Happy Birthday Joe!
The legendary guitar Maestro Joe Satriani turns 60 today!
Joe Satriani was born on July 15, 1956 at Westbury (in the state of New York). Satriani is a guitar legend who inspired millions of guitar players around the world since 1986. Early in his career, Satriani worked as a guitar instructor, with many of his former students achieving fame, such as Steve Vai, Larry LaLonde, Rick Hunolt, Kirk Hammet, Andy Timmons, Charlie Hunter, Kevin Cadogan and Alex Skolnick; he then went on to have a successful solo music career. He is a 15-time Grammy Award nominee (Best Rock Instrumental performance).
Guitar Player asked Satch the secret to his success. He gave his 10 strategies that paid off for him.
1. Listen. Assess. Then Do It Again.
"My parents had a quarter-inch reel-to-reel recorder. I’d sit there with my Hagstrom III and record myself playing. That was my earliest memory of practicing— listening to how horrible I sounded. I was always putting on these records or flipping around the radio, and then I’d hear myself playing on those tapes, and say, 'Oh, my God—there’s this huge gap between me and them. They sound good. I sound like crap.'
"At that moment, it was about narrowing that gap. I wanted to sound good. The funny thing is, that part hasn’t changed very much after all these years. The process of listening back to myself, and assessing the work, has always been a very important thing."
2. Keep It Real
"Recording technology is great, but once you get past the excitement of the aural titillation, you’re left with the quality of your composition and the proficiency of your playing."
3. Let the Performance Determine the Master Take
"I had played a melody on an eight-track cassette recorder for a song called 'The Power Cosmic 2000' on the Engines of Creation album. When I relearned it [for the album version], it fell flat. I had played a 'perfect' version of that melody, and [album coproducer] Eric Caudieux and I realized it wasn’t working. I said, 'Well, I have this cassette recording...' Eric had to lift the line off the cassette, clean it up, and make it sound like it belonged on the album. But it sounded great, because that version was the one.
4. Be Yourself
"If you look over the course of history, you’ll see the most popular artists were scrappy and unique, and no one was perfect.Ask yourself, 'Why was this group of four guys considered to be it at that moment?' And I think that exercise should encourage you to be yourself. Real artists are original."
5. Keep the Faith
"When I was young, I had tunnel vision and blind faith. That really sums it up. It seemed like I was always walking right up to the edge and trying whatever excited me the most without any thought of the consequences. I’ve always said, 'I want to be able to make records, to play on stages around the world, and have the tools to create the sounds I want to make.' So if I deal with a company to make gear, that means I’ll be able to manipulate the design of the tool to better serve making records and touring. If I deal with a record company, then I can keep moving forward making records."
6. Know What You Like About Your Gear
"My Ibanez guitars always go back to the neck feel of the black ’68 Telecaster with a Bigsby that I had in high school. I just really liked that 9.5-inch radius. Another interesting note about the Tele is that a young Larry DiMarzio put a humbucker pickup into it for me. I was a very naïve young guitar player, and one of my friends said, 'Man, you gotta get rid of that stock pickup. Everybody who’s cool is putting humbuckers there.'
"So I ended up at Charles LoBue’s shop in New York, and he had no patience for little punks like me. He put in the pickup, and when I looked at it, I didn’t understand what he did, so I complained. He was like, 'I can’t talk to this kid. Larry! Come out and talk to this kid.' And that was the first time I met Larry, and that was my first DiMarzio pickup. I just wish I had kept that guitar."
7. Don't Worry About Your Press
"I’m not surprised when nobody knows who I am. My story doesn’t usually make the headlines. I'm just moving along having a great time making music, connecting with my fans, and using the industry in a positive way. We’re also competing with Kim Kardashian’s butt and people suing each other and big artists hating Spotify. We all compete for the press, but the 'front page' is a thing unto itself. It’s not necessarily reality—it’s whatever is needed to make a story get eyeballs. It has nothing to do with the content, or the validity of the content."
8. Get Out of Your Tone Zone
"I’m always reexamining the gear I use. But I’ve learned that you can take this chasing tone idea until it sort of runs aground. You can wind up making this uber tool, but what’s it good for? This is where funky old instruments are really cool. You get something that has a unique tone, and then find one use for it that will nail just the right sound to make a particular part work. I do that all the time with tools I would never in a million years do a show with, but the thing works for a specific feel. Using that funky thing can, in turn, give you a better perspective on sound when you get back into tone-chasing mode."
9. Do It Yourself
"I follow whatever excites me artistically, but one of the important things to point out about Chickenfoot [Satriani’s band project with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith] is that we do the records totally by ourselves. We entered into it like a creative partnership: 'Let’s make these records on our own, find a one-time deal for the albums, and then move on. If we make more records—great—we’ll cut singular deals for those, too.' We were concerned that the industry types who thrive on supergroup projects would want to come in and poke their fingers in the pie. The way to avoid that kind of interference is to do it all yourself and then shop the finished product. It can be risky, but in our case, that approach made everybody feel good."
10. Don't Lose Your Passion
"I’m still like when I was 14—I love listening to music. I love playing music. I just want to keep trying to make more exciting music. I think that’s the most attractive part of it—to have this back catalog to look at, and draw energy from, and then move forward. The only sad thing is, thanks to modern storage media, you can hold my entire catalog in your hand—the multitracks, everything. That’s my life right there." [laughs]