Exclusive Joe Satriani interview 2015
Hey guys, it’s Saturax and welcome to this exclusive Joe Satriani interview, made on 19 Sep 2015 in Bordeaux, FR for our community Joe Satriani Universe and all his fans. The new Marshall amp JS20C? The new Ibanez guitars? The iconic bucket hats Joe was wearing or the new Straptight straplocks? Joe is answering the questions you asked him via our social medias!
And don’t miss the end of the interview, because Joe is going to get 3 amazing gifts from famous french craftsmen, LNA Guitar Effects, Riki Le Plectrier and Baptized By Leather, created and designed specially for him.
You can activate the subtitles in the YouTube video player (english and french).
Shockwave Supernova album
Saturax : Nobody here missed the release of your new studio album Shockwave Supernova and it seems to have been a huge success everywhere in the world. You worked with Bryan Beller, Marco Minnemann and Mike Keneally on this, what can you tell us about the way you worked with them, what sort of magical things happened in the Skywalker Studios?
“Skywalker is a magical place anyway. It’s a great studio, beautiful location, and the staff there is really great. So getting them into that room is half the trick, because once you’re in that big studio it really is very inspiring. Each of the guys are great players, they’re great writers, they have unique performance personalities, and I think when you invite musicians like that to a record you have to give them space to interpret or re-interpret your music in the way that they feel inspired at the moment.
That’s what I like to do, I give them the freedom to re-interpret the music and we explore everybody’s ideas, see if we can get the music to get as interesting as possible, to be new and fresh. And sometimes we even take remarkably different directions from the demo as well, which I think in most cases that’s what we did, we always wound up with someting much better so it was a lot of fun.”
Saturax : Vinyl is back in fashion and you’ve offered a vinyl version of Shockwave Supernova. We spotted the little inscription “Joe loves Rubina” on side C, is that also on your other vinyl records?
“You know, that goes very back to the very first record when we were in the mastering room, for the first couple of records actually at Bernie Grundman’s you mastered the record and the vinyl in the same room. I realised then that you had the opportunity to inscribe yourself. But as we got into the world of CD’s, there was none of that and records were generally pressed somewhere else so we lost the ability to add those messages in there, and I always felt that the CD hidden track was kind of silly in a way, you know. As soon as the internet came along, that was a better place to send messages to people like that. So in this particular case though, I think when something is written down it has more power and vinyl in a way is very primitive, it’s almost like a stone, it’s like if you etch something in stone or carve initials in a tree because they hang around in a very long time and they can’t be erased.
That was just something I wanted to bring back and I was surprised actually because I couldn’t attend the vinyl mastering but John Cuniberti called me on the phone and he said “Hey, we’re here, we’re mastering the vinyl, do you want to inscribe anything like you used to?” so I said yes, “Joe loves Rubina”.” [laughs]
Saturax : We know you have a new signature amp with Marshall, and if I’m not mistaken you used it on the song “San Francisco Blue”, what can you tell us about this amp?
“The JS20C, it’s a 20W all-tube combo with a 12 inch speaker. It can be brought down to 5W, it has an FX loop and a noise gate. It’s got basically 3 channels with different stages of gain so you have very clean, like a very old Fender Deluxe amplifier sounding thing, and then it sort of becomes very Marshall as you move into the higher gain stages. It also has an Audio In which is great for practising and it’s a perfect size for clubs and small events.
Of course a lot of bands play big places this days with very small amps, they just mic them up, so I wanted to get something that was more convenient, that someone could just really pick up, maybe put in the trunk of their car and go to just about any show. I bought the prototype out on tour because I didn’t have time at home to finish doing a lot of the small finishing touches on it. And generally I’d be using it backstage but I lent it to my friend Markus James who’s using it tonight on stage so… you can’t miss it because it’s unfinished so you see the tubes sticking out on the stage there. Hopefully next year sometime it will be available.”
Saturax : Are there any more signature guitars in the works with Ibanez? Maybe with a Sustainiac pickup?
“Well I’m not sure about that, I know that the folks at DiMarzio and at Sustainiac have been talking about perhaps getting together to do something, I think that would make the things a little bit easier for Ibanez to deal with a pickup company that they’ve been working with for many years. My main concern with the models has always been to provide new alternatives to reflect modern styles of playing and with a good eye towards the vintage attitude. To that end we’ve always had a lot of prototypes that we’ve been developing that we don’t bring to market for many years and so we have 2 that we working on right now, I hope to get some prototypes in the next week or so, when I’m out here in Europe. We’re experimenting with different finishes, different pickup arrangements that we haven’t used before, that’s kind of all I can say right now but I’m hoping that you know, maybe, it take a long time to bring something to market, maybe in a year or less we’ll have a new model.”
Saturax : For a couple of years now you’ve been endorsed by a new company, Straptight, you even have 2 signature models, what can you tell us about those straplocks?
“Oh yes, first of all you need a kind of a straplock, there are quite a few guitars, especially the Gibson guitars, they’re very prone to just letting go of your strap. And as your strap becomes more and more your favourite strap, it becomes more likely the fall of your guitar. SGs, 335 Les Paul are notorious for that top button falling off. It’s catastrophic of course, anytime you’ve got a guitar that has a neck through the body construction it’s under a lot of tension and it only takes about this far to fall and it snaps, right? And for year I tried mechanical metal straplocks and they either transmitted too much noise, creaking noise when you’re using high gain sounds, or they were too big, or you couldn’t take your strap off in a case and so then, the remaining parts of the strap would smudge or scrape the finish of the guitar, they were all kinds of problems. And they were expensive. And they required you drilling out the woods of your guitar, something like that.
So my friend Bill Lonero, a great guitar player himself, came up with a really brilliant idea which was sort of taking a look at the simplest approach which was what we call a bread tie in the United States. It’s those little pieces of plastic that use at the end of English muffin bags, you know. But they always break, “one, two three, four, five” and it’s broken. And people would use the rubber grommets from the Grolsch beer bottles or something like that, they break as well and they’re not reliable. But these little things he devised really was taking a look at something that in essence was the best idea which is something that is extremely light, adds no mass or noise to the guitar, does not make you have to change your strap button, so in other way you don’t have to modify anything, and you put it on like that you pull it off like that, it’s just genius!
The funny thing is that it’s because it’s so simple people look at it and they think “well I don’t want to pay for that, it’s look like a bread tie” but I think if they use it for one show and they pick up their guitar and they swing it on the strap they realise what a brilliant idea it is. If you have 10 guitars you need 20 of those clips, one for each side, and really, I’m looking at this board here [gifts spoiled] if you look at that strap, or that pedal or even those picks they are far more expensive that a couple of Straptights and they don’t do anything really to protect your guitar but the Straptight is a minimal investment, I mean we pay more for strings, and if you’re a professional musician you go through many packs and I think than the cost actually is the opposite of prohibitive. In other words, what we call a no-brainer in other words, you have to buy these because they protect your most important investment, which is your instrument, so I think they are really great, yeah. And if you don’t like my face you just buy the blank ones [laughs], the blacks and whites yes, use the black side!
Saturax : You’ve been wearing that bucket hat for many years. Why, and where does it come from?
“Is this a real one?.. there it is, Project Alabama! That was started by I think a husband an wife in the state of Alabama in the USA and they went down to a town there that was kind of economically depressed in modern times but in fact had professional women who were excellent seamstresses and could sew almost anything but because the factory had close down they were out of work so they have this idea of using some of their unique skills and artistic ideas along with they would call remnants, parts of clothing material that was left over to create some unique designs of these hats.
I enjoyed them for a while but then the started changing the hats so you really can get these anymore, and they were primarily starting out men and women’s clothing and then they moved strictly into women’s clothing, so… I stopped wearing them [laughs] I need something that was a bit warmer so that’s yours now.”
Saturax : After each album you do a world tour, visiting many countries and cultures. Do you have a tour fun fact you can tell us?
“Well you know, some places I think have a big impact creatively on the kind of music you write. The last tour that we did, the last set of tours actually was South America and of course ending up in Asia, in Singapore. And they factored very heavily into Shockwave Supernova, the first song of course musically, the riff is kind of a Brazilian rhythm in a way, we’ve been going down there for twenty plus years, I really enjoy listening to a lot on tour and I remember thinking “I want to bring more that rhythm in”.
So yes, that song opens up with a very Brazilian-Latin style kind of a rhythm before it starts to really rock out, and then of course the whole idea of the concept album, being written around an alter ego, that really came from the experience of touring for so long and they winding up in Singapore and then just thinking about the alter ego idea, because the first time I went to Singapore I was not a solo artist I was still playing in The Squares so everytime I return to Singapore it’s really for family reasons and it got me to reflect a lot on my career, how far I’ve got, how many records I put out and that’s got me thinking about how performers sometimes need an other more extraverted personality when they hit the stage, somebody that they wouldn’t want to be when they walking aroung in everyday life, but who seems to be a necessary component to being a performer. I think about that now that the last tour has those two main impacts including more Latin influences into the music, and creating the idea for the alter ego concept record.”
Saturax : The music keeps evolving. You started out 30 years ago and you’ve recorded on tape, vinyl, CD and now the internet has a huge presence in the music industry. What’s your feeling about it and what would you like the future of music recording to be?
“Anything that increases fidelity is good, I think that giving the audience a choice to purchase high fidelity music is a great idea, that’s the way the musicians hear it. Let’s say if we were in this room and I started playing guitar that is the epitome of high fidelity. There is no compression going on, it’s just sound of my guitar in our ears, and digital music has come a very long way in being able to transport that sound around in the world. Unfortunately, the hidden ghost in the digital revolution was the abilty to share those files for free, and that put an enormous burden on musicians who still needs to pay to make music and need to get reimbursed somehow, otherwise we have to go out and get other jobs and we can’t spend our time making music, so… It’s a bit of a conflic there, but I think there’s always been a conflic in the arts. Arts needs commerce and they help each other out, but there’s always going to be some kind of a problem, it won’t be the same in 1900 or 2000 that it is in 2015 but it’ll be something there I know we can work it out so I’m not really worried about that.
I like that idea that the internet provides for a quicker communication with your fans, that something like your site can sort of spring up out of nowhere in a grassroots way, and that I can participate and we don’t really need any other corporations involved to make that happened. When I started out in the music buisness there was none of that. And if there was it was really a paper or something that was printed in a paper and it was completely local. I think these things are great, the only thing I regret is that in general when a medium is very expensive, a lot of time is put in to the presentation of it. So if if this were a TV show that had 20 millions of viewers, you would have someone holding the camera for him, he wouldn’t have to hold it himself. And there would be expensive lights, expensive room, you wouldn’t have to worry about the noise coming from the hallway, there would be a lot of preparation going on, and then what you would deliver to your fans would be a higher quality product. The internet kind of says to the artist… you know the internet is here, and we are here so you have to do something right away, everyday, you have to let us film you, walking to your car, walking into you hotel, testing out your pedals on stage, just talking in a dressing room that’s really the worst place to do an interview with the worst lights, so it sort of force the quality to go way down.
Imagine if you’re an artist and you’re thinking “Well, if I would be forced into this thing were everything is super-casual” then it’s going to change the way I look at things, I’m going to be more cavalier about everything. I’m not going to prepare for it like I would if someone said “You’re going to be on the biggest television show in France”, you probably prepare, right? [laughs] But if someone says “Well it’s yet an other interview for Periscope, Twitter or Facebook” you’re like “Oh well, who cares”. You see what I mean? It makes people not care. It’s like the viewer who looks at it for a few seconds of their phone and says “Oh, I don’t care”. The participants, the artist, all of us we start to think like “Well, it’s just a backstage interview, who cares?” And then you think to yourself “If everybody thinks like that means it’s just a lot of crap flying around the internet, who’s making the good stuff?!” You know, at some point someone has to pony up some money so you can spend the time to make something really great. So we still do that with the albums because I have a partner, I have Sony Music and Legacy who are my partners and allowing me to figure out a way to fund this projects, we still go the distance to create a quality projet but not many people can do that. That’s the funny thing about the internet that I still haven’t figured out yet, I don’t think I ever will, so I don’t think it matters.” [laughs]
Special gifts from France
Saturax : For the end I wanna say thank you for you presence in France with 8 gigs in all our country. And we have a present for you, actually 3 gifts. Here’s Brad, we’ve building up the Joe Satriani Universe site together and we’ve commissioned three French talented craftsmen to design and create these gifts especially for you, and Brad and I want to personally congratulate them for their amazing work and generosity. One is a Crazy Filter pedal from LNA Guitar Effects, also Riki le Plectrier made three different picks for you from three different materials, and the unique beautiful guitar strap was made for you by Baptized By Leather. We hope you like them.
You have to see the video at 19’50” to see Joe discover, test and appreciate the products that have been designed for him. Joe is not endorsed by this products, the JS logo was only used to make tailor-made presents. 😉
Here’s a quick presentation of them.
LNA Guitar Effects – Crazy Filter pedal
Custom pedal Crazy Filter specially designed for Joe Satriani. Crazy Filter allows to shape the sound with two main frequencies settings, FREQ1 between 100Hz~1KHz and FREQ2 between 500Hz~5kHz. They are 2 Level Setting, one for each filter, a Gain control and a Dry level, mixing the input signal with the 2 filters ouputs. Cool/Warm switch changes the global color. Power +9V DC and True Bypass.
Riki le Plectrier – 3 plectrums
Creation of 3 custom plectrums. First one, the Riki’slides plectrum with 3 peaks in brass structure, 1 Torlon (black), 1 Ultem resin (amber) and 1 Polycarbonate (blue). Then the BigL’slides plectrum in mahogany on both faces, with middle slice in stainless-steel and finally the Roger’slides plectrum in titanium, watch gears and pieces version.
Baptized by Leather – Guitar strap
Baptized by Leather designed this guitar strap made of leather. The guitar design was inspired by the childish side of Joe’s drawings. The dyeing is made with stencils. Techniques of pressing and engraving were used on natural leather for the JS logo and the guitars in relief as well.
Many thanks to Joe Satriani and his manager Mick Bridgen for receiving us so well.
Interview shot in Bordeaux (FR) on September 19th. Realized by Saturax and Brad Coudray on the camera, Tom Breton, Valentine Marquet and Lisa Aubry behind the cameras. Thanks also to the Italian photograph Laura Rossi for her great shots.
Huge thanks to Stéphane Ellena from LNA Guitar Effects, Éric Feuermann from Riki le Plectrier and Carole Guignand from Baptized By Leather, who have devotionally designed and made those products for the venue of Joe in France.
Special thanks to Skippygirl for helping a lot on the interview preparation, and Lisa Aubry for building the gift display stand.
Credit photo : Laura Rossi.
Go see Joe on tour : www.satriani.com/road