By Andrew Catania
The decade of the 1980s will forever be remembered as the era that brought the last boom to rock and metal genre and elevated its status to the point of epic heights. The entire course of the period entails some prominent names who contributed their bets efforts and produced the best works of their career.
An overview of the music scene of the 1980s clearly shows some prominent male shredders ruling the genre. Sure there were some female musicians whose efforts contributed to the boom of rock and metal music. However, many of them could only manage a brief exposure into the limelight, only to be overruled by their contemporaries.
It was Jennifer Batten whose work and contributions left a blazing trail and brought her a good fame that has only increased over time and still makes her shine brightly in the music sphere.
Jennifer Batten’s first exposure to music happened at the tender age of age. Primarily influenced by her sister who was already into music, Jennifer started fiddling with the chords and learning the fundamentals and intricacies of guitar playing, while pursuing her academics in tandem.
It was during the time when she was enrolled at Guitar Institute of Technology that she met Steve Lynch who later bagged acclaim for Autograph. The Lynch-Batten association turned out beneficial for both and particularly refined her two-handed taps, which later became her signature technique.
Jennifer Batten had been putting tremendous efforts to master her skills and playing talent. She lodged herself into intense jamming and rehearsals, right after graduating from the GIT. The opportunity didn’t take long to unfold, and when it arrived, it was an ultimate breakthrough.
She nailed the auditions conducted for Michael Jackson’s upcoming albums and tours. Determined to grab the chance, she appeared for the call and came out successful in impressing the judges with her playing. The rest was history.
Jennifer Batten toured with the King of Pop, from 1987 to 1997, contributing her playing skills for MJ’s tours and albums. She even made an appearance in the video for ‘Another Part of Me.’ Being chosen as a member of MJ’s crew and staying in the association for a prolonged period became an endorsement for Jennifer Batten’s talent and brought her onto the stage in the limelight of the music sphere.
Aside from her full-time association with MJ all that while, Jennifer was well on her way to bag recognition and acclaim. She did a cover for John Coltrane’s Giant Steps was featured on a compilation CD released by Guitar’s Practicing Musician Magazine.
Jennifer’s career profile dazzles with some accomplishments to her claim. She played as lead and rhythm guitarist for Michael Jackson’s Bad, Dangerous and HIStory, his world tours as well as in his record Super Bowl Performance in 1993.
Aside from that, she has also associated with Jeff Beck for three years. With these cynosures and a long haul of recognitions and honorary appearances, Jennifer Batten still continues to shine and has also written two books ‘Two Hand Rock’ and ‘The Transcribed Guitar Solos’ for music aficionados. I spoke to Jennifer recently.
Jennifer, going back, what made you started playing guitar at eight because your sister did, correct?
JB: Yeah, I think most kids are influenced by their family and what their interests are. My father always had jazz records playing in the house, so he was very encouraging for us to get into music. I was also very influenced by the Beatles. My little town was obsessed with the Beatles, and we all bought their records. I wanted to be a part of music beyond just owning records. I got my first guitar when I was eight which, unusual at the time, was electric, and I took lessons right away.
Listening to your stuff when you were young compared to today, you were lightning fast back then. You’re more mellow now
JB: I think most musicians start out wanting to make an impression, and as you age, you go more for meaning than chops. I’ve explored a lot of genres. The ultimate goal is to find your personal voice. It’s a lifetime journey, but yes I’ve come a long way since my first CD in 1992.
How many guitars do you own? How long has your endorsement with Washburn been?
JB: I don’t like to collect guitars. I have a small house, and they take up the room. I might have eight total partly because I just recently received three from Washburn from their Parallaxe model that are almost identical, so I’m experimenting with various pickups and other hardware. I had the Line 6 Variax installed in one of them and another one has the Fishman TriplePlay in another one. Two of them now have the Fishman Fluence pickups. I like to have the main guitar, and that’s pretty much all I play. I’m now settling into one of the Parallaxes. I played my model Washburn (JB100) for many years so this is the first time in a long period I’m changing and experimenting. The new ones also have 24 frets which are something I’m still getting used to.
What’s your rig setup like for touring?
JB: My amp is the 2-pound BluGuitar Amp1. It’s 100 watts, four channel, tube driven, midi capable, and programmable. I run a Digitech RP1000 for effects only using the four cable method. Recently I added the new BluGuitar BluBox direct box with 16 different IR speaker cabinet choices and a virtual mic placement knob. So I don’t mic the cabinet anymore. Aside from that, I add a volume pedal only. Also at loads of shows, I use the Fishman TriplePlay wireless midi system to trigger synth sounds.
You’ve toured with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, how different was it working with both?
JB: Michael’s band is like playing in a cover band, but all the hits are from the same guy. You play the parts that are on the record and dial in the same sounds from the records. It’s pretty much the same every night. It’s a theater show because the music is only the foundation of the show. Then you add dancing and loads of special effects. Most of the songs tend to be much faster live than on the record. With Jeff, the engine is improvisation, so although the set may be the same every night, we are free to stretch and make changes nightly. Jeff wants to be fired up with surprises, so he’s inspired to play differently nightly.
Being in a male dominant field, have you experienced any of the stereotypes?
JB: Sure. There’s still loads of prejudice against women in music. I thought the female revolution was going to happen in the late 80’s when Prince had Wendy and Lisa, and I was with Jackson. But 30 years went by without much change. Now is the time for emerging women. There are tons of great female players now from Nili Brosh to Sarah Longfield. These women take guitar seriously and are breaking some new ground. I’ve had plenty of challenges being in a male dominated industry, but in the end, the gigs I’ve gotten have been a big blessing and opened up many doors for me. In any field, if you find people that don’t accept you, turn the other way and look for those that do. They are out there.
Aside Washburn, who are your current endorsements?
JB: BluGuitar, D’Addario, Lock-It straps, Grover Allman picks, Digitech fx, Fishman
What are your plans for 2017?
JB: Loads of touring. I did a lot of recording while I was home this winter which was fun. I like it when people contact me from all over the world to play on their records. I do it at home and send it back to them. In fact, one of the sessions I did, I liked the quirky tune, and now I’m playing it in my show and made a film in synch with it. I’m firing up a 4-hour seminar I put together and toured two years ago for a date in September. It’s been a long time since I did it, so I’ll have to get familiar with it again. I’ve been asked to do various talks, and clinics. I’ll be doing clinics for the Fishman TriplePlay wireless midi system which I enjoy because I trigger a huge variety of sounds and the system is splendid and fast, so I don’t have to compromise my playing. Twice I’ll be in the UK to tour with Navi and his Michael Jackson Tribute show. The band is a killer, so it’s fun. I also play with a Polish band touring Poland for a couple of weeks every year. It’s early in the year so an e-mail could come any day and take me anywhere in the world.
I also have a new record coming out in the fall called Battlefield with a killer singer name Marc Scherer. So it’s a Scherer/Batten project which reminds me of Foreigner a bit. There may be some touring for that. I don’t know yet.
Follow Jennifer @ http://www.batten.com/