Since its inception in 1996, the six-string touring fest known as G3
has proven to be a winner for its founders Joe Satriani
and Steve Vai
. Over the years, the G3 line-up with Satriani at its core has featured an ever rotating roster of fretboard wizards from Yngwie Malmsteen and Eric Johnson to Kenny Wayne Sheppard and John Petrucci.
Recently the G3
juggernaut made its way down to Australia for a series of sold out shows. While in Melbourne, Joe Matera
caught up with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrucci. In part one of a three part G3 Ultimate-Guitar exclusive, Joe Matera speaks to Joe Satriani
about the success of G3, Satch's recent album Super Colossal and his new modus operandi in recording guitars.
Ultimate-Guitar: G3 celebrates 10 years this year and it's proven to be a successful venture for you, where do you see G3 heading towards in the future?
There is no stopping it. I mean, it will be redefined and redefined and I think the key to it is that new life will be breathed into it with the changing participants. And I can see an acoustic one too, I can see a blues one, I can see a thrash one and a fusion one. I can see all different avenues and I can even see a blending of like we've done before. Like Steve and I went out with Robert Fripp once and we went out with an acoustic player named Adrian Legg. So we've done pretty unusual ones too. And I did one in South America a few weeks ago with John Petrucci and Eric Johnson and though it was a very unusual pairing, it was very complimentary. We played in front of audiences that were three times the size of what we're doing in Australia. So the changing nature of it is very attractive to the guitar player audience out there. I think just in concept, the whole G3 concept is something that is just getting started really.
Have you got a wish list of who'd you like to see in the line-up over time?
|"Just in concept, the whole G3 concept is something that is just getting started really."|
I've got so many, we've got a beautiful list going and every year we reach out to the obvious people like Eddie Van Halen and Jeff Beck. We've been talking to Billy Gibbons and Brian May. We really talk to all the people that you think we really should be talking to. As well as people you haven't heard of. We are always trying to finesse some unusual threesome, you know, that will capture the imagination of the people and will be inspiring for the players too. Because the players feel they want to be part of something that is unique as well. They want to get something artistic out of it and that is something I want them to feel that they're going to get.
How does doing a G3 show compare to doing your headlining show?
Well our own shows are incredibly demanding just from my left arm [laughs] because I'm playing all those melodies and solos that require some much squeezing and bending. It is a very different kind of technique than if you were just like playing in a band and are playing rhythm most of the time and then doing a couple of solo breaks. And the more blues phrasing I work into it, the harder it is to keep that going for say a three hour show. It's very demanding. Like I play at the top of the song, I play the melody, I play the solo, you know, song after song after song. It's very intense but also very satisfying. At the end of the show I always feel like I've played every possible thing I can play that evening. I feel very artistically drained but happy. But it does take a lot of work.
Until recently Matt Bissonette [bassist] was touring with you, why isn't he on the tour with you in Australia?
The simple reason is we were leaving India at our show that we did there with him and as it happens sometimes, planes get delayed or cancelled and you're stuck in an airport and you don't have your passport or luggage. You know the usual screw up. Anyway he right there and then decided that it was the end of international touring for him. I think he just finally had enough of it. And he works constantly as a first call LA session player and tours with Ringo Starr and Rick Springfield, so because the people he plays with are A-list people, he's not really into jet setting around the world. And especially after playing Calcutta he just decided 'I've done it
'. So we said 'you know we still need some one who wants to jet set around the world with us
'. But it turned out to be great as John Petrucci let me steal his bass player whom I should say, lifted him from Steve Morse so we all owe Steve a debt of gratitude. And it has been great because Dave (LaRue) is a soloist as well and he kind of covers the ground that a lot of bass players that I had, used to do. He's kind of the soloist like Stu Hamm and he's a really solid rock bass player like Matt. He almost has both of their qualities. Stu never played rock or listened to rock music and Matt was never into soloing. Another third component is, he just plays with his own sense of timing and swing which I really like and which I think made the show that so much better. Having him in the band just feels better and is more exciting.
Your most recent album Super Colossal diverts from your previous recordings in the way that it is very rhythm guitar track heavy, you tended to have utilized more guitar tracks this time around?
|"The guitars are massive and they take up all the real estate."|
Yeah I wanted to get away from the thing where I would have like two rhythm guitar tracks, left and right and pretty much playing the same thing. I often found that when you do that, one of the first things that goes, unless you do it like Jimmy Page where you thin the guitars out, is that the thumping rhythm guitars take away from the drums and the bass. The ultimate extreme would be Metallica a couple records ago, around the Ride The Lightning album. Where it has almost no bass guitar and there is no room for it and the kick drum is really high. But the guitars are massive and they take up all the real estate. But if you listen to any Led Zeppelin record you hear the antithesis of that. Jimmy Page will make his guitars thinner and give them the mid-range area which then all of sudden makes John Bonham sound huge! And John Paul Jones sounds big and lovely too. So there is only so much real estate you can fit into a recording.
Some tracks feature anywhere up to 10 guitars?
On Ten Words there are at least ten or twelve rhythm guitar tracks. A lot of them are very dirty and then there four clean style ones as well as a couple that are going through a Line 6 Leslie pedal and an old MXR Phase 100. There is also an acoustic guitar on there, my old '48 Martin that was recorded direct.
What were the main guitars you used on Super Colossal?
There were definitely fewer than before. I think I had made a point where I had looked around in my studio and looked at my guitar rack and said 'you know what? That six space rack is going to be it'. So I think I probably had my main two guitars, a JS1000 and a JS1200. I also had two older Fender basses; a '64 P-Bass and a '72 P-Bass that had a strange maple jazz bass neck on it. There was also a 1966 Fender electric 12-string, and that old Martin
I mentioned before which all together makes up the six. But I have to add that the other unusual thing too is that on two or three of the songs, I used another JS1000 that had .11s on them. I usually play .09s strings but this one I had different gauge of strings on. I used that for Crowd Chant and a couple of the solos that were done right at the end of the recording period in Vancouver.
What led you to the decision to change the string gauge?
I was just experimenting with the way the vibrato arm seemed to be reacting with heavier strings on. When I went to do Crowd Chant, it was such a mystery to how we were going to record it. So I thought I've got to start with something. I had been doing things like it on tour for the past five or six years. So I set up this kick drum and I just started improvising and thought since it's going to be nothing but guitar I might as well make the guitar sound a little hefty. I thought the heavier strings might do the trick. It was a bit of a struggle as I don't really have the chops for a set of .11s but it did seem to add a bit of drama to the solos.
You used a prototype of a mini-amp you're working on too?
|"What is coming up ahead is a lot of travelling!"|
Yeah on Movin' On I played through this small prototype mini-colossal amp that we're developing and that is coming out this January with Peavey. It is just five watts, class A with a really simple head with a little 8 inch speaker thing. I just used the JS1200 and I had the amp cranked but I took the volume control, popped up the high bypass filter and then turned down the volume down to two. So it almost sounds like a Telecaster-Stratocaster or something like going into a Deluxe Reverb. That is how I did the rhythm tracks for the song. It's very rock and roll, Stones like sounding but they're chimey.
You recently played on John 5's upcoming new solo disc, The Devil Knows My Name?
Yeah it was fun. John is a crazy guitar player. He had just sent me an email asking if I wanted to play and I said 'oh absolutely, just send me the stuff'. So I got to record it all in the comfort of my home studio as he was out with Rob Zombie so I was left to my own devices. I played some really crazy sounding stuff. It's very umlets just say, it fits in with the crazy music.
So what other stuff has Joe Satriani got coming up?
This is an interesting period for me. In this year, we just released the Super Colossal album and we've just released the Satriani LIVE! DVD. And we're now into like the G3 phase of the touring thing. We've also toured the U.S and Europe as a solo act doing long two and a half hour shows and then we started this G3 kind of thing. We have hopefully about three more G3 tours that will take us to the very end of this year and then obviously I'll be probably in the studio by the end of the year working on another record for release next year. So what is coming up ahead is a lot of travelling!
2006 Joe Matera