“I want to honor the sound, but I don't want to lose myself”: Joe Satriani says he’s coming to terms with the fact that he doesn't sound like Eddie Van Halen

Joe Satriani (left) and Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Javier Bragado / Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images)

Joe Satriani was recently announced as the guitarist for the Best of All Worlds tour in summer 2024, which will see Satriani, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and Jason Bonham tackle – along with material from the Hagar/Anthony/Satriani supergroup Chickenfoot, and the former two's modern-day project, The Circle – a wealth of Van Halen material.

Now, in a new forthcoming interview with Guitar World, Satriani says that the biggest challenge he’s facing is the mental battle involved when it comes to doing his “best impression of the greatest guitar player of all time.”

“I have to get over arguing with myself that it doesn't sound right,” says the virtuoso. “I'll have to go through some mental therapy and be okay with sounding a bit different.”

As Hagar explained in the quartet's recent appearance on the Howard Stern Show, Satriani was chosen precisely because he wasn’t a complete Van Halen sound-alike, but the guitarist is still keen to do the material justice. 

“I spent decades sitting way back in the pocket because I was playing melodies,” says Satriani. “To get melodies to work, you've got to sit back and let the band get things established to where the groove and rhythm guitars push.

“But suddenly, I've got to play these parts that Eddie wrote, where he was functioning differently. He was pushing with this incredible architecture of chord work, like in a song like 5150, where Sammy gets to sit back as he's doing the melody. 

“So, the most awkward thing was suddenly not doing the melody and stepping in first on top of the beat. Eddie did that, but he never sounded like he was rushing.”

In the same interview, Satriani compares the experience to the challenge of taking on Ritchie Blackmore’s parts on tour with Deep Purple in the early-’90s – and acknowledges that it’s a tricky balance to strike.

“This is a mental thing for me,” reiterates Satch. “And that’s something I experienced when I played with Deep Purple; I went through the mental torture of playing Smoke on the Water and having my guitar not sound like Ritchie Blackmore's.

“This thing in my head kept going, ‘It’s not right. It should be a Strat into a Marshall.’ It affected how I played, even though I tried to sort myself out, saying, ‘It doesn't matter; it's the notes and the phrasing,’ but, as a fan, I wanted to hear the right sound… That's the case here, where I want to honor the sound, but I don't want to lose myself in somebody else's sound.”

The guitar icon has time to work out the foibles ahead of the summer 2024 tour dates. 

However, he drew criticism from some Van Halen fans following a performance of EVH’s “impossible to play” Mean Street intro on the Howard Stern Show – the result of seemingly rushed preparations for the group’s appearance. 

For his part, Satriani acknowledged the error, saying, it “hurt like a thorn in my side… But I’ll get over it.”

For more on the virtuoso’s packed calendar, including his collaboration and co-headline tour with Steve Vai, and the new G3 Reunion tour, keep an eye out for our full interview with Joe Satriani, due later this week.

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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.

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