MILAN POLAK: “There’s A Saying I Try To Live By ‘If You Want To Change The World, Start With Yourself’, And I Think That’s Very Accurate”

Milan Polak Promo Photo 2020

Milan Polak began his musical journey more than 25 years ago as a guitar instrumentalist. His latest release Can’t Please Everyone (read our review) is his 4th “vocal” album. It’s described by Polak as darker and heavier than his 2017 release Scarred to Perfection. In the press release for Can’t Please Everyone Milan couldn’t be more dead on when he says; “It is my most advanced, profound and personal album to date.” Metal Express Radio had the chance to chat with Milan about his new album, how his special guests got involved, and how a virtuoso guitar shredder added vocalist and lyricist to his resume.

Metal Express Radio: If I knew absolutely nothing about Milan Polak, how would you describe your music to me?

Milan Polak: Modern heavy Rock with strong hooks & melodies and a touch of Prog once in a while, dominant guitar riffs and short over-the-top guitar solos here and there. However the song and groove always come first. I also put a lot of thought & work into my lyrics.

MER: You describe your latest album Can’t Please Everyone as “your most advanced, profound, and personal album to date.” Would you say the lyrical content is more observational of the world around you or more autobiographical?

MP: A bit of both I’d say. A lot of the lyrics are very personal, then then there’s the title track e.g. which is more like an observation of how we as a society are functioning or rather non-functioning. And then there are songs like “No One Else” where it’s not quite clear if it’s “reflective or accusatory” as you so aptly wrote in your review.

MER: What songs are you particularly proud of and why (you can’t say all of them)?

MP: That’s difficult to say because each song has its own story and reason. I don’t just write songs for the sake of it. It’s more like the song “forces” me to write it. I honestly feel there’s no filler on the album. And based on the reactions so far every listener resonates with a different song and its lyrics. Like usually you have a lot of people telling you their favorite song off the album and it comes down to one, two maybe three. In this case it’s been six, seven different songs that people told me should be the next single. Personally, my favorite song is probably “Numb” which was the final song I wrote for the album and was just released as the 2nd single.

MER: Billy Sheehan and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal currently of Sons of Apollo make an appearance on “The Future is Now.” How did their participation come about?

MP: Ron has been a long-time friend. He’s not only an exceptional musician but also one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet in the biz. Throughout the years we have been featured side-by-side on some guitar comp and tribute albums. And he also played a killer guest solo on my song “End Of Time” which I wrote for the victims of the tsunami in 2011 with proceeds being donated to the Japanese Red Cross.

Then in 2015 we released a charity song called “Devil On My Shoulder” featuring David Ellefson of Megadeth on bass and Thomas Lang on drums. And right now we’re about to release another one by the end of May 2020.

With Billy Sheehan I once jammed at an event for Ampeg amplification. We kept in touch over the years and I always wanted to do something with him. I mean who doesn’t? He’s one of the world’s greatest bass players of all time. Receiving his bass files was definitely a surreal moment and one of my biggest dreams come true.

MER: In addition to the album version, you are going to be releasing an alternate version of “The Future is Now” that features the addition of Derek Sherinian (Sons of Apollo) and Kyle Hughes (Bumblefoot solo band) with proceeds going to Can you tell me a little about why you chose the organization?

MP: is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming lives by restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in schools. “The Future Is Now” is about battling your daily demons that could be anything from procrastination to depression to anxiety which especially in the current worldwide situation all have exploded to new highs. But it is also about motivation. Ron & I ended up with 2 organizations to choose from and chose the one that was more focused on children. The release is scheduled for May 29, 2020.”

MER: You probably wrote “The Future is Now” prior to the Covid-19 lockdowns. Do you think the message means more now given the circumstances we are currently living under?

MP: Absolutely. And yes you’re right, I did write the song shortly before they implemented the worldwide lockdown. And then with the lockdowns in place all these stories about increase of depression, alcoholism, domestic and child abuse started popping up everywhere, and I was like, “Wow, the song just got even more timely. Maybe I can use it to help in some way…” So I talked to Ron about making this alternate version and donating the proceeds, and he was up for it.

MER: Had you planned to tour in support of Can’t Please Everyone prior to the lockdowns? Is a tour still possible?

MP: Well, I would have loved to take the songs on the road but with the situation being so unclear at the moment there’s no sense in making any plans. A lot of people have lost a lot of money making plans and then having to cancel everything again. I can’t predict the future but as for now it seems like touring won’t be possible before at least the 2nd half of the year, and I am NOT gonna bet on that…

MER: On the song “Can’t Please Everyone” you are pretty direct in that some people are always going to be critical. Are you surprised that the album is getting great reviews (I haven’t found a critical one)?

MP: I know that’s almost a contradiction, ha! To be honest, I didn’t really have any expectations. Rather than surprised I am very happy. As always I documented the ‘making of’ and posted the videos on FB, IG & YT. They received only positive feedback. So I thought that was a good sign. But then again you never know. In general, you can only do your best and then hope that people will like it, I think.

MER: With the advent of social media it seems everyone has an opinion. Do you think it’s a good thing that fans have more access to musicians through social media than they did say 20 years ago?

MP: That’s a very good question. I think it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is wonderful to be able to directly interact with fans and people who like what you’re doing. It has made musicians more ‘human’ and approachable. But at the same time that also takes away the mystery and makes them accessible 24/7 which can become very time consuming. A lot of the bigger stars actually hire someone to handle their social media. I always try to respond to everyone personally but sometimes, especially in the period of an album release, receiving 100s of messages and/or comments a day can become very overwhelming.

MER: After listening to the album I felt there was a running theme about personal responsibility and self-improvement. Do you think this is something that society needs to work more on? Or is it a reflection of your personal values?

MP: I’d say both. There’s a saying I try to live by: “If you want to change the world, start with yourself”, and I think that’s very accurate. A lot of people seem to just look for things to complain about, and are very quick to judge and criticize everyone else except for themselves. With the anonymity of the internet this has definitely gotten worse not to say out of hand. I think more people should look in the mirror before attacking others. But we live in times of cognitive dissonance, perception bias and projection.

I often see people I personally know post some ‘smart’ quote telling others how they should think, behave, act, etc. and many times I just think, “Wow, the person posting this is the first one who should take his post to heart…” Let’s put it like this: if everyone worked only half as hard on themselves as they constantly do on others this world would definitely be a better place. Just my 2c.

MER: You Can’t Please Everyone is currently available in digital format. Are there any plans to release a vinyl or CD version?

MP: Originally there was none planned. Making CDs has become a risky business for labels. It is a dying medium and the current situation without touring isn’t helping much either. Not enough people are buying CDs anymore and the warehouses of record labels are filled with unsold CDs piling up. But I received so many requests for a physical version that the label [Lion Music] decided to make a limited edition. So thank you all!

MER: In addition to writing all of the lyrics, you also play most of the instruments on the album. How does your songwriting come together?

MP: Actually, for this album I decided to change my approach. Usually, I compose almost everything in my head just using my ear and imagination without touching an instrument. By the time I grab my guitar the song is basically done. That’s how I wrote all my albums including the previous one Scarred To Perfection, where I also strived to excel as a producer. But after Scarred To Perfection I felt burnt out and uninspired. I moved on to playing for others, writing for others, producing others and teaching. At a certain point I realized that I couldn’t just sit around anymore waiting for inspiration to kiss me one day. I figured that if I ever wanted to do another album I would need to change the old and challenge myself, and so I decided to go back to basics and write using a guitar. It was really refreshing.

In the phase of recording the demos I usually play everything myself, then I send it to others who are better than me at what they do. I also realized that if I wanted a new, fresher sound I needed to change the people I usually work with. And that’s how Can’t Please Everyone came to life.

MER: Your first two albums were guitar instrumental albums and your last four releases were “vocal” albums. What lead to the change?

MP: I was always into ‘real’ songs, you know? Songs with a singer, lyrics, a strong chorus, etc. It’s just that I was never really able to find the right singer. Then after two instrumental albums and several ‘guitar hero’ compilations I felt like I needed to make a decision: did I want to play instrumentals for the rest of my life and attract a certain kind of audience or did I want to focus more on song writing instead and maybe be able to reach a broader audience that includes non-musicians as well.

I always sang backing vocals in various bands and people would often come to me after a show saying that I sounded better than the lead singer and that I should take over the microphone. My reply was always the same, “I am a guitarist not a singer.” But at a certain point I just thought “Wth” and decided to go for it.

MER: What drew you to the Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar?

MP: Ernie Ball Music Man was always my dream guitar. Anyone who has ever held one in their hands knows that they just play, feel and sound amazing. I never ever imagined that one day I’d be so fortunate to be endorsed by the company but my good friend Steve Lukather put in a word for me and that’s how my relationship with them started.

MER: What was your worst live gig? What was your favorite?

Worst: Believe it or not I have more than just one on that list, haha. And the last one wasn’t even that long ago, around 6 months ago. One of those situations where you just wish the ground would open up underneath you and swallow you… lol It was a job as a sideman and the circumstances were just terrible. Let’s leave it at that.

Best: I have a lot of good memories. Basically, every gig that you can play for people who enjoy what you’re doing, every time you can make people happy is a great gig. And that’s really it for me. I don’t measure things in “this gig was in front of 1,000 people, that gig only 100” or “this gig paid better than that one…” For me it’s all about the vibe.

MER: Do you have a job or hobby outside of music?

MP: No, even though given the current situation with the lockdown and stuff it did cross my mind once or twice… haha

But seriously, I have been a musician all my life and that pretty much takes up all my time 7 days/week. I like scuba diving (and I have 2 licenses) and – this might surprise some – I study complex options trading strategies. But at the end of the day my job and my hobby are one and the same: music…

MER: Is there anything I missed you’d like us to know?

MP: Not that I can think of, you were pretty thorough. It’s been a pleasure and I really enjoyed your questions.
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read this interview. If you haven’t already please check out my new album Can’t Please Everyone. It’s available on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, etc.

You can find me on all the usual socials


I always love hearing from you, so don’t be shy!
Rock on,

Milan Polak


  • George Dionne

    George was a contributor here at Metal Express Radio, reviewing albums and conducting interviews, out of Massachusetts, USA. George has contributed to numerous music related websites and blogs, and even managed his own from 2004-2009. George's first assignment was covering a live show by the mighty GWAR. By contrast his later assignments featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi. George was also the front man for the South Eastern Massachusetts cover band Sound Tower from 2009-2015.  Sound Tower played 300+ shows across MA and had two original songs on the Cape Cod radio station PIXY 103. George enjoys a good whiskey, scotch, and/or bourbon and fights crime in his spare time.

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