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Scarred to Perfection (Lion Music)

Your new excellent solo album "Scarred to Perfection" is your fifth solo album I believe?After two instrumental albums you started singing and making well crafted more mainstream music, am I right? Or how would you describe your music?

Thank you! Yeah, it’s been 2 instrumental albums (“Dreamscapes” and “Guitar Odyssey”), and 3 vocal albums (“Straight”, “Murphy’s Law” and “Scarred To Perfection”), plus the Jason Becker Tribute “Warmth In The Wilderness” and the Japan Benefit Project “Embrace The Sun”, all of them released by Lion Music. I also participated in several - as I call them - “guitar hero” compilations, an instrumental rock/fusion CD called “J.A.M.” as well as being a session guitarist for various projects and CDs throughout the years. End of 2015 I wrote and recorded the charity single “Devil On My Shoulder” together with my friend Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), bassist David Ellefson of Megadeth and Paul Gilbert drummer Thomas Lang.
On my latest album “Scarred To Perfection” I really tried to focus on a perfect balance between good song writing, good musicianship and good production. So yeah, you have lots of hooks and melodies but also some heavy riffs and progressive elements, plus some of my best guitar playing to date.

Did this change give you a bigger or just new audience?

I would say it expanded my audience. While with the instrumental guitar stuff you can only reach a certain type of audience, now I have an additional generation of listeners. Some of them don’t even know me as a guitar player. Once in a while I get comments like, “You’re really a great singer and oh, you're also not a bad guitar player…” lol
But of course, there is also the hardcore guitar fan who maybe doesn’t want to hear you sing going, “Dude, I wish you’d do more instrumental shred stuff again.” All in all however I’d say this change did give me a bigger audience.

How long did it take to record "Scarred to Perfection”?

It took about 2 years to finish the album due to me relocating in between. First, I wrote all the songs, recorded the demos and then sent them to drummer Dennis Leeflang who was living in NY at that time. He then recorded all the drums. Then I tracked all the basses (some of which later on got replaced by Fabio Trentini and Kip Winger). Then I recorded all the electric and acoustic guitars, and after that I did all the vocals. I really tried to take my voice to a new level, experimenting with different approaches, layers, etc. For the finishing touch about 2 more weeks went into finding additional sounds and loops.

You have some super cool guests on this album, like Kip Winger. How did this happen?

Kip and I have been friends for many years. He also played bass on “End Of Time” ("Embrace The Sun"/Lion Music). I really respect him as a musician and he’s an amazing singer. It’s always an honor to work with him.
I also asked my friend Neil Taylor, one of UK’s top session guitarists (Robbie Williams, etc.), if he wanted to play a solo on a song called “Rainbow”. Our styles are very different, and he really added a different color.
As mentioned before, Dennis Leeflang played all the drums. He also played on my Japan Benefit song “End Of Time”, so we’d been friends for a while. He is a a very musical drummer, there was little need for explanation when sending the demos to him.
Then there’s Fabio Trentini who played bass on 3 songs and also mixed and mastered the album. We have been working on various projects in the past, and he already played bass on my albums “Straight” and “Murphy’s Law”.

Do you have any plans to tour with this music?

Yes, I am definitely looking for possibilities to perform live. But with clubs closing down left and right, DJ’s and cover/tribute bands taking over, it has become harder and harder for lesser known artists who play original music. I am open to opportunities but it is definitely not what it used to be anymore...

Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve with this album?

Apart from the obvious, I’d say maybe to become more known as a song writer and producer. I hope this album will open new doors and bring new opportunities. For example, it would be nice to join a bigger act or to be involved in a bigger production...

Who were your main influences when growing up and now?

My first influences were bands like the Beatles and Queen, then AC/DC, Iron Maiden, you know the usual stuff. Then I got into guitar players like Randy Rhoads, Van Halen, George Lynch, Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, etc. The first wave of Varney guitarists was huge, too. And there was also Al Di Meola, Paco De Lucia, Shawn Lane and some fusion/jazz players.
Then eventually I became more interested in bands again. You know, the whole group and not just one member… lol
So I’d focus more on arranging, song writing, the production, etc.
Nowadays I barely listen to anything. There’s rarely anything coming out that excites me or anything really ‘new’ that I haven’t heard before.

What kind of guitars and amps do you use and how about your pedal board?

I am endorsed by Ernie Ball Music Man. They make amazing instruments and I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world. I put DiMarzio pickups in them and Ernie Ball strings on them, and that pretty much covers any sound or tone I’m looking for, hands down.
Amp wise I am currently not with any company. I have a custom built tube amp (you can see it in the “This Time” video) and that’s the one I mainly use.
I am not a huge fan of effects, my pedal board is rather simple. I use mostly T-Rex Effects pedals, they are great sounding and reliable on the road and some Dunlop/MXR pedals. I also love the Ernie Ball wah pedal.

How do you see the music business of today with disappearing CD sales and everything focusing on streaming?

What business…? lol All jokes aside, it’s become really difficult to make a living as a musician nowadays. I mean, sure it's never been easy but with the loss of CD sales there’s simply no money coming in or going around anymore. The big acts make their losses back by doubling or tripling the ticket prices, but the smaller artists are f*cked. Now everyone is going back to teaching - even bigger artists - so that market is flooded as well. Everyone that I talk to agrees that except for maybe a few names no one is making any money anymore. Sure with new technology there is new marketing and recording possibilities but that has also made everything accessible to everyone, and personally I don’t think that’s a good thing...

Is it true that there are too many artists and not enough music fans for lesser known artists?

I would totally subscribe to that. The media and casting shows started to sell people this dream that everyone’s a star, everyone has talent, everyone can make it. This was supported and amplified thanks to miscellaneous platforms on the internet, and it led to a generation of people thinking everyone is special or entitled to be famous. Kinda like, “hey, if my talentless neighbor can get famous so can I…” People become “artists” not for the love of music or art anymore but solely for the purpose of being famous and adored.
We live in a society where everyone is obsessed with themselves, where people are famous “for being famous” without any talent or really contributing anything, and quality is usually the first thing that suffers from that situation.
Of course, this is a dead end street. It will sooner or later create a whole generation of deeply frustrated individuals because just like winning the lottery only a few get lucky. As a matter of fact, I think we’ve already entered that phase...

Please feel free to add whatever you like….

I am grateful for having the opportunity to still make music, being supported by people and companies that still believe, and making new friends and connections every day. Thank you for taking the time!
All the best,
Milan Polak