Interview:Joe Satriani





Tools of Creation:

Joe Satriani


Satch goes wild with gear and musical experimentation on Engines of Creation. The album's techno edge, sequenced rhythm tracks, and heavily tweaked guitar parts proved challenging in rehearsals. But because of his open-minded approach, and a willingness to let bassist Stu Hamm and drummer Jeff Campitelli re-purpose parts they could pull off live, Satriani has brought the way-out-there sounds back to Earth on his current tour. Here's a brief rundown of what he's using on stage. Did you have to bring any special gear with you to re-create sounds off the newest album?


Satriani: We tried. We used things like Moogerfooger pedals and Electro-Harmonix Micro Synths and Bass Micro Synths. You know, Hafler Triple Giant preamps. We used a lot of fun gear on the record. It's very pedal oriented. But I found in rehearsal that this stuff, when you turn it up really loud, it doesn't really hold up, and it doesn't project as much. And I thought, "You know, I don't want people in the 30th row to be looking at some guy's head while he stares at his feet stepping on pedals all night." So I said, "I'm gonna do what I've always done; I'm gonna do what Hendrix proved could be done. I'm gonna make a really trippy record, then go out live with a really loud amp and a couple of pedals, and go for it." You just make the music new again. You keep it simple.


So I found that I could use a Fulltone Ultimate Octave to replace a lot of the stuff that I used in the studio. And there is still one section in "Borg Sex" that Eric uses the Electro-Harmonix pedal for, but he's hoping to replace it with the Fulltone pedal. The Fulltone pedal is a more straight-ahead pedal; it sounds exactly the same every night. The Electro-Harmonix are really unique, but they seem to sound different every night. And that can be a problem. How is the older material co-existing with your newer material?


Satriani: I think it works really well. I think that the best example of how it works well is, you take a song like, let's say "Surfing With The Alien." "Surfing With The Alien" is just a blues song. Most of my songs are. They have their roots in blues and R&B. And that song, and that record was a fusion record in the sense that I took stuff, I took modern guitar styles - at that time, 1987 - but I didn't stop myself from playing Chuck Berry stuff or the Stones, all the stuff from the '50s and '60s. I wrapped it up in a guitar style that also included a whammy bar and two-handed tapping and stuff. But the song is also a very tight arrangement with a structure very much like something that came out in the '60s. And when we play it live, because it's not a drum machine playing drums and really tight-knit guitars panned left and right, we make it a little more raucous and blues oriented. That's what we've done for years with that song.


The same goes for "Ice Nine." It's a straight blues melody. It sounds a little wigged out on the record because it's a drum machine, with really tight, no reverb rhythm guitars. But live we kick up the tempo and make it really loose. We make it sound a little bit more like Z.Z. Top.


Now you fast forward and we've got a song like "Borg Sex." If you took off all the weird electronic sounds and all the weird guitar sounds, you'd realize you could sit down and play that song with a Dobro. So live, all the loops from the sequencers and synthesizers have been distilled, and Stu Hamm has come up with a bass part that takes the place of it. People familiar with our Additional Creations remix will notice Jeff Campitelli's take on representing the drums and all the various loops.


And then Eric plays mainly guitar in that song, with me. He basically doubles the melodies for me, plays some rhythm, and then does all the weird female Borg parts. So we get to have that interplay between the two guitars. But that ends up sounding like a very unique, yet earthy blues, sexy kind of song, with a deep groove. It's interesting how you get to reinterpret things when you play live.