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Volume 1, Number 7, October 2003
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Analog Dialog: John Cuniberti of The Plant
John Cuniberti is one of the finest audio engineers in the business. He has a wealth of experience in all facets of the record production process- analog and digital tracking, mixing, and mastering. We're glad to have him within driving distance of UA as his contributions are invaluable. He has been dialing in sounds for Joe Satriani (and many, many others) since 1979...

John Cuniberti
FLASHBACK to Berkeley, California 1979, and two local “Power Pop” bands dominated the local club scene, the Squares featuring Joe Satriani and the Rubinoos. John Cuniberti was the live sound guy for the Squares and sometimes the Rubinoos who often played on the same bill. I was in the audience for many of those shows as was UA President Matt Ward (who claims to still own a Squares T-shirt, but I’ve yet to see it).

“All his [Joe Satriani] melody guitar parts... I treat like a human voice. So the limiter choice there is hands down an LA-2A.”

BACK TO NOW… UA Marketing Director Mike Barnes and I headed out to The Plant Studios to interview Joe Satriani and his longtime engineer/producer, John Cuniberti, for the upcoming UA DVD. Joe and his band are setting up and I reminisce with the gang about those early days (daze?). Former Square’s and longtime Satriani drummer Jeff Campitelli points out that I’m dating myself. I believe that we should age proudly but for the record, I did have a fake ID, now Matt…?

But this story is about John Cuniberti not Matt’s and my wild years… well, MY wild years.

Besides working the Squares, John Cuniberti has engineered and produced six solo albums with Joe Satriani. He also engineered many of the classic Dead Kennedys recordings and now runs a mastering suite at the Plant, where he recently mastered the acclaimed Tracy Chapman album, Let it Rain. I reckon the guy knows a thing or two about recording guitars. And he’s a big Universal Audio fan.

John is another one of those guys who prefers to record to analog tape, “It just sounds better.” He likes to record Joe’s guitar with a Shure SM57 through a Neve Mic Pre. “There’s something about that signal path that seems to be a good marriage with Joe’s technique, his playing style and his equipment.”

“As far as limiters go, I’ll often use a limiter on Joe when I hit tape and I’d say that 90% of the time it’s an 1176. All his melody guitar parts and some of his solo parts, I treat like a human voice. So the limiter choice there is hands down an LA-2A. I treat it like someone singing because in fact it is. The way that the waveforms look is much like a singer, the way he articulates on the guitar.”

“The LA-2A is a beautiful instrument. but for a lot of his rhythm parts, a lot of the solo parts, we use an 1176 so I can adjust the attack and release. It’s really important for me to be able to do that. We’ve been using both those units since 1979, and we’ve always had both of those in every studio we’ve ever worked in. I insisted that Joe get both an 1176 and a LA-2A for his home studio too.”

The Plant's Mastering Room
John now spends most of his time running the state of the art Mastering Suite at The Plant Studios which includes custom Crookwood mastering console, B&W/Krell monitoring, Prism Sound Converters, Sadie, Weiss, TC, and Waves L2 and now handles many local rock clientele along with the fast-growing Oakland hip-hop community.

While John is known mostly as a mastering engineer these days, he still tracks and produces Satriani and has mixed a few of the most amazing sounding albums of the last decade including Kevin Gilbert's swansong, " The Shaming Of The True" - the rock opera written by one of the most talented, and sadly unrecognized music talents of our generation. Multi-instrumentalist, Kevin Gilbert co-wrote, played on, arranged and provided much of the inspiration for Sheryl Crowe's "Tuesday Night Music Club", and was indeed Sheryl Crowe's boyfriend and muse during this period.

John's Discography

Did you know that John is the inventor of the Reamp?

Here are some other interesting links to John's work:

Stay tuned; we’ll have more from John Cuniberti when the Universal Audio DVD is released…coming soon!

--Interview by Marsha Vdovin

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