Ibanez: What inspired you to start playing guitar?
Mike: I started on piano at a really young age. Then, I got into rock music as I got older. When I was about 10, I got into Guns N¡Ç Roses [laughs] pretty heavily, them and Metallica. Basically, I was learning all these Guns N¡Ç Roses songs on piano, but I needed to sound like Slash. So I decided to switch to guitar and learn to play like Slash. That¡Çs how it started.
Ibanez: When did you first start playing Ibanez guitars?
Mike: I remember finding that yellow guitar. It¡Çs the RG565. It was used at West LA Music, and it was just sitting there. It was one of the first things I saw when I walked in. I was in 9th grade, and it was probably around 1995 or 1996. I had to have it, but I had no money. So I worked all summer to get it. I probably went there like 4 or 5 times over the summer just to make sure they still had it [laughs]. That was the first Ibanez guitar I played, and it¡Çs one of the best feeling guitars I¡Çve ever played on.
Ibanez: What drew you to the RG as your main guitar?
Mike: I really liked the feel and the look of it. At that point, I was getting more heavily into Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani. They were all Ibanez guys. They all had cool looking guitars. I remember my first guitar was a white Strat, which I still have and love, but it wasn¡Çt quite me. It didn¡Çt have the right sound, look, or feel. So learning from these guys, seeing them live, and looking at the CD booklets, I fell in love with the Ibanez guitars. So when I saw that one in the store, it was all of a sudden a possibility that I could have one.
Ibanez: How did you and Colin meet?
Mike: We met at college, at NYU. We were kind of the metal heads at a New York college, where everyone is a little bit ¡Ècooler than that¡É. I think he was wearing a Neurosis shirt, and I was probably wearing an Ozzy shirt or something. It was early freshman year, so no one knew anyone that well. I was like, ¡ÈWell, this guy is into metal. I can relate to that. Let¡Çs hang.¡É So we met at a party, talked music, and decided to get together and play.
Ibanez: Was there immediate musical chemistry between the two of you?
Mike: Yeah, pretty much right off the bat we came up with some riffs that appeared on our first EP, ¡ÈArctopocalypse Now... Warmageddon Later¡É. It was a self-released thing. ¡ÈAlcoholocaust¡É and ¡ÈYou Will Be Reincarnated as an Imperial Attack Space Turtle, Part 1¡É were both a collection of riffs that we came up with pretty early on, within the first couple of times playing together. We just started with trading CDs and trying to figure each other out.
Ibanez: Did you have any specific things that you wanted to do differently when it came time to record ¡ÈSkullgrid¡É?
Mike: By the time we were writing for ¡ÈSkullgrid¡É, everything was being notated on paper. It started a little bit before, but we were very diligent about writing everything down.
Ibanez: What was the reasoning for that?
Mike: For one, it gives the writer great control over the overall sound. In rehearsal things got changed around a little bit, but for me, Colin, and Charlie it was a way of organizing thoughts. If it¡Çs on paper, then it¡Çs ¡Èreal¡É. If it¡Çs in your head and you can¡Çt remember it the next day, it¡Çs gone. It was a good way to go back to something and really fine tune it and get it sounding exactly the way you wanted it to on paper, before you even tried to play it on the instrument. So it was definitely a tool in that sense.
For the recording, we did things a little bit differently. We definitely wanted the drums to sound a little more produced. So we did use some samples and triggering for the kick drum. That helps to kind of solidify that ¡Èmetal¡É sound. We did a lot more double tracking for the guitar as well. I really like the way Psyopus albums sound, and I know Chris pretty much doubles everything almost. It just has that quality, when you have two takes of the same track. You get that nice phasing, and it sounds a bit wider. We did a lot more effects stuff, too.
Ibanez: What¡Çs your favorite track off of the new album?
Mike: [Laughs] I don¡Çt know. I kind of like ¡ÈSome Mist¡É. I wrote it at work in three days. It was one of the quickest songs that ever came together in the writing process. It's really different from the rest of the stuff. To me it stands out, but I also like ¡ÈYou Are Number Six¡É. That¡Çs also really different, and it¡Çs just heavy. It¡Çs doomy and black metal-y, and we don¡Çt get to do that a lot.
Ibanez: What¡Çs the one food you can¡Çt live without?
Mike: Cheese. I put cheese on everything.