Miland “Mille” Petrozza is the frontman and founding member of Kreator, the highly-influential German thrash metal band that’s been ripping their audience’s faces off since 1982. Mille is internationally respected for his super-aggressive tight rhythms, and solos that range from smoothly melodic to frantic with mind-blowing speed and precision.
How did you first become aware of ESP?
I became aware of ESP in the mid-80s. We had a shop in Dusseldorf which was one of the first shops to carry ESP. Back then, I checked out some of the guitars, but to be honest, I didn’t like the designs too much. But nowadays, ESP is one of the companies that has really evolved and progressed. They are nothing compared to what I saw back then. Maybe it’s a different world now?
Do you remember when you had your first experience playing an ESP?
I do remember. I have a friend who owns a guitar shop. I went into the shop and there was a silver guitar. I think it was an LTD. I played it and really liked it. I found out that it was a James Hetfield signature model. It had an EMG pickup and a very simple design. I had a problem with the tuning on another guitar, but with the LTD, tuning was never a problem. It had a great tone, heavy and full, and it stayed in tune better than other guitars.
What’s the most important thing to you when you’re considering a new guitar?
It depends on what I want. There are certain guitars I just play at home, or when I’m in the studio. They are convenient shapes that are better to play while sitting down. But playing live, I am so used to a V shape. I’ve played a V shape on stage all my life. I have to feel comfortable with the guitar. When I pick up a new guitar, I can tell in a couple of minutes. It’s all about the feel.
One very important thing for playing metal is the tuning. If the guitar can’t stay in tune for two minutes, it’s useless. With ESP, I never had a problem with tuning. The guitars are so tight in terms of tuning. Another thing I pay attention to: does the guitar sounds good without playing through an amp? The tone of the guitar itself, and its wood… you either don’t want to stop, or you put it away quickly. It’s simple.
For a professional player, how important is reliability?
Reliability is most important. Sometimes you play a smaller club and the air conditioning is on, and a lot of guitars go out of tune right away. Or you play an outdoor festival, and it’s raining, and the humidity is changing the tuning. It needs to be a guitar made with the right wood, and by the right people who know about these problems.
When you play in a band that plays out a lot, you should be able to go anywhere with your guitar, and it should always play the same. Playing in your living room, or in front of 10,000 people, or in a small club with 200 people and sweat is dripping off the ceiling. You can’t have an “okay” guitar.
We’ve just introduced your new Signature models, the E-II Mille Petrozza and the LTD MP-600. Tell us what it’s like going through the process of designing your own signature guitar.
This was my first time with ESP, but I’ve known Chris (Cannella, ESP Artist Relations Director) forever. I’ve never had such a smooth experience. There’s one sentence that I think is essential when it comes to support. Chris said “Anything is possible.” I was like, “Wow!” When you work with some companies, some people just don’t understand what you’re talking about. I’ve never seen those problems with ESP. I brought ideas, Chis brought ideas, my tech Mark Niedersberg brought ideas. We chose a new brand of pickups, the Fishman Fluence. The guitar plays great.
The funny thing was when they sent me a prototype. Usually when you get a prototype, pieces still have to be perfected. You don’t expect it to be perfect right away. We had a show in Tokyo, and I went on stage with that guitar, and it felt like I’d played it forever. I was blown away by the fact that usually you have to play the guitar a little while before it comes to life. This guitar was right there from day one. It blows my mind.
We have many ESP players who are inexperienced but want to get rolling on a successful life as a musician. Any thoughts for them?
To me, it’s simple. Play from the heart. Don’t listen to people. Here’s a story: I had a guitar teacher. He taught me stuff by the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. He wanted me to play “Hotel California” and “House of the Rising Sun”. I asked him, “Why can’t we learn Kiss, or Iron Maiden?” Come on man, fuck that shit!
So as a young kid nowadays, play what you feel. There are no rules. I have this attitude… “Here’s three chords, now go write your own songs.” The guitar you choose should be a good tool for you. Pick well, and just go. Play with other people. Find friends, Play your own version of what you think is good music. Music that makes you happy. You feel this happiness when you can also make other people happy, but only if you are into what you do.