Joe Satriani reveals the song that was impossible to play live: "My hand didn’t want to do it live. It started to really hurt"

Joe Satriani performs onstage during the Experience Hendrix concert at City National Grove of Anaheim on October 09, 2019 in Anaheim, California
(Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Shredmaster Joe Satriani has been busy in recent weeks preparing for the release of his new album, The Elephants of Mars.

To that end, Satch recently sat down for a chat with our friends at Guitarist, during which he was asked if he had ever written a song that had proven to be "impossible" to perform live. 

“When you have a phrase, you have to investigate how many different ways you can play it," Satriani responded. "When we put out Shockwave Supernova, I entered into a really bad phase of tension with the little finger of my fretting hand. It was because of that [Shockwave Supernova's] title song. 

"When I was writing it, I figured out all the different places to play it and came up with one version that sounded unique – but my hand didn’t want to do it live. It started to really hurt. 

"That tour, I had to rewrite so many fingerings. I’d sit down before a show and figure out, like, which notes had to be legato or could I pick three of them instead? When I got off tour, my chiropractor discovered I was just tight and solved my issue in a week. Once in a while, you write something you probably shouldn’t have written [laughs].”

The first three singles from The Elephants of Mars – which is set for an April 8 release – have shown the wide variety of styles at work in Satriani's always-engaging playing. Sahara, as hinted in the title, shows Satriani's sub-Saharan influences, while Faceless prominently displays the guitarist's enduring love of David Gilmour.

The album's third single, meanwhile, takes things in a much funkier direction

In the same Guitarist interview, Satriani also revealed that – in a decision that went "against everything I've spent my whole career developing" – he used just one plugin for all the guitar tones on The Elephants of Marsand it wasn't his signature AmpliTube collection.

To read Guitarist's full interview with Satriani, pick up a copy of the magazine over at Magazines Direct.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.