AA University of Buffalo, numerous recording credits
Born and raised in Buffalo, New York but moving to Los Angeles, veteran songwriter/guitarist Michael Campagna is a highly versatile artist. His accomplishments have ranged from playing with the industrial band Psychic TV to co-writing songs for well-known R&B singers like Chaka Khan, Jennifer Holiday, and Maxine Nightingale. Musicians and songwriters who know Campagna can attest to the fact that he has very eclectic tastes — Campagna is the sort of person who would listen to Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf one minute and Nine Inch Nails the next, or play an Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers reissue on his way home from a concert of traditional Indian music.
Campagna became involved in the local music scene during his teenage years, when he played with a Buffalo-based blues band, called Jesse James & the Outlaws. After graduating from high school, Campagna played guitar with bluesman Elmo Witherspoon, in the early ‘70s, and attended the University of Buffalo. Buffalo was where Campagna met his ex-wife Deborah Ash, a singer/songwriter who has focused on R&B and blues. Campagna and Ash became a songwriting team, and in 1975, they moved to Los Angeles. Two of the songs that Campagna and Ash wrote after heading west were recorded by Chaka Khan in early ‘80s (“Father He Said” and “Nothing’s Gonna Take You Away”), and in 1979, their song “Shaking Me Up” was recorded by British soul-disco singer Maxine Nightingale.
Other songs that Campagna co-wrote have included “It Will Haunt Me” (recorded by Jennifer Holliday in 1991) and “Global Village,” which fusion/pop-jazz keyboardist Jeremy Wall (formerly of Spyro Gyra) recorded as an instrumental. It was around 1994 that Campagna joined forces with British singer Genesis P-Orridge, who had founded the influential industrial group Psychic TV, in London in 1979, and was a member of Throbbing Gristle (another important industrial outfit) before that.
In addition to playing guitar with a mid-‘90s version of Psychic TV, Campagna recorded a few albums with a mid-‘90s project that was billed as Genesis P-Orridge & Splinter Test. Since 1998, Campagna has been leading an L.A.-based funk-rock band called the Average Johnsons, whose other members have included Mauex Luv on organ and vocals, Chet West on bass and Gary Mallabar on drums. In addition to being the group’s leader and guitarist, Campagna writes all of their material. In 2000, Campagna served as a musical consultant on a live recording by the late reggae star Peter Tosh; Live at the One Love Peace Concert, which was released on the Jad label, focuses on an historic concert that was held in Kingston, Jamaica in 1978.
Campagna teaches pop, rock, funk, advanced and intermediate classical, as well as intermediate jazz. He teaches guitar and songwriting. Campagna describes his teaching style as endeavoring to learn how the student best learns. He wants to help them find what is in their heart and to be more of a catalyst for awakening that, rather than impart any philosophy on them.
Favorite Teaching Moments
Campagna’s favorite teaching moments are when he’s able to witness students’ conquering their learning disabilities and when he teaches ensemble playing. Campagna loves to be able to see students succeed through challenges they may have with a learning disability. He also really enjoys working with the five bands he has at the South Pasadena Music Center & Conservatory.
Recent/Current Career Events
In the recent film White Irish Drinkers, Campagna wrote three songs on the movie soundtrack. The movie was written and produced by John Gray, the creator of the television series Ghost Whisperer.