Michael Troy Interview
24th February 2008
Hi Michael, many thanks for agreeing to this interview. You are the first keyboardist to be interviewed at www.baroqueandroll.com so may I congratulate you on this first of all.
MT: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
You have recently gone from relative obscurity to grabbing the prestigious keyboard slot on the last leg of Yngwie Malmsteen's "Unleash The Fury" world tour. How did you get the gig with "the maestro"?
MT: Lol...I was in the "right place, at the right time".
The Malmsteen gig must be the most coveted slot for a keyboardist of your style, how was it playing the classic keyboard lines of Jen Johansson, Mats Olausson and Derek Sherinian?
MT: One of the most rewarding, exhilarating experiences of my life. A dream come true for me.
Was it daunting to step into the shoes of these legends as it where?
MT: Oh sure! I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. I was still playing with Star Wars figures when Jens was making his mark in Rising Force with Yngwie and of Yngwie's past keyboard players, he was my biggest influence. Not in regards to soloing style, but more the Toe-to-Toe duels and the general vibe of that whole thing. Mats influenced me too later on in his really tight and consistent accompaniment style.
Where you quite familiar with a lot of the Yngwie keyboard parts prior to getting the gig?
MT: I've been really into Yngwie's music since I was about 17, so yeah. Very familiar with the parts and also the role keyboards play in his music.
Did you get much rehearsal prior to the gigs and when and how did these take place?
MT: We had 4 days of rehearsal. We went over the assigned songs he had me learn and then Maestro focus's on anything he wants to change or that isn't quite right. What I mean by that is, I'd been playing a good bit of his songs for a long time but always as a variation for solo piano. I'd tend to play too far in the bass register with the left hand and a bit too high in the treble with the right. He likes it when you stay toward the middle and "fill it up" as he says. I have to say also, that it's really quite amazing to watch him direct a band and to be directed by him. He really has a gift for it and I couldn't imagine it any other way. He's a consummate band leader, no doubt about it.
Where you allowed to put your own inflections or is Yngwie pretty strict in what he expects from his keyboardist?
MT: As far as playing the accompaniment keyboard parts, yeah, it's pretty scripted but not uncomfortably so. He allowed me to do my own improvised synth solos during songs Far Beyond the Sun and Rising Force.
What material did you play? Where there any unexpected tracks?
MT: Some of the songs we did were:
Cracking the Whip
Far Beyond the Sun
Gates of Babylon
Baroque & Roll
Crown of Thorns
Trilogy Suite into Red house
You Dont Remember, I'll Never Forget
I'll See the Light Tonight
Yngwie is full of surprises and may change the set list at any time so you've got to be ready. He really keeps you on your toes.
How was it trading solos with Yngwie on tracks like Far Beyond The Sun and Rising Force?
MT: In a word, MAGICAL...I remember thinking..."is this really happening" lol...
What keyboard did you use for the gigs and what sort of sounds do you employ?
MT: I use ONLY Korg Triton Classic 76 key keyboards and Korg Triton Studio 88 key keyboard models. As far as sounds themselves go, whatever sounds (often called "Patches") Yngwie used in the recording is what I strive to get the closest to unless directed to do otherwise. All of my patches are combinations of different sounds (also called voices) so there is a certain amount of keyboard “pre-production" before a show.
What were the most demanding tracks for you as a keyboardist and what provided the most pleasure?
MT: The most demanding...well, It's all demanding, so you can never let your guard down and I always push myself to play my very best. As far as favourites...oh man, where do I start lol...I love it all so much, my favourite instrumentals we performed were Adagio/Far Beyond The Sun, Paraphrase, Baroque & Roll, Trilogy Suite. My favourite "vocal" songs we did were: Rising Force, Crown of Thorns and Cherokee Warrior.
What were your personal highlights from the dates in South America?
MT: There are soooo many...just a few were getting to travel (which I love by the way) to South America and seeing how warm and friendly everyone was down there. Yngwie's South and Central American fans are awesome. There was even a guy that flew ALL the way from Scotland to attend Yngwie's final show of the tour in Mexico City!! And of course every aspect of playing for/with the Maestro and the rest of the band. I have to say also how great Yngwie and everyone in the band were as well as Yngwie's Tour Manager and Manager. All very friendly and professional, just such a wonderful experience all the way around.
Do you know if Yngwie will be using you on any future tours or his next album yet?
MT: It's possible...Im keeping my fingers crossed ;)
So lets go back, what made you take up the keyboard and who were your early influences?
MT: Well, I don't really know what made me start...I was just drawn to it. Earliest influences...Yngwie of course, Jon Lord of Deep Purple, and Jens (Johansson). I was also influenced by the heaviness of bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Dio
How have these influences shaped your playing to where you are today as a player?
MT: Well, Yngwie is by far my biggest influence not only musically but also personally in his determination and perseverance. Had it not been for that positive influence, I definitely wouldn't be the player I am today. Heavy metal influenced me too of course as did the playing of Jon Lord, Jens and others. I'm basically a concoction of all my influences.
When did you realise you had a talent for the keyboards?
MT: I think I was about 12...by the way, I've never had a formal lesson and play entirely by ear.
What sort of bands have you played in prior to getting the slot with Yngwie?
MT: Cover bands of all kinds...I also played solo piano in lounges for several years in Las Vegas during my 20's.
Is music your main job or do you have to work a day job as many musicians do these days to keep the dream alive?
MT: I have played "for a living" already as my sole source of income during the time period when I was doing the solo piano gig thing.. right now I'm juggling a "day job" and Sessioning.
Have any classical works influenced you as a player, if so who/what and why?
MT: The funny thing is, most of my "classical" influence comes from Yngwie's classical influences since that is mostly what I listened to for many years. I am enjoying J.S. Bach "Greatest Hits" cd very much right now though in the past I've listened to mostly Liszt, Paganini (the caprices) and Beethoven. I really like strong melodies, pedal tones, diminished chords, and LOVE octaves.
Do you have any tips for aspiring keyboardists wanting to play in the metal/neo-classical genre?
MT: Well, the road to your goals can be very different for everyone and I don't believe there is any one "right" way...follow your instincts and remember, it isn't just about knowing a million licks and playing fast but playing with your ears and your heart also.
Anything else you would like to tell the readers of Baroque & Roll?
MT: Thanks so very much. Please stop by my NEW website at michaeltroykeyboardist.com and say hello!
Michael, many thanks for your time.
MT: Thank you Andy. It was my pleasure!