It appears that assembling the power trio of himself, bassist Glenn Hughes, and drummer Chad Smith for his new release, What Happens Next, was not only a musical success for the ever-evolving guitar hero that is Joe Satriani — it's now a commercial smash!
It was announced today that Satriani's 16th studio album — which was released on January 12, 2018 — debuted at #9 on Billboard's Top Current Album Chart. It also hit #2 on the Billboard Hard Rock Album chart, and #4 on the Top Rock Album chart.
Satriani talks about the making of What Happens Next, and also reveals all the guitar gear used in its creation, in the February 2018 issue of Guitar Player.
What Happens Next is a masterful album, of course, as Satriani always creates, edits, re-edits, arranges, and rearranges his music until it meets his exacting creative vision. But the constant planner also lets surprises into the mix — an approach that may have also made What Happens Next such a thrilling and surprising album.
Here is an exclusive insight into the song "Super Funky Badass" that didn't make it into the GP print article...
"Here’s a funny thing," says Satriani. "We were doing 'Super Funky Badass,' and the sessions that day were a lot of fun, and that song went down really fast. For the live basics in the studio, I just played the main part of the song, and we had some harmony guitars on the session file that we were using as a guide track that would pop in—just to help us feel the choruses and the dreamy breakdown section.
"So we record our version of it, we’re all loving what Glenn and Chad have done, and I’m thinking it's piece of cake. I'll just go in and overdub my parts with the best-sounding vintage amp. Weeks later, we’re overdubbing, and, by the end of the day, I’m not really happy with it. Something is funny. It’s like the groove is a little different, and the guitar doesn’t sound like it’s intonating correctly. We went through every vintage amp that you would drool over, but nothing seemed to work with the track. Hmmm...
"At the last minute. I said, 'Let's put up the demo guitar track from my home studio, because maybe I’m losing my mind. Maybe I changed the groove.' It happens. And, sure enough, that’s what I did. I very subtly moved one accent here and there, and because the song doesn't have a lot going on beyond guitar, bass, and drums, moving those accents around changed everything.
"So freaky thing #1 was that I changed the groove from my original home demo when we recorded the song in the studio.
"Freaky thing #2 was that Chad’s drums synched up 100 percent to my demo guitar!
"How was that even possible? We weren’t listening to the demo guitar while we were tracking, because I was playing live with him and Glenn. We thought Chad must have memorized the demo when he listened to it before the studio sessions. So when we played it as a band, he wasn’t paying so much attention to me that day in the room. He was thinking, ‘I remember how this song goes. He does this, pushes this, and lays back here.’ He even memorized where to put his drum fills. Wow.
"At this point, we decided to just reamp my home-demo guitar, and see what happened. For the reamped track, we wound up using a brand new KSR Orthos 100 amp that I could never figure what to do with when I played it live. But when my old self from my home-studio room was fed into it, it sounded great. So what you hear on the album is basically the guitar that I recorded here at home, months before Chad even showed up. None of the other songs on the album went down this way. Perhaps, that's freaky thing #3."