Joe Satriani Live In Paris

by Catherine Kruczko

As Joe Satriani is about to embark on the “Experience Hendrix” Tribute Tour (starting March 2, 2010), I was able to speak with him from his San Francisco home.  Mr. Satriani does not disappoint, he is eloquent, gracious, a family man and so much more…

Where to start with this “Guitar Guru”?  He has taught so many greats! Joe’s DVD and CD set of LIVE IN PARIS just released, the band he is a part of is CHICKENFOOT with Sammy Hagar, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony …really where do you begin?!

So…I decided, the beginning, what is it like to have a guitar lesson with Joe Satriani? How about a lesson that includes Joe as the teacher and Tom Morello (guitarist of Rage Against the Machine) as the student?

Joe laughed then responded with a Tom Morello Tale:

 “I’m a big fan of Tom Morello. He is a really great guy, a dynamic personality, great writer as well as an innovator in how he brought the electric guitar to a new decade in the 90s.  So, I was pretty excited to just hang with him and I got to play with him recently here.  He came down to do a series of shows  in California to raise awareness for The Homeless. Everyday he would pull into town and they would work at a soup kitchen for a few hours and then they would do a club show at the end of the day.  So, I grabbed “Sammy” (Sammy Hagar) and we got on stage with Tom and did Satch Boogie and a few of those songs.  Tom’s got a great heart – he is a great guy.”

Joe then continued with insight into his teaching methods:

“When you go down to give lessons to anybody, my feeling is number one, be ready to surrender all knowledge that you have.  It is very important not to be guarded, to be completely open. As the teacher, you have to be ready to assess the situation very quickly.  How much talent does a person have at the moment, what can they do, what can’t they do, what are they trying to do? Those things are extremely important, so that you can have them learn something before they walk out that door.”

“The process of firming up in your head what you are going to say to a student, crystallizes in your mind concepts.  That process, I think is good for you.
You think about music, Music is an emotional thing, a human thing, body and soul and a little bit of intellect in there. When you have to talk to somebody about it you sort of have to translate it into words, so during that process you sort of have to say it feels like this but I have to describe it and get it into this person’s head.  That process that I go through is kind of interesting for me as well as the student YOU ARE CRYSTALIZING SOMETHING THAT YOU DID ON FEELING.

I then really wanted to know if this “Guitar Guru” began as a guitar player? I have to admit, Joe’s response gave me goose bumps:

“At 9 years of age I started out as a drummer.  We had a teacher that would come to the house. I studied for about a year or two and slowly started to realize that I was not going to be really great. I was not coordinated and being the youngest of 5 kids, practicing drums was a bit of a problem. During that period, I started to get influenced by the music of my older sisters.  Their boyfriends would come over and lay on Hendrix, The Who, Led Zeppelin and all this great stuff that was happening in the late 60s .  I really became this kind of crazy Hendrix fan but I really wasn’t thinking about playing guitar until the day that he died.  That day I decided to be a guitar player.

Joe…how many guitars do you have?

“150 – 200 guitars, it fluctuates because we do a lot of donating.  I am constantly buying and selling vintage guitars. Then there are the prototypes that I am making with Ibanez working up to making a new model there will be about 12 – 15 proto types. When we are done we disassemble the prototypes and use the parts for other stuff. “

Do you still have your very first guitar?

“No, I don’t umm the very first one I sold to one of my very first students Frank. He used to come for lessons with Steve Vai, I taught them both together.  It was a very inexpensive guitar about $100.00.  I just always thought that he would always keep it but he didn’t, he sold it.  I’m not really exactly sure what he sold it for – I heard it wasn’t good, we have tried to find the guitar and not been successful.”  

What is it like to be part of a group that encompasses a pioneer of instrumental rock and a couple of “Van Halens” and a Chili Pepper?  What is it like on that tour bus?

“So much fun you know, funny you say tour bus I was the only one with a tour bus. The other guys preferred to fly, every once and awhile I would get on the private jet with the guys.  The whole experience has been so much fun because each one of those guys are just so great.  When we got together, everyone thought it was sort of a goofy celebrity jam, you know in a Vegas nightclub.
We clicked somehow and we really can’t explain it, when we get together there is just this energy and we seem to really focus in on this kind of music that we do.  It felt like a band from the first moment that we started playing.  We always got along, had the funniest of times and the music was always right on the edge for all of us. “

Any CHICKENFOOT shenanigans on the road?

“I think that everyone is pretty much a closet comedian. You got to figure with Sammy and Chad together who are extremely extroverted and just love to get in front of people and goof on them.  I was always carrying the camera, so I tried to get as much of it on film as I could.  You could always count on Chad for bringing it right to the edge of humor and decency wherever we went for an interview. With Chad you would watch out for the destruction of the drum kit at the end of every night, or he would come around and start playing guitar during one of Sammy’s solo bits – it was pretty funny. “

What does Joe Satriani listen to?

“I think that my tastes are really broad. I listen to a lot of stuff, I listen to a lot of new music, a lot of guitar players as you can imagine. If I was to put together a play list, there would be every blues collection you can think of Howlin’ Wolf, Iggy Pop next to my Jimi Hendrix, Kings of Leon right next to John Mayer – if it’s good, I listen to it.”

Any Canadians you would like to tell us about?

“Dave Martone is a good friend of mine from Vancouver, great guitar player did the – Satch Zone internet guitar lessons together.  I would recommend people look him up.  Bryan Adams of course was our CHICKENFOOT photographer.  Half of my crew is Canadian from Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary – we think of it as North America”… Joe pauses, then laughs.. “Well until we go to cross the boarder then the boarder guards remind us that it is a very “intense” border.  Something about a group of musicians, they always make us take our clothes off, bring the dogs onto the tour bus, they are always trying to arrest us for something. “

When you compose – do you feel music – do you see it – hear it – how does  that come to fruition for you?

“Yes, everything, I mean my heart starts pumping, I start seeing internal movies about remembering or imagining, hearing the melodies and the tones that I am chasing after in order to present the story to my audience.  It is a mind, body, soul experience.“