Interview with Milan Polak from Milan Polak
by Panagiotis Koutsompogeras at 16 June 2005, 11:27 AM
Milan Polak is definitely Austria's most shining, crazy guitar diamond! With his new album, Dreamspaces, he really bursts his way out into the universe of the six string masters having his personal vision, a very clever song writing approach and of course dignity and musical honesty as his weapons! He proved to have a very good sense of humour - through E-conversations - and his answers show that he enjoys his work and trip through the guitar - and not only that - cosmos! You must also note that his scheduled release for his anticipated Guitar Odyssey album will be held back till October, since the success of Dreamspaces made him change his plans. All the best, Milan! So go ahead, read the interview and enjoy the ride through the world of your dream spaces!!!
Hello Milan and congratulations on your Dreamspaces album! I find it truly inspired and really dedicated to the spirit of quality music!
Hello Panagiotis, thank you very much for your kind words and the great review on Dreamscapes!
What do you think is the general acceptance of people towards your new album?
So far it has been overwhelming. Most of the reviews and reactions have been so good that I am sometimes afraid people might think that I pay guys like you…! \[Laughs] While 10 years ago some people were still criticizing me for the fact that I can play different musical styles authentically, I get very good feedback for that now.
Since we are an online magazine, we have to ask you this. What is your relationship with the Internet and what do you think about it as a way of communication?
Internet has become a very important tool in today’s life - same goes for my personal life. I have a website, a fansite, I do a lot of promotional work via internet, I send files to studios via internet, I receive and answer a lot of fan mail - I just couldn’t do without it.
From your entire CD I particularly enjoyed Girlfriends, Dreamscapes, Straight Ahead, Sometimes I Still Miss You. Do you have any short stories about these tracks?
Yes! But I am not sure if you wanna publish them…! \[Laughs] Okay, here we go: Girlfriends: Some girlfriends of mine are bi-sexual. One Sunday morning I woke up with the impressions of a hot night still on my mind and I was trying to recall the vibe. While doing so my head started to come up with what later turned out to be the main theme of ’GF’ - kind of like a movie score…! \[Laughs] With the melody still in my head I ran to my studio, grabbed a guitar and started recording. I kept the original key that I heard in my head (I have relative pitch) which forced me to detune a string. Everybody thinks the song is about my (ex)-girlfriends but if you listen again closely you will hear that the two lead guitars are making love to each other. They are approaching each other in a very subtle, playful way and as the song progresses it gets more intense. The rest I’ll leave up to the reader’s fantasy….
Dreamscapes: I was on holidays with a girlfriend on a Caribbean island. We had rented a bungalow and I was sitting outside on the terrace looking at the beach and watching the sun going down. I was noodling around on my acoustic guitar when suddenly I came up with the main theme and the harmonies. When I returned back home, I went to my studio straight away and recorded the song. This song also gave me the gig with Falco. When he heard the song for the first time, he said, ’You know what it reminds me of? The sunset on a Caribbean beach.’
Straight Ahead: Believe it or not, I like AC/DC and Bryan Adams. I was looking for a riff that was simple but strong (kind of like Brian May’s Hammer to Fall). When I came up with the intro riff and recorded it I could not decide if I should record it more AC/DC-style or Bryan Adams-style so I decided to combine them both. When I came up with the chorus I thought to myself, ’That would be a perfect vocal line for Sammy Hagar.’ Unfortunately, he wasn’t around, so I had to replace the line with my solo guitar…! \[Laughs] A lot of times I will name a song after it is finished by just sitting back, listening to it and trying to find words for its vibe. That’s how this tune got its name.
Sometimes I Still Miss You: I wanted a simple harmony progression with basically one, strong theme. I did not look for any complicated, technical stuff but rather an expressive, strong one take-guitar. Just like with Straight Ahead I sat down after the song was finished, listened to it and then decided to give it that title.
The release of your Guitar Odyssey album, which was normally scheduled for June 2005, will be held back till October. Was this done due to the fact that Dreamspaces had a greater impact than you had imagined?
Yes, you are absolutely right. I was talking to Lion Music (my label) and we both felt that releasing Guitar Odyssey right now would kill the success of Dreamscapes. So I decided to dwell a bit more on the unexpected success of Dreamscapes and release Guitar Odyssey in October instead.
Your music seems to come straight from your heart! Where do you get the majority of your inspiration from?
Well, first of all I am a very emotional, sensitive person. Everything I write, record or play is a direct reflection of my life and my experiences. I am also interested in a lot of different things, e.g. economy, philosophy, psychology, politics. I am an information junkie! \[Laughs] I constantly absorb, feed my head with info and digest it. Whatever moves me will turn into a song sooner or later….! \[Laughs]
Have you ever considered the chance of releasing an album with vocals in it?
It is funny you’re asking. I am working on my vocal debut in my studio at the moment. I have about 30 songs. I have been singing background vocals most of my life and a lot of times people came to me after concerts asking me why I wouldn’t sing lead but I always had the same answer: ’I am a guitarist, not a singer.’ This attitude started to change within the last few years. It is hard to find a good singer and usually I ended up telling a singer what to sing and how to sing it, so I thought I’d give it a try and sing my songs myself.I believe that singing AND playing guitar is the ultimate tool of expression.
You come from the same country as Mozart! Would you be interested enough in issuing a neoclassical album or a Hard Rock cover of classical music?
Not really at the moment. I had my phase of going through the neoclassic period but that was quite a few years ago. I think the whole neoclassical thing has been overdone. I DO have a huge love for classical music which I am showing in my arrangement of J. S. Bach’s Contrapunctus III on Dreamscapes but that’s about it. Maybe later…
Would you say that you prefer working for your own record or do you fancy more participating in other people’s bands as a musician?
I like both. I love making music in the first place and both situations have aspects that I enjoy. I also like producing other musicians. The only trouble I have producing is my vocal stuff - I wish I had a decent producer for that.
Since you are a musician and music surrounds you all the time, what stuff do you like to listen to when you feel like hearing somebody else apart from you?
It might be interesting to know that I NEVER listen to my own stuff. By the time a CD gets released you have usually listened to your songs so many times already that I really do not feel the urge to listen to them even more. Plus, by the time a CD is available for sale I am usually on to something new already. I listen to the finished product one time to check and make sure that no mistakes happened during the mastering process and then never again unless I really have too….! \[Laughs] Also playing my stuff to others or being there when they listen to my music makes me feel uneasy.
With listening to other music, I have two phases, I guess: If I work a lot in the studio, rehearse intensively or play live, the last thing I want to do is listen to music in my spare time. If I listen to music you might be surprised to hear that I almost never ever listen to guitar oriented music (unless I am being forced too! \[Laughs]). Very rarely it excites, surprises or entertains me. I’d rather listen to music with vocals (like I call it ’real songs’) and I usually listen to music more like a producer would. So I listen to the singer’s performance, the arrangements, the production, the lyrics (yes, some people out there do CARE about lyrics - \[Laughs]), the vibe, etc. It is not so important to me if the musicians are great, I look more for a whole package that appeals to me personally or not. Then and when I go back to listen to the music I listened to about 15 years ago and I’m like, ’F…, how could I have liked that? The song is crap, the singer is crap, the drums are off…?’ But then I realize that the guitarist is great and I used to only listen to the guitar at that time. \[Laughs] My musical taste varies a lot. If you click on the faves section of my site you will find Toto next to Pantera next to King’s X next to Beatles, Queen and Stevie Wonder. If I feel like something is good then I will like it, no matter what musical style it is.
OK, and now for some cliches! Which guitarists and generally musicians would you describe as your main influences and sources of inspiration?
Well, my first inspiration were Beatles tunes. Then I went on to the usual Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, etc. but was listening to guitarists like Al Di Meola & Paco De Lucia at the same time. Then a friend of mine turned me on to Randy Rhoads and when hearing him I knew that I wanted to become a serious guitar player. In my today’s playing I’d say you can mainly hear Steve Lukather and Paul Gilbert influences and once in a while a bit of Shawn Lane (to whom I also dedicated the song The Usual Unusual that can be heard on the LNR release ’’J.A.M.).
As I’ve told you before if I see or meet Steve Vai or Joe Satriani on their G3 tour, I will suggest they include you on their list as the 3rd G3 magician! What would you tell them if you met them face to face?
Mmmmh, I don’t know. ’Hi Steve, hi Joe, cool to meet you!’ probably…\[Laughs] I think both have done a lot for the guitar community and their impact can definitely not be denied. Being the third part of a G3 tour would definitely be a huge honour for every guitarist and would probably make me speechless!
Do you generally enjoy life on the road and touring in general?
Yes, definitely. I am a gypsy! \[Laughs] The way I grew up I have been travelling the world a lot. You could say that I grew up on a plane! \[Laughs] So I am used to that. I LOVE visiting different places, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures. The world is such a beautiful place and I don’t understand how some people want to stay in only one place for their whole lives.
Could you possibly tell us any other interesting bands or guitarists from Austria?
Well, I left Austria a few years ago because of the limited possibilities the country had to offer. So, I don’t know what’s going on there at the moment. In the music history of Austria there are only two relevant persons to mention: Mozart and Falco.
Is there any chance that you may include Greece on your tour plan for Dreamspaces?
If I ever get the chance to tour for Dreamscapes I would DEFINITELY include Greece. I love Greece - it is a beautiiful country with great people and beautiful women. And I am not saying this just like that - I truly mean that!
You have also released a couple of instructional books on guitar playing! Do you enjoy teaching and have you discovered any new, true talents so far?
Yes, I like teaching to a certain aspect, that is private lessons. I have a bi-ambivalent relation to music schools, though. I think it is good to have places where they teach you harmony & theory, ear training, sight reading, etc. and it can be inspiring to hang out with other guitarists and/or musicians. But when they start to tell you that Bossanova has to be played this or that way or that you have to analyze 100 Parker and Coltrane solos to become a good musician, I find that a bit bewildering and strange. I mean, the reason why Charlie Parker or John Coltrane became who they were, was because they did THEIR OWN thing - they definitely did NOT analyze Parker and Coltrane solos…! \[Laughs]
Worst when I see a teacher who tells students how to write songs and I’m like, ’Well, who is this guy to tell anybody what to do and how it’s being done…? How many gold records does he have on his wall or how many songs in the charts?’ Almost like a virgin telling you about sex! \[Laughs] There are no rules for certain things and that is GOOD! Music is a creative art and a lot of times in history people came up with cool, new or unique things by doing it the opposite way. I do believe that you should know the rules before you break them, though…. I have seen some talents in my 20 years of teaching but I have also seen many talents getting fucked up by schools.
What advise would you like to pass on to new musicians?
Develop your ear, work on your groove and don’t try to be someone else - because that person already exists. Like Nietzsche said, ’Become who you are!’ We all have our influences (unless you grew up in a vacuum or on a desert island) and that is perfectly fine but still - do your own thing and be yourself! It’s good to have technique and learn how to write & read music but these are not the most important things, I’d say.
If you weren’t a musician what else would you like to do \[apart from being Angelina Jolie’s personal trainer!]?
\[Laughs] Maybe be her guitar teacher? I don’t know, probably a psychologist or profiler.
I know that you are a great fan of Angelina Jolie! How would you find it if she invited you to play in her movies - where you would be wrapped together in leather and silk - or compose the soundtrack for one of them?
One would lead to the other…! \[Laughs] That’s a hard one, man! I mean, I like composing movie scores but the thought of being wrapped up in leather & silk with Angelina is just too tempting! \[Laughs]
Honestly thanks man! Metal Temple wishes the best of luck to you and your plans! Hopefully we will drink some ouzo or other liquor together soon enough! Until then do you have any messages for all the E-readers of our magazine?
Thanks to you and your cool mag - the pleasure is all mine! To all my fans in Greece: Thank you all for buying my album, thanks for your support and your interest in my music! For more info please visit www.milanpolak.com and www.milanpolakfansite.com \[click on the highlighted links to go to the web sites]. There you can also sign up for a news letter. Have a good one!