Greg Howe: Matt Blackett interview for guitar player magazine

You’ve had a lot of big sideman gigs over the years. You said you got the call for the Michael Jackson gig on a Monday and you had to be onstage in Amsterdam that Wednesday. That seems impossible. Had you at least been woodshedding the tunes prior to that?

I had gone through the stuff a little bit. Jennifer Batten was really helpful in getting me not only all the material, but getting it from the perspective of the microphone on her cabinet. She recorded herself at rehearsal, so I could hear the band, but I could hear her guitar parts loud and clear. So I did a little bit of work on the tunes, but no one could tell me if or when I was going to get the call. Months went by and I really wasn’t listening to his stuff at all. So, when they finally did call me, it was completely out of the blue and a little scary. They called me Monday night and I had to be on a plane at 6:00 in the morning Tuesday. The airport was about two hours from where I used to live, and I had to be there two hours before my flight. So I really had to be at the airport by 4:00 AM, which meant I had to leave my house at 2:00. So I only had about six hours to pack and learn the songs from the time I got the call. There was also a lot of switching of patches on my DigiTech unit, and choreography I had to learn by Wednesday morning. I had this gigantic, poster-sized cheat sheet that surrounded my pedalboard. It had notes that said, “Song 1: preset 14 verse, chorus preset 57, end of second verse, step out, spin around, wait for Michael, wait for dancers to pass by, guitar solo, preset 71.” It was very stressful, but it went okay.

Full interview