Joe Satriani Discusses — Track by Track — His New Album, 'Flying in a Blue Dream,' in 1989 Guitar World Interview
That tune and maybe a song like "Ice 9," suggest that you might be a fan of black dance music. Most "guitar virtuoso" music, especially neoclassical players, use what I consider to be very "white" beats.
[Laughs] It 's true. I'm definitely a fan of dance music. I guess we really call it "dance" music because music seems to have become very functional. For years people were trying to be everything. Now musicians are becoming very specific.
This is only a reference drum machine. I'm still not sure how this song is going to turn out. I didn't want to tell a drummer, "Look, maybe it's going to start like this and then we plan to do this," because then he'll play a certain way and we'll be trapped. On this particular track, I wanted to leave 15 percent of it blank and wait for a late night session where John and I can brainstorm and do something that will really twist heads. Then we'll bring in a drummer and say, "Now listen to these weird parts."
So, you're going to add live drums?
Definitely. Jeff and I spend a lot of time conceptualizing and programming drum parts in advance for efficiency I usually have very specific ideas about what I want to happen rhythm-wise, and using a drum machine allows me to show a drummer exactly what I want. I don't like spending four weeks on drums. I handle guitar solos the same way. I like spend spending one day taking care of five songs.
When you play a song like this live, are you going to use samples, as you've done in the past?
This song would be very easy to do that way because the chord sequence is very short. It's under four seconds so we should be able to get good fidelity onto the Akai.
Is adding a rhythm guitarist a viable alternative?
I thought about that. Another idea is to expand Stuart's role. He's adopted some new things into his bass playing. What might work is using bass pedals and give him a guitar.
This song also reminds me of those on Not Of This Earth -- where the groove is repetitive and the emphasis is on the harmony.
The title track, "Not Of This Earth," was such a gamble, and to this day some people don't understand it. They'll focus on the rhythm section and find the piece boring. Others gravitate toward the pitch access routine of the chords and hear something complex. I kept the rhythm simple for very specific reasons. The chord progression is sophisticated and I had two distinct melodies that had to co-exist. If I had changed the bass line and the drums, the piece could've very easily deteriorated into one big mess.
By keeping the rhythm bed simple, I created a solid foundation. I wanted the listener to feel secure, to get their blood pumping, while all this harmonic stuff was evolving.
Are you an impulsive writer? Does a tune come to you all at once?
I've done about everything that way. "Flying In A Blue Dream" was quite automatic. I was working on another song and I took a break and picked up my acoustic guitar, tuned it strangely, and instantly wrote the tune. It's funny how you can struggle with one piece and write a better one in a minute. Usually, when things come easy, it means it's good.
One that came quickly happened under odd circumstances. I was talking to my wife, Rubina, about this funny conversation I overheard at a restaurant. It inspired me to grab my guitar and everything just flowed, complete with lyrics. I'll play it for you now.