Joe Satriani: Prime Cuts
SURFING WITH THE ALIEN Surfing With the Alien (Relativity, 1987)
We didn't know where that song was going until one afternoon when we went to record the melody and I plugged a wah-wah pedal and a Tubedriver into my 100-watt Marshall. Then, just as a whim, we said, “Let's try this harmonizer.” It was one of those Eventide 949’s. The sound that came out of the speakers blew us away so much that we recorded the melody and the solo in about a half-hour and sat back and went, “Whoa! This is a song, man! This is great!”
And then, of course, the Eventide broke down and we couldn’t fix it. We couldn't do anything. We lost our tone. The 949’s break down continually. It was also very hard to nail down the pitch wheel on that thing because it was always changing. And when we finally got the thing back up again, we couldn't get it to sit at the same spot anymore. It just sounded different. So rather than screw up a wonderful-sounding performance that may have had a couple of glitches, we decided just to leave it, because it was just swingin’. That wasn't the title track of the album for quite a while. It was going to be The Lords Of Karma. It wasn’t until we finished that track and added the jet noises that we realized that “Surfing” was the song that summed up the feeling of the whole album.
Then, the whole thing with the Silver Surfer was purely by accident. It came about because the product manager at Relativity, Jim Kozlowski, used to be called the Silver Surfer when he was a DJ in Boston. When I delivered the record, he said, “This is a great title. We should put the Silver Surfer on the cover.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I literally did not know anything about the comic-book character.
SATCH BOOGIE Surfing With The Alien (Relativity, 1987)
I wrote most of “Satch Boogie” while I was wearing a neck brace from a car accident. I was always trying to write a guitar piece that sounded like a saxophone section in a swing band, standing up and playing a lead, unaccompanied. And I always envisioned a Gene Krupa kind of a guy playing behind it. Jeff Campitelli [drums] nailed it; he totally understood what it was supposed to be like. We had great fun with that album. A lot of people don’t know this, but most of the album was recorded on spec time, or more accurately, on trade time. I bartered with Sandy Pearlman, who was doing a Blue Oyster Cult album. He also managed the studio where we were doing a lot of the recording. In order to get more recording time to finish the album—because I was over-budget with Relativity—I worked on the B.O.C. album. I repaired hours and hours of guitar parts on it in exchange for free studio time. There were a few other studios in the Hyde Street building [in San Francisco] where I traded my services to different peoples’ records for an hour or two of free time to, say, finish the backward solo on “Ice 9,” or for mixing.
HILL OF THE SKULL Surfing With The Alien (Relativity, 1987)
That came to me as I was reading The Collected Poems Of Kahlil Gibran. There was an entry that dealt with the crucifixion of Christ, but the way it was told came off like a really creepy horror film, not like in the Bible, where it’s a sacred event. When you’re a Catholic, you’re brought up to believe in that sacred event. The way Gibran told it was sort of impartial, like it was just a gruesome event that had happened in this guy’s week. They took him up to this place called the Hill Of The Skull and they did him in. At the time I was listening to a bunch of baroque composers and especially a guy named Marcello, who I hadn't previously heard of. I was really into the way he’d written a lot of his quartet pieces.
That really was the inspiration. I was trying to create the imagery of trudging up onto that Hill Of The Skull, the Crucifixion, the horror and blood-and-guts of it.
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