Jennifer Batten Interview
1. Tell us a little about your early musical roots and what influenced you most in choosing to pursue a career in music.
My early roots involved hearing my fathers jazz records every night when he’d return from work until he went to bed. A combination of his influence and respect for musicians and my own radio listening lead to the career I chose.
2. How old were you when you first began playing? 8
We’ve read your first guitar was a childhood birthday present – what model was it, and do you still have it?
I sold it long ago and don’t remember what brand it was but it was the coolest. I love that my father got me an electric guitar for my first one.
3. You are renowned not only as an exceptionally skilled player, but also as an innovator of the “two handed tapping method”. Can you give us a little insight into how you perfected that technique? When did you realize the impact it would have on the music world?
I don’t know that anyone ever ‘perfects’ a technique but I spent a lot of time on it. I was influenced by Steve Lynch who was in my class at guitar school. He started tapping that year due to a clinic given by Emmet Chapman on the ‘stick’ instrument. I thought it was fresh and exciting so kept in touch with him for several years and learned the technique from him and from his books “The Right Touch” . The technique was made so popular by Van Halen that it was bound to spill into other genres like Michael Hedges and Kaki Kings acoustic style. I tried to take it in other directions as well.The only feedback I get on what impact it’s had is when I get fan mail from fellow tappers. You don’t realize how far your impact goes until you get that.
4. Describe Jennifer Batten, musician, in ten words or less.
Twisted, searching, adventurous, driven, listener, multimedia. There’s a few, but it feels like a moment with a phychiatrist now 🙂
5. In 1987 you were selected from over 100 other guitarists to play in Michael Jackson’s tour, the “Bad Tour.” What was your mind-set going into that audition, and how do you look back on that tour today?
I knew I was just one player of many days of auditions so I just did my best and didn’t get my hopes up. It was seriously life changing in many ways when I got that gig. Many doors opened but I also got to see the jealousy that Hollywood breeds when someone gets ahead. Not pretty.
6. You have collaborated with a long line of some of the most respected and talented people on all sides of the music industry, including Jeff Beck (with whom you also toured). How have the different talents and personalities you’ve worked with influenced your development as an artist?
I think my time with Jackson made my music a bit more accessable and made me think more about image and presentation. The time with Jeff was like a springboard to a new way of thinking about recording as well as catching up with the times via technology and open ears for electronica. I owe him for that!
7. In 1992 between tours with Jackson you released your first album, the critically acclaimed “Above, Below and Beyond” and followed that up with “Momentum” (credited to “Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage”). Momentum showcases a broad diversity of influences – reviewers coined it “world rock”. To what do you attribute the vast difference between your debut album and your sophomore effort? What motivated you to delve so deeply into world music?
My first record was a bit of a guitar geek record. I was just leaving the world of Musicians Institute. I’d graduated and was teaching there when I got the Jackson gig. I was pretty green and pretty much was all over the map as far as direction. I’d recorded 3 demos before that gig and finished it upon return. I had some jazz, some world beat, some classical and other directions. The next record was done on my own with the other players and no outside producer so it was very organic. One of my favorite bands is Weather Report which is very world beat influenced. I guess that’s part of the attraction that lead to my own ethnic music interests and influence. I bought a lot of CD’s from Peter Gabriels’ “Real World” label as well. Those are real roots CD’s straight out of the bush of various countries.
8. You’ve played in small clubs, and you’ve played in huge stadiums. What sort of venue do you find the most enjoyable?
I never felt connected to large audiences in stadium type situations. I prefer the sort of 2 to 4000 seater venues I played with Jeff. The sound is much better. I rarely hear the kind of clarity I want to hear in stadiums as an audience member. But honestly any venue that is enthusiastic about hearing me is fine. It’s more about vibe than size
9. You seem to be very comfortable with the digital aspects of modern recording. What’s your vision of how computers can be best integrated into your creative process?
Computers aren’t going away and give limitless possibilities in editing and comparing, but there’s certainly a down side. I find myself staring at the screen for hours when I don’t even need to because it sucks you in like a magnet. I can only last a few hours at a time doing that before my energy is drained away. I was able to do 8 or 10 hours at a time with ADats. Computers also demand constant upgrades and bring up way more hassles and problems than any past recording method. It’s very yin and yang. I wouldn’t give the method 5 stars.
10. Currently you’re working on a new CD. You’ve expressed that the new recording will be significantly influenced by your experiences working with Jeff Beck – can you give your fans some insight into your approach to this record? Do you have a target release date?
I don’t want to give a target release date. I’ve already missed a few of those due to road trips etc. I’ll just say ‘soon’.The Beck influence was on direction. I’ve completely embraced new technology and the new CD will reflect that in ear candy and loops and samples.
11. As it usually seems to be the case, you have multiple ongoing projects – the new CD, a DVD and your guitar clinics. How have you managed to keep up such a heavy pace for all these years? What is your greatest motivation today?
Some years are way more grueling than others. I’m getting pretty burnt out on travel. Last year I went to Australia, China, 4 times to Japan, twice to Canada and to Europe . I felt so beaten at the end of it that I’ve taken a lot of time off this year. I need time to heal and regenerate and intake before heading out again. It’s hard to balance when you need to make a living, but I’ve cut way back in my living expenses so I can take it easier and enjoy life more.
12. What do you believe is the single, most important first step for a beginning guitarist?
To enjoy playing. If you end up with a teacher that doesn’t make it fun somehow–find another one .
13. When it comes to a beginner’s gear, what advice would you offer?
With the Chinese and Korean imports we’re able to enjoy these days you can get all the gear you need for cheap. I’d just say to go to a store, figure out your budget and see how an instruments feels and sounds to you. It’s not nessesary to get the top of the line until you grow into it. As far as amp gear, it’s the same. There are tons of products available with all in one fx/amp modeling that will keep a beginner entertained for eons.
14. Can you tell us about your hobby with glass art and how fans can purchase one of your pieces?
All they need to do if they see a piece they like on my site is to write to me at email@example.com. The prices are marked on the site. I got into the art several years ago after leaving California and taking some time off. All of my creative juices went into it for quite a while. Now I balance my expression between glass and music. I find a lot of inspiration in beautiful visual artistry and I want to be a part of that too. I’m always going to crafts shows and art galleries these days. It helps the music too in the end via being inspired.
15. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to share?
The Cover Zone: Celebrating Women of Rock