar and what made you first pick one up?
I started playing at age 8. My father bought me an electric for my first one. I started lessons and learned to read right away.
*Any chance of a new album coming up in the near future? What should we expect, compared to your other releases?
I’d guess it might be out this summer. I’ve programmed everything myself so you’ll hear a huge variety of different sounds in every track. I’ve made use of computer technology to do things that can’t be played in real life. It was fun but exhausting and I guarantee the next one will feature more humans!!
*You have certainly impressed the guitar world with your awesome offerings especially Giant Steps.How do you get those brilliant ideas?In otherwords,who/what inspires you to compose music?
Thanks! I’ve found many sources of inspiration from the old blues cats to Jeff Beck to Van Halen and in the last few years a lot of ethnic music as well as techno coming out of London. I think Joe Diorio was the inspiration behind Giant Steps. He’s an amazing jazzer.
*You are one of those people who have proved to the world that women can also attain Guitar God status.What are your feelings towards this?
The guitar god thing always reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons. It’s nice to be recognized but I don’t take it too seriously. I’m just trying to grow and keep myself inspired with new adventures in music. The industry is so male dominated, I’m not sure how far my acceptance has penetrated. Careers are always pretty fickle in music. I’m just glad to have made a living in it for a few decades. Having circumvented planet earth so many times, and seeing how others live, you realize what a blessing it is to play for a living!
*What would you say is your biggest weakness when it comes to guitar playing? How do you approach it? Do you keep working at it, or accept it as a limitation in your abilities and move on to other things?
The biggest weakness is soloing over odd time signatures. Jeff (Beck) is a natural with that stuff but it’s always uncomfortable for me. I’m not obsessed with practicing any more. I used to be able to sit for 10 hours and work on various techniques, but now I don’t have the attention span for it. I’d rather jam to tapes or do live band rehearsals and gigs, and write music. Writing is my #1 joy.
*Who are your influences?
Jeff Beck, Van Halen, George Lynch,Weather Report.
*Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
That would be Michael Jackson I suppose. I’ve never met anyone else who’s sold over 40 million copies of one album. Outside of music, I met Gregory Peck, Mike Tyson, Sophia Loren, Don King. In fact when Sheryl Crow was in Jackson’s band with me, we had a photo taken together with Sophia.
* How memorable was your stint with Michael Jackson?
Very! It was life changing in every way possible.
Were there any special moments?
The whole first tour was the biggest 1 1/2 year mind blowing adventure you can imagine–seeing the world for the first time and getting paid for it!
*How many guitars do you own?
About 8. I’ve given a bunch away and have sold others. I don’t like to change strings, so why have them around? I only really play one–the natural wood finish JB100 with the Masai’s painted on it.
You have a Signature Model built by Washburn.What are the special things to look out for in that guitar?
One of the 3 available models of the JB100 is the synth pick up. I can’t imagine why more guitarists don’t take advantage of access to synth sounds. It also has a real Floyd Rose trem and Seymour Duncan JB Jr, and Duckbucker pick ups. It’s a glue in neck so there’s a smooth transition to the body. I also put a string damper on all my guitars to control open string ring. There’s also a USA model without the synth pick up and a very good Korean model. Import duties outside the USA are exorbitant for foreigners to deal with so the Korean model takes some financial pressure off there.
*What is your usual live/studio rig?
I’m now using the Digitech GNX4. It’s an all in one floor pedal board that you can run direct. It’s also and 8 track digital recorder.-Very convenient. Live with my band, I run it through a Boogie Strategy 400 power amp and Boogie 2X12 speaker cab. I’m also looking at the new Tone Tubby cabs from Texas made from hemp paper.
*Your effects are by Digitech(a GNX-4).have you tried other effects apart from Digitech?
Not in a long time.
Would you recommend this effect to the guitar newbie?
Absolutely! It’s the world’s first complete guitar workstation. I’m amazed what all is packed into that thing.
*What would you say was your biggest live gig to date?
Superbowl 26 which aired to 1.5 Billion people in 80 countries
*I understand that you are going to tour China ,Japan, Australia and New Zealand in 2005. Would you be stopping over at other venues?( I think I saw you during MJ’s tour some years back here in Singapore)
I think there will be more dates added to the Chinese leg of this years’ touring but I don’t post things on my site until they’re confirmed.
*What advice would you give to someone who is stuck in a rut and can’t seem to reach the next level?
Take a break and listen to inspiring music–especially live shows. Go see a movie or read a book. The best book I can recommend is called “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron. She addresses getting stuck in there, as well as a ton of other issues every artist can relate to. She’s got incredible insight.
*Do you think there should be another Hear N’ Aid for the Tsunami victims?
Sure. People forget about disasters in short order and money is still needed. You have to take into account that a certain percentage of money given will go into the hands of crooks and never reach the people that need it. I gave a good chunk of money for the 9-11 thing, and then heard constantly after that that the families were not receiving any of it. There are scammers in every facet of life! So the more money that can be shelled out, the better chance of having some of it reach where it’s supposed to reach. America is a rich nation. Everyone can afford to help.
* Do you have any other comments for your worldwide fans and guitar wielding psychos out there?
The bottom line is to have fun with music. That’s why it’s called “playing”