Joe Satriani (guitar)
Joe Satriani is one of the most prolific guitarists in the business. The multi-instrumentalist is revered and cited as an influence by countless musicians. As an instructor, his students have included Kirk Hammett, Alex Skolnick and Steve Vai. He’s well-developed in writing and composing, and has a side gig as the guitarist for the supergroup CHICKENFOOT.
Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, his 13th solo album, will be released Oct. 5, and Satch is really excited and positive about what he and his band have created. Calling from his home in the City by the Bay, he discussed the new solo album, CHICKENFOOT, his appearance in the upcoming Brad Pitt movie and, er, strippers.
Let’s talk about your new soon-to-be released Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards. With the new single “Light Years Away,” you still carry on your fascination with sci-fi themes.
I think as long as outer space is still surrounding the planet Earth, I will always be fascinated by it.
What’s different than your previous releases? Any new surprises or tricks up your sleeve?
There’s quite a lot this time that’s different about the record. The music styles are pretty varied. We do some slamming, shredding and rocking out on the record. But I suppose we get pretty quiet and tender at times that are different. Songs like “Solitude” and “Littleworth Lane” are definitely new directions, and “Wind in the Trees.” And then of course the presence of keyboards, but like real jammin’ keyboards. I got Mike Keneally playing keyboards on the record and he’s a genius. He’s sort of like my alter ego, my foil. Sometimes playing solos right after me or answering back my melodies, that was a great thing to have. I have a bass player I haven’t played with before, a guy named Allen Whitman from the San Francisco band the Merman. He’s played with them for about 20 years. I’ve known Allen as long as I’ve known drummer Jeff Campitelli, since the late ’70s, early ’80s, we did a lot of gigging together in the clubs in those days. Allen was invited to play on the last album but he was too busy with the Merman, but this time around it worked out. Together as a band, they provide I think the biggest contrast that makes up this album from the others. It’s very natural sounding, the grooves are really deep, everything’s in the pocket and yet there’s a lot of energy in the recordings.
With the release date of October 5th, are there still finishing touches to complete or mixing left to do? Or is it finished and awaiting distribution?
We finished mixing it in July. It usually takes a few months for it to go through the Sony music machine and get into production, artwork and all that stuff. I just finished signing 2,500 CD covers (laughing). The first 2,500 pre-order, the fans get a signature copy. We’re excited about the release. We think the album is going to be very well-received, and we’re excited to get the tour going.
You seem to be able to adapt your playing style, with many different genres and techniques. Is there anything left for you to conquer?
Every day brings up a new challenge. Everything changes every day in the world and in all of our lives, and I’m the kind of guy who just likes to reinterpret everything through my music. So that means it’s just a never-ending source of inspiration out there, and it takes innovative techniques to tell the story in a new and fresh way. So I’m always excited about writing new material.
What’s the word from the Chickenfoot camp? I read that Chad’s gone because of his commitment to Red Hot Chili Peppers. Is this correct?
Well, not really. We just played two shows last weekend. All of us renewed our commitment to meet in late January to record the second album. I’ve written about 10 songs and they’re sitting with Sammy right now, and he’s going to be coming up with melodies and lyrics. When we get together in January as a band, we’ll rearrange all the material and make a record then. We’re still on course.
I bet you’re really looking forward to your upcoming solo-album tour. There are a lot of great venues in great cities planned for you to play.
Absolutely. We are blessed with these amazing fans who get us invited to some of the best places to play on the planet. We can never get to all of them, but we’re going get to some of them, as much as we can. It’s going to be nice to revisit some of the venues we often see year after year.
What are you doing until the tour kicks off in December? I’m sure you’re not having any trouble keeping busy, considering the workaholic you seem to be.
Well, for instance, today was a very busy day. I had to pick up a car that was being serviced, then I had to bring the car to a tire service to get some new tires. I had to test nine chorus pedals, which I did. I had to do seven interviews, and you’re the last one. And as the day goes on, there’s a thing I have to do to get ready for a clinic I’m doing at USC. I’m doing sort of an industry clinic where the kids get to see you play and ask questions about your career and the music business. It’s been a real busy day.
As the instructor for Steve Vai, Kirk Hammet and Alex Skolnick, did you have a good sense that all three would go on to be as influential guitarists that they have become?
Absolutely. They were great students. And by that I mean they were very motivated to practice to become as good as they could become. They took advice very well and they understood that they had to come up with their own version of what I was showing them. They were a lot of fun to teach. And they were also different from each other. They all really did play different, they liked different musicians and bands. Along with those guys, I taught Kevin Cadogan from Third Eye Blind, David Bryson from Counting Crows and jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter. The variety of players is pretty amazing. What they all shared was a personal drive to make themselves the best they could be in their chosen genre of playing.
Are there any moments you can remember that someone has told you about your music or about you that has shocked you or surprised you in any way?
Usually, it’s strippers who will come up to me after a show. I’ve never been to a strip club, so I don’t know what they do in there. But I get that a lot, believe it or not. Strippers come up and tell me how they love my music and they use it in their routines all the time. I think that’s pretty cool (laughs).
You’ve been a guest on many influential artists’ albums. When you’re asked to be on the albums, are you pretty much open to anybody who asks you or are you pretty selective in the process?
Well, you have to be selective. You have to like that music that you’re being asked to contribute to. In the past 12 months, I’ve contributed to a couple of songs on Steve Miller’s latest record, two for Stu Hamm’s latest record, and one song for Tarja. So yeah, I get around (laughs).
Talk about the your appearance in the new Brad Pitt movie, “Moneyball.”
As it turns out, in one scene, they wanted to faithfully re-create the opening of the 2002 season in Oakland, California, at Oakland Stadium. And it just so happened that I was the guest anthem player that evening. So I was called and asked if I would re-create my performance from that night. I still had the jacket, the gear, the equipment and the guitar. It wasn’t too difficult. I just showed up and stood on the field and played a few times. I don’t have a speaking role, so I’m not sure how much of me will be featured in there. But it was interesting to be filmed and to be with Brad and the other actors. It was about from 7 in the morning till about 3 in the afternoon. It was an interesting day. I was in a couple of scenes with Brad on the field and a few of the other actors. They had the ball players there and had about 2,000 extras they moved around the stands for the different shots they needed. They did extreme closeups of me playing and they did shots of me as far away as the top of the stadium. So they got the shot covered.
By Kelley Simms