Meet The Guardians

Michael Molenda

Founder/CEO/Editorial Director/Lead Buckeroo

Michael was the longest-serving Editor in Chief of the legendary Guitar Player magazine and brand (1997-2018), as well as Editorial Director for Bass Player, Frets, Keyboard, Electronic Musician, and Guitar Aficionado. He founded Guitar Player‘s Guitar Superstar Competition, the Guitar Player Certified Legend Award, Rumble and MC2 magazines, the Play It Forward charity and mentoring initiative, the Ronnie Montrose Rock the Nation Award for young players, and the revitalized Guitar Player Records imprint. In addition, Mike co-owned four San Francisco Bay Area recording studios, and continues to get his ya-ya’s out performing with The Trouble With Monkeys.

Favorite Guitars: Gibson Les Paul, Reverend Reeves Gabrels Dirtbike, Collings 290, and anything Gretsch.

Favorite Amp: Vox AC30.

Favorite Pedal: Any wah-wah (though Vox, Dunlop, and Morley preferred).

Guitar Idol: Mick Ronson.

Best Album Ever: Tommy, The Who.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Beauty and the Beast, directed by Jean Cocteau (1946).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Performing onstage with The Trouble With Monkeys at the April 2018 Play It Forward benefit for the NorCal Fires at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts with Jennifer Batten and Andy Timmons joining the band. Just, wow.

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Patrick Wong

Managing Editor/Creative Director

Patrick served as both Art Director and “Roving Art Director” for several NewBay Media publications—including Bass Player, Electronic Musician, and Guitar Player—and eventually became Fretted Group Managing Editor for Bass Player and Guitar Player. Then, he left publishing to work for ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, where he helped develop unique marketing strategies. He is co-founder and bassist of The Trouble With Monkeys, an unrepentant gizmo tinkerer, and a lover of Epiphone Jack Casady Signature basses (the only instruments he chooses NOT to modify).

Favorite Bass: Epiphone Jack Casady Artist Series Signature Bass.

Favorite Amp: Ampeg.

Favorite Pedal: Behringer CS400 Compressor/Sustainer.

Guitar Idol: Les Paul

Best Album Ever: The White Album, The Beatles.

Film I’ll Always Watch: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone (1967).

My Greatest Personal Bass Moment: Every time I take the stage and get to play music!

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Nicole and Brooks, Manx Web Solutions

Web Masters, Consultants

Favorite Guitars: 1964 Gibson Les Paul SG Jr., 1965 Epiphone E230 TD,
Yamaha FG-312, anything Pink and Sparkly—heck, anything with strings.

Favorite Amp: Anything the Line 6 will plug into.

Favorite Pedal: Wah, wah, wah.

Guitar Idols: Django Reinhardt, Steve Lukather, Steve Morse, Pete Huttlinger, Chet Atkins, Brian May, Michael Hedges.

Best Albums Ever: Sunburst Finish, Be Bop Deluxe; The Day The Earth Caught Fire, City Boy; Finger Style Guitar, Chet Atkins.

Films We’ll Always Watch: Grosse Pointe Blank, directed by George Armitage (1997); The Fifth Element, directed by Luc Besson (1997).

Brooks’ Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Completely choking on “Blues Jam In A” at San Quentin prison in front of a room full of convicts who all probably played better that I did.

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Jennifer Batten

Consulting Editor

Jennifer Batten began playing guitar at age eight. She took lessons with various teachers learning a multitude of styles, leading up to her biggest musical education leap at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. In 1987, she began a ten-year stint as lead guitarist for Michael Jackson for all of his solo world tours supporting the CD’s Bad, Dangerous, and HIStory. She also joined Jackson at Superbowl 26 which aired to 1.5 billion people.
This work was shortly followed by three years recording and touring with British guitar icon, Jeff Beck. She has released four CDs—three of which were guitar-oriented and covered many styles. The newest one—BattleZone, released in late 2017—was produced by Survivor’s Jim Peterik and is a pop CD with gifted vocalist Marc Scherer. Jennifer has written several music books and recorded three instructional DVDs for She has worked for Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas and continues to tour the globe in various formats and bands, as well as performing solo in synch with films she makes.

Favorite Guitar: Washburn Parallaxe Custom.

Favorite Amp: BluGuitar Amp 1.

Favorite Pedal: Digitech Whammy II.

Guitar Idol: Jeff Beck.

Best Albums Ever: Blow by Blow, Jeff Beck and Heavy Weather, Weather Report.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Idiocracy, directed by Mike Judge (2006).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moments: Playing the 1997 Superbowl with Michael Jackson, and an outdoor summer show on the beach in Sardinia with Jeff Beck.

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Matt Blackett

Contributing Editor

In addition to being a lifelong guitar student, guitar teacher, and guitar fanatic, Matt was a subscriber to Guitar Player magazine for decades before he got the opportunity to work there. When that opportunity presented itself, Matt jumped on it and got to play every piece of gear in the world, as well as talk to his favorite guitarists of all time, including Brian May, Jeff Beck, and Alex Lifeson. In his current gig as Director of Music and Sound for Rocket—a VR company in the Silicon Valley—he tries to channel that education and inspiration.

Favorite Guitars: Gotta be my Martin 0-18 that my Grandma Bunny got new in 1930. I also love my PRS McCarty Soapbar.

Favorite Amp: Fryette Sig: X.

Favorite Pedals: Source Audio Ventris Reverb and MXR Phase 90.

Guitar Idol: Edward Van Halen.

Best Album Ever: Magical Mystery Tour, the Beatles.

Film I’ll Always Watch: The Big Lebowski, directed by the Coen Brothers (1998).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Leaving a studio in London after interviewing Jeff Beck over a few beers, he was fumbling with too much stuff to carry. I said, “Hey, man, can I lend a hand?” He said thanks and handed me his guitar, which I carried out to his car. Best guitar moment ever.

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Leszek Cichonski

Leszek Cichonski

Consulting Editor

Leszek is acknowledged as one of Poland’s best blues-rock guitarists, and he is the founder of the Guitar Guinness World Record Festival in Wroclaw, which has broken the Guinness World Record for Largest Guitar Orchestra five times since 2003 (most recently with 7,411 players on May 1, 2018). An official endorser of Fender guitars, Leszek’s album releases include Thanks, Jimi (a tribute to Jimi Hendrix) and Soba Gram, and he was named Best Blues Guitarist at Poland’s 2014 Guitar Awards. In 2018, Leszek was presented an Order of Merit for Polish Culture Gloria Artis by by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. In addition, one of Wroclaw’s famous gnome statutes was cast in his likeness—and holding a guitar, of course.

Favorite Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson SG , Ibanez AM200.

Favorite Amps: Mesa/Boogie Lonestar Special, Peavey Classic, Kemper Profiler.

Favorite Pedals: Xotic AC Booster and SP Compressor, Sweet Sound Mojo Vibe, TC Electronic Flashback.

Guitar Idols: B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Robben Ford.

Best Album Ever: Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Star Wars, directed by George Lucas (1977).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: The Thanks Jimi Festival 2009 [now called Guitar Guinness World Record Festival]. We beat the previous Guinness World Record for Largest Guitar Orchestra, which was 2,051 guitarists. We expected no one, but collected three times as many—6,344 guitar players performing together with Steve Morse as a special guest. The atmosphere was incredible.

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Barry Cleveland

Contributing Editor

Barry is a Los Angeles-based guitarist, composer, recording artist, and journalist. He was an editor at Guitar Player magazine for 12 years, is currently the editor of The Lodge, and is the author of the cult-classic book Joe Meek’s Bold Techniques. He has released five albums and composes music for picture.

Favorite Guitar: PRS Custom 24 Brazilian.

Favorite Amp: Custom Hiwatt 50.

Favorite Pedal: Euthymia ICBM Fuzz.

Guitar Idol: Les Paul.

Best Album Ever: Remain in Light, Talking Heads.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Kiss Me Deadly, directed byRobert Aldrich (1955).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Having an out-of-body experience while continuing to practice late one night.

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Jude Gold

Contributing Editor

Jude has played guitar in Jefferson Starship since 2012. He has also been a guitar journalist since 2001, when he began writing for Guitar Player magazine. He enjoys playing guitar with guitar heroes on his podcast, No Guitar Is Safe, and occasionally suffers from disco flashbacks (check out his version of “Funkytown” for proof).

Favorite Guitar: Fender Stratocaster with a floating trem.

Favorite Amp: Whichever one is cranked up in a big room and echoing off the walls.

Favorite Pedal: Digitech Synth Wah, which makes cool ’80s-video-game-type sounds.

Guitar Idol: Tell me again why this isn’t a show? Hahaha.

Best Album Ever: The White Album, the Beatles.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino (1994).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Getting to take solo on the on the American Country Awards and having someone say afterwards, “How’d YOU get a solo? You have to BE somebody to get a solo on a country awards show.”

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Ali Handal

Contributing Editor

Ali released three albums on her own before getting her first record deal for That’s What She Said—which was  released by Red Parlor Records, and debuted on Billboard’s Emerging Artists Chart the week it was released. American Songwriter called the album “a triumph,” and according to Vintage Guitar, “Handal is a devilishly witty songwriter whose guitar is as blue and gutsy as her lyrics.” In addition to touring throughout the USA, Ali has toured Australia, Japan, and beyond, provided backing vocals for Neil Young, and has shared the stage with songwriting legend Paul Williams as his featured vocalist. Also a published author, Ali penned Guitar for Girls (Hal Leonard)—a guitar method book & CD brimming with advice and encouragement for aspiring musicians. Her motto, which she shares with everyone she meets, is: “You get what you settle for.”

Favorite Guitar: Fender Custom Shop Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul.

Favorite Amp: Fender SuperSonic.

Favorite Pedal: Xotic Wah.

Guitar Idol: Jimmy Page.

Best Album Ever: No way to choose! But high up there are all early Led Zeppelin albums; Not a Pretty Girl, Ani DiFranco;  Star Time, James Brown; and Tapestry, Carole King.

Film I’ll Always Watch: History of the World (Part 1),  directed by Mel Brooks (1981).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: The first moment I picked up the Fender Custom Shop Tele built to my exact specs. It played like butter, and I’ve been in love ever since.

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Jimmy Leslie

Contributing Editor

Jimmy has spent 15 years and counting at Guitar Player, as well managing the GP Presents concert series, and being a contributing writer at Bass Player. He has released a few solo records, and has a bunch of recording and gig credits with artists such as Honey Island Swamp Band, Shana Morrison, LunaGroove, Visitor Jim, and the Allmond Brothers (Allman Brothers Band Tribute). Jimmy is the co-founder of Guitarfish Music Festival and Star City Music Festival.

Favorite Guitars: 1989 Fender Strat Plus, Santa Cruz OM Grand.

Favorite Amps: 1983 Fender Super Champ.

Favorite Pedal: EarthQuaker Devices The Depths Analog Optical Vibe Machine.

Guitar Idols: Jeff Beck.

Best Album Ever: Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe (2000).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Guitar Player Presents Frenchmen Guitar Friendzy in New Orleans playing with Sonny Landreth, Luther Dickinson, Eric McFadden, and Eric Krasno.

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Gretchen Menn

Contributing Editor

Gretchen is a guitarist, composer, and eternal student of music. She writes and performs original, instrumental compositions and plays guitar in the Led Zeppelin powerhouse, Zepparella. Her latest album, Abandon All Hope, is a concept album based on Dante’s Inferno, and blends modern and classical instruments.

Favorite Guitars: Music Man Silhouette Special, Stephen Strahm Eros acoustic, Kenny Hill Ruck Classical.

Favorite Amps: Two-Rock Bi-Onyx and Bloomfield Drive.

Favorite Pedal: Providence Chrono Delay.

Guitar Idols: Steve Morse, Jeff Beck.

Best Album Ever: Quintet du Hot Club de France, Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick (1964).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Completing my most recent album, Abandon All Hope. It was an arduous journey, and involved a lot of study to see the concept to fruition. I learned so much in the process.

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Dana Parker

Assistant Editor

Dana is the current “gear giveaway diva” of Guitar Player magazine, and plays drums with The Trouble With Monkeys and Flock of Seagirls. She is a classically trained percussionist, and has performed as a featured soloist in the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan. Dana has two awesome daughters, Scarlet and Venice.

Favorite Guitar: My Danelectro “Orange Cream Delight.”

Favorite Amp: Vox AC30.

Favorite Pedal: All of them!

Guitar Idol: Brian May.

Best Album Ever: Thriller, Michael Jackson.

Film I’ll Always Watch: When Harry Met Sally, directed by Rob Reiner (1989).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Becoming a Guardian of Guitar.

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Gino Robair

Contributing Editor

Gino has written about music technology for more than two decades. He has been Editor in Chief of Electronic Musician; Editor at Keyboard magazine; has written for Guitar Player, Mix, Remix, Drum!, and Drums and Drumming; and has authored two books. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has recorded with Tom Waits, Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, and Henry Kaiser, and has performed with Nina Hagen, John Zorn, Thurston Moore, and the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Gino served as music director for the CBS Saturday-morning series, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.

Favorite Guitars: 1980 Fender Stratocaster (black body/white pickguard, named “Oreo”), 1957 Gretsch Rambler, Fender Mustang, mysterious Maestro double-neck guitar/mandolin, and my father’s battered no-name acoustic from the ’40s.

Favorite Amp: Depends on the song.

Favorite Pedal: Does the EBow count as a pedal? I have five of them!

Guitar Idols: John McLaughlin, Steve Howe, James “Blood” Ulmer.

Best Albums Ever: Close to the Edge, Yes. Birds of Fire, Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Monty Python and The Holy Grail, directed by Terry Gilliam/Terry Jones (1975).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moment: Suggesting to Tom Waits during a recording session that the rhythm guitarist should play his part left-handed in order to get a more “authentic sound.”

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Janet Robin

Contributing Editor

Music audiences around the world have seen Janet as a former touring member of Lindsey Buckinghamʼs Band, Meredith Brooks, and Air Supply. A student of the legendary Randy Rhoads when growing up, her latest solo studio CD, Take Me As I Am, was produced by Grammy-winning John Carter Cash and Chuck Turner at the legendary Cash Cabin Studios, Nashville. She is also part of The String Revolution—a band of four instrumental guitarists that use their guitars in unique ways. Janet continues to tour both nationally and internationally.

Favorite Guitars: My 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom, ’52 Reissue Tele (butterscotch), Turner-Renaissance Deuce, 1995 Taylor DCSM Acoustic.

Favorite Amps: Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue, Marshall.

Favorite Pedals: Dunlop Wah,  MXR Boost.

Guitar Idols: Randy Rhoads, Lindsey Buckingham, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and too many more. There’s not just one for me.

Best Albums Ever: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Beatles. Rumors, Fleetwood Mac. Any Led Zeppelin record. It’s too hard, as I have many influences.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming (1939).

My Greatest Personal Guitar Moments: Performing on stage with Lindsey Buckingham opening for Tina Turner (as well as songwriting with him in a rehearsal studio once). Writing songs, playing guitar, and jamming with Ann and Nancy Wilson at Nancy’s house.

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Iggy Pup

Mascot/Community Diva

The late, great Iggy Pup (2010-2015) left us too soon due to canine cancer, but she accomplished a lot in her short life. A rescue Basenji mix—often nicknamed “The Giant Basenji”—from Asia, Iggy accompanied Mike to studio sessions, band rehearsals, and meetings at Guitar Player, and she loved being a self-defined “rock-star dog.” (Yes, she could self-actualize because she was a smarty.) She also had a regal trot, grumbled when pissed off, gave everyone sweet “deer licks,” and loved to cuddle under the bed covers. So the memory of Ms. Iggy Pup—her diva-ness, her love of music, and her hilarious approach to problem solving (a long-doggie stretch can obliterate all challenges)—drives the soul of this site.

Favorite Guitar Gear: None. Hate those things. Loud!

Best Album Ever: Diamond Dogs, David Bowie.

Film I’ll Always Watch: Eight Below by Frank Marshall (2006). Love huskies!

My Greatest Music Moment: Standing in front of the microphone at rehearsals so that the humans had to move around me and crane their necks to sing. I am the center of the universe!

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