Guitar legend and virtuoso, Michael Angelo Batio, is one of the originators and pioneers of the “Shred Guitar” genre. He has traveled to over 52 countries performing for music enthusiasts all over the world. He invented the Double-Guitar and is credited with being the first person to play both left and right-handed at the same time. This talented guitar player is truly a living legend in his own right. The ‘80s and ‘90s found him playing lead guitar in metal bands Holland and Nitro. In a recent interview with Batio, he talked about how he first started playing music, his special techniques and his music career in general. What’s amazing is that he has been able to encompass all the different music genres he loves – everything from jazz to rock to metal – and make that sound his own.
My father always told me, ‘Learn what happened before you so you don’t reinvent the wheel’.
Batio grew up in Chicago and first began playing the guitar at the young age of 10. Before that, he was playing the piano at the very early age of 5. It’s no surprise that music is something that just came naturally to him. “My mother played the piano and I figured out how to play by listening to her,” he said of one his earliest memories. His first and foremost musical influence was the greatly influential jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, who gained national exposure as a member of the Benny Goodman Orchestra from 1939 to 1941. Batio has always been a big admirer of Christian’s work and has spent a large amount of time researching his music. Other musicians who have had an influence on him include Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Django Reinhardt, Al DiMeola and Led Jimmy Page. Batio believes that it’s important to pull experiences from different genres of music and not just rock. He reminisced about some good advice he received from his father early on, which he continues to practice to this day: “My father always told me, ‘Learn what happened before you so you don’t reinvent the wheel’.”
The idea of the Double-Guitar came to Batio while he was in the jazz band at his high school. “I saw a jazz concert where this guy was playing two saxes at the same time. And that was my first inspiration. Secondly, some of the best guitarists including Paul McCartney and Kurt Cobain were lefties. I just wanted to do something different,” he explained.
Batio is a very driven person who always stays busy with different projects, whether it be touring, giving clinics or producing instructional videos. The secret to his productivity is simple, which he explained, “I like people and I love helping people.” Batio is an excellent source of advice for up and coming musicians of any genre. He talked about how in this era; a record company isn’t necessary to be a successful musician. “It’s all about YouTube, social networking, Reverbnation, things like that,” he said. “The second most important thing you can do is get out and play in front of people. Every successful musician connects with their audience. Look at other people for your inspiration, but look at the artists with the long careers,” he said. Batio has given guitar lessons to musicians such as Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave) and Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge). He is a great inspiration and extremely influential to musicians everywhere with his incredible talent and experiences.
Batio’s Dean Double-Guitar called the “Jet” was inducted into and on permanent display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as of February 2012. Of the great honor, he said, “It’s very cool and it’s just an honor to be honored like that.” He was also thrilled that comedian/actor/musician Jack Black and Tenacious D credited him with being the inspiration behind the Double-Guitar featured in the movie The Pick of Destiny.
Batio has a lot of exciting things going on, and some great things coming up in the near future. He is currently on tour and hopes to add more U.S. dates in 2013. There is also a new album coming out later this year. His current tour is entitled “Hands Without Shadows – A Tribute to Rock Guitar,” which is a multimedia extravaganza featuring the music of some of the greatest rock guitarists of the past 50 years including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Metallica and much more. It’s a 90-minute chronological tribute that will take one’s senses on a great auditory and visual journey.
Undoubtedly, Batio is a virtuoso of music. That is evident with his extensive history as being the original pioneer of the entire “Shred Guitar” genre. He has been awarded many honors such as being voted the number one shredder of all time by Guitar One Magazine and one of the top 100 greatest metal guitarists of all time by Guitar World Magazine. He is also celebrated as one of the fastest guitar players of all time. Batio truly is a living legend of this generation.