“I wanna hear that mythical sound”: Joe Satriani has been struggling to nail Eddie Van Halen’s tone – so he’s having a special amp built for the Best of All Worlds tour

Joe Satriani
(Image credit: Javier Bragado/Redferns/Getty Images)

Joe Satriani has been particularly open about the challenges he’s currently facing as he attempts to harness Eddie Van Halen’s electric guitar sound and style in the lead-up to the upcoming Best of All Worlds tour.

The tour will see him perform a wealth of Van Halen material alongside Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Jason Bonham, and Satch knows all too well the significance of his role as the supergroup’s lead guitar player – a role that will see him tackle many of Eddie Van Halen’s most iconic guitar parts.

Satch has already spoken of the stylistic difficulties associated with covering Van Halen – he told Guitar World the biggest challenge was pinning the player down – but now he’s discussed in more depth the challenges that come with attempting to dial in EVH’s heralded guitar tone.

And, according to Satch, the struggle to perfect the “mythical” Eddie Van Halen sound has become so great, he’s sought out help to build a special guitar amp specifically for the tour.

In a previous interview with Guitar World, Satch spoke of the challenge in finding a rig that could cover all Van Halen bases, but later said he’d honed in on a particular tonal era of EVH to do so.

Specifically, he landed on Van Halen’s 1986 Live Without a Net rig, which comprised modded Marshalls that included power soaks and effects processing. That Marshall tone is still the end goal, but now it turns out he’s sounded out Dylana Scott of 3rd Power Amplifiers to bring it back to life for the tour.

“Eddie had specific gear. He didn't play with the gear I used or Steve Vai or Slash or Tom Morello or any of his contemporaries,” Satch said in a new interview with Australian Musician. “He actually had a very specific setup.

“I started to think, 'Well, what's my favorite Van Halen section?’” he went on. “And I did find that period in '86. I talked to Sam [Hagar] quite a bit about it and he said… he was still using Marshalls – in Sammy's view, his favorite sound that Eddie ever made.

“It wasn't small and then stereo-ized. So I reached out to Dylana Scott at 3rd Power Amplifiers, and she is building me what we believe is going to be the amp that does it.”

3rd Power, it should be noted, is well-known for its ability to craft vintage-inspired amps, having previously built gear for the likes of Simon Townshend, Lenny Kravitz, Sadler Vaden and many others.

That Satch has gone as far as to have a custom amp built for the gig shows just how seriously he’s taking the role, and is yet another reminder of the importance of getting the right gear ready for the tour.

As he puts it himself, “This goes back to what I said earlier about how the gear is so important for the performer. I know that when we step out on stage and whether I'm playing Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love or 5150, I'm gonna need to feel and hear that sound to convince myself to keep going.

“I know, in my heart, that I wanna hear that sound in my head, that mythical Eddie Van Halen sound that we all sort of hear in our mind, and I wanna be able to feel it. And so I've been getting these clips from Dylana every week, and the stuff that she's building is really amazing.”

To that end, Satch is all too aware that his own rig wouldn’t work for Van Halen material, owing to the fact it’s set up to serve a completely different purpose.

“My solo rig is designed… to make the high strings really fat-sounding, because I play all the melodies,” he went on. “I play very little rhythm guitar all night long. It's just: solo, melody, solo, melody. And I can't play the Hagar set like that. It's just the wrong sound.”

Joe Satriani isn’t alone in his quest to replicate the Eddie Van Halen guitar sound and style, and has received helpful advice from his closest confidants. 

Just last week, Steve Vai – whom Satch will be writing new music with for the first time ever – offered his two cents on the gig, and revealed what he believed to be the secret to nailing Van Halen’s guitar parts in front of a live audience.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.