Interview With Michael Abdow
By Keith Clement
Introduction: Michael Abdow is a American modern electric guitarist. Emerging from the North Eastern U.S. club scene, he is known for his soulful character, technical ability, and in depth compositional style. He is also known for his work with Ray Alder, Fates Warning and Last Chance To Reason. I had the pleasure to talk to him on his new release Heart Signal. An absolutely amazing musical phenomenon he has done. He is indeed the next big thing when it comes to guitars.
Hey Michael, Greetings from Metalheads Forever Magazine, I’m Keith Clement the Editor-In-Chief, how are you doing today?
Hi Keith, greetings and thank you so much for talking with me. I’m doing well here!
Today you are releasing your fourth studio album ”Heart Signal” can you tell me about this album in terms of production and music writing?
Yes, today Heart Signal is released, about 10 years to the month after my first record Native Alien. I’ve always made my records in my various studios and the recordings have evolved sonically with my setup and my experience. Shawn Deneault and Tony Franklin recorded in their studios but I worked with Shawn in person while we tracked the drums. My guitars, mixing and production were all done at my studio called The Heritage Room. I use all the session drum sounds and record with my tube amps. It’s not by any means superior but just maybe a little different from what is commonly done today.
On the music side of things, I had written and demo’d the songs before bringing Shawn and Tony in to put their voices on them. Shawn also contributed to writing Synthetic Origins, Cherry Blossom Descent, and The Hand That Takes.
“Heart Signal” is an amazing Progressive album for the year, I would say, how do you feel being the man behind it?
Thank you Keith! That sentiment is both flattering and humbling. I’m grateful for the way my music is received, though the gratification I get is largely in achieving something on a personal level. I’m always reaching for something and if I can achieve even a portion of what that is, then the endeavor is meaningful. I feel like I reached something special with Heart Signal and the fact that it resonates with people really elevates the music.
Can you tell me about your musical career, how it all started?
I have been playing in bands since the late 90s when I was in high school; all the while constantly writing and recording. I went to community college for music in 2002 but it wasn’t until about 2008, when I joined a regional 80s band (Aquanett) that I was able to do music full time. At the same time, I was playing with Frozen and Last Chance To Reason before finding my way to Fates Warning in 2013. I’m still in Aquanett, of course playing with Fates Warning, and also Ray Alder. Throughout all of this, I maintained my solo pursuits and explorations.
You have worked with some of the biggest bands in the rock/metal history, how does it feel for you to make something of your own?
It feels wonderful. I have been writing for most of my musical life and it’s always been at the core of why I do music: to create. Ever since I started playing, I always loved how my favorite musicians networked and collaborated together on different releases. I’m very fulfilled to now be doing that with some of those same musicians I listened to and love. That interaction has very positively influenced what I write on my own.
The album is something so amazing, A child’s laugh, as an interlude, that is so sweet, and sounds like you are giving a message through the album, Would you like to share your thoughts on this?
Thank you…yes, that is my daughter Nora on the first track Weight Of The World. That song is a concept of transformation and for me personally, she is the guiding presence. The concept is independent of time in that all the ideas happen simultaneously. It’s just in our method of story telling that they must be sequenced. The true essence is how the listener feels at the end, and the complexity of all the parts resonating together in the summary feeling. It’s as if we are all of those moments at all times.
Can this album be considered a concept, if so what is the major concept you have put behind it?
It is indeed a concept. This is directly from the liner-notes: “The journey inward is a journey outward and once you start down the path, you find that the journey is simply realizing that all you thought you were, are, and will be is actualized in the present moment, independent of time. You just had to go through this exercise in order to separate yourself from what you thought was real, and to discover what you’ve always known, what you’ve always wanted, and that it was always and is yours.”
Music is not about genre, its about how you put your heart inside of it and make it happen, a perfect one, you have made it beautifully incorporating different styles inside, What made you not to stick into a particular genre?
I agree! And it’s nice to know that you interpret what I’m doing in this way. I listen to and enjoy many different styles of music, and so it is hard for me to try to be a specific type of writer or player. I play electric guitar and have a rock/metal background, so of course that is going to be in the music. But generally speaking, whatever feels right is what I go with. It doesn’t have to meet any stylistic criteria. That’s both honest and exciting to me.
What are your upcoming plans?
For the immediate future, I’m recording a few solos for the next Fates Warning record. Afterwards, I’ll start exploring some new ideas for my next release. Once it is safe to play shows again, Shawn and I have plans to bring my/our instrumental music to the stage. Also, when tours resume, Fates Warning will likely go out in support of the new record. Aquanett will also be back on our circuit.
What do you suggest for growing musicians, how can a beginner perfect the art of guitar?
It’s important to live with your instrument. Explore the theory and practice the techniques but that’s not where it ends. It’s so important to have your hands on the instrument, not only when you are practicing but also when you are bored and have no clear goals. Always let your ear guide what your hands are doing and get lost in the experience. Also, be sure to listen to music you enjoy almost as much as you play. There’s no perfecting the art, it’s just a matter of how deep you want to go with it.
What are some of the greatest moments you had in your musical career?
Most recently, there was a show that Fates Warning played opening for Queensrÿche. There was a problem with the lights and the stage went dark at the beginning of a long slow intro to one of our songs. The audience all took out their phones and lit the stage for us. That was a moment I’ll never forget…just people coming together. It was beautiful.
Another was the last show of Fates Warning’s Live Over Europe tour in Athens. We played over 2.5 hrs of music for the live record. That is a scenario that I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was younger.
Would you like to give a message for the fans and readers?
Thank you everyone for being interested in what I am doing and to you Keith and Metalheads Forever Magazine for talking with me. It’s been a pleasure and I hope we can do it again.
MHF Magazine/Keith Clement