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A Dirty Dozen with MICHAEL ABDOW – March 2020

| 10 March 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: ““Heart Signal” is the fourth studio album from American guitarist/composer Michael Abdow.  His latest effort is comprised of eight new pieces spanning 44 minutes and features fretless bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Whitesnake) and drummer Shawn Deneault (Santa Mamba).” We get Michael to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Heart Signal is my fourth solo record and fifth that I’ve produced, recorded and mixed.  This one, like those before it is a full-length concept album. It doesn’t so much tell a story as it is a group of original philosophies of life and reality. Each song is supposed to be experienced with its philosophy in mind; almost like a mantra meditation. Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, The Firm, Whitesnake) joined me on fretless bass as well as Shawn Deneault (Santa Mamba) on drums. My approach prioritizes the song. Although my music satisfies the musician listeners who want to hear technique, it first and foremost appeals to people who are just fans of music. One of the most frequent things I hear from fans is that they hear something new every time they listen and that the music puts them in a mood or makes them feel something. There is a bit of a treat in the form of a guest “vocalist” on the first track “Weight Of The World.” My followers on social media will instantly recognize who it is.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Music was always in my family and my Mom got me into piano lessons when I was in elementary school. My maternal grandfather (Pepere) was a professional drummer and grandmother (Memere) a respected singer. I realized freshman year of high school that I wanted to be a musician. I was way into baseball and loved it; but I wisely realized that 3 hour practices every day after school for something that would be with me through my early 20’s could be time better spent pursuing something that I loved more and could do the rest of my life. So I quit baseball and put all my eggs in the music basket.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There are several shows that made huge impressions on me. When I was underage, my Mom took me to NYC to see Al DiMeola on his tour for The Grande Passion. We got to the restaurant early to scope it out and the owner greeted us and told us to come back at show time and ask for him. He had saved us a spot at the table closest to Al. The music on that album has always been so close to me and that experience was unreal. I’ve seen Al since and each time, it was the greatest live performance and musical experience I’ve enjoyed. The other live show that made the biggest impression on me was Andy Timmons. He was playing in this small bar/restaurant in Connecticut. Andy shook hands with the people arriving and thanked us individually for coming. He then put on a performance that brought us to our knees. I learned that night that the greatest thing you can do as a musician is to create something special and sincere from nothing; and that is what living is.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Al DiMeola, Andy Timmons, Steve Vai, Pat Metheny, and John Petrucci.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

It would be Tony Franklin. He has been my favorite bass player since I can remember and having him on my latest record Heart Signal has been so special for me. I wrote the songs and general bass parts but what is on the record are his first version interpretations of the music. Everything he sent back to me was perfect from the start. It was pretty surreal working with him and hearing his amazing voice on the instrument become a part of my music.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Usually I tell people who don’t know my music that it is instrumental rock music; and if they like electric guitar and melody, then they will enjoy it. If I were to elaborate, I’d say things like “prog” and “listening experience”. All I am really going for is to create something special and sincere; something that makes people feel something. I wouldn’t say I’ve had any cringe-worthy comparisons; more like out-of-touch comparisons. Someone might hear one of my instrumental guitar songs and say “oh, this is like Yngwie Malmsteen” or “Joe Satrianni”. I have nothing but respect and admiration for those guys but my music is really different than anything they are doing.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Adventure. I tell people that my career is like the wild west. The guitar is in my holster and the songs are my horse. Nothing is certain and all roads are open. But seriously, if you are in it for the right reasons, have a clear head, and don’t quit, music leads to a lot of self discovery and realization about what the life adventure is all about.

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Depends on which band we’re talking about. In Fates Warning, Bobby breaks out the acoustic and makes sandwiches. In Aquanett, Rick brings the beef jerky and lesser known beers. In my solo band, Shawn is the life of any party and is hilarious.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I remember meeting Richie Kotzen at a Winery Dogs show. I shook his hand and was way too nervous to say anything. That was a neutral experience but in general, I prefer not to meet people I’m a huge fan of.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

If not for music, I’d either want to be a CIA or FBI agent, a field biologist or a glaciologist. I went to school for mathematics and love it but I’ve since had other interests.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I regret moving on from bands. I don’t regret it because the situations at the time were either bad or a real mismatch of styles. But I also know that part of the magic of what being in a band is all about is struggling together and discovering your place among diverse personalities and styles. So I always wonder what future I may have experienced in certain scenarios that I left. It’s a bit of a catch twenty-two.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I’d want to be in the audience for the live record DiMeola/McLaughlin/DeLucia – Friday Night In San Francisco. Three of the greatest guitarists of our lifetime at the height of their careers on one of the greatest guitar records ever made. This one has so much momentum, so much energy, and so much spirit captured at once in a live performance. Just unreal.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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