Joe Satriani: The Human Touch
GW Your picking on “Askil Vaysel” is quite different.
SATRIANI I was trying to recreate the feel of a saz without actually playing one. That would’ve been too obvious. Also, Asik’s playing has nothing to do with what we would call timing in Western music, another thing that makes it so beautiful. His phrasing is all his own. I wanted to get into that. What I did was, I used the split-coil on the JS1000 to give me this humbucking kind of sound. And you’re right, I changed the way I pick: I picked extremely light. Not only that but I fretted the notes very lightly, too, as light as I possibly could. But the amp was cranked as loud as it could go, so the notes really rang out. It got me close to the way Asik sings. The sound of the guitar totally changed. People were asking me what kind of guitar I used, and I said, “Same one I always use [an Ibanez Joe Satriani signature].”
GW You have some typically rocking Joe Satriani songs, too. There’s “Overdriver.”
SATRIANI Yeah, I was inspired by the idea of Frank Kozik’s posters of funny cars for that one. I was going for the all-out riff on that one. Riffs are funny things: They come to me quickly, and I try to write them down fast so I don’t forget them. Or what happens sometimes is, I’ll come up with a riff, and if I don’t record it immediately, I’ll start to change it—and often not for the better. That’s just me tinkering too much. I have to know when to leave something alone. That almost happened with “Overdriver.” I came up with the riff and I told myself, “Okay, get this on tape now and don’t change it.”
GW Tell me about how you recorded all of the voices on the soon-to-be audience-participation favorite “I Just Wanna Rock.”
SATRIANI [laughs] It wasn’t as easy as you would think. People assume recording large groups of people is no biggie: you just gather everybody ’round a mic and—boom!—you’re done. Not so. After three or four passes, if you’re trying to record a crowd, or if you’re trying to make what sounds like a crowd with multiple tracks, the vocals can get in the way of the music.
GW And the voice of the robot on that track?
SATRIANI That’s my voice, recorded three times and heavily distorted, going [in a robotic voice]: “What is your purpose?” That’s what the robot is saying to the crowd. I was using low-fi distortion, a SansAmp and a couple of different plug-ins to change the intensity of my voice. But on the part where the robot is getting into it and saying, “I wanna rock! I wanna rock with you!” I used my Talk Box. I’d been threatening to use my Talk Box for years, but I couldn’t remember how to position the tube in my mouth. So I called ZZ in the room and said, “You gotta help me figure out how to work this thing.”
GW I’m trying to imagine what goes through a 15-year-old’s head: “Aw, jeez. I gotta help my dad with his damn Talk Box!” Are you “cool dad” when this happens, or “dorky dad”?
SATRIANI [laughs] Dorky dad, definitely! Face it: the human race has to progress, and that means that the younger generation will always be cooler than their parents.
GW Even if their parents are in the next room playing with a Talk Box?
SATRIANI Especially if their parents are in the next room playing with a Talk Box! [laughs]
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