- - Monday, March 28, 2016

Joe Satriani doesn’t simply plays the guitar, he dominates it, turning a simple collection of six strings into a transportive device for mind-bending aural theatrics. His landmark breakthrough album, “Surfing With the Alien,” remains the gold standard in instrumental rock and served as a guidebook to legions of wannabe ax-slingers that followed.

A few years back Mr. Satriani teamed up with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony (both of Van Halen) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) to form Chickenfoot, but news on the street on the supergroup has been quiet of late.

The still-young year sees Mr. Satriani touring with a show that looks back at his 30 years of sonic stunts and guitar daredevilry. In advance of Mr. Satriani’s stop at the District’s Lincoln Theatre Saturday, the ax-slinger reflects on how he got so good, the possible return of Chickenfoot, his own guitar heroes and why the title “guitar god” is not something he’d call himself.

Question: How did the From Surfing to Shockwave tour come about?

Answer: Usually you go out with an opening band, or you are the opening band, or you are part of a festival most of the time. Every once in a while the feeling you get from a promoter is that your fans are really hungry for as much of you as they can get. That brings up the whole concept of “An Evening With…” concert where you don’t have an opener. You put in an intermission and you can give the fans more songs from your catalog than they would ever get in any other concert setting.

It’s really a lot of fun. It’s a lot of guitar playing. My hands feel it. Artistically, when you walk off stage, you really feel like you gave the audience everything.

Q: How many songs do you play in the show?

A: We have got to fit the whole evening into three hours because of curfews at venues. We’re playing anywhere from 20 to 25 songs.

Q: How many guitars do you take with you on the road?

A: The least amount I’ve ever done is three. For this “Evening With…” tour? Definitely six. Maybe more. The thing that really determines the amount of instruments is tuning — if you wind up having a lot of songs that need different tunings. On this run I am playing more guitars with standard tuning. Not too bad this time.

Q: Are there any songs in there you haven’t played in years?

A: Yes, absolutely. It’s funny that the tour is called “From Surfing to Shockwave” because we are going back even one more record before “Surfing With the Alien” to the first full-length record I put out called “Not of This Earth.” We are playing the title track.

I decided to put “If I Could Fly,” which has had a storied history, back in the set. It’s nice to sort of reclaim it.

Q: When did you first start playing guitar, and why the guitar over any other instrument?

A: I was the youngest of five kids. Born in ‘56. I watched my older siblings go through all the music of the ‘60s. When they all moved out of the house, I inherited all the singles and all the LPs. I started playing drums at the age of 9 because I wanted to be like Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr.

As the late ‘60s started to roll in, I really became a [Jimi] Hendrix fanatic. The day he died I literally quit the football team, marched home and told my family I was dedicating my life to the guitar. Even though I had no idea if I could actually play the thing — enthusiasm of youth.

I started playing and never turned back.

Q: Who were your guitar heroes?

A: I’m definitely a product of my generation. Hendrix was the player who really touched me and who I thought was the most natural and original thing I’ve ever heard. He played like he never practiced a day in his life, yet he was a virtuoso. At the same time, I loved Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter. Plus The Beatles and [The Rolling] Stones. These guys figured really big in my foundation as a guitar player.

Q: Do you consider yourself as “guitar god”?

A: Absolutely not. But I understand it. [laughs] I’m a performer, right? So I understood that you have to take the stage and can’t look like someone who is staring at you from the floor. You have to be something special to be that performer.

I think that from a journalistic point of view, a journalist who is there watching an event has to somehow pull it together and explain it to people who weren’t there seeing this thing happen. So they’ve got to come up with some kind of word or category — some description that can say what this person and event was about.

That is the way they explain what I do to the general public, who is busy living a life. You can say, “Read these three pages” or this one sentence by a very clever journalist. I would rather be called “guitar god” than “yet another bald guitar player.” [laughs]

Q: Is it true that Chickenfoot is playing a one-off gig and releasing a new song?

A: You know, I opened my big mouth the other day because I had seen an ad that everybody in the band approved for a show. Then I was quickly told, “Don’t tell anybody about the show!” So that’s what I’m telling you. [laughs]

I see Sammy all the time. We live very close, and he lets me use his studio all the time. We’re always hanging out together and doing things. There’s been music flowing back and forth for the last year even though we haven’t really figured out a way to make a record.

I do know the month of May will see us doing at least that benefit show for the Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland [California]. There is stuff going on, but I’m not supposed to talk about it. [laughs]

Joe Satriani plays the Lincoln Theater Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $55 to $75 by going to Ticketfly.com.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide