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JOE SATRIANI INTERVIEW JUNE 2014

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS - JOE SATRIANI INTERVIEW JUNE 2014

JOE SATRIANI TALKS TO THE ROCKPIT

HE'S BRINGING HIS 'UNSTOPPABLE MOMENTUM TOUR' TO AUSTRALIA IN NOVEMBER AND WE GOT TO TALK TO JOE EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM, GETTING BACK DOWNUNDER AND THE ART OF CREATING MUSIC.

Joe Satriani is a name everyone who loves rock music will recognise:  the quintessential guitar hero whose shaved head and sunglasses are instantly recognisable. Musically he’s part mythical monster part master musician, a man who still practices for hours a day, still admits to learning new things and yet whose flair for composition belies an unsurpassable technique and feel for the electric guitar.    

Since he released his debut EP all the way back in 1984 you feel that Satriani has been on his own musical quest, always ready to experiment and expand his horizons; he has over the years produced some breathtaking music, as well as teaching and nurturing a couple of generations of musicians.   
But it’s not just his solo material, there’s also the supergroup Chickenfoot, the mesmerising G3 (occasionally G4) project and countless appearances with other artists over the years. Somehow over that time he’s also developed his own range of guitars, his own amps and just put the finishing touches to his book, all while gearing up to release his latest solo album, appropriately titled ‘Unstoppable Momentum’.   


We caught up with Joe a few weeks before the announcement of his Australian tour to talk about what could well be my favourite Satriani album yet!

Mark: Thank you so much for talking to us today, it’s great to hear that you are coming over to see us later in the year.


Joe: I’m really looking forward to it.


Mark: How’s the tour going so far?


Joe: Well, I have to say, we finished the first part of “The Unstoppable Momentum Tour” last October, and I got home and I cleared a number of months away for two things, I wanted to record a record with Chickenfoot, and the other guys in the band, Brian Beller and Marco Minnemann, are in a band called The Aristocrats, and they had to go out and finish their tour, so it was perfect. Then the Chickenfoot thing kind of fell through and I was able to spend a lot of work on this digital story that I’m working on, it’s sort of a digital animation series based on my drawings. So, I’ve really just spent this last six months just being extremely prolific, and I wound up doing a lot of work writing musical cues, working on the script, doing more drawings, and providing Sammy Hagar with a lot of demos for the Chickenfoot record! I’ve been working on my next studio album as well, but I’m so ready to get back on tour, next week the guys will be back in town so we’ll do a few days of rehearsing, and then off we go!! We’ll do another six months of touring, and I’ll be very happy to get back on stage!


Mark: That’s fantastic! I think the first show’s June 7th at The Westbury in New York, and you are heading over here, I understand, in November for a series of theatre dates.


Joe: That’s right, yeah. I think we’re going to do, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, I think we may just do a whole Pacific Rim thing! I’m looking forward to it because we always have fun while we’re down there.


Mark: It’s been a while, we saw you with G3 back in 2012, but it’s been six years since you did a solo tour.


Joe: Yeah, I know, very often we get invitations to do G3, and it works out as something we are able to do, which is remarkable, because it is such a hard thing for me and my manger to get all the other participants together for the right set of six weeks for G3, it can be very difficult, but as far as you guys go, it turns out we did more G3’s down there than solo tours, so this will be a real treat to come down there and play the new album for people and show them the new band with Brian, Marco and Mike.


Mark: It’s a fantastic line-up, do you think we’ll get something a little bit different, because we missed out on the absolutely wonderful last album, “Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards”. Do you think you’ll be able to throw a bit of that in for us as well?


Joe: I’m sure we will! Once we’re in the same room next week, we’re probably going to start throwing around ideas about what we can do that’s just a little bit different. On the last G3 tour I was with The Black Swans band, so we did a lot of those songs from that album on our last visit down there. I am still focussing, so much on the new album, and the fact that it took, with the studio band, took a bit of a progressive turn, and then just by luck I was able to bring together Brian, Marco and Mike for touring, and so there’s just so much we can do, it’s difficult to hold us down and keep the show consistent, because we all keep wanting to expand on it! The show is really good, I got to say, we play it in a variety of ways in Europe and North America, and it was a real hit with the fans, they really loved it.

Mark: We’ll get on to the album in a second, but we have a question first about your book, “Strange, Beautiful Music” which we understand is out now?


Joe: Yeah it just came out this month. The crazy thing is, the book is getting great reviews, I’m very happy about that because I was very nervous about doing the book anyway, I always thought I would have to be a lot older to put out a book! But, it’s turned out to be a good creative kick in the pants, to get things going. One of the funniest things was we had to pick somebody to do the audio book, and it was one of those things that I had never thought of, and there are professionals at reading books! So, we went through the process of auditioning people from around the world who read books to see how they would lend their voices, and of course, I’m the worse person to judge, because I know everybody in the book personally, and this guy can’t possibly sound like him. So the whole process could’ve been a short comedic film, getting someone to imitate all the voices in the book, and yet he doesn’t really know what these people sound like, and he’s not attempting to sound like them, he’s just getting in to the story and getting a feeling, and in the end, I thought well, this is amazing because it gives a new life to the story, as there’s a pro coming in and adding a new layer of emotion to it. So, you can buy the audio book or the hard cover book, the thing about the hard cover book, is that it has some of the most embarrassing Joe Satriani photos you have ever seen in your life, and it’s worth the price just to see those!!


Mark: I will definitely take a look! This year’s album, “Unstoppable Momentum”, I think is my favourite album, and it’s getting some great reviews, it must’ve felt special, making it?


Joe: It did, I was very excited when I was putting the music together. I always think it’s distasteful for an artist to talk about their own music, but what was different about it for me was that I felt enthused to try something very different. I had a collection of songs that was going to force me to play in a very different way; all those things excite me on a daily level as a musician. When I’m out there playing my whole catalogue every night when I’m on stage, even with Chickenfoot, we’re out there, we have two albums and we play all those songs, so it’s no wonder when we get home we think, what’s next? What will I do tomorrow that’s different? That sort of feeling about the material I’ve written, and getting a whole new band, very close to going in to the studio was a risk, then coming up with a different sound for the album that was different from the others, and I think also the tour was an extension of that enthusiasm. What I do when I’m preparing for a tour, is run through the show, once every day for about three weeks, I put on my guitar and I just play along with every song, and every time the title track comes on “Unstoppable Momentum”, I feel so uplifted, I’m not quite sure why!! I can keep working on that song forever, it’s not easy for me to play that song, but I enjoy it so much, it’s got some sort of physical component to it that just puts a smile on my face. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know!!


Mark: I think it’s the emotion of the song, I think it’s one of those pieces of music that resonates with the soul! Reading through some of the interviews you’ve already done for the album, you’ve spoken about the technical stuff, and we’ll leave that for the guitar magazines, but talking about the album itself, there’s quite a bit of humour in there, how important is that to you, in your music?


Joe: Well, I think it is just a reflection of my personality. I like comedians, I like to laugh and face the horror of the world with a joke, gallows humour is sometimes what helps you through the hard times, we all face crazy stuff, and thank god we’ve got comedians to help us face some of these things, and laugh at ourselves. So, sometimes that spills over in to music, and it’s ok if it sounds a bit funny, certainly working on a song like “Three Sheets to the Wind”, I was trying to create a soundscape to a movie, about a guy going out on the town and he gets so tipsy, he somehow escapes some of the most harrowing events of the evening! I think we’ve all known people like that, and maybe we’ve been that person from time to time, where you just don’t know how you actually survived the night and got home! When I started writing that song, it’s not what my intent was, but as I started to move the arrangement towards the horns, I started to see that kind of movie in my head, and I thought I like this, the humorous side of it. When the song had a more serious tone, I actually had the feeling that it was too serious, too “guitar like”, and having the keyboards, brilliant playing by Mike, and of course the way Vinnie plays drums in that song, is just unbelievable, and it’s like a composition unto itself. Beautiful grooves, and the support, I brought in the horn arrangement, that was already done and recorded, so they played around with that stuff just brilliantly, so yeah, humour’s a good idea!!

Mark: There is some wonderful stuff on there and all I can say is people should really go and listen to it, before you come over and tour, songs like “A Door in to Summer” is great, “Can’t go Back” is probably one of my favourite songs of yours ever! “Jumping In, Jumping Out”, I loved the idea of that, it really is a great album. Unfortunately our time is running out, so here are a couple of our generic questions that we ask everyone. If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album, at any point in time, what would it have been for you and why??


Joe: That’s a great question! There are so many records I wish I could’ve been present for, the first couple of Bob Dylan records, first couple of Hendrix records, “Exile on Main Street” by the Stones that would have just been so fascinating. I think there are moments when an artist is sort of peaking in their boldness, they might not be in the best space, let’s say technically, or they may not have finished writing the thing that they’re going to record, but for some reason personally, when the record gets made, I think that’s what attracts me to the idea and I go “wow” if I could’ve been a fly on the wall for that moment, like Hendrix doing “Electric Ladyland” there was so much drama going on in the studio, and a lot of different musicians, but by the force of his will, he was able to pull that together and just create music that nobody could touch! It’s like it’s so special it’s untouchable, and it’s not 100% perfect, there are winners and losers on the two discs, but it’s just an unbelievable statement artistically.


Mark: Do you feel, at this stage in your career, that you’re still learning?


Joe: Every day, yeah. Every day I’m still working on stuff, and trying to grow in to a new area. The last two weeks, I’ve spent hours every day writing all sorts of musical cues, using the guitar to make strange noises, all the way to full on orchestra cues for a digital animation series that I’ve started with Ned Evett, a friend of mine, he’s a musician as well, and basically he came up with a story based on these drawings from an art book that I put out last year. So, we worked on this thing and created music, and all sorts of characters, provided more art work, and Ned’s been learning animation, so every hour we are working on this thing we are learning something new.


Mark: Sounds fantastic! Just quickly, what is the meaning of life?


Joe: I think the meaning of life is to love as many people as possible, and think about the here and now.


Mark: Thank you so much for your time today, it’s been an absolute pleasure, and we’ll catch you in November here in Australia, take care.


Joe: Thank you so much for talking to me.

JOE SATRIANI AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES:


Brisbane, The Tivoli  - Tuesday 4 November
Sydney, State Theatre - Thursday 6 November
Melbourne, Palais Theatre - Saturday 8 November
Adelaide, Her Majesty's Theatre - Sunday 9 November
Perth, Metro City - Tuesday 11 November

 

 

Joe spoke to Mark Diggins May 2014

 

 

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