IN THE DARK with Mike Zatezalo
It's now 2021, and concert venues have been silent for months. The echoes of cheering fans and loud amplifiers are all that remain in our memories of these once-packed rooms. We're doing what we can to change that. Back in December, we took over a historic Chicago hall, and invited several area musicians to rip it up on stage. No rules- just an empty venue, a camera crew, and the spotlight.
FRET12 proudly presents, the sixth episode of IN THE DARK, filmed at Pilsen's legendary Thalia Hall featuring Mike Zatezalo from Chicago, IL - lead guitarist for Maiden Chicago (Iron Maiden Tribute), The Sam Cockrell Band, and Valius.
Originally from Columbus, OH, Mike started playing guitar in 1989, but his musical journey spawned from listening to an eclectic concoction of Bozo The Clown records, singing along with 80s Pop Radio, and learning classical piano. He took lessons for seven years before even picking up a guitar. By the age of 11, his father's Led Zeppelin albums were laying the groundwork for a love of rock riffs. When he heard his friends at school playing electric guitar, and recreating his favorite riffs just the way they were supposed to sound- it ignited a fire. His first guitar was a beat-up no-name acoustic laying around in the basement, but an electric was soon to follow. A cheap Epiphone S-600 was Mike's first real guitar, and in true 80s fashion: "those super strat, pointy-headstock guitars were the rage." Mike and his friends quickly found out about bands like Megadeth, Guns N' Roses, Slayer, and Iron Maiden; whose guitar-heavy tunes really helped things take off.
His music career has taken him all over the place, and to a wide variety of stages, but some of his most memorable gigs were playing "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Covelli Arena in Youngstown, OH, as well as playing the iconic House of Blues Chicago with his Iron Maiden Tribute band: Maiden Chicago. With his passionate dedication to music, Mike relies heavily on his gear to keep his gigs going like a well-oiled machine, and the one piece of gear he couldn't live without is his Line6 Helix. His lifelong dedication to performing music is matched only by his love of this very unique instrument we all know as guitar.
"The guitar, more-so than any other instrument I can think of, has the ability to articulate the personality and nuances of the player - and it offers a seemingly endless number of ways to express oneself. The way each person attacks the instrument is different. The amount of pressure one person applies to the strings differs from another - the way one person bends strings and moves their fingers will never be exactly the way someone else does. A player's physicality and emotion will vary from day to day, and the guitar is able to capture and express those differences, even if they are minute. When you factor in the variety of instruments, amps, effects, techniques, phrasing and note combinations....the possibilities are endless." - Mike Zatezalo
And speaking of gear, what you'll see in this performance is a stage-shaking rig that is chock-full of cool Chicago-sourced gear. His guitar was a custom build by John at Cuda Guitars. John is a local luthier and built this guitar named Katrina. While it wasn't built for Mike, it was one of those instruments that was calling out to him when he saw it hanging up in the showroom. The rest as they say, is history. Katrina has a set of Dominger Custom Pickups which are higher output, but still very versatile and articulate.
When we invited Mike to come tear up the stage at Thalia Hall, he was more than happy to be able to bring in his half stack and turn it up really loud and have at it! After all, playing your rig at full throttle is something we all don't get to do often enough. One of Mike's favorite movies is "Fletch", and Harold Faltermeyer composed the gloriously synth-laden soundtrack for it. Mike transposed a variety of Harold's complex synth parts and performed them live, looped them with the Helix, and then laid down plenty of lead guitar goodness over the top with the help of Katrina.