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Joe Satriani


For a while during Joe Satriani’s long career as a guitarist, it may have seemed like he was destined to be a teacher, rather than a performer. He served as a mentor and instructor to several of the hottest guitar players of the 80’s and 90’s including Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Larry LaLonde of Primus, and David Bryson of Counting Crows. All of these musicians credit “Satch” as one of their inspirations, and fans of their music can hear the influence of Joe’s incredible technical expertise coming through as his students perform.
Satriani was born in Westbury, New York in 1956. As a youngster he was a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, and it is said that Joe quit football on the day that Hendrix died in order to devote all his free time to becoming a guitarist. He admired many rock musicians of the day, especially Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. During the 70’s Satriani studied with some well-known jazz musicians that lived near his Long Island home including pianist Lennie Tristano and guitarist Billy Bauer. Tristano, in particular, was a technical perfectionist that demanded that same mindset from his students. By 1974, Joe Satriani had several guitar students of his own, including Steve Vai. Those lessons marked the beginning of a long and friendly musical kinship between the two guitar guys.
Joe moved to Berkeley California in 1978 in hopes that he could jumpstart his own career as a guitarist. He soon found himself giving guitar lessons again, however, and it was in the Bay Area that he tutored the now-famous players listed above. He also taught Kevin Cardogan of Third Eye Blind, Geoff Tyson, jazz player Charlie Hunter, and Alex Skolnick of Testament. He did find work as a player, as well, and joined a group called The Squares in the mid 80’s, and was lead guitarist for Greg Kihn on his album, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
When his friend Steve Vai found success playing with David Lee Roth in 1986, Steve gave interviews to quite a few guitar magazines and named Satriani as one of the reasons for his success. Rock guitar fans around the country took notice of that, and Joe’s first album Not of This Earth received some positive reviews. The good press was part of the reason that Joe’s 1987 album Surfing With the Alien met with so much success. It sold over two million copies and produced several hits that made radio play lists around the country. Alien ranked higher on the charts than any instrumental album had for years. The cut, “Satch Boogie” has been voted number 55 on the list of 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by the readers of Guitar World Magazine. The album was the perfect showcase for Joe’s incredible guitar talents, and also gave him an opportunity to show what he could do in the areas of composing and producing. That same year, Satriani was asked by Mick Jagger to play lead on his tour of Australia and New Zealand to promote Jagger’s first solo effort.
Flying in a Blue Dream was Joe’s third full-length album and was issued by Satriani in 1989. He did his own vocals on several of the tracks, an effort which was met with mixed reviews. Over all, however, Blue Dream did well on the charts. The cut “One Big Rush” was used on the soundtrack of a popular Cameron Crowe movie called Say Anything, which gave Satriani exposure with a whole new group of fans.
In 1990, Joe Satriani entered into an agreement with the Ibanez Company to begin producing a line of guitars that would bear his name. Models in the line are named with the initials JS followed by a number, and Satriani himself usually uses a JS1000 or JS1200 with a custom paint job. He also favors the double neck model JS700, and a mirrored guitar called Chrome Boy. All the instruments in his line feature Ibanez’s vibrato system called the Edge or Edge Pro.
Joe’s recording career continued with the 1992 release of The Extremist, which was his most commercially successful album. The tune ”Summer Song” was popular with radio DJ’s around the country that year, and its intricate arrangement pleased critics and listeners alike. Next came Time Machine in 1993. It was a two-disk set that gave Satriani a chance to showcase some of his previously unreleased works as well as several live performances. The collection shows the wide variety of music and styles that Satch is capable of playing. There is a piece done in the classical style, a metal selection that sounds much like Metallica, a jam session featuring World Rhythms, and several other unusual genres. The recorded concerts show that when Joe plays live, his technique is every bit as precise and technically correct as the work he does in the studio.
Late in 1993, Joe joined the band Deep Purple when its guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left. The group played a very successful tour of Japan, and Joe was asked to become a permanent member of Deep Purple. He declined the offer, however, and stayed at home to work on a multi-album deal he had just signed with Sony.
One of Joe’s more interesting projects in the ‘90’s was organizing a tour of guitarists he called G3. It has become an almost annual event that features some of the hottest guitar talent on the planet. The first G3 tour was held in 1996 with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson as the headliners. They traveled to 24 cities in North America during the fall of that year and performed in front of approximately 90,000 fans. Since the initial tour, Satriani and Vai have held eleven more G3 events with several other musicians taking the third spot. John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, Robert Fripp, and Adrian Legg have joined the effort, to name a few. The tours have traveled to Europe, Japan, Australia, and South America, spreading the love of great guitar music around the world.
Satriani released two more solo albums before the 21st century began. His self-titled disc Joe Satriani came out in 1995, and in 1998 he produced Crystal Planet. Both releases continued to demonstrate Joe’s creativity and willingness to take musical risks. They featured some blues-style tunes, a few angry sounding metal tracks, some pieces tinged with a Middle Eastern sound, and a comedy song or two. As if trying to prove his versatility, he also appeared on several albums done by other artists in the 90’s including Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid, and releases by Blue Oyster Cult and Spinal Tap.
Since the new millennium began, Joe has kept his frenetic pace producing albums and touring. Strange Beautiful Music came out in 2002, and Is There Love in Space? was released in 2004. Super Colossal in ‘06 and his newest effort, Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock, which came out in April of ‘08, followed them. To date, Satriani has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards, but has still not been fortunate to win one. He has more nominations than any other artist who has never won a Grammy.
Satriani has endorsed a line of Peavey amplifiers called JSX, which he has used since 2001. Before that he often employed Marshall amps for his live shows and several other types for studio work. He also utilizes many different effect pedals. They include the Vox Wah, the Dunlop Cry Baby, and the Whammy by Digitech, among others. There are plans to release a line of Satriani pedals made by Vox in the summer of ’08 that will help other players replicate Joe’s sound. He has also made an agreement with Planet Waves to create a line of guitar straps and picks that will bear his signature. To complete his line of products for guitarists, Joe has supervised production of an amp he calls the Mini Colossal which is a Class A with 5 watts.
Satriani has been acclaimed as a virtuoso guitarist for the last two decades. He has perfected many techniques on his instrument that others only dream of imitating. He is known as the developer of the Pitch Axis Theory, which is a way to construct chord progressions and is one of the reasons his guitar solos have so much depth and interest. He has become a master of harmonics, legato picking, and two handed tapping.
Even with all his success and worldwide fame, Joe Satriani has managed to keep the heart of a teacher that he has had since the beginning of his career. Since 2006 he has been an official supporter of a non-profit group called Little Kids Rock. Its mission is to supply musical instruments and lessons free of charge to children in public schools all across the US. He and his friend Steve Vai are both honorary members of the board of directors for the group and are committed to helping youngsters learn to enjoy the world of music.


Eddie Van Halen
Joe Satriani
Eric Johnson
Steve Vai
Paul Gilbert
Jimmy Page
Randy Rhoads
Kurt Cobain
Kirk Hammett
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Yngwie Malmsteen
Robert Johnson
Pete Townsend
Jerry Garcia
Bo Diddley
Jeff Beck
Duane Allman
Jimmy Hendrix
BB King
John Frusciante
Joe Perry
George Harrison
Chuck Berry
Eric Clapton
Dimebag Darrell
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