Over the course of his lengthy career MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO has consistently delivered records chock full of killer rock and metal. New album More Machine Than Man is no exception. So when I found out Michael had some time for a phone chat I was all over it. We had talked once prior and I unfortunately lost the recording, so it was nice for me to get a shot at redemption. We talked about the album, what he likes to do in his spare time, and more. Check it:
Amps: So after two full listens I think “Rhythm Reprise (I Pray the Lord)” is my favorite track.
Michael: Oh, thank you! I did that song on my Intermezzo album several years ago, and I wanted to show that this record is much different than my others. `Most of my albums are very layered, lots of guitars, the leads move in and out, I record multiple tracks which I make sure I can play live. But this version shows the rhythm guitars underneath the lead and everything else. I wanted to showcase just how detailed I can get. On this album I wanted the atmosphere to be more sparse. I want the rhythm guitars to be really in your face. I’m really happy how it turned out.
Amps: Sticking with the softer numbers, talk to me about “Dreamin’ of 1986.” It’s gorgeous.
Michael: Well, not that I wrote the riff in 1986, but in my mind it reminded me of a DOKKEN kind of vibe. It took me back to when I lived in California. The 80’s were a fun time, I must admit.
Amps: On the heavy side, “No Backup Plan” is really in your face!
Michael: When I did this album I had a couple of tragedies happen along the way. The owner of my former guitar company died and I was really close with him. And then my Mom and younger sister passed away. Some of the titles of the songs are how I feel about life, you know? I’ve never had a backup plan. I only have Plan A. And I’m really happy with how the songs turned out because of the way I feel the music.
Amps: My condolences on your losses, sir. Who influenced you on guitar? I mean, whose style of play influenced yours?
Michael: When I first started playing guitar I studied jazz. I didn’t even listen to rock music at first. Then I realized that girls like rock, they didn’t like jazz (laughs)! But I grew up in more of the era of Al Di Meola, and progressive rock like Robert Fripp from KING CRIMSON. You know, I can’t really say that guys like Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton influenced me because I was more into fusion players. Di Meola, his playing is aggressive, and so is his picking. And that’s what I tried to do with my music, make it so it’s like a machine gun coming at you. I don’t necessarily have one influence, more of a style of play.
Amps: How often are you writing?
Michael: Having studied music and having a degree I actually studied writer’s block. A composer like Mozart never had it, but a composer like Haydn did. I am constantly writing and I never have writer’s block. There are ways to inspire yourself. There’s no rules when it comes to writing music. You could get a melody, a lead, a riff, or a drum beat. For “The Badlands” I just had this beat in my head at a red light. So I started pounding it on the steering wheel and recorded it on my iPhone (laughs). I write riffs all the time, and sometimes it’s just a certain groove that hits me. One of the things about my career is I never wanted to be repetitive in what I wrote and played.
Amps: Now I have to tell you a really bad joke, you ready?
Michael: Go ahead…
Amps: Why couldn’t Mozart find his music teacher?
Michael: I don’t know.
Amps: He was Haydn.
Michael: (Groans and laughs) ohhhhhh, man. That’s even funnier because they were contemporaries. I’m stealing that one!
Amps: Steal away! What are you listening to nowadays?
Michael: It’s funny you ask that because my job is music. I spend a lot of time listening to the news as well as new guitar players. I came up in the 80’s school in L.A. and that was an awakening of guitar. The style and technique jumped leaps and bounds, and I’m finding that’s what is going on today with young guitarists. They’re doing things that are really incredible. A lot of my time is spent listening to new artists. I also like a lot of country and bluegrass. I think Brad Paisley is an excellent guitarist. I like to go back and watch footage of the late Roy Clark, as well. I don’t listen to a lot of what I used to listen to. But I am all over the map with what I do listen to.
Amps: Away from music, what do you like to do to relax and unwind?
Michael: I live by myself so when I’m home I like to chill out and watch movies. With this lockdown the only change in my life is that I can’t go to restaurants, and there are some great ones here in Chicago. I’m a big movie fan, and I have guitars all over the house and I’ll pick away while I’m watching. I watched the original Robocop recently and I was reminded of how much fun that one was.
Amps: Yeah, I’m finding a lot of comfort in old movies lately from the 70’s and 80’s. Cop Land from 1997 is a favorite and it’s been on a lot lately. I’m driving Mrs. Amps nuts with it!
Michael: (Laughs) I’m the same way. I’ve really been digging older movies, too. You’re right, they are very comforting at a time like this.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans out there in the world?
Michael: I think when you listen to this record and you hear it, I want it to sound like me, but a different version. I didn’t play the same riffs over and over. I did a lot of different things. My goal was to obviously write the best music I can and play it as good as I can, but to make it different so that people didn’t think it’s the same old stuff. I like to think I kept things fresh and interesting, and I hope everyone feels that I did.
So there you have it. My conversation with MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO: Super-nice guy, and a super shredder on the guitar. If you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend you listen to and purchase a copy of More Machine Than Man today. And hopefully one day soon we’ll get to have live shows again so he can bring his guitar madness to Philly!
LIVE IMAGE: M EHRLICH PHOTOGRAPHY