After a dozen solo studio albums and almost 25 years, Joe Satriani can do pretty much whatever he wants — but as he makes clear in the title of his new CD/DVD live release, he just wants to rock. Michael Burke was lucky enough to have a chat with Professor Satchafunkilus, and took full advantage of the opportunity to ask him questions about his solo work, his budding Chickenfoot discography, and more. Read on!
Why Paris for the new record? It’s a nice mix of your hits (“Surfing with the Alien,” “Satch Boogie,” “Blue Dream,” “Summer Song,” etc.), along with stuff I was not familiar with. How often do you change up your set list live? Do any cover songs ever work their way in?
The end of “Diddle-Y-Doo-Dat” sounded a bit to me like a Monk song called “While You Needn’t” — the syncopated groove at the end in particular. Were you listening to Monk when writing that song?
I’ve listened to a lot of Monk my whole life, so, I’m not surprised the influence is noticeable.
A lot of the newer material (“Super Colossal,” “Overdriver”) has a ’70s riff oriented “classic rock” vibe to my ear, in a way that most of your older material doesn’t — although the first time I ever heard “Satch Boogie,” I thought it was a ZZ Top song…before the solo started. How do you think your writing has evolved over time?
Sometimes I like to push the envelope when creating harmonic structures, other times I enjoy echoing my rock roots a bit more.
When did you get the talk box (“I Just Wanna Rock”)? Have you ever played “Do You Feel Like We Do” with it? (Be honest!)
I struggled with trying to use a Talk Box and not sound like Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton. In the end I went for a more electronic sound, and tried to take it to a new place.
“Ghosts” is another one I hadn’t heard (it’s an iTunes bonus track off Professor Satchafunkilus) and quite like. There’s a bit of 5/4 there. Are you getting into some odd time signatures in your writing now?
All my records feature odd time signature songs to some degree, but I’m particularly fond of 5/4.
Tell us a little about the Experience Hendrix tour. Do you know what songs you will be playing? Will there be jams? Will each night be different?
I’ll be playing three or four numbers with Living Colour as my back-up band. There will be a jam at the end of the show as well, where we will all try to fit onstage and tear it up!
How about Chickenfoot? Any plans to tour or record with them in 2010?
Chickenfoot will start writing and recording this year, but the schedule is just now being worked out.
You often refer to comics and sci-fi in your titles (“Ice 9,” “The Power Cosmic,” etc. ) Any sci-fi or comic book recommendations for your audience?
China Meiville and Dan Simmons are great writers….
What sort of music are you listening to these days? Any new acts you are impressed with?
Muse and Kings of Leon.
Popdose is actually a general pop culture website; if there are any TV/film/books you have been impressed with recently, we’d love to hear about it.
Transcend by Ray Kurtzweil, a great and visionary book. I like to watch the TV show Fringe; it’s my guilty pleasure.
I like writing alone in my studio without any outside influence.
You’ve been working with Ibanez for as long as I can remember. How often is your signature model refreshed? Is there any set roadmap or just when you decide you want to try something new?
We’re always working on multiple ideas for new models. This year we finished two: the JS200 and the acoustic JSA.
Any new effects you are enamored with? I thought I saw a whammy pedal on your board on the DVD.
Voodoo Vibe makes a cool Proctavia pedal. It’s a toned down, but manageable octave/fuzz unit that really works well with amp distortion.
Will we ever hear an acoustic record out of you? I think it would be interesting.
Soon, I promise!
What sort of things did Lenny Tristano teach you that stay with you to this day? Any overarching philosophy that you think is valuable?
“Only play what you want to play.” It sounds simple, but is in fact the hardest lesson to master.
You famously taught people like Kirk Hammett and Larry LaLonde. If you could impart one bit of practice wisdom to everyone, what would it be?
There is no substitute for practice, or experience.
Of all of your famous students, I am a particularly big fan of Charlie Hunter. Was he unique at the time you were teaching him? Any inkling of what he would become?
Charlie was a joy to teach, as were Larry LaLonde, Steve Vai, Doug Doppler, David Bryson, Kevin Cadigan, and more…
If you could have written one riff, or one song, by anyone, who would it be?
“Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, or “Satisfaction,” or “Voodoo Child”…wait, this is too difficult a question!