“It was an album that allowed me to bring in more of my roots. That was the plan. I remember explaining what I wanted to do to [Relativity Records president] Barry Kobrin at a China Club gig I was playing for them: ‘Look, I just want to celebrate all of my roots. I want to somehow bring in everything that's happening now with everything that I grew up listening to – Chuck Berry and Hendrix and everything – and I don’t want to be ashamed to celebrate all of that.’
“He just didn't get it. I think [A&R man] Cliff Cultreri was my only guardian angel through that whole period, because he kept telling Barry, ‘You're wrong. We've got to give Joe the green light on this.’ I played a couple of new songs that night, and I think it was Satch Boogie that changed Barry’s mind. I had written most of it by then, and we pulled off some kind of a version of it in front of everybody.
“Somehow, he got it – he did get it – and that night was extremely important. The strength of that live performance is what made it happen. What I had expressed to Barry that night really was something I carried through, which informed my decisions day to day in the studio. I would say to myself, ‘I'm not really competing with what's happening right now. I don't have to think about what my comrades are doing, what the other independent labels are releasing and touting, records with the newest shredders.
“I said, ‘No, if you want to do Always With Me, Always With You, just do it. Just make it nice and sweet and simple. If you want to do a song like Hill Of The Skull, which requires very little technique, go ahead and do it.’ At the same time, with other songs like Midnight or Ice Nine, I was saying, ‘Yes, this is technical – deal with it.’
“But you know, there was also fun. I think songs like Surfing… or Hill Of The Skull or Echo were balanced by the sheer, unabashed fun of it all. There was a period in the mid- to late ‘60s where music got so serious. Nobody wants to hear something ponderous, no matter how good the musicianship is. It’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re brilliant. Now, can you entertain us?’"