While most people experience some difficulty trying to balance out work and their kids' hockey games, let alone visits to the gym, the grocery store, and so on, it's easy to think that our favorite musicians have nothing but time to kill aside from those couple hours on stage each night - but that's actually a pretty unfair assessment. Although still a preferred means to livelihood as opposed to the 9 to 5 grind, being a working musician has its own set of predicaments. Add in the fact that many have families of their own, and side projects in addition to their primary band, and these guys have as much juggling to do as the average person.
Even if you've only paid slight attention to the bands on tour in the last couple of years then you've noticed thrash metal's Testament working the touring circuit around the globe. And as if the schedule of one of the biggest bands in metal isn't busy enough, Testament bassist Steve Di Giorgio has a whole other job as well. Preeminent for his technical aptitude and being the first to introduce fretless bass playing into metal music, Di Giorgio is also a seasoned session musician as well. AXS recently had the opportunity to speak Di Giorgio during some rare downtime for the band - read on to see what he had to say about time management, avoiding drama, and being the busiest of his career after turning 50.
AXS: You’ve just signed on with a management company to help balance your commitments with Testament and your session work, and I can understand why - it all sounds pretty daunting.
Steve Di Giorgio: Yeah, when I was younger I was doing music full-time but once we started having kids and bought a house I had to make sure the income was steady. So a big part of my life was really ‘managed’ because I woke up with the alarm clock and went to work until it was time to get off - and that was very monotonous but organized. And once I left the full-time workforce in my mid-40s I thought it was going to be all great - going back to doing music - but man oh man, there’s a whole world in the discipline of managing your time and I’m just really not good at it.
AXS: What have you been working during this break?
SDG: I have a lot of session jobs lined up and being the bass player for a lot of these projects means that I’m pretty far down the line in the recording sequence, so as a result of that the band feels the deadline approaching. And by nature of my taking on a new project, I really don’t have a lot of time to spend on it. It’s not that it takes me a long time to record the stuff, it’s more organizing the way that it’s going to happen. I guess I should be thankful at this age that I’m still relevant and requested as a musician, it’s like the cliche, it’s a good problem to have. But I have a lot of work and it’s a challenge to tell every prospect, ‘ok sure, I’ll do it as soon as possible.’ I guess all I’m looking for it to just get a good stride and enjoy some of my home-life. But yeah, I’m basically recording tracks and waiting for those to be approved, then moving on. And then there’s yard work and getting out to tackle the weeds, and I allow myself a day or two to pack for a six-week tour and go over the material that we’re playing, so it’s kind of a jump-around type of situation.
AXS: Your background includes some jazz training which is unique for metal musicians. I’m curious how you got into jazz and then found metal...
SDG: I was a band-geek in elementary school and also jazz was part of our house soundtrack growing up, so I just kind of came up in that world. My friends and their older brothers used to drive those old lowrider cars in the late 70s - and lowriders now are all about hip hop but when I was a kid the cruise-night would be all AC/DC, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and Rush blaring out of these cars. So I was a jazz nerd who graduated into hard rock and metal.
AXS: Seeing just how different live performance is from session work and that you experience both, are there any things that one gives you on a personal level that the other does not, and vice versa?
SDG: That’s a good question - and probably not so easy to answer. [laughs] Well, there is a dichotomy, but the live experience is a physical thing - you really need that interaction with the audience. If I had to play in an isolated situation I would but that’s not why I do it. We all make music for others to listen to and when people are digging it - it helps you grow as a musician. The importance of the interaction with the listener is really vital, so the live experience is cool because you get that energy trade-off. But when you’re working with a band like Testament who’s touring and traveling constantly, there’s a repetition that you can get kind of mesmerized by playing the same set every night and going through the same motions. And you get physically drained and it becomes a chore, and when the negative starts creeping in that’s you have to change it up. That’s why I’m not in it just for the money, it has to be a positive experience. The flip side of that is the studio recording which is a really cool thing I enjoy because it’s like a painting - you’re putting something down that’s going to go through time like that. It’s the beginning of it and live performance is the representation of it.
AXS: Looking at your European dates and then the big Slayer farewell tour this summer, what's the balance like between excitement and knowing you’re going to not have much free time at all for the rest of this year?
SDG: Well, it’s exciting because Slayer is an iconic band but they’re starting to feel their age and call it a day, and they've invited our band to play on that tour. So the first reaction is ‘f**k yeah, this is awesome!’ And then you get your schedule and you go, ‘This is a long run, baby!’ But it’s easy for me to always remember I’ve been in a worse place. As bad as a gig or tour is, it’ll never be as bad as getting up at 4:45 a.m. every day, going to the same place and not wanting to be there for a single minute, so I stay pretty grounded. Looking at the tour dates I’m not going to be home much, I’m going to be out enjoying myself and playing metal music. If anyone had told me I’d be the busiest of my career just after turning 50 I would never have believed them - but now that I’m here I’m not going to let it slip by.
AXS: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?
SDG: Wow, well, as cliche as it is it’s true, there’s no time for negativity or drama - just try to leave a wake of positivity. It’s cheesy but it’s kind of the basis for survival.
AXS: So aside from Testament what are the other projects you’re working on?
SDG: Well, there’s one project coming out with Chris Caffery, “Ripper” Owens, Mark Zonder, and me called Spirits of Fire. And there's a project I worked on in Norway called Terra Odium - it's pretty underground but it’s with musicians from the bands Spiral Architect and Manitou. The album is completely finished we're just looking for a label to release it. But everything else is still kind of in the recording or production phase - those bands will be making announcements on those when they're ready.
Be sure to check out Steve Di Giorgio's website to keep abreast with all of his endeavors.
Slayer Final Tour - Leg 1 with Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament:
May 10 - San Diego, CA - Valley View Casino Center (Click here for tickets)
May 11 - Irvine, CA - FivePoint Amphitheatre
May 13 - Sacramento, CA - Papa Murphy's Park at Cal Expo
May 16 - Vancouver, BC - PNE Forum
May 17 - Penticton, BC - South Okanagan Events Centre
May 19 - Calgary, AL - Big Four
May 20 - Edmonton, AB - Shaw Centre
May 22 - Winnipeg, MB - Bell MTS Place
May 24 - Minneapolis, MN - The Armory
May 25 - Chicago, IL - Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
May 27 - Detroit, MI - Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre @ Freedom Hill
May 29 - Toronto, ON - Budweiser Stage
May 30 - Montreal, PQ - Place Bell
June 1 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun
June 2 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Banks Arts Center
June 4 - Reading, PA - Santander Arena
June 6 - Cincinnati, OH - Riverbend Music Center
June 7 - Cleveland, OH - Blossom Music Center
June 9 - Pittsburgh, PA - KeyBank Pavilion
June 10 - Bristow, VA - Jiffy Lube Live
June 12 - Virginia Beach, VA - VUHL Amphitheatre
June 14 - Charlotte, NC - PNC Music Pavilion
June 15 - Orlando, FL - Orlando Amphitheatre
June 17 - Houston, TX - Smart Financial Center
June 19 - Dallas, TX - The Bomb Factory (Click here for tickets)
June 20 - Austin, TX - Austin 360 Amphitheatre
Slayer Final Tour - Leg 2 with Lamb of God, Anthrax, Testament, and Napalm Death:
July 26 - Gilford, NH - Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
July 27 - Bangor, ME - Impact Music Festival, Darling's Waterfront Pavilion
July 29 - Wantagh, NY - Northwell Health at Jones Beach
July 31 - Scranton, PA - The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Aug. 1 - Albany, NY - Times Union Center
Aug. 3 - Darien Lake, NY - Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
Aug. 4 - Syracuse, NY - Lakeview Amphitheater
Aug. 6 - London, ON - Budweiser Gardens
Aug. 7 - Grand Rapids, MI - Van Andel Arena
Aug. 9 - St. Louis, MO - Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Aug. 10 - Atlanta, GA - Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Aug. 12 - Nashville, TN - Municipal Auditorium
Aug. 13 - Rogers, AR - Walmart AMP
Aug. 15 - San Antonio, TX - Freeman Coliseum
Aug. 16 - Oklahoma City, OK - The Zoo Amphitheatre
Aug. 18 - Denver, CO - Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre (Click here for tickets)
Aug. 19 - Salt Lake City, UT - USANA Amphitheatre
Aug. 21 - Boise, ID - Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater
Aug. 23 - Portland, OR - Sunlight Supply Amphitheater
Aug. 26 - San Jose, CA - SAP Center