By Andrew Catania
Michael Angelo, Michael Angelo Batio, MAB, Holland, Nitro, chances are if you play guitar you’ve watched a guitar instructional video of Michael Angelo Batio’s. MAB is an outstanding professor of guitar, masterful at the art of theory.
Mike is back with a new signature guitar company, a new record that’s due out June 12th that he’s excited to talk about called “More Machine Than Man.”
I know you’ve been through a lot over the last few years with the passing of your Mom and Elliot Rubinson. Your new album is different from the others, and I like that.
MB: Thanks. You know I try to. If you listen to my discography, every album I try to make it different. I have a theme, like in my head. I always use to like records that had a stylistic consistency. I found that – even in being signed, twice — in two major record labels. Warner Brothers, twice in both bands. They stress that. Even songs that we thought were amazing, the record label wouldn’t put them on the album. They would say, “this doesn’t even sound like the rest of the record” And so… Again, with this new album, I think this is like the end of a chapter for me. It’s the rawest record that I’ve ever done. I think it’s the heaviest and virtually no keys – yeah, a few songs – but I am delighted with it. I don’t believe that I parodied myself. I don’t think it’s the same riffs over and over. Or the same melodies or the same even style. And that’s what I tried to do.
What brought you to Sawtooth? They look like they handle economically cheap guitars.
MAB: Here’s the thing. I’ve known them for a long time. I did a clinic for them. The idea is that people don’t know about Sawtooth is, first of all, they are way bigger than Dean was at their biggest. And this is why: They own a retail store in Thousand Oaks, a beautiful store, called GODPS Music. That is where I met them because they were Dean dealers. We did a clinic there about seven years ago. I liked everybody there. They are a forward-thinking company then. They own Sawtooth guitars; they own Sawtooth basses, Sawtooth Drums. And here are the three main endorsees: Me on guitars, Rudy Sarzo on Bass and Vinnie Appice. He left Dean to come to Sawtooth. That’s not even all of it. Then they own a company called Chromacast, which is this large parts company. The three companies together are massive. One thing I love about them is there are a few different owners, and they come from manufacturing. One of the principal owners that I deal with, Joe, comes from manufacturing. This guy knows parts like you wouldn’t believe, and he’s a great owner. Sawtooth Drums are amazing. Appice loves them.
What they did was, they know how to – they have a partner who is outside of the United States. My series of guitars are going to be brought upon the level of pricing. There thinking is this – I’ve said this before – it’s easy to make a $10,000 guitar. You just hire a really good luthier. It is really hard to make a $200 guitar that is good. What Sawtooth has done is they use wood like sandalwood and sycamore that are really readily available and with their parts… We are releasing a new signature series soon that, one of them lists for $250 and the other one $450 with a top-of-the-line German-made Floyd Rose, Grovers, and then we are going to bring the price points up. That is why I signed with them. I love the company, I love the way they do business. It’s not the old school way.
We’re on the cutting edge of how you market, how you distribute it. People… It’s unlimited at Sawtooth with what I can do. They have great minds and they know how to get it manufactured. We did a double guitar in three weeks, and it’s incredible. I just really love the company. And you are right. They started at a manageable price, under $200. But then my signature series is going to increase. And the top of the line is going to be my signature series, we just haven’t gotten it out yet. I mean, with this Coronavirus, it’s screwed everything up for the short-term, not the long-term. You will soon see the cooler, higher quality guitars coming out.
Did you use Sawtooth amps for recording?
MB: Part of it I did use is the Sawtooth amps. They make great amps too. I use real amps for all of my records. I mean, if you listen to Hands Without Shadows and others, that rhythm sound was a Mesa boogie, and then I backed it up with two straight tracks. So every time I recorded, I would make two rhythm tracks for each side—this new one I didn’t. I mic’d up the Sawtooth — had an engineer do it – in a separate room just like Yngwie says he does, though the amps down, like two stories. I don’t. I have a room adjacent to my studio that I put my amps in. You can hear it a little bit but not very much. The Sawtooth amps sound great. I was in the middle of switching guitar companies when I was recording, so some of it is with my old signatures.
It’s a combination. All of the rhythms were done on a 7-string with the Elliot-Era Dean guitar.
Did you use Chris Adler on drums?
MB: Yeah. I used him on two tracks. The title track More Machine and one other one, Sirens. Do you know what happened? About a little, before this whole thing started, my younger sister passed away. Then, right after we finished all this stuff, my mom got sick. Then she ended up passing away. Then we had Elliot die. I had three critical people in my life go. My business went, and my personal life. And so, it took me about six months to get over it. And I’m not trying to elicit sympathy or say for people to feel sorry for me in any way, I just had a lot of stuff to sort out in my head. And I did it. It took me about six months — I got out of – I didn’t even want to play guitar, I didn’t pick up a guitar for a couple of months. The only time I did pick it up was to do the occasional shows. I kind of shut my life off for a while. When I got back to doing the album, everybody else is busy doing their things, and I decided to make one – I decided, okay, I’m doing this instrumental. So that’s kind of how it worked. Chris got into a horrible motorcycle accident, so he couldn’t even play. Everything happened in six months. Then I just finished it up, and I am pleased with the album.
What happened with the Nitro reunion?
MB: The Nitro Unit died because everybody around me died. I couldn’t do anything for about six months. I’m close to Jim. He’s into real estate, and he’s got all of these projects. He was busy doing them and then six months later Chris Adler, he got injured and Victor Wooten, he’s touring for a new album, and you’ve got me, who didn’t want – couldn’t do anything for a while – in my head, I just couldn’t record, and you’ve got Jim building a bunch of buildings and doing stuff. Everybody kind of went their ways. We are all still friends. I just talked to Chris the other day, and he’s delighted with the way it turned out. He says, “Man, it sounds terrific.”
Do you think you will ever do another instructional video?
MB: I don’t know because I already actually inventoried them right now, and I have 13 instructional programs. I own the rights to the original one, the Star Licks, and they are still viable today. I don’t know, because there are a lot of young guys who are doing cool things but a lot of people always look at mine because mine is part of the foundation. When you look at some of the speed ones, they are based on how you would play classical piano. I took the methodology from my training at the university, so they are still viable; they even work, Speed Kills works. So a lot of people get these, and that is where I recommend starting. Then you can also look at Rusty Cooleys, and his are exceptional, among others. I don’t know. (Chuckling) It’s not high on my list, Andrew, because there is so much content out there, and I’ve already pretty much given to the guitar community what I can provide. It’s more philosophical at this point. I’m more like a motivational speaker. To get people in the right frame of mind to play – that’s what I enjoy doing. Reinforcing what I’ve already shown is why this works. So I hope that clarifies it.