One of my jobs, if you can call them that, is to interview guitar players for Guitar and Bass magazine, where there’s finally some sort of web presence, though my archive here is somewhat more comprehensive. There are upwards of seventy pieces written by my fair hand, interviews, features, tuition. My days as an active musician are behind me, not least because the PD affects my left hand most of all, so these days I mostly write interviews. These are generally on the phone, though every so often I travel to meet the players in question, Gary Lucas and Denny Whalley, Peter Hammill, Dweezil Zappa and, most recently, Glenn Matlock, Chris Spedding, and Stephen Parsons, who are shortly playing a couple of shows to promote their new album. I prefer this latter format, as there’s more to work with than simply words – you can ask question based on body language, the way that the various member interact. Also you can establish a rapport with the interviewee that allows for far more probing questions, and for far more interesting answers. The phoner is prey to more formulaic workings.
Prior to these interviews, I naturally need to hear what it is these guys are selling. That is, their new album. Most slick US bands stream the album to avoid pirating. This is a pain in the arse, frankly. The sound is dodgy, and you can’t stick it on your ipod to listen to on the train … the UK bands tend to send hard copy. In the case of unreleased albums, they come in the form of hand-ripped cds. Plainly people get a bit arsey if you sell them … which is what I was recently, well, accused of is perhaps a little strong. But a set of one artist’s soon-to-be-released material was seen on Ebay, with the seller being noted as from ‘Brighton’. Considering only five copies had been given out, it was unsurprising that I was singled out as ‘reviewer most likely to’. Naturally, they were in a pile on top of the New Oxford Dictionary of English and my copy of Lewis and Short. I sent documentary evidence that I was not the guilty party, and all were happy. But I digress.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of these interviews is that often the transcription runs to five or six times the size of the actual interview. Writing for a guitar magazine, one is often conscious of a need to cover certain bases, notably, well, guitars ad amps. ‘Guitar porn’, as one interviewee put it. I was talking about Steve Vai’s philosophy, amongst other things, when he said something along the lines of ‘do you think we should talk so much about philosophy, this is Guitar and Bass Magazine after all’, ‘nah’, said I, ‘this is far more interesting. Don’t you worry – I’ll take care of the guitars …’. Naturally, I ended up forgetting entirely about the small matter of his rig, and had to phone a friend who’d recently worked with him to get this particular detail. Oops.
The problem when you get a 7,000 word interview, and try to fit it into a 1,500 word article, is that a lot of stuff gets left out. I want to write about Steve Vai’s bees, Bill Nelson’s 80s occult leanings, Joe Satriani’s obsessive-compulsive triple-wholetone scales, all that sort of stuff.
Cabbage, so far as I’m aware, is an old tailor’s term for the material left over after a commission. You get given four bolts of cloth with which to make 50 suits. A skilled pattern cutter could leave you with enough material for, say, five more suits. These were the tailor’s property, and could be sold on as they wished. Cabbage was a perk enjoyed by the best tailors.
The stuff I have left over is cabbage. So, from now on, I think I just might just make up a new suit. Parallel interviews. The War and Peace cut, something like that. Cabbage.
I hope you find them interesting.
This is the warts ‘n’ all transcript of my interview with Joe. Not for the faint-hearted, as it’s 17,000 words of guitar geekery. For the record, Joe is possibly the sweetest, most good-natured of interviewees … usually you’re lucky to get 30 minutes. Joe and I spent two and a half hours on the phone.
Oh, and if you want to cite it, or use it, then kindly ask for my permission. It’s only polite. I own it, see. It’s mine. I share it out of the goodness of my heart. Cheers! Also available as pdf: Joe Satriani interview transcript – C Pete Langman 2008
Pete Langman and Joe Satriani – Jan 2008
Surfing is now 20 yrs old, what made it so popular and what do you think of it now?
I’ve HAD to listen to it, because we had to re-master it last year and we had to put together this package, and suffer looking at that live performance that we did, that’s part of the DVD section – and that’s always very painful looking at yourself.
Do you find it difficult listening to yourself, or just to watch yourself?
Yeah I like what everybody else is doing, and I sort of cringe when I hear my stuff back – when you have to look at it, it’s like “Oh my god how does anybody take you seriously, you know? So that’s always really hard, but you’ve just got to do it. It’s not very cut and dried this instrumental guitar thing, and although it’s really good that the people you work with are taking care of other aspects of it that go over your head. On a video project you really have to realise that you might be the only one able to realise some technical problems involved in the performance or the recording of the performance and how you might work on it to make it better for the hardcore listener.
What kind of things did you change to make it a better experience?
Well the biggest problem with redoing records sonically is how the accepted amount of dynamic range keeps changing, year to year, decade to decade. When Surfing with the Alien was first finished and mastered, you know the dynamic range was like 15 to 20 DB on a CD – it was almost an audio file record, well certainly by today’s standard, it’s like so audio file it’s ridiculous. Today when you buy a CD of any modern band, the typical DB range is maybe 2-3DB, that means everything is loud, all the time. CD players that you bought 3 or 4 years ago are distorting because they can’t take that much con…
Do you find difficulty with your new stuff? Do you find you have to master it in a different way? Do you have to think about the way you play the music knowing that the dynamic range that people will be listening to is different?
The main difficulty in it, and it’s not that any of it is wrong I suppose – it’s important to know that it’s not that it’s wrong, it’s that – years ago when Elvis Presley finished a record and then they were thinking of how people were gonna hear it, there were very few contexts in which people could listen to music. It would come over the radio, and there would be a record player. And even then the whole idea of music coming out of your TV was something so…it was just different. They never thought about the records that way, because when you went on TV, you basically played live. So just think about that – two contexts in which people heard music, people didn’t use headphones, there was no surround sound or pod, there were no computers. I mean music really didn’t get piped over available space you were in – in elevators to fast food restaurants, and music wasn’t piped over the TV, recorded music was always performed live. And then you fast forward to today, you take any new band – you take a band like Dragon Force – when they’re mastering their records they’re going “well what are we mastering it FOR? Are we mastering it for the laptop? The desktop? The car? The surround sound system? The guy who listens to music through his home computer system? The person listening to little “multimedia speakers”? Earbugs? headphones? Every possible place that we live in in the modern world these days has music, recorded music, piped through it and the difficulty is that each space requires a different kind of mastering, and almost a different kind of mixing.
Do you think there will come a point where people will mix and master for different media?
Absolutely – we’re already there. All successful dance records and club music records are really fixed – mixed and mastered for those places, for the clubs, it’s the only way to make it work – and re-mixes really help. Now there’s some sophisticated gear out there that radio stations use, their multiband limitors, compressors, expanders and equalisers that will allow one little [5.41] breaks sound that’s just as fat (?) as a new record from Sheryl Crow, or they’ll allow something from the Beastie Boys to sound like it can sit right next to something from the Stones or something like that, and you notice that right away, if you listen to when the levee breaks on the radio it sounds as big as you remember, but if you go home and you put it on and you stick on a Steve Vai record, you go that SV record is HUGE, it’s got all the space and high end in it and when the levee breaks it sounds like this little cardboard recording. So in a way record stations work really hard to correct that and TV Stations now do the same thing, they process the hell out of music.
And do you think that’s good or bad?
Well I think ultimately it’s good because we want to be inspired, the artist wants the record to be inspired, and I’m sure if you asked Jimmy Page “hey why did you make your record sound like that, he’d be like “ that was great shit back then!” you know that’s the way we listen to music. Every age I think really does show us that everybody did the best they could, and in some ways it is the context of the way we listen to music that changes our decisions about how big something should sound. Just like right now this whole thing about earbugs and hearing music over the net and that mp3s is just the media with which people are listening to music, it’s changing what we think is acceptable in terms of compression.
Do you see your guitar playing as being affected? Not necessarily by the media expectation, but do you find the last 20 yrs the way you play has changed? Timbres? Harmonic progressions? Scales?
[8. 30] What we always notice when we go back and we read the records (?). John C and me have done a lot of transfers of older tapes, you know, baking the masters and making 96k transfers to Pro Tools, we keep track and we sort of go back and service and maintain our catalogue, which is extremely important because we’ve sold over 10 million records and we need to make sure the record survives in its original state, so we get to sit in the studio and listen to the solos, ice 9 with nothing else around them but bare bones. What always surprises us when we do that is how much the environment of time influenced what we thought our EQ was like, what it should be like. For instance, when we were doing the first two records [09.12] surfing with the alien, we were in these two rooms that really were beautifully tweaked, they had great gear in there, and they were very true rooms at the time, and this is by accident, the studio owners had really nice power amps, they spent the time tuning the room, there was very little gear in the room to cause inflections, they had very smart acousticians coming in – guys who were really good at tuning rooms coming in, so that when we were twiddling the dials for the guitar tones, it really came out true, and it was very beautiful sounding when you hear it 20 years later and you go wow that’s exactly what it sounded like. And then some other records – you pull up a track and you go “what the hell were we thinking?”. And you realise it wasn’t just because you lost your mind temporarily when you were making a record (although we did that from time to time!) but that the room you were in perhaps wasn’t very accurate and what you thought was right was not.
It sounds like your appreciation of what your guitar playing is, seems to be getting further away from your fingers?
No, I would say the modern technology today has actually made it more of an artistic experience for me and the guys that I work with, because there was a lot of anxiety and a lot of corner-cutting that had to be juggled with because we only had destructive editing. When we did Surfing with the Alien, the budget was so small, we only had 3 wheels of multi track tape, that was all I could afford. And 24 tracks, and so you did a couple of passes on a solo and maybe you would punch it but it was so risky that you would stuff something up that you would just leave things alone – and there was problems with cross talk and oh my god the problems were insane. And of course there was no recall, and we had no automation either with mixing. Today for instance on the new record it was all mixed in the box which means we didn’t use any outboard gear for mixing, which meant we could recall 30 mixes in one afternoon and each one of them would come back exactly the same so if you really felt that the guitar had to be .75DB louder you could actually do it and not mess up anything else.
Do you find this new control a good bad or mixture of both?
You know what, it’s a great thing because in – now or 30 years ago people made great decisions quickly and made great records, and back then and today, some people can’t finish their albums, they record them and mix them to death. So I don’t think that’s changed, and it seems like no matter what the current technology or medium is, you’re always gonna have the artist that keeps their heads straight and the ones that lose it, and sometimes it’s not their fault it’s the producer, or whatever – or outside forces that just doom a record project. The current technology has allowed for more expression to pour out of everybody in the band, because everything is saveable, you can edit non-destructively and that wonderful performance that just popped out of someone at 4 in the morning as they really wanted to get out of the studio – is saveable. I mean how many times have you witnessed someone who played their best melody or best solo performance only to have a microphone go bad in the middle of it – or a crackle. And in the old days you wouldn’t be able to save it, and today you can. And I think that’s the most important thing. The thing that we like about artists is that they’re quirky and we’re attracted to that. You know the whole making records that sound professional, really isn’t very interesting. Although we strive so hard to be professional but at the same time as listeners we like the weirdest stuff! Once it’s not our project we seem to gravitate towards things that are rather chaotic, in nature we don’t care. But if they’re our own projects we’re always trying to eliminate the chaos and it’s a conflict, it’s one of those funny things about human nature. So as we re-mix things like SWTA and I’m listening to older techniques that I used to have, I can recognise number 1, yeah I’m better today than I was back then, more relaxed which means I can apply myself better, the audiences around the world have given me confidence to open up more so I can play more emotionally and not feel so self conscious about it, so all these things have allowed me to put out all these live dvd’s which I could never have performed that well 20 years ago. You can’t help but say “that day, 20 years ago in the studio we made a very…
In many ways you instigated a golden era of the guitar. Audience doesn’t put pressure, it allows you to go further…
I think so, I mean I still feel the pressure, by nature I’m a shy person so there’s always that moment before I go out on stage when I really want to go out and play but then there’s another part of me that says “are you crazy, you’re gonna walk out in front of a couple of thousand people and just like PLAY?”. And that’s when I’m looking around and thinking I wish I had a really extroverted singer or something I can stand behind. Once I take that first step out there, I’m very excited about playing, so yes I would agree with you, I feel I’ve been given confidence by the audience and I run with it as far as I can.
 Has it changed the way you practice? Do you practice? Or do you just write things? You don’t seem to do a lot of styles, it’s very much this is what I do? Influence?
I think that from my perspective I’m working really hard. Guitar playing has always felt difficult. So there’s that part of it, I’m always trying to figure out how can I play so that my wrists or my forearms or my fingers aren’t killing me – why can’t I stretch my fingers there when I want to, and so I’m constantly working on that, but I don’t – decades ago before I knew how to play A flat harmonic minor harmonised in fourth, cause that’s what I did, I taught myself how to do that and so a lot of my practicing had to do with getting familiar with music and guitars. But then at some point you learn it and you go “well now what do I do? I know all the scales I know the harmonies, when I look at the guitar it’s like a map that I’m so familiar with it I could close my eyes, so then you realise well wow, now the REAL work begins – just how do you play good, how do you throw out all the didactic and methodical stuff and just make it sound like…
[18.30] Do you have any techniques for freeing that kind of thing? Do you take influences from philosophy
I think that in any philosophy that says “be in the moment” you know I took be-bop lessons from Lenny C [18.55] and his whole thing was never be judgemental about what you’re playing, never even think about stuff like that, don’t think, just play, and only play what you want to play and if you try to grasp that concept you think oh wow…
[19.18] Do you read books? What was your last book?
I love Dan Simmons and China Mieville, they write everything from science fiction to fantasy – I don’t know how you categorise China, I mean his writing is so intense – his books like [Perdidio street station 19.45] they’ll just warp your mind you know. Dan Simmons writes a larger variety of fiction. I recently re-read a smaller book of his called [song of kali..20] it’s really beautiful. My sons always ask me “why do you read those books, dad, cause I’ve got books like the great wars for civilisation, I’ve got books on oil, um.. there’s a lot of books out right now about the history of oil exploration, the Caspian Sea, what’s gonna happen with the oil itself, the behind the scenes story – stuff like that, another book that went around with me and my friends and my wife was a book on Ghengis Khan, we all found very interesting, and so I guess there’s 2 or 3 books going at once…
Do you read a book and think there’s a song in this, and find a direct connection with literature and music?
Yeah I would say there’s a direct connection, the most obvious thing is from the surfing record Ice 9, when you get to the kurt Vonnegut, and the book cat’s cradle, and you get to the chapter about the ice 9, it’s just one of those things that for me, I just started thinking about that, you know, what would that sound like. So yeah, I get very inspired, rather directly sometimes by little senses, I did a whole album on nanotechnology without really knowing that there was a book with the same title, I kid you not, I pride myself on reading a lot, and how this book got by me I’ll never know.
New album…movement away, or all part of the S worldview? Each song has certain things, elements of old tunes, flavours of stuff…
That’s a really good insight on your part because it reveals the unusual nature of the internal struggle that an artist has, because a guitar player like myself whose job is to play melodies, and solos, which means that you’re editing and then saying ok, now lets get rid of all the editing, and at the same point in the song, and you’re also composing the stuff and producing it as well, it’s a lot of work, and so there’s on the one hand there’s intense concentration, the contrarian view is that you’re always telling yourself to free yourself from all this concentrated effort, so that you can get some off-the-cuff spontaneous stuff on there, and it can work, you just have to get used to putting yourself in those positions, but specifically relating to your question of the playing, is that it’s so interesting how you can think to yourself that wow, I played so differently here, this is so different from me, and someone will walk into the room and say wow, there’s that satriani sound and you’re like, really, what is he hearing that I’m not hearing? And I’ll give you a really good example this is really guitar geek stuff, right, there was this track, no. 9, called Asik Vaysel, AV is Turkey’s greatest ‘saz?’ player, a tradition unto himself, and I was turned onto him by our Turkish promoter on our last tour there, and I was just overwhelmed with just the beauty of the guy’s voice, the phrasing and the modality of the music, and I really took to it, I was so happy that they laid these CDs on me and we had time to talk about Turkish music and ever since I heard the first cd my own version of him and his work was going through my head, and I came home off the tour and I’m sitting at this thin and I really wanted to write this song, just based on my reflection of him but, I kept thinking every time I go to play guitar, you know, with these intense long jams with very little harmony but with a lot o back and forth rhythmic expression, and guitar sound kind of stuff, there’s something that I’m not getting, and I realised that at the same time that I was working on this new distortion box with the vox engineers, this thing that is called the satch-u-rator [raider], all my ideas about a distortion box, what we can do to make it more expressive, and the two things came together because I thought wow, when I don’t press down so hard with my left hand, my fretting hand, I just barely press down, and I start to pick lighter with my right hand, I get this totally different sound, [25.45] an I kept thinking is it the box that’s allowing this to happen, and then I would plug into some other amp and I’m going no, this is like the technique, it’s something totally different from the way I played up until the moment I started working on this song, so I improvised, yk, a pass in my home studio with this whole technique of barely pressing the strings down and just doping this really really long jam, yk, and afterwards I listened back to it and to me, it was wow, that sounds like somebody else.
To me, that’s the tune that reminds me of SV most of all, interesting, considering your relationship…attitude. Bunch of things that surprise me on this album, like what’s going on with the title, greek etc [26.55]
I can talk to you a lot about that…I started to write that particular song and I really wanted to write a song that was about something that was very mysterious, misunderstood, a person, a concept, something that was even beyond what we as humans think about, this was me going really off the deep end, so as I was writing this song, I was feeling really good about the mood I could create, and wasn’t even sure about the instrumentation, I started to look through old books that I had, on lyric writing, and dictionaries, and thesaurus, and then I hit the internet, and I realised as I was focusing on the word mystery that I came across this word that I had seen many years ago, in some religious books, and the word musterion is actually a word that has been co-opted and used by many different people for a few thousand years for their own reason. So to make a long story short, if we go back 2 thousand years, you have this word musterion that was used to allude to false doctrines by mystics of the day and then St Paul finds his way to Greece and he’s writing his gospel in Greek and he uses the word to basically try to put forth the fact that people who are uninitiated in Christianity, when they read the stories of the thing that’s gonna become their bible, they just hear some ridiculous stories, but once you’re initiated, once you’ve seen the light, the code is almost revealed to you and with that comes salvation, and the real meaning behind the parables and the stories of the bible. So he takes this word, it reminds me of the whole thing about Helter Skelter where U2 wanted to rescue the word that was given to us in a literary sense, celebrated by the Beatles and then misused by the Manson family, and U2 wanted to take it back so we could use it without thinking about crazy murderers and in a way I thought this is so interesting, it shines a light on how people struggle to get messages across. So St. Paul using a word that had a derogatory sense to it, a negative connotation and he uses it to promote this new religion, to get people to hear the word of Jesus Christ and to understand his message. And in the word, when the writings are translated into English they are mistakenly translated as mystery. You and I grew up in a world where we are familiar with words like mystery or faith – that’s not what it meant, it really meant something that would be revealed to you once you were initiated.
So is this trying to begin the album – does the album have a message?
No it doesn’t. I just thought the word was so cool and it really helped me out and it just brings together all these funny elements – I mean you think about it – it’s 2008 and I’m an instrumental rock guitar player – how absurd is that, right?
I suppose the second part of the story is that that was the problem with titling the record – I couldn’t call the album Professor S because people would think it was some sort of humorous funky album. I couldn’t call it Andalucia or Out of the Sunrise or Revelation, each song title would give the wrong impression of the album and Musterion especially – they would think it was some sort of Christian record – you know – Joe goes off into the spiritual realm where nobody could follow, or whatever. And I was struggling with it because I thought it was a cool thing not to have a title while working on the record, then of course towards the end everyone was looking at me like “Joe we need a title!” and my manager suggested “chill out about the title it can be anything, because really the title doesn’t matter after the first couple of weeks, it’s just your new record – people will accept it.”
Do you believe that?
Yeah I do, all my favourite records I really don’t care what the titles are. I just like the songs on the record – today more than ever, the whole thing about songs being in sequence on a record, very few people listen…
The media changing. Does that change the way you think about the order?
Absolutely. Myself, my co-producer and engineer John Cuniberti – we would have to say we’re more old school about this approach, and we did sequence the record very carefully. It was a decision on our part to put Musterion first because we didn’t want to overwhelm, it was just our mood. Years ago the record company would have said “are you crazy? Put ‘I just wanna rock’ first, it’s got to be the single that’s the most attractive…
Speak of ‘I just wanna rock’ – what is he saying?
He’s saying “what is your purpose?”
Different influences – ACDC riff, chemical brothers, Jan Garb…
All these people you’re mentioning are big influences on me, and I firmly believe you have to celebrate your influences.
Are you doing it on purpose? Who is actually playing on Professor S?
Well I’m playing all the guitars, I’m playing the keyboards, Matt’s playing 99.9% of the bass, some of the funky bits towards the end are things I did at home, my son Zizzi’s playing the tenor sax, and that was recorded right in this little room here where I’m doing the interview. Jeff’s on drums, there’s some percussion on there most likely it’s Jeff. Jeff and John Cuniberti are always arguing over who’s going to play the tambourine. Me and Jeff and John have been working together since 1980…
How do your collaborators affect what you do?
All the time – you take a track like Professor S, I sat down on my D drums and added a very 808 style drum to it, and brought it to the guys with 90% of the guitars done, and then we went out in the room, jeff set up his drums in this little tiny base closet, really teeny drumkit, me and John were very excited about recording a very 70’s sound, I didn’t know what Jeff was going to do, and matt and I were standing together in the music room, and although there were 6 guitar tracks already, there was still other bits that I wanted to do and then we just recorded live performances on top of the pre-recorded ones that I already had. Jeff came up with a totally different drum part than I would have imagined, going to the ride cymbal [36.13]… and then afterwards I remember sitting there going “that’s really weird, that’s not what I thought the drummer was going to play” and he was like “check it out, live with it for a couple of days, you’re gonna dig this I know it”. And he was right. Eventually when we got down to mixing, his sensibility about how not to try to play everything like a drum machine and how to let it open up and breathe a little bit was the right call and that’s why I like playing with him. He’ll just think of the contrary thing.
In revelation I’m hearing radiohead, in sunrise I’m hearing bruce Hornsby
It’s just the sound of the piano, I can tell you exactly what it is, bruce a while ago had the balls to write songs in major keys, and not to change them, and people are afraid to do that sometimes, I did that with always with me…I did that with Rubina, all my early records have songs that are just in major keys and I don’t try to fuck it up on purpose, to show people I can be subversive, YK, and when you’ve got songs like Asik Vaysel, and P S, on a record, songs like Out of the Sunrise really have a place, because I didn’t do that on those other songs…
Goes a bit policey, like Stewart C walked in
Any time that you do any kind of a style of music, people, the first thing they think of is what does this remind me of, and they go to the most popular last person to use that style and stick at that, and that’s what I get in interviews, they still say that. But it’s cool, because in a way we’re very much like journalists when we’re in the studio, because when I brought that song in, I said here’s the song guys, and it comes into this thing and then I want to do a reggae thing, and there was this long discussion about whether this should be half time or not, and the funniest thing, what you said about BH is what John Cuniberti said to me the first time he heard it, and I thought that was so funny, well sure, but that’s ok with me, because I recognised early on, there was a song Bruce did called down the country road, and I just thought that was a real beautiful mixolydian thing and I remember meeting him in London in ’91 when we were doing that guitar legends festival and we were rehearsing in London for the Spanish guitar show, and we talked about that song, and like a real music geek I said I really appreciated that song because you kept it in mixolydian and I thought that was the coolest thing and he was like I’m so glad you picked up on that and people give me crap for that all the time, you know, not screw up the harmony on purpose when I kept it straight, but I understood that by keeping the harmony straight it was a more bold creative move, and sometimes you’ve got to do that.
With collaborators – working for outside gigs? Do you play their way or just bring yourself to the party? [40.00]
you’re being hired and so you’re all ears. Christopher Guest put it really well. Last year I was on the set of for your consideration, the last movie he directed, and I’m in the movie for about ten seconds being a guitar player, so when we were sitting there that day and asking him about when the movie was going to be done, and his approach to filming everybody, and he said, it’s pretty much like a record, if you were making a record joe and you were hiring somebody to come in and do a solo, you’d say, here’s the spot, it’s in the key of g major, do whatever you want, and I’ll record you ten times, and when you’re happy, let me know, and you can leave and I’ll just listen to it, but I’m not going to get in the way of someone who I know knows how to play, so that’s what I’m doing here with the actors, I’ll film them all day long, I’ll tell them give me everything you’ve got, and when they say ok, that’s all I’ve got, he says, than you. He doesn’t really talk to them very much, and yk the script for that movie was like twelve pages deep, I mean that was it. Everything, all the situations were improvised, there wasn’t any dialogue that was written. And it was amazing to see these comedians and actors just continually riff, like they’re a soloist giving a hundred different angles on a song, and that’s pretty much how I feel like if somebody hires me, I’m just going to take the general direction and just keep going until they say none of that, more of that…you’ve got to respect that they’ve got a handle on the overall direction of the project.
You have a facility to make a v simple melody sound incredibly good – a lot of expression into a small space
Well great! That’s the hardest thing ever, [solo vs melody?] in a nutshell we spend hours and hours on melodies, and solos are done very very quickly. And most solos are first passes, like the entire AV is one big first pass,
Do you think about what you’re going to do before you do it? [43.00]
Right before I do it, I think how about this sound, I’m feeling really good about this, and I go and I do it, and what I’ve done is either like what I thought it was going to be, or it’ not, and sometimes it’s comically tragic how it doesn’t work, and the song Rev is a good study in working really hard on a melody and recording a solo without thinking about it, when I was at home working at that one, all the guitar work was done at home, and I was very excited about this song, and I’d written it on piano, and I was of course frightened a little bit because it’s just a couple of chords, a lot of people have used that progression, and written great, great songs, and I was like, [example?] there’s smashing pumpkins, zombie uses the same progression, there’s got to be four or five songs which are so good, and they’ve all got great lyrics, and so I was like, ok, how dare you, but that’s what rock is, everybody uses a little bit of everybody else’s thing, and I though ok, first of all, I’m not going to go to the D chord after the G, because most people do that, when they rest on the G chord, then they step down to the E, and I remember telling everybody, don’t step down to the E, ‘cos that’s going to be our contribution to this simple progression, is to hold that G right? And then the melody of course took so long to edit down to the point so it didn’t sound like a guy just playing his guitar, and we decided to keep me original performance that I recorded at my house, and you can hear it, I mean the guitar’s kinda rough at the beginning, it’s a bit over-distorted, it probably shoulda had a special guitar for the beginning, and a special guitar for each part but it was just this one long performance that was just that’s got some character to it, it’s almost on the edge, almost in tune…it’s like, I mean for me it sounded nice and rough around the edges, where it made me think that it was almost like somebody singing where you thought that their emotions were gonna get the better of them, and you were wondering if they were gonna get through it, so I though that’s the quality that the song needs because it’s a very simple song, so what about it is going to be challenging and rough, and then when I was at home I wanted to do the solo, I just remember turning the gain up a little bit more than I should have on the amp,, and I picked up a prototype for the chromedome, a stainless steel pick that I was developing, and I thought to myself, I’m going to play like brian may, I’m going to use a metal pick, you know? And so there’s a lot of clink, clink digging in there but I think that’s my best brian may homage.
You’re very involved, by the way you talk about it, in the technical aspects of recording, how the sound is formulated, what gear? 
You’re dead right, I’m a total gear nut, and I’m totally involved in it, I have too many footpedals in my house, and it’s a constant struggle as to where to put them so they don’t haunt me, but on this record I did something that was very unusual;, I had two guitars, that were my main guitars for melodies and solos and rhythms, which the exception of the acoustic guitars, I had an old martin and a brand new hand-made guitar made by a guy called Bruce Sexhauer, of pedalo my parani in California [eh? 47.30] I had two of my old fender basses, a 64 and 71, p-basses, those are the ones that Matt used, and I purposely kept all my vintage guitars in the closet, and I didn’t take out every single guitar, maybe I used the JS1000, a JS1200, and I think one of the chrome guitars, and just kept it at that. The peavey JSX here in my studio and at the Plant, was probably the 90% workhorse, either going through speakers of going through a speaker simulator, using a marshall SE100 or a Palmer speaker simulator or the SPL transducer, I can’t remember which one was used for some reason, those thing are always very finicky, you never know why, one of them sounds better than the other, I have to say just on the back end at home I was using stuff by mercury labs, electronics labs, a local place that just makes super hi-end stuff like revelation we’re talking about has got a Fairchild and a thing called a mercury 66, which is like a beautiful old Fairchild only more dependable, and I used that a lot to warm up the guitars, and I used the Millennium media sdp1 as my main recording mic pre and eq input, and the UA LA2A, old GML mic pre, stuff like that, you know [check these…] but what went in between the guitar and the amp I was very excited about, the no 1 thing is the satchurator, [satchraider?] for over a year me and vox team which is steve grinrod in London, masihero lee in Tokyo, and myself and mike Bradley, being a vox corps guy, a guitar player himself, all worked for a year to make a better distortion box, and I used it all over the record, and it does sound like a different box depending on how you play.
What’s different [50.00]
Technically this big thing that’s been happening over the last couple of years is to make gear rohask [???] compliant, and basically older gear, if you try to find some old tube drivers or distortion boxes from the late 70s and 80s they have components in there that have too much lead in and countries around the world will not let you dispose of those parts so they won’t let you manufacture or sell them, so companies like Dunlop have had to revolutionise all the gear so that it’s all rohask compliant, so that it’s all environmentally friendly for these days, for these times. And of course that means that those tones are gone, and on the one hand it’s a tragedy, and on the other hand it’s a great opportunity to say what we want to do as a starting point is to emulate what we though was great about this old funky gear, but now that we’re in a new era, what can we do to change things that we hated about the old gear?  and how can we make the box better? So whether it’s a flanger that had that one tone but that nasty distortion, or that great octaver box that had that great fuzzy tone but a nasty noise or the battery life was like a half hour. So all these things you have, if you spend the time and the money, and you’re committed to it, you can make a better version. And that’s what we tried to do – what I thought was let’s make a box that’s a really good distortion box that really does sound what you think a great amp turned up really loud mic’d by the best engineer and mixed by the great mixer on a record sounds like. And boy, your life then is diodes, and op-amps and… [do you wire yourself?] … I know how to wire things incorrectly, because I have a lot of boxes like that and I would show them to the engineers and they’d look at me like ‘you’ve got to be kidding, no-one should ever do that’. [wired wrong but sounds better?] of course, yeah, and most of the boxes that I used onstage over the years were old boss or […]tone effects that I went in there and I thought hey, I know what I’m doing, and of course I didn’t, but they’d be some part of it that an engineer would look at it and go, ‘I know you didn’t know what you were doing but you did something very interesting there, and it gives me an idea’. But in the tale end of making this record, mutihero lee from Japanese part of the deign team really made some huge leaps forward in the designing of the box and I was using the prototypes every day in the studio and I thought this is great and I played with the prototype live at the NAMM show the other night and it was just so much fun, it’s so great to have this new box which is really like a culmination of years of trying to use all these other boxes so that was a very important thing but in fairness I don’t want you to think I’m pounding the endorsement thing, I was very happy to receive a box from George trips who’s working for Dunlop, he sort of redid the Octavia, the Hendrix Octavia, and that’s quite obvious because it’s on the first two tracks…and in two different ways, musterion’s got the box being used with a very small amp, using the mini colossal amp going direct so it’s got that very small tube, it’s just not a big broad kind of a tone, but on overdrive the solo is so huge sounding because then of course the same guitar and pedal is going into the JSX, which has a huge amount of high-end and lo-end to offer, the problem in the studio of course is figuring out how much sound can we allow onto the track before it eats into the drum and the bass and everything.
[54.19] tunes sound-led?
Yeah, each step allows you to think that you can go ahead – you mentioned a radiohead influence, that’s because I was working on, I was playing through this 4 channel prototype for an amp that years ago we called the supercolossal amp, I’m sure it’ll have a much better name once Peavey and I get this whole thing worked out, this was an association with Ben Farge and myself and peavey, trying to make the evolution of the JSX into a more raucous, less controlled 4 channel thing, and I was using that for that song, and that did make me think I could get really nasty with those opening chords, keep the exact same sound by just volume control on the guitar, getting it to clean up just a little bit, and then still be evocative, so yeah, same thing with PS, each time you plug in direct and play clean it makes you play…like that!
55.44] – resonance with SF what’s with the suffix?
I can tell you, it’s so silly. So we record on computer so you’re always staring t an interface and the interface is like a desk and you’ve got things on there from other parts of your life and so as I’m writing this song and I’m listening to little teeny quicktime versions of it, I’m looking on my desktop and I’m thinking, I’d just started thinking it’s like satcha-funk and not thinking a title for the song, I’m just vibing on words, yk, and also stuck on my desktop is a latin dictionary, and I’m looking and I’m wondering what’s the latin D there for and that’s right, my son took 3 years of latin at school, and often, my studio and his room where he goes crazy and does his homework and everything are right there and every once in a while I’d hear him say something, what he’s trying to pronounce, something, maybe he’s got to do a presentation, and I’d help him with his homework so I installed a latin dictionary on there, I don’t know any latin, in one ear and out the other – once he moved one from that point in his academic life, so did I – I looked at it while I was working on that song, it’s sort of like pig-latin, so I just added that to it, it just popped into my head that it would be satchafunkilus, and people have tried to spell it ous or os, but because of when it happened, the LD, it had to be us, it just sounded more latin to me. The professor thing came later, as the song became funnier, I started to think that it was about an alter-ego of myself, because I like playing lots of styles of music and when I go into it I go totally full bore into it, yk.
You have to think that if this was somebody else’s record they would never do this stuff, they’d never do it, because ,… it doesn’t help a guitar player’s career to have this diversity on a record. It’s the opposite of being career oriented, which has been pointed out to me by several people in the music industry, who have said, you know what you should do, you should make an album where you play fast all the time, or every song is loud, why don’t you just do an album of ballads? But every suggestion bores me to death, and so I wind up with records that have overdriver and S and call me and out and yeah, years later I look back and go what was I thinking? But I just can’t help it, I like being different song to song.
You mentioned on improving your playing, guitar health tips? [59.34]
It’s been constant my entire career dealing with the forearm getting tight, guitar player’s elbow, whatever, I live a normal life outside of doing this, and stupid things happen, yk, and two weeks before a tour I’m out doing yard work and sprain my wrist lifting up a big pile of leaves and I go oh great, now what am I going to do, and I can tell you every album and every live dvd we put out there’s a story behind what’s bothering me, like when we did satriani live I was having the worst time with m wrist, and for some reason both myself and my wife had strained our left wrist, the same day…we must have been doing something we shouldn’t have done, something domestic we were doing and I struggled with it throughout that whole tour and I had to play things differently that night that we were being filmed, [does it ever affect a song ] I’ve always dealt with it somehow, I remember writing mystical potato head groove thing, from blue dream, and not knowing how to do those arpeggios for the chorus, not knowing if it would work anyhow in a song, if it would sound like a chorus or if it would be in any way interesting, and I spent 3 weeks doing those arpeggios for like 6hours a day, and by the time I recorded it my arm was killing me, just from doing it too much – since then I see other people who learn that song and they have no problem doing that. Faster and better than me.
Partly your fault, raising the bar, etc 
The roxy probably [the binoculars gig in 87, the bar’s been raised] I think it happens all the time, in unusual directions, it might be the sound, some guitar player gets a very interesting sound, and raises the bar as far as what people think is acceptable for the guitar [anything you heard when you knew the world had flipped again?] for me, Hendrix changed that in general for me, then holdsworth, first time I heard AH I was frightened and encouraged at the same time, because I thought that I’ll never be that good but I was encouraged to aspire to be that good with legato playing and expressiveness yk, and I think everybody felt that way when they heard van halen, it was just oh my god this guy is the greatest and the coolest thing ever, you get overwhelmed with not only the technique but the personality, and eddie’s personality is so amazing, when he plays guitar it’s just like wow!
Anyone you thought would make it and didn’t, Shawn lane?
That’s difficult, his contribution was really intense because he was just an amazing player, but what makes it difficult for certain people, I think it’s quite obvious, I think it’s the material it’s always about the songs, I don’t care what anybody says, and ones that make the lasting impression are the ones who took the risk to write the off-the wall songs, the songs that they shouldn’t have written, and also the they should have written, I mean you look at EVH, he wrote eruption, which is so guitar player in your face, but he also wrote jump, with the Guitar Center keyboard sound, which just anybody could walk into the store and push a button and get that keyboard sound, but how did he make it work, YKWIM? And I think that’s the power of the personality.
Would that be your advice the youngster? [65.05]
I always tell them it’s about the song, I always tell people to tell me their story, that’s what I want to hear – the guitar playing will follow. If you’ve got something really interesting to write about, then the guitar playing will follow. I mean look at the beatles, they had really interesting thing that they wrote about and the guitar playing would be so creative the stuff that followed, and it became the standard, I mean George Harrison was not AH, but it worked, and Paul McC when george wasn’t around would do something equally as cool, when I think of revolution and the fuzzed-out guitar that is so inspirational, and the very studious guitar player, one of the top ten greatest in the world probably never would have done that, because they’re so damn concerned with their own technique, maintaining their position on the top of the greatest players of all time…
When did you did you work this out, did you have a mentor? [66.35]
I think it was my own experience of, I started out wanting to understand the secret of music, and when I was seventeen I went on tour with a disco band and I was really knocked down by humanity, there were shows where the power would go out in the club and people would keep on dancing like they thought it was part of the show. And I thought, what is my place in the universe? Even when I’m not playing people don’t notice onstage it starts to make me rethink the whole point of technique, and I realise it’s not about what people think about my playing, it’s what I think about my playing, and that’s what the technique is for, and so I put it in my head never rate yourself against other players, or develop a sense of your musical self worth based on opinion polls, because that’s never mattered, what matters is do you feel you have the proper technique to put across your ideas, and it’s a really scary thing because it’s so easy to practise scales and get better, it’s so easy, and thousands of guitar players do it every day, but do you know what’s really hard? Looking into yourself and saying what have I got to say, and then basing your career on that, because there’s no practice for that, there’s no ‘if I do this for three hours a day, I will be good at it’. It doesn’t work that way, so it’s a very frightening thing to say I’m not going to practice to impress people with my technique, I’m going to dig deep in myself every time I write a song, or in my case make a record, and I take a chance that people are either going to slam me, or say thank you for writing that beautiful song, I played it at my wedding or my dad’s funeral, or this frees me from a horrible day at work or I love to put this on when I get on my motorcycle and just drive, or something like that. That’s what music is for. I know that’s a very convoluted response but I’m just telling you the truth, and part of it was just listening to other players and thinking I’ll never be AH, I’ll just never be that good.
When you started NOTE, did you have an image of now… [69.00]
No, the stuff that we’re frightened of we put out of our brains, because life is tense and we put off death, someday I may lose my leg – we don’t wanna think about it, so at the same time as a musician, we don’t wanna think about how difficult it is to get work, so we put it out of our minds – that’s just what makes us dreamers in a way. I recorded that record on a credit card so I was just worried about how I was gonna come up with $4,995 – cause that was my limit and I maxxed it out the first day we went in by paying everybody at the time to get a discount, so, when you start a record you have to practice being in denial about a couple of things, besides the budget there’s what people are going to think about it, and why am I doing it. You have to do it for the love of it, and maintain the crucial attitude. This was a record, when I think about it, not just the previous one, but the record that nobody wanted me to do. I mean I lost jobs by playing people that record. I remember I had an audition for jeff Rea [70.52] – do you remember the band? A couple of the guys were from Angel – there were really good 80’s rocking musicians, they had the hair, they had the look they had the Marshall, they had everything. Somehow I got called in for an audition and I didn’t have any of that. And then at the end of the audition they said “what else are you doing?” and I said “I’ve recorded this really wacky solo record and I played them XX [71.24], and I remember looking at those in the room and thinking I think I just did the wrong thing! And then one of the guys, one of the members of the band who lived in the Bay area, [71.39]“To tell you the truth I think you really blew it when you pulled out that solo record” and I was like “why?” and he said “that’s just too weird, .. on it and the chords were all weird” and I thought “well it’s just different, it’s creative – did you want me to play something like XX or something like that – what would be the point of that”.
So that’s been the story of my career, it seems as though sometimes in my little small circle I’m always getting pressured to be like the others.
Surely you don’t still feel that?
I think the other guys probably feel it the other way, and I’ve always just said “no, screw that I have these songs I’ve written, they mean a lot to me and some of them don’t require solos but I’m just gonna put them on the record anyway, and this song requires a little over-the-top piece of technical display and I am not doing it to move my number up in the guitar polls, I’m doing it for its [72.50] and so I’ve collected the accolades, taken the hits on the chin for each one of those decisions that I’ve made, but that’s what has formed all the creative decisions on the record is for the material.
Do you have anything to do with teaching/ students – how much of a help was it for your playing?
Teaching is always a very roundabout insight into your own playing, you have to pull of your random thoughts about playing together and put it in a cohesive sense into somebody who can only afford a half hour. So you can’t you can’t ramble on and on like I’m doing with you. But whenever a kid came in and he put down what was the going rate at the time, say I’d remember that, money was hard to come by and I owe it to this kid to give him something that will make his day better, in band rehearsal..
Did you always try and teach one thing, or maybe two things?
Yeah, but everything was different you know, I was teaching 8 yr old kids who would come in with action figures and put them on the amp, and then pick up the guitar and realise he has other things in his life that have priority. But then it would be followed by [74.44] XX, or XX or Alex Gold and they would be coming in, and those guys either had gigs, real gigs like Kirk Hammett, and I realised these guys are gonna go far. And if they come in and they say “what’s Stevie Ray Vaughan really doing, how does that work?” we could spend a couple of weeks just on how hendrix and Albert King really influence Stevie Ray Vaughan. Maybe bring in to the party see how that’s working for him xx then move onto other things. Some guys had really pressing agendas, like Kirk, he was making records, he’d come in from a rehearsal, or on his way to a Metallica rehearsal and we’d have things we’d really have to talk about. And other guys were just beginning I remember David Bryson from counting Crows saying “you know I don’t really care about solo-ing, but let’s talk about songwriting, let’s talk about keys, modulation, show me interesting chords, show me how chords go together” and it was great. It’s always really cool when you have someone who comes in and they know specifically the area they want to work on. And it does influence you because you go “OK this guy is paying me, I should have my shit together so I can give them what they need.”
Going back to the album, which is your favourite track?
Man that’s a tough one! Well let me break it up into a couple of songs. Just for tones that were achieved, I think the last two songs I’m excited about because the x setups were identical and the guitar setups were entirely different. And for sheer guitar volume of guitar sounds Overdriver and PS are so much fun to be able to listen to because there’s so much work on the guitar tone it’s just like, there’s so much stuff to DO in those songs. It was so much fun layering that stuff, I just love that. Believe it or not I’m so proud of ‘I just wanna rock’, because it’s so straight ahead and I didn’t mess it up with chords that are too interesting, and I was very happy with what everybody else brought to it including the crowd of people who did such a good job following my direction. And I’m really hoping people like ‘come on baby’ and don’t think it’s too subtle. Right now I’m sort of infatuated with my own work because it’s done and when you hear your record mastered and the mastering engineer has done such a great job of bringing out the power of the record, it’s kinda intoxicating. But ask me in about 6 months and maybe I’ll start to get tired of it. And I’ll say I wish I would have done that over again! To be honest with you I’m frightened of the whole thing as well because I’m thinking I’m so close to it, I don’t have any perspective and any moment some journalist is going to say to me “why the hell did you do that – that’s just dreadful!” and I’ll go “really? I hadn’t noticed that!” and maybe they’re right, I just don’t know, but right now, each one of those songs – and I wrote 30 and whittled it down to 10, and so that means my emotional state is rather tweaked at the moment because I felt like I had to really focus and produce and concentrate and so the whole record kind of resonates as one important piece of work. But I should be asking you! What’s your …
It is what it is…
Yes, I’ll tell you one thing, there’s a great hole in the song and to all of us in the studio, we love the space, the part in the beginning, you’ll notice it and it’s just the whole idea about the economy and each time that we do a pass either Jeff or M or somebody will say “what’s happening in that hole” and I’ll say “nothing”. When we were mixing J.. they’ll say what about that hole and I’ll say believe me and eventually he went out he recorded Jeff playing the cowbell which we thought was rather humorous because the whole thing was Saturday night live and wore a cowbell and the whole Christopher Walken and Will Farrow doing a comedic sketch on the Blue Oyster (?) cult song – so now there are t-shirts saying (more) cowbells (?) so we put a cowbell on a song everybody knows the skit. I hate to say it but once we put more cowbell on, those sections where there was nothing happening became these golden xxx moments that convinced us we were on the right track about how we were mixing the song. [1.50] XX mastering of the song also heightened what I would call a rock moment on that track.
Only been streaming it on my computer, want to play it on CD.
The other interview I was doing we were talking about the sound of records these days, the trend is to make your CDs as loud as they can possibly be and basically you do that by reducing the dynamic range…
IS that what happened with yours?
John took the record down to Bernie[02.46] and I was doing a photoshoot for the album that day so I was able to go and Bernie was prepared to make it the loudest record – as loud as everybody else’s and I was like I don’t want you to do that and take a step or two back, because my theory is the human voice is beautiful and it’s very rich and it’s very nice to hear it, – it fares well even when you squish a record and make it as X as it can be, but a guitar, on the other hand playing up and down the neck you have to be careful about that and so my message to Bernie was “my fans are going to listen to this a lot, they’re gonna spin this record thousands of times and SWTA taught us that you can make a guitar record that will last for decades and the way you give it longevity is by being a little bit subtle with it, don’t make it the loudest record so it may not be as loud as the chilli peppers or whoever has come out with the loudest record this month but it will be for a guitar players record, one that will endure and that’s not overbearing and there’s a technical way to do that which is basically by not making it the loudest CD on the planet. But there’s a good reason why they do that these days and that’s because music is heard in so many contexts, the only way to make it work is to make it flat. It’s a sad thing but it has its good points…
Are you going to have a warning – dynamic range on this CD…?
There should be a number of systems like what they have on – personal value on food packaging
Or warning there are quiet bits on this CD?
Sales would plummet! Quiet bits – what’s that?
Another track that was interesting was Diddly squiddly squid pants – what was that? Jeff Beck influence?
(laughs) my influences are quite obvious and you’ve nailed it right there! I’m a huge huge Jeff Beck fan – one of the greatest guitarists living on the planet [5.20] gets better every year..
How does he do it and others don’t?
I don’t know I’m just glad he does. I’m a total Jeff Beck fan and one of these days I will be able to meet him and I will be able to speak properly…[5.42] but I’m actually quite a nice guy when I calm down. But I’m happy just to enjoy his guitar playing, but he is a very big influence on me, he did all the inroads before I came along, I learnt to play guitar by jamming to all his records…
Would you like to play with him?
We’ve invited him on several [6.10]xx and we’ve come close to working out the deals but I always respect his decision not to go on these xx because… I’m too much of a fan to get all worked up over it.
Is there anyone like that you would like to guest on an album?
If I could work out the business end of it I would have Jeff Beck, Brian May Jimmy page and all the guys that I learnt how to play and when I’m preparing for a tour or working on a song I’m up there playing along with Eric Clapton and andy fairweather low and one of my favourite records to jam with is from the cradle and it would be a treat for me to have billy gibbons and AH playing on a record and [record or just to play with them?] I’ve played with these guys, brian may has been very gracious and jumped on stage with us at G3 and in my solo tours and he’s just amazing he’s always better than what you think is going to happen, his personality is just so genuine and unique, and of course he’s just a killer guitarist, and the two together are just always explosive, better than you would imagine and it’s always surprising, so I’ve always felt good about that and the reason we always pursue the G3 tours is because I always feel something good will happen when you get good people around, and it always does. [8.00] When I’m trying to invite other players on those tours I give them the same grab, I tell them about the times billy gibbons came onstage, and how cool it was, and don’t be afraid of guys like Yngwie, they’re really great to play with regardless of rumours you may have heard, and really wonderful musicians, and magic happens every night, [disappointed you?] I think it’s obvious, it’s quite transparent, we all go on tour and everyone chooses, journalists write whatever they want about us, but we did a G3 tour with Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker and Michael was in a very bad way, on that tour, and it was disappointing to fans but I thin that it was more disappointing to me because I was a big schenker fan, which is why I enticed him to be on the tour, but he was in a better state when we met, before the tour started, and I was just shaken to be onstage with uli jon roth, you know I never would have played wah-wah again if it hadn’t been for listening to Fire Wind and Earthquake, and I remember listening to…[???] that UJR song I’ll be loving you tonight, and I thought, there is some place to go with that wah-wah pedal. Cos I’d sworn it off for like six years, and the on my way to the SWTA sessions I thought, well, why not bring that WW just for the hell of it, I had no idea it was going to wind up being on the title track, but it was because of the influence of ULi, man, that guy is just so good. So there were great things about that tour, but yeah we were all very worried about michael’s health, so that part of it was a bit of a bummer, y’know…
[10.14] problem with meeting your heroes…disappointment?[11.25]
That happens a lot, and it’s crushing, yeah, I’d love to give the impression that I don’t care what anybody thinks, that I’m off in my own kingdom, but in fact I’m not like that, and I’ve had experiences that are so intense and so uplifting, and no. 1 has to be mick jagger, because people say what was he really like, and they’re expecting me to say he was awful you know, but every day I was overwhelmed by mick’s musicianship, his generosity, his ability to handle a huge undertaking, his ability o be MJ in public, I think my god, I couldn’t handle this, and what a cool guy he was hanging out with the band, and how he’d make everybody feel good, and then you’d go out onstage, and you’d think you’re putting 100% into something, I’ve never seen anybody work so hard to give the audience a good time, I remember leaving that year thinking I’ve just met the guy I should think about every day that I’m on tour, the one that you say, this is how someone really does it, and since I was a little kid, he’s been working really hard at it, but then on the other hand, little things you hear about how other artists think, sometimes are very disappointing,
Here’s a perfect example that still bothers me today [13.11] and I haven’t really told anybody about it because it’s so weird and I’m still trying to figure it out, this goes back a few years ago, a year ago, I was approached by EC’s people to donate a guitar, and I was like an EC fanatic, yk, all those guys from that era, and I was very excited about it, and I parted with a very dear instrument of mine to help out this charity, and the people were saying E’s going to call you, to say thank you for the instrument, and I’m saying that’s great, happy to participate, yk, and then the charity went very well, the guitar went for $18000 for his charity and then a friend of mine who was a guitar dealer said hey I’m going to the EC show, gonna bring him some guitars they’re looking for, why don’t you come along you’ve never met him and I’m sure they’d be happy to […] so I thought great, yk, I get to say hi, so we go there, and we’re backstage waiting, and eric walks into backstage and this guy says this is JS, and he looks at me and shakes my hand and then he sits down, and he does his business with the guitar, and just immediately opens up his laptop and just stops talking to us, and we’re just sitting there in this extremely uncomfortable situation, and we’re looking at the guy like, er, are we supposed to leave now? What do you do, YK? So in an awkward way the guy says well, I’ll take joe to go watch the show and we’ll all get together afterwards, he’s like yeah, ok, sure, so we walk outside, and my friend is livid, saying that’s the rudest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m saying don’t worry about it, [15.04] maybe he’s just consumed before a show, I don’t know, I just wrote it off, it was just kinda weird. But then after the show nobody came to socialise so it was one of these things where you find yourself walking out backstage into a parking lot going well I was just pushed aside somehow, I just had a really bad feeling about the whole thing, it’s just extremely weird, why would somebody do that, and I knew that’s not the way things get done, I’d played with people, I’d met people before, people are usually pretty gracious about it and the real point of the story is probably just that I was one in 20 million people that Eric probably met on that tour so he probably doesn’t even remember the event ever happening, but how it affected me I think was very telling because I thought to myself here I am a guy who’s in the business who should know better than to try to introduce yourself to someone before a show, but it had such an effect on me that it was difficult going back to playing along with one of my favourite records, which is from the cradle, and so for a couple of months I thought I’m not gonna play to that record, because it’s still bothering me and I thought to myself I’ve got to remember never to do that to anybody. When somebody comes backstage and says I’ve always wanted to meet you or hello, I’ve gotta remember that now the tables are turned.
[done something similar?] [16.50]
No you don’t, that’s the sad thing, unless someone brings it to your attention or comes and says “you totally just blew me off” and you go really the sad thing is that you don’t know because there might be some other thing on your mind that the fan doesn’t know about. But before, I’m thinking there was this Springsteen show they blew me and 40 other people off, I kid you not they shuffled us around this stadium arena, for like 45 minutes, until someone came and said there’s no meet and greet, you have to leave now. These are people that, we had special invitations from the band, and even then they just blew us off, and there was no explanation later on, no follow up email like sorry had to go. Anyway, as an entertainer I remember those things and say I’ll never do that, if there’s a guest I’m supposed to meet or someone’s made the effort to come back and meet me, then you have to acknowledge them. It does affect even the hardened lead guitarist will have a hard time carrying that around for a bit. I’m over it now…
I think it’s an interesting story cause it’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t have imagined having happened to me, but it happens to us all the time, where the artist somehow mismanages the interaction, it just crushes fans you know, that might be the once in a lifetime thing getting backstage – they may never get backstage again to see whoever it is they want to see. I would hope that artists would always remember that, you have to be more than gracious when someone makes the effort to come back, summon your courage whatever it is. I think it’s human courtesy, that’s what it is, we’ve all got hearts they all pump everyday and the only thing that makes the world work is kindness. Recognition of the things that are important.
[19.20] did you want to go and see led zep?
Are you kidding? Jimmy is another hero of mine I’ve never met. I will go to the tour if they make it a real tour. I know John Paul Jones he’s just a monumental talent, all those guys it’s just amazing the work that they did and how good it was how, what’s the word, how essential it is what they did on stage, the chances they took. Jimmy is a real hero of mine because he’s the guy who took the chances, he just walks right out to the edge of the plank.
[20.18] is taking risks important?
Yes you have to, you have to make that a way of life, that’s what we do when we’re making records that’s what you should do every day on stage. The worst thing that can happen is that one day you say I’m bored with myself, I’m just doing the same thing. Maybe that makes it easier emotionally to just switch it on and then switch it off but that’s not me. I’m more like the tortured artist walking offstage saying I really sucked tonight no matter what anybody says to me about what a great night it was, there’s always something chasing some beautiful musical dream, running after it trying to hold onto it.
Do you ever get there?
The momentary pinnacle it’s broken down into a million fractals for me the performance, and as much as I try to be like the guy in the audience, I will never be the guy in the audience I’m the guy on the stage. It’s my job never to think about how people will accept anything, it’s my job to be totally natural to improvise and play for the moment. So each little thing that happens to me those moments probably don’t mean anything to anybody out there in the audience but they mean so much to me. The way I hit one note just perfectly the way something sustains or died away the dynamic that I think I achieved with the band that night or it could something as bombastic as a barrage of notes I was able to throw out over the venue. There’s a million different things that have me come off happy and a bit wounded about the other…
Conflict between giving fans what they expect and taking risks 
That’s a beautiful drama that gets played out every night, that’s what I recognise when I’ve gone to shows and my mind quietly sitting on my seat I say I’m sending out this vibe that I’m inviting the artist and the band to go out on a limb to challenge my perceptions about what this performance is about and I think sometimes when you’re on stage you get the feeling that the audience is with you in that state of mind and then some nights you feel wow I really get this feeling they just want me to play it like the album.
Performance changed relative to audience?
On a second to second basis you can’t help but do that, there’s no way I can say I can go out and perform without being affected by the audience, the opposite is true I’m incredibly affected by the audience, it’s a two-way performance, it’s the band and the audience [24.08]
What about audience in studio?
I think you just do what you feel is right for the moment and then you listen back later. These days a record is very often made over a period of months, you can bring tracks and say I don’t remember what was going through my heart at the moment that I played that but either I like it or I don’t.
That’s really what it is, we talked about some of the songs on the record and like I think about that solo from revelation and I feel guilty sometimes when I play something once and that’s it, that I haven’t actually worked for a living, and so I’ll turn to my friends and say to Jeff, or more importantly John, my co producer and say do you want me to do that again, is that like working, and they’ll say, are you kidding? you cannot replace that. And I’ll go really? and then they’ll confirm what I felt earlier, and if I get that confirmation from friends that I know will not mince words, or beat around the bush, will tell me that sucks do it again, and I say ok that must be good there must be something about it – because they’re not reacting technically, they couldn’t care less if it was easy or difficult, so they’re just reacting to it as a musical moment especially John who’s really good at sensing whether something has an emotional value to it or not, he really couldn’t care less what I’m achieving on a technical basis and that’s an important sounding board to have, and at the same time there are times we’ve argued, and he’s said I don’t care how difficult it is I don’t like it. And you go OK and you do a few more solos and by the end of the day you’re like you’re right, I hate you but you’re right.[26.15]
Do you find he’s right more often than not?
[26.22 ] Does that piss you off?
Well momentarily it does. When you finally have to begrudgingly say “dammit you’re right” because you have to let go of your emotional attachment to something or – here’s a great example. So I wrote a song for the record, that’s not on the record, and I remember playing it and no one said anything about this one xxx [26.52] but these were my friends so I said OK, so I’m gonna tell you guys something now and you guys can laugh about it but I want you to know that part of me is very serious about this right, so they’re looking at me like what the hell is he talking about, so I said you guys nobody said anything about the melody, and they were like why, it’s just another one of your melodies, we’re used to being inundated with Joe Satriani melodies and I said didn’t you notice the chord progression? Why? So I said did you guys notice anything about the melody and the chords? And it was like no, so I said do you guys realise what I’ve done? The melody goes over four different keys and somehow I have used two whole tone scales to tie together the melodies, and they’re looking at me like this guy’s a geek, Joe has really gone too far into musical geekdom. And I just thought it was just the most amazing thing that I wrote it, and I was just so infatuated I just couldn’t leave the work, you know? But to them it was just another one of my melodies – they liked it, they voted it as one of the 12 songs we could tick to work on, cause they had a demo that was many songs deep, but believe it or not by the end of our mixing session it was the one song that we could not really pull together. And I know John didn’t wanna tell me, he didn’t wanna bring up the subject of leaving it off the record because by then he know how attached I was to the technical part of the composition. It was really funny, I can laugh about it now, but we had a playing session where we went to the master room and played all the songs, at that point there were 11 songs on the record, and then the moment came and he said I hate to say this but I don’t think this song should be on the record and it was really part of me, the musician part of me was crushed because I thought no one was ever gonna hear this great idea and I thought it was completely original and groundbreaking and I felt really disappointed in myself that I hadn’t done the song well enough to where the song would survive on the record it was really my fault, maybe I didn’t edit the composition enough maybe the performances weren’t good. But for whatever reason, this groundbreaking compositional achievement was not going to find its way on the record. But a couple of hours later, when we re-sequenced the record and [x] the record I realised it was the greatest call because he was impartial to the writing of that particular melody
Is there pressure to innovate? [29.50]
I can’t help it. I remember writing the opening chords to the song xxx [30.04] I was so excited because I know no-ones done that before, no one has written a melody to go over those chords in that particular sequence, it would be like an archaeologist digging up a bone he’d never seen, it’d be like oh my god it would be such a wonderful moment even though you’ve taken part and borrowed in a context from this composer and that composer and you’ve come up with a new version of it, you know instinctively that it’s something unique. So yeah when I came up with that melody I just couldn’t even work I just sat there and I had written the song on the piano and I just sat there playing it over and over again – I can’t believe this is working, I wanted to call somebody up, I figured Steve Vai is the only person who’d enjoy this like me, who’d just look at it as a thing of beauty, all in itself. But being that it’s a record the song might come out, it might not I thought I should just keep quiet about this. By the time I’d recorded it, it had turned into almost a humorous observation of myself about how excited I was about this little thing. That’s why it turned into a joke in the studio, every time we worked on the record somebody would wait for the perfect comedic moment and say Joe is that two whole tone scales you’re using? Just to sort of take the piss outta me, so by the time we dropped it from the record I guess I had been, they had worn me down with comedy and I could see it for what it really was. The recording had really not worked out as well as all the rest of them and it was a good reason to put it on the backburner, and by the next record I will have worked out some of the nastiness.
[32.00] the next record? Is it different to previous albums? Plan?
I definitely feel like between friends I would be so bold as to say I’ve really nailed things I think I haven’t really been able to accomplish before on this record, I’m always hesitant to say that to a journalist because he’ll make it the title of the article. I think I more successfully represented the kind of… first of all I think I told a better story, each song is like a story – I think I did a better job at telling the stories with my phrasing than ever before and it was difficult to get revelations, come on baby, out of the sunrise, and that’s a very unique way of recording a melody, two guitars playing the melody as not quite a call and response sort of a semi-ensemble thing. Even that, I remember bringing into the studio and everyone asked me how are we gonna mix that? How does that work? How do you play that live, that kinda thing. But I worked on those parts of the record, being innovative just within my own library of work, like summer song, one guitar wah wah throughout, that was a thing that up until then I’d never done, I’d always broken it up into overdubs. As an example, when I went into this song in this album I came across this thing which was like how can I do this differently? Overdriver’s going to take 6 guitar tones, but revelation maybe should have 1.
Do you set yourself little tasks like that?
Yes, because I’m convinced the song is begging for me to do that, like with Musterion I thought I can make the guitar really huge but would that really tell this weird twisted mysterious tale?
It reminded me of NOTE [35.00]
They share similarities like the way that the bass and drums are very straight and the chords are very [X], they’re just two note chords and they’re weird, like a strange version of a harmonic minor scale that people rarely use. But I just thought this scale is just so weird you gotta use it. The difficult part was actually writing the melody and I had several melodies that I would write and I would record and I would wake in the morning and listen to them and go that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life and I just kept re writing that song until I came up with something that I thought really was challenging and yet mysterious, and once you latch onto the right approach, once you get that main melody then everything else becomes easy, the solo sections become easy, but the journey to the final mix is what’s changed, because the solo section was largely piano running these beautiful ninth chords. But then somewhere along the line I got influenced by, I think I was in the car me and my son, driving around – we were listening to old music and Shattered came on and I was thinking something about that guitar tone that phased rhythm guitar tone that was on Shattered and somehow that crept into the rhythm guitar track and I had several recordings of that solo section but I had one as I was unearthing my many layered mixes that had just those and I though cool, and then somewhere during the making of the record, we decided that the rhythm guitars were more important during the solo than the solo, and we thought well that’s weird we can’t have that on a Joe Satriani record right, the solo’s supposed to be really loud , but we kept going back to the fact that the vibe of the rhythm guitars was actually more Musterion than the actual solo playing the four different keys. So I wrote a solo section that had four minor keys descending which of course is contrary to what most pop record guys tell you, they always tell you they’ve gotta go up, they always ascend. Being the contrarian that I am I said NO I’m gonna write a descending solo section, and my way of fighting it was to play the rhythm guitar with ascending voices every time we would go down, now you’re getting me to really geek out on this guitar … so what I did is I recorded the guitar through the JSX clean channel but turned it all the way up and it’s not really meant to distort that channel but I got it to distort. And I set up my guitar like it was a Les Paul or something on the middle pickup of the two pickup selection  and then I used a UA plug-in, no the moogerfooger plug-in in Pro-tools to create that sort of MXR phase 90 kind of sound, then I gave the two guitars two different things and then I used the audio suite and I just committed, I committed to that sound, and when I bought it into the studio John was like wow what kinda little box did you use on that? I recorded it without speakers and used the plug-in, he was like cool.
Do you often find a song fails to work until you find its sound?
Yeah. Well if the song is good it will live on forever you’ll be able to do many things to it, but the moment that you’re making a record it’s very important that the people are inspired because they’re like little micro catalysts that are so necessary, like this is a perfect story for that song so once John heard the song, and he loved the rhythm guitars and he started to think you know, the rhythm guitars are cooler in the solo than the solo so let’s make sure they’re loud and I was like I like that idea. It’s a contrarian way of doing a guitar album. So that day I had bought a bunch of percussion for another song Andalucia. I brought in my sons bongos, so we’re sitting there in the control room, we’re listening to the song and Jeff is sitting there, Jeffs the drummer, so he’s sitting there and he picks up the bongos and he starts going plop plip ploopy plip, and we all turn around and look at him and go oh my god you have to record that, right now, and so we quickly put him in the other room and we did this long pass of him just playing the bongos, and all of a sudden to us Musterion worked because there were bongos on it. The only reason why it happened is because we were sitting there grooving on the rhythm guitars and Jeff came in and said ah I love those Keith Richards rhythm guitars, he got it right away [40.18]. We share influences so I think he knew exactly where I was going with the rhythm guitar. So that influenced him I think to be more laid back about the song and not so techno like someone might think it might be more like NOTE more robotic feel. That’s what I mean by little catalysts, if John hears some great guitars if he decides the solo can be a little bit more remote and then Jeff hears that rough mix, picks up the bongos and starts playing his bongo thing and we go yeah let’s do it. Before you know it, the song Musterion gets this vibe which is a product of all the people sort of vibing off each other.
 for the next record is there anything you want to achieve
I’ve no idea, you’re asking me way too early. Let’s put it this way, I’m going to go back to the song with the two whole tone scales – cos I’m obsessed with it, and my friends will never – you know that when I bring that up they’re going to roll their eyes, no, not that song again –
[still stuff you haven’t nailed?]
If I had my [???] I’d have a 64 song album, with every little part of music and guitar playing that I’ve always wanted to accomplish, I’d have every wonderful musician I’ve ever met,  […] but in the real world you walk away from a record smiling for the bits that turned out better than you thought, take the credit for the things that happened by accident, and wincing for all the things that you got wrong. And at some point while you’re hanging out with your friends, you reminisce, oh, remember that, how that screwed up, or you know you meet somebody a few months later that worked on the album and they say hey, what happened to that song, I thought that was pretty cool. And you tell them the story about how you just messed it up, and how it got worse and worse with everything you did to it. And so you kinda carry those along with you thinking why did that not work and then you make plans early way too early because what hasn’t happened yet is I haven’t played this in front of thousands of people. On the last record I had this song called Crouch End and some of my friends thought it was the best thing I’d ever done they understood it, and other people were like why would you ever put a song like that on one of your records, and of course once they were following us out on tour, and they saw all the youtube clips of me playing that song with thousands of people singing along live, they sent me emails saying now I get it. So what hasn’t happened yet is the audience hasn’t heard this record, only five people have heard the record, you being one of them, so it’s just beginning to work its way and it’ll mix up with everything else that’s coming out in the next 6 months. New records are being made right now that we don’t know what… every record, I think, every piece of art gets mixed up and gets judged on relative terms with everything else that’s released and people will see this done live and they’ll think I never used to think that song was so cool, but after going and seeing them playing it live, now I’m in love with it.
Are there songs you are less keen on, but live they take on new life and vice a versa?
Yeah I mean every record has, I mean the last record there’s a song called it’s so good that I just, I mean everything about that song I just loved recording it, writing it, I loved how every guitar tone seemed to be complimentary to the next guitar tone, I loved the way that Jeff played drums on it, I loved the way Mike Fraser mixed it, I thought everyone in the world is gonna think that’s the happiest most wonderful guitar song we’ve ever heard in our lives . But that didn’t happen, and then when we rehearsed it to death, it just wouldn’t jump off the stage, so we never played it live, we just didn’t know what happened to it. To this day when I listen to it, it comes on and I go MAN that is a great recording! It’s like everything about it works, but it works as a recording for some reason maybe we need like 8 people in the band to make it work, I’m not sure what it is. But you take a song like super colossal and you can play that with like 2 people, there’s a simplicity to it that goes right to the jugular, you can play it in many different configurations, a couple of songs from that record like native tears we have a beautiful moment every night on stage, very cathartic for me, very difficult to play, but at the same time always worth it.
Physically or emotionally? 
Physically. I don’t know what it is. Even the version that’s on Satriani live I was so upset about it and just because I knocked my volume control down and didn’t know it, and went through this whole solo struggling with the guitar tone only to realise that at the very end of the solo I’d knocked my volume control down and that’s why it was so hard to get the notes to ring out. And I remember when we started to go into the editing process I’d make a comment like it’s too bad about that song we’ll probably leave it off and everyone said are you crazy it’s like my favourite solo and I said are you kidding I was like in pain during that whole thing and of course once it was mixed I listened to it and thought that might be the best solo on the record and I don’t know what the whole process of that live performance that night got me so revved up towards the end of the song that I went over the top towards the end to make up for whatever happened in the middle of the song and I guess it created this moment. But when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t notice that kind of stuff.
Do you find from album to album you’re writing a tune trying to fix something that didn’t work in a tune before?
I’m sure that’s a very good insight yeah. I’m not sure I can…
There’s a funny thing along those lines that Jeff and I always say to each other cause we were in a band called The Squares back in ’79 and we had a group of songs that were part of our repertoire, that were all similar and we referred to them as very squares-like and when we started doing the solo records, that would come up. I’d present him with a song and say what do you want to do with that, and he’d say yeah that’s like very squares-like in the middle and it’s almost like a code phrase that allows him to say very quickly we’ve been here before, what can we do that’s different? And it’s because songs are types of songs, think about a writer that’s written a popular ballad how can they write a ballad without being compared to another ballad and the same thing if you’re in a trance band or a techno band or a dance band you have to repeat yourself in order to stay in your milieu there’s no way round it, so whether you’re a classical composer or a jazz composer, it’s the same thing. There are songs that seem like they could have gone together and we had another song on the record that was very similar to that, that John kept saying it reminded him of a song called Speed of Light and that song was actually in my mind was a song that was like Surfing and Summer Song it didn’t have enough on it that was unique and we left it off the extremist album because of it. But several producers have worked with it convinced they could put on that last percentage point where it can live on its own, so there are always things that come up like that. I think the important thing to try to understand is that composers when they make records bring years of stuff like that to the table even before they make  the first record. It’s not like it starts with the second song they put out, it’s actually been happening their entire life. The first time they get to make an album they may have 300 ballads to their credit, but it doesn’t stop them from writing a new ballad or a song you can dance to or put your hand up in the air and say hey or whatever it is. I suppose we have more inspiration than there are styles and arrangements.
THE FUCKING END
Text © Pete Langman 2008 – ask nicely before you steal it, thanks!