Philadelphia-born guitarist and children’s picture book author, Thomas Amoriello has teamed up with a stellar roster of special guest musicians including former members of Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Dio, Impellitteri, Quiet Riot, Loudness, and the Michael Schenker Group. The debut recording Jerusha from Amoriello features a 4:30 minute rock opera like vocal track with Former Yngwie Malmsteen Vocalist Mike Vescera, John Macaluso, and Bjorn Englen : a power ballad with Former Yngwie Malmsteen Vocalist Goran Edman, Neil Murray,and Atma Anur: a Sabbath like vocal track with Vinny Appice, Csaba Zvenken, and James Amelio Pulli; and a traditional neo-classical rock track with Former Yngwie Malmsteen Vocalist Mark Boals called Holy Man, The Devil’s Hand and more, Ex-Yngwie Malmsteen keyboardist Michael Troy (Angels of Love:Rising Force Records) handles all keyboards. Amoriello’s book, A Journey to Guitarland with Maestro Armadillo (Black Rose Writing) has received favorable reviews in Guitar Player Magazine (USA), Rock Hard Magazine (Germany), Screamer Magazine (Los Angeles) and praise from guitar legends Brian May, Steve Hackett and Jennifer Batten. It is available worldwide in English. The recording will be available in December.
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/
By Andrew Catania
Shred is not dead. When you look at ShredGuy Records, you can see it’s alive and well. When I first saw Sean Baker, I asked him if he was related to Kerry King as they look a lot alike. What I soon learned was the Sean Baker Orchestra kicks some serious ass. I listened to Sean’s latest record on autoplay 3 times while sitting in Orlando traffic recently. I recently spoke with Sean and asked him how did the SBO start among other things.
Sean, how did you start playing guitar? At what age?
Always been a huge fan of music. My parents always listened to music when I was growing up, so I think that had a huge impact on me. As corny as it sounds when I heard Van Halen’s “Eruption” I knew I had to play guitar! Eddie had it all: Badass songs and jaw-dropping guitar solos. Hearing him as a youngster really made want to play an instrument (guitar), where I never really had an interest in playing music up to that point. Thank you, Eddie Van Halen!
Were you self-taught or had traditional lessons?
Tried traditional lessons first, but quickly got bored with the Mel Bay method. Here I was wanting to play Van Halen and the like, and I’m painfully learning ” Shoo Fly, Don’t bother Me”! Gave up traditional lessons, and went for it on my own for awhile until I took about two months worth of lessons from a dude that graduated from G.I.T in Hollywood. After about six or seven lessons with him, I realized I was showing him more then he was teaching me and decided to start my own lifelong journey into the world of music!
Were you in any bands during your younger years?
Yes! I’ve been in bands since high school really. The majority of them being vocal bands with local area musicians (Detroit area). Played with some great bands through the years and had a great time growing up and playing music with my friends! After one of my vocal projects fell apart in 2002, I took some of the vocal songs we had recorded and turned them into instrumental guitar songs, which became my first CD with The Sean Baker Orchestra. Which was re-released on ShredGuy Records
Explain how you came up with the concept the Sean Baker Orchestra?
Basically, the concept for SBO was to write instrumental music and have as many of my friends and heroes as I could come in and play on the songs! Whether it be live or record in the studio. I could get all these different players to come in and be a part of my “Orchestra” and I would basically be the conductor. It’s been great too! Rusty Cooley, Marc Rizzo, Joe Stump, Toby Knapp, and Bruce Bouillet have all contributed badass solos on my CDs! Even RacerX singer Jeff Martin and TSO/ Metal Church vocalist Ronny Munroe sang tunes on our CD” Game On!!!”. So it’s been kickass in every sense.
What other instruments do you play?
I play bass, guitar, and have just taken a likening to Ukulele!
Do you improvise when you’re playing live?
Hell yea! I love improvising and I think it’s the most fun thing about playing guitar! Constructing solos is totally fun, but there is nothing like just going for it! There is an art to playing stuff off the top of your head that sounds like you worked on it for ten years! Guthrie Govan makes all of us look bad with his skills of improvisation! Something about falling down the stairs and landing on your feet just gives me goose bumps!
Who are your influences?
Mr. Van Halen of course, YngPaul Gilbert, Jason Becker, George Lynch, Yngwie, and a bunch of the Mike Varney style shredders! I also love Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Steely Dan, and a ton of seventies songwriters which I believe is the strongest era for songwriting.
What’s your rig setup?
My rig is really simple: I play and endorse Schecter Guitars. I have six, seven, and eight string guitars from Schecter and love them dearly! Great company too! My amp is a Randall RM 100 which is an MTS modular amp. Great sounding amp with great versatility. My pedal board consists of Boss delay and noise suppressor, MXR phaser, Ibanez screaming demon wah pedal, and I use a Jason Becker Perpetual Burn overdrive to wet the distorted tones so they aren’t so dry.
How long did it take you to record this record?
Game On!! Was by far the easiest cd I have ever made! I demoed each song on my phone and sent it to the bassist Dave Donigian, and drummer Clint Sabon. I think we rehearsed three times and went in the studio. Drums and bass were done in two days, and it took awhile to get guitars done. I had the most fun making that CD and I’m very proud of the results! It was my first release on the Shredguy label, so I wanted to come up with something special and I believe we did just that! My finest hour so far…..The ClownHammer CD was easy to record, but we spent a TON of time in pre-production which actually helped us in the recording process. We worked really hard writing the songs, down to paying attention to every syllable vocally. We all wrote vocal melodies and lyrics which was a first for me. I think the ClownHammer CD is great and will always be proud of that particular project! Shredguy did a great job promoting the CD and actually getting the CD made! Mike McDowell has been great to me since day one and I adore the dude for what he has done for me and the shred community! Thanks, Mike! You can pick up ClownHammer and The Sean Baker Orchestra CDs online at Shredguy’s website!
Do you have any plans for any nationwide touring?
No plans really, but if a great offer came about I would jump on it! I played a lot of shows out here opening for various guitarist and did a tour with Bruce Bouillet in 2013, so I’ve done a fair amount of live shows. Opening for Jennifer Batten, Chris Poland, Nevermore, Gary Hoey, Uli Jon Roth, Marc Rizzo, Joe Stump, Mike Orlando, and much more was a total blast. I just love creating and playing music so I try not to close any doors where I get to do that!
To order Sean Baker Orchestra CD @ http://www.shredguyrecords.bigcartel.com/
By Andrew Catania
A guitar has been one of the instruments that make music sound great. However, these tunes depend on who is playing it. There has been a huge stereotype that guitarist has to be males. To a big point of analysis of what has been actually happening, this can be said to be plain truth.
In the recent past, the saying of “what a man can do a woman can do better” has been put into reality. Ladies have been seen to be in a revolution of taking up the roles that the general society referred as male oriented. Guitar playing has not been one of them. However, this has been coming in a handful of challenges.
Taking into consideration that there aren’t many female guitar playing role models, the unique one who stands to break the norm gets herself cornered with a lot of curiosity from examined in cases where they would want to go public and be involved in some musical bands. Be that as it may, we have to comprehend what causes this. One purpose behind young ladies not taking up the instrument is that the female guitarist has been fetishized and generalized to a degree which is offensive in its mildest shape, and intensely horrendous something else
The artists among you who visit YouTube would have most likely experienced channels and recordings of young ladies playing guitar. In the event that you look down the remark areas of these recordings, you will see a considerable measure of indecent references to their looks, the most pleasant of which would read “wed me” and much more. Individuals post recordings of themselves on Youtube for approval of their abilities. When other females who were already feeling persuaded meets this, they end up holding back since they would never wish to get themselves in such situations.
When it comes to matters performance in clubs and such entertainment halls, you may get a huge multitude not coming to enjoy the music but to just have a look at a lady guitarist. In cases where long and risky performances, women are known to be the most vulnerable. They fear the unknown that may happen.
Indeed, even at school the part of the gang persona related with young ladies who play guitar prompts them getting undue thankfulness for their abilities. Then it is like how young ladies who claim to be such a nerd. Then again, the most mainstream male clients on Youtube are in fact practically immaculate. This still leaves the big names and innovative virtuosos, about every one of whom is male.
Lita Ford broke the barrier for most female guitarists today. In my interview with Lita, she said she endured horrific treatment from others. We’re lucky enough today to have super talented, strong, creative women guitarists that don’t have to deal with what Lita Ford did some 30 years ago. Guitarists like Gretchen Menn, Courtney Cox, Nikki Stringfield, Ori, Jennifer Batten, Nita Strauss among others are better players than a lot of men.
All said and done, I believe guitar playing is more of a matter of passion than any learning. An individual only needs to be self-motivated to try it out. The female guitarists of today are phenomenal.
By Andrew Catania
There are so many talented female guitarists out there it was hard to choose the top 10. I watched countless hours of YouTube videos, watching these ladies tone, technique, skill, and playing. This is my top ten female shredders. Most of these ladies are more than just shredders. They’re overall extremely talented guitarists that can play any genre!
- Gretchen Menn. Gretchen tops this list for her incredible talent. Gretchen has a beautiful feel for the instrument. Her cover of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli’s “Minor Swing” is out of this world. She uses her guitar talents on a daily basis practicing her favorite artists. Gretchen held a BA in Music and studied classical guitar and composition. She’s a talented player in Zepparella. She released her first solo album in 2011 titled “Hale Souls.” Her 2016 release, “Abandon All Hope,” is phenomenal. Gretchen can shred and play any other genre with ease. She has played with some of the all-time greats in her career.
- Nili Brosh. Nili has a sound technique. Playing with the likes of Tony MacAlpine, Nili has to be an excellent player. Born in Boston. MA she studied music at Berklee College of Music. She has self-released an album in 2010 “Through The Looking Glass” an instrumental album. In 2011 she joined the metal band Seven the Hardway. In 2013 she joined the Ethan Brosh band as the second guitarist, August 2012 she joined Tony MacAlpine for the Maximum Security tour. Nili also released her latest record, A Matter of Perception in 2014.
- Alexandra Zerner. Bulgarian guitarist who is a session musician, sound engineer, composer and teacher. She is a solo artist and the lead in Another Destiny Project since Sept 2014. In 2016 she started playing with “Vivaldi Metal Project.” She is also ranked in the top 15 guitar shredders by Metalholic.com.
- Tina S. 17-year-old French guitarist is into heavy metal, and her latest exhibition is shredding “Beethoven’s Midnight Sonata” She has done previous videos of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” Jason Becker’s “Altitudes” and Dragon Force Z’s. Tina has a bright future ahead of her where I hope we can hear some original material from her.
- Courtney Cox. “CC Shred” can play the strings off the fretboard. Courtney was in a female fronted band called Queen Diamond before her current gig with the Iron Maidens. Courtney has proving she has the talent and skill to play anything. I hope Courtney puts out some original material so all of us could enjoy her dedication to the guitar!
- Nikki Stringfield. Strings are the other 1/2 of the female tribute band The Iron Maidens. Schecter Guitars endorse this college educated Texas native. Like Courtney, Strings can tear down the house with her playing. I’m hopeful Strings can get out of the shadow of tribute bands and start recording original material.
- Jennifer Batten. Jennifer was hired by Michael Jackson in 1987. She was a guitarist for his upcoming tour “Bad” she worked with him for 18 months, then off and on through the years. In 1998, she joined Jeff Beck’s backing band. Staying with Beck, she has played on 1999’s “Who Else!” And 2001’s” You Had It Coming” albums and several tours. Jennifer continues to dominate the fretboard and tour with the likes of Uli Jon Roth and Andy Timmons.
- Orianthi. This Australian born female guitarist has plenty to her credit. Her music has been on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and other shows where her guitar can be heard. She was the last guitarist to work with Michael Jackson on the “This Is It” production. She’s currently working with Ritchie Sambora.
- Lita Ford English-born American, she was a guitarist/vocalist with “The Runaways” in the late 70s. She embarked on a solo career in the 80s to 1985 that debuted with a solo album “Out For Blood” in 1983 and then a second in 1984 “Dancin on the Edge” her solo efforts gained moderate success. She had done songs with Ozzie Osbourne and went on hiatus when she moved to the islands with her then husband, Jim Gillette. Lita came back and has released solo releases lately that have been produced by Gary Hoey.
- Sarah Longfield is a guitarist from Madison WI. She plays various musical styles from progressive to experimental sounds. The band she plays with is called The Fine Constant. She composes, records, and mixes her music for the band and her solo endeavors.
Congratulations to these talented guitarists for their dedication to the guitar! Please check out each guitarist’s respective websites: