Interview – Joe Satriani

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Photo – Joseph Cultice

World-renowned guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani has sold over 10 million albums, contributed to numerous recordings with an array of artists and added 15 Grammy nominations to his resume to date.

Considered the all-time best-selling instrumental guitarist, he has travelled the world playing to sold-out crowds and is hitting the road again in support of his 16th solo album “What Happens Next”. Montreal Rocks got the opportunity to talk to this legendary rock guitarist about the album, the genius to create and the tour that makes its first stop in Montreal on May 25th.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. You just got back from the European leg of the G3 tour and now going back out for your album “What Happens Next” that you released in January. What can we expect from the show?

Since the beginning of this year, we’ve been playing a little more than half the album live and we obviously have to make adjustments according to the curfew of the venue; every place has rules and some are more liberal so we can throw in a few more songs. I’m sure we’ll be playing 6 or 7 new songs and mix it up with fan favorites. The Canadian tour has intermissions, I think Montreal is one of them so it will be a nice setlist. Basically, it is the beginning of the solo tour and we are going to get to play a lot of songs and I am really looking forward to it.

Do you often get requests for specific songs to be played or setlists to be modified?

All the time… there are 3 ways of looking at it… play whatever it is you want to play, which is the best recommendation because you are the one who has to play every night for 2 years and you can’t go out there playing what you don’t want to be playing. The other thing is to look at Spotify, iTunes and any other streaming services to find out what it is people are really listening to over and over, what they are buying, what are still their favorites. This is an important element because I’m going to guess half of the audience may have never been to a show or may not ever go to another again because there are so many choices out there for fans, so many bands, so many shows people will buy tickets for. It is not unusual for people to go see an artist once, so if an artist plays all of the most obscure songs, it is a disservice to fans. I am always keen on making it worthwhile for those who may be coming for the first and only time. It’s important for me to play the songs that for the last 30 years have constantly been Top 10 and then mix it up for the hardcore fans who have seen the show 20 times and have an interesting insight. So, simply put, play the hits, some new music and listen to outside sources.

Social media outlets allow for constant interaction, offering a different perspective of where you stand in the industry and with the fans.

Someone asked me what I thought about the industry and specifically what is happening. I pointed out it has always been in a state of chaos, the music business has been creatively driven ever since the days of publishing and recording which is probably the most chaotic because the industry has always scrambled to try to figure out how to make music for the people and how to get compensated so as to make more music. This particular state which I’m sure will last another year or two before changing again offers a great opportunity for younger artists and artists like myself who you will not see on TV and who depend really on reaching out directly to our fans around the world. The internet and the streaming has helped us; it solidifies a connection between artist and fans. The modernization of distribution of music legitimizes anyone that has a fan base because it is there. I think it is cool, my only complaint because I am old enough to have been around a long time is I remember when record companies had a press department and I could be at home and be a musician.

Now, you need to take care of your art….

Like all musicians, we have to be our own press machines, deal with social media, prepare press.

Photo – Joseph Cultice

What Happens Next is your album title, considering your previous recording styles, what do you want to express with this one?

I was on a journey to reinvent myself, to break down all the crutches & supports that inevitably get built up as you get comfortable with what you are doing. It is not unusual for an artist to just want to kick out the foundation underneath them and see what it’s like to be dangerously free again. The key in explaining it is that the previous album Shockwave Supernova was all about sort of creating a dramatization of an observation that I had built up this alter ego, so, I wanted to address that. Part of the process of getting to the new record was getting comfortable with a new realization and also remembering what was it that got me so excited about music before I had to learn to be in front of people. As a young kid playing music, I never thought of the stage. I had certain feelings and connections with certain kinds of music, melodies, chords, rhythms, tones and I explore that. During this process, I kept asking myself what are you going to do next which ultimately became what happens next. I had answered my own question by writing a new record, reaching out to new musicians and recording environments, did everything as differently as I could and wrote songs about real things, not about science fiction or outer space. This album was the rebirth so to speak.

What was the creative process; did you revisit past songs that had been shelved?

JS: Somewhere midpoint of a tour, I find myself writing backstage, on the tour bus. It is not unusual for me to write the most wide-reaching pieces while I’m out and not really focused on an album. Once the tour ends and my manager says four months from now is the best time to deliver a record, that process of a deadline presented to me sort of helps get all the creative juices going and focus. I’ll look at what I did write while I was freeform writing and what I really want to do. Those things will either combine or don’t. Sometimes I’ll take a song I wrote a year ago, or something brand new. I never know how the album will take shape.

Joe Satriani is sure to bring a fast-paced, fun energy to an audience who will undoubtedly appreciate the masterful skill of his 6 string play.

Tickets for his Montreal show are still available HERE.

Photo – Jon Luini

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