“Everybody was going crazy about Yngwie Malmsteen... Joe Satriani told me, ‘That’s fine, but don’t get too into him’”: Alex Skolnick explains why he was warned off sounding like the neoclassical maestro

Alex Skolnick and Yngwie Malmsteen
(Image credit: Dave Etheridge-Barnes / Gary Gershoff / Getty Images)

Alex Skolnick has revealed that his former guitar teacher, Joe Satriani, once warned him off trying to sound too much like Yngwie Malmsteen.

The Testament guitarist famously studied under Satch when the latter was a (somewhat revered) teacher at Berklee in the early-’80s. 

Now, in a new interview with our pals at Guitar Player, Skolnick says the principles the electric guitar master taught him were not solely limited to technique. 

“I remember when I was taking lessons from Joe Satriani,” Skolnick begins.

“At the time, everybody was going crazy about Yngwie Malmsteen, and I liked what he was doing, too. Joe kind of told me, ‘That’s fine, but don’t get too into him. Don’t try to sound like him, because in a few years there will be somebody else who’s the hot guy.’”

As Skolnick relates, Satriani’s wise words were not intended as a slight on Malmsteen. Indeed, Satch has nothing against Malmsteen – as proved when the two virtuosos joined forces on the 2003 G3 tour. 

Instead, his intention was to point out a more general truism of guitar playing – that you can only do you. That said, the advice proved more pertinent than even Satriani expected.

“It’s funny,” notes Skolnick. “Because a few years later Joe was the guy everybody was talking about. People were learning everything on Surfing With the Alien, but I tried to keep my distance, because I remembered what Joe had told me.

“It was kind of funny, really. Joe was a great teacher and a huge influence on me, but I knew I shouldn’t try to sound like him. He was doing his thing, but it wasn’t supposed to be my thing.”

Head to Guitar Player to read Skolnick’s full interview, where he shares his top five tips for guitarists.

In the meantime, if you’re in the mood for some jaw-dropping fretboard theatrics from Skolnick’s old tutor, then good news! Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson are reuniting for a G3 reunion tour next year.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.