JENNIFER BATTEN: Above, Below And Beyond

JENNIFER BATTEN is well known as the touring artist for MICHAEL JACKSON and for teaching at G.I.T. She is excellent at two hand tapping and is very versatile. Her first solo album "Above, Below And Beyond" came out in 1992 and ranged from hard rock to pop to jazz fusion songs. Absolute highlight of this CD is her tapped version of "Flight Of The Bumble Bee", the famous violin solo. In 1994 JENNIFER released a CD with THE IMMIGRANTS ("One Planet Under One Groove"), which contains many colourful blues rock elements and a year later she collaborated on Carmine Appice's GUITAR ZEUS project. Currently, JENNIFER is back with the MICHAEL JACKSON band on the HIStory world tour. We asked JENNIFER some questions.

What's it like to be back in MICHAEL JACKSON's band and what's your favorite song to play on this tour?
JB: "It's really fun to be back. We'll be touring a lot of countries I've never been to before, so it's extremely exciting. My favorite song is "Scream", because it's a lot of fun and opens the show."

Is it easy for you to switch from your own music to the JACKSON stuff, which is totally different than yours?
JB: "It takes a big mental shift to go from lead guitar and melody player and writer to the position of rhythm guitar for ninety percent of the show for material I didn't write, but it's still fun and a lot less pressure."

How long will the "HIStory" tour last and which countries are you going to play next, after Holland?
JB: "The tour should last two years. Dates this year include Tunis, Seoul, Taipei, Kaoshung, Bankock, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bombay, Australia, New Zealand and Japan."

During the master classes you did last year in Europe, you had your hair short. I noticed your long hair again on some recent footage from the MICHAEL JACKSON tour. Do you wear a wig?
JB: "Only my hairdresser knows for sure......"

How did the master classes go last year?
JB: "I usually have a blast with the seminars, because it's playing my own music."

Are there any famous young talents around, that once started out as your student?
JB: "Johnny Colt (bass player of the BLACK CROWES) used to hang out in my class a lot."

Who are your main influences? I hear a lot of JEFF BECK and RANDY RHOADS in your playing - Do you agree?
JB: "JEFF BECK is the King for me for years. I learned a few Randy solos for students, that wanted them, but I've learned two CDs worth of material of JEFF BECK's."

You're very famous for your special finger tapping technique and have been writing a few books about it. Are you planning to write more books in the near future?
JB: "The next book will be a transcription of my next album JENNIFER BATTEN's TRIBAL RAGE "Momentum". It will be released in Europe next summer."

Are you still playing Ibanez guitars?
JB: "I switched to Washburn one year and a half ago, as I found the necks to be much sturdier and reliable."

Can you tell us something about the guitars you're using on this tour? Do you have any special strings or elements on them?
JB: "I have an MG 100 plus MG 103. One is swamp ash body and the other maple top on mahogony. Seymour Duncan hot rails in bridge and hot stacks on other two positions. I use Dean Markley 9-46 Blue Steele strings."

Tell us something about the shooting of the video for "Flight Of The Bumble Bee" - it looked pretty scary to me.
JB: "I saw a man on TV (Norm Gary) covered in bees and called him up, so he could cover me for the shoot. He removed the queen bee and put synthetic queen bee odor drops on me to attract the bees. Removing them of their wards was the hardest part."

Can we expect a follow up for THE IMMIGRANTS CD? Is the band still alive and are you still in touch with singer Kali?
JB: "The band has gone through a million transformations. I was disappointed in the mix of that record. I'm recording solos to a follow up record in my hotel room, but this is just a side project for me."

Can you tell us a bit more about DOC TAHRI?
JB: "DOC TAHRI is also a side project, but it's a lot of fun as you can feel from listening to it. I've been great friends with leader Bret Helm, since we started playing together in the 80's."

Are you going to tour with DOC TAHRI in the near future?
JB: "I'll be out with JACKSON for two years, so I'll be unable to play with DOC TAHRI or my own band until 1998. But I'll try to book club openers for myself to play with a DAT tape or something."

How did you get involved with Carmine Appice & the GUITAR ZEUS project?
JB: "I think JEFF BECK told him about me. Carmine was at Jeff's house last X-mas or so and Jeff was showing him a miniature plastic guitar I'd given him, that has pre-recorded licks and grooves in it. I guess they got to talking about me from that. Then Carmine called me to do the record and also a video shoot with Alfonso Johnson."

Did you play any live shows with GUITAR ZEUS?
JB: "All the tracks were already done except the solos and we were all brought in on different days to solo. I also played with them at NAMM show this year."

Is there going to be a GUITAR ZEUS part II and will you be involved, if they would ask you to?
JB: "I think a follow depends entirely on record sales from the first. Only Carmine could answer that one. Just a note: he got the title from Jeff Watson's dog 'Zeus'."

What are your future plans?
JB: "I'll be writing new material for a new record, that I'll record after the tour. Terry Bozzio (drums) and I have been talking about doing a project together. Maybe he'll play on the next record or maybe that will be a seperate thing. It's a long way off at this date though."

Do you have any messages for our readers?
JB: "My message: absorb as many different kinds of music as you can and leave your hair alone! When grunge music hit, hairspray was outlawed - thank God. I only spike it for the show now."

Note: JENNIFER was forced to fly home after the Amsterdam (Holland) gigs to be at her mother's funeral, but she's back on the road again soon. Her replacement was GREG HOWE. We wish her all the best with this sad loss of her mother and thank her very much for still taking the time to do the interview with METAL MAIDENS.

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Rita van Poorten, 1996.

This interview was published in Metal Maidens #6/December 1996.