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Joe Satriani

Interview with Joe Satriani from Joe Satriani
by Panagiotis Koutsompogeras at 22 March 2006, 11:36 PM

Guitar master and extraterrestrial offspring Joe Satriani strikes back with his extra colossal album  Super Colossal and is ready to fill our ears with his unique melodies and style for one more time. Until you have the opportunity to listen to the album, here's a fine chance to read what Joe had to say about his new record.<br><br>Here you will read Joe talking about aliens, love, space, time and even about Metallica, Possessed and Thrash Metal! Joe was in a fine mood and proved to be very talkative and funny! Taking this interview was actually a real dream come true for me! I personally thank the powers of the galaxy for letting me speak to a musical genius and exceptional person! Enjoy!

So, how are you right now?

I am doing very well, thank you.

Would you like to discuss a few things about the new album?

Ok, what would you like to know?

Since we have a rough copy of your new album, would you like to tell us more about the production and basically about the musicians who contributed to it?

Yeah, I started this record at my home studio and basically recorded all the guitar basses and keyboards at home during September and October of last year and then I sent four songs to drummer Simon Philips who has his own studio in Los Angeles. So he recorded the drums at his own place. Then I took all the music files and went up to Vancouver, Canada, met up with engineer and co-producer Mike Phraser, then brought Jeff Campitelli up on drums to play the remaining 9 songs.

We produced the drums up there, I added four more guitar solos and then we recorded the crowd for the last song of the record. Then we mixed it in December up there in Vancouver, so we were pretty much done before Christmas.

That’s fine, thanks a lot. So with the new bassist in your lineup, do you feel you have gained a more Rock feeling in the whole band? Do you feel that your whole attitude has been renewed?

Yeah, we are very excited to have David La Rue on the band. He brings a lot of great musical feeling and awesome technique on the bass so we are really pumped and we will start rehearsals next week. We are very excited about it.

That’s very nice. I wish you all the best. I would rather say that compared to your previous work, the new one - I just listened to it today - seems to be more relaxed, a bit more focused, more free styling. I think there are quite a few different changes from your previous work, I mean it is definitely a Joe Satriani album but on the other hand the listener feels more relaxed. How would you try to describe the atmosphere in your new album?

Well, there were a couple of things I was trying to achieve. First I noticed that over the years there’s been this trend where guitar albums do not sound as good as other albums and most of the times this can be attributed to the fact that there is no singer. The human voice has got a great quality and you leave space in a record for the voice. I found out that engineers and producers mix the record in a different way and I think that these are the records that we like the best. So, I said I want this record to sound as good as any popular, Rock, Hip Hop record out there and you know that when you make a decision like that there are many things that you can do to the sound of bass and rhythm guitar or the drums. The overall sound quality of the record takes a different turn. The other thing is that I wanted to make sure that this record has the largest amount of really great guitar sound.

Instead of focusing on one guitar sound and shredding, I thought Well, that’s been done by everybody. The last two amazing guitar records that I listened to were Steve Vai’s and John Petrucci’s records and I thought that they did it! That’s it! It’s so amazing, so why go there? So I thought that there are so many other stuff that I am really excited about playing, thus I need to have a record that will accept and have a sonic space as wall, as space for not only playing but for guitar sound too. So it had to do with songs. My main thing is writing melodies. I aspire to write great melodies so I try my hardest to do that and focus all on that. Solos I just do them last there. I just improvise them. I do not spend a lot of time on them. I am not really thinking where I am playing on the guitar or if I am playing slow or fast, just whatever enters into my mind. I also wanted the record to have as much variety as a pop or a classic Rock record.

I think that the majority of people adore you for your melodies. I think some of them are interested in listening to some shredding but the majority really likes to listen to some melody that they can whistle after the song has finished or after the CD player is off. I think that is your major achievement. I mean that someone would prefer to listen to a Joe Satriani record rather than John Petrucci because he would need something to stay in his mind after the playing was finished. Isn’t it true?

Hm, I liked what you said! (Laughs)… because that is the way I am as a listener. If I am listening to Jimmy Page or Iggy Pop or I don’t know who it is, I wanna go away and carry that song with me, so if it doesn’t stay with me that means that there is something not memorable about the music.

You are right.

But if it stays with me, I find myself singing some David Bowie song or something like that, which means that this is a good riff. I do not care if it is simple or difficult, I just like it, you know, and so I try to be that same person when I make a record with the one that listens to the records.

That is fine! So I noticed that you had Quick Time videos on the internet and there were some sketches you had made while the music was being played. Have you ever considered the fact that you might publish those sketches, just like a Joe Satriani collection of sketches because I think that some first appeared in the booklet of The Extremist album, right?

Yeah, that’s right.

They were very fine and very nice. So have you ever considered the fact that you might publish them? You know, about writing a book or a fairy tale with Joe Satriani as the main writer?

I like that idea. A few people have asked me about that but I am still a bit shy about my artistic endeavors. My two older sisters are really great artists and so I am kind of embarrassed by the whole thing. You know, we do it for fun.

Of course, that’s fine. So I noticed through the years that one of your main interests is about stuff like the galaxy, extraterrestrial life, crystal planets, space and stuff like that. In your previous record you have a song called Redshift Riders where you describe the possibility of traveling through time and space through infrared radiation. So are you really into this stuff concerning technology and the future?

Yeah, that if I hadn’t been a musician I would have probably gone into modern day physics, aeronautics and just anything to do with space. I think we are kind of stuck here, in a time frame where we are decades or centuries away from solving the problem of distance and time.

But I think that eventually we will understand what time and distance really are and how relative these things are and figure a way how to conquer it to a certain degree.

You know, I am a chemist and I am really interested in your opinion, and all these years that I’ve been listening to your records, I am really amazed by the fact that you are quite keen on these subjects about astronomy and all that stuff and I always wanted to ask you this question. Anyway, so just imagine the fact that you had been abducted by aliens… \[All Laugh]… and they went Ok, now Joe you have to play us three of your most extraterrestrial songs! in order to impress them. So which 3 songs do you think that you would choose to perform in front of them?

Whoa! That is a great question.

Thanks Joe!

I would probably play Surfing With The Alien, Not Of This Earth and Redshift Riders.

Of course!!! So after all these years of playing music and meeting new people and also checking your personal feelings, do you still ask yourself Is There Love In Space?. I mean it was a very nice title for an album but it is also a very important question.

Yeah, I still wonder about that. Because once we really start to perverse our own galaxy - most likely we will find some sort of life out there - but I think that the problem will be recognizing it and understanding what it is we are looking at. Similar to like if a bird flew into your house and landed on your computer or landed on your toaster you would know the difference.

Since it doesn’t have the ability to understand what is inside your computer or your toaster or anything else in your house, we are probably going to be confronted with the same thing. If we are lucky we may meet with something that our senses may detect, seem smell or hear or feel but we most likely we will be confronted with something our senses can’t detect. You know, our senses are quite limited.

I agree with you.

So that brought up the question then what is it that keeps us going? Besides water and food and that little temperature zone, we are so delicate, in a simple word it would be love but it really means compassion, respect, a love for life, a respect for life, so what would stop this entity from just pushing us aside. They would have to say to themselves Look at these slimy, noisy little things!. But hopefully the would say to us It’s life!. Whatever it is these things that call themselves humans they have life and we are going to respect it, because that is the whole mystery of the universe. Since life got here, it must be special!

I agree with you. You might laugh but sometimes when I look at the galaxy, you know, I always whisper some melodies from your songs which come to my mind, so I really enjoyed this question and all this stuff about alien life and your personal opinion about all these matters. So in the past you have covered songs by Billie Holiday in your Time Machine album, the All Alone song - a brilliant song - or some Jimi Hendrix cover songs in your G3 live albums! Have you ever thought about making some new covers?

Yeah I think about it all the time - I mean I make lots of plans - I write them down at various points, but it seems that there is never enough time, because just when you finish your own record, you are doing rehearsals and interviews and then you go out on tour and just as the tour ends, you have got to start writing new records, so it seems really hard to find the time to do all the other projects that you like to do. Like a record devoted to all acoustic music or cover songs from the Jazz era or famous Blues songs.

So, let’s go a bit in the past. Do you remember anything from the time you produced the Eyes Of Horror album for Possessed?

Oh yeah!

Would you like to tell us any stories about that period?

It was, you know, a very interesting week! We had 1 week, about 5 days to produce this record and we were not really quite sure, me and engineer John Cuniberti, what the capabilities of the band were, and they were not in such a good shape that week. The singer had his throat, one of the guitar players was more into getting drunk than anything else! I think that the band really wanted to play faster than it could actually play. They had a really interesting vision about what they wanted and as a producer it was my job to make sure that they were happy and that I help them achieve it. It was quite difficult to get the job done and there were two things that allowed us to get it done.

Number one, Larry La Londe was such a good student that he ended up playing most of the guitar in the record because he could take directions and he had a much more flexible technique to allow us to get the rhythm tracks completed on time. John Cuniberti was able to record the songs into little sections so that the tempos could be kept really fast before the band would get tired and slow down. So we recorded all the songs in little sections, then cut the tape and reassembled it back. So it sounds that the band really plays fast all the time.

This is obvious!

You know we did not have Pro-Tools so we used recording tape to do it.

It must have been very hard, I think.

It was really hard and the band really worked very hard to do this kind of thing. Other bands were doing it, I mean it was not new. Other bands like Megadeth, Metallica did some crazy drum tracks. But the funniest thing is that to try to get them to play some interesting solos, we tried some silly things like they would start playing solos and I would throw them things so that they would play something different. They were constantly trying to play what they had practiced and I was never interested in that. It was boring. I was trying to tell them to play something they had not played before. Sometimes we tried to convince them that if we put a pile of fruits onto the amplifier, they would sound different.

That sounds cool.

Yeah we tried to have a good time. Unfortunately we had no time to party, it was literally one week to do the whole record and, you know, the singer was ill and the other guitarist was unable to play during half the session; it was really difficult. But I think the coolest thing from that whole record is due to the genius of John Cuniberti who was my co-producer on that. He introduced the idea that we should make the record not sound like any other Thrash record.

All the Thrash records at the time had a lot of reverb. All the music was very reverb and he brought up this idea, why not make this record dry? It will make them sound even faster! You know it took a while to convince the band that we are not going to make them sound like a Shrapnel record or something like that. I think that this record really influenced Metallica’s  … And Justice For All. You know, many people loved that record by Possessed and just changed the way Thrash Metal sounded.

Would you like to leave a message for your fans?

Oh yeah! I want to say thank you to all my fans for listening to my music! I hope to see you on tour very soon!

Ok, thank you, Joe! You have been very kind and I personally thank you very much. I wanted to ask you many more questions. Perhaps when you come to Greece we may have some time to drink ouzo together and speak more, ok?

That would be great!


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