MILAN POLAK – It’s more important to be a great guy
Milan Polak er en gitarist med base i USA. Han ga ut sitt 4. album "Murphy's Law" i fjor (2009), som er hans andre ikke-instrumentale album. Milan er også mannen bak "Guitar Heroes – Real techniques" serien og er i tillegg til å være en aktiv gitarist, også lærer ved University of Music & Art i Wien. Han legger ikke skjul på at han setter gitaristenes vennskap foran hver enkelt gitarists dyktighet og fremstår som en jordnær og varm musiker. Likevel er han blant annet blitt kåret som en av verdens 50 raskeste gitarister i Guitar World Magazine i 2008. Les hva Milan Polak har å dele med oss i sitt bidrag til The G-String Series.
When did you start playing the guitar? In what age and which band was actually the one that made you wanting to grab a guitar and start playing?
Hello and thank you for the interview. I started playing around the age of 13. I wanted to learn that intro riff of AC/DC's "Hells Bells". Then a friend introduced me to Randy Rhoads and that's when I seriously wanted to become a guitarist.
What actually makes a guitarist unique? Feeling or technique? Many people for example cannot stand Satriani…who is absolutely a master when it comes to technique!
A combination of both I'd say. Technique means nothing without feeling and vice versa. To master your instrument you need a certain amount of technique but it also depends who you want to please. For some people David Gilmour or Eric Clapton are the best guitarists in the world, for others it's Satriani or Vai. Music is not a sport IMHO but in regards of technique I'd say Shawn Lane was pretty unbeatable. Paul Gilbert has a great technique but there are so many others out there it would go beyond the scope of this interview…
What was your first guitar? Do you still have it?
My first guitar was a "Hondo" 12 string acoustic guitar I think. The action was so high it was almost unplayable… haha
And my first electric was a "Jedson" I think. No, I don't have it anymore. I think I sold it…
Do you think that the guitarist is making the quality or maybe the equipment can do magic?
Again, it's a combination of both IMHO. I differentiate between tone & sound. Tone is what you create with your fingers, sound is what is created by your equipment. You could for example grab Vai's or Yngwie's guitar and run it through the same set up they have and you'd still not sound like them. It's so much more, the touch, the choice of notes, what techniques you prefer to use, etc…
Let me put it like this: if you can't play your gear is not gonna save you…
What kind of equipment do you use? Guitars…pick ups…amps…? Do you use different equipment in the studio and different while playing live? If yes then what is the reason?
I play Ernie Ball/Musicman guitars equipped with DiMarzio pickups and Yamaha acoustic guitars. Amp-wise I recently got a Marshall JVM410H which is pretty much my working horse in the studio and live. I also have a cool combo made by the German company TubeThomsen.
Usually in the studio I try to use various kind of stuff. If time allows I like to experiment. On tour I just take a reduced amount of my favorite gear with me. I also have some cool MXR/Dunlop and T-Rex pedals that I use both in the studio and live.
Construct the guitar of your dreams…brand, pick ups, strings..everything!
I am already very happy with my guitars! I am lucky to be endorsed by all my favorite companies.
I play the Musicman Silhouette and Axis Supersport models, different pickups by DiMarzio equipped with 10's or 11's (depending on the model). The "Luke" model is also awesome!
I like the simple stuff – Tele or Strat body – and maple or rosewood fretboards depending on how I want the guitar to sound like.
Now form the band of your dreams…with you participating of course…Which individuals you think would fit like a glove to your style?
Ooh that's a tough one. There are so many great musicians out there and luckily I had the chance to already play with some of my favorite musicians. I don't have just one favorite drummer, bassist or singer. It all depends on my mood, the music, etc.
Are you participating in the composing of your bands material or you're just a performer? How important is it for an artist to be able to express himself? I mean, if for example you were in a band only for performing someone else's musical themes…would you handle it not participating…not being able to express yourself?
Apart from the fact that I think it is very important to be able to express yourself as an artist, who says you cannot express yourself playing someone else's material? I don't that e.g. Zakk Wylde felt limited playing Randy Rhoads' guitar parts.
I have experienced both playing in situations where I had to play someone else's parts and playing my own compositions. And I can say that I enjoyed both. Sometimes it's challenging having to play someone else's parts and it can even be inspiring. But at the moment I am composing my own stuff.
Have you ever run out of ideas while composing a new album? How did you fight it? What was the solution?
Oh yeah. Unfortunately that happens once in a while. If I am not under time pressure I just let it flow. Sometimes I write two or three songs in a week, sometimes not even a single idea in 3 weeks… If I have to finish an album I sometimes need to force myself to come up with one or two more songs. And sometimes that kind of pressure can even lead to a cool result.
Do you have endorsements? Do you think endorsements are important for an artist?
As already mentioned before I am being endorsed by several great companies. I am very grateful for that because I do think it's important for an artist. Apart from getting some cool instruments and gear, it also gives you acknowledgement for what you do and a certain credibility as well as exposure if the company uses your name and/or picture in ads.
In all the years that you've been playing did something go totally wrong during a concert of yours? If yes, what was it. Please go ahead!
Nothing I can think of apart from little things like a string breaking during a solo or a drummer counting in too fast and you're going "damn, how am I going to play that riff or solo" … lol
And like everyone else I have played gigs where there were more people on stage than in the crowd… haha No amps blowing up or stages collapsing though. Sorry…
Ok then…thank you for answering these questions. One last thing now! Who is the guitarist that you admire or that you would like to "punish" by have him answering these same questions?
Thanks again and good luck with your project(s).
My pleasure! Thanks for having me here. I don't really admire anybody. There are so many great guitarists out there and everyone has their own little thing to them. In fact, I am making some competitions on YouTube then and when where people can win pedals or amps to give some of the awesome unknown players a chance to get heard. I am also providing free guitar lessons, so if you're interested subscribe to www.youtube.com/milanpolak
A thing that I am always more interested in is the person behind the playing. It's more important to be a great guy than the fastest guitarist on earth… and for me that's my buddy Steve Lukather who I've been friends with for over a decade.
I want to take the time to thank all my fans out there for the support – you guys rock!