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JOE SATRIANI: AUSTRALIAN TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT INTERVIEW


Everybody’s favourite guitar hero JOE SATRIANI returns to Australia this November, thirty years after his first tour here in 1988 with Mick Jagger, this time bringing his latest album and world tour What Happens Next to fans downunder. Having just come off a run of successful G3 dates, Joe will tour Australia with his own band, featuring Mike Keneally (keys and guitar), Bryan Beller (bass) and Joe Travers (drums).

Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips  last spoke to Joe back in December, ahead of the release of ‘What Happens Next’, so it was with much pleasure that he got to chat with Joe again this week to ask what we can expect from the November tour and how the new material has been going down live.

Joe, great news that you’re coming back to Australia in November. What are your memories of your first Australian tour with Mick Jagger?
Oh fantastic. Australia was pretty exotic for me. You can imagine, just the sights and the sounds. I can tell you a very funny, typical tourist story. We pulled into Sydney and we were playing at a place called the Sebel Townhouse. I got up to my hotel room and I am sitting there and I’m hearing strange noises from across the street that I had never heard before and I thought to myself, somebody is being attacked or murdered or something. I called down to the desk and said I am hearing like a women screaming, has somebody called the police? Then I was informed that it was a local bird and I shouldn’t worry about it! I thought, of course, it’s Australia they’ve got different kinds of animals down here. Once I got over that, I had such a great time. It was my second tour with Mick Jagger, so we were all a lot more comfortable. Surfing With The Alien had really exploded around the world and especially in Australia. I was so thankful to the radio DJs and television VJs, who were so accepting to my instrumental record. There I was with Mick Jagger who was doing everything he could to promote me, he was being such a great guy. I had nothing but fun, it was the most wonderful time.

Do you remember when you stopped having to lug your own gear and had a road crew for the first time?
I do, it was quite nice actually. I started playing when I was really young. I started performing when I was 14 so that was the beginning of lugging my gear around town. It was even before I could drive so it was worse. There was a lot of wheelbarrows and wagons and things like that, to go to your friends’ parties with your amp and stuff. Then it got worse during the club days. In my twenties I was living in Berklee, California and that was rough. I made the mistake of buying a van. You know when you are the guy that owns the van, that means that you are the first one that shows up and the last one to get home and you’re the one that sweats the most. After ten years of that I thought, I can’t believe I was that stupid, I should have talked the drummer into buying the van. I was very relieved in 1988 when I got the job to play lead guitar for Mick Jagger and there was like a hundred people working for him! I don’t think I ever picked up a guitar case, let alone an amp. You just make requests, write things down on little slips of paper and they happen.

Last time we spoke was late last year and you’d just started rehearsing songs from your new album What Happens Next. You were still working out who would be playing the pizzicato parts, the arpeggios on the song Cherry Blossoms, my fave tune from the album. How has that panned out?
We figured it out. It’s great to work with Mike Keneally because he has an unbelievable amount of ideas. Whatever you throw at him, he can figure out a way to do it. On that particular song, he plays both rhythm guitar and keyboards and he is switching at lightning speed. We figured out that … as I have to play the tail end of the melody, that he starts the arpeggios but then I join in on the second group and stay with him, so it is an interesting moment. It is probably one of the more difficult songs to play, only because of it’s starkness. It’s not like Surfing With The Alien, where everyone is going crazy, everyone has very specific parts and you can hear a pin drop right on stage when we are playing those arpeggios. There’s so much silence surrounding the parts but I love it and since we have been touring at the start of the year, the audiences I think have turned that into their favourite song from the album. It has been great to feel that support from the audience every time we play it.

How do you choose which song will open your set? Is it usually something that will brush away the cobwebs or are you so warmed up by the time you hit the stage it doesn’t matter what tune you play?
We always think of the show first and then we deal with how we are going to physically or technically pull it off. I think that’s the best way to do it. The fact that each tour is different and it kind of depends on who is playing before you or maybe nobody is playing before you and that will inform how you want to get the show started. We used to go out there and just play the loudest, fastest thing. I remember going back to the Flying In A Blue Dream record, we started with that song, which was pretty ethereal for the time. It starts with a strange recording of a little kid talking from a radio broadcast that got picked up with interference through my guitar. It starts with acoustic guitars strumming, the arpeggios and the drums and bass are very minimal. It’s a very unusual song but boy, did it set the tone for the Flying In A Blue Dream tour. It was a really unique song to start with. Years later we did the same thing with a song called Cool #9. It was such a weird thing to start a set with an improvisation that was really quiet. That became like a standard for a while because we were doing that on the very first G3 tour and of course it became a live concert DVD, so people expected us to hit the stage and do this slinky little, hip hop, soul jam at the very beginning of the set, quite the opposite from hitting the stage and playing Surfing With The Alien or Satch Boogie or something like that. This time around though, we had the perfect opener which is the song called Energy, which is the opening track from What Happens Next and that’s a great way to say hello to a new audience and also to welcome back fans that have been with us for a long time. But it is hard for me to play because it requires .. no pun intended … it requires an enormous amount of energy. There’s no warming up that can prepare you for that.

The Beyond the Supernova documentary that your son made about you is available to view online. After watching it and all of those different performances, did you notice anything about your stage persona that you hadn’t noticed before? Did you learn anything new about yourself?
Well I certainly did. First of all, it is really painful for me to watch myself on film. It is worse than listening to yourself back after you have recorded something. You just see all the wrong bits. I just have never been one to who wanted to stare at my own photo or image on screen. You have to get over it if you want to make a film. You have to learn to view it from a more professional view. Luckily my son really saw the story that was happening and I really didn’t have a hand in directing or writing any of it. I just told him, if you see this you have to tell me what to do and I am the subject and can’t get involved in this as director or anything like that. I just tried to never be anything but completely honest. I think if I had hired a film maker, I would always been sort of performing a little bit for the camera but every time I looked at the camera, I saw my son and of course I had to be dad, which is who I really am to him. I am not the performer Joe Satriani, I am his father. That unique relationship created the most truthful view of what it is like to be me and that’s what he was seeing. He was seeing his father go through an elected, artistic catharsis. I was trying to get rid of self-examination and then self-termination of former artistic baggage so that I could start fresh again. I think it was interesting for him because he’s grown up with it but probably as a film make has thought, why would I want to film my old man? So I can’t believe he could put up with me after hearing me play his whole life. Luckily he did and he has such a unique and artistic approach to bringing to the audience this thing that he knew quite intimately, that no one else did. No one else got to see it like him. Very interesting but as I said, I love looking at the film until I am on it. Then it’s like, please point the camera at Mike Keneally or someone else.

Tell me about your band members, Mike, Bryan and Joe. Why do they fit in so well with what you do?
I think it is because they are enormously talented and I try not to get in their way. They bring so much energy to the live performance and of course I have been working with Mike in the studio for quite a few records now. His perspective on music in general is so unique. The way he applies he applies his musicianship … I can’t think of anybody else who does it quite like him. You can really give him the most unusual and lightest direction and he will go into it with such enthusiasm and the results are always artistic and musical, and very importantly, all supporting the material that he is working with. That’s a unique gift because some people can only play their own music and then other people can only play what they are told to play. Each one of these guys has the ability to absorb the music as a task that you give them. Then when you say make your part up by yourself, they seem to be able to have a natural affinity to be able to do that while still supporting each individual song as a unique piece of music. That is why I have enjoyed playing with them so much. Of course Joe is new to the band but he, along with Bryan and Mike have been playing together for over 15 years, so I am kind of like the new guy in the band.

You tour with numerous guitars but if you were forced to use only one, which would you pick?
It would either be the new chrome guitar or the new red guitar, one of my signature models from Ibanez. They feel so comfortable to me. We have spent over 30 years refining this JS guitar and I can play just about anything from my catalogue on them.

Will we see you at the Winter NAMM Show in January promoting any new Joe Satriani products?
I am not sure. I know I am going to be down in the neighbourhood because we are doing a G4 experience in Palm Springs on January 3rd but I am not sure I am going to stay down there during that period or not. I will have to check with some of my friends. Sometimes we stay out of each others way. If Steve Vai is going to be doing something new with Ibanez, then I will stay away and let him have the party. We’ll see what happens.

Well we look forward to partying with you and your band in Australia in November.
Yeah it’s going to be great. Thank you

JOE SATRIANI
WHERE TO NEXT AUSTRALIA TOUR
ASTOR THEATRE, PERTH   SATURDAY NOVEMBER 24
HQ, ADELAIDE   MONDAY NOVEMBER 26
FORUM THEATRE, MELBOURNE   WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 28
CANBERRA THEATRE   FRIDAY NOVEMBER 30
STATE THEATRE, SYDNEY   SATURDAY DECEMBER 1
THE TIVOLI, BRISBANE   SUNDAY DECEMBER 2

TICKETS ON SALE 12PM, WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1
Live Nation pre-sale begins 10am Monday, July 30 until 10am Wednesday, August 1.

For complete tour and ticket information, visit: satriani.com & livenation.com.au

AND ….

Come to the Melbourne Guitar Show August 4&5 Caulfield Racecourse and you can enter our competition to win meet & greet tickets to Joe Satriani’s Melbourne Show. Read more HERE