Paul Nelson: Mike, I just have to say that your solo project “Territory: Guitar Kill” smokes beginning to end. From the introductory guitar assault of “Shredaholics Anonymous” to the great vocal “Bedroom Eyes” and experimental instrumental tunes in between. Great killer guitar crunch rhythms mixed with technically amazing guitar speed, tight production and a dash of occasional humorous dialogue ending with soulful acoustic work paying homage to late great Mr. Randy Rhoads (That’s right I was listening!) A very diverse CD indeed. Kudos! So what leads to the creation of such a “Fusion” of Metal ideas? Can you explain your writing process? Inspirations?
MM: Thanks Paul. It is always great when your stuff is appreciated and just as you said my stuff can be pretty out there, so it is not for everyone. The thing is that if some people like what I do, then they become really die hard fans. As far as writing, you know these solo Cd’s allow me to just do whatever I feel like, from the heaviest thing to a classical piece. I don’t go researching demographics or going to the mall counting kids wearing Yngwie shirts, I just play my balls off, and I believe if it’s honest it will be appreciated. I have so many ideas, I have notebooks full of titles, CD’s full of riffs, just not enough time to release it all. But to answer your question directly: I just follow my heart.
PN: This is actually your third solo recording? Are they getting easier? Haha…Any interest in producing other artists in the future?
MM: Ha, ha and NO, they are not getting easier, ha. Actually it will be some time before my next instrumental release. I’m concentrating on Halford 100% and then some vocal related albums.
PN: What amplification and recording techniques did you use to get such a tight rhythm sound as well as those fluid lead tones and effects? Do you double any parts? Is your live setup the same?
MM: Well, I use Marshall. JMP-1 Pre-Amps, Marshall EL34/ 100 Power Amps. Same thing live. I have also started using the DOD YJM308 (Yngwie Malmsteen) pedal, not only because I like seeing Yngwie name in front of me on stage, but also because it sounds killer. It adds that extra something without changing your tone. Cabinets are Boogie “Rectifiers”: ultmiate tight machines. Rest is in the hands …. and liquor. Oh, I play my rhythms once: L and R. Not too much on that. The heaviness should come from your tone, not amount of tracks.
PN: In your bio and on your official site www.planetshred.com it mentions that you are a fellow Berklee College of music alumni. Any thoughts or comments regarding your time spent there?
MM: I loved Berklee and got a lot out of it. I was the kid who wore Yngwie T-shirts and blew up amps. I annoyed all the jazz people, yet I did well in class: they could’t figure it out, ha!! I knew from day 1 that I wanted to be a world class Metal guitarist, so I chose classes that helped me get there. I had a vision and stood by it. Berklee was flexible enough to allow that: I took advantage of it. I also precticed all the time, skipped on some of the fun (like parties & many beautiful Boston women) and played, I wanted to play guitar for Ozzy or Rob Halford. Guess what I’m doing now? ha ha.
PN: You also taught guitar for a time early on right? Don’t you have some Instructional material out as well? Do tell!!!
MM: Yeah I have 2 books: “Rodiculos Riffs For The Terrifying Guitarist” and “Monster Coordination” on Whammy Bar Publication. They are well written, have a ton of ideas/ licks, etc that I use and exercises to build up technique. See www.planetshred.com Merchandise section on how to get them. I sold a ton of them. “Ridiculous Riff” has arpeggios, crazy pentatonics, tapping, 48 pages of wild stuff. “Monster” is a chops exercise manual.
PN: Lets back track a little can you describe your days with bands like Roxxi and yes The Great Kat!? Any metal do’s or don’ts worth passing on?
MM: Metal do’s: Follow your heart and play your balls off. Because when your are in Omaha, your van is broken down, your girlfriend leaves you and you are freezing your ass off, music is the only thing worth doing that for. And if the music you are playing means nothing to you, it will really suck. Metal don’t: Don’t play bullshit because it pays $5. Back to your question: Roxxi was a first professional band I was in. It had an MTV video, and album. I was only 20. The Great Kat offered me the slot a day after I graduated from Berklee, so I moved into another signed act, although short lived. All those things were learning experiences and trials in their own right. It was all worth it. I was playing Metal, what did I care?
PN: You would have to be living under a rock to not know that you are part of Metal God Rob Halford’s guitar wall. I’m speaking of the ex-Judas Priest singers recent group HALFORD. How did you find out you got the guitar position by phone or e-mail, and your reaction, I’m sure the readers are dying to know…
MM: I came out to LA and to write songs with the Metal God. It wasn’t an audition like can you play this or that, they knew I could play guitar. So we wrote and then demoed the songs. Last day before Rob drove home, he shook my hand and told me he didn’t need to look any further. That was it, pure simple and Metal.
PN: I must say that I’ve seen live tour footage of your shows with Halford and Overkill through a mutual acquaintance of ours Joe Comeau singer of Annihilator (ex-Overkill, ex-Liege lord) and was very impressed by not only the force of the new Halford material (“Resurrection”) but especially by the attention paid to specific guitar details when performing the older Judas Priest classics. How do you approach covering and mixing in the older Priest tunes in your set as opposed to staying fresh on the newer stuff?
MM: Well, I believe that the Priest/ Fight songs and the fans, deserve the respect. That’s why I play to my best ability as far as staying true to the songs. And you know, you can’t fool Rob, he knows everything, so if you are fucking around he’ll go (In a British accent), “Something’s not quiete right there Metal Mike?” and I’ll go OK. I’ll go to my hotel after reheasrsals and nail it the next time around. He’ll look at me and nod his head. We’ll never talk about it again.
PN: Now as both band member and solo artist the opportunity to appear on many other projects does arise, such as your appearances on the recent Joe Satriani, Yngwie and Jason Becker tributes. How about a little info on your involvement with each? Did I hear something about a Led Zep. Tribute as well?
MM: Well as a guitarist I enjoy doing such things. The only thing with that is that I don’t want to do too much of that stuff as it wears out your name, so I had to say no to quiet a few things lately. But, you know, I love playing music and collaborating with talented people. The Yngwie tribute album was my first. For the Zep album for Locomotive Music, I jammed with Consotrium Project (Ian Parry – Elegy, Casey Grillo – Kamelot) on ‘Immigrant Song’ for that. It sounds great. The Jason Becker tribute was fun also. I went over Ron Thal’s place to record my solo and he just blew my mind with his playing. He’s fucking incredible. Satriani CD has some ripping solos I did.
PN: Ok let’s talk about the perks, Endorsements! What companies do you endorse? And are you happy with their support?
MM: You want to talk about perks? How about walking into a NYC bar, and the owner saying “Go behind the bar and drink all you want”. Or, Playboy models hanging out at your photo shoots. Now that’s perks I can appreciate my brother !! But outside of liquor products and occasional soft porn, I also andorse stuff from Jackson Guitars, Marshall, D’Addario, Planet Waves, Seymour Duncan, Digitech, DOD, Morley, Carver, Guyatone, TKL Cases, Mesa/ Boogie, New Rock Boots. And honestly I am happy with their support. I must be and they are happy with the cortesy and the way I treat them as well. If a company is ‘not into it’ and puts me on the back burner, I thank them for their business and find someone who ‘is into it’.
PN : From what you have seen up close in the trenches can you describe the differences between the metal scene in Europe and the USA. And more importantly the differance between the groupies! And remember kids read this aswell!!! MM: Well, they are different and they are all great. Previously I thought that Europe cared a lot more, and was less flavor of the month, who’s hot now type of mentality. But, in reality Halford is received so well wordwide, that I think the fans that like what we do are just awesome, wherever they might be. I’m talking about fans of Metal, I don’t care about anyone else. Groupies: well in the US they are to the point no BS, Europe is nice after they are drunk, Greece they like to stay out late, Japan is pretty crazy and South Amerca you can just go down into the lobby of the hotel and get your pick. But, I don’t know for sure, I’m a married man. You think I’m lying, but I’m not. PN: Which band first gave you the metal bug and what is your definition of true metal? Power Chords all down or alternate picking?
MM: True Metal is not being afraid to wear your studded wrist band on stage and giving a big fuck off finger to anyone who doesn’t like it. Real first bands that gave me the bug were Loudness, Yngwie and Twisted Sister, although I recently realized the latter was just a bunch off soon to be desperate clowns wearing make-up.
PN: Favorite road food?
MM: Liquor and well pizza. No matter what I write here, we always end up eating pizza, ha.
PN: So Mike! What’s next on your to do list? Projects, Clinics, Touring, Halford? And where are some of best places to order your CD’s from ?
MM: Halford is always on my to do list. And next is our world tour and a new album. We will also travel to new some new places, see some new and old faces and we will spread the gospel of Metal. You can order my CD’s thru: SB Prods. www.ballbusterhardmusic.com/sinbad.htm (See this magazine for ads) as well Century Media/ Nuclear Blast Records Order Toll Free 1-800-250-4600 (www.centurymedia.com), www.guitarnine.com, Leviathan Records Order Toll Free 1-800-755-2316 www.leviathanrecords.com, www.metalmayhemmusic.com, selected retail outlets and more Metal spesiality distro’s. See ads advertising my CD’s in Metal Edge, Metal Maniacs (Thanks to SB Prod. and Century Media). You can always order from the official Metal Mike site: www.planetshred.com.
PN: Well Mike I have to say that I’ve enjoyed this Guitarist to Guitarist interview thing. What a great idea! Good luck to you and congrats on all your accomplishments thus far. Continued success! Paul Nelson
MM: Thanks Paul. I enjoyed this as well. Keep ripping it up !! I really wish you a huge continued success !! All interested maniacs please see www.planetshred.com or www.robhalford.com for the latest news, stories, photos. See you all on tour. Remember “Friends don’t let friends listen to non-Metal !!” Be yourself and screw the rest !!