Milan Polak Interview
Milan was featured in “Guitar for the Practicing Musician” as well as on several CD samplers of the world’s best guitarists such as M. Varney’s “Guitar On The Edge – The World’s Hottest Guitarists” (with the likes of Steve Vai, Greg Howe and Marty Friedman). His two instrumental albums “Dreamscapes” and “Guitar Odyssey” received overwhelming praise & great reviews worldwide and stayed in the top seller charts of guitar9 for months. The jazz/fusion CD “J.A.M.” reached number 2 in the UK Jazzwise Charts.
His album “Straight” featuring Milan Polak on vocals as well, was recorded with high-class musicians (who played with the likes of Malmsteen, Dreamtheater, Vai, Steve Lukather, Glenn Hughes, George Lynch) in NY and received great feedback worldwide, e.g. “Album of the Year” (Netherlands) and “Album of the Month” (Italy). Other nominations were “Top 10 Albums of the Year” (Italy), “Top 30 releases of 2007″ (UK) and “Best Guitarist of 2007″ (UK). The renowned English “Fireworks Magazine” voted the song “The Glowing Of A Cigarette” no. 2 of the “Top 200 songs of 2007″.
Milan Polak also co-wrote and played all the guitars on the album “Bastard” (Nuclear Blast) for the German band Subway To Sally in 2007, which entered the German album charts at 7 and was voted “Album of the Month” by Germany’s biggest metal magazine “Metal Hammer”. Above all, their song “Auf Kiel” won the German “Bundesvision song contest 2008″.
In May 2008 Milan Polak was voted one of the world’s 50 fastest guitarists by “Guitar World Magazine”.
In June 2009 Milan Polak released his new vocal album “Murphy’s Law” which immediately entered the Guitar9 “Most Popular Vocal” charts at no.1 and stayed there for several weeks. So far the album has received great feedback.
Milan is also the author of the series “Guitar Heroes – Real Technique” and annually teaches master classes and band coaching at the University of Music & Art, Vienna.
INTERVIEW WITH MILAN
I see your using musicman guitars , are you endorsed or do you just love them as Alex Hutchings is rather fond of his, also what other gear are you fond of?
Hi Mark, apart from the fact that I love them, I am also a proud endorsee of Ernie Ball/Musicman guitars. They are seriously the best instruments I have ever played in my whole life. Words can’t even describe how happy I am but I hope it shows through my playing…
For acoustics I love my Yamaha guitars. Amp-wise my working horse at the moment is a Marshall JVM410H, it’s a very versatile amp. And I also have a combo that TubeThomsen, a little company based in the north of Germany, gave me.
Then I use some MXR/Dunlop pedals and T-Rex pedals. Together with T-Rex I also do competitions on YouTube (youtube.com/milanpolak). We are actually planning a new one right now as we speak…
Give us a quick rundown of your projects recent and forthcoming.
I have done so many things that I am not even sure I can remember all of them… haha you find everything on www.milanpolak.com, the most important collaborations were with Tangerine Dream, Falco and Subway To Sally, a German band with who I recorded and co-wrote the album “Bastard” which was no. 7 in the German album charts.
As for now, besides writing & recording demos for my next vocal album, I recently also started a collaboration with Druid, an Italian producer & DJ. We have just signed a deal with Shah-Music and released our first EP. This is a very interesting project because we combine 2 worlds that usually never cross paths and we instantly came up with a bunch of material the first few times we got together. In fact, every time we meet we come up with something.
I am also currently rehearsing with a new bassist and drummer for some live gigs in the near future.
I am glad your a sponsor of free guitar lessons as we are but you are available for private tuition yes?
Yes. I have been teaching for all my life including instructional books that I have written, private lessons and co-writing curriculums for music schools. Also, every year I teach masterclasses and do band coaching at the University in Vienna. And then I also have all these free guitar lessons on YouTube including a series called “Vid On Demand” where you can respond with a video asking a question and I will make a video replying to it. Check it out:
lets get into the instrumental composing habits of Milan Polak , do you use outside stimulus such as stories and pictures or do you keep this sonic?
Well, I don’t really compose any instrumentals anymore. I have always been a friend of “real” songs with lyrics, something that “normal” people can relate to and I have written songs with lyrics for all my life. The instrumental songs were always more of a bypass product and every time I had enough to make a CD I would release one. But my main interest has always been composing songs with lyrics. My inspiration or stimulus is life per se – things that happen to me, things I see happening to others, things that are going on in this world, etc.
How do you find interesting progressions? Give us some tips .
Mmmh, that’s a good one. I think generally it’s really difficult to come up with something new. It’s all been done before. I usually come up with stuff either while noodling around on my guitar or mostly while sleeping or when waking up. Most of the stuff I compose was actually written without an instrument. I have a progression or melody in my head, then I just listen and try to keep the flow going…
Its important to find the balance between technical and musical , how do you approach virtuoso techniques in melodies.
My approach is always a musical one. Whatever I do or create is always driven by groove and/or melody. I always try to hear and feel what the song needs. So some of my stuff has fast, technical playing, other songs have slow, bluesy solos and some of my tunes don’t even have a solo at all… haha
I think that unfortunately a lot of virtuoso players just play solos to show off their technical abilities without caring about the musical value too much…
but I strongly believe that in the end it’s always the song that counts.
Can you share how you learn new patterns and how are you finding new fresh harmonies from anything you know or even new and exotic idea’s.
To be honest, I don’t really think in patterns. I’ve gotten away from that many years ago. The guitar is a pattern-based instrument which is cool in the beginning when you start learning because it enables and helps you to learn quicker. Unfortunately, after a few years this becomes a curse and you find yourself being stuck in a rut and always playing the same old licks and stuff. And it is really difficult to get out of this. I started to really pay attention to what I hear in my head and learned how to translate that in real time onto the fretboard.
Actually, I have just recorded a new series on how to break out of patterns for YouTube.
It’s also important to be open. I listen to all kinds of music. And I know this might sound cheesy but lots of things can be inspiring, e.g. nature.
Also, sometimes when I don’t get a chance to pick up a guitar for a few days it can be inspiring.
Give me your top ten guitarists off your head without thinking too deep,
Wow, difficult as I don’t really listen too much to guitar players. One of my all time faves is Steve Lukather who happens to be a friend of mine as well. Great guy, great musician, great singer too.
Then there’s Brian May, David Gilmour, Shawn Lane was awesome, Allan Holdsworth is from another planet, I like Scott Henderson. Oh then there’s Larry Carlton, Eric Johnson. I really like Dan Huff. Paul Gilbert had a huge impact technique-wise and for sure there’s another 100 that I am doing very wrong right now because I haven’t mentioned them…
Are there any new guys that really make you think “I like that”
Yeah, there’s a lot of talent out there. I get to hear a lot of good guys on YouTube when I make the competitions. But in general I have to admit that I do not really listen to guitar music that much anymore. I started to become a lot more interested in singers in the last years. I listen to music, the band, the song, the whole package. If I now listen to CD’s I used to listen to a long time ago I am sometimes like, “Man, how was I able to listen to that?”. And then I realize that the guitar player was good and that’s all I cared about. So I’d say my hearing habits and priorities have changed a lot throughout the years.
Your not short of technical trix , are there any techniques you are breaking into still or have you found a comfort zone ?
I guess, I have found my comfy zone. That’s not to say that there isn’t always something new to learn. But it’s also a question of time. This might surprise many but actual guitar playing makes probably only 10 – 15% of my schedule. The rest is promotion, business, studio jobs, daily life, etc.
As much as there may always be some stuff that I would like to work on, it just doesn’t make it onto my priority list because there are so many other things to take care of…
What would be a great practice week for a growing instrumentalist?
practice, practice, practice; recording, recording, recording; gigging, gigging, gigging; writing, writing, writing;
A lot of guitarists seem to overlook the importance of song writing, recording and playing live. You can be a guitar hero in your bedroom but what counts is what you can deliver when you are on stage and have just that one shot. Recording a lot helps you to become more accurate, improve your timing, phrasing, etc. And all the best technique in the world don’t mean shit if your song writing is bad… in the end it’s always the song that counts and remains.
Do you have a faith ? does it affect your music ?
I do think it is important to have faith in something. I mean if you cannot give yourself a reason why you’re doing all this and putting up with all the BS that happens in this biz, it may be hard to carry on…
But I also think that something else is very important: in my life I have learned to only rely on myself. I think a lot of people in general tend too much to rely on someone/something else which automatically puts them in a kind of victim position. If things don’t turn out right or the way they expected they blame everyone else. Whereas I always look at myself first when things go wrong. I look to find if and where I f###d up before blaming someone else.
Whilst on stage I split my trousers right down the leg and played side on for the set, whats the wors thing ever happened to you live ,?
Well, that would be something that happened on my last tour. I was in Italy. It was a cold month, snow and fog and that particular day the weather was especially bad. You know, one of those days where you just want to stay home. Also, it was during the week (I think Thursday) and not even 100 people showed up for the gig. The drummer started almost every song too fast (normally he played with a metronome, not sure what happened that night) and it was really hard to play and sing a lot of the songs.
We were getting close to the end of the gig and I announced the next song. I was waiting for the count in… nothing… waiting… nothing… I turned around just to find that the drummer wasn’t behind his drum set anymore. It later turned out he had gone to the toilet to take a s..t!!! Right in the middle of the concert!
So there I was on stage not knowing what was going on. Since he didn’t seem to show up again I started playing some sort of unaccompanied blues waiting for him to return. It was the worst moment on stage of my life.
The music industry can be a real maze to wander in with many trappings , how have you found your way ? what advice can you give?
Always be true to yourself. At the end of the day YOU have to live with what you recorded, composed, etc. It’s okay to listen to other people but you have to always evaluate. If you take advices always check WHO is talking and what might be their motive… There are a lot of bullshitters, fakes, people trying to rip you off, etc.
Work hard, don’t expect anyone else to help you or do your work for you. Do what you love and do it with passion not because it is some fashion or trend.
Thanks mate , We love sharing your lessons on shredknowledge and hope you keep posting them , we will always continue to support your ART .
No, I have to thank YOU guys! Thanks for the interview and your interest in my music. I really appreciate your support.
All the best,
Official website: www.milanpolak.com
June 24th, 2010