The ‘guitar shredder’ genre of the late ’80s was comprised almost entirely of males, but one exception was the fleet-fingered Jennifer Batten. Born in Upstate New York, Batten got her first electric guitar at the age of eight (inspired by her older sister who already owned an instrument, as well as the Beatles and the Monkees), before her family relocated to San Diego, California, a year later. In 1979, Batten began attending G.I.T. (Guitar Institute of Technology), where she befriended such fellow up-and-comers as Steve Lynch (later of Autograph).

It was through Lynch’s fascination with the then-burgeoning ‘two handed tapping’ technique that Batten took her friend’s lead and perfected the playing style — eventually writing a book on it years later (Two Hand Rock). After graduation, Batten endured an intense practice regimen, while making ends meet by teaching at G.I.T. and playing in a variety of local bands. Batten’s big career break came in 1987, when she received word from a friend that auditions were being held for a guitarist for Michael Jackson’s upcoming tour in support of his comeback album, Bad.

Instead of trying to secure a tryout right away, Batten took an uncommon approach, securing a tryout on the last possible day — that way, she would have as much time to learn and perfect the King of Pop’s repertoire. The plan worked, as she toured with Jackson for the better part of a year-and-a-half. She prominently appeared in the video for “Another Part of Me” after undergoing an image makeover, which saw her transformed into a peroxide-hairsprayed guitar goddess (she even sported a Mohawk for a spell).

With the Jackson tour behind her, interest spread about Batten in the rock guitar community, especially after a track of hers appeared on a compilation CD issued by Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine, her cover of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” on 1989’s Guitar’s Practicing Musicians. This set the stage perfectly for her full-length solo debut in the spring of 1992,

 

Above Below and Beyond, an album that mixed originals and covers (and was produced by Michael Sembello). Shortly after the release of her debut, Batten found herself out on tour once more with Jackson, in support of his Dangerous release (which included a performance at the halftime of the Super Bowl). Afterwards, Batten returned to her own recording career, forming a group called the Immigrants and issuing the European-only release, One Planet Under One Groove, before once more agreeing to tour with Jackson, this time in support of his 1997 greatest-hits collection, HIStory.

The same year also saw the release of another Batten recording, Momentum, (credited to Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage). 1998 saw Batten receive an invitation to join the backing band of one of her all time-favorite guitarists, Jeff Beck. Since signing on with Beck, Batten has appeared on such studio recordings as 1999’s Who Else! and 2001’s You Had It Coming, plus numerous tours.

Additionally, Batten has guested on recordings by Carmine Appice (Guitar Zeus, Vol. 1) and her old friend Sembello’s Lost Years LP, among others. ~ Greg Prato, All Music Guide

17/02/2007


First of all, thanks to give us a part of your time. Can you please tell for Metal Sickness readers what you have done since”Above, below and Beyond”

I went on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Tour right after that record wasreleased. After the tour I recorded My Tribal Rage record with Glen Sobeland Ricky Wolking and again, immediately went on another MJ tour. About 6months after that tour ended I joined Jeff Beck’s band for 3 years and 2 CD’s. I’m ready to release my 3rd CD but want to do my own tour this timearound.

You went on very different musical ways during your career. What is the nextone for the future ?

The new CD called “Whatever” is about ear candy andcomedy. It’s more in an electronica direction but there’s still plenty ofguitar. I have a lot of vocal samples as well. There’s some story telling, adramatic ballad and a special surprise that will endlessly entertain 13 yearold boys.

Maybe you can tell us few words about your gear, and the reasons of yourchoice ?

I’m using the Digitech GNX 3000 through a Marshall power amp. I want tohave access to all the sounds in the book without carrying a lot of geararound. It’s versatile and includes an expression pedal which I use a lot.

Have you got a touring band or do you play with backing tracks ?

This tour will be alone but with videos and backing tracks. I’ve got somegreat footage from various film makers and will also release a DVD withinterviews and videos

What are your projects for this year ?

So far I’m travelling to Japan twice in the spring and will probably go toCanada late spring. The main focus though is to get my new CD off theground.

What’s your opinion about learning methods and what is for you the best wayto learn guitar ?

There’s no best way because people are so individual. I think thetechnological progress is great. Any way music can be made easier is a goodthing. There’s no substitute for just putting in time listening though. Theon line community is something I wish I’d had when I was younger. It’s afantastic resource.

What do you think about master class sessions and clinics ? Which kind ofperformance do you prefer ?

I enjoy doing the clinics and master classes but you have travel from yourleft to your right brain when you talk and then play. In doing a real show,you can stay in the creative side all night so it’s easier to emote. Alsosome of the clinic environments are pretty stiff and uninspired unlike theaverage club vibe

Do you think that technic is still important for one part of the metalaudience ?

I think technique is important for any musician in any genre. It’s thebuilding blocks to just being able to play&emdash;basic stuff

Personally, do you consider that you still got to prove your technical valueor are you in peace with that to focus on the music and the emotions ?

I don’t give it much thought anymore. I worked a lot on technique in the 80’s and now just do excercizes to get me back to my peak just so I can pulloff whatever I feel like at any moment . It’s like having access to whatevercolor you want to paint withWhat do you think of the evolution of guitar-heroes who started in the 80ssuch as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen … ?They’re all well seasoned. I think musicians tend to get better with age

And what do you think about the new heroes (Ron Thal, Guthrie Govan,Christophe Godin etc.) ?

I honestly don’t listen to much guitar any more so I don’t know those guys.I listen more to ethnic music and electronica. Anything that sounds reallyfresh to my ears. I want to get inspiration from musicians other thanguitarists

Which artists do you consider today to be the future of guitar ?

There are a few I’ve become aware of like Kaki King and Preston Reed. I lovetheir stuff because it’s very adventurous and different from what I do.Detuned acoustic is foreign to me so it catches my ear

Are you still in contact with Steve Lynch ?If is the case, would you mindjoining his school as a teacher or for master class sessions ?

I’ve been meaning to catch up with him as he’s now only a 4 hour drivesince I left LA a few years ago. I talked to him but haven’t seen him inyears. Yeah I’ll do a master class. That would be fun.

Would you like to tour again with a famous band to play in big arenas as you’ve done with Michael Jackson?

I’d rather play my own music at this point in whatever venue I’m welcome in

Have you got something special to say to Metal Sickness Readers ?

Protect your ears!!! Loudness is exciting until you start to hear whitenoise ALL THE TIME!

Thank you so much for this interview, and good luck for all your projects.