By Vicki-Lynn

Interviewing Satriani is a lesson in balance. When we first spoke in 1992, Joe was struggling with the the brand new responsibility of fatherhood, touring in support of "The Extremist" and conducting a myriad of publicity interviews. In 1996, when we spoke again, except for his newly shaved head and the engaging prattle of his son Zachariah, the great spot-changer remained basically the same. It was a pleasure to discover that as the artist flaunted his fingerwork on the self titled CD "Joe Satriani" and the cries of infancy were replaced by words.... Satriani remained as fluent and reliable as his playing.

However, this guitarist prides himself on his chameleon-like qualities. Satriani groans at the prospect of a static balance. With the March 2000 release of Satriani's latest storm of masterful compositions "Engines Of Creation" he shook off another layer of creative skin. Combining hot computer enhancements, zesty keyboards, surprise effects and Satriani's seasoned style, this CD is a smorgasbord of spicy electronic sound.

Satch is just back from a highly successful international tour after wowing over 8,000 fans at Mexico City's National Auditorium in August. Tour bandmates (bassist Stu Hamm, rhythm guitarist/Keyboardist Eric Caudieux & drummer Jeff Campitelli) are now taking a well-deserved siesta.

While Satch is resting his dynamic digits, I decided to rewind. Here is a replay of gear tips and highlights from our 1996 interview. Enjoy!


In 1992, you had six different Ibanez JS models. You described models 1 through 5 as being "the same with different paint jobs" and said that the JS-6 was "mahogany with a fixed bridge." Have you worked with Ibanez on any new models?

"Yes, along the lines of the JS-6. We took that guitar and went a step further with the material and made the neck mahogany as well. We then replaced the humbucking pickups with the pickups that would have been found on a Gibson Les Paul in the late fifties. The ones that we fool around with have Seymour Duncan antiquity pickups in them. It is a great sounding instrument. I used it on one of the two tracks on the Joe Satriani album."

Are you still taking three JS-1's on tour?

"Recently, I gravitated towards the JS-2's. which are chrome plated guitars. I only have three or four of them. They're all prototypes so they are kind of screwy. They just feel right. They're are always subtle changes in the prototypes, like the neck size. They all sound different as well. I have DiMarzio pickups and Seymour Duncan pickups on some of them. From the Deep Purple tour until this tour, I have been leaning on the chrome guitars."

When was the Deep Purple tour?

"That started in December of 1993. I did a two month tour of Europe with them in the summer of 1994."

Any recording with them?

"No. There were some shows recorded live, but it was a recording project that was never meant to be. Between my record company responsibilities and their record company...what they really needed was to reform the band and find a permanent lead guitarist, I think they are very happy now with Steve Morse."

In 1993, you released "Time Machine: a very unusual project. How did that come about?

"We were on tour for the Extremist and Relativity asked for a live album. I felt that creatively a live album would be boring. It would be the band playing all the songs from the record. I figured the only people who would but the record would be the fans who already had the songs. We recorded some shows in the US and took a break for Christmas. That's when I came up with a different idea. I took all the things I always wanted to have released and compiled a list. Then I went through all the live material we had just recorded. I picked the live material I liked from over the years and then figured a way to get it all together on one disc. I called the record Time Machine. It all hinged on bringing back my old band (Stu Hamm and Jonathon Mover) and recording three new pieces in the studio. That material was thematically different than anything we had done before. It had a really cool booklet with about 145 photographs in it. Matt Resnicoff wrote a really good story for the liner. It's a really nice package. It has some of the weirdest and most beautiful music that I have ever recorded. I got my original EP that was never released on a major label and remastered it and put that on as well. It's like a mini boxed set with rarities and live material from three bands over a ten year period. As soon as I finished that, it was released and we started touring. On that Christmas break, I went to tour with Deep Purple. The original band was Ian Gillen, Roger Glover and Ian Paice. It was such a blast. They are great musicians and great guys to hang out with."

Now that we are caught up, let's talk about "Joe Satriani'"the CD. This is the first album that you have not attached a descriptive title to. It is simply self titled. Why?

"I removed the title half way through the project. I was going to call it "Crystal Planet" I just felt the idea of using a them for a record, was something that I had done. I felt it was one of the things I should get rid of. I was in the process of changing everything...when I wrote, where I wrote, who and how I recorded, what time of day. I decided that I was not going to do anything the way I did before. Part of that process was getting rid of the title. I wanted to be free of any thematic restraint. It really worked. It was a mind game that paid off."

You have been doing that sort of thing for a while...breaking habits. Last time we spoke, you said that you even change brands of toothpaste and soap.

"(He laughs) Yes, in fact just the other day I had to go to LA to do a bunch of interviews for Grammy's and stuff. I have done it so many years in a row and in that vein, I thought...what can I do? I was thinking of a few things and I got the bright idea to shave my head. So I shaved my head. It was fun."

(Laughing) You do take the breaking of habits to extremes. Why?

"Reactions...The day before yesterday, we had fun, My son calls me Curley now. It was great when I walked into the building. There were 25 radio stations, cameras, video hookups...everything was happening It was a full multi-media event and as soon as I walked in the door, people went like WOW! They thought we were going to talk about the new record...instead they asked about the haircut. (laughs) I do like change."

Finally, let's talk about the Billboard review of this CD ("Joe Satriani"). Billboard said that you took a more expressive tone with this album. Musician said it is less flash, more airbrushed leads. Is less flash a plus for Joe Satriani?

"Yes, absolutely. There is one little secret you have to know. It does not go far in an article, but it goes far in a studio amongst friends. That secret is the better you get at playing something, the less people see it as an achievement.

It is a comment based of technicality. If I tried to record a song like "Cool #9" back in 1989...first I would have been incapable of playing it. But I would have tried and perhaps when it came out, because no one heard me doing that, people would think it was a technical feat. But now people have accepted me as a person who can play a lot of things. So when this record came out, with me playing solos and melodies live...with the diversity between the solos , going from impossible arpeggios into Hendrix wah-wah into using the whammy ... There are four solos back to back played live. Yet no one thinks it is very flashy now. Seven records ago, it would have been a very different reaction.

I practice very hard so that it does not sound like I am struggling. It's a funny thing. I noticed it most profoundly with "The Extremist" album. It was so difficult to perform in the studio. When it came out I realized that it was so polished, people did not realize that it was hard. (laughs) This is just something you learn. Sometimes you can do things so well, that it goes right over people's heads. You have almost aced yourself out of pushing the emotional buttons of the listener. I have accepted this. I jumped through fire to get a song recorded...well that's just tough on me. (Laughs) At least I know I did it."

Copyright 2000 Stars of Guitar Reproduced in GNW with permission from By Vicki-lynn

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