There's an infectious familiarity about Marc Scherer and Jennifer Batten’s new collaboration, BattleZone. Perhaps it’s because of Scherer’s soaring vocals on songs from the archive of Jim Peterik (Grammy winning singer/songwriter of the Ides Of March, formerly of Survivor and 38 Special fame). Or maybe it’s because Batten’s infectious guitar work conjures up images of her lengthy tenure with Michael Jackson or her work with Jeff Beck.
In any case, Scherer and Batten’s Battle Zone, which also includes several new tracks and will be released on Sept 22, is a masterful combination of hood-laden songs, addictive vocals and guitar wizardry.
AXS: How did the Scherer / Batten project come together?
Marc Scherer: Jim and I were having lunch one day talking about all the songs he had written. I said that there must be a lot of “hidden gems” he had that didn’t get enough attention, and that I wanted to try them. So over the next few weeks, he sent me songs he'd done in various forms and we wound up with a list of about fifteen. When we got into the studio I suddenly realized this was going to be a special project, so I called a friend of mine who suggested that we bring in Jennifer. At first, we thought it was just going to be for a few tracks but we realized she had taken the songs to a whole new level.
Batten: Originally, they called me up to do a session, and it was a whirlwind couple of days. Most sessions I do take a while, but we ended up recording four songs that first day and the following morning we got back together and wrote “BattleZone”. It was the most productive session I've ever had in my life.
Peterik: What really impressed me about Jennifer was the fact that she came totally prepared. We knew right away that she wasn't fiddling around. She's like another voice. That’s when the project became something different and we decided to change it Marc Scherer / Jennifer Batten.
AXS: Jennifer, what piqued your interest about the project?
Batten: I’m motivated by what I'm hearing. It’s the engine that sets me off in a particular direction. I’ve done a lot of sessions that have run the gambit but the level of quality in the writing and singing on this project was just so great. Marc's such an easy-going guy and the whole vibe between him, Jim and Danette Pahl (executive producer) was great. It was a really positive situation.
AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from the album, beginning with “The Sound of Your Voice”.
Peterik: I actually wrote that song with 38 Special back in the early nineties. The song came out as a single but didn’t really click at the time. I always knew it was a great song. It just needed a second chance.
Scherer: That was one of the songs I was a little hesitant to do at first, but when I heard the song in a more demo form I knew that we could do a new take on it and make it our own. Of course when we let Jennifer loose, she added a whole new dimension to it.
AXS: “Cuts Deep”
Peterik: That’s one of the new songs that Marc and I put together. When you hear the words “cuts deep” you think about every time a girl has kicked you to the curb. Marc formed the lyric with the kind of venom that only a lover could spew forth.
Scherer: One of the things about Jim is that he’s such a great storyteller and there’s usually a motivational element in his songs or the story and has a secret message. In this case, it's not an unfamiliar story. It’s wondering what the other person is thinking and the feeling that something isn’t quite right. It's something we can all relate to.
AXS: “The Harder I Try”
Scherer: It’s an interesting song that Jim and I re-wrote about five times. We originally had a pop version and then did a piano/vocal version and then decided to just put it aside. Then as when we were working on this record we decided to revisit it again. We went back in and within fifteen minutes had the version that you hear on the record. It's special because it’s a song that stood the test of time in our writing relationship. We always knew there was something there. We just needed to wait for the right time to use it.
Peterik: That song comes from a real place and experience about that one person you just cannot get out of your mind. The hardest thing for a songwriter is to match the lyric with the mood of the music and in this case we hit the nail on the head.
AXS: “Rough Diamond”
Peterik: You never know where a song’s going to end up, and it's a story about how heartbreak can turn into a victory. I had been hired by my publisher to write the theme song for what became the film, “Pretty Woman”. At the time, they sent me the movie and script and I knew it right away it was going to be a huge hit. The tragedy of it was that at the last minute the director decided to go with another song. I was crushed, but the moral of the story is that it's found a second chance. I realized I couldn’t have written a song that good without the script and motivation. It was all meant to be.
AXS: Jennifer, you spent a lot of time working and touring with Michael Jackson. What was that experience like?
Batten: It was a dream come true. It was a wonderful way to see the world and was life changing to say the least. I learned a lot just by observing him and also learned that the power of entertainment went well beyond the music. Music was just the foundation. Michael wanted to have the greatest show on Earth.
AXS: What satisfies you the most about the Marc Scherer / Jennifer Batten project?
Peterik: If I had to put one thing I'd say it was working with Jennifer Batten. She added so much fire to the tracks and we all had to follow suit. It's driven by her input and is a special album that just rocks.
Batten: Obviously, I like that there's lots of guitars on every track [laughs]! I do a lot of solo guitar shows where I perform the melodies and solos that are in synch with tracks. So to have a singer of Marc's caliber is fun because it puts me in a different role. I get to play plenty of guitar but getting to play fills amongst his vocal lines was a different thing altogether. It's new growth and another challenge.
Scherer: I'm excited about the future of this project and this new relationship with Jennifer. When you do things for the joy of doing them you always look forward to the next thing that happens, and you’re grateful for anything that comes your way.