By Andrew Catania
Those around him would all agree that an intense passion drives Michael. And from early on, his passion pushed him to excel in every area of music he pursued. From heavy and aggressive music to orchestral and choral arrangements, to the grace and beauty of a single note melody, across a seascape of acoustic guitars, his creativity has shown to be boundless and diverse.
Most recent projects of note include writing, recording and producing the highly received power metal album RESURRECT ME with respected vocalist PAMELA MOORE (known by many as SISTER MARY of QUEENSRYCHE fame). The full-length disk released to high marks on RAT PACK RECORDS, (May 2013), and showcases Michael’s most beautiful metal creations to date, an expanse of playing and passion, making it ideally matched for Pamela’s style, and has many reviews uttering the words “album of the year.” RESURRECT ME displays an emotional soul along with an impressive battery of qualities that both artists are known for; including Pamela’s expressive and powerful vocals, and Michael’s pension for orchestral darkness, and infectious power metal grooves. The release represents a victory for the listener and the artists alike. And finally, May 2018 will see the release of PAMELA MOORE– BEHIND THE VEIL. A follow-up to RESURRECT ME that oozes passion in epic proportions.
Other accolades Michael has shown worthy of would include being recognized as a creative and driving force of Century Media recording artists: RADAKKA. A metal band that achieved more notably and sonically than most bands can hope to. Creating a combination of melodic power metal, fused with massive doses of 4-part vocals and incredible string arrangements, their music exuded power and grace unparalleled by any of their peers. RADAKKA went from one of the most respected and top drawing acts in the Chicago rock circuit to worldwide success with two full-length titles: MALICE AND TRANQUILITY and REQUIEM FOR THE INNOCENT. Both received rave reviews upon their respective releases, and are considered by many, to be metal masterpieces in their right.
RADAKKA was also asked to contribute their signature sound to the Century Media Compilation- “A TRIBUTE TO JUDAS PRIEST VOL.2: DELIVERING THE GOODS“. Their muscular cover of “NIGHTCRAWLER” was one of the outstanding tracks from the release, and even earned a nod from the PRIEST.
In his “spare” time, Michael enjoys unleashing his fiery brand of guitar playing …(AND his unabashed love for all things Dio…) on the masses in HEAVEN AND HELL (Chicago), the Midwest’s foremost “Tribute to the Music of Ronnie James Dio – Black Sabbath – and Rainbow.” Their excellence has made them one of the most popular and successful hard rock tribute bands thru multiple circuits and multiple states
As often as possible, Michael loves to perform annually in THE CHRISTMAS STRINGS – An acoustic guitar quartet performing their arrangements of Christmas classics, plus and an original song or two in the spirit of the season.
But that’s not all for Michael. From teacher to the author, he wrote the instructional book “5 Easy Steps To Scales and Chords“, which has become an indispensable tool for countless music students.
He also writes and records commercial jingles, has been a guest contributor on various recording projects including the recent rock/metal/psychedelic/experimental release PAPER ANGELS(Independent). He has worked with independent filmmakers on music and scores and loves collaborating with other musicians and mates….many times writing, recording, and producing them in his studio.
Consistently associated with an air of professionalism and class…
Well rounded, intensely hard working, highly respected, and a consummate stage performer, there isn’t much that he hasn’t done. And all signs show the best is yet to come!
Michael sums up his stance himself: “I’ve always been aware that my musical growth was DIRECTLY related to my personal growth. And day to day, as I learn that truth each day in a different way …, I find that creative fulfillment is now the real goal. There is no destination. There are only the journey and the expression.”
“I no longer know where it is taking me.”
What made you decide to pick up the guitar? Did anyone influence you? Schooled or self-taught?
MP: Music started to creep into my mindset before I was given a guitar. But I guess initially, my parents get the credit for trying to expose me to a variety of things, and this one clicked. I remember early lessons with a cheap acoustic guitar, playing tunes like ‘Camp Town Races’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ and I think I liked it. I never quit at least, but later when I started to listen to rock and metal, it began to get real.
My best friend from childhood pulled me into the idea of a band, but we were beginners so the band would meet more in bedrooms where you’d find us jamming along with some Zeppelin or Kiss tunes, and the ubiquitous Smoke on the Water. We had to work at it, but it was work that excited us, so I guess, something started to take hold. At that time, I switched over to take some lessons from a significant player in the Chicago area and started approaching a rock catalog and techniques. And then bam- I saw a KISS concert- and it became an “I want to do that” kind of goal. Absorption of guitar-oriented rock started with Kiss and Black Sabbath, moved on to Van Halen, Dio, Judas Priest, Zeppelin, Rush, and many in between. Somewhere from that era- and while absorbing those approaches to the guitar- it all hit me in a place inside I didn’t know existed. Being a shy, cerebral kid who kept a lot inside, I had found a path to releasing expression, and I think it merely felt right- and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to take this farther.
Different players and bands hit me in different spots. Music is “heartfelt” and ‘gut-level” stuff, but it’s also an intelligent expression. So I could enjoy primal power rhythms, I could enjoy song driven tunes and good old jam-outs, but also musicianship intrigued me. Blues and classical influences always seemed to hit me strongly, and I think that added an appreciation for players that exude traits that show that you can have intelligence and complexity- without sacrificing musicality.
They all became colors on a palate, none of which I disliked. It’s all just music to me. This pushed me toward a ‘schooled’ approach taking lessons for a long time, and ultimately music theory and classical guitar in college. But over the years, yes, the influence and admiration of Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Tony Iommi, John Sykes, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Alex Lifeson all added to and colored my evolution. Even to this day with players like Doug Aldrich, Steve Stevens, Jon Petrucci and Jeff Loomis, there’s a lot to be inspired by.
How have you evolved as a guitarist?
MP: Well, I guess mostly, I’ve evolved to the point now, that when I feel something, I can reach in and express it. That’s the moment when you realize that all influences, and internal desires to communicate thru the guitar, have internalized enough just to emote and communicate.
I think most players (myself included) tend to start out with thoughts like, “I would like to play like <insert players name> or <insert 2nd players name>”, and that’s great. It gives you something to strive toward and aim for. It starts out in your brain before it can work its way to your heart. So I fed my mind and muscles with studying technique and doing exercises, learning about theory, and how it relates. All good things to make sure when you have to get up and dance you’ve trained your feet a bit.
At that time, I put in some hard work and set my bar…. aimed at a list of my favorite players…., only to realize that chasing them…while good for technique, breaking new boundaries, expanding yourself, etc., …is a chase that must be given up, sooner or later. And that is for at least two reasons:
First: Using myself, for example, I was never going to sound like those players. I have a different right hand, a different left hand, and a different heart. I will always sound like an imitation if I take that pursuit too far.
Second: The art of speaking (and more importantly talking well) thru an instrument is a practiced art. The more I didn’t try to sound like someone, the more I spoke thru my voice. I spoke from my creativity and heart. And that too needs practice and development. Like learning a language: my influences taught me the words and phonics of a language. As I evolved, I was finally creating my sentences, and speaking from my mind. And ultimately, my heart can connect more directly to the instrument. In fact, I knew I was onto something that worked for me when people’s comments would regularly describe me as passionate, and pure. LOL- Go figure. The cerebral introvert finds a way to communicate. This evolution took some time to flesh itself out, but I have trusted, and approached my writing and playing from this standpoint ever since.
Do you have any current projects?
LOL. There are always a few irons in the fire, and some were waiting for the light of day. Primarily, I just finished up writing and tracking the 2nd disc with PAMELA MOORE. The tracks are headed to mastering and will see a mid-2018 release. Pam, as many would know, is the voice made famous as Sister Mary on QUEENSRYCHE’s “Operation Mindcrime.”
Pam and I have been collaborating for some time now (the better part of a decade), and I feel blessed for the relationship. Beyond a great rapport, we just seem to emote from the same organic places. We can be true to ourselves while also creating something unique and worth listening to. Our work always has a common thread of passion, intensity, and power while ultimately being forged in metal. We’ve had that collaborative quality since we met. We released a well-received disc called PAMELA MOORE- RESURRECT ME, and work is just about complete for another release as we speak.
If I can gush, the upcoming disc is a pretty cool thing. A bunch of rocking- but passion-drenched songs from Pam and I that take Resurrect Me a step further, great riffs and contributions from CRAIG CHURCH, and guest-list players include CASEY GRILLO (KAMELOT) on drums, RUDY SARZO (yes…that Rudy Sarzo) on bass. And on top of that, RANDY PIPER from WASP sprinkles some evil salt on some of the tastiest bites, and RALF SCHEEPERS scorches a tune with Pam. It’s a pleasure to have been able to work with these individuals. The disc is called PAMELA MOORE– BEHIND THE VEIL with a spring 2018 release.
Beyond that, I have a tribute to RONNIE JAMES DIO and BLACK SABBATH called “HEAVEN AND HELL (Chicago)” that plays across the Midwest, I’ve been honored and asked to lend some guitar work/tracking on various recording projects (including some creative stuff with the band PAPER ANGELS), and there’s always work toward my solo disc, whose progress tends to come 2nd to all of the above. It would all happen if only I had 48 hours in a day.
What musicians do you want to play with?
MP: The question has such an air of “hypothetical” that I have to be allowed to say RONNIE JAMES DIO. He’s my favorite person/artist in all of heavy metal and rock .. and should probably be on my list as the biggest influence as well. Would have loved to work with him. And we know that unfortunately will have to wait until I cross over. Here’s to making that dream wait a long time. 😉
So your question has a duality: real list? Or dream list? HAHA…
I would immediately think of those that I respect for what they’ve achieved, the level at which they bring it, the quality they maintain from work to work, and how they found their paths to success. Those would make for some of the most interesting conversation, and collaboration. Mixing the dream with real day, would make a list that would include Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore, John Denver, Paul McCartney, Paul Stanley, John Williams, David Grohl, David Coverdale, Pamela Moore, Todd LaTorre, John Petrucci, Ralf Scheepers, Mickey Dee, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Rockenfield, Amy Lee…Wow, this could keep going…that’s a trick question.
What does your current rig consist of?
MP: My current rig is a long-running mainstay for me: a MESA BOOGIE MARK III rack mount amp, mixed and matched with either Laney or Marshall cabinets. A DBX noise gate keeps it very very quiet. (Quiet enough to hunt wabbits)
I have very few pedals. If possible, I like a MIDI-controllable multi-effect, but some of my favorite units are showing enough signs of fatigue that they’ve been deemed not reliable enough for shows. So as of late, I keep things pretty basic and go with three pedals: a TC ELECTRONICS FLASHBACK x4 digital delay, a BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus, and the DUNLOP WAH-WAH 535Q. Finish it off with a BOSS TU2 CHROMATIC TUNER in-line with the WAH.
For fly-dates that I need to leave the MESA behind, I use the TAURUS STOMPHEAD 4.HG for both clean and dirty tones. It’s an excellent beast for the footprint, and it travels well. When I have the luxury of having both amps, I will use the STOMPHEAD for cleaner tones, and A/B with the MESA BOOGIE for my dirty rhythms/lead tones.
My three main guitars are an Ibanez RG750, and two ESP EC-1000’s. The bullpen also has a couple ESP’s EC 350’s, and one of my first gems is a USA Made- JACKSON RHOADS.
All my guitars are purple. I have a thing….might be a condition. I’ve had it since I can remember.
My guitars are purple. Friends called me grape ape for a while. LOL. Yeah, I’m a purple freak, so all of them are purple. All of them, except for my nicer acoustics. I have a TAYLOR-6, and a TAKAMINE-12 string, and adore them both… even though they’re not purple.
What was the first band you played with?
MP: I assume we’re not talking about the kooky little band from 6th grade where we played Smoke on the Water (opening riff only) for about 8 minutes straight? LOL
My FIRST band was called CRYSTAL AXE. (Loved the name so much I trademarked it). We did covers and dipped our toes into writing originals. From there I had joined a group named PARADOXX in Chicago which got its start in covers but attracted me with their original songwriting and musicianship. As I got there and we settled in, we felt a change in the sound and aspirations, and we rebranded as RADAKKA. RADAKKA released two discs on Century Media from those days.
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
My plans for 2018 will be to simply create as much as I can in the midst of a decently busy schedule that includes live dates in support of the Pamela Moore disc sometime mid-year, Midwest shows with Heaven and Hell (Chicago), some studio work for myself and others sprinkled in between, plus a website overhaul.
I have a lot of ideas coming out right now. Because the music industry is what it is, this had to become more about personal fulfillment- and love of the art, so while I have so much to say, I want to let it flow.
Those who know me would laugh a bit at that last statement because I tend to operate in more of a “high-strung frequency” than that.
…but through the therapy of my music, there is hope. LOL.
Andrew, thank you so much for allowing me to speak with you.
All That Shreds is an excellent outlet for guitar lovers, and I thank you for doing what you do!
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/michaelposchofficial