Guitar supremo Joe Satriani has been talking to MusicRadar about problems he faced coming up in the golden age of shred.
Best known for his series of instrumental solo albums, the Chickenfoot guitarist was talking from his home as part of this weekend’s Virtual Guitar Show, looking back over his career as one of the world’s most respected guitarists, from his early years, as a guitar teacher, tutoring players like Steve Vai, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Larry LaLonde of Primus and Testament’s Alex Skolnick. to his solo career when the rise of shred guitar and labels like Shrapnel in the 80s, brought him to the attention of Relativity records.
His music, he says, was more – or maybe less – than they bargained for.
In an intimate hour long video interview, Satriani says: “From the very beginning when I signed for Relativity records, the President was very worried, because he had my first record and there was some shred on there but there was also a lot of stuff that wasn’t like all the Shrapnel superstars like Yngwie Malmsteen and those guys. Their shred quotient was at 99% on every song, but I was like, ‘No, that’s not me, I don’t do that’.
“The president was extremely worried. When I showed up at the offices in New York for the first time, in front of the entire staff, he says ‘I don’t get it: you don’t *look* like a rock star!’ I remember thinking, ‘Well, that’s a really rude thing to say!’
“I was playing that night to see if I was going to get the green light to record what would become Surfing With The Alien. That even when he heard me play [signature tracks] Satch Boogie and, maybe Crushing Day or something, there’s was shred in there and he saw dollar signs, so luckily he signed on.
“But when I delivered the record and they heard songs like Midnight or Echo, they were like: ‘What’s that doing on there?’ If it wasn’t fast and two-handed they didn’t get it, y’know?
“And then the next record, Flying In A Blue Dream, I just totally pissed them off because I have songs on there with no shred on them. The history of my career – all the things that went platinum – have things on there that don’t belong there. I’ve always tried to tell everybody: ‘I’m a songwriter, I write compositions, and if it requires some technique to get the story across, well then I teach myself how to do it and I record it.’ But if it doesn’t need it, I don’t.”
Joe Satriani was interviewed for the Virtual Guitar Show. With real events cancelled, this year's Guitar Show is virtual and the team have caught up with some of the world's most interesting players at home in lockdown, including former GN'R guitarist Bumblefoot, current GN'R guitarist Richard Fortus, Firewind's Gus G, former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, Gojira's Joe Duplantier and many more.