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Joe Satriani: The Human Touch

GW Do you think video games can inspire kids to pick up real instruments?

SATRIANI In some cases. Not every kid will take up the guitar. But yeah, I think if their interest in music is there, the games can fan the flames in a positive way. Of course, those kids will find that playing a real guitar is a lot harder than manipulating a controller! [laughs] But if their passion is real and they have the drive to play guitar, they’ll get off on it as I did and they’ll learn to love the work involved.

GW Another rapidly accelerating change is the diminishing role CDs are playing in people’s lives. What are your thoughts on the music business of today?

SATRIANI Well, anyone who’s been in the business a while realizes that it’s time to tighten up the seatbelts, ’cause it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I don’t like seeing the monetary value of music being marginalized. People are listening to more music, but they’re not listening to entire albums, they’re not buying entire albums. And those albums they do buy, whether online or as hard CDs, they pick and choose the songs they want.

But you know, this isn’t new. Change always happens, especially in music. I remember when I was playing in high school bands and it seemed as if there was no place to play and try to make a living. People were going to clubs, but they only wanted to dance to disco music; the live rock thing was pretty much dead. So I thought, How can I proceed with my goal, which was to be the greatest rock guitar player in the world [laughs], but still make a buck, you know? And somebody told me that I could play guitar in a disco band, and as abhorrent as that sounded to me, I thought, Well, I’ll still be playing the guitar, and I’ll be in front of a crowd. And that’s what I did for a while.

GW The new album has only 10 songs, which is a relatively brief number these days for an album.

SATRIANI CDs have become so long and self-indulgent, and I wanted to go the opposite way: a clear, concise statement. That doesn’t mean there aren’t long songs on the album; some of them are five, six minutes long, and they’re full of guitar playing. [laughs] But I wanted to pare the information down. I didn’t want the ideas to get scattered and lose their impact. To me, 10 songs felt right. We did record an 11th song, but it didn’t feel right when we listened to the sequence. So my instincts were proved right.

GW Beyond making it a 10-song record, what were your other goals?

SATRIANI I’d have to go back to the way I presented the ideas to John Cuniberti. I played him all of my home recordings and told him, “I want the record to sound fat. I don’t want it to sound really bright and brassy. I want thick grooves. I want an eclectiveness to it. I want to figure out how to do some long, improvised songs. There’s going to be some piano on the record. Also, I want to push distortion to a new level. And there’s going to be some songs where I just play some very simple melodies.” So I threw out all of these directions and said, “Are you up for this?”

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