Borislav Mitic

August 24th, 2005
by EvilG

An Interview With Canada’s (imported) Guitar God – Borislav Mitic

Interviewed in August 1999 by EvilG

Yugoslavian guitarist, Borislav Mitic has immigrated to Canada thereby putting Canada on the guitar god map with his debut CD for the now legendary Shrapnel label. Still virtually unknown to the masses, Borislav’s unique blend of cultural influences with his Yngwie-like shredding capability will no doubt make a huge impact on fans of heavy instrumental guitar music. I was lucky enough to speak with Borislav at length concerning his guitar playing, music and about Yugoslavia. For me it was quite an interesting interview.


Metal Rules!!
Can you tell me about when you first started playing guitar and what inspired you to pick it up?

Borislav:
It was in 1982 in fact, it’s a little weird because what I was inspired by had nothing to do with what I do today. It was the Beatles haha – not a very metal orientated band. I was just a kid you know, 12 years old and I saw that movie “Hard Days Night.” That was what drew me to it with the guys playing the guitars and all the people generally liking it. I moved on from that quite fast. I went with a band that I stuck with for a long time. Inspiration then was Deep Purple with Ritchie Blackmore. Then I think I got anything that had rock guitar – guys like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Marc Knopler, Gary Moore, Eddie Van Halen. I built a gigantic collection of records. In those days I had something like over 2000 records with different sorts of rock music. I was really trying to get my knowledge of guitar from everywhere. That was in my pre-Yngwie Malmsteen years I would say haha…

 

Metal Rules!!
I read in your bio that you were self taught, have you ever had any lessens in theory or something?

Borislav:
No, in fact I’ve never had any lessons I just picked up a few chords when I was a kid with my first guitar. My cousin showed me “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. Then I learned what is E minor, A minor, C major, etc.. I was just picking things from the records by trying to slow them down by putting little weights on the vinyl with songs like like Blackmore’s “Fireball.”

 

Metal Rules!!
Was your first guitar an electric or an acoustic?

Borislav:
It was an acoustic which got broken because I was playing so much. I infuriated my mother just practicing and practicing, she picked the thing up and bashed it on the floor together with a record – I think it was Deep Purple hahaha…Then I got an electric, my first was a Strat then I went to Ibanez guitars and lately I’ve come back to the Strat again.

 

Metal Rules!!
That’s a Strat on the cover of your CD isn’t it?

Borislav:
Yeah it is.

 

Metal Rules!!
It looks as if your fretboard has been scalloped?

Borislav:
Yes, it’s the stock Yngwie Malmsteen model Strat. I wanted a Strat type of sound. I was playing an Ibanez Steve Via Gem guitar which has a certain type of sound.

Metal Rules!!
Were you playing the 7-string model?

Borislav:
No the regular 6-sting one. I just wanted a sound that was more subtle maybe more dynamic. Since the signals tend to be weak I wanted Dimarzio HS-3′s or 2′s (pick-ups). I tried a lot of Strat’s going into insanity you know checking a lot of older, news and custom designs. But this one was really the best that I’ve found. It has a great vide and a great feeling. You take it and you’re like flying on this guitar. The weird thing is, I did try that guitar before and didn’t like it too much and I’ve tried some models recently and they weren’t the same so I guess every guitar is different.

 

Metal Rules!!
I’ve never played on a scalloped fretboard, I’ve wondered what it was like.

Borislav:
the thing that makes it good is if you like high frets its giving you a very high string action and very high frets which is basically the set-up I like to have. It has jumbo frets so when you have that really high action and scalloped neck you have a feeling that it’s very precise, you know exactly what you are doing whereas sometimes when the frets are a little thinner the wood starts to get in the way. With this guitar you rarely touch the wood. It kind of goes well with the Ibanez Gem series. I find Ibanez are generally very good guitars.

 

Metal Rules!!
I really like the lead sound you are getting out of your guitar. So what makes that sound besides the guitar – what effects or amps are you using?

Borislav:
The thing is I didn’t want to complicate things to much so I just played straight through the amp. I used a Laney EC-50 and I played it through a Marshall 100Watt cabinet. I didn’t use any effects except a cry baby wah wah for a couple of tunes.

 

Metal Rules!!
So you didn’t use any EQ or nothing?

Borislav:
No, I didn’t use anything. In fact when I was recording I put everything on the board at zero…all the EQ’s the compression…I really wanted the natural guitar Borislav - inside cover sound. To have something personal, to have the sound that YOU are actually making. I wasn’t completely satisfied but thank-you for liking it. I hope in the future I will succeed to make it ever better. I’m not saying that it’s not close to what I wanted to make but you always want to surpass yourself. 

 

Metal Rules!!
What about your stings – do you use a thick or thin guage?

Borislav:
I use D’Dadario 10′s. 

 

Metal Rules!!
And how about with picks – do you find you can play faster with a thicker pick?

Borislav:
I think with fast playing you really need a hard attack with a thicker Dunlop or Fender pick. Thinner pics are good for maybe doing a clean rhythm but for a heavy chunky thing you need a heavy pic. For leads though I prefer a pic which you can’t bend.

 

Metal Rules!!
Obviously you did a lot of practicing when you were younger but now that you’ve attained a certain level of musicianship do you find that you have to practice as much or do you practice as much now?

Borislav:
It’s true, I really practiced an insane amount (when I was younger). You put very high standards on yourself and you listen to what you are doing. You are hitting notes very hard and going slower and faster and you try to pick up the sounds of the guitar more then there is really there. So sometimes it good to practice not plugged into the amp, you just play and twang the strings playing like a maniac haha…but trying to still maintain musical control you know…After that you get that very very precise staccato like Al Demolia, Yngwie and other people did it that way. I had a lot of friends who were going to musical academies studying classical music and I was always interested in how they were told to practice their instrument so I was doing the same thing – going through arpeggios, scales, different techniques like legato, staccato and doing a lot of classical. I was trying to pick from Latin records and classical music like Paginini, Bach of course inspired by Yngwie who was one of the first people to do something in that direction. So I did practice like lots when I was younger but today I find myself not to practice at all. I guess all those years and all that time I spent with the guitar developed my technique. In fact I was thinking about it recently, it’s miraculous that I didn’t loose it because before (maybe 6-7 years ago) I would get to periods where I wouldn’t play for maybe a week which happened very rarely! I would have to travel somewhere not to play for a week and even then I would take my guitar everywhere. I’m not going to get lazy, I will get back to practicing and push the thing maybe even further to set new goals and new standards for myself.

 

Metal Rules!!
Will you try to play every day or every week?

Borislav:
I suggest to people who want to develop a technique to really play everyday, to take what ever time they can – 1 hour, 2 hours. It’s very important what you do with your instrument. It’s not like you just take the guitar and play anything. It can be good if you are watching TV or doing anything that doesn’t demand extreme attention. You can play by yourself and develop a feeling between you and the guitar. But if you are really practicing you have to disconnect yourself from everything and dedicate yourself. For example, if you’re practicing a 6-note scale you do it for one hour and for that hour nothing exists except those 6 notes. When you play a phrase it has to be perfect. You torture yourself haha, in fact it’s not really torture, you have to have an attitude that it’s something that you want to do and it’s a labor of love…for me at least it was.

 

Metal Rules!!
In terms of your music, where it is all instrumental, have you ever been in a band where there was a vocalist?

Borislav:
Yes I was in vocal bands when I was in Yugoslavia. I started at 16 playing in some local cover bands which were doing like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Foreigner and whatever was at the top of the charts and the local stuff of course. I was always collaborating with vocalists and I worked quite a lot from somewhere like my 20th year for 5 years as a studio musician. So I was doing a lot of things that were connected with vocal music, all were not necessarily metal or shred. It can be that, it can be rock, it can be a ballad type of thing, you know whatever you are called up in the studio to do. So I have done vocally oriented things but not for my own music, it’s always been instrumental. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you have any desire to have your own band with a vocalist or you prefer to remain an instrumentalist?

Borislav:
No, in fact I am very interested now to collaborate with a vocalist. I was trying to search for some new singers to work on new material maybe to do something different for the new record, maybe more vocally orientated. Basically this (current) album is presenting my playing and is also like an invitation to bands who maybe are searching for that type of guitar player to maybe contact me and see if we can collaborate…like Metallica hahaha…

Metal Rules!!
Hahah yeah they could use a lead guitarist now!

When you are writing instrumentals how do you decide upon a title, seeing as how there are no lyrics?

Borislav:
It depends…like if I want to dedicate my song to somebody, like to my wife on the song which is called “Bird Dance” or if I have something like a feeling that I would like to transmit to listeners like with “The Mystic.” Sometimes I write the song and change the title, it’s not really a strict thing.

Metal Rules!!
Borislav Mitic - CD CoverCan you give me a couple of examples from the CD? How about “Sky Rider”?

Borislav:
For Sky Rider I came up with the title because of the rhythm. There is a part before the solo which goes with volume pedal swells on a clean guitar and sounded like some kind of un-earthly thing – like a vision of somebody galloping through the clouds on a winged horse.. haha…or something like that. So I called the song Sky Rider cause it was a vision that I saw when I heard how the song sounded after it was recorded. The song can tell you something or remind you of something. It can be something intentional like “Light of Seven” which is a weird thing because in some theologies the 7 is considered a number of god. When I was making the sound for the song on my amp I was tweaking the knobs trying to fond the best sound because I was playing through a wah-wah. When I did find the actual sound I looked at the amp and all the knobs were at 7, so it was like ok I have to include 7 in the title and actually I played it on the Gem777 guitar haha.

 

Metal Rules!!
Can you tell me how you hooked up with the other guys who are playing on the CD (Jacques Roy & Marc Bonneau)?

Borislav:
When I came to Montreal I started to ask around the music circles, I checked out the music studios, basically trying to find out who are the best guys in town to do the sessions for the recording. Everyone was pointing to Jacques Roy. He’s a great bass player, maybe he didn’t cut out too much on the album but there are some parts, especially on the Bird Dance, with a taste of his abilities. So that’s how I got with them – through recommendation. They both did an amazing job, they did the basic track session in two days for the whole album and in fact we had like two rehearsals before that. So there were quite amazing.

 

Metal Rules!!
Were they playing this style of music before you hooked up with them?

Borislav:
They were playing different music. They were playing with some kind of Canadian stardom characters like Edward Rockwazine (the fuck if I know how that’s spelled or who it is). I don’t know if you know that person? He was like a big star in France and Canada he’s like the next big guy to like Celine Dion and some pop singers.

Metal Rules!!
If it’s not metal I don’t know about it (and don’t want to haha)!!

Borislav:
These were people that when I came here I didn’t know myself but they were like very high-selling people. They have a fusion history, a metal history. They went through all that type of things.

 

Metal Rules!!
Did these guys help at all with the writing or arranging?

Borislav:
No, I write all the songs myself and all the arrangements. I gave them a tape of the songs to learn then we rehearsed for two days then went to the studio and cut the songs. All the album was practically recorded live except after I went back and did overdubs for the guitars. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Have you jammed with these guys at all since the recording was done?

Borislav:
No, not for now.

 

Metal Rules!!
And how about playing out live in Montreal, have you done so yet?

Borislav:
No I’m not really playing this type of thing live. I’m more into trying to promote my album overseas in Europe and in Japan where it’s also released. Right now I’m searching for management to try to hook up with some companies for endorsing and if I do some live gigs it will probably be some clinics I think.

 

Metal Rules!!
Are you still signed to the Shrapnel label?

Borislav:
Yes I am and right now I’m getting back into the song writing process and I would like to make something (like always) completely different from what I’ve done. I’d like to make something completely intense and mad.

 

Metal Rules!!
So you have started writing?

Borislav:
Yes I’m writing for two albums – a vocal one and an instrumental one.

Metal Rules!!
Will both be on Shrapnel or your not sure about the vocal one yet?

Borislav:
Well I’m sure one of them will be on Shrapnel and the other one – I don’t know.

 

Metal Rules!!
According to your bio, you sent your demo entitled “Fantasy” to Shrapnel, is this the demo that got you signed to that label?

Borislav:
Yes, as you know I come from Yugoslavia. After a couple of years I decided things were not going in the direction that I wanted. I just took my album which I made for Serbia Yugoslavia while I was there – the one I mention in my bio which is called Fantasy. I sent it to Mike Varney to see if they would call me back. I just put it in an envelope and sent it and they actually liked it and called me back and so I was then signed to Shrapnel.

 

Metal Rules!!
Was is the deal with Shrapnel that prompted you to move out of Yugoslavia or was it more that you were going to leave anyway and you were just lucky enough to have a North American record deal?

Borislav:
In fact it was mainly that which pushed me to go there because now it’s not very easy to exit Yugoslavia considering all the visa trouble that people from my country are having. For me to go and to make records, collaborate with other musicians, join a band…that was not possible from Yugoslavia so I had to move because of that reason primarily and somehow at the same time when my album got published everything was going down in my country, things turned in a very bad way so…

 

Metal Rules!!
So when you did leave what made you choose Canada, and why Montreal?

Borislav:
The main reason was that considering that I am an English person and my wife is French, she is from Paris, so we thought that Canada is a bilingual country where you can survive with both languages. If we went to France it would be different because I didn’t speak French – I do speak it now a bit. It seemed to appropriate…it was close the the United States so I could do things with my record company – fly in and fly out, without having to fly over the ocean for 10 hours. That was the main reason I choose Canada.

 

Metal Rules!!
I have a couple of questions about Yugoslavia – about what it was like being a musician over there – if you don’t mind?

Borislav:
That’s ok.

Metal Rules!!
In general what was it like being a musician in Yugoslavia as opposed t what you’ve found it to be like in Canada so far? 

Borislav:
It’s hard for me to say what it’s like to be a musician somewhere else because I’m basically just starting to do that. I think I will have an exact opinion on that in a couple of years maybe. But for Yugoslavia, it was really great to be a musician there because people maybe don’t know but it was a country that was very, very open to a lot of things, especially to metal and rock. It’s very popular there, especially in the 80′s. Maybe I can make a comparison to where I am now – it seemed like a musical world center which would maybe be a surprise to people. There were people practicing and playing, all the bands were making tours there. I will just mention an example – Dire Straits, you know their album ‘brothers in arms’ with that hit ‘money for nothing’? Well it was first released in Yugoslavia in Belgrade and then everywhere else in the world for example and they started their tour from here. It was like any other place like if you say Italy – Rome or France – Paris, Yugoslavia – Belgrade, it was like that. Compared to where its turned in the last couple of years well it’s very difficult because people which are not under that kind of pressure don’t realize what it means with United Nations sanctions and all those pressures…military intervention. You can’t really live a normal life like that. Everything becomes distorted, all the values. People are struggling to maintain some kind of standard of life to just basically survive and get through every day things. So naturally, the cultural/artistic thing deteriorates and you just follow whatever is on the market. That’s basically a contour of musical events and developments of the last decade.

 

Metal Rules!!
When you were living in Yugoslavia was an end-goal always for you to some day get a deal from a North American label, or at that time were you happy with the situation you were in?

Borislav:
I was always ambitious and I guess any musicians dream is to be presented to the widest possible audience that you can so for that you need some kind of worldwide record deal. Since I was very progressive metal orientated I was always into the Shrapnel people like Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore. You know after Yngwie, those guys had all those records. I considered Shrapnel “THE” label that I would like to make something for and in fact it turned out that now I have a record for them so it was like a little personal victory for me.

 

Metal Rules!!
So how do you like Canada so far that you’re been here?

Borislav:
Well it’s an interesting place. Really I need more time to discover it because I don’t know much more about Canada except Montreal. I would really like to check out the other bigger centers like Toronto and Vancouver.

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you plan on staying in Canada, or do you hope to someday return to Yugoslavia?

Borislav:
I guess I will be somewhere in the middle, not completely attached anywhere. Basically making a base for myself here in Canada and do my musical thing from here but I still intend to collaborate and work with my people from Serbia Yugoslavia.

 

Metal Rules!!
Obviously then you still have a lot of friends and family over there so it must of been very distressing during the recent strife or problems that has gone on over there.

Borislav:
Yes all my friends and family are there so it’s very distressing when somebody is dropping bombs on your hometown, you don’t like it.

 

Metal Rules!!
It’s hard for someone from Canada to relate to something like that because it’s just something on the news and you can’t imagine something like that happening here.

Borislav:
Yeah…people there also couldn’t imagine that it could happen there you know. Even I think when all the missiles and Tomahawks were falling people still couldn’t believe it was happening. They were probably looking at the sky thinking it was a gigantic TV screen, but the buildings were shaking really hard, so my mother tells me. So I guess that it was quite a horrible thing. I hope that it will not leave too much consequences because of the pollution kind of thing with the nuclear fillings and radiation…you know with the leftover missile casings with the depleted uranium fillings that they were using…I hope it will not leave too much traces. It basically really sucks when all the media lies about you, it really overturns things. It’s strange really, the power media has today when they can paint things in whatever color you want. You can say like Borislav Mitic has horns and they are very spikey. If you print that in New York Times or whatever, everybody is gonna say “did you see that Borislav? His horns are so big man..” haha… 

Well I guess people will maybe start to realize those things and some of the things in the world, maybe in a decade or so, it will change with the global political scene will stop being that way. I guess for now all that we can do is make the best of the things we are like with the music or whatever we are doing. I will just try to make the best music that I can.

 

Metal Rules!!
So you told me you’ve been writing for a new album…how has it been sounding in comparison to what I’ve heard?

Borislav:
I am really just beginning to compile ideas really and defining an exact direction where I will go. The only thing that I can say is maybe I’ll try to make it a little more intense than I did on this one.

Metal Rules!!
Well that sounds good haha!! I like it HEAVY….

Borislav:
You like that direction huh?

Metal Rules!!
Yeah! I still like some of the slower songs on your CD but I get more excited when it’s like double kicks on the drums with the fast shredding guitar…

Borislav:
In fact that’s the thing like I was doing before with really a lot of those double kicks and extremely fast playing. I hope that I still have a lot of diversity but…that’s why I intentionally wanted to avoid a lot of double kicks on this one. All that shred and that type of guitar playing is connected to that.. You just hear that double bass, everybody was doing it so I just said ok I’m not going to do it just to make it different. but ahhh…

Metal Rules!!
But you’re going to do some more of that again? haha

Borislav:
hahah….well in any case I did what I did for this one and I don’t like to repeat myself too much. I basically have some sort of style forming so I will try to develop my own ‘voice’ but very intense would maybe be the word I would use.

 

Metal Rules!!
What are your feelings on some of the other bands that I guess have a lead guitar player that is very influenced by like the shredding and the Yngwie / classically influenced style with band like Stratovarius and to some degree Children of Bodom  – both bands have lead players influenced by this…there are more and more bands now again that are getting back to REAL guitar playing.

Borislav:
I think that’s great and I didn’t hear the later band you mentioned, I did hear Stratovarius a bit but I think it’s really great that especially from Europe that this type of thing is returning with people really trying to play and be proficient on their instruments and to not to try and steal the media with the latest thing like on the front cover with ok let’s grunge, let’s this or whatever because it’s “cool” or because somebody told them it was. I think honesty in music is most important, and I think that people who are doing that kind of thing ought to be the best that they can be. I really give all my support to the people who are trying to do that and build up their style – whether they are influenced by Yngwie or anyone else for that matter because all the people who have Yngwie in them, well Yngwie also has in himself Al Demolia, Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore combined. You get that and a little bit of classical and basically you get Yngwie. But I think he’s a great point to start from, I would advise anybody who wants to make metal lead guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Eddy Van Halen and Yngwie are like the three most important rock guitar players that have ever appeared, especially for their lead styles.

 

Metal Rules!!
What contemporary lead guitarists have you heard that really impressed you?

Borislav:
Well I like Fred Garcet (sp?) a lot. He was playing for the legatto (sp?) records…I don’t know if you’ve checked him out?

Metal Rules!!
I haven’t heard him no.

Metal Rules!!
Ok he was playing with a band Nelson before in Australia. The band was like very soft like sweet metal or rock maybe but still the kind of thing many headbangers would appreciate and he’s a great shred monster. He did an album with a guy from Dream Theater – Derek Sherinian (keyboards until January 1999, replaced by Jordan Rudess) so you people can check that one out. Because I’m basically a guitar fan, I’m completely drowning in all this stuff that’s happening. I like the usual crew like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Michael Lee Firkins, Frank Gambale, Allan Holdsworth (cause I’m also listening to a lot to jazz fusion). I really have a lot of things on my CD player.

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you mainly listen to music that is more guitar driven, or more lead guitar driven?

Borislav:
I think that the presence of guitar is determining my orientation but I’m not only listening to like guitar shred stuff. Some might be surprised at what I’m playing and listening to like a lot of cultural music like Indian and classical stuff or like whatever…like what Metallica is doing or Maiden and the old British style of metal or pop music or the new album of Eric Clapton. I’m really still trying to keep that thing like I had at the beginning by being open to everything and listen to everything from jazz to classical, pop rock, heavy, ULTRA heavy whatever hahaha. It will all eventually resurface in my music and (I will) profit from it.

 

Metal Rules!!
I can definitely hear that your music is not just influenced just by the “lead guitar gods”, there are other sounds in there like on for example “Celtic Legends” and stuff which is different.

Borislav:
That’s a very important thing for me because I was finding that when I was doing demos before, if you do it in that way like you play very fast and only classically orientated or whatever it will be like you are repeating one sentence all over again. It can be great, it can be flashy and it can be varied but after a while you really want to expand and like say maybe some different stories. When I was listening to classical music I found I was initially very inspired by music which is very dynamic…it can speak very soft to you and you can play something like staccato and its much madder than Yngwie by 1000 times. When you play on distortion and guitar it’s just, it doesn’t seem to be, how would I put it…you don’t have as many options on that instrument so I tried to cover up with being very multi-directional and trying to expand myself into composing and it ended up in this album.

 

Metal Rules!!
Well that’s pretty much all the questions I had for you. Is there any other news or things you’d like to pass along?

Borislav:
Well that’s all I’ll pass on for now. I’m just starting to work on my next material. Thank-you for the review and the interview because right now in this stage I really need all the support I can get. All the publicity and all the presentation and every good word that anybody has to say – it really counts. I guess the thing that you and a couple of other people are doing I hope it really will help and in any case it does matter.

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