Inquiring Minds: Chickenfoot Guitarist and "Completely Hopeless" Gearhead Joe Satriani
JS: Sammy and I knew each other for about 15 years. We'd sort of run into each other here and there, but we never really played together other than this band called Planet Us with [Journey's] Neil Schon. Once again, I was the last guy to join the band. I was in it for about an hour and a half - I missed the recording, the rehearsals, and the only thing I wound up doing was a live radio show, and then it was kind of over. And once again, I was recording a record; it was one of those things where I said, "You guys gotta give me some advance notice." RO: In another interview, you said you always wanted to be in a "real band." What took you so long? JS: Well, I had this fantastic thing happen to me, which was I got a career as a solo instrumentalist - that's pretty amazing when that happens to you. It wasn't something that I planned, but it was something that just sort of fell in my lap. You know, the chance to play your own instrumental music is really something special. There's nothing quite like it. The fans that you attract are really dedicated fans, and you get to play music that's the closest thing to your heart every night. I love that that happened, and I followed it and stuck to it and took it as far as I could go. But I started out as a kid playing in bands that were very much like Chickenfoot - basically a rock band, a junior Led Zeppelin or something like that. You've got a guitar, bass player, drummer and you got a singer. The music business is just plain crazy. There's no way to explain away how things do happen or don't happen, they just kind of happen. RO: As someone who's spent many, many years playing predominantly instrumental music - and I know you have played with singers in the past - how do you approach playing the guitar in a group? JS: The obvious answer would be Part 1 to that, which is you have to make room for the singer (laughs), otherwise you get a lot of bad looks. But I think the true answer is that we're dealing with a different kind of music. That's what it is. When you're an instrumental soloist, you really have to be the one who defines the piece of music with an enormous amount of melodic content, expression, exposition, improvisation, and it's all really resting on your shoulders. When you're in a rock band, the style of rock music is that there has to be a lot of attitude that is created by equal contributions from each band member. So it might be the singer just screaming, but it's gotta be the scowl of the bass player, the irreverent drum performance and the crazy guitar thing. It all creates something, and that's gotta be mixed together with your normal content of music - good rhythm, good melody, good harmony. It's a very different thing. It's really comparing apples to oranges. RO: New bands of a certain age sometimes have trouble selling records and getting radio play, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Chickenfoot. Why do you think that is? JS: You know, I think we just came along at the right time. I think that's got a lot to do with it. It's one of those things that I can't really explain (laughs), but I can recognize it. When something comes along that is cool, you have to be able to recognize it and seize the moment, because you never know when it's going to come back again. RO: You created your own line of guitars back in the '90s for Ibanez. How big of a gearhead are you? JS: (laughs) I'm completely hopeless. There's no hope for me. I'm a complete gearhead. At some point I think in every musician's career, they get to that point where they say, "I've had enough and I need to take control of these things that are my tools, because I'm tired of being at the whim of the marketplace." And then you go, "Who's designing these things anyway?" Chickenfoot plays with Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam, 8 p.m. tonight at Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas (Bayou Place), 713-230-1600 or www.livenation.com.
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