Joe Satriani talks touring and being crowned ‘The Maestro’

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Joe Satriani is a bonafide guitar legend. From releasing the first guitar instrumental album to reaching Billboard’s Top 200 with 1987’s ‘Surfing With The Alien’, to touring with Mick Jagger and (briefly) stepping into Richie Blackmore’s shoes in Deep Purple, he’s made an indelible mark in the world of rock. As well as maintaining a successful solo career, in recent years he’s also been a member of supergroup Chickenfoot. Before all that he taught some of the most respected guitar players in rock, including guitar wizard Steve Vai, and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. With such a remarkable C.V. it’s no wonder that Classic Rock crowned him ‘The Maestro’ at their recent awards ceremony. We caught up with Satch on the red carpet to discuss his career so far.

Joe Satriani, it’s a pleasure to talk to you.

Nice to talk to you.

You’re clutching the ‘Maestro’ award. Are you going to be calling up Steve Vai and telling him; “Hey, guess what I got?”

I’ll send him a little picture, yeah. I’ll tell him he has to call me ‘The Maestro’ from now on [laughs].

So there’s a still a little bit of friendly competition between the two of you?

I think it’s the best kind. When we first met each other, I was actually taller than he was, he was just a little kid, and he’s still upset about that [laughs]. But after a couple of lessons, even within the first six or nine months I knew he was going to be great, and we became sort of like comrades. The thought between me and all the students was, if somebody can make it, if somebody can make the dream happen it will be good for all of us.

Do you still keep an eye on what each other is up to?

We’re interested to see what the other guy’s coming up with. We’re fascinated by it, truly. We wouldn’t steal it, I don’t think, but it’s great to have friends who you trust that will inspire you and push you. That’s what the G3 shows are all about. You know, it’s pretty frightening when you’re standing next to John Petrucci and Steve Vai, and then it’s your turn to play something, but it’s the best kind of push.

You’ve just completed your ‘Shockwave’ U.K. tour. How has it been?

Fantastic, we were at Hammersmith last night, which was great fun. It’s always nice to play there. It’s the end of a two-month tour, so I’m feeling elated. I’ve got two months off ahead of me.

You released ‘Shockwave Supernova’ this year. How has the reaction been to the new album?

It’s been great. It’s a crazy record to lay on the fans, but they really embraced it, and we’ve been playing a little bit more than half of it on tour. I think it’s really coming alive on stage.

You’ve mixed up the set list a little more this time haven’t you?

Yeah. There’s the fan favourites like ‘Ice 9’ along with ‘Satch Boogie’ and ‘Always With Me, Always With You’, but we started doing ‘Not Of This Earth’ and a few other songs that we hadn’t done in decades.

‘Flying In A Blue Dream’ itself is still a show-stopping moment in your live show.

I think we always have to play that song. I love playing it.

Do you have fond memories of recording that album?

Oh yes. It was a very intense period. I’d just come off the road with Mick Jagger and boy there was so much going on outside the studio that delayed the process of recording extra long. I remember I had an intestinal parasite, and I was undiagnosed for a whole year. I had braces on to correct some sort of a dental problem, and there were other things that were very trying. But John Cuniberti, my co-producer and engineer, he kind of made the studio like an oasis, so every time I went there I could forget about all that stuff.

It’s an unusual album for you from the point of view that you sang on it. You sang on five songs didn’t you?

There were six – maybe five and one you want to forget [laughs]. I wanted to try it because being an instrumentalist was totally new to me. I’d only been out on tour once doing it, and it still felt pretty unfamiliar. I’d always been a guitar player in a rock band with singers, so I kind of didn’t know what I was doing. So I thought; “well I know how to sing – that’s what I’ve been doing for thirty years, so let me do that.” But it’s interesting; I’m not a real singer – I can vocalise because I’m a musician, but I’m not a real singer. I think my audience knew that – it was just like an ‘in’ joke, you know? [laughs].

And you’re not keen to go back down that route and sing again?

Maybe if I drink a little bit more whiskey, I might just be convinced.

Finally, is Chickenfoot still a going concern?

Maybe just on my mind! You’d have to ask Sammy Hagar – I’m not sure. There’s nothing concrete; it’s all very muddy right now. I still think we’re an amazing band with a lot of chemistry. I’ve written a lot of songs, and I’ve just got to convince them to record them.

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Eamon

Music Journalist and classic rock / metal enthusiast.