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Joe Satriani

Listen to Love thing:

Joseph Satriani, sometimes called “Satch”, was born in 1956 at Westbury, state of New York. He is one of the “Guitar heroes” of today. At the age of 8, he was already inspired by Blues music, the Beatles, the Stones and by his sister who played folk Guitar. So he started playing Drums, Piano and Guitar, but what made him choose the Guitar as a main instrument was the death of Jimi Hendrix, in 1970. At that time, Joe was 14.

Of course, he had Hard-Rock influences from the 70’s such as Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Black Sabbath… However, he has also been influenced by Jazz, for example Wes Montgomery, John Lee Hooker or Duane Eddy who attracted a large audience with instrumental Guitar during the 50’s.

Even some XXth century “Classical” composers like Claude Debussy or Bela Bartok may have inspired him. By the way, he learned arranging and composing with Lennie Tristano and took musical theory lessons with Bill Wescott.

In 1978, he settled down in Berkeley where he taught Guitar. Among his students was David Bryson (from Counting Crows), Steve Vai (Frank Zappa), Kirk Hammet (from Metallica), Larry Lalonde (from Primus), Alex Skolnick… In 1979, Joe formed The Squares in San Francisco with his friends Jeff Campitelli and Andy Milton. It was on that occasion that he met the mastering engineer John Cuniberti.

In 1985 he produced Not of this earth, his first solo record, but didn’t find a label at once. After some financial difficulties, he decided to join the Greg Kihn Band in 1986. Thanks to Steve Vai, who introduced him to Relativity record, Not of this earth could finally be published.

After this first record, Joe has been the solo Guitar of Mick Jagger, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper… “Mick Jagger was always telling me ‘Just be yourself, just walk out there and give everyone the best show possible. That means that you have to be Joe, don’t worry about trying to be Keith or Mick Taylor and related, just be yourself.’ And so when I got off the first Jagger tour then went back to doing the solo work with Stu Hamm and Jonathan Mover, I had a new sense of how I was going to show people all that I could do.”

In 1996 he had the idea of the G3 concept, which is a tour including 3 Guitar Heroes. In the first G3 were Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson.

In 2009, he founded the group Chickenfoot with Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar (Van Halen) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers).

Among the 14 solo albums Joe has recorded since the 80’s, we can quote Surfing with the alien (1987), Flying in a blue dream which uses the lydian mode (1989), The extremist (1992), Time machine (1993) and Crystal planet (1998).

What is typical of his style of composing is the use of modal music and pitch axis theory in chords progressions (which consists in changing of mode or scale over a same tonic bass) and a very clear form. For example, many of his tunes are built this way: introduction, theme, bridge, solo, theme, bridge and coda. It makes his music relatively easy to listen.

“I use to take emotion as a starting point. Then, I imagine how it must sound, how I must play it. I think it’s the only way to do. Once you’ve recorded an album and you play it to someone, it seems like all has been calculated, but in fact in most cases it’s the opposite. For example, in the tune “I put a stone on your Cairn” I got inspired while playing on keyboard. Then I listened and found it good! After several months, I added a Guitar solo and various string and wind instruments. The result gives the impression all has been carefully written, whereas there was only one take for each track!”

“To record “Unstoppable momentum”, I first focused on writing nice melodies on specific chords progressions. By recording only one take for each part (especially for the drums), it created the “live” kind of sound of this album. On the contrary, when you’ve got a score to play, it’s easier because you just have to read and play it. The most difficult is to build a nice melody other a few chords progression. Sometimes I think: If I wasn’t Joe Satriani, what would I do with this theme? If I were in 1967 working on Sergent Pepper’s, which instruments would I choose? Playing a tune only in one style reduces its audience! ”

“Most of the time, I first think about the title. It can come from a feeling about someone, an event or a social issue. For example, “Shine on American dreamer” describes how profit motive is now threatening the American Dream over the world. How to translate this idea in music? How to say with instrumental music that American people must gather to protect and follow the American Dream?”

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