Joe Satriani: 'I Like To Make Record That Will Stand Up To The Test Of Time'

Joe Matera spoke to Joe Satriani about the new album, writing instrumentals and his influence upon countless of contemporary guitarists.

Joe Satriani: 'I Like To Make Record That Will Stand Up To The Test Of Time'
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The reason somebody gets to be a guitar hero would appear to be fairly obvious: He can do things on the instrument that most mere mortals simply can't. Joe Satriani passed that test handily over 23 years ago when he released the multi-platinum Surfing With The Alien. Jaws were dropped, fists were raised and millions of music fans the world over picked up guitars both real and imaginary to celebrate and emulate a shred god who would continue to thrill and amaze, dazzle and delight. But this business of guitar hero-dom is a funny thing, and for Satriani, who has received about every guitar award there is to hand out (he's also a multiple Grammy Award nominee), it's a strange, beautiful and uniquely challenging one, as well. Making six strings scream and wail while flurries of notes dance into the heavens is all very well and good; making music that matters, and more importantly, sharing deeply personal emotions, that's his true raison d'etre. On his 14th studio album, Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards, Joe Satriani exposes his soul in ways even he never believed were possible. The new album, co-produced by Satriani and Mike Fraser (whose credits include AC/DC, Metallica, Aerosmith, as well as several Satriani albums, such as Crystal Planet, Is There Love in Space? and Super Colossal) is Satriani's most introspective and emotive to date and is destined to become another Satch classic in his canon of work. On the eve of the album's release, Joe Matera spoke to Joe Satriani about the new album, writing instrumentals and his influence upon countless of contemporary guitarists. UG: Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards is your fourteen studio album to date, with so many albums under your belt now, do making albums get any easier now? Joe Satriani: I have to say no, but then I would add as my second answer, that this album was very easy to make. I'm still waiting for something to go wrong (laughs) it just went so right. I mean everybody was available, I wrote all the music in time, we got the studio we wanted to use, we finished recording early, we finished mixing early and we delivered the record early. And on top of that Epic/Sony did a great job in turning around the manufacturing and everything else with this record. Last year was one of phenomenal change for you, both professionally and personally, obviously that would have influenced the writing process for the album? Oh definitely, yes it did. I'd say 98% of last year was just a lot of music work between my own touring and Chickenfoot. And then right at the end of the year my mother Katherine passed away and that was really hard to take for me and my whole family. But we were all with her when she passed away. But it was a beautiful a death as you could possibly imagine, you know, if you were a mother leaving her family and you were surrounded by the kids. But it did affect me profoundly. And it convinced more than ever, that I needed to make an album and an album where I really needed to get the feeling of each of the songs closer to the audience and make them more accessible to the people somehow. And by that I don't mean just turning up the guitar or making it more aggressive because, sometimes that is the worst thing you can do. So I had to write the songs and pick the right songs to include on the album. And I had to provide as well as the other musicians, really interesting performances to make the songs come alive so that people would feel the energy and emotion behind the music.

"These songs being so different from each other, really constituted an album that you could listen to a million times for decades."

I hear that you had written over fifty songs in preparation for this album? Yeah so I had a lot of material to pick from, which was really great. I'm usually pretty prolific so it was nice to have a lot of material to choose from, but ultimately, I thought that these songs being so different from each other, really constituted an album that you could listen to a million times for decades to come, which is what I wanted to do and always aim to do. I like to make a record that will really stand up to the test of time. The records aren't always very commercial, but sometimes you do get lucky with what you're trying to do where it happens to be, whats part of the trend as well. But more importantly, the record has to stand on its own, as a piece of art. Was there any material recycled for this album, leftovers from the recording sessions you did for the Chickenfoot album? There are a couple songs on this record that actually have a real long history. Wind In The Trees' was a song I started working on, back when I was a teenager. It has taken me all this time to work out exactly how to do it. That has got to be a record for the longest time spent on working on a song (laughs). I think Lights Years Away' was a riff that I originally had shown to Mike Anthony and Sammy Hagar and Mike was really into it. But Sammy couldn't figure out how he was going to sing over something like that so it was passed up. But it is not unusual for me to have too many songs for a record. Like for example, just recently after I finished making this record, I wrote another ten songs and sent them off to Sammy for the next Chickenfoot record. But it is just something I just do. I like to constantly write so it is not unusual to have songs that have been kicking around for months or even a year or so. Going through the album's track listing, one track in particular, Two Sides To Every Story' is a jazzy inspired affair, reminiscent of George Benson. Do you tend to get a lot of influence from that type of jazz background? Well that song really stands out all by itself really. There is nothing quite like it on the rest of the album. It does have a weird dichotomy by itself because the middle section of the song is more like a Pink Floyd kind of thing. Yet the bookends, the beginning and the ending of it, is really a little bit more like an Eddie Harris piece, a 70s jazz kind of piece. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Eddie Harris but he was an American saxophone player. He made the most unique instrumental albums because he used to scream and sing and hum through his saxophone reeds. But the way that he played, was so unique he didn't sound like every other saxophone player that had studied Bird and Coltrane and sort of played like everybody else. Nobody sounded like Eddie. And he could write songs that were in odd time signatures that could make you feel that you could dance to them anytime. So that song is really a tribute to Eddie Harris. What about some of the other songs on the albums, were any directly inspired by similar settings too? Well Dream Song was' something that I wrote when I was dreaming and when I woke up, I had the whole song in my head. It was just perfect. So I quickly ran downstairs to my studio and recorded it immediately. Littleworth Lane' is a tribute song to this street where my mother's house was and where she lived for the last few decades of her life. She lived in a house that was built in the late 1600s. So the inspiration came from different facets of life. You mentioned Dream Song', your classic Flying In A Blue Dream' was also inspired by a dream that you had, so do dreams play a major part in your creative process as well? I guess so, as once in every few years a big one comes along. It is crazy. Dreams are very interesting and I don't really know what they are. I'm not sure that they're spiritual or foretell the future or anything like that, but all I know is, that every single human being that has ever lived has dreamt. And that it is a very interesting concept and also they are one of the things that binds us all together.

"I'm still trying to get Jeff Beck out on tour and I would love to play with Jimmy Page."

Moving onto gear, what did you use for this particular album? I mostly used my Marshall amps which were the JVM 410s. I also used a100 and a 50 watt Marshall head. On just a few songs I also used a Wizard head and bottom and also a Sans Amp guitar rig, software stuff for some little parts here and there. I used my Ibanez guitars, my JS-2400 prototypes and my JS-1200, primarily those two guitars did most of the work. I did one song on another prototype that hasn't got a model number as yet as we're still working on it. It is something I've been working on for years with Ibanez, it is a three DiMarzio single coil guitar. I toured with it on the Experience Hendrix tour back in March and really fell in love with it. Having already achieved so much in your career, have you got any other musical ambitions that you want to be able to achieve? Well certainly, I hope to be making quite a few more records in my lifetime and I want to be able to tour every place on the planet. That would be great. I also love to work with some other people too, I'm still trying to get Jeff Beck out on tour and I would love to play with Jimmy Page. I'd love to spend more time playing with Brian May and Billy Gibbons, so that would be great too. Finally I want to ask you, a lot of iconic guitar players such as Kirk Hammett, Steve Vai and Alex Skolnick were former students of yours. Listening to them today, can you hear your influence in their playing? I never really do because you have to understand, I sat in a room with these guys for hours and hours and so, I know them more than most people know them. I know them in their bare bone settings. I heard them play without any stage lighting or big amps or anything like that. I saw them face to face plugged into a tiny little 8' inch speaker. So what I notice when I hear Kirk Hammett or Steve Vai or Larry LaLaLonde or Alex Skolnick or Charlie Hunter and all the other guys, is that they are so uniquely different from each other. So I really don't hear my influence. What I can hear though is remembering teaching them certain chord concepts, scalar concepts and teaching them how to figure out what were their options. From determining what key they're in and all the different things that I would give them as options. So what I'm very proud to say the most is that these guys all picked their own paths. And to this day, they sound totally different from each other which I think is really great and makes me very happy. Photo credit: Francesco Castaldo Interview by Joe Matera Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2010

107 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    MonsterOfRock
    I'm not sure whether most of you idiots even know what Satch plays. Shred? Really? Hes far from shred. Oo, and new album sounds awesome in the previews. Gettin' it tommorow.
    darkwolf291
    PopkoRn1986 wrote: All the haters of Joe Satriani are coldplay-fans, hahaha!
    I like Coldplay! And Satch!
    K!!LsWiTcH
    Savage Animal wrote: espChris93 wrote: I-am-hollywood wrote: Savage Animal wrote: most of his albums sound incredibly cheesy/dated.. not sure how he plans on pulling that off kinda wish he'd stop recording albums until he can stop 'wanking' 24/7 Are you serious? alot of his music has alot of feel and emotion that cant just be wanked out hes a true musician. Id love for once for a ug user to put his guitar where his mouth is before demeaning a musician. agreed, those other two must be insane. The thing that makes satch incredible is his fantastic rythm playing and his tasteful soloing even when he's shredding. I dont know how anyone classifies Joe's playing as "wanking" ... because he's always shredding. I'd like to see him take a minimalist approach for once, but I'm not sure if he'd be able to. technical skills can only get you so far, I would like to see him develop more songwriting skills
    while im not a huge satch fan and i dont know much from the guy, i know and have seen enough to realize hes actually a pretty tasteful player. if you watch G3 with him malmsteen and vai, imo he rarely just flips out and starts shredding indiscernible arpeggios and such. his playing actually has character unlike a lot of players
    ragzy02
    Joe is definitely a virtuoso. I just have always like the "band" concept instead. I'm not too big on solo artists because I think that when you have only one guy doing all of the writing, the material really starts to sound the same. Joe is definitely trying to broaden his music though from what it sounds like so I give him props on that. Not many good guitar gods left in the world, but Joe is one of them. I miss Dime though for sure. He was the greatest!
    thefollower
    I should add Joe considers himself a legato player than an alterntive picker like (Petrucci) . Some one like petrucci i would consider Shredding.. not necessarily a bad thing anyway... i dunno joe doesn't sound like a shredder its odd.
    oneblackened
    MisguidedAngel wrote: itaughttremonti wrote: I wonder how peavey feels about him not using his signature amp? He uses it live where people actually see him, pretty sure they're okay with that
    Even though he doesn't actually GET his tone from that amp. funny, isn't it?
    Guitarlicker
    SATRIANI HAS SPOKEEEEN!!!!! And don't dis Satch people, he'd tear you to pieces on guitar without even knowing you were there. Can't wait to get this album.
    Grimriffer
    When a person says "I like to make record" I wonder if he knows the meaning of words "stand up to" or "test of time".
    MisguidedAngel
    itaughttremonti wrote: I wonder how peavey feels about him not using his signature amp?
    He uses it live where people actually see him, pretty sure they're okay with that
    Seref
    Before they get too old, all the big instrumental guitar god guys like Satch, Petrucci, Malmsteen, and Vai should all get together and make a colab album.
    Stiney
    OMMad wrote: i just noticed that the satch never ages...
    That's because cyborgs from the future created when a mad scientist raped god with a guitar don't age man. Can't wait for this album. Sounds like it could be really really interesting.
    thefollower
    Some people seem to have opinions without really listening to the whole discography...maybe its just me but i get the entire discography before i form an opinion on an aritst's creativity. I never get to the point of offending them - they are musicians they are the people we learn from ... every artist has something you can add to your music to better yourself.. Only ignorant fools would turn their nose at something without really trying to learn some of it on their instrument first.
    -xCaMRocKx-
    kettmannism wrote: Great grammar in the title... not!
    Agreed. From the title, it sounds like they interviewed Borat.
    randyaintdead82
    Savage Animal wrote: espChris93 wrote: I-am-hollywood wrote: Savage Animal wrote: most of his albums sound incredibly cheesy/dated.. not sure how he plans on pulling that off kinda wish he'd stop recording albums until he can stop 'wanking' 24/7 Are you serious? alot of his music has alot of feel and emotion that cant just be wanked out hes a true musician. Id love for once for a ug user to put his guitar where his mouth is before demeaning a musician. agreed, those other two must be insane. The thing that makes satch incredible is his fantastic rythm playing and his tasteful soloing even when he's shredding. I dont know how anyone classifies Joe's playing as "wanking" ... because he's always shredding. I'd like to see him take a minimalist approach for once, but I'm not sure if he'd be able to. technical skills can only get you so far, I would like to see him develop more songwriting skills
    Uh dude, listen to always with me, always with you. That is a song. Legit. He doesn't wank, he adds appropriate melody to the song and can be technical when its ok to
    bass-man9712
    I-am-hollywood wrote: Are you serious? alot of his music has alot of feel and emotion that cant just be wanked out hes a true musician. Id love for once for a ug user to put his guitar where his mouth is before demeaning a musician.
    can't agree with you more
    Boomjosh
    ifc69 wrote: "'I Like To Make Record That Will Stand Up To The Test Of Time'" I didn't know he was Asian.
    ^this is brilliant
    iheartblondie
    rickyj wrote: Tool1986 wrote: And you'll fail yet again for the 100th time. No one will remember you except guitar players who enjoy good technique. EXACTLY. what are you talking about? hes one of the most popular guitarists ever...
    yeah...sure.
    JakkSatch
    Wow, in comparison with other Satch's interviews this one is kinda small...you gotta love the way he is, amazing guitar player but still very humble...
    breadstick
    Savage Animal wrote: most of his albums sound incredibly cheesy/dated.. not sure how he plans on pulling that off kinda wish he'd stop recording albums until he can stop 'wanking' 24/7
    I concur. That said, I'm basing this opinion off the one song I know (Surfing with the Alien).
    kornfire15
    NodgeLives wrote: This is ULTIMATE-guitar isn't it? Why so much negativity for one of the worlds greatest living guitarists? Perhaps you should post your comments on mediocre-guitar.com and leave the rest of us to appreciate Joes' music.
    Oh you're right, god forbid someone doesn't like a guitarist you like. I love Satriani too, but I'm not going to complain if someone expresses their opinions because all they are are opinions. They aren't going to change whether or not you like his music, so who gives a shit.
    NodgeLives
    This is ULTIMATE-guitar isn't it? Why so much negativity for one of the worlds greatest living guitarists? Perhaps you should post your comments on mediocre-guitar.com and leave the rest of us to appreciate Joes' music.
    Chozodragon
    randyaintdead82 wrote: Savage Animal wrote: espChris93 wrote: I-am-hollywood wrote: Savage Animal wrote: most of his albums sound incredibly cheesy/dated.. not sure how he plans on pulling that off kinda wish he'd stop recording albums until he can stop 'wanking' 24/7 Are you serious? alot of his music has alot of feel and emotion that cant just be wanked out hes a true musician. Id love for once for a ug user to put his guitar where his mouth is before demeaning a musician. agreed, those other two must be insane. The thing that makes satch incredible is his fantastic rythm playing and his tasteful soloing even when he's shredding. I dont know how anyone classifies Joe's playing as "wanking" ... because he's always shredding. I'd like to see him take a minimalist approach for once, but I'm not sure if he'd be able to. technical skills can only get you so far, I would like to see him develop more songwriting skills Uh dude, listen to always with me, always with you. That is a song. Legit. He doesn't wank, he adds appropriate melody to the song and can be technical when its ok to
    Or Love thing. Or Midnight. Or Overdriver. Or Ceremony. Or any Satriani sopng that has none to a small amount of shredding and showcases great songwriting skills.
    Blaze/Detox
    why do i feel like ug constantly makes grammar mistakes to attract the attention of its grammar nazi members?
    KewlBeans
    xicetraex wrote: I LIKE TO MAKE RECORD GUYS
    I lold so goddamn hard, thanks for making my day lol
    mr2METALthnLIFE
    most people dont know that although joe satriani is white he has adapted an asian accent to be hip and "in" with this new age and time. oh oh, satliani-san so good at shled geetrl. bard barrsack smooth shledding.
    schirripar
    ifc69 wrote: "'I Like To Make Record That Will Stand Up To The Test Of Time'" I didn't know he was Asian.
    haha i was just thinking that
    Dumpster510
    Ali-b912 wrote: Savage Animal wrote: kinda wish he'd stop recording albums until he can stop 'wanking' 24/7 That's what he does. He's not a rhythm player, he's a lead player. IMO he (along with Steve Vai, Yngwie etc.) need a solid rhythm player in their bands. I think alot of their songs without the lead guitar just sound like simple backing tracks. They often lack memorable parts or riffs.
    Listen to the album and then talk. You guys are so off its funny. lol
    methusalah2
    hater's gon ****ing hate. his albums do what he wants -- approach the audience and evoke our emotions. satch has my utmost respect as a musician and a virtuoso.
    Crazyjosh
    MonsterOfRock wrote: Skullivan wrote: Before they get too old, all the big instrumental guitar god guys like Satch, Petrucci, Malmsteen, and Vai should all get together and make a colab album. Or at least do like a G6 tour instead of limiting themselves to G3. I'd like to see Vai, Satch, Gilbert, Malmsteen, Petrucci, and Van Halen all in one show, slowly rising to heaven as they play each individual note.
    That wouldn't be possible, the stage would explode from sheer awesomeness
    DayTauntRocks
    1.) How many different comments do we need about the typo in the title? I mean seriously guys, we all saw it, we all know it's a typo, we get it, you're not funny. Move on. 2.) Very surprised by some of the reactions here. I think he's a phenominal guitar player, thought this was common knowledge actually. He's got great feel, control and skills. That's what sets him apart in my opinion, great melodies and great control to play slowly and passionately, but yet he's got the skills to explode with shred licks when he wants to. He's the complete package in my opinion.
    SlimVillan
    quite a few people, with far lesser talent I'm sure, have written some very insulting and narrow comments. I've been a huge Satch fan for many years and have seen him play many times. Comparing him to anyone else is a total waste of time. Joe Satriani is an artist in his own right. He plays with incredible sensitivity and feel and I for one hope he forgills his own ambitions and continues to produce great works of art. Also I hope he manages to collar Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page or Brian May. Id go anywhere in the world to see those gigs.
    pleser
    Anybody know if Joe ever played "Bells of Lal Part 2" live? I think its his best track ever.
    flyitfast
    blooddrunk wrote: How about making something that people OTHER than yngwie playlisters will wanna hear?
    How about people stop COMPARING Joe Satriani with Yngwie Malmsteem? Joe sounds nothing like Yngwie, which in my opinion is a very very good thing. Anyone who thinks he does clearly doesn't bother listening to either of them.
    blooddrunk
    How about making something that people OTHER than yngwie playlisters will wanna hear?
    Jet_Black88
    I'd like to see how many song ideas just get lost...he says he writes so much, but there has to be some stuff that he can't even get out on paper or recorded somehow before he loses the idea. Writing for so many years, he has to have come up with some way of remembering an idea when he isn't near his guitar or recording gear (which, honestly, probably isn't very many hours out of the day).
    MonsterOfRock
    Skullivan wrote: Seref wrote: Before they get too old, all the big instrumental guitar god guys like Satch, Petrucci, Malmsteen, and Vai should all get together and make a colab album. Or at least do like a G6 tour instead of limiting themselves to G3. I'd like to see Vai, Satch, Gilbert, Malmsteen, Petrucci, and Van Halen all in one show, slowly rising to heaven as they play each individual note.
    Then I'd feel sorry for Eddie Van Halen
    Rendz
    oh yea another satch album, i am looking forward to get one soon
    Stone Agean
    mitch311 wrote: Music is timeless. I don't understand at all how music can be dated especially since they have been using the same notes for thousands of years
    Well, yeah, but often when the music's sound is based so heavily off trends it only has a limited lifespan of relevancy. "Timeless" music is often just simple chords and sincere vocals, to me at least....its whats stood the test of time the past 60 or so years.
    Wesserz
    PopkoRn1986 wrote: All the haters of Joe Satriani are coldplay-fans, hahaha!
    LOL!
    mitch311
    Vacuity wrote: I-am-hollywood wrote: Savage Animal wrote: most of his albums sound incredibly cheesy/dated.. not sure how he plans on pulling that off kinda wish he'd stop recording albums until he can stop 'wanking' 24/7 Are you serious? alot of his music has alot of feel and emotion that cant just be wanked out hes a true musician. Id love for once for a ug user to put his guitar where his mouth is before demeaning a musician. Feel and emotion is ambiguous when it comes to music and meaningless when it comes to music and it has nothing to do with whether or not an album will stand the test of time. Satch has none that will, as much as I love him. His music is already dated sounding
    Music is timeless. I don't understand at all how music can be dated especially since they have been using the same notes for thousands of years
    <3 Herman <3
    itaughttremonti wrote: I wonder how peavey feels about him not using his signature amp?
    Strangely enough me too...though they're probably just happy to have a popular amp to sell that's endorsed by a guy like Satch. If you're going to spend 2K or so on an Amp (which is what I'd imagine his half stack would cost, or there abouts) you know who Satch is and his name means a lot to you when you buy equipment.
    Chronologo
    you want feeling, you want good rythm playin', then listen to satch's starry night that song is just beautiful
    tom-the-lawn
    I don't really like him, there's plenty of better guitarists. In the 10-15 songs I've heard by him he just plays a melody then plays it an octave higher or lower and does it a bunch of times, I don't consider this a different part of the song as I think he does.. Why does everyone like him so much? lol
    Skullivan
    Seref wrote: Before they get too old, all the big instrumental guitar god guys like Satch, Petrucci, Malmsteen, and Vai should all get together and make a colab album.
    Or at least do like a G6 tour instead of limiting themselves to G3. I'd like to see Vai, Satch, Gilbert, Malmsteen, Petrucci, and Van Halen all in one show, slowly rising to heaven as they play each individual note.
    Chozodragon
    tom-the-lawn wrote: I don't really like him, there's plenty of better guitarists. In the 10-15 songs I've heard by him he just plays a melody then plays it an octave higher or lower and does it a bunch of times, I don't consider this a different part of the song as I think he does.. Why does everyone like him so much? lol
    Well, I like his style, the atmosphere he creates, the melodies he comes up with are some times blowing my mind out, and I enjoy some technical from time to time, which he does very well. Plus i'm in love with his legato phrasings.