Having earnt acclaim in their own right, some noted musicians opt to team up with other noted musicians to form what's dubbed a "supergroup", an expression that has been overused for some forty years. Guaranteed instant attention, some bear fruit while others fail miserably. Chickenfoot arguably fall under the former, notching up a Gold record, and failing to lose steam like many similarly grouped musicians seem to. A second album seems imminent, and should momentum remain on the band's side, then the future looks equally as bright.
Due for release on April 20th, 2010 in America on Blu-ray and DVD via EMI America, 'Chickenfoot: Get Your Buzz On "Live"' will be issued six days later in the United Kingdom through Eagle Rock Entertainment. Filmed with sixteen hi-definition cameras over three sold out concerts during the summer of 2009 by award-winning director Daniel E. Catullo III (Rush, Creed, Godsmack, Smashing Pumpkins), the audio was mixed in DTS 5.1 Surround Sound by Mike Fraser. The Blu-ray and DVD features one full concert shot at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, Arizona on September 23rd, 2009, plus live segments from shows at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia and The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Bonus footage includes exclusive, never-before-seen backstage footage, rare interviews, extra performance footage, photo gallery and segments featuring a host of special guests including Adam Corolla, Bob Weir and Christopher Guest alias "Nigel Tufnel" from the 1984 movie "This Is Spinal Tap".
Comprising vocalist Sammy Hagar (ex-Van Halen / Montrose), bassist Michael Anthony (ex-Van Halen), drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, Chickenfoot's June 2009 eponymous debut charted at position four on the Billboard 200, and eventually earned a gold disc from the RIAA.
On April 8th at 17:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Joe Satriani to discuss Chickenfoot's new DVD, their second album plans, and his solo album plans.
Joe Satriani: Hi. It's Joe.
UG: Hello Joe. This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
Hi. How are you today?
I'm ok. How are you Joe?
I'm very well, thank you.
Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Later in April, Chickenfoot will release a DVD entitled 'Get Your Buzz On "Live"'. Why did the band decide to release a live DVD after having released only one full-length?
I think that the music industry demands images like no other time before in history. I'm not quite sure what the thirst is all about, but it's probably because people tend to watch things more than listen these days. Artists are asked to create visual content every week, such as podcasts and video messages.
Every TV show and serious website, when they do any kind of interview, they want not only the primary footage but they want background footage - there's cameras everywhere. I think the media has turned towards video, so we are constantly being filmed and asked to be a video package. It's pretty logical that instead of just goofing around in front of a camera, they would film us actually playing, which is what we do primarily.
What are your thoughts on cameras filming bands behind the scenes, and that type of thing? More intrusion?
It's getting to the point where you have very little time to yourself, and very little privacy away from anyone. But yeah, this makes it a little bit worse. It kinda forces you to maybe act up when you aren't thinking about it (laughs), because eventually, if the cameras are filming you and there's nothing going on, they get bored. I guess it turns every musician into a part-time comedian, budding film star (laughs). Some of it's fun. I like film making; I certainly have made a lot of podcasts myself, and take my filming seriously. I think though, as with anything else, there's a time and a place. Sometimes you gotta put your guitar away, and sometimes you gotta put your camera away.
Are there times where you possibly say to the camera people "Can you turn the camera off?", or "Cut that out - we don't want that getting out to the public", or anything of that nature?
That happens a lot, and I think that's something that people should learn how to do. Just because there's a need for video content, that doesn't mean it's gonna be good video content. It's great when someone wants to do a full concert film, because that's definitely what lasts the longest. The show in Phoenix was a really good show, and was well filmed and recorded. It's perfect for a live concert to be filmed, but certainly, when you're on tour every day and every interview is done with a camera, you begin to wonder "What's the real use for this? Why must I be filmed while I'm answering questions about... guitar strings?".
Why did Chickenfoot opt to film its September 23rd, 2009 concert at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, Arizona in particular?
We actually started out looking for venues that fill a couple of requirements. You have to understand that very often places get picked for technical reasons as well as atmospheric reasons, and then there are logistical reasons. Number one are your top five places, and number two are those places you've picked which are friendly for cameras and talent as far as the filming goes and the audio. The third thing is to make sure the band likes the venue. Also, not every venue is large enough or has that certain feeling about it that'd be good for the cameras. You have to take into account not only side lights, but also overall lighting, and whether or not the place is big enough to have cameras filming there. Once all those things get worked out, very often your list gets brought down to maybe one or two possibilities, and it's gotta go with the artist's schedule in terms of when on tour they film, like the beginning of the tour or the end of the tour. At the beginning of the tour the artist is just getting started, whereas at the end of the tour they might be burnt out, so usually they're looking for something in between.
In this case, we actually filmed at The Tabernacle in Atlanta prior to the Phoenix show. We had a great time there, but there were unfortunately technical difficulties with the lighting. We got all these amazing camera shots, and had these cameras that were hanging from the roof of The Tabernacle that got wild shots. Eventually though, we decided that all of the footage didn't have the correct look to it because of the lighting, and decided to film another night. I think some of the performances backstage and onstage wound up as B-roll. The concert itself was actually filmed two weeks later in Phoenix, and we wound up having to pick that one mainly because that was the last spot available really which could accommodate all the cameras. As fate would have it though, it turned out to be one of our better nights on the tour I think. A lot of things happened that night that didn't happen on other nights, so once the night was done I was really happy that we had that problem in Atlanta.
Why did Chickenfoot decide to work with Daniel E. Catullo, who filmed and directed the concert performances on 'Get Your Buzz On "Live"'?
We were looking for different directors, video houses, and Daniel's name popped up. We had never worked with him before, though he'd done a lot of things that we'd seen and hadn't really thought about. Not only is there his own talents, but he's got a great group that help with everything else associated with putting together a shoot, and doing the final editing. It just turned out to be the right fit; all the things that he's done had a good edge to them.
Is it true that you've been writing new Chickenfoot material with Sammy (Hagar, vocals)?
Yeah. When I got off the 'Experience Hendrix' tour a week ago, I went right into the studio with Chad, Michael and Sammy, and we started making demos. We have started writing and recording stuff for our second album.
Is the musical style of these tentative recordings in the vein of Chickenfoot's debut album?
When we start out, I think we're going to stretch a little bit first. We're looking at a good nine months of writing spread out while everybody else is doing other things, so we haven't really set any kind of agenda other than getting together and seeing what everyone is writing about. The four songs that we've started with are all very different from each other, and they have that Chickenfoot vibe I guess because it's just us, the way that we tend to work with each other and record what happens when the four of us get together. I'm really encouraged by the variety of just those four songs, and I think everyone's looking to expand on what we started.
Are there any particular new directions you would like to venture in?
Well, it's gonna be a rock record without a doubt. We don't really like to talk about these things until they're even close to being done, and we're so far away, but I think everybody in the band has got backgrounds and musical roots that were exploited on the first record, and I think this will have more of that. You can use your imagination and figure out what it'll be like. What you usually do is you go in, work on twenty songs, and then whittle them down. The style might be really wild overall, but what winds up being on the record might be completely different. Ourselves, we don't tend to get caught up in it. We write freely and finish everything to see what we like best - we don't set out with design, except to write good music.
"I think that the music industry demands images like no other time before in history."
Is Chad's commitments with Red Hot Chili Peppers presenting any problems in terms of getting together to write and record?
Yeah. I think that the four of us just have that problem (laughs). It's really funny. Sammy is an extremely busy guy, and so he's very rarely in town anyway. I've just started work on a solo record that I hope to hand over to Sony in August and have released in October, so I've got a very heavy schedule right now that I'm involved in outside of Chickenfoot, and of course as you mentioned, Chad is busy recording with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Outside of Mike, the three of us as I mentioned are extremely busy, and getting our schedules to work is a problem, but it was a problem last time as well. Everyone just stays in touch and works on their own, and then when we get together, everybody says "This is what I've got - this is what I've been working on". The thing that makes the band work is that when we get together, it's always very intense and very brutal in terms of arranging songs that people have brought in or collaborating and writing songs on the spot. We get a lot of great work done when we're together with our chemistry, so I don't think anyone's worried that it's not going to happen. Our respective managers are working overtime in the schedule department (laughs), trying to figure out exactly when we're gonna do it. Like I said, that's the way it was last time. We spent a total of forty-three days in the studio making the record, except that it was spread out over 365 days. So go figure (laughs).
(Laughs) Given the fact that you're hopefully handing over a new solo album to Sony Music in August, would you say that a new Chickenfoot album will likely see the light of day in mid to late 2011 possibly?
Yeah. I've heard that they're looking at early 2011. I know it seems crazy, but I think that's a nice date to aim for because if we release something in a year from now, it would give people good time to get used to it, and then we could hit the road in the summer. That kind of makes sense, but we'll see. Those kinds of things I guess I'm not too concerned about, because they have nothing to do with the creative aspect of it. I'm more concerned really about what everyone is writing separately, and what they wanna bring in, and what happens when we get together. There can't be any schedule unless there's music, so I concentrate on the music and let the management worry about the schedule.
Now that you're receiving newfound acclaim as a part of Chickenfoot, do you view yourself as more of a solo artist or as more a member of a band?
I've never thought about it more than anything. I'm just the same guy I was before.
Do you feel that people view your musical skills in a different light, considering you've had success as part of a group?
I think that there's so many little stories out there that you'd have to cover them all. There's going to be the older fans that've been with me since 'Not of This Earth' (1986), who're gonna have a different view of it than fans that had maybe never heard of me until last year - 'Professor Satchafunkilus' (2008) is the first record they heard. In all my years of making solo records, you'd be surprised; I get thousands of fans that've jumped onboard halfway through my career or two thirds through my career, and they don't even have my older records, and they have a very different view of what I am. With a lot of people, 'Crystal Planet' (1998) was the first record they heard of mine, so they just thought that was what I was. They can't relate to 'Surfing With the Alien' (1987) or 'Flying in a Blue Dream' (1989) because they just don't know who that Joe is, and are just more into the more modern sounding Joe from the late nineties. And there are others who say 'Is There Love In Space?' (2004) and 'Strange Beautiful Music' (2002) are their favourite records, and that's their standard as to what I am as a solo artist. When you bring in the idea of Chickenfoot, that just expands it. There are fans of Chickenfoot that have been longtime fans of me, but then because our field was so big and the 'Chickenfoot' record was so successful, I think you're also gonna find that there's quite a few Chickenfoot fans who never heard of Joe Satriani the solo artist, and they probably listen to my records and go "Where's the singing?" (laughs). It's not really the artist's place to think about what other people like; that's losing sight of the game, and you don't wanna go down that little path. My job is to make music, not to try to guess what people like. I just go with my heart. I'm grown up enough to take accolades and criticisms either way (laughs).
In terms of the follow up album to 'Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock', where are things at?
The new solo record I'm working on? I'm not really sure yet. I have to tell you, in all honesty, just yesterday I got my new ProTools rig set up. I was on tour for a month, and I was in the studio with Chickenfoot. The last two days, I've been setting up my new ProTools rig. I still don't have my screen up. I kinda rearranged my studio, and as of late last night, I was still transferring scrappy demos from my laptop to ProTools. I'm starting to lay out a session template, and I've got about fifty songs that I have to get through to see which ones I think could make a cohesive record. I do have about a month and a half to do that though, so come June 6th, I'm in the studio making a new record. I gotta lot of work ahead of me, but I'm not quite sure I wish I could answer that because that would solve one of my questions as well. I can tell you that I'm very excited about it; I've got all these songs, and they all sound brilliant. I'm not quite sure how I'm making the record sound.
Are there any particular musical directions you can pinpoint at this moment, or is it too early to say?
Well, I know that looking across the demo list last night, I have plenty of opportunities to get very heavy in the rock vein if I want, and there are quite a few songs that are more in... like I've got a piano, Southern Baptist church kind of a song, and I've got a reggae song, and a couple of songs that might borrow elements of hip hop. I've got blues oriented songs, I've got songs with very odd chord changes that only I could come up with. I don't think that I wanna make a one-dimensional record, let's put it that way. So I'm thinking about that. I tend to wanna jump away from what I did on the previous record - the previous record had two very long jam songs. It had a song called "Asik Veysel", and it had "Andalusia", another song with very long extended soloing on it. I may not wanna do that this time around, because that took up about fifteen minutes of that album. I may move away from that kind of style and arrangement and find another way of exploring solo guitar, but I'm just being straight with you. I really don't know. I tell you, the past few months when I've been busy with other things, I had my studio completely renovated. The walls are all painted now. The studio was flipped around a hundred and eighty degrees, and the desk was moved. The whole set up is completely different, so I'm kinda wondering... the phone is on the right side of the studio instead of the left (laughs). Everything's opposite, and I got quite a lot of old equipment that I've had lying around for years and I've replaced it with better gear. I've got different guitars to play; I've got guitars that aren't even in production, prototypes. All of these things are gonna contribute to my creativity as I go along.
"It's great when someone wants to do a full concert film, because that's definitely what lasts the longest."
So basically, having your studio renovated is presenting new opportunities for you?
Yeah. Just moving up to the latest ProTools and getting a faster computer really helps. Using some software instruments to compose also is different for me, but the other way was driving me insane. I had gear which was pretty funky, and I wanted to move away from sounds I had used before.
At present, do you have any solo live activities planned in 2010?
We're looking at starting a solo tour in Europe in October around the release of the new album.
Apart from yourself of course, who else will be involved in the recording of your forthcoming solo album?
Mike Fraser is going to be recording and co-producing with me, and John Cuniberti may also get involved. Jeff Campitelli will be on drums, and the album will have a bass player named Allen Whitman. So far, that's all.
Is there the possibility that one or two others might get involved just by chance?
Yeah. If I decide that I'm gonna do songs which have real piano, I'm gonna have to get a piano player. I can only play basic stuff, but that's always the case; anytime you want a really good performance on an instrument that you don't really play, you gotta start looking outside. That's all I've really thought about, but I'm focusing on the music. I'm not gonna make Sammy sing on it, or anything like that. I know that all the other guys are completely busy. Between Jeff, Allen and myself, we play a couple of primary instruments well.
You referenced piano, and in other interviews you've said how you feel you've been that good at playing piano. Do you feel there's a reason why you particularly took to guitar, and never really took to piano?
I wish I knew. There's no mystery there. It's just like sports; as we grow up, we try a variety of sports. You get guys who are great at football, tennis, some guys are great at swimming, and then there's guys who can't run around a track to save their lives. All you can do is just find out what your talent is, and move on when you don't have one in that field (laughs). I'm just one of those guys that always played piano, but never excelled. I'm the same with drums; I've always played drums, but I've never excelled at it. I've tried woodwind instruments and I was really bad at those. I don't know what it is about guitar based instruments, but the mandolin - you name it; if it's got a string on it, I can play it (laughs). I can play harmonica, but I can't play saxophone. It's just one of those things (laughs).
Thanks for the interview Joe - it's really appreciated.
You're very welcome.
Photo credit: Christie Goodwin
Interview by Robert Gray
"I guess it turns every musician into a part-time comedian, budding film star (laughs)."
|'Chickenfoot: Get Your Buzz On "Live"' is released on DVD & Blu-ray in the USA by EMI America (April 20), and in the UK by Eagle Rock Entertainment (April 26). Further info: www.chickenfoot.us|