Guitarist Michael Harrison stokes the star-maker machinery

Big names boost career of Milford native, who shares what he's learned about getting songs written and produced

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  • Milford native and guitarist Michael Harrison (right) with Dorian Mordrake (Photo provided)

  • Joel Hoekstra, the lead guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Photo provided)

  • Drummer Kristin Ieraci (Photo provided)

  • Guitarist Chuck Bungo, a college friend of Harrison's, in the studio (Photo provided)

  • Michael Harrison (Photo provided)

  • Guitarist Dorian Mordrake (Photo provided)

By Anya Tikka

— After a stint teaching at the School of Rock in Pittsburgh, Michael Harrison has moved on to creating original music.

The Milford native has already released a hard rock album of his own, "Welcome to Glove Mart." He's now working on a collaboration with some big names in the rock world, while bringing some of his own, less-known buddies along with him. Some Milford musicians will be playing on the new album, including vocalist Mike Trentacosta and guitarist Dorian Mordrake.

“It’s mainly a guitar driven rock album with bass guitar and keyboards in most of the songs," said Harrison. "I do a lot of that myself, mix different elements.”

Also performing on the album is Michael Angelo Batio, a heavy metal guitarist who played lead for the Los Angeles-based glam metal band Nitro in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Once Batio was on board, Harrison said, things started to pick up.

“I wanted to reach out to some more popular players," said Harrison. "Michael Anglo’s name carries a lot of weight. I started recording with him, and it’s is such a big deal.” Joel Hoekstra, the lead guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and for White Snake, a popular heavy band, will also perform on the album.

The new album will have a few vocals but is mainly instrumental.

Al Petrelli, another member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, is from the Milford area but is currently too busy to record with Harrison. Petrelli is the leader of the group's winter tour.

"He encouraged me to go ahead," said Harrison. "He’s a great guy. He’s listened to our music a couple of times. I mentioned to him that I’m am local, and hope to record with him in future."

Harrison said Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a large group that splits in two, with one group touring the western half of United States and the other group touring the eastern half. Each group has between 20 to 30 players.

Harrison also started contacting friends — “a bunch of other musicians" — and the word spread.

Chuck Bungo, a guitarist he knew from college, got involved. He’s still looking for a few more singers for the album. The core performers are drummer Kristin Ieraci and Chuck Bungo on guitar.

“My goal was to take well-known musicians and put them on track with less-known people who haven’t yet reached that level of a chance," said Harrison. "I own my own studio where I do my own recordings.”

The better-known musicians, like Batio and Hoekstra, have their own professional studios, where Harrison records. But he keeps the sound squarely under his own control.

“We balance sounds, master up the way we want it to sound,” he said.

'Going around until we get it'Harrison said it’s a challenge working with so many people, with all the scheduling and coordination involved. He wants the album done by the end of the year. Thirteen tracks are now in progress, and Harrison doesn't think there will be more.

“I come up with the general structure for each song, and then it kind of gets passed on around everyone who’s in it," said Harrison of his creative process. "It’s a group effort, going from person to person. I send it to whoever is playing on it, saying, 'I have something,' and either 'Come over,' or 'I’ll come to you.' Everybody gets their idea in.”

He said he sits down with his guitar and plays three or four minutes of "different melodies or chords that all link together, and then stop."

He gives the chord progressions to the other musicians.

"Once that’s in, it sounds completely different, and I say, 'That works,' or not. Then I send it to Chuck, saying, 'Why don’t you see what you can add to it?' lead guitar, rhythm guitar, whatever.”

Once he gets that back, he decides if it’s good.

“It keeps going around until we get it,” he said.

When ready, the album will go on sale on Amazon, Google Play, and YouTube. Most people get their music in digital format nowadays.

Harrison’s studio is set up in Pittsburgh, although he's currently in State College, where he’s working on his Ph.D dissertation in music with a focus on guitar.

“My main thing right now is working on my own education and getting this project going,” Harrison said.

Related stories "Shredder" Mike Harrison gets endorsement contract:

"Ready to shred":

“My goal was to take well-known musicians and put them on track with less-known people who haven’t yet reached that level of a chance."
Michael Harrison

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