“I've tried to avoid playing like Eddie. I've never learned the songs on purpose so I didn't steal anything. Then I had to learn the songs – I was like, ‘This is gonna be torture’”: Joe Satriani on his preparations for this summer's Van Halen tribute tour

Joe Satriani (left) and Eddie Van Halen perform onstage
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton, Ross Marino/Getty Images,)

Last November, it was announced that Van Halen alums Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony would join forces with drummer Jason Bonham and electric guitar hero Joe Satriani for the Best of All Worlds tour. Set to take place this summer, the trek isn't explicitly a “Van Halen tribute tour,” but seems to be the closest thing to a Van Halen tribute tour (involving former members of the band, that is) that we'll likely get. 

Filling Eddie Van Halen's shoes, of course, is just about impossible, even for as formidable a player as Satriani is.

In a recent interview on the Masters of Shred show, Satriani discussed the difficulty of threading the needle between giving fans the fretboard fireworks they expect from a Van Halen-dominated show, without simply copying the late guitar hero note-for-note.

“I've tried my best to avoid playing like Eddie forever,” Satriani said. “I'm a big fan and I've never learned the songs on purpose so I didn't steal anything. Then I had to learn the songs and I was like, ‘This is gonna be torture.’”

Satriani went on to compare the experience to his brief tenure in Deep Purple, which saw him replace the departing Ritchie Blackmore. 

“When I was playing in Deep Purple, all I heard was Ritchie Blackmore's parts in one ear, and in the other ear was me. It didn't sound like Ritchie.”  

Reservations aside, however, Satriani has indeed been intensively studying EVH's tone, particularly that found on the early-Hagar-era 1986 live album, Live Without a Net. To that end, Satriani revealed that he has been working with Nashville-based boutique amp builders 3rd Power on “the ultimate '86 era Van Halen amp.”

“Once I'd taken this deep dive into the technicalities of trying to play these songs, and spoken to Sammy about his favorite tone, we focused on [Live Without a Net],” the guitarist said. “He was still playing the Roth era rig, but was leaning towards what was to become the Hagar era rig – the transition from Marshall amps to Soldano, to Peavey, and ultimately the 5150IIIs.”

Though Satriani couldn't confirm whether the amp would be tube-powered or solid-state, he stated confidently that “We'll be able to do both eras [Roth and Hagar] with that setup. Getting that started has been the important thing for me.”

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.