Michael Angelo Batio is one of the most prodigious guitarists on Earth. Since his stint with the rock band Holland in the ’80s, Batio has written his ticket with a combination of freakish talent and hard work. His current album, Intermezzo, is a note-intensive prog-metal rollercoaster that includes some similarly gifted guests like George Lynch, Craig Goldy, Guthrie Govan, Michael Romeo, and Chris Poland.
VintageGuitar: What did you want to accomplish with Intermezzo?
I wanted to make the writing and production as good as I could, sound like me, but not a rehash the same old riffs. I’m known for string-skipping, alternate picking, and sweep arpeggios, but there are only a few places where that occurs. I wanted to stretch every boundary with the way I write and sound.
It’s more prog-metal than some might expect.
When I started guitar, I studied jazz – I didn’t even like metal. I listened to Steely Dan, Earth Wind & Fire, and Al DiMeola – music with more chord progressions and melodic movement. It just happened in the ’80s I had this technique where I could play fast, and the harmonic-minor scale was easy because I studied jazz. I can play outside and play the changes, and I’ve kept my technique up for a long time. I work hard to be a better guitarist every year.
How do you handle being pigeonholed as a one-dimensional ’80s speed demon?
I prove them wrong by doing a record like this (laughs)! The only way to prove people wrong is to believe in you. And the only answer is the music. I do the best I can, and let people talk. I can’t control them.
Why so many guests on the record?
Music is like a football team. It takes everybody to make the play work. We have Chris Poland, a great young guitarist named Dave Reffet, a very cool up-and-coming guitarist named Annie Grunwald, Guthrie Govan, and Michael Romeo. My idea was to get some of the best established guys and some “new” people. I wanted to raise the bar, and everybody delivered. It was amazing. When I heard the solos, I thought, “This is insane!” I had Rusty Cooley and Jeff Loomis, but I thought, “George Lynch would be really cool.” Dave Reffet said, “I know George really well.” George said he would love to do it. It was a big collaboration, but Dave really helped brainstorm. My prerequisite was that I had to be a fan of what they did.
Which guitar are you playing most?
I endorse Dean Guitars and I have a bunch of signature models, but my number one is my new seven-string. I will always be a six-string player, but I really like the seven-string.
I’m scheduled to play 125 shows around the planet – guitar clinics, a Tribute To Rock Guitar multimedia show, and solo shows. It’s pretty crazed and I never take it for granted. I’m very grateful.
This article originally appeared in VG May 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.