Joe Satriani has an exciting new album out and had half an hour to spare for Gt. we couldn’t miss the chance to quiz him about songs, techniques, sounds and more!
GT: There are 15 tracks on this album, more than on previous albums – it seems you’ve been more productive this time, why’s that? JS: I had so much to say, so much to express. Ten songs wouldn’t have been enough to tell the story properly. GT: Shockwave Supernova is very exclamatory and bold sounding. What inspired the name? JS: It’s a person’s name, or, with a stretch of the imagination, my alter ego’s name. The album is a concept album that tracks and exposes the exploits and inner demons of this alter ego, the one I’ve created to be a more extroverted version of myself. Sounds crazy I know, but the ‘concept’ was really a device for me to write accordingly and choose the right pieces for the record. The title track had to reflect all that drama and scope. GT: Lost In Memory; the shift to the (euphoric) chorus is very effective from Ebmaj7-F-Gm7 to Bbm7-Fm7Abmaj7-Ebmaj7. You seem to favour foundational key shifts (or modulations) for dramatic effect (in this case, a Gm-Bbm shift) in your compositions. Do you think this allows you to maintain a‘rock’based sound while being harmonically interesting without going ‘fusion’? JS: Yes! I’m so happy that you’ve noticed. I haven’t had a journalist make an observation like that in decades! It is a very effective way to stay within the stylistic scope of the record and yet achieve more adventurous harmony. GT: Crazy Joe has a funky dub intro feel with a clipped double-stop melody before the pull-off section and then the big bluesy rock payoff chorus. How was this piece conceived? JS: I originally started writing this for Chad Smith and Chickenfoot. I think I called it “Crazy Drummer”! As it developed I realised Sammy would have a hard time writing a story and lyrics around it, so, I finished it as an instrumental. It has an unusual arrangement but such a great positive vibe. Vinnie’s intro is insanely wonderful. GT: You’ve a liking to groovy ‘wide swing’ pieces. There seems to be nod towards a ZZ Top and Aerosmith vibe on a couple of numbers; have these bluesy rock-pop bands inspired how you make instrumental pieces appeal to audiences? JS: I love rock with a heavy dose of swing. The greatest rock bands had drummers who learned how to play in the 50s and they knew how to swing a hundred different ways. I grew up on that stuff, and so it comes naturally. Once again, Vinnie brings a level of swing to the track that is truly magical. GT: San Francisco Blues has a direct rock and roll triplet feel with bluesy major licks, clean guitar rhythm chips with a tasty harmonised chorus section. As you’ve not really had a piece like this before, what inspired you to do it for this album? JS: I was at home in San Francisco, recovering from a nasty flu, playing guitar all day long in my son’s old music room – which is painted blue. So, that’s the set-up, and the song flowed from there. I was actually influenced by my good friend Steve Miller as I wrote the song. Steve has a way of bringing incredible amounts of melody and harmony to blues, and yet he keeps it authentic. I admire him for that, as well as his many other accomplishments! GT: On A Phase I’m Going Through there’s some nice use of a phaser effect! In the middle section, you’ve three sections; the fast blitz of notes (tapping with a pick or with your fingers?), the Bach Toccata vibed bit (fingerpicked and/or pull-offs?) and the fast descending pull-offs to open strings (tapped?). JS: Love the Mutron Bi-Phase! All three parts are right hand thumb and first finger picking, no tapping. Judicious use of double-stops and 6ths harmonies on the third and first strings, etc… So much fun to play and yet the song has a melancholy vibe, as it should! GT: On Scarborough Stomp there’s a baroque-esque harpsichord section. Is this guitar and keys doubling up? JS: I wish! No, Mike Keneally improvised that after listening to my very sketchy church organ version. He added trills and made the part feel totally natural, as only he can. GT: Butterfly And Zebra; what inspired the title? There are a lot of volume swells used on the guitar melody – do you do these from the guitar or a pedal like an Ernie Ball volume? Was the Fernandes Sustainer pickup involved? JS: That’s just my JS2400 with the Sustainiac pickup engaged. The Sustainiac is such a cool and well-designed pickup system. The song is about a profound attraction between to very unlikely, and ultimately doomed lovers. A butterfly and a zebra share a glance, fall in love in that one instance, but know they can never make it work because of who and what they are. GT: Did you use the JS2400 for most of the album? JS: My 2410 and 2450 got the most use. There’s some JS2400 and my JSA acoustic on the record too. Now and then I’ll use a prototype JS like the three-single-coil guitar, or an oldie like my Chrome Boy. And then there’s always something vintage lurking around as part of the ensemble like a Tele, Strat or Les Paul. I used a few JS guitars with Evertune bridges for some rhythm guitar work too. I have found the 24 frets on the JS2400 affords you so much more playability, and I like the neck pickup tone too; it’s unique!
I found the 24 frets on the JS2400 affords you more playability, and I like the neck pickup tone too; it’s unique!
Joe Satriani: “I love rock with a heavy dose of swing”