Joe Satriani on proposed Van Halen tribute concert: “If it's ever gonna happen, Wolfgang Van Halen should play guitar”

[L-R] Joe Satriani and Wolfgang Van Halen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wolfgang Van Halen should play guitar if there were ever to be a Van Halen tribute/reunion concert, says Joe Satriani.

In a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock (opens in new tab), Satch – who was in talks to play guitar at a proposed tribute event earlier this year – praises Wolfgang’s eerily accurate playing at Foo Fighters’ recent Taylor Hawkins tribute shows, which he displayed during performances of Panama, Hot For Teacher and On Fire, saying Eddie Van Halen’s son would be by far the better choice for such an event.

“When I saw Wolfgang playing at the Taylor Hawkins benefit, I thought it was the most natural, beautiful thing I’d seen in a long time,” he says. 

“It was such a wonderful thing to see him play his dad’s music like that, and he’s such an incredible musician. I thought, ‘Well, if the thing is ever gonna happen, he should do it.’ It just seemed more natural than reaching out to somebody like me.

“So, the world should just wait for him to make up his mind how he wants to do it, and we should leave him alone, [and] let him figure out the best time and place for it. Whatever he comes up with will be the best way to do it, I think.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Satriani recalls his misgivings about signing on to play guitar in a Van Halen tribute concert or tour.

“I jokingly told them on that first phone call that if I had half a brain I’d hang up right away and not accept such a crazy offer, ‘cause nobody can replace Eddie, and whoever tries to do it is gonna get a whole lot of negativity from the world of social media,” he says.

“But I heard myself saying ‘yes’ before my better judgment kicked in, because I am such a fan of Eddie and his work, and I thought, ‘Wow, it would be such a great labor of love to dive into that and try to understand the essence of what he was doing for each song.”

Confirming that the project Satch had been approached for had been “shelved”, the guitarist said earlier this year that the prospect had been “terrifying”.

“I literally heard myself saying, 'Yes,' and then the other part of my brain said, ‘Did you just say yes? Are you nuts?’” he said. “I think I remember telling them that any sane guitar player would just turn around and start running away as fast as possible because you can't measure up to Eddie.”

Earlier this month, Wolfgang Van Halen spoke to Guitar World about his nerves over covering his father’s guitar parts at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts, waxing lyrical on the fast-tracked rehearsal process for the event with Dave Grohl, Justin Hawkins and Josh Freese.

“I didn’t even know if I could do it,” he explained. “I had a lot of conversations with Dave. What a kind sweetheart of a man he is. We talked a lot about [it]. Initially he was like, ‘What do you think? Would you be comfortable doing this?’ Initially, I didn’t wanna disappoint Dave Grohl. And I was like, ‘Sure.’”

Wolfgang added that due to the gravity of the invitation, Grohl asked him to give it some thought to ensure he felt he was making the right choice.

“I thought a lot about it and I was like, ‘You know what, if there was ever a time, this is it.’ I talked to him about it and I was just honest. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I could do this, but if I do I need your support. I need you up there with me.’ I was like, ‘Whatever the incarnation of what it becomes, I need you there with me,’ and he was like, ‘Absolutely.’”

He also responded to those who suggest he has it easy from a musical perspective being the son of Eddie Van Halen: “I didn’t just put a CD in and upload it into my head! [Laughs] I practice a lot.

“It’s a really weird backhanded compliment, where it’s like, ‘Oh, you did nothing to be able to do this.’ And it’s like, ‘No, I work very hard to be able to do what I can do.’ I understand where it’s coming from, though.”

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).