I am musician Joe Satriani, AMA!
Hey, Reddit. I’m guitarist/musician, Joe Satriani! My new album “Shockwave Supernova” is out today. I’m here to answer your questions so ask me anything. I’ll be here starting at 1pm EDT / 10am PDT.
My friend Tom from Sony /user/tommullen is helping me out with typing the answers here in NYC today.
Joe, I love your music — The Extremist (especially ‘Rubina’s Blue Sky Happiness’) can bring me out of any imaginable funk. Though I hope your career is far from over, do you have an album that you consider your “Opus”?
No. I don’t know. Once I finish a record, I have to leave it and start another one right away. I don’t look back I don’t try to analyze. I am always afraid in analyzing the mojo will go away. Leave the analysis to the critics and fans and I’ll just stick to the playing.
What was it like teaching Kirk Hammett? What was his skill level like before and after his lessons with you?
Ha! Skill level?!
Kirk was already a pro when he started lessons. he was in the band Exodus playing lead guitar. All I tried to do was increase his awareness of more musical options and practicing disciplines.
He was a good student. Many of his friends and contemporaries would storm out complaining thinking I was a too harsh a teacher.
Jude Gold from Guitar World, recounted a story that I didn’t remember. He was taking a lesson from me and recounted a story I for his last podcast. There was an 8 year old before me, in the middle of Jude’s lesson I told him that the 8 year old did better than you did in an attempt to get him to practice.
Kids were cute, walk in the toys and put them on amp. They had no fear of the guitar teacher. It was the teenagers that were a bundle of nerves. Adults were depressing.
Music teachers face a lot of psychiatry. You have to remind them, I’m just the guitar teacher.
Charlie Hunter was a student, met him when I was 8 years old. He was really something.
What do you look for in a guitar?
I am a recent fan of yours (past 5 years or so) and I was put on to your music through an episode of the cartoon American Dad. Did anybody from the show contact you personally for permission to use your song on the show, or was it done through some sort of publishing company?
It was through a request through professional channels. The power of television, wow!
How many guitars do you have?
Too many but not enough.
Besides yourself, who would you rank amongst the top 3 greatest guitar players of all time, alive or dead?
Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Segovia
Hey, Joe! Glad to have you here. I met you about 10 years ago at a guitar festival in Dallas where you performed. You stuck around for a reeeeaaaally long time after the show meeting people and giving autographs. I always admired that you were willing to dedicate so much time and friendliness to your fans. You had autographed a guitar pick for me, but my girlfriend lost it about an hour later. I was super bummed. Any chance I can get another guitar pick?
What was is like playing with Deep Purple on tour? I always thought that one of the toughest roles must be replacing a member of a legendary band.
Yes, I had a lot of fun playing with Deep Purple but like you, realize there was no way to replace Richie Blackmore.
Ultimately, it led to my decision not to accept the invitation to join the band permanently.
Which guitarist would you like to have a guitar battle with most?
I was in your concert in München few years ago. Unfortunately, I was too drunk to listen and passed out outside, 30 minutes after concert started. How do you think has music transformed post ‘The Extremist’ release?
I was passed out too. I actually remember that tour. I think I was wearing my hair in a ponytail, that’s probably why I went bald on that tour.
That was the height of grunge. In a funny way it was the beginning of techno starting up. The reaction was techno. When file sharing in 98. The beginning of everything turning upside down and starting over again.
What is one popular song (from any time period) that you wished you could have contributed a guitar solo to?
It blows my mind to see how well you manage to write so many different albums successfully: many artists’ material doesn’t differ much with the years, but you seem to magnificently reinvent yourself and your music every two years or so. How do you keep finding new avenues to explore – and explore them so well?
I focus on writing about my life experiences and so that keeps everything fresh, life keeps charging ahead.
With the years, your writing and playing styles have evolved much: you mentioned this when describing the reasons why Crushing Day didn’t make it in your setlists these days. I was wondering if the opposite happened sometimes: did you ever write a song you weren’t particularly fond of, but ended up loving it with the years?
Not exactly. Although in the process of making a record. Some songs present more challenges as you try to complete them. Because of the unusual approach that you take to produce it. Sometimes at the end of the extended amount of labor you have something special, you have tried to get to it’s ultimate potential. I think as an example, the song “Time,” from the Crystal Planet record was started in 1987 for the Surfing record. Took several albums and years to figure out how to finish it. It was worth the wait and the effort, I hope.
Out of all your songs, Steve Vai’s favorite is Cryin’, according to a recent Q&A he did on Facebook. Which of Steve’s songs is your favorite?
2 part answer. “Garbage Wrapped in Skin” on a cassette demo he sent me years ago. I’ll just leave it that. Some of the lyrics are suitable for the Internet. The other one would be. That’s a tough one. “The Attitude Song” is it.
You recently mentioned that in your current approach to writing songs, you have a movie playing in your head. How does this approach differ when the theme to the song you’re writing is imposed, such as your soundtrack to Nascar 06?
I’m surprised someone mentioned that theme song. That was the first and last video game thing I ever did. Well the given themes were actually a number. There were cues that were requested. Seven second, fifteen second version and a 30. You can imagine, same number of cues for winning, trying, losing, getting a second chance. That’s enough to get my mind moving to get that internal movie to write to.
How would you say the arrival of Mike, Brian and Marco in the band influenced you in the studio? Or maybe even live?
They brought new amounts of energy and fresh ideas into how to interpret the catalog and the new material.
I have noticed that when playing shows in the last few years, you have been tuning your guitars in Eb. Is there a particular reason why you’re keeping E for your studio recordings?
I’m not, starting with the first Chickenfoot, all records have been in Eb, with just a few songs in standard.
Metal always seemed rather present around you along the years, whether it’s the bands you’ve played with or toured with, the guitarists you taught to, or even the album you produced. So I was wondering: how would you qualify your relationship with metal?
I was really into Black Sabbath as a young kid. My early foundations of rock are shared with the birth of metal music.
You honored Surfing With The Alien’s 20th anniversary with some very special events. Would you like to do something similar for any other album eventually?
The Extremist… what would do for it.
Some incredible songs of yours are rarely part of your setlists and considered “cursed” because there was always something unexpected happening when playing them. Can you share some stories about these?
Ha! Well, on the yes side of it, yea “The Forgotten,” we played it once opening for Steve Miller. Basically brought a happy arena into the worst foul mood, that we never pulled them out of.
If you could pick any artist in the world, past or present, any genre, to collaborate with, who would it be and why?
Jimmy Page, Bjork, Mos Def, what’s he been doing lately? He’d be a lot of fun.
How many hours a day do you typically spend practicing? How many hours does it typically take you to master a new song that?
If I’m preparing for a tour, maybe 5 hours a day. If I’m writing I might be playing but not practicing 8 hours a day.
What was your influence for Always With Me, Always With You?
My wife Rubina
How many mirrors does Steve Vai own?
Hahaha he actually has a thing backstage, old show biz table with mirrors, fan, the whole thing. Which is why is he looks so good. He actually takes pride in his appearance.
Have you ever been alone with Yngwie Malmsteen, if yes, what the hell is he like in person?
Many times, he’s exactly the same as he is in stage. He talks the same way. He’s sorta like Donald Trump, he’s always campaigning for something.
Would you recommend any up and coming guitarist that you feel are pushing the envelope?
Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes
Here in Brazil we noted a presence of some northeastern brazilian rhythms in the track “On Peregrine Wings”. There is any consistency in this way of thinking?
Yes. My extensive touring of the world over the last 25 years has exposed me to a lot of fantastic music from different parts of the world that I like to include in my music.
Have you ever played a scalloped-fret guitar? If so, what was it like? I know Yngwie Malmsteen says he finds it gives you more control, but I’d be interested to know what your impression was.
Yes, I’ve owned a Malmsteen Stratocaster. Found it a little overt, it how it affects the tone. Because it takes away the connection between the string and the wood. So you lose that element to play with. Steve Vai’s 7 string Universe guitars in the last 10 frets and that’s interesting. Are all Steve’s like that? I’m not sure, but mine is.
If you had to battle the Devil’s Steve Vai for your buddy’s soul on the line, could you take him?
With one note.
That’s exactly what we’re doing at G3. Not negative about it, it’s a good thing.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I think if it’s not your job it’s not your job writing for TV. Best to step away from the guitar and music. Take in art, movies, go out and have some fun. When you step back to the guitar you have some experiences to write about. I think that’s important.
How do you keep your songs fresh and unique?
I used to teach an exercise, Find the note everywhere. You pick a note and string by string you play it on the fretboard in all it’s locations, as fast as you can. All the way up and all the way back down. It’s a horrible exercise, but it must be done.
Is there a guitar that you have a deeper connection to than any other guitar you own? I promise we won’t tell the others!
My special connection to certain guitars seems to change week to week. Currently is my favorite my first JS2410 MCO.
How much of guitar playing do you think is natural talent/practice?
I think the physical part might be a 50/50 split between natural ability and good practice techniques. Creativity, originality and the ability to make people feel music seems to be tied to each unique personality. That gives us all a chance to grow as musicians/artists.
Can you be my guitar teacher? It seems to have worked out for many of your former students and I could brag the the freaking Satch is my teacher!
Sure, but first, you must locate the Pick of Destiny and bring it to me by the next full moon. Also, you must convince Steve Vai to come with you to enchant the spirits with his unusual guitar playing so as to allow the Pick of Destiny be released to his care. For this service you must pay Steve, 666 billion bitcoins. See you Thursday.
What song is your favorite to play off the new album?
I don’t know yet. Haven’t started yet.
Did you enjoy working with WorkShopLive? Would you consider collaborating with another online education site to help spread your music / talents?
My experience with online teaching has not been good. Never been comfortable with it. I prefer what we’ve accomplished with the G4 experience, having four days with 200 campers and up to 10 pros teaching all day long giving performances. Having one and one experiences with students.
What was the inspiration behind the Shockwave Supernova titled song of your 15th solo album?
Shockwave Supernova is the name I gave my fictitious alter ego. At the start of the album, he starts trying to convince me to let him continue to exist as my extroverted performer. It starts the album off and then leads you into the following tracks where he pleads his case, reminding me of all the great things he’s done for me and experiences he’s brought to me. So the song is an important starting point for the album.
Is there anything special about your approach writing your newest album?
More than any other record, I wrote in as many different styles that inspired me moment to moment.
What is your favorite emotional song/ballad if you have one?
So many… Yea it’s very hard to choose. Any given time, when I’m feeling vulnerable, any song. “Across the Universe” by John Lennon, it might be something I’m playing on stage like “Cryin.”
Have tried other string instruments and which is your favorite?
I just acquired an Emerald 12 string/mandolin hybrid guitar made with carbon fiber. I’m really fascinating with it right now, it’s a great instrument.
You can use your guitar chops to get the mandolin sound.
When you were a novice guitarist what aspect of learning to play did you find most difficult?
Right and left hand coordination.
What areas of music or music theory are you trying to improve on at the moment?
That’s a good question. The power of the unique harmonies.
When did you first hold a guitar?
Since it was probably my sister’s guitar. I could have been as young as 7 or 8 years old. It was an affordable nylon folk guitar.
How many takes did you have to shoot for that Sony walkman commercial in the 20th century?
I wasn’t in the commercial. They used “Summer Song” without any talking over it. I wasn’t in it, just a bunch of people using products from that time. So zero takes. That was a bit of controversy. MTV wouldn’t play it, they might kill someone, etc. We filmed around a demolition derby. As were going into the MTV Awards, we’d wasted money on a video, Sony called with this idea. There is no talking over, put Cyron over the video and it was great.
Sony even had ads before and after the video during the award show. Sony’s influence was great. Wherever we went, they turned it into radio spots, they played it as that TV commercial.
If you were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you be?
This is going to be an epic sandwich.
Deep fried habanero, triple bacon cheese Kobe beef burger.
How is John Petrucci as a person? Would you considering touring India any time soon?
I would love to return to India to do more shows, maybe I’ll bring John along. He’s such a cool guy to hang with and an amazing musician.
What was your first amplifier?
Wolensack reel to reel tape recorder and then the other one was a Univox 1×12 combo.
How do you come up with the names for your songs?
The titles usually come to me first, along with the original inspiration for the music. I follow and focus on that title until I feel I’ve properly expressed it with music.
I’m a guitar instructor trying to get into modes and techniques with one of my more advanced students. Any tips or recommendations for fun lessons that will engage him instead of boring him with too much theory? He’s about 15 and sometimes if I get too theory oriented he get a distracted. He loves Rush, but I don’t just wanna teach him Rush songs. he’s better than that.
I always used to promise to teach a new song each week, student’s choice. As long as they would practice at least one technical oriented exercise.
Sometimes what turns students off is the teacher saying your’re not good enough to play that song. Of course, they’re student. Why would you penalize them for being in a natural state.
That Metallica song, let’s just start at the one part that might be easier. That way, they can show their friends and you got them to play some of it.
What sets this new album apart, and what inspires you to keep at writing and playing?
It’s my first real concept record. It’s allowed me to be more adventurous and playful with composition and the harmonic sequences that I built new melodies on top of.