One of the world’s preeminent bass players that helped usher in the slapping and two-handed tapping technique, Stu Hamm continues to flourish as a solo artist, sideman, songwriter and producer.
Hamm’s latest solo album release “The Diary of Patrick Xavier,” showcases the talents of this pivotal artist.
“For the first time in my life I took a three week vacation at a little beach town in Italy,” says Hamm from his home in Pacoima, California. “I was looking to get myself together and clear my head. I found this diary in this hotel room of this guy who was going through the same thing that I was. All of a sudden the idea hit me, to write a solo bass record about my experiences of travelling and how I related to this journal that I found, and bam! That’s when I had the inspiration. For me, once I have an idea of what the song is going to be about it goes pretty easy from there.”
“With the modern technology you can sit there and go through a song until it’s perfect, but than it doesn’t sound like a human being playing music,” adds Hamm. There’s a great record by Pat Matheny called “One Flight Night.” You can hear fret buzz and his hands sliding up and down the neck. That’s what it sounds like when a guy plays guitar. For this record, I just played and didn’t worry about this stuff. I tried to play loose and I tried to interpret. I let a lot more mistakes go, really didn’t try to move anything around. I definitely just let it go and didn’t edit until it was perfect.”
“Every song I write is about something. Words can be misinterpreted but when it’s just music you can make it whatever you want it to be. It’s easier to relate to the music in a song than the words.”
Hamm’s ultimate rise to fame began when he befriended guitarist Steve Vai during their time attending the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston. Hamm ultimately played on Vai’s debut solo album “Flex-Able” (1984) inaugurating a personal and creative relationship that would see Hamm appear on Vai’s follow-up album releases “Passion and Warfare (1990) and “Fire Garden” (1996).
Work with guitarist Joe Satriani followed finding Hamm appearing on Satriani’s recordings “Dreaming #11” (1988), “Flying in a Blue Dream” (1989), “Time Machine” (1993) “Crystal Planet” (1998), “Live in San Francisco” (2001) and “Live In Paris: I Just Wanna Rock” (2010).
Embarking on his own solo career Hamm released his debut album “Radio Free Albemuth” (1988), debuting his diverse musical prowess showcasing his vast music abilities. Follow-up solo album releases “King of Sleep” (1989), “The Urge” (1991), “Outbound” (2000), “Live Stu X 2” (2007), “Just Outside of Normal” (2010) and “The Book of Lies” (2015) solidified Hamm’s legend in the bassist community.
“Back in the day when I was one of the people that brought tapping and slapping to the forefront, there was actually a time when not every bass player did that,” recalls Hamm. “I sort of created this Stu Hamm thing.”
A teacher as well as an artist to aspiring musicians, Hamm was appointed Director of Bass Programs at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California in 2011. He has also released a collection of instructional videos, “Slap, Pop & Tap for the Bass” (1987), “Deeper Inside the Bass” (1993), “Bass Basics” (2008) and “Fretboard Fitness” (2010).
“Music is art for me,” says Hamm. “I’m extremely serious about what I do. I’m still highly motivated to be a better musician, bandleader, composer, player and inspiration. I still think I’m getting better at it and that’s why I keep doing it.”
Currently on tour in support of his latest release, Hamm brings his one-man show to the east coast with a rare Philadelphia area appearance.
“I’ll be playing my hits, telling stories and my best loved solo bass pieces, about 75 minutes,” says Hamm. “I have this sort of unique thing when I’m telling a story like how I met Joe Satrianni, I’ll be playing this music in the background at the same time. It’s really an entertaining show.”
“I’m just so fortunate, literally, thank God, I just get these ideas. I love it and I’m good at it,” adds Hamm. “It’s very different. The songs are different every night. I still find some way to find new phrases, new ways to play it. It feels very comfortable.”