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Satch on Hendrix

March 10, 2011
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“Jimi Hesatchndrix was entirely unique,” says Joe Satriani. “For one thing, he sounded like the most brilliant guitar player who never practiced a day in his life. I just never heard anything in any of his performances that ever sounded like a scale or an exercise or something he got out of a Mel Bay book or anything. It’s like, how did he just come up with this? How come it sounds so natural? And unlike his generation—those third generation electric blues players—he didn’t sound studied. He didn’t sound like he studied every blues record there was and then plugged his Stratocaster into to a Marshall and said, ‘Look at me, I’m a blues player.’ He was just wild and unpredictable. It always came out sounding like Hendrix, even though you could say, yeah he’s got some Buddy Guy over here and some Albert King over there. It just always sounded otherworldly when he played. He never was methodical or didactic. It was just fresh and natural sounding.

"Of course, his ability to successfully incorporate sound or noise into music was also really unbelievable. When you look back at that time period, pop music was king—very white bread pop music was the thing. And here’s this guy, he’s African American, some American Indian blood, coming up in the world and everywhere he looks there’s Perry Como and Frank Sinatra and the Beatles and the Monkees. But there was also music concrete out of Europe a decade earlier, where people were smashing pianos with axes and making recordings of them and calling it music—so there was that part of it. Then, of course, the sound of the ’60s, which was so chaotic. But somehow he created a whole new genre of using feedback and horrible distortion to really make a point. That was more beautiful—just a guy going nuts with feedback. It was beyond what everybody else was doing. He was part of his generation. He borrowed from everybody just like everybody borrowed from him. He smashed his amps and guitars up like the Who and stuff like that and would wear the clothes of the time. But what he did with it with the same components was unique because all of those guys could have done that. You’ve got to remember that. Mike Bloomfield could have done it but he didn’t. Jeff Beck could have done it but he didn’t do it exactly the same way. They all could have done it. They could have afforded the same amps and whatever they wanted, but all those guys wound up doing different things—and Hendrix, he really did it.

"And he figured out a way to use the vibrato bar in a way that was so integral to his style. It wasn’t just, here’s a note and now here’s a note with me shaking it. He was so far beyond that. You listen to “Machine Gun” live at the Fillmore and that one performance, if you took out a pad and a pen and every time you heard something that no one had done before you wrote it down, you would wind up with this list, and you’d look at that list and you’d say, ‘My God! That’s what we all do today!’ We all use the bar like that, and we go from blues to modal things like that, and it’s like oh my God. Then you realize that was one live performance. It’s pretty outstanding!"

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