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discover: Mike Keneally

By Anthony Garone

Multi-instrumentalist songwriting madman of the post-Zappa prog rock era.

Who is Mike Keneally?

He is many things! A multi-instrumentalist virtuoso who broke into the music industry as a guitarist for Frank Zappa in the late 1980s, then worked with Frank’s son Dweezil in the early 1990s, then with Steve Vai in the later 90s, then with Joe Satriani, and ended up playing guitar on Metalocalypse, all the while releasing a bunch of insane solo material.

Check out our interview with Mike!

What’s so weird about Mike?

Mike is one of the rare few who is virtuosic on multiple instruments, namely keyboard and guitar (and sometimes both at the same time!). His music ranges from almost-straightforward to hardly-straightforward, sometimes within the same song. His influences are widely diverse from jazz to folk to modernist to progressive rock to Space Ghost. His music covers lots of ground and makes use of various techniques:

  • Time Signatures
  • Surrealism
  • Humor
  • Harmony
  • Noise

Why I’m a Fan

I didn’t know nothing about no Mike Keneally until I saw him perform with Steve Vai at the 1996 G3 Tour concert in Mesa, AZ. Mike came out wearing a gigantic hat and shredded alongside Steve harmonizing Steve’s “impossible guitar parts,” singing, dancing, and more. He was an astounding performer.

I kept up with Mike’s career via guitar magazines, more Vai concerts, and keneally.com , which has been online since 1994 and is probably one of the first musician websites on the internet. At some point in 1998, I ended up buying a copy of Sluggo! and fell in love with Mike’s music. His music has had a special place in my heart since.

During my time as Steve’s studio/guitar intern, I was able to hang out with Mike and a mutual friend. We spent a few late evenings watching Space Ghost , Mr. Show , and Star Wars on VHS. Fun times. We also spent some time in Steve’s studio together, but I was a lowly intern and it was more a privilege to hang out than an opportunity to become real friends.

All these years later, I’ve come across many other mutual friends, which led to an interview opportunity.

What you should listen to

Mike’s discography is pretty intense. He’s released many solo albums, and several with different band configurations (with him at the helm). Here are some of my favorite works to get you started as a new listener:

While I haven’t listened to it yet, Mike made an album with our friend, Andy West, in a band called The Mistakes . It’s described thusly:

It would be futile to attempt to describe this music, except to note that it’s a bravely unsettling concoction born of rambunctious rock n’ roll interplay, the peculiar contributions of four legendarily talented musicians and even a bit of poetry.

Sounds like some awesome weird music to me!

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Check our previous post: Discover Bruford

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