Joe Satriani Reveals What Jimi Hendrix Taught Him About Destruction

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Joe Satriani’s new album, Shockwave Supernova, is the subject of his cover feature in the September 2015 issue of Guitar Player magazine.

As Joe explains, the album’s concept came from his attempts to contain some of the more extreme aspects of his live performances, which arose during the tour for his previous album, Unstoppable Momentum. For the new album, he envisioned a guitarist trying to wrestle with his flamboyant alter ego, named Shockwave Supernova, in an attempt to regain control of his music.

In this excerpt from his new Guitar Player interview, Satch elaborates on what happened to him on that tour and how it changed his outlook on performing. He also reveals some insights into how Jimi Hendrix helped save him from becoming a victim of his own stage excesses.

Some performers are more or less exactly who they are onstage, and others are vastly different from their pubic persona.
Yes—for the most part. But I found that during the Unstoppable Momentum tour, I was acting very differently onstage.

How so?
I blame Mike Keneally [laughs]. The two of us would trade solos, and we were having a blast doing the stupidest things. It was just having fun with your buddies, right?

But that’s when you get into trouble. Suddenly, I’m playing with my teeth four or five times a night, and it became part of the show. I realized quickly that this was a very effective device as an entertainer, but at the same time it was also kind of destructive.

Destructive?
It was the thing I promised myself I would never do as a kid of 14 [when I] was trying to come to grips with Hendrix dying. I realized that he worked himself into a corner very quickly, and it bummed him out so bad. And look what happened—Hendrix couldn’t reconcile the musician he wanted to be with the rock-and-roll clown that people expected him to be.

So I always thought, “Don’t get too dressed up. Be Joe backstage and onstage. Don’t get resort to silly things, like playing with your teeth.”

But there I was—and my teeth hurt.

That’s one of those tragic questions: What would the future have held for Hendrix if he could have successfully abandoned audience expectations back in 1970?
It would have been so cathartic and tumultuous for him. Can you imagine? It would be really hard, of course, because his fans were kids like me who loved his records to death. If he suddenly came out looking completely different and said, “Look, I’m really sorry, but I’m going to play this kind of music for now,” we’d be like, “Whoa!”

But just think if he had a couple of years to really work on it. When artists come out with good material, the audience is very forgiving. It’s just bad material that ruins plans to morph, to get better, to change direction.

You can read the entire interview in the September 2015 issue of Guitar Player, on newsstands now.

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