Joe Satriani: Hey Joe
GW Jimi Hendrix is, of course, your biggest musical influence. When you perform his music, do you have to get into a particular frame of mind?
SATRIANI I do, but I’ll tell you, it literally takes seconds. [laughs] Half the time, I think I’m there anyway. The only tricky matter when it comes to playing Jimi’s music is the gear, because when you really identify with a particular set of recordings and you go to play them live, you can’t help but think that maybe you should have that exact gear to get as close to that sound and vibe as possible. But in the case of those songs I just mentioned, it’d be impossible—even the gear Hendrix was using was completely different for those three tracks. To put those elements together for a quick three-song set…good luck! [laughs]
But I think you have to remind yourself that the audience is there to see you interpret the material, so you have to be yourself. Getting caught up in all kinds of details, that’s no way to perform. It’s too cerebral. You’d drive yourself crazy saying, “Okay, Jimi did this here, so I’m gonna do it just like him. And for this song I’m gonna play the white Strat and wear the scarf…” [laughs]
It can get silly if you let it. The key is the music. When I look back at Jimi’s short, but amazing, career, his live performances were completely off the charts. I mean, he was absolutely crazy at improvising and changing and railing against his own records. Why would anybody think that you have to go out there and recreate his records note for note, tone for tone, piece of gear for piece of gear? I just don’t think that’s true to his spirit. He’d be the first guy to tell you do your own thing.
GW You’re now back to playing Marshall amps. Do you consider them the perfect amplifier with which to play Jimi’s music?
SATRIANI Yeah, I’m really loving these JVMs that I’ve got right now. I’m working with a designer at Marshall to see if we can come up with an unusual amplifier I can call my own. I’ve got a ton of Marshalls. In fact, I routinely buy a lot of old Marshall amps for each record—some of them get used, some are just for reference—and then I wind up selling them at the end of the year. Sometimes I think, Why don’t I just keep them, you know? [laughs] But you can’t keep everything. Otherwise, I would have over 100 Marshall amps by now.
I am digging them, though. Marshall amps have body. By that, I mean, the sound that comes out of them has weight, a shape that’s malleable. All the frequencies are covered. But you know, Hendrix didn’t only play Marshalls. On the first record, he borrowed Noel Redding’s Telecaster, and he used a Fender Twin on a few songs. The difference is, he was Jimi Hendrix! [laughs] You give me a Telecaster and a Fender Twin and I’d get nervous.
GW But as you point out, that was for recording. Did he ever use that setup live?
SATRIANI No. He realized that recordings and live performances were two different animals. What he used in the studio wasn’t necessarily what he used onstage.
GW On this tour, is there anybody in particular you’re looking forward to playing with?
SATRIANI Are you kidding? Everybody! [laughs] I look at the list and I’m like, “This is amazing!” I think one of the things they might do is have a kind of rotating jam, and it’ll be different night to night. A lot of the playing will probably go on during the soundchecks and backstage. There will be plenty of time for the musicians to trade licks and compare notes and have fun.
I’m a big Doyle Bramhall fan, so I can’t wait to play with him. I love his writing, his playing, his singing—the guy’s unreal. I’ve tried to get him on a couple of G3 tours and it never worked out. He’s really something. I don’t know if I have anything to add to what he does. I might just stand on the side of the stage and go, “Wow!”
And Brad Whitford, too, he’s great. When he starts playing, it’s so solid and so right and so perfect that you just want to back him up and let him go.
GW Do you feel he’s underrated? He’s always seemed to be in the shadow of Joe Perry.
SATRIANI Certainly. I mean, I don’t know the Aerosmith band politics, but both of them are fantastic, and they each have their own identifiable sounds and styles. Joe’s guitar does seem to lead the Aerosmith engine, but Brad is a really powerful player. I can’t wait to mix it up with him—and everybody. This is going to be like going to one of those rock and roll camps, only we get to play Hendrix every night. What can be bad about that?
I just can’t wait to get out there and see the reaction from the crowd. Jimi’s music touched people in so many profound ways. I imagine there will be a mixture of young and old fans, all there to pay tribute to the master that Jimi Hendrix really was. His music lives, man. It’s as vital today as when he recorded it.
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