2 Interviews With Joe Satriani!
Here we go! Two short interviews with guitar legend Joe
Satriani arrived within days of one another. The first is from our regular
staff writer, Keith McDonald, the second is a guest contribution from Mark
We hope all you guitar freaks and shred heads like this one.
Satriani - Guitar God
Interview by Keith McDonald
Joe Satriani has been around for some time now. And even
though you don't hear a bunch of his songs on the radio, he still has a
very large and loyal fanbase. I stopped by Looney Tunes record store to
see him perform a live show in front of a packed house. He played a few of
his hits and then played songs from his new Epic Records release 'Is There
Love In Space?' album. I had the opportunity to speak with Joe who gave me
some insight into his long career and what lies ahead for him. You can
check out his website at www.satriani.com.
What made you do the in-stores with a live performance?
It's much more fun to play at these events than to just
sign stuff and shake hands. So, I get into it.
Are you surprised to still be on a major label like
Epic while so many of your peers have been dropped so long ago?
I'm thrilled at Epic's commitment to my way of making
music. They have a great creative staff and a long-range view on
developing artists and they're audience.
How powerful is Epic's marketing ability?
Epic/Sony has a worldwide distribution network as well as
a budding online service which is great, but it's their staff around the
world that makes it all work so well.
How strong is the guitar-instrumental market these
For me it's great! I tour in more places to more people
than ever before. The shifting policies at radio can be hard to crack at
times, but that has always been the case.
How much has the market changed over the years?
I think the rate of change is about the same as it's
always been. It's never been something you can figure out. You just get on
and fasten your seat belts 'cause you know it's going to be a bumpy ride!
How do you explain your longevity?
I don't really know the answer to that one. People must
like what I write and play I guess.
How does the song writing process come about?
For me, it's just listening for inspiration. My topics are
the life I lead and the things I imagine or hope for. And I spend a lot of
time playing guitar, bass, drums and keyboards; so, some songs come from
the simple joy of playing.
well has the G3 tour done and I see there was a live CD/DVD released?
The G3 concert series that I started in '96 has turned
into event that we repeat almost every year. It's a great source of
creative performance and camaraderie for the other performers and me. Our
first G3 DVD from '96 has gone platinum and our most recent Live in Denver
DVD released this February is heading in the same direction. I plan to do
as many as possible in the next few years.
Will you be doing any solo tour dates?
My solo tour will begin in October this year in the US.
I see you added 2 vocal tracks to your new album. Why
This time round the vocal tracks just seemed to compliment
the rest of the CD this time. Since I was working with a rock meets
rock/blues theme for this record they fit right in and added some cool
Would you ever consider doing an entire album with
Not with me singing! I'd have a real singer handle those
How much harder or easier is it to write an
instrumental album rather than a vocal album?
They are both very difficult. The hard part about writing
and recording is making all good; it doesn't matter if it's instrumental
Do you find it difficult to get instrumental tracks
played over the radio considering most of the spins have vocals?
Yes, it's always been that way. But, I knew that when got
into it, so, I'm not complaining.
Legacy/Sony Music released an 'Anthology' double album.
How much say did you have in that?
Between me and my online fans at satriani.com the list was
compiled and we were allowed to re-master all the songs from the original
tapes, which was great; they never sounded so good! I loved having the
opportunity to tell a short story for each of the songs in the liner notes
How great was it to have so many Grammy nominations?
It's always cool to know that people out there are
What lies ahead for you?
Music, music, music! I still love to play my guitar and
make records, so; I'll keep doing that.
Joe Satriani Interview By Mark Uricheck
Joe Satriani has just released his 9th studio album, titled Is There Love In
Space? The album is another fine collection of guitar madness that has made the
mighty Satch the gold standard for rock guitarists everywhere. While this record may be
one of his most accessible to new fans, longtime die-hard guitar geek types will not be
disappointed. Satriani had just finished up a short promotional tour for the record, and
was soon to embark on the European leg of his G3 tour with Steve Vai and Robert Fripp when
Hey Joe, how are you? Hows the promo tour been going?
It was really a lot of fun. I didnt think Id enjoy it as much, but it
turned out to be a really creative kind of experience.
First off, congratulations on the new album - it sounds great. When you start
writing new material, where do you get your inspiration? How do the songs initially come
Well, theyre all kind of a reaction to basic life experiences. Some of them are
easy to peg - some are about having fun, some are about the bad times. Some are like
prayers or wishes. Some I just completely fabricate; just like wishes or daydreams that I
can put into a form that I can write about.
Youve been pretty consistent over the years in releasing your records, how do
you decide when its time to make a new one?
Well, to a certain extent I think the record business helps you out with that. Im
sure you know what its like; a lot of us wish we didnt have a schedule so we
could be free, but when we become free often we dont become
very productive. So the record business kind of puts you on a schedule. In order to keep
their business flying, theyve got to keep you going. You reach sort of an agreement
with your label thats based on, it used to be every three years, but now its
been cut shorter because of the way the world operates. Its about every two years
now, which makes sense because it takes about a year to broker a tour of the world. I
dont go out on the road for 6 months straight, I do about 6 weeks at a time. Whether
or not I bring my family, I just dont like to be out away from reality for too long.
But it takes us about a year because Europe is larger now; we do Asia and the Pacific Rim.
Anyway, thats what tells me its time to record (laughs) - my schedule.
You finished up one of your G3 Tours a few months ago, and are soon going to Europe
for another installment. How did the G3 idea come about?
The original idea for a G3 Tour came out of griping session I had with my management.
You know, Im on tour all the time and Im making records, but how come Im
always isolated from these other guitar players that Ive always wanted to play with?
We wanted something where guitar players could come and hang out, exchange ideas. We
started vamping on that idea, and we had come up with this mini-festival idea. After
talking with our agents and promoters, we had to decide the kind of venues - whether it be
theaters, or a large outdoor venue the time period we usually have is from 7-11pm. You
have to be off the stage or they start to fine you by the minute (laughs). So we came down
to having three performers. Any more than that, none of them would be able to play long
enough and they might not be attracted to join the tour. We formulated this so every
performer would get anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to play with their own band. Then,
at the end of the night the guitarists would join my band for a 30-minute improvisation
based on popular material. We started this in 1995 and it took us a good year or more to
convince not only the musicians but also the local promoters that it was a great idea. I
sort of was tenacious about having Steve Vai and Eric Johnson joining us for the first
outing. Once we did the first show they fell in love with the idea. Its become
something weve been able to continually book every year, year and a half.
Artistically, its just really satisfying. The total upside of it is that I get to
stand on stage every night with some of the greatest guitar players in the world.
Youve always been a master of phrasing, and have a great sense of melody in
your playing. Is that something you consciously worked on from the beginning?
All the players that I admired were just masters of phrasing. I just fell in love with
it, and I aspired to be as good as those guys. Be it Hendrix or Beck or Clapton or Page,
players like Fred McDowell or Wes Montgomery - a great jazz player. Their sense of melody
was great, and I was attracted to that as a listener. It was natural that Id want to
play that way.
I know a lot of guitar players are never satisfied with their tone. Are you the same
I think that were always looking for a new angle of our sound. Personally, I have
a lot of different amplifiers in the studio to try and match the sound of the guitar with
the feeling that Im trying to project. I use the tone to reflect the kind of
vocabulary that I want to play to. But then when you go live, you cant bring 30 amps
on stage. Its been made easier with having my own amplifier built by Peavey. You
know, its like when you asked me about the promo tour. Its the first time
Ive toured with the actual finished product. I found myself without the distraction
of a band, stage, lights. I was just standing in a TV studio or a record store. I could
focus on just how my guitar sounded, and it was just a great experience. I could focus
more on the tone and the phrasing; it was a more in-depth, enriching experience than when
Im on stage. There youre integrating with other musicians, and a larger
audience. So having that amp with me everyday from our zombie-like 7am TV appearances
(Laughs), all the way to our evening shows at the record stores was a great experience. It
was years of trying to get someone to design an amp to do what I thought an amp should do.
Youve always had a tasteful approach with the wah-wah pedal; its become
kind of a signature sound for you. Is that your Hendrix influence coming through, or is it
been a subconscious thing?
Well its certainly been an unusual thing. I remember when I was starting to work
on these albums I was so sick of the wah-wah that I preferred not bringing it to the
sessions. So on my first album Not of This Earth my producer said
Dont you have a wah-wah pedal, I said Im sick of wah-wah
pedals (laughs). So I did the whole album with no wah-wah pedal. Then by the time we got
around to doing Surfing With The Alien, I made the decision literally as I was
packing up my car to go the studio, and there it was sitting on the ground. I thought you
know, I hate this thing, but Im going to bring it and just try it. Ill plug it
in and see what happens. And it was that record that kind of introduced me, to myself,
kind of a new way of using the wah-wah pedal. Now of course I do find that it is kind of
an extension of my sound.
What made you decide to become primarily an instrumental artist as opposed to being
the guitar player in a band?
Well that was just an accident really. I was busy in bands, trying to be as successful
as possible, trying to get a record deal for years and years. At home, as I needed to
explore deeper music I would make these tapes. I eventually got a 4-track cassette
recorder and I started making more and more of these tapes. One Christmas holiday my band
decided we were going to take a month off from each other. I just decided you know what,
Im going to go down to the courthouse and Im going to start up my own
publishing company, my own record company. I must say the reason I did this is because we
rehearsed next to a place called Nolo Press in Berkley, California. They published books
to help people do their own thing; start a business, do their taxes, that sort of thing.
So they had these books with the forms in them, you just pull them out. Their dumpster
went right outside our rehearsal space. So when we were outside on a break, I saw all
these books in the dumpster and it got into my mind I could do all this stuff on my own,
you dont need a lawyer, you dont need a manager, you could just do it
yourself. So I took it upon myself to find a book on starting your own business. Basically
I then went and recorded a very avant-garde all guitar tape at a friends home
studio. When the band got back from the break, I presented the tape to the guys and said
look what I did over the Christmas vacation! (laughs) I said I started this label, this
and that and I said its so easy, we should be doing all this ourselves. What I ended
up doing was printing up the tape, I found a company and printed up vinyl copies and sent
them out to every magazine that was distributed in record stores around the world. I sent
them out with a letter that said this is free, do whatever you want with it.
Anyway a couple months later someone said to me hey, you just got reviewed in Guitar
Player magazine. I was kind of shocked. I read this little review, and what struck
me was they didnt know who I was, but they knew I was playing in these bands in all
the clubs, and were unfazed by this little avant-garde record. They gave it a good review,
and were hoping to hear more. I realized there was a path opening up in front of me in my
life, which was you could keep flogging a dead horse aiming for commercial music or
you can do something completely wicked and crazy. You could do whatever you want because
they already think youre a nut. So I said Im going to do another
one of those. It took me a while to finance it. It wound up being from a
pre-approved credit card mailed to me. It had like a $5,000 credit line, so I recorded
this record on the credit card. So it was really an accidental career, and was still new
to me when Surfing With The Alien was becoming popular. I had always been on
these pop bands, or heavy rock bands. So anyway, thats kind of like the haphazard
way to do it.
It must have been pretty fulfilling to get it done yourself that way.
It was fantastic. It was the greatest feeling. It was wrought with incredible danger
though because suddenly realized it was all on me, it was all on my head; the costs and
everything. As a matter of fact the first solo tour I did, was in January of 1988.
Surfing had just landed on the charts and Id gotten on the cover of some
magazine. One day I got called into my managers hotel room. He said just to
let you know, when this tours over youll have lost $7000 per week. At
the time I had no money, I was completely broke. I thought, how do you have a record on
the charts, and we were a tiny traveling act, and losing money? I remember saying
somethings gotta happen to turn this around. And then a couple of days later I got a
call to audition for Mick Jaggers band, and I said well, this sounds like a good
idea (laughs). So I got the audition and the job, then I did two tours with Mick that
year. That pulled me out of my money situation, and in turn the notoriety from that tour
helped my solo tour into the black. So it was an incredible amount of work, but it exposed
me to an audience that was waiting to hear something new.
What kind of advice would you give to musicians?
Well, aside from the obvious, theres a two-part set of instructions Id say.
The first part is the obvious stuff; know what you dont know. Theory - memorize it
once and for all, stop kidding yourself. Notes, chords, scales, rhythms, you cant
fool yourself with that. But then on the other side of it Id say its really
important to focus on being original, finding your own voice. Youve got to love what
you do; thats what gets you through it. The other thing is that the audience out
there is dying for someone to come up with something different and unique. I understand
quite clearly having to work all my life as a guitar player that in the beginning as an
amateur you get rewarded for sounding like other people. But in order for you to become
like those other people you need to not be those other people. If you dont spend any
time trying to figure out who you are on the instrument, than the opportunity will slip
right through your fingers.
Band Website: www.satriani.com