We gather around the round table backstage to talk with Joe Satriani and his bandmates; Jeff Campitelli (drums) and Stu Hamm (bass). The boys are gracious and positive, happy to share information about the new album Crystal Planet, how it was recorded and what the players felt about it.
Stu prefers the headset monitor when playing live. "The softer you hit it (the bass), the better it sounds...it's all about volume wars...this way I can hear myself great so I don't have to fight for it." That frees him up onstage to move around a bit, too. Stu Hamm reminisces about the Warfield. "I turned thirty at this place," he says. On his instruments: "I designed my own bass called the 'Urge II'", he mentions. "Other artists have designed signature basses that aren't very versatile. I wanted to design a bass that doesn't make you sound exactly like Stu Hamm. I've sold quite a few of them."
Besides being the proverbial killer bassist, philosophy is Stu's strong point. His rapid-fire delivery and quick mind make for a fast-paced conversation. You better keep up or you'll miss the thread and he'll know, right away. And you don't want that to happen. "Golf and sex are the only two things you can do poorly and still enjoy it." We talk history: "My first bass had a 'Silver Surfer' sticker on it," he tells us.
"Whoo! Synchronicity!", Joe says, sitting down next to us with his four-year old son. The adorable boy helped his father write several song titles for the new album including: "Psycho Monkey", "Train of Angels" and "Piece of Liquid." Pretty rad!
Joe is very warm and totally interested in connectivity. He even answers a lot of the email sent to him on the website. About the Internet he says: "I love it...I love the digital, cyber-domain, whatever you want to call it...the fans on the Net are extra dedicated...extra interested...they're letting us into their world so we might as well be casual."
This is what makes the man unique among popular musicians. You may like his music and you may think he's cool but when you sit across table from him he's as natural and unpretentious as your best friend.
We talk about the recording of the album Crystal Planet. Joe picks up the thread. "We did it the old-fashioned way," he says. "It was written on paper first and we rehearsed it like it was gonna be a live show. We had a computer with a full ProTools system. Sometimes we would build a cyberversion of the song and pipe it in through headphones and then play to it. When we mixed we got rid of the the computer stuff and just used our reaction tracks...I wanted to add a new dimension," Joe says.
Jeff talks about the switchout of the failed mic in soundcheck: "It was a terrible feeling when that mic went out. It felt....(laughs) unmanly." On his monitoring system: "I have big ol' magnets called 'thumpers,' under my riser." On the recording of Crystal Planet: "We went in with really old-fashioned ideas."
I asked Joe whether he feels editing in the digital age to be disconcerting in it's efficiency and speed. "Nah, it's great!", he enthuses, "you can do it (editing) in a second while you're still excited."
"It was cool," Stu adds, while concentrating on balancing the salt shaker on the table top. Jeff bumps the table. "Awww!" Stu shoots Jeff an accusing look.
Soon it's time to end. "It's great to able to finally play the new material," Stu says. Jeff adds: "It was the easiest record that Joe and I have ever made and therefore I think it's the best."
"I'm never working with these guys again!", Joe howls. Everyone falls over with laughter. Let's give these guys a break. They take a breather and we get ready for the show. We talk to some fans waiting outside. They are more than ready. So are we!