Joe Satriani: ‘I’m Excited’ to Work With Sammy Hagar On New Blues Project
Our ears certainly perked up last week when we heard Joe Satriani mention that he was tossing around the idea of doing a blues album with Sammy Hagar. It was a bit of a left turn from, considering we expected the pair to be working on a new Chickenfoot album. But from speaking with Sammy prior to our interview with Joe, we knew that plans had changed a bit on that front.
We caught up with Satriani earlier this week to talk about his brand new book ‘Strange Beautiful Music’ and also his new career-spanning box set. You’ll be able to enjoy that full interview very soon. In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt of our conversation with Joe in which we got his side of the Chickenfoot story and also some thoughts on his blues plans with Sammy.
So I spoke with Sammy last week and based on the couple of interviews that I had with you last year, I felt pretty good asking about a new Chickenfoot album. He didn’t have quite the progress report I was expecting.
Yeah, you and me both! I have been bugging him about that for quite a while. At the end of my last tour, I cleared two months at the beginning of this year specifically for doing a Chickenfoot record and I just could not get those other three guys to show up. It’s a complicated issue obviously because of Sam’s complicated schedule and Chad [Smith]’s work with the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers and Mike Anthony’s continual vacation. [Laughs]
He’s the only one who has figured out the secret in life. Mike is an amazing person -- he’s cruising, because he’s done it all. You know what I mean?
So I love it. I always think, “I’ve got to be more like Mike Anthony -- he’s figured it out!” But it turns out I’m the one always bugging everybody like, “C’mon, let’s go!” But yeah, I don’t know what to tell you about that. I’m writing like crazy and I’ve got tons of idea -- lots of stuff recorded, but my efforts to try to get all four of us together in one studio have failed entirely. So I don’t know what to tell you about that.
At the same time, there’s word starting to filter around about your wish to do a blues album with Sammy. Some of my favorite Hagar work falls towards that vein, whether it’s a tune like ‘Winding Down’ from his newest album, or the Van Halen version of ‘A Apolitical Blues’ from the ‘OU812’ album, just to throw out a couple of examples. I think a record like you’re discussing with Sammy could have exciting possibilities.
I’m excited about tapping into that part of Sam, because he is such a soulful singer and a lot of people don’t see that, because you know, Sammy loves to just create a party wherever he goes. He has the true gift of just lifting people up with his energy. But when you catch Sam in a quiet moment and you start playing some blues and stuff, all of the sudden this deep river of soulfulness comes out of him and I’ve always related to that. I’ve always loved that in other musicians.
The very first time we started writing together many years ago, suddenly that came out and I went “Oh man, Sam -- we’ve got to do more songs like this!” So I think he’s feeling like he’s in that space right now. So I hope to see him sometime this week and go over some of that.
Do you have song ideas already for something like that or would you and Sammy be building something like this from the ground up?
Well, this is a funny thing when you write. You can go in with 20 songs and 20 more song ideas and you spend a few hours just playing through everything and then at the end of the day, it’s something you make up right on the spot. That’s something that’s happened between Sam and myself and it certainly happened that way with Chickenfoot on both albums, where we have a list of songs that we’re going to record and then for some reason, we get recorded playing something that’s just spur of the moment where we all just spontaneously write together.
That’s how ‘Down The Drain’ on the first record got started and recorded. It was a great moment. So I’ve learned over the years that sometimes the songs you prepare are really just catalysts. They’re not the things that you’re going to ultimately put on the record. But they need to be there to maybe get people stimulated.
It’s been said that this might be a trio. Do you have a dream list of guys you’d love to see round this out?
I haven’t really been thinking so much about that. This last week, I spent a week in New York and I was just doing TV, radio, print and podcasts and it was all really surrounding the book and the CD box and the chrome dome head [USB version of the new box set] and everything. When I got back, I thought, "okay, I’m doing all of this press and I know that’s happening, but at the same time I do have to start thinking about this charity concert I’m doing with Sammy, James Hetfield, Billie Joe Armstrong and a few other people."
And then I do have to start preparing for my tour starting up again with [band members] Marco [Minneman], Bryan [Beller] and Mike [Keneally]. So all of those other thoughts just sort of went out of my head. [Laughs] Things like that, it seems like such a foreign process, because I have definite things that I have to really get down to. Not to mention, I’m sitting in my studio right now and there’s a ton of guitar prototypes and amplifier prototypes scattered all over the place, because I’m in the process of designing a new very small Marshall amp built off of my 100-watt head and [research and development] with Ibanez continues and that’s a never-ending process. But we’re very close to putting finishing touches on a new guitar design. So man, I feel like that’s the last thing I’d be thinking about! [Laughs]