Joe Satriani: Hey Joe
GW The new songs sparkle, but clearly you still have a great time playing the older songs.
SATRIANI I love playing the old songs. The other night, in fact, I played “Ice 9,” “Satch Boogie” and “Summer Song” with Jeff and Stu, and it was a blast. It’s always fun to see if I can find new elements in them. When I make a record, a lot of the time what you hear is me playing a song for the first time. But as the years go by and I play songs hundreds and thousands of times all over the world, that’s when the songs grow up in a way. They become something else, and I’m always discovering something about them. It’s a fascinating phenomenon.
GW You change guitars a fair amount during the show. Of your signature Ibanez models, are there certain songs that call for particular guitars?
SATRIANI My main reason for changing guitars is that I want to make sure they’re always in tune. I like talking to the audience and explaining this song or that song, but I don’t enjoy trying to make small talk while I’m trying to tune a guitar. Who wants to hear me telling lame jokes while I’m looking down at my guitar, you know? [laughs]
GW The DVDs and CDs sound amazing.
SATRIANI Thanks. Music is played through so many different types of speakers these days, and it’s become harder to make it sound uniform. You know, if your music is coming out of ear buds, a home theater system, a computer or ceiling speakers in Jack in the Box, you still want it to sound great, but you want it to sound uniform; you want it to sound the way it’s supposed to sound, no matter where you are or whatever device you’re hearing it through. One way around that is to make the sound compact and full of every bit of fidelity you can. This is where limiting [dynamic audio compression] comes into play, because it allows the subtletiesto come out.
GW Tell me about your decision to perform on the Experience Hendrix Tour. I assume you’ve been asked to be on the tour in the past. What led to your decision to do it now?
SATRIANI Well, I’ve always wanted to do it, but this year the timing was perfect. That was a big consideration. Since I didn’t know if there was going to be any live Chickenfoot activity this year, I told my manager that I didn’t want to just go home and start on a new solo album; I wanted a bit of a break. Even so, the idea of doing something new appealed to me. So when the Hendrix tour popped up, it sounded great: It was only one month; I’d be playing a few songs instead of all the songs; and the best thing was, they’re songs I already know by heart—I don’t have to go off and learn a bunch of new material. So it made sense on every level. And then when I saw who else was going to be part of the tour, I said, “Yes! I want to hang out with these guys and play with them.” It was a very easy decision to make.
GW I assume you’ve seen previous Experience Hendrix shows.
SATRIANI Actually, only the one that I played on. A number of years ago I played a couple of songs at the show in San Francisco. Jerry Cantrell was on the bill, as was Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Buddy Guy… It was one of the first ones they did; it wasn’t the full-blown setup that it is now. But I thought it was amazing, like a big, crazy revue-type show, you know? [laughs] Now it’s grown considerably. On this tour we’ve got Ernie Isley, Brad Whitford, Eric Johnson, Doyle Bramhall II , Living Colour—they’re going to be my backup band, so I’m really looking forward to that.
GW You’ve played various Hendrix songs live in the past—“Purple Haze,” “Little Wing,” “Hey Joe,” “May This Be Love”… Any thoughts as to what you’re going to play on the tour?
SATRIANI I threw my hat in the ring and said that I’d love to play “Foxy Lady,” “Third Stone from the Sun”… I like the idea of a good mixture. There have been some Hendrix songs I’ve played on G3 tours that people have seen, so I’d like to shake it up a bit. One song I really want to do is “All Along the Watchtower.”
GW That’s an interesting selection, and it raises a question: Bob Dylan wrote it, but Jimi popularized it. At this point, when you hear it or play it, who do you think of: Dylan or Hendrix? Do you feel as though Hendrix, in a sense, “owns it”?
SATRIANI I think of both Hendrix and Dylan. Dylan’s original is focused on the powerful lyrics and their delivery, whereas Jimi’s is a full-blown musical fantasy, with the message carried in one of his best vocal performances. Jimi’s version is a crystallization of ’68 and ’69.
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