Satch: 'Artists Are Forced to Make Music in Reverse'

Guitarist would rather develop songs on the road than record them.

Ultimate Guitar

In a new interview, Joe Satriani has stated that artists need more time to play their music live before they get down to record it.

Speaking about his 1986 signature tune Satch Boogie, the guitarist notes that the song has improved through live playing.

"When I hit the stage playing Satch Boogie I'm still working on it and finding new ways to make it better."

As Classic Rock notes, the guitarist would rather tour a song for 15 years before recording it.

"You write a song and you may wind up recording it in about a week, and putting it on an album. Your audience feels that’s the definitive version - but really it's your first attempt at coming to grips with what you've written.

"I think a better process would be to write a song then go on tour for 15 years to figure out exactly what you've written. But such is the world; we do things backwards like that."

What do you think? Is Satch right about letting songs develop over time? Would you be happy to hear the guitarist play a set of songs that you hadn’t heard on record? Let us know in the comments.

Photo is the courtesy of Liz Aiken.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I wouldn't say tour a song for 15 years, but if you get the chance to play it live a few times before recording sure, see how people react to it. If you wait to record, you may never have a tour.
    Very interesting article. I've always noticed some guitarists I like deviating from their standard way of playing songs when live in the same way, in numerous performances. Same with my own stuff. I'll play a song I've been playing for a year and suddenly come up with an added couple of notes that make it more full or whatever.
    To me, you have to know the songs before you go to a big concert because you can't really "listen" to a song when there's that much noise and you can't hear all the parts because the idiots that do the sound turn up the drums so loud that your ears bleed.
    I agree. The sound in big concerts is crap. I don't get all the bass frequency boosting. They boost bass frequencies so much that everything that the drums or bass play overruns everything else but you can't even actually hear what the bass plays because the sound is so muddy. The guitars are usually way too quiet. And I would guess the sound guys have lots of experience. But usually big rock bands have planned their set really well. They usually do nothing new on stage. I think Satch is talking more about instrumental rock because it kind of leaves more room for experimenting. His music has lots of guitar solos and he may want to try different things in them. But if you are a basic rock band like AC/DC, their songs are really straight forward. There's a guitar riff and a singing melody and you don't really want to change those (and IMO they don't need changing). Guitar solos in basic rock aren't as important as in the music Satch plays (obviously). Nobody actually cares if Angus Young changes his solo in "Highway to Hell" a bit because that's not the main part of the song.
    I would say this is the reason for strong debuts often followed by a sophomore slump. Bands spend some time gigging their tunes in clubs, refining them, then finally get the chance to record. Then, time comes for the second album, and unless they have a wealth of songs left over from the first session, they have to quickly write and record a bunch of new material. But agree, it's interesting to hear how songs develop over years of being played live. Pick any song Rush has played consistently over the years, and you can totally hear an evolution from tour to tour. QotSA is another good example.
    Satch is so right but to an extent. 15 years sounds like a long time to keep a song in the can. But it would be good to flesh out a song and make sure it's as tight and concise as can be. On the other side of the coin though, overthinking can ruin a song. It's best to knock the song out but not pick and prod to the point that your song is just drivel.
    I am in a band that just did this exact thing. We wrote songs in the studio, recorded them and now will play them live. The issue is that club owners, other bands and many fans want a record before they will book you. Luckily recording is cheap these days so its not such a big deal.
    Blind In 1 Ear
    he's right. i've waited a long time to make a real album and i'm glad because my style has changed and my songs are better now and the old ones are more developed.
    I know what he means. While I'm just a bedroom guitarist and writer, I always find myself going back to my old songs and tweaking them, making them better and tighter. Even songs that are over a year old.
    We don't really gig that often but our songs do develop a lot when we practice them together with our band. We come up with some new cool stuff and decide to leave it in the song if it sounds good. So I agree with Satch. Some songs need some improving. Though there are also songs that don't need anything. It kind of depends on the song. For example Satch Boogie is that kind of song because it has lots of soloing and jamming stuff. But if you are playing a basic pop song with vocals, I don't think it needs any improving after it's recorded.
    It's just like how you see the artists, like System of a Down, record the song one way, but they always play it live differently.