Mike Campese is a New York born guitarist that started playing guitar at the age of 13, and was exposed to music around the house, with his Father being a virtuoso violinist and his brother playing guitar. Mike, the youngest of the family, was heavily into Black Sabbath. Their music inspired him to learn the guitar and he began lessons with a Jazz guitarist. Mike was also heavily into Jimi Hendrix and other artists like Ozzy, AL Di Meola, Van Halen and many more.
Mike was very obsessed with the guitar and he played it day and night, hours on end. When he was very young, his Dad encouraged him to listen to all types of music including classical music. He said, “if you want to be a great guitarist you must be open to all types of music.” Mike began listening to the virtuoso violinist Niccolo Paganini, admiring his incredible speed and techniques. He was also listening to Beethoven, Mozart, Yngwie and Vivaldi.
Mike was in bands playing clubs, writing and performing at a very young age. After high school, Mike packed up and moved to Hollywood, California to attend one of the world’s top guitar schools, the Musicians Institute (GIT). Mike was studying with many great players such as Paul Gilbert, Scott Henderson, Norman Brown, Keith Wyatt and many others. Attending this school opened up many new doors that exposed Mike to many styles of music. Mike graduated with top honors.
Mike Campese Interview
Scott - Hi Mike, Welcome back... What's been up with you over the last 2 years? Can you give us some kool highlights?
Mike - Hello Scott, it is great to be back! I have been doing the usual, writing music, recording, session work, writing lessons for magazines and still teaching guitar too. Also, I just released a new acoustic album and I recently signed to a new record label. I have been performing as well and I’m looking to do some tours. We recently shared the stage with Geoff Tate of Queensryche and I’m looking forward to doing another show at the Madison Theater in Dec. I'm still playing at NAMM in Anaheim, CA each year.
Scott - So you have a new album out... Give us the name of it and why a new CD now?
Mike - It is called "Chapters". I was due for a new album and overdue for an acoustic album. It has been a few years since the last all acoustic album, "Hidden Treasures". This one has some electric mixed in as well, I couldn't resist. I have been working on material for another album too and this one is going to be all electric.
Scott - What was the inspiration behind this new album?
Mike - It all began back in 2013, I did a tour of Italy and I traveled through many parts of the beautiful country. While on the this tour, I gathered ideas in each city I visited and I recorded them on my iPhone. When I returned home, I started to develop these ideas into complete tunes and in between the other stuff I was doing. Over time, I completed a bunch of songs from the ideas I gathered in Italy. Also, I have many ideas and songs that I wrote in Hawaii as well. So, the music on this album was written in these beautiful destinations, which to me is the best inspiration.
Scott - What is different about this CD in reference to your other fine recordings?
Mike - I briefly mentioned this but, this album is primarily acoustic with a little bit of electric guitar mixed in. I couldn't resist, I love electric guitar and with acoustic and electric I can express myself more. On my earlier albums, I would do the opposite and mix in some acoustic songs with a primary electric album. Also, I definitely have gotten better with the production side of things and it is apparent between each album.
Mike returned to New York to hone his skills, he put together and began playing in the areas top band, Mister Strange. The band was touring the northeast, playing in many known clubs like, CBGB’s, Lamoure’s and many big venues. They released a few Cd’s and they where opening for many national acts. After Mike left the band he formed the group, Jeckyl and Hyde, which was an all original project playing the northeast clubs.
Mike began writing intensely for his own solo projects. He formed his own band and recorded his first album “Total Freedom.” Mike got the call to be the opening act for the B-52′s, playing an all acoustic show to a sold out crowd and receiving a standing ovation. Mike released his second Cd “Full Circle,” which incorporates several styles of music. It was played on NPR radio across the U.S. Mike’s music and his guitar playing was growing and he was getting a following overseas. Mike continues to hone his skills by studying with guitar legend Stanley Jordan. He has also studied with NY guitarist Wayne Krantz off and on for many years and with Bill Connors of Chick Corea. Mike is a very versatile guitarist. He has played in a African band, pop group and a Jazz band. His main writing style falls in a rock fusion category, that mixes rock, blues, jazz and classical into a single style.
Courtesy of Mike Campese.com
Scott - During the writing and recording process, is there anybody that you trust that can give you honest feedback on your musical endeavor.
Mike - That is a good question because it is mainly me that does all of the writing and recording of each instrument. But outside opinions are good and I do like honest feedback. Nobody really hears the music until it is finished, or the occasional outside drummer that plays on the album and he may hear a rough version of it. I will get their opinion on the tune and they usually will like it. I will have to say, I value my mastering engineers opinion and If there is something wrong he will definitely tell me. He will give me his honest opinion.
Scott - With the advent of Pro Tools, and it being more and more accessible to artists, it has changed the way bands record. Was the new album recorded in the traditional way or the new skool way?
Mike - I have been recording my albums the same way for a while now and I record everything at home. I don't do live drums though, I will have an outside drummer do that in their studio. But, I used to go into recording studios and do it the old school way, which I will again at some point. There is a value to that and it can be really good to go into a studio with a well rehearsed band. There is a coherency recording with a band and each musician can add their own feel to the music. There is an advantage of recording by yourself at home in your own studio as well. You can spend more time, you can experiment more and you are not on the clock. I have to say the New Skool way is really convenient.
Scott - How do you approach singing songs yourself?
Mike - I do sing, but I'm not really a singer. "I'm a guitarist that sings". I have gotten better over the years though and I usually only sing on a few tunes on most of my albums. One of the reasons why I do it, is because it is another way to express myself. I feel if I write the lyrics, it will have the most expression and I usually write about true experiences.
Scott - A lot of people associate feel with a lack of technical ability. Listening to your back catalogue, your command of musical elements like bending, pitch and vibrato have always been there. Is that something you also feel is inherent in a musician or can it be learned?
Mike - Yes, I know what you mean. A lot of people think if you are playing slow you are playing with feel and when you are playing fast, they are not. This is un true, because there are a lot of players that play really fast that have lots of feel, I can name many. It is your overall emotion to the music and to me it is very important. Also, bending, pitch and vibrato is extremely important as well. This is something that a lot of shredders over look, It can be learned and practiced. If you listen to your favorite players, you will notice they all have a signature vibrato that is unique to them. Also, listening to great singers can help you become more expressive on the guitar too. To me, it is very important to express myself as much as possible and It just comes out in my playing and writing. If you are playing with feel and expression, your audience will feel it too.
Mike appeared on the Jason Becker tribute Cd “Warmth In The Wilderness,” on the Lion Music label, which was an international release. Mike’s band continued to perform and open for many national acts such as Yngwie Malmsteen on 3 tours, Michael Schenker, The B-52′s, Lou Reed, The members of Yes and Asia, KC and the Sunshine band, Spin Doctors, Sebastian Bach, Dokken, Kip Winger, Rik Emmett Of Triumph, Vinnie Moore, Joe Bonamassa, Jon Oliva, Geoff Tate of Queensryche and many more. Mike played the National Anthem at hockey games at the Pepsi arena and for a local baseball team for thousands of fans. Mike has worked with Jimi Hendrix’s best friend Mike Quashie, writing and arranging and later led to Mike playing “The Max’s Kansas City” Benefit at the bowery ballroom, with Rob Stoner from the Bob Dylan band on bass and Dennis Diken of the Smithereens on drums. Headlining the show was Little Steven of Springsteen, Lou Reed, Garland Jeffreys and Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls. Mike performed at the Cruefest 2 show which featured Motley Crue, Godsmack, Drowning Pool, Theory of a Deadman, Rev Theory and more. Each year Mike performs at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California for the companies that he is endorsed by. The NAMM show is the largest trade show in the world and Mike has been playing there since 2007. Also, Mike is a regular performer at “First Night” in Saratoga Springs, NY on New Year’s Eve and he is the first person to ever play along with a fireworks display in Saratoga.
Mike released his 3rd Cd “Vibe” that has a classical influence, as well as other musical varieties. By this time Mike’s following overseas earned him radio play in several countries. In 2004, Mike was hired by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and received a Gold record for his work. In 2005 Mike released his fourth release “The New” which features some of Mike’s best playing and writing. By this time Mike’s music is featured all over the internet and all over the world.
Courtesy of Mike Campese.com
Scott - Are there any tour plans in the works?
Mike - Yes, originally there was a European tour scheduled for this Fall, it got moved to later though. However, as we speak I'm working on a couple performances/clinics in Italy for Nov. Also, I will be doing performance around the NY area as well. I'm in looking forward to playing at the Madison Theater in Dec. Be sure to check the website, www.mikecampese.com for details.
Scott - what do you think of the term
Mike - The word shred is a little cliche and it can be vague to a lot of people. Guitar players know that it has to do with playing fast solos. It doesn't specify genre and I like to label my music as Melodic Shred.
Scott - The late 80’s was a real boom period for that kind of music and playing whereas in the mid nineties/early nineties it was incredibly uncool to play virtuoso style music; how did you survive?
Mike - I didn't change with the times, I kept playing the same way. The bands I had in those days had lead singers and we did progressive rock type stuff. But, I didn't start doing my solo thing until the mid nineties. My music has a lot of styles mixed into it and If it was like hair metal, then that would be really out of place.
Mike has been featured in many national guitar magazines such as Guitar Club in Italy, Guitar One and writes writes 2 page lessons for Guitar Player magazine, Guitar World magazine and Guitar Club Magazine. Check out the February issue of the Guitar Player Magazine, Mike has a 2 full page guitar lesson as well as the April issue of the Guitar World mag and in the January 2014 issue of the Guitar Club magazine. In Italy, Mike has been writing 2 page lesson columns for Guitar Club each month and has a 3 page interview feature in the October 2013 issue. Also, Mike writes for Axe magazine, which is Italy’s top guitar magazine. Mike has his own guitar column each month. Mike teaches over 70 students a week, and is one of the top teachers in the NY area. He has a constant waiting list and some of Mike’s students are from or went to successful bands. Mike has been judging the Guitar Center, Guitarmageddon and the “King of the Blues” contest for over 5 years now. Mike has released 3 instructional DVDs for Chops From Hell, “Virtuoso Rock Fusion Concepts”, “Creative Speed-Building Picking Techniques” and “Melodic Shred.” Mike also writes lessons for several online sites such as Guitar9.com, Ibreathemusic, Chops From Hell, Shed Academy, Premier Guitar, The Sound Guitar Magazine and many more.
Mike’s 5th solo release “Hidden Treasures” is mainly an all acoustic release. This is the Cd Mike always wanted to do to express his passion for the love of the acoustic guitar. This is not your ordinary acoustic guitar Cd, it has a very colorful mix of different musical textures featuring Mike’s virtuosity on the acoustic guitar. Mike’s fan base is growing internationally and his music has appeared on national radio and TV. Mike’s music has been used for a Lions Gate movie and he even appeared in a Busta Rhymes MTV music video. “The Meaning Of Christmas” is Mike’s 6th solo release. This CD features some of Mike’s balls to the walls guitar playing with his own original arrangements of 10 holiday classics and 2 of his own original compositions. Mike released his 7th solo Cd “Electric City” in the summer of 2010. The 14 song, over 76 minute Cd is filled with some of the most blistering guitar work Mike has ever recorded. “Electric City” has been getting a lot of press and radio play all over the world. Mike’s 8th solo Cd was released in the fall of 2013 and it is called “Chameleon”. This 12 track Cd features some of Mike’s best compositions and Mike dials in his versatile writing skills that he is known for and there is a special guest solo on the cd by Vernon Reid of Living Colour. Mike continues to tour solo and with a 3 piece band. In the fall of 2013, Mike traveled to Italy to do a Italian guitar clinic tour that was very successful. In July 2016, Mike releases his 9th studio album, “Chapters”. The 15 song, 67 minute album is mainly all acoustic, with a splash of electric guitar. The music on this album was written in Italy and Hawaii, during Mike’s journeys and inspiration. To sum it up, Mike is a all-around music performer, session artist competent in many musical styles, electric and acoustic.
Courtesy of Mike Campese.com
Scott - Nowadays with social media, YouTube and streaming service, a lot of artists deplore the fact that recorded music doesn’t sell like it used to. How do you feel about that? Has it helped or hindered you?
Mike - That is true, streaming services can reduce the sales of your music and It is tougher for the smaller artists to make any money. They really have to pay artists more and It is hard to say If it has effected me too much. The people that really love the music will buy the Cd, or they will download the album to help support the artist.
Scott - Do you think that’s lead to an upsurge in the live music scene?
Mike - Yes, because the bands will make money from people buying the albums and merchandise at shows. The other issue is, there are less people coming to shows like there used too. Between the ticket sales and the merchandise, it can even out. I'm sure that is the reason why a lot of bands are doing VIP packages at shows to make up for it.
Scott - After all that discussion about music and the industry, what’s the meaning of life?
Mike - Life is what you make of it and it can have several meanings. It can determine how you choose to live it and you are born to die.