Positive Grid presents the February edition of GUITAR CLOUD SYMPOSIUM and we couldn’t be more honored to have this artist as our special guest for the Monday Wrap Party on 2/22.
DWEEZIL ZAPPA is of course the son of the legendary Frank Zappa, but he’s forged his own path as a guitarist, producer, entrepreneur, and occasional actor. He’s the host of an Eddie Van Halen-devoted podcast called Runnin With The Dweezil and recently launched Reward Music, a game changing music platform created to “meet and exceed the needs of artists in the new age of the music industry.”
We can’t wait to have him share his insights, anecdotes, and guitar tips EXCLUSIVELY with GCS attendees. Want to be there? Register now!
These graphic decals are designed to fit standard electric and acoustic steel string guitars up to 24 frets (6 strings) from 24″ to 25.625″ scale lengths. Nut widths starting from 1.55″ (39mm) and wider.
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!