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April 11, 2024 143 mins

Guitarist extraordinaire Joe Satriani is presently on tour with Steve Vai, and after that he'll be on the road with Sammy Hagar's "Best of All Worlds" extravaganza. Joe is so down to earth and interesting, you'll love listening to him.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:08):
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome back to the Bob Left Sets podcast.
My guest today is guitarist extraordinaire Joe Satriani. Joe, you're
on a spring tour with Steve Vai. How did that
come to be?

Speaker 2 (00:23):
Oh? Well, it started about a little over a year
ago when my son brought me this idea about doing
a documentary about himself growing up around the G three
concerts and the fact we had an anniversary that had
just come by, and we started with just doing the

film and it rolled into a G three tour and
then which we wrapped up in February, and then along
the way, territories were saying, well, I'd like to like
you to come here too, because it was really a
short tour, maybe just about eleven dates or something like that,
all West Coast, and so we thought, well, yeah, let's

just keep going. It's so much fun. Eric had other commitments,
so then we thought, well, maybe it's just me and Steve.
And then as soon as we agreed we thought that'd
be a cool idea, someone said, well, you guys would
be great if you had a track, And then so
I started to write some music and sent it to

Steve and then all of a sudden, it was like, hey,
you guys should do an album and keep this tour
going as long as you can. So here we are.
We're on the Satchfy tour, the first leg of it,
and we've got a song out and a video and
it's a reality. It's just so cool.

Speaker 1 (01:50):
Okay, let's go back. How many kids do you have?

Speaker 2 (01:53):
I just have one, It's easy, Satriani. A lot of
people have been following me over the years. No him
from doing the podcast way back when and doing a
lot of videos for me, music videos and the documentary
Beyond the Supernova as well. So he's a young filmmaker
out of Los Angeles.

Speaker 1 (02:13):
So how old is he now?

Speaker 2 (02:15):
Thirty one?

Speaker 1 (02:16):
Thirty one? Is you off the payroll?

Speaker 2 (02:19):
He's off and on I suppose. I mean I've got
to pay him for his work, right.

Speaker 1 (02:27):
So okay, tell me more about this documentary to the
degree you know.

Speaker 2 (02:32):
Oh yeah, it's interesting because G three the very first
G three tour we did in ninety six.

Speaker 1 (02:43):
Not everybody who's listening maybe or not be familiar with
G three, So please explain the concept.

Speaker 2 (02:49):
Okay. So, so back in ninety five, I walk into
the Bill Graham management office. I was managed by Bill
Graham and the team there, and I said to the guys,
I said, look, thank you very much. Everything's great touring
the world. I'm a solo artist. I can do whatever
I want. But how come I'm isolated from everybody? I said,

you know, it's just like to get together with another
guitar player. It seems like it's impossible. And when I
was a kid, that was the dream. I always thought,
when you got to be a famous rock star, you
could just hang out with your friends and play guitar
all the time and make music. But in fact it
was the opposite. The labels, the promoters, managers were very

protectable of their artists, and you just good luck trying
to stand next to another guitar player on stage, especially
if they did something similar to yourself. So I thought, well,
I just got to turn that upside down. So in
a moment of contrarian thought, you know, I said, what
if we just made our own festival where every night

I'd get to stand next to my favorite guitar players
and we would just try to I have fun, out
do each other, whatever you want to call it, but
we'd celebrate the guitar with the audience and everyone thought
it was a great idea. We had to figure out
how to get it down. You couldn't do it with
like twelve guitarists or so, because as you know, you

kind of rent the venue every night and there's a curfew.
You got to get in, do the show, and you
got to get out. So if I had even seven
guitar players, they wouldn't really have enough time to play
to feel like it was worth their while to come out.
So we eventually in that meeting after a few hours,
we whittled it down to three. If we could fit

three guys, we could get them, entice them with the
offer that they could come with their own band, play
for forty five fifty minutes, do their hit single, their
new music, whatever they want to do, as long as
they stick around for the end jam and we play
for a half hour, and we'd play not our own songs,
but we celebrate the music we grew up listening to.

So that took about a year to convince the promoters
and the managers that it was a good idea, And
it was my job to sell each package to the promoters,
which was also difficult. Some promoters would like one of
my choices and wouldn't like the other, you know, and
so that went back and forth, but I had it
set in my mind it had to be Steve and

it had to be Eric, and I just pushed that
and then come October of ninety six, it was our
first show. It just so happened that a few days
before then, it was my son's fourth birthday. We just
moved into a new house and we figured he's old
enough to travel now. So that was his first tour,

was the G three tour. So he joined us with
the bus and it was really fascinating, you know, for
all of us, I think for myself, my wife Robina,
having a child out on tour, that was something. For Zez,
of course, it was you know, life altering. But he

grew up, you know, hanging out with Robert Fripp and
Kenny wyn Sheppard and Steve I and Eric Johnson and
all the band members, and he just kept coming on
tour until about high school and the schools were like,
you can't just take your kid out, you know, all
the time. So we started changing the touring schedule to
work around that. And you know, he like any kid

growing up, when he did, he was really into making
skateboard videos and so he by default was handed the
camera half the time to film us. You know, his
dad and his buddies just goofing around trying to figure
out what to do with the Internet. And he brought
a lot of life into what was an unusual thing

for the rest of us, for us grown ups, you know.
So his history really was about growing up with a
very strange father who played rock guitar in the era
of hip hop and pop music, and his observations and

his life being the son of an almost famous guy.
And he wanted to make a film about that and
about G three and about guitar playing and what it
means to everybody involved. And so the movie has evolved
quite a bit, and he's interviewed, you know, Robert and

Brian May and Steve Miller and Steve VII and everybody
in between, maybe about thirty or forty different guitar players.
Since then, he came on tour with us on this
G three reunion tour and for the first time he
joined me on stage for a song and played a

song his mind blowing moment for us as Fall and Son.
But that I think that was a crucial thing in
the film for him to really experience that. After watching
from the sidelines for you know, three decades, he finally
got to figure out for himself what it really feels

like to walk on stage and play summer song. You know.

Speaker 1 (08:20):
So it's not a typical rock documentary. It's through the
eyes of your son and what it's like to be
the son of someone who's a rock guitarist. As you say,
almost famous or semi four us.

Speaker 2 (08:34):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's a funny genre. I exist in
instrumental rock. Right, it needs to be defined explained.

Speaker 1 (08:42):
Okay, let's go back to G three. So a lot
of people think every famous person knows each other. That's
not necessarily true. And you live in the Bay Area,
so you start G three. Did you already know Eric Johnson?
And as you press, did you know these people or
did you have to call up and say, you know,

I'm a big fan. How did it all work?

Speaker 2 (09:06):
Oh? Well, I mean, first I have to say, in
case people don't know, I've known Steve I since he
was twelve. He came to my house when he was
twelve years old one afternoon, rang the doorbell, and he
had a pack of strings in one hand. And a
stringless guitar in the other and he said, can you
teach me how to play guitar? So we grew up

in the same town and went to the same public
high school, and I gave him guitar lessons three or
four or five years, and we became the best buddies,
comrade guitar players, and we've remained the closest friends. And
that's when we've toured together countless times, So we go

way back. I didn't know Eric Johnson at all, but
in the years leading up to that, I was really
a big fan, and we actually toured together and nineteen ninety.
But I have to say I didn't I wouldn't say
to you like we were best friends or something like that.
He was just a guy admired that was on a

tour with us for a few weeks in nineteen ninety.
I did twist his arm to do some jamming every night,
you know, when we completed our set. But he's a
much mellower guy than me and my buddies, I guess,
so sometimes he would he would decline. Other times I
just thought he was amazing, and at that time I

thought that he represented a really beautiful forward thinking way
of playing the electric guitar that a lot of people
didn't know was possible. He really had his own voice
and a unique set of influences, and he was so
different than Steve and I. We were just Long Island
kids listening growing up, listening to Hendrix and Zeppelin and

Sabbath and and Eric was exotic by comparison, you know.
So it did. Like I said before, it was arm twisting.
Because my manager would call their manager, and like just
about every other response, there's a there's a guarded response,
you know. Each manager is like, well, I don't know,

I don't know if my artist wants to be seen
in this light standing next to that person. And very
often the case, I'd reach out to two guitar players
and one of them would refuse to play with the
other for no reason, you know, stylistic, personal, I don't
know what. And I always used to tell them, look

that you know, the audience has already decided who their
favorite is, so you're not going to change your mind.
It's not a contest. It really isn't. You might think
it is because that's how we've been brought up in
the entertainment industry. But the audience is smarter. They've already
made up their mind. They don't really care. They just
there's so happy that we're playing together and that we're

playing songs that are not us selling like our latest
single or something like that. We're actually just relaxed, casually playing.
But they do get to see us push each other
to excel, and not everyone's comfortable with that. That's cool.

Not every artist has the same set of tools, you know,
and that's way cool. Steve and I were just so
comfortable with it. We just as soon as we're standing
next to each other with guitars, we just start seeing
how far we can go until someone, you know, taps
us on the shoulder and says, okay, that's enough. So

not every other guitar player gets that or feels that
way naturally, but most do.

Speaker 1 (12:50):
Okay, So you come up with the idea, you sell
the idea, You have to sell promoters first G three
to work. What did you learn to actually do it?
It's totally different from what you think it might be.

Speaker 2 (13:05):
Well, the thing that was confirmed was that Steve and
I don't need anything to just stand next to each
other and start playing. That was a beautiful thing. I
just always felt that, and I know that he felt
the same way. So there's a It's just the most
perfect comfort zone you can imagine. And I can't put
it into words. I just know that as soon as

we're standing extra other next to each other, when we
start playing, we just pick up where we left off.
And it's been that way since we were kids. So
that was cool. What the other thing that was confirmed
was that the audience felt exactly the way I did,
which is they really wanted to see this. They really

wanted to celebrate with us all the things about the
electric guitar that you could do. And let's face it,
when you're in a popular band and there's a lot
riding on the success of a new album or something,
you're guarded. You're putting on a show. You don't show
everybody everything. You just show them what you want them
to respond to. But this is different. This is a

G three tour. This is where you can play whatever
you want. It's the complete guitarist safe zone. You can
you can be demure, you can be way over the top.
Anything is acceptable as long as you do it sort
of within the brother and sisterhood of the band. You know,
and you know that you're including the audience, they're part

of the show. So those are the things that were confirmed.
The things that surprised me that the negative things were
how some people don't like to play with other people.
It's kind of is the thing you learn, like in
the in the playground, like when you're a little kid,
that there are some kids that love to play with
other kids and other kids don't you know, and you

just got to learn how to avoid them.

Speaker 1 (14:57):
Now that you've done so many what have you I
learned over the course of all these years.

Speaker 2 (15:03):
I've learned that it's good for me. Let's put it
that way. It is good for my playing, for my creativity,
for my continued interest in the electric guitar and in
music in general, and that just doing a rehearsed show
every night is nowhere near the same as exciting in

an almost frightening way that the G three shows are,
because well, first of all, you don't have two and
a half hours to play all the songs you know,
and there's no pacing. Really, you get fifty minutes to
go out there, so it's kind of a supercharge set
that you do. And then you get to this jam

and you if you really feel up to it. You
are pushed to your limit and you really don't know
what's happening. You just don't know what the guy next
to you is going to play. And that's happening here
right now on the sash By tour. Because Steve and
I are totally crazy. We just don't care if we

push ourselves to the brink and we fall off the edge.
We find it so much fun and so fascinating, and
we know that we've got each other to, you know,
to pick each other up if we kind of screw
up or go too far.

Speaker 1 (16:24):
Now, some of the people you've worked with I know personally,
some of I don't. They all have different personalities. I
have to ask, even though you haven't worked with them
very recently. Robert Shripp is known as the guy who
loves to rehearse and likes things his way. What was
it like having G three with Robert Fripp?

Speaker 2 (16:46):
It was so great. I mean, he joined us for
the first two runs and he insisted this is what
he insisted on, and the first time I heard it,
I thought it was really He goes, well, I'd like
to start the show before, you know, right before you

open the doors. I don't want to be lit. I'm
gonna set up behind the amp line, and I don't
want anyone to announce my name. And we thought, okay,
whatever Robert Fripp wants, we will acquiesce, you know. And
so sure enough people would come in and they'd be
finding their seats, and they'd be hearing this beautiful music soundscapes,

and people who knew about Robert Frip would immediately start
to look and go, hey, I think that's Robert Frip
up there playing, and other people wouldn't pay attention at
all if they weren't, you know, familiar with Robert's music.
And then the lights would go down and the show
would start, and you know, I think we had Kenny
Wayne Sheppard actually opening up. The first G three's actually

were like fives G fives in a way. But yeah, Robert.
You know what comes to mind is this photograph that
really stuck with me for years, which was I think
it was we were playing maybe Jones Beach or something

like that, and there's a picture of Robert Fripp by
his gear with his guitar on. Standing next to him
is a four year old ZZ holding a plastic pail
and shovel and to me, that was just like the
beauty of the tour is that it really was a

relaxed family atmosphere when it was at its best, everyone
was so happy to be on the tour and knowing
as I said before, it was a safe place for
guitar players. But it was just a really happy group
of musicians and crew, and almost all of them were
like that. We only had a few that had the
usual tensions here and there, but they and last you.

Speaker 1 (19:00):
Know, okay, through the magic of the Internet setlist FM
one can look up because some of these dates have
already played that. After you and Steve do your independent performances,
you get together and you do covers, you do entersand me,
how did you decide on these covers?

Speaker 2 (19:21):
Well, recently for this tour, I actually was leaning heavily
on my keyboard player, Ray Thistlethwaite. He was an amazing singer.
He's from the Australian band Thirsty Murk and he's just
a brilliant overall musician, just brilliant keyboard player, great singer,
frontman when he's in his own environment and he's even

I don't know how he puts up with me, but
he plays rhythm, guitar and keyboards for me, and occasionally
we lean on him to sing. So I thought I
should just check with Ray some of these weird ideas
I have. So we were just texting beforehand, like what
do you feel like singing? Can you sing this? Can
you sing that? And we just threw threw out some
silly songs, and at one point I thought, I want

to do a Metallica song. And I don't know why
it dawned on me. I just thought, you know, maybe
because he's he had just recently interviewed Kirk for the documentary,
but so Kirk was on my mind. So I just
I thought, what would be a fun song to do
where we could stretch somewhere, you know, we could stretch
it out and improvise around it. And I thought of

Enter Sandman. But when I texted it to Ray, I
was actually joking because he Ray's got a beautiful voice
and he doesn't sound like James Headfield at all. But
the response was positive and immediate from Ray. He was like, no,
we got to do that song. I want to do it.
So that's how that happened. And then I wanted to
balance it with something really old and so I picked

the Kinks. He really got me. I thought that would
be a really great one. And for the first time,
actually we're playing a song that's one of ours. So
the first piece of music that I wrote for our
collaboration is a song called the Sea of Emotion Part one,
and we decided to play that as our first song.

And it kind of makes sense since it's not a
G three, you know, it really is a satch by tour.
So and that's great because it has special meaning to
both Steve and I.

Speaker 1 (21:29):
So, okay, let's go back to something earlier you said
about rock instrumentals. From your viewpoint, what is the state
of rock instrumentals? Verging into what is the state of
rock and roll? Because not only are you making this music,

you've made the music, you're seeing the audience live on
the road.

Speaker 2 (21:56):
Yeah, well know, everything is Brian Eno said, you know,
everything is context with music. It has grown over the decades,
over the centuries, So today everything is context. You can
get music everywhere, and the context of at hand is

the most important thing. Not everything works in an elevator
or you know, Carls Junior, or in your car, at
a concert hall or at a convention, you know, in
the lobby of a hotel, a club. It's just there's
so many contexts where full fidelity modern music or recorded
music is perfect. So where does instrumental rock music belong.

I have no idea. All I know is that I
am a child of rock and roll. I love rock bands,
I love melody, I love harmony. I was taught music
theory in high school by a Julia graduate who was
a brilliant teacher that somehow got stuck in this teeny
little public high school in car Place. And so I've

got these influences from my older siblings. I'm the youngest
of five and my parents were total jazz freaks, so
my influences are huge, and I love all of it.
I love dense harmony. I love complicated and simple, but
if it doesn't have a great melody, I don't really

like it. So I've never been into complicated music because
it's complicated. I see no charm in that whatsoever. And
I know that music is I mean, musicians are supposed
to make music for people. That's what we're supposed to do.
So we're supposed to make music to accompany life, and

life is crazy, and sometimes you need music to commiserate with,
sometimes to celebrate with everything in between. So when I
was a young kid, I realized that the intervals, the
space is between the notes and the relationship between the
melody and the harmony of the most important mood creators ever,

that tells the story. And if you've got lyrics, then
you're telling the audience exactly what you want them to think.
And if you don't have lyrics, well then you've really
given them a gift where they can listen to Moonlight
Sonata and decide for themselves whether it's a happy song
or a sad one, and they can use it as

they like. And I love that. So like when I
was a kid and I heard Third Stone from the
Sun by Hendrix, it was cathartic, it was beautiful, and
I thought, wow, this is amazing, this is like so powerful.
And I knew he was being funny at times with
the song, but to me, the music was so powerful.

It reminded me of listening to Miles Davis or West
Montgomery coming from my parents' living room.

Speaker 1 (25:11):

Speaker 2 (25:13):
Hearing classical music and just love feeling the power of
the music in an emotional way and how it stimulated
my mind thinking of new things, bringing back old memories,
things like that. But I was this rock kid. I

still love the Stones and the Beatles. I started out
as a drummer. I studied for three years until I
figured out I was going to suck, and I became
a Hendrix fanatic. And when he died, I decided that
very day I was going to pick up the guitar
and I was going to dedicate myself to playing the guitar.

Speaker 1 (25:52):
But I wait, wait, wait, wait, wait wait wait, wait
a little bit slower. You're growing up in Long Island. Okay,
what are your parents do for a living?

Speaker 2 (26:02):
My father was an engineer. He was super smart. He
got out of college maybe three years ahead of time,
went to work for Sperry Gyroscope. I think they eventually
were called Sperry. He was there for maybe thirty years,
and then he moved on to Raytheon or a few
other companies until he retired. My mother was a school

teacher her whole life. And my three sisters, older sisters
and one older brother, all smart. None of them is
silly enough to take up a career in music. But
I have to say growing up on Long Island was
at that time was the best thing ever, I mean

the freedom. First of all, my parents were tired by
the time I came around, so I benefited from my
siblings breaking them down continually for years and years, and
then I came along and they're like, okay, whatever you know,
do whatever you want. Plus the sixties happened, right, So
I turned fourteen in nineteen seventy and as you well know,

from fifty nine to sixty nine, all hell breaks loose
in America, and so I just you know, I mean,
my rock band practice in the basement, and my parents
would woo.

Speaker 1 (27:26):
A little bit slower. Okay, you're the fifth of five children.
You're the parents are not in the house all day
because they're working. Are you a goodie goodie getting good grades?
Are you someone who's dedicated to baseball? What's your life
like before this music thing becomes an obsession?

Speaker 2 (27:44):
You know? I started out as a good kid, and
I was on all the teams. I played football and baseball,
and I was on the wrestling team. I was on
the fitness team until they tried to get me to
cut my hair, which was extremely long at the time.
But I was also in a band, so I should
point out the car place one national championships four years

in a row, when my brother and I were on
the team. But that's you say, the fitness team. People
don't even know what that means anymore. That's like saying
music theory classes in public high school. People don't know that.
But back then in New York there was a board
of regents. Education in public schools was actually really good.

So I didn't do well. I was in Catholic school
for the first five years and got in trouble all
the time, until both my parents and the nuns and
the priests decided that kids got to go.

Speaker 1 (28:43):
He said, wait, wait, wait, what kind of trouble were
you getting into.

Speaker 2 (28:47):
Well, I, first of all, I couldn't believe anything they
were trying to teach me. I'm and I made a
point of raising my hand and saying, well, that can't
be right. How does that work? And yeah, so I
you know, I've always had a problem with that. So
when I got to public school, it was like I
could exhale finally, you know, I felt so free. All

the kids were different, You could express yourself, and there
were music classes, I mean, that's crazy. And there were
sports classes, so I mean, you could physically exert yourself.
And I, you know, I'm not a big guy or anything,
but when you're that young, most everyone's the same size.

And by the time I got around to quitting the
football team was the right time because at that age,
big guys are going to start getting big and if
you're not one of them, you're going to get creamed
on the football field. And so it turned out that

the timing was right for me to move on and
to become a full time musician. By then, though, I
benefited from the fact that I had a good upbringing
about exercising in health and whatnot. So I think that
I I mean, when I walked out of the coach's office,

I was standing up straight. I was a strong kid,
not very big, but very strong and healthy, and I
knew what I was doing. So I felt really good,
even though I was traumatized by the death of Jimmy Hendrix.

Speaker 1 (30:32):
Okay, what inspired you to pick up drums? And what
was that three years like?

Speaker 2 (30:38):
Oh, it was seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
As soon as I started to hear Dave Clark five Beatles,
the Stones, all the British invasion stuff that my older
siblings were listening to it just transformed my life. I
would just spend hours in front of a little portable

record player they had, and I just destroyed those LPs
and singles. I just played them hours and hours until
they made me stop. It was a beautiful world. And
when I got to see Ringo and Charlie Watts playing
on television, that's you know, I mean, what kid doesn't
want to make a lot of noise? And drums make a.

Speaker 1 (31:23):
Lot of noise.

Speaker 2 (31:25):
So I actually took lessons for three years from a
guy I realized I never knew his first name. I
always knew him as mister Patricuz. I don't know where
my parents found him, probably in some jazz club because
he'd always show up in a sharkskin suit. Very cool character.

You know. He'd sit in the in the kitchen and
have coffee with my parents and then he'd go down
to the basement and he teached me for a half hour.
And that went on for a couple of years, and
you know, I learned how to read and to play
all the all the stuff, and he would, you know,
teach me the beatles and stones, all the stuff I
was into. But ultimately, I mean I didn't know it

at the time, but now I can look back and
say I was a bit too spacey to be a drummer,
because a drummer has to be attentive to every millisecond
of a song. They are, they're responsible for keeping it.
You know, they're driving the bus. Basically everyone else is,
especially guitar players, are changing seats all the time on
the bus. But the drummer is driving the bus. And

I started not to realize that I wasn't cut out
for that. I wanted to float on top. And when
rock music really became rock music what sixty six maybe,
you know, when there was a shift from rock and
roll to like rock songs that weren't about boys and

girls and stuff, and you start to hear different sounds
coming out of the guitars. I started to feel like
I was, you know, playing the wrong instrument. And my
older sister's boyfriends were fascinated by the fact that I
loved anything that they would bring over. So they'd bring
over the latest Who record or Hendrix or anything, and

they'd play it for me just to look at my reaction.
And of course I was enthralled by all of it.
But Hendricks changed my DNA. As soon as I heard
the first song, I just my whole life was different,
and I knew that that was a path. I just
couldn't intellectually understand what it was going to do to
me until until I found out that he died, and

then I knew exactly what I was going to do.

Speaker 1 (33:39):
Okay, you're living in Westbury? Are you going to shows
Westbury Music Fair?

Speaker 2 (33:45):
Yeah? My very first two shows I saw Chicago when
they were called Chicago Transit Authority. They're absolutely amazing. Terry
cath On guitar. Wow, fantastic. That's a funny place, I
mean because it's in the round, so that you know,
right the stage spins. I got to play there for

the first time ever back in twenty nineteen with Kenny
and Doug. We were on the Experience Hendricks Tour. What
a trip. And then about a week later I went
to see Jethro Tull there. They were absolutely fabulous, just amazing,
so two completely unique bands for the time. It was
just fantastic. I absolutely loved it, and I'd go to

the film more. I remember seeing Steve Miller at the
fillmore that I think the week that Hendricks died, it
was the first time I went to the Fillmore East
and saw Steve play. You know, he tells me a
funny story about that, because I remember I was sitting
in the balcony with all the grown ups. You know,

I was just a little kid, and I just the
whole thing was magic, just like this is. I remember thinking,
this is when I grow up. This is what I
want to do. I want to hang out to rock music.
And I remember the first time I got to play
with Steve. I told him the story about what a
magical show that was, and he said to me, his

perspective was totally different. Whereas Mungo Jerry was on that
show and they had hit at the time in the summertime,
and Bill innocently had given out plastic red plastic clown
noses to the audience for some reason to celebrate this song,
I guess. And so when Mungo Jerry played, and I

think there's another band called Clouds that played as well,
you know, they played the hit and everyone was happy
and everything was fun. And then Steve comes out, and
of course it's kind of somber because Hendricks has just
died and Steve wants to come out and play a
set playing tribute to Jimmy Hendricks, except that everyone's got
these clown noses and they start throwing them on stage.

And I don't remember that I was sitting in the balcony.
I don't remember that aspect of it, maybe because I
was getting high from all the smoke. But anyway, Yeah,
we used to go there, Gaelic Park, Academy of Music.
I mean, there's so many places, even out to the island,
like to Coomac and watch all the bands touring.

Speaker 1 (36:17):
Okay, let's reel it back. I remember where I was
when I heard Hendricks died, so literally, how did you hear?
And there was a schism? And then how long until
you took this left turn and started to play the guitar?

Speaker 2 (36:34):
Oh wow. I was all suited up for football practice
at Carplace High School. I was right outside the gym
and a teammate said, Hey, I heard that guy that
you really liked died, Jimmy Hendrix. And see what was
Uh I'm trying to I can't remember his name, but

I I just stood there and I looked at myself,
you know, in this cheap football outfit that the high
school could afford, and I just thought I can't do
this anymore. This is this is you know, I can't
do it. I don't love and I know, And right
then I knew what I really wanted to do, so

I just turned around. I went inside. I went into
coach Redden's office and I said something like, Jimmy Hendricks
has died, and I'm gonna you know, I can't be
on the football team because I'm going to devote my
life to the guitar. And I maybe, I mean most
likely because I wasn't such a valued team member. He
probably didn't put up much of a fuss, but he went, okay,

I take off your stuff and you know, put it
in the locker. So I walked home that night, and
over a typical Italian American dinner, I stood up and
told everybody that Jimmy Hendricks had died and I was
going to be a guitar player. And then there's a
lot of yelling and screaming, but eventually worked out.

Speaker 1 (38:00):
Okay, first and foremost, you need a guitar. So where
do you get a guitar?

Speaker 2 (38:06):
Well, you know, there's a little bit of backstory to that,
which is that my sister Marion was a folk guitar
player growing up, and I actually got to see her
perform at her school a few times, and of course
i'd witness her playing in the backyard, playing in the
corner of her room, very quietly, not bothering anybody. And

it wasn't lost on me that it was a more
personal instrument, that she could really enjoy music and express
herself without announcing it to the entire house, like if
you're a drummer, you know where everybody hears everything you do.
And I hadn't really thought very much about that, you know,
bringing that into my life until that moment when over dinner,

I announced I was going to be a guitar player,
and my sister Marian said, well, you can borrow them
on you can start with that. And then my other sister, Carol,
who had just started teaching at art at Westbury High School,
said that she would donate her first week's paycheck for
an electric guitar, which was at Roosevelt Field. I don't

know if you remember Roosevelt Field in the Island, the
first shopping malls, and Matthew's music was there, and they
had a guitar that I had that I had been
looking at because it kind of looked like Jimmy's white stratocaster.
But I think in my little brain at the time,
I didn't know there was Fender Gibson or in this

case Hackstrom. But this was one hundred and twenty dollars
Hackstrom three guitar, a low cost Swedish guitar. And so
we went there about a week or so and she
was kind enough to purchase the guitar for me. And
I had a My family had a woolen sack tape
recorder that they used to use to record or Jesuit

speeches all the time. And so since my parents had
already gone through the drum face and I didn't have
a big drum kit, it took years, you know, to
pay off, like getting each little piece. I started with
a pad, and then a snare drum, and then this
and that. You know, they were a little skeptical and
they weren't about to go out and get me an amplifier.

So they said, well, maybe you can use this, And
so for I don't know, six months, i'd plug into
this woolen sack tape recorder and the only way I
could hear myself would be to record, and I would
record over the jesuit speeches, sorry Jesuits, and then I'd
listen to myself. And this was key to my development

because usual beginners, they you know, the moment passes and
they don't know how much they suck, you know. But
I knew because I realized when I'd finished playing for
ten minutes, I go, oh, I can listen to myself
back now, and I'd play it back and I'd go like,
oh my god, I'm the worst. How am I going
to get better? So it was it was a good

tool actually, because I started to realize, you know, you
got to play in tune, you got to play in time.
There's such a thing as tone. There's a lot to
work on.

Speaker 1 (41:18):
Okay, are you taking lessons? How are you're learning out
of play?

Speaker 2 (41:23):
No? I had a magic chord sheet that was in
my sister's guitar case, the Nylon. She played a Nylon
acoustic and she was the one who said, you know,
you have to learn chords, so here take this sheet
and it was about seventeen twenty chords. So that's how
I started, and I started to realize that I moved

my If I took one finger off a chord, the
sound was somewhat similar to what i'd heard on the
radio or on a record, and I found that really fascinating.
So I just thought, well, I'll memorize these and then
I'll make a sort of a mental note that when
I lift off my third finger, it's this extra version

of this chord. And later on I learned I was
doing suspensions what we call in music suspensions, and changing
thirds to fourths or thirds to seconds and things like that.
But I would because I couldn't. I wasn't taking lessons
from somebody who was teaching me songs. I just started

writing my own songs and I thought, well, somewhere the
on line, i'll just get better. And so a lot
of what I learned in the first six months or so,
I was just learning how to write it with my
limited vocabulary.

Speaker 1 (42:52):
Okay, it's not a heavy lift to learn a few
chords play song, as you know, but from there to
a level of facility is unbelievably frustrating.

Speaker 2 (43:05):
Yeah, did you.

Speaker 1 (43:06):
Ever vary in your dedication? Did you ever say, well,
maybe the guitar is not for me. How did you
deal with the frustration of gaining your skills?

Speaker 2 (43:18):
Well, there are two things that I would point to
number one. I realized early on that I had the
ability to play a song from start to finish, and
I knew, you know, deep inside, I knew this was
an important thing because I had been playing drums, and

although I was never in a band, we used to
play my friends and I and I realized you got
to start, keep going, don't stop, and then end. That's
what playing music for people is all about. So that
became a skill that I just assumed you got to
have that, that you got to do that. You may
not be the fastest drummer, the loudest drummer, or the

the most complicated, but once you start, you got to
keep going until the song is over. So I applied
that to the guitar. And then after a number of months,
some older kids in the school must have heard me
playing somewhere at high school, they invited me into the
band and they were fascinated with the same thing that

I could just sit there and hang with them without
being given direction. They'd start a you know, some Joe
walshong or something, you know, and they and I'd say, well,
what are the chords, and they say, well, it's just
kind of like does this thing at a minor, and
I'd be comfortable with that, and I could hang with

that and go back and forth and play things around it,
because that's how I taught myself, which is to to
build a personal vocabulary around chords as a way of
making music. And so they asked me to join the
It was fascinating because I really did not have the
technique like what you're talking about, but I could carry

a song with the limited technique that I had, and
I just learned not to show people what I couldn't do,
just focus on what I was capable of doing and
get the song finished. And I found that there was
so much to share with the bass player, the drummer
and the other guitar player on a musical level. It

was like you started speaking a foreign language that you
were really good at that you didn't know you were
good at, and other people in your band knew that
language too, and you would converse during a song and
you would throw things back and forth and have some fun.
And I thought, wow, this is the most important technique

because we would be doing this at a party in
a backyard or at a high school dance where your
peers were ruthless. If you didn't play well, they'd let
you know right away. But I learned the importance of
being able to play music first and foremost, rather than

acquiring technical skills. It was, in fact that the best,
the most important umbrella of technical skills. But it just
didn't have They didn't have names, you know what I mean.
They weren't written down in books, you know, like chapter one, Start,
don't stop, finish you know number two. Pay attention to
the audience. Lift them up when they want to be

lifted up, bring them down when they want to go down.
These are the things you learn only by playing for people,
your siblings, your parents. You play in a kindergarten, you
play in a club, you play in an arena. It
doesn't matter where you're playing. You still got to make
it work for the audience. So that was part of

my earliest instruction was playing for people. And I loved it.
I was terrified. I'm still terrified, but I love it
as well. But on the other side of it, I
had a hunger for music. I really wanted to understand
the mystery of music. When I heard Beethoven, I thought,

this is so beautiful. What does he know? How does
he put that together? I remember sitting in my bedroom
one afternoon and Roundabout came on the radio, and I
remember staring at the radio and I admitted to myself,
I don't know what is going on, Like, what are
they doing? How do they know how to put this

all together and play together? It sounds so complicated to me,
but deep inside I knew it was. I bet there's
an e minor chord in there somewhere. They're just doing
it better than the way.

Speaker 1 (47:54):
I do it.

Speaker 2 (47:55):
And just about that time, the music teacher at my
high schools offered a music theory class and I just
jumped on it. And it was fascinating because he just
opened up the world of music to me and he
answered all those questions. He taught me ear training, taught
me every scale, every mode, taught me how to write

a cantata theme in variations, every trick that every composer
had used for the last four hundred years. We went
over it in school and I loved it. And he
didn't care that I played Black Sabbath really loud most
of the time when I wasn't at school. He would

just sit down and show me, like, you know, this
is just music and you can apply it to any style,
and so it was a wonderful time, very fruitful learning
experience that I had in high school.

Speaker 1 (48:48):
Okay, this band that you joined, how old are you
when you joined that band?

Speaker 2 (48:54):
I was still fourteen and I'd been playing less than
a year. The name of the band was pronounced Mishwa Khan,
but it was really Mohakan. Of course we didn't know that.
I think they named it after some weed that they
had purchased from somebody. And I'm still friends with all

of them. I just saw the bass player and the
drummer just two days ago, and all still playing to
some degree. But they had the good sense to develop
professional lives, real jobs. But I love that experience. And
you know the difference when you're fourteen and you're playing
with a sixteen year old, that's like they're really old.

And so I paid attention and I learned every moment
that I was playing with them about, you know, how
to play music with people and how to play music
for people, And those two things were the I always
realized were the foremost. It's not about achieving a technical

level for yourself or for itself. I don't know if
I'm expressing myself correct. Yeah, you know what I mean.
You can get fascinated with just sitting there and playing
something just a little faster, a little bit more compliment.
Maybe it's because I loved simple music as much as
I loved complex music. To me, it was just music.
And I used to watch my parents with the jesuits,

you know, drinking scotch, smoking cigarettes, playing folk music on
my sister's guitar, having a great time. I used to
watch them have parties listening to jazz. I watched my
sisters dancing to motown music, funk music, my brother playing
harmonica to Muddy Waters music. And it always seemed to
me the music was something that accompanied us in our lives.

It was part of the expression of being alive. That
was the most important part. And so how could you
how could you rate you know, Beethoven, Miles, Muddy Waters,
Pete Townsend. I mean, you can't say one's better than
the other. These are giants. They've learned how to transcend
their instruments and make life, you know, with sound. It's

just I was fascinated with that.

Speaker 1 (51:22):
Okay, so you join this band when you're fourteen. Musicians
all have different experiences, some have one band they go
from band to band others. You know, they're out till
one in the morning, playing three sets. Their schools suffers.
So you're fourteen, that's about the time you're freshman in
high school. What is your band situation in playing out?

While you're in high school? We do.

Speaker 2 (51:50):
High school dances, backyard parties in the summer, we do
Battle of the Bands, lots of that. Within about a year,
our drummer decides he's going to go to Cornell. He
was smart, Tom Gar very smart, still a very smart guy,

teaches economics and in Atlanta right now. And then there
was some rumblings about, you know, we should get this
guy in the band, that kind of man. Typical high
school stuffs as the social scene changes, and then we
wind up with a different drummer, and then it's some
So if Mishwa Khan becomes Tarsus and Tarsus becomes a band,

that's I'm in for a good year and a half,
two years. We have two singers. At one point I
meet some crazy you know this boy that era, that
period from fourteen to twenty one is insane. It's just
if you can get through it, God bless you. You know,
I don't know how we get through those those years,

but so much fun, so much drama, but through it
all well, you know, I moved on from that hackstrum.
I was able to We used to have classified papers
back then, and you'd be able to find people selling stuff.
I wound up buying a telecaster, sixty eight telecaster, and

then I traded it for a Less Paul a little
bit later. And I think this is because the other
guitar player, John Ricchio, it was really brilliant guitarist. I
learned so much from him. He was really into the
James Gang. And when when Joe Wall switched to less Paul,

I was unaware of this. John eventually said, you got
to get rid of that Telly and get a less Paul,
and so I moved into the less Paul thing. Never
stayed in tune God Almighty those late sixties less Pauls,
and didn't really move on to playing like a Fender
Stratu till I moved out to Berkeley, California. But we

had so much fun. I mean, just the craziest of
times that you know, I mean, when you're doing that,
when you're playing, when you're when you're playing bars and
you're fifteen years old. You're living a life that you know,

you thought only grown ups lived, you know, but you
see just the craziest part of life. You know, people
are smoking and drinking and getting in fights and getting
in trouble, and there's basically sex, drugs and rock and roll.
But you still have to go back to school, you know,
at when Monday morning comes. And we used to you know,

sometimes I remember, for a good long time, I must
have been in tenth or eleventh grade at the time,
we drove out to the Hamptons and found a gig.
I'm not even sure how we got this gig, but
we found a weekend gig and we started to go
out there and do these little road trips. And my parents,
as I said before, had kind of given up trying

to raise me as a normal person. Had let me
go with the guys and hang out. And there would
be like twelve of us in one bedroom cabin in
the back of a club somewhere, staying for the weekend.
But it was fun. I mean, I just learned so
much about playing music for people during that, because you know,

when you're on stage and you're playing, even if you're
in the corner of a little club. You're observing people
when they don't think anybody's watching. You just see their
lives play out. They're just they're getting loose and they're
doing everything right in front of you, and they don't
think you're watching, but you are. And it made a

big impression on me, not only the reaction to the
way that I played in the songs that we played,
but I just learned by watching, just like you would
watch if you were if you were into baseball, and
you're watching a baseball game and someone does something good,

you say, I should try to do that, and then
when you see somebody screw up, you go, I should
make sure I don't do any of that. So that's
what I would see night after night, even though I
was just a teenager.

Speaker 1 (56:19):
So you graduate from high school then what.

Speaker 2 (56:22):
I graduate early. Actually, there was about six of us
that we had good grades at that point and they
felt better if we left, and so they allowed us
to take two of every subject for the first half
of the year, so that we graduated in January. And

I loved it. I just thought that was the greatest
thing ever. So myself, I think my girlfriend at the time,
and a few other friends. I didn't know them too well,
so we I mean, it was heaven for me because
I took two music theory classes and that's what I loved,
and the other classes are okay. I mean it was

a bit simpler back then. I was taking French and humanities.
I think they called it something that was the offshoot
of geography and math.

Speaker 1 (57:13):
And social studies.

Speaker 2 (57:15):
Social studies, Yes, yeah, that's right. So yeah. So in
January I was out and I thought I'm just going
to start working full time. It was kind of rough.
I didn't really land the gig until I started at
Five Towns Music College the following September, which didn't last

long at all. It was an absolute joke. I knew
way more than every teacher in the school that they
had at the time. The college has turned into a
really great school, but that first year, that was their
first year and they had some different ideas about what
teachers could be. And I mean Bill Wescott, music teacher

at high school. He gave us a university level education.
So I went in there knowing everything, and every time
they would play a wrong scale, I'd raise my hand
and go, you know, that's not what you just said.
You did, and so I didn't make friends there either.
But two things happened that were important, which is I
got introduced to someone who was playing in a disco

band and they put guys on salary, and this was
important for a young kid looking for a job. And
so I joined this disco band and I actually got
I made money every week, I got a paycheck. And
at the time, they didn't call it disco. They called
it progressive dance music. How's that for euphemism. I didn't care.

I was just like, I want to play music. I
need a paycheck. I got to pay for gas oil embargo.
You remember those times it was tough to drive her
around New York to gigs. And the other thing was
one of my schoolmates introduced me to Lenny Tristano. I
don't know if you know who Lenny Tristano was, but
he was the father of cool jazz. He was the

inventor of free form music, really first guy to ever
record it for Capital, even though they shelled the record
for nine years until after the Birth of Cool came out.
I didn't know who this guy was at all. And
one of my fellow students at Five Towns was more
of a jazz head than I was. And he said

when I was told him, I'm looking for like the
guy I need, like you know, I need the wizard.
There's got to be somebody out there who could teach
me the true nature of music. And he said, you
have to go see Lenny Tristano. And I said, well,
who is this guy? Where is this guy? And he's like,
he's in Queens, He's like twenty minutes from where I live. So,

I mean, I could go on about this, but I mean,
if you're not interesting, going, yeah, yeah, you going so Lenny.
I mean, at that time, Lenny was kind of retired.
He was teaching out of his Victorian house there in Queens.
He was blind since a very young age, and he
was eccentric by anyone's standards. You know. He dressed only

in full length leotards and would walk around the room
and he kind of talk like this all the time,
like hey, Joey, what the fuck are you playing? You know,
that kind of thing right right to your face, you know.
And but he was the greatest teacher. He changed my
life because he kind of went to like the heart

of what it is to be a musician, Like if
you think you're a musician and you haven't done these things,
then you're completely lying to yourself. And so, you know,
after I basically had been a musician all my life
that I could remember, but I realized that I hadn't
really addressed me you know, what are my skills? What

am I avoiding learning and simple things? You know, even
though I'd been teaching guitar to kids and some grown
ups for a good three years by then, there were
still these big empty places in my knowledge of music
that really bothered me. And I think the dissatisfaction with

the professional music world was putting me off to working
harder on my own musicianship. But so in a practical sense,
he give you things like learn this scale everywhere, you know,
and he's a blind piano player, so he doesn't give
you doesn't tell you where to put your fingers. He
just say, if you don't know how to do it,
go out there and find out how to do it,

and just come back next week play it for me.
You know, every note, every fingering in every key, no
matter what it was, you know, huge lessons. These things
were daunting for me at the time, you know, And
then there'd be a harmonic section of the lesson where
you'd be playing these chords. Then you had to memorize

and scat sing along with a melody and solo. And
he didn't care if it was Coltrane or Tony Iomi
he'd made. No, he wasn't biased against any form of music.
He just wanted to hear you nail every note. His
whole thing was the music's got to come from inside
of you. He could care less about sight reading. He
just got to be in here before it can come out.

His other thing was, you know, if you made a
mistake during those parts of the lesson, the lesson was over,
he'd walk over to his Grail accounting book and he'd
just sit there and you'd have to give him twenty
bucks and split. But if you did good, the lesson
could go on for two hours, and he'd leave everybody
else in the waiting room. You know, But I'll tell

you the one, the funniest, greatest story ever from him
was he said, after I had been doing this improv
for a really long time, He's walking around the house.
I'm left in the room. I'm still playing. I don't
know what to do. I keep playing. He finally comes
back in and he goes, oh, that's pretty good. What
do you think about that? And I use the word

could or should in my description of my playing, and
he really went off on me, and he said, you know,
you kids from the suburbs have the subjunctive disease. You're
always worrying about what you should have played, what you
could have played, what you would have played, and you
never play what you want to play, only play what
you want to play. And it was like, you know,

a zen lesson. You realize I'll be working on this forever.
But it was a great lesson because I understood what
he meant. He would say like, if you don't if
you don't know what the next note is, don't play it.
If you don't want to play the next note, then
don't play it. So it was so foreign to me

as a rock and roll kid. Everything he was saying,
don't put vibrato on a note until you've played the
note perfectly, and then you've decided vibrato is going to
make it better, because that's how you feel in the moment.
He was like a supreme improviser, like improvising was a
way of life and it required like a super discipline

that was like, I don't know, the only thing I
could relate to it was like someone devoting their life
to being a yogi or a zen master or something
like that. You know, it's just like a total way
of life. But it really it forced me to work
harder and to admit to myself when I didn't know

something that that's what I should work on, like right away.
Like if you don't know that scale, sit down right now,
memorize it everywhere. Don't kid yourself. You know that's that
was tough. That was tough, and he was fascinating, just
a fascinating human being.

Speaker 1 (01:05:15):
Well, since you were essentially self taught, did you learn
any mistakes? You know, when you go through lessons, people say, well,
put your fingers here and do this. Whatever.

Speaker 2 (01:05:24):
Did you get into any bad habits? I'm sure I did.
The thing with guitar playing is that you can get
together let's say, all the top ten greatest guitar players
that you see on all the lists, and then you
see pictures of them playing. You'll notice like, let's see

if I have a guitar pick here, you know, like
somebody will will hold a pick in it.

Speaker 1 (01:05:55):
Oh wait, wait, wait, wait, this is audio only so described.

Speaker 2 (01:05:57):
Yeah, so I'm going to describe it to you. But
that typical thing is you see a guitar player. Their
arm is coming down over the guitar, they're holding it
pick and the angle is elbow straight down, the wrist
is straight and they're picking. Most guitar players play like that.
But then you'll see other guitar players like Jimmy Hendrix
where or Neil Sean where it bends and the wrist

is coming up from underneath the strings and they're picking
in what seems like a really awkward position. You'll see
some guitar players where their wrist of their picking hand
is anchored and never moves at the base of the guitar,
which we call the bridge. And then other guitar players

their hand and their wrist never touches the guitar. It floats,
and it's the elbow that provides all the movement, or
their elbow stays completely still and only their wrist moves,
or even that the thumb and the first finger that
are holding the pick, those are the only things that move.
It's it's insane how personal it is, and the one

of the difficulties of getting through the period of beginner,
intermediate and advanced player is deciding which position fits my
anatomy because the guitar is awkward as soon as you
put it on. If you're a beginner, you go like, wow,
how do I hold this thing? My fingers hurt? How

can I possibly stretch? How can I play this? And
you know, my right hand and my left hand at
the same time. When I when I was teaching a lot,
I very often, almost once a day, would I'm right handed.
I'd pick up the guitar and I'd put it the
wrong way around, and I'd remind myself, this is how
it feels to the beginner student when they come in

and I try to get them to play a decord
or something. This is how awkward it feels. You know,
I can't play left handed at all. And it's a
good reminder that that journey out of being a beginner
is one of understanding what your body can do and
what it feels comfortable doing, and how are you going

to have to work around your anatomy? Again, if I
drawn analogy, you look at the Olympics, you look at sprinters.
You see some of the funniest variations of a very
specific thing. I mean sprinting is like super specific, right,

but still not all sprinters hold their arms and move
them in the same way. Why is that what you'd
think they'd all do it the same, right? Is just
that we're all so different and we have these little
quirky gifts that make us excel in a certain way.
If in this case, we hold the pick like this
and the guitar like that, and you know, Jimmy Page

played the guitar really low and John McLaughlin plays it
really high. I wouldn't want them to trade positions. I
just love the way that both of them play. But
isn't that weird? You know? So if you're a student
and you're trying to figure out, like how am I
supposed to hold this? You know, how do I which
which fingers? Van Halen very often would he'd hold the

pick between his thumb and his middle finger, which is
really awkward to me, but it allowed him to use
his first finger for tapping, you know, brilliant idea.

Speaker 1 (01:09:28):
And what about fingering with your other hand?

Speaker 2 (01:09:32):
That is again, everybody's hand is a unique size, and
there's you know, we could we could really get into
the minuti here about tendons and muscles and flexibility. You know,
Segovia had teeny little hands that if you met him

on the street, you never say, oh, there's a guitar player.
But the guy was brilliant and he got around the
guitar just fine. And and just because you're long and
lanky doesn't really give you any edge, you know, precision
is you just don't know. It's very much like dancing.
Like if you think there's a body type for dancing,

you're dead wrong. Just anybody can have that wonderful gift
of being able to move, to connect their inner feelings
to every part of their body and just surprise you
with how great they are dancing. And so I think
music playing instruments is pretty much the same way. You cannot,
you know, judge the book by the cover. In this case,

I hope I'm not mixing metaphors her analogies.

Speaker 1 (01:10:39):
Okay, so you're living in Westbury. Do people know, Oh,
that's Joe Satriani, He's the hot guitarist. Were you just
another guy playing guitar on the island.

Speaker 2 (01:10:52):
I think a mixture of both. There were plenty of
great guitar players at the time, but very often, you know,
to give you a start. Sometimes it helps in your
own little microcosm to be the superstar, you know, for
a couple of weeks. It just helps you try to.
It gives you that extra energy to pick it up,

the instrument up and practice just a little bit more.
We all need encouragement, you know. I learned that from
years of teaching. There's no point getting on someone's case
about what they can't do. Is you really do have
to focus on their gifts. And that's what we all
need to carry us through life in general. You know,

just focus on the gifts, everything else will fall into place,
you know, again, if you if you keep the you know,
when I was young, and even when I was teaching
in a guitar store in the eighties and in Berkeley,
and I had students that were, you know, eight year
old kids. I had race car drivers, lawyers, doctors. I

had you know, all kinds of peace people who had
real lives outside the guitar store. And you know, people
would come in and the young kids, the little kids
just thought I was some weird old guy, you know,
in his twenties teaching guitar and their parents made them
come and learn how to you know, play guitar. They

come in and put their plastic toys on the amp.
And then they were great though, because they'd learned so fast.
And you'd have teenagers who just really wanted to be
rock stars, you know, and you had to figure out
like do they really want to be rock stars they
really or do they want to play their instrument really well?
And then you had professional people who just wanted some relief.

You know. They'd come in for a lesson and they'd say,
can you just teach me how to play this Creeden song?
So after I have a hard day, I can come
home and just you know, have a glass of wine
and play a song with my partner some And so
you have to focus on, you know, how can you
get that to how can you help them achieve that
whatever it is they want. And so, like when I

was teaching Kirk Khmid, he had a real job. After
the first year, he went from being an exodus into
Metallica and he had a serious job and some requirements,
and he had to learn really fast. The great thing
was he was dedicated. He had his own opinions about
what he thought was great, and he was super hungry,

and you know, started taking two lessons a week. That's
how dedicated he was. And so you And again, even
if it's someone like Kirk, or if it's just the
race car driver who comes in after a crazy day
on the track and he just wants to play some music,
you know, you just focus on the positive and the
strengths that everybody has. He don't worry about the little

you know, where you put your finger and stuff like that.
Everyone's different.

Speaker 1 (01:13:51):
So how do you become the teacher to the stars.
How does Kirk kamide find you?

Speaker 2 (01:13:59):
I don't really know how that happened. I mean, it's
really freaky that so many of those players were in
that area that wasn't my hometown. You know. I went
out to Berkeley, California, because my older sisters had moved
out to the Bay Area, and they said, this place
is nothing like Long Island. You'll love it. You can
do whatever you want. Nobody cares. You know. That's a

typical reaction to California. Oh yeah, from New York, you know.
So and I did like it. And I just happened
to move into this little bungalow across the street from
a guitar store, and I used to go in there
and play all the guitars all day long and never
buy anything. And one day, the owner, Jim Larson, he

says to me, you know what, if you're just gonna
sit here and play all day long and not buy anything,
you might as well give lessons. And I said, oh, man,
I gave lessons on Long Island. I don't want to
give lessons. But anyway, I realized that there was very
little in the form of work for me out there
because I didn't know anybody. I had no contacts in

the Bay area. So I started teaching and I had
no I mean, I have no idea why I wound
up seeing guys like Larry Lalande and Alex Skolnik, and
Kirk Hammett and David Bryce and Kevin Cadogan. I was
just like the luckiest guitar teacher ever that all of

these very different kids would come in and they were
so motivated to learn, and they were so different. Perfect
example would be like one of one of the luthiers
who worked for the store. She had a little kid, Charlie,

and so one day she comes in and she's like, Joe,
Charlie's driving me crazy. You just could you just teach
him how to play guitar. So he's you know, he
leaves me alone. So this little Charlie comes in, and
Charlie's like not even though he's growing, he's growing up
right alongside all these what are going to become thrash
metal players and metal players, he has no interest in

any of it. And so teaching him was a lot
of fun because he was just into anything that was
against what was trending. And of course he becomes the
Charlie Hunter that's just preeminent funk, jazz, whatever you want
to call. He just created his own genre and he
grew up to be just an amazing man and just fantastic,

just you know. But at the same time, like I said,
they would, there would be Kirk and who had a
gig that was extremely important and he was making history
like with every album, and then like right after him,
it would be like David Brison from County Crow's who
was like, you know, he said, look, I don't care

about soloing, I don't care about shredding. He said, how
how do you write songs? How do you change keys?
What chords go with this? How many different ways can
I give this feeling? And then shift into that feeling.
It was really fascinating for me as a teacher to
have this unique variety walking through the door every day.

And I did that for about ten years.

Speaker 1 (01:17:19):
And what was the dream other than teaching guitar, which
wasn't the dream? What did you want to actually do
other than be free in the Bay Area.

Speaker 2 (01:17:29):
Oh, I think it never really changed. I always thought
I'd be like a Jimmy Page figure, I'd be in
a fourth piece band with a singer. I still really
love rock music in general, just the attention to songwriting
is I really love that, and that the bands can

be unique, that each band member can be celebrated for
their uniqueness in the band. You know, it's just to me,
that's what's different than pop music or other forms of
music that are really strict. You know, like blues is
really strict. You got to basically quote every cool blues
player in the world to be accepted by the audience.

They don't celebrate originality, you know, it's weird. But rock music,
I thought, well, it's so inclusive. They celebrate everyone's originality
and they just want you to keep writing great songs.
And I just thought this is really great, you know, so,
but along the way I started. I was in this

band called the Squares for about four and a half years.

Speaker 1 (01:18:35):
A little bit slower. How many bands you in before
the Squares? And how did you join the Squares?

Speaker 2 (01:18:42):
So I wasn't. I did not find in the whatever
year and a half that I was there floundering around,
you know, just enjoying the northern California lifestyle. I started
a band because my ex brother in law moved out
there as well, and he was nine years ten years

older than me, very smart guy, worked for Cutter Laboratories.
But he had always been a guitar player and a
singer songwriter back in his days at Villanova and Harvard.

Speaker 1 (01:19:13):

Speaker 2 (01:19:16):
So we were writing songs together when we were when
I was really young, when he was still dating my sister,
and when he moved out, we got the idea to
start a band, a rock band, and he would manage
and write lyrics. I would write the music. We just
needed to find some people to play us. I found
Jeff Campitelli on drums, Andy Milton on bass, guitar and

lead vocals, and we were kind of like a not
good version of Green Day and Blink one two. The
only way I can describe it. We were very dedicated,
but I have to admit we were not as good
as those guys, so no wonder we didn't get anywhere.
But we practiced like crazy and we were as pro

as you can get. And during that time I was
always teaching, so my day job was teaching at the
guitar store, and then we would either rehearse or gig
at night. And somewhere along the line, I really wanted
to produce our own record, but our manager and our
agent at the time, Neil and Kevin, they just they

were saying, no, we should just keep trying to go
down to LA and ironically try to get John Carter
at Capital to signs to a label. I see, I didn't.
I mean I could jump ahead and say the first
time I met Carter again, we laughed about he was
how he was my nemesis because he turned the squares

down so many times. That was was, Oh, anyway, I
love John, But anyway, so, uh, I on a break,
this is really I mean, you'll be editing all this out.
But so we rehearsed down by Seventh Street in the

Berkeley Flats area, in a warehouse that was part of
the NOLO Press publishing company, and they had a dumpster
right outside where we rehears, so when we go out
there to have a cigarette and a drink between songs,
there'd be this dumpster overflowing with their books. So they're
how to books, you know, like how to get a divorce,

how to start a bakery, how to do this, and
inside the books were tear out sheets. So one day
we're out there, we're going nowhere, you know, with this band,
and I'm looking at I'm looking through the dumpster and
I see how to start a company, how to do
your own books. And I take this book back to
my apartment and I go, you know what, I'm going
to start my own publishing company, my own record company.

I'm going to make a recording. I'm going to put
it out when the band takes their Christmas break, and
I'm going to bring it to the band and show
them that it can be done. So that's what I did.
And it was a very weird, avant garde EP that
I recorded in late eighty four. And you know, I

went down to the courthouse. I started Strange, beautleful Music.
I started Rubina Records. I was the president. I was
also the first client, and I got this record pressed.
I brought it to the band and no one, no
one really liked it. I did it. Jeff was intrigued
by it, you know, and the reaction made me realize

this is going nowhere. I got to get out of here,
you know. I started the band, but I just said, look,
I'm quitting this band. You guys could do whatever you want,
but this obviously you've got to do it yourself now.
So I just thought, the next thing I'll do is
I have to do an album with drums and bass
and keyboards that people.

Speaker 1 (01:22:52):
I mean, just for one second. That was the Squares.

Speaker 2 (01:22:57):
The Squares that yeah, from in nineteen eighty late late
seventy nine to very early eighty five.

Speaker 1 (01:23:04):
Oh okay, so you leave the Squares continue?

Speaker 2 (01:23:08):
Yeah, So I leave the Squares. I'm teaching. I'm trying
to play with some other bands, not really going anywhere.
I get a credit card offer in the mail with
checks totally five thousand dollars, which I go back second
round to all studios and engineers and I say, look,
what if I paid you in advance, would you give

me a break? And I got like the fifty percent break,
you know, discount if I paid everybody ahead of time
to do this album. I finished the album. I'm in
debt for just under five grand. I'm really struggling to
pay this thing off. And I get a call my
second call from a local band do a great kin

band who once again having guitar player problems, and they
want me to come to the studio like that day
because I have to finish their album Love and Rock Role,
And there was no argument. I was like, I need
cash like today, you know. So I went down there
to Fantasy Records. They literally recorded me just like listening

to music for the first time. I'd like, tune up
and they'd play something and I'd just play along and
they'd say, we got it, Joe, all right, let's move
on to the next song. And by the end of
the early evening they handed me ten thousand dollars cash
and they said there's more money coming just you know,
give us twelve months. And I was like, you got it,

no problem. You know. I really did like the band,
and we played with them a lot. Greg was a
fantastic singer in front Man, and I didn't know the
guys in the band that well, but I knew from
opening up for those guys for years that they were
the real deal. It was like a cool not my
style of music, but I recognized that they were really
good at it, and so that what followed was well.

First of all, I paid off the credit card, and
because about the same time, I'd sent a cassette of
it to Steve vi Iika. Steve and I were always
trading cassettes of stuff we were working on, and he
had just signed with Relativity Records out of Jamaica Queen's

for his Flexible album. And the way Steve put it was,
he goes, Joe, my record is so much weirder than yours,
and they signed me. They gotta sign you. So I said, okay,
you can to send them the cassette. I don't care.
I wasn't even thinking that I get anywhere with it,
but Clifficaltrairie at Relativity Records liked it. We met and

it took about twelve months, but eventually a P and
D deal was struck while I was just finishing my
year with Greg Kin, and in November of eighty six,
they released Not Out of This Earth, which was my
first full length LP that I had produced and played on,
and that was probably the strangest instrumental album I'd done

outside of the EP, which was certifiably weird.

Speaker 1 (01:26:05):
But okay, you're playing with Greg Kidd. You get the
money to pay off the credit card. Everything was slowly.
It takes you twelve months to make the deal. The
record is released, and then what.

Speaker 2 (01:26:28):
I go to New York because Barry Kober and the
president of the company, is not convinced that they that
I have the goods, you know, to do an instrumental record,
and they booked this sort of like a showcase at
the China Club. I don't know any musicians in New
York anymore, but I had just played with Danny Gottlieb

in Sweden along with Jonas Hellborg, Swedish fusion bass player,
and so I called him up and I said, Hey,
would you do this one thing for me at the
China Club. You know, there's no rehearsal, just show up.
The songs are so easy, you know, and you know,

because Danny's a great jazz drummer. And I said, you know,
all you have to do is just play a little
heavier than usual, don't worry about it. And I didn't
know a bass player, so he said, well, you know
Mark Egan. Let's get Mark. And I thought Mark's amazing.
It's like, why would he be playing, you know, satch
Boogie and stuff like that. But I needed somebody. So
we met, we set up, we played, and when we

got done with satch Boogie, the deal was made. Barry
heard something in what I was doing, because I when
he asked me what I wanted to do, I said, look,
I want to make an album that celebrates everything I
love about guitars. And I said that means Chuck Berry,
that means Hendrix, that means some fusion stuff, some classical stuff.
You know. I said, that's that's who I am, you know.

And I should point out that earlier, a couple of
days earlier, when I went out to the company the record,
I'm standing in the middle of their their main room,
all the employees around, and Barry's looking at me, and
he's very uncomfortable and he goes, you don't look like
a rock star. And I was just thinking, like, oh,

this is really embarrassing. I got it was like, sorry, Barry,
but this is what I look like. But you know,
I kind of knew it, you know, and I understood
where he was coming from. Because he had he had
just signed Steve I and Steve looks like a rock star,
you know, he was a rock star. But he looked
a part and I didn't, and and and he was

about to sink some money into me. So I totally
got it. So it's him being nervous. But it turned
out all right because they did give me complete freedom
to do what I wanted. And that album was Surfing
with the Alien, and thank god that people like that one,
because that one really reflected my true nature. So you

know that thing where bands that they get famous for
the wrong song and it destroys the band or you know,
they it's the single that killed the band. But in
terms of that album, Surfing was the best of all
the albums of mine that could have got that kind
of embrace, you know, from a world audience, because that's

exactly who I am, you know.

Speaker 1 (01:29:27):
Okay, a little bit slower the album you make by
yourself with the five thousand dollars from the credit card.
Relativity does put that record out.

Speaker 2 (01:29:36):
Yeah, it took a long time, but they put it
out in November of eighty six. By then, I'd already
started working on Surfing. I'd already recorded a couple of
demos that went oh okay.

Speaker 1 (01:29:48):
But even though that record was out, Very still wasn't convinced.
It was after that record that YE had to do
the audition.

Speaker 2 (01:29:56):
Yes, yeah, that's crazy, isn't it.

Speaker 1 (01:29:59):
Okay, so you're some guy from the Island living in Berkeley.
You're with Relativity, which is independent, although not that small
at that particular time. Yeah, a lot of people find
out about the music.

Speaker 2 (01:30:15):
Terresta radio was really important. I can't really tell you
how it was done. I do know that some of
the most colorful people worked radio. I guess you call
it in the companies and in you know, the parent

company was called Important Record Distributors, and they had a
couple of labels. They had Combat, Relativity, and maybe something else.
But I was on Relativity. And so between the office
in Torrance, California and Jamaica, Queens, they had radio people
whose knew other radio people and they knew disc jockeys.

And I did IDs for hundreds of stations. I visited
hundreds of stations. I played guitar at hundreds of stations,
and stations like wherever Redbeard was in Texas at the time,
and Chicago, the Loop and La Boston, unbelievable support. When

that record came out, they would just spin it and
I was, you know, klex. They would they would play
the whole record on Sunday twice, you know, top to bottom.
The record that I thought was so completely out of time,
the one that both myself and my co producer John
Kuniberty thought would definitely seal our fate as never being

hired again, turned out to be the one that got
embraced by the fans.

Speaker 1 (01:31:49):
It was.

Speaker 2 (01:31:50):
The trick was to get the radio station to play it,
and in pre internet days, that that was it. If
you couldn't get it on the radio, you were dead
in the water.

Speaker 1 (01:31:59):
Okay, you're the guitar teacher to the stars. You have
a band that can't get signed by a major label.
You know right now, I wouldn't quite call it sonny,
but an upbeat disposition. You go from being completely unknown
to having traction. What was the experience emotionally.

Speaker 2 (01:32:22):
That was It's really hard to describe the depth of
despair in like early December eighty seven, like the or
more like more like October of eighty seven. I just

really didn't think there was I didn't I was getting
feedback from the world, only from the people I knew.
And I thought, it's okay, the recor will come out
and I'll just teach and I'll just keep going and
I won't think about what I can't imagine or it's
not happened yet, and I'm not going to fear and
imagine future, you know. And then Barry called me one

day and he said, you know, you're one eighty seven
on Billboard. And I was shocked that even was on
the Billboard charts. And I said, wow, what does that mean,
you know? And he said, well, it means you got
to put a band together. And I said, Barry, I've
never played instrumental rock in front of an audience before.

I said, there is no band. It's like, what do
I do? You jump around? You're serious, like, you know,
do you need lights, smoke bombs?

Speaker 1 (01:33:36):
What do you do?

Speaker 2 (01:33:38):
And he said no, just put a band together and
you got to go out and play. And so after
that phone call, I was like really wondering, like really,
like as a career, I mean, I always thought you
put out an album and it might be embraced by
a small group of people, but as a viable touring act,

I thought, well, no one that anymore. Jeff Beck maybe,
you know, but even he would intersperse working with big
vocal stars, you know, you know, because the genre didn't
exist anymore really outside of Jeff and so but I thought, okay,
I have to I'm going to have to figure this out,
you know. And so I called ste and Jonathan Jonathan

Moover drummer and Stuart Ham bass player who we had
played just briefly in the summer at a NAM show,
and I said, well, you know, they record company wants
a tour, so we put a tour together. I gave
my last guitar lesson to Kirk Hammett in early January
of eighty eight, and we're all excited, Wow, going on tour.

And I go out on this tour. I'm playing two
shows a night, six seven nights a week. We're out
there for about three weeks. Maybe it was awful. It
was just so hard. You know. There's as you know,
just because you have a record doesn't mean you can
sell a ticket. Some people have tickets and they don't
they can sell tickets and they don't have record sales

or whatever. So it's a funky business, right. So but
I was in that position where I was unknown, I
was untested, Promoters didn't know how to pronounce my name,
you know that kind of thing. And and I was
projected to lose about maybe eight grand a week, which
I didn't have at the time. And I remember we
were in Boston staying at some awful motel and my

tour manager gave me the news of how much money
we're going to be losing. And a little while after that,
one of my former agents, Kevin Burns, calls me from
the Bill Graham management office and he says, you're not
going to believe this. How would you like to audition
for Mick Jagger? And so we both laugh for about

a minute because we knew I was the worst guy
to audition for Mick Jagger, like, you know, I didn't
look right and I haven't been playing the Stones songs
for ages. But we both said, you're going, like you
have to go and then report to the rest of
us how funny it was. So I go down, I
do the audition, I get the gig. It's like really

fun and Jagger is like the funnest guy ever. Plus
he sings amazing. The band is amazing, and suddenly my
problem with the tour vanishes because I've got to stay
in New York City whehearse with Jagger and then go
off to Japan. So this is this is like all

part of this explanation because during that those few weeks
and then getting in Jagger's band, getting in Rolling Stone magazine,
seeing the chart number just go up and up and
up and it lands at twenty nine, stays there for
like six weeks. It was life changing because wherever I went,

people knew how to pronounce my last name all of
a sudden, and Mick was great wherever anytime I was
with Mick, Mick would make sure that I could take
advantage of any of this because he knew it was,
you know, one of those things that only happens once
in a while and you just got to do all
of it. So he was always saying, if you need anything,
you need a room, you need transportation, you need time

to do an interview, let me know, I'll take care
of it. And it was fabulous the help that he
gave me. But it was a whirlwind. What other words
can you use to describe the change of fortune in
such a short amount of time. It's just great and
all of a sudden, it's March. I'm at the Tokyo

Dome and I'm playing satch Boogie where it's just a
couple of months ago, you know, I was at the
China Club trying to cue the guys where the bridge is.

Speaker 1 (01:37:55):
Just to be clear, well, was the success of the
album driven it all from the press in the fact
you were working with Mick or was it just the
record caught on with the audience.

Speaker 2 (01:38:09):
Oh, I think it's you know, it's everything. You can't
really discount any little thing that might happen that might
introduce you to the to the the group of people,
or that right person who was just waiting to hear it.
There were plenty of times where people would say to me,

you know, you're playing with Mick Jagger, you know, like
they didn't get the connection because they knew me as
surfing with the Alien guy. And just just like you know,
when a fan becomes a fan at your fifth album
and has no idea that you had four other albums,
and they go back and they listen to it and
they're like, I don't know that guy. I only know

this guy album number five, you know. So, But there
were other people who obviously most of them Let's say
you playing at the Tokyo Dome. They don't know who
you are, and Mick would let me go out and
play two songs. I'd play Midnight all by myself. That
was so frightening on such a huge stage in front

of ninety thousand people. A little delicate, two hand tapping
classical piece. What a crazy idea. But you know, everything
is everything, you know. Just that one article in Rolling
Stone doesn't mean anything to people who don't read Rolling Stone.
But if you read Rolling Stone, then you go, well,

this must be really happening, because I read this magazine
and I trust it. You know. The most important element
of all, though, is if people don't like what they
hear you know you, As Glenn Johns once told me,
he said, it's not your job to decide what people
are going to like. It's your job to play your guitar.
So if you people will decide what they like you

just you can't make them like you. And there isn't
any press or any bit of good luck that is
going to make that happen. They really have to like
listening to your music, to put it on day after day,
week after week, year after year, and to take a
chance on your follow up album and the next one
and the next one.

Speaker 1 (01:40:17):
Well, that begs the question of as the guitarist, to
what degree do you feel pressure to deliver what you
think people will like.

Speaker 2 (01:40:27):
I don't know what people like, and I mean, you
just can't tell what people are going to like, and
so you got to let that go, you really do.
I can say that sincerity is important, and when somebody

is up on stage doing, you know, doing what they
believe in, you have the best shot of reaching somebody.
But if you're being false, I don't think you have
as much of a chance to find your audience. And
that's as important to embrace as the fact is. You

can't make people like you. You just can't. They're just
gonna either like it or they won't. I mean, just
look at like fans who love one particular band more
than any other band but still will say, oh, album
number three is just the worst to the artist's face,
you know what I mean. So people it's their prerogative

to like or not like, so you might as well
just you.

Speaker 1 (01:41:37):
Know, Okay, so you cut a record, it's ready to
come out. What do you feel inside? Are you super anxious?

Speaker 2 (01:41:46):
Yeah? Because you didn't finish it. The whole idea of
finishing an album that you abandon it. You are forced
to abandon it because you've run out of time and money.
That's the reality.

Speaker 1 (01:41:59):
You know that.

Speaker 2 (01:42:02):
Every artist wishes they could just keep working on it,
keep working on it, and you know, thank god there's tours,
because that's where you get to work on it. Like, yeah,
here's a perfect example. Like when we recorded Surfing with
the Alien. I went in. I left my apartment that
morning to do that session. I'm looking around the apartment.
I'm going, what you like, you know, like what I

need something, And there's a Wahwa pedal sitting in the corner,
dust on it. I purposely did not play it for years.
I just sort of like made a rule like do
not plug that thing in, Joe, you know. So I
just thought, on a whim, I'm going to bring that.
So I bring it. I plug it in. I remember
John looking at me like, Wowa pedal, Like I thought

you'd like swore those things off, you know, And I'm like, oh,
let's just try it, you know. And we get around
to getting a sound late in the day, it's just
about four o'clock. We're supposed to be out of the
room studio see at Hyde Street in San francisc Go.
The other clients are at the door. They're literally looking
at me, like, you know, with their arms folded, like hey,

it's four o'clocket out of here. And I'm like, just
let me do a pass, you know. And so I
hadn't played the melody yet or it's melody solo section
melody and then solo at the end with the melody guitar,
and that was the one we had set up. So
I do this one long take. Guitar is not entirely

in tune. The even type processor that we're plugged into,
you know, is not working that great. And I get
through the end of the piece, all the way to
the very end of the song where the fade out
would have happened, and that's it, and we have to
turn everything off, break everything down, no chance of fixing,

you know, like coming in a day later and changing
a note because we had to strike the amp and everything.
And I just I remember my heart sunk because I thought,
oh man, it's like it's so promising. I think I'm
onto something right. So, as fate would have it, we
could never do anything better to it. So that's what's

on the album, and thank god people liked it, you know,
but every time I play that on stage, I'm like, Okay,
now is Joe, now's your chance to fix that, you know,
bar sixty three, to make this in tune and maybe
you should try this on the B string instead of
the G string. And I'm still working on it, and

that alleviates that anxiety of having to abandon a piece
of music.

Speaker 1 (01:44:37):
You know, Okay, you go work with Mick Jagger, your
record moves up the chart, you're done with Mick Jagger.
Then what.

Speaker 2 (01:44:50):
I wanted to do an entirely different kind of album.
I was so satisfied with the way that surfing was embraced.
I guess it was the way that it was embraced,
you know, like it's not like people focused on one song.

What I gathered from touring in all of eighty eight
was that people really liked the ballads, the melodies, the
guitar magazines like the pirate techniques and the flashy bits,
and people that wouldn't normally interview me, like the upbeat,

fun attitude of the album. All these things. I thought, well,
this is great. If they liked that part of me,
then there's no reason for me to try to do
this again that I want to keep going in my quest,
you know, with guitar playing and so Flying in a
Blue Dream was born the idea, and I shocked everyone

by saying, look, I want to sing, because what people
did know is I'd been in the Squares for five
years and I was one of the lead singers. So
and as I said before, I always thought i'd be
in a vocal rock band, and I realized that after
touring with instrumentals in eighty eight and having two tours
with Mick Jagger, that there was this real benefit for

having vocals because you could really reach people, you know.
And the question was would people accept me being in
character because I don't have a lead singer's voice. I
don't have that talent, you know, but I could hit notes.
And I thought, well, if I can get into a

character and sing rough for Big Bad Moon and sing
in a very heartfelt, demure version of myself where I
believe and you know, have these different vocals and try
to sing like prints for strange, you know that people
would get the joke and they say, yeah, he's not

trying to it's just Joe, just Joe having fun in
the studio. But it was a big album, eighteen tracks,
lots of crazy two hand tapping, harmonica playing. It had
a lot of things that I was so excited about
that I was just dying to bring out on tour.

And again we were really fortunate. I mean those each
time I've released a record, it's the records have found
their audience, which is just mind blowing, you know. And
so I still on this tour right now. I'm singing
Big Bad Moon and playing harp and it's so much fun.

You know, people get it. They know I'm not a
real singer.

Speaker 1 (01:47:49):
Let's jump forward. How do you meet Sammy Hagar?

Speaker 2 (01:47:54):
I meet Sammy Hagar taking a piss in the men's
room of the one of the bammis that's taking place
in the Bay Area.

Speaker 1 (01:48:04):
The Bay Area Music Awards when there used to be
a magazine BAM.

Speaker 2 (01:48:08):
Yes. Yeah, and he and I were both up for awards.
I was jamming with Ronnie Montrose that night and playing
some songs myself. We were both giving awards out, you know,
and I knew I'd known who Sammy was. But you're
not if if you've never met Sammy Hagar, You're not
prepared for the actual event that is being in his presence.

Man is like twenty men in one body. You know,
he's hysterical, he's so funny, full of energy, even in
the men's room in an semi awkward moment. But I
guess we hit it off. I don't think because it
was the men's room. I'm just saying we hit it off,
and then we wound up just bumping into each other

at different things like rehearsals or something like that. A
gig here, a gig there, and but we didn't really
formalize a relationship until he and Neil Neil Sean invited
me to join the band Planted Us a few years later.
And you know, I was really right in the middle

of making an album and booking a tour, and I
wasn't quite sure how that was going to work. We
did one live radio show and when and then I
went on tour, and when I came back, the band
had broken up before I had a chance to just
even figure out what I was supposed to do in
the band, Like, how do you play in a band
with Neil Sean? I don't know. He just he's amazing.

He covers all the bases, you know. But and then
Sam came around again and called me to do chicken
Foot back in two thousand and eight, and yeah, one
thing led to another.

Speaker 1 (01:49:53):
Yeah, okay, how was the experience with chicken Foot? You
put out two albums?

Speaker 2 (01:50:00):
That's so great. I mean, the x, the palpable excitement
in the studio, Sam's Little studio, bringing in a song.
You know, I'd email like a song to the guys
and someone would say, like, okay, three weeks from now,
we got two days at Sam's studio and we arrive,

they'd say, oh, yeah, that that that thing you sent us, Joe, Yeah,
let's do that right now. And you know, as a band,
we'd sort of chop it up and rearrange it, and
then we recorded and that would be on the album.
I was like stunned that they would want to record
that way, but that's how they wanted to record. And
so a lot of the first album was done right there,

maybe half of it in Sam's little place, the rest
of it at Skywalker. And it was always fun, always dangerous,
that first tour with Chad destroying drums every night and
is so much fun. It was really like it was

like being fourteen years old and you know, totally losing
control at a high school dancer or someone's backyard party
and doing a professional gig all at once. It had
that insanity to it and that love of you know,
trying to create a true rock and roll moment on stage.

Just tons of fun.

Speaker 1 (01:51:31):
So what's this tour you're going on with essentially chicken
Foot with a different drummer this summer?

Speaker 2 (01:51:38):
You know, my perspective of it is so different because
Sam called me and he said, I want to do
a career retrospective tour where we play Montrose and Hagar
and chicken Foot and a couple of your songs and
a lot of Vhalen songs, even some roth era songs.

And I thought, well, there's no way I'm missing this.
This is like my friend, my buddy's having a career
retrospective and I'm part of it. I'm lucky enough to
be actually part of his career. And so I wanted
to do it, and I think I agreed before I
really thought the weight of it when it came to
the Van Halen stuff, but it was, you know, he said,

well it'll be at that time, you know, next summer,
and I thought, Okay, I've got these other projects, but
I'll have a couple of months to sit down and
try to figure out all this Edward van Halen stuff
that I avoided learning on purpose all these decades, you know.
And then of course he calls me and he says, oh,
by the way, we're doing this Howard Stern thing. And

at the time, I'd been painting canvases and guitars for
three weeks. I was literally I had no callouses left.
I hadn't been playing. I was trying to cram for
this art show at the Wentwer Gallery that was happening
the same week as the Stern show. And so I
explained to him myself, well, we can't do it. You know.

It's just I'm not gonna play Eddie van Halen music
at six in the morning, and besides, I'm painting, you know. Anyway,
long story short, they twist my arm. We wind up
doing this show and they were great, and they were
I mean, Jason, Mike and Sam have been doing these
songs for decades now, so they were totally. I just

was sort of trying not to screw up too much,
remembering each bar as it was coming in front of me.
You know, luckily, I'm a big fan of the Van
Halen music. So that's that's the memory I was drawing upon,
not rehearsal memory, which you know there was none, but
now it's the set list that Sam was put together.

Is really a lot of fun. It's and super challenging
for me for sure.

Speaker 1 (01:53:59):
Okay, tell us about the painting thing.

Speaker 2 (01:54:03):
So about I mean, I've been drawing ever since I
was a little kid, but I didn't really get into
painting until about eight years ago. My wife, Rabinis, got
a degree in graphic arts. My son wound up getting
a degree in art as well, and so there was
a lot of stuff around the house begging me to

test it out. So I asked my wife, you know, look,
I just get me going. When do I use this brush?
When do I use this one? Do I have to
do something to the canvas before I put on the
acrylic or the oil and whatnot? So she gave me
a crash course, and I took all the stuff that
I had been doing with pen and pencil and with
the computer, and I thought, okay, now it's time to

get your your fingers dirty, you know, And I found
I really loved it, and then I started doing some
more guitars as a test. Now I'd done illustrating guitars,
you know, with pen just drawing goofy figures, but hadn't
done real works of art that stand on their own
until I started down this process. And I wasn't thinking

of selling them or becoming an artist, so to speak,
until I was invited by Corey and Robbiet Scene for
Art Collective to do these time laps photography pieces in
the dark where you wear led lace gloves and you
play your instrument, and then they create these photographs and
manipulate them in the in the computer and then print them.

And so during a break of the one of the
photo sessions, I took up my phone and I said,
you know, I've been I've been checking out this stuff.
What do you think about oil versus acrylic? You know?
And I was just asking art questions, you know, and
they got really interested in what they saw and they
wanted to collaborate. So we started to do these collaborations

with my artwork, getting going into into the computer, using
it as backgrounds, adding the images that we were photographing
of me playing. Uh. And then one thing led to another,
and Corey Denzigers said he wanted to introduce me to

Christian O. Mahoney at Wentworth Gallery and he was like,
would you paint a lot if people liked it? You know,
It's kind of a funny question. And I thought, well, yeah,
I would. I think, like, what's a lot? You know.
And so once I start talking to Christian, you know,
he's like, well it you know, I mean minimum, we'd

love to have three hundred pieces. And I'm like, oh,
I'd never painted, you know. It was just like, oh
my god, Like how does an artist do that? So
but I thought it was a really great thing to
try and and it has been so wonderful for me
just to be able to have the opportunity to express

myself not only on the canvas, but also on the guitars.
And it's when when I walk into one of the
Wentworth galleries and I see nothing but my paintings, it's
like hearing your song on the radio for the first time.
It's that crazy. It's just it's a bizarre experience. It's

very difficult to explain because it's something that you know,
it came from inside, that was very personal and all
of a sudden, it's in the real world and people
are seeing it and commenting on it and buying it
and taking it home and looking at it every day.
It's just it's It's like when someone says I use
your song to get married or at a funeral or

at you know this thing. I listen to it every
day when I'm on my bike or whatever. It's it's heavy.
It's heavy.

Speaker 1 (01:57:55):
So you said earlier about music, the public either likes
it or does the public like your art so far?

Speaker 2 (01:58:04):
Yes, you never know what people are going to like,
and that again, this is a perfect example of that.
Where I'll do a painting of the moon, I'll do
a painting of flag, I'll do painting of guitars, alien,
a beautiful woman, and a Drodyn his figure. I don't
know what people are going to like. I don't even

stop myself, and Christian never stops hanging whatever it is
I send him because I think he realizes the same
thing is that someone will walk by the shop one
day and they'll see a painting of something that I
did that we never thought twice about, and they'll say,
this means so much to me. And that's what I

learned at the art shows. It's really fascinating how it works.
So I go there. I spend about twenty minutes with
each person that buys a piece of art, and I
get to hear from them what they like about it.
They want to know all about why I created it.
And then at the end of the day I play

for about forty five minutes to an hour. If somebody
buys one of the painted guitars, we get up and
we jam together they if they play guitar. So it's
really a fun personal experience, and it's small, you know,
it's what fifty people or something like that. It's not
like doing a concert at the Beacon Theater or something
like that. It's very personal and you really do spend

a lot of time with people and the stories that
they tell me about how they feel when they look
at the painting. It's really touching. It's a profound experience.
I have to like get ready for it.

Speaker 1 (01:59:43):
I know everything has a different price, but approximately how
much does a painting or a guitar or retail for.

Speaker 2 (01:59:50):
The guitars are hanging up for about eighteen to twenty
thousand dollars the paintings, depending on the size. Maybe I
don't know, fifteen to eighteen for a forty by forty canvas,
and I know that recently they've done a series of
prints on canvas as well as metal. Really beautiful process.

I don't really know how they do it, but they
transfer the photographs I take of the artwork to this
metal medium and it adds this dimension, especially the psychedelic
city scapes that I've done blown up, you know, forty
or fifty by forty on metal. It's wow, really cool looking.

Speaker 1 (02:00:38):
Switching gears totally once again, to what degree are you
a gear ahead?

Speaker 2 (02:00:45):
Oh? Well, I love gear I mean this is the
how far I'll go. When Sam called me for this
summer gig, right, the best of all worlds gig, you know,
after I said yes and I started to play some
van Halen through my amp, I realized my amp is

not the proper amp to do the songs properly, you know,
and that put me on this quest of you know,
I had to put the gearhead hat on and figure out, like,
how am I going to represent decades of this genius's work,
and because he was a gearhead, you know, how am
I going to condense it down into something that's manageable

that I can play every night. I went through every
manufacturer that made an AMP that could really scream that way,
and eventually landed a third power and guitar player designer
and owner Delana Scott totally got what I was asking
her to do and everything, all the teeny little things

that bug guitar players when they're trying to pull things off.
And she made me this amp called the Dragon, which
blew everybody away. When I showed up at the satch
Vi tour and at the very first one and only
rehearsal we had in Orlando with this new amp, and
I said, I've never played this before, but I want
to start playing this thing right now. And I plugged

into this thing. I didn't even set the controls. Delana
had set all the controls up herself, after you know,
weeks of describing things over the phone, email, text and everything,
and I haven't touched the dial since. And every night
that app sounds so amazing, it's so inspiring, and so

to that degree that would that would be a good
example of how far I'll go to achieve the right sound.
Just for one tour, I will commission a special amp
and just dive right in and start using it in
front of my audience who's heard me play Marshals forever.

Speaker 1 (02:02:57):
You know.

Speaker 2 (02:03:00):
But gear is important. It's you know, it's the thing
that is going to set you free so that you
can be inspired and that the audience can tell if
you're inspired or not. They don't care so much about,
you know, mistakes like if your strap breaks or your
antlows up. That's kind of cool for them because they go,

I remember that show that's where his trap broke, his
amp blew up, and and he talked to the audience
for twenty minutes while they fixed it. You know. But
if you go and you do a show and it's
lackluster because you're not inspired by your gear, that's the
kind of memory you don't want your fans to have.
So the gear is there to inspire the artist and

the musician.

Speaker 1 (02:03:44):
And then how did you decide to play the brand
of guitar that you do? That took a long time.
I mean, wow, not to bore or your non guitar
playing audience. But if I had to whittle it down,
I could say, you know, there's Fender, and there's Gibson,
there's single coils, and there's humbucking pickups. There's the scale length,

tight and snappy of a Telecaster and a Fender, and
then there's the warm, fat sound of the Gibson scale
length which is shorter Les Paul's three thirty five sgs,
and guitar players struggle with that. If they're lucky enough
to own two guitars, they'll probably wind up getting one

of each. So they're prepared if they're going to do
session work.

Speaker 2 (02:04:35):
Or they're going to be playing in a cover band
and they've got a switch between imitating Hendricks or Jimmy
Page or whatever you know. But fast forward to this
modern world. There's other things that guitar players do now
that are expected, and it has to do with the
vibrato bar and then the amount of frets on the guitar.
So the early guitar, I mean Fender and Gibson, we're

talking guitars that were designed late forties, early fifties, brilliant guitars.
They're so brilliant most people still play them. I mean,
you just can't do that any better, but you can
do something different that gives you more tools, more frets.
Most of us play twenty four frent guitars now. It

does allow us to play higher, but it also gives
us access to what used to be difficult to play
in the normal high range. We also have these vibrato
bars that allow us to change the picture of the
strings in a radical way, and that's become totally accepted
now to hear guitars screaming super high and doing dive

bombs super low. It's just like normal. So I play
a guitar that has been carefully and slowly meticulously fashioned
to help me do what I love to do, which
is to play beautiful melodies, appropriate solos, memorable chre progressions

and makes a lot of strange noises when the time
is right, and the thing stays in tune and is
just rock solid, you know. And and it's a team
effort because you know, the strings from the Dario and
the pickups from Demarzio, I mean, everybody, all these companies

chip in to help me feel comfortable every time I
hit the stage or I'm in the studio and.

Speaker 1 (02:06:32):
You go out on the road. Now, how many guitars
do you bring with you?

Speaker 2 (02:06:36):
No more than ten? I always try to keep it,
you know, six, you know, one on the bus, one
for backstage, and then I hate the idea of making
you know, my tech change strings like four hours every
day on every guitar. You know, And so the reality

is why so we always try to trim down. If
I can get through a show with three guitars, I'll
do it. If I've got a couple of songs that
have weird tunings, then we're kind of stuck. We have
to have them there. But I don't like having to
relate to a lot of guitars on a physical level,
you know, because they're all different, they all feel a

little different. If I could get through a show with
one guitar, that would be great, But I abuse them
so much. You know, after three songs they need a
little tuning up. And this is not the seventies anymore,
So you can't do that while people are watching. So
you got to hand it off and get a new
one and keep the show rolling, you.

Speaker 1 (02:07:38):
Know, Okay, and your three favorite rock guitars. Don't put
a lot of time and effort on it, just you know,
give me off the top of your head.

Speaker 2 (02:07:51):
Top of my head, I would really say, Jimmy Hendrix
is my all global god of all time. H an
innovator to two above all innovators, and uh, it's oh yeah,
I mean I can't. I'd have to say I'm going

to leap ahead from the guys who I mean everybody,
uh influenced somebody else. But I mean I still hear
and rely on the pacing and the ingenuity of George
Harrison and Keith Richards. I know they don't fit with Hendricks.
People expect me to say, you know, Jeff Beck and
out in the Holdsworth and stuff like that, but uh,

those those three guys, they really laid down some stuff.
I mean, they it's just it transcended their technique. They
weren't neither of them could play everything, you know, even
Hendricks he was not like McLaughlin or Holdsworth. He certainly

won't like a Segovia or Christopher Parkning or something like that.
So each these were individual human beings that somehow use
their bodies to produce music that is so memorable and
so loved and so solid and so enduring. They were
so inventive all the time, and I rely on that.

I feel that, Like every time I'm playing something in
me says that's enough, that's not interesting. You know, it's
I refer back to the great things that they recorded
and and and I'm lucky that they were part that
they've been part of my foundation, I think.

Speaker 1 (02:09:46):
And if you listen to Hendricks, what do you listen to.

Speaker 2 (02:09:51):
Everything? Uh? You know, he was I'm a moody person,
and he was very moody, and he produced music that
could really make you forget every other song I ever did.
So nineteen eighty three, I Meerman and I should turn
to be like, that's like four guitar players. I don't
know how he did that. That's like so intense, that

song so beautiful, and again you get I would say
one of the things about Hendricks is that you never
got the sense that he practiced or that he was
showing you something that he practiced or he learned from
a book. It just didn't Nothing was methodical, nothing was didactic.
Nothing sounded like I practiced this scale for twelve years

and now I'm demonstrating, which a lot of guitar players
they you know, they use that for effect. And that's cool.
But that's what's so beautiful about what Hendricks did. He
just transcended it. I mean a machine gun from Live
at the Fillmore, that's the greatest live performance ever. It's
just you can't touch it.

Speaker 1 (02:10:59):
Okay, you said that you're moody. Listening to you today,
I would not have guessed that at all. So am
I just getting one aspect of your personality?

Speaker 2 (02:11:13):
Well, I'm trying to be a professional musician giving an
interview to a very professional person who I respect, and
so I don't want to waste your time. But if
I was deep in songwriting, if I was writing a
sad song, I'd be so deep in it.

Speaker 1 (02:11:28):
And well, let's pull it back from music. Are you
the type of person who gets depressed? Are you an introvert? Extrovert?
Who's the Who's the Joe Satriani behind the curtain?

Speaker 2 (02:11:43):
Oh wow, you'd have to ask my wife and son
about that. But I think I enjoy diving deep into
a mood, uh, you know, to write music, to paint,
just just to feel it. And and if I if

I something's bothering me about something like you know, let's
say I'm looking at the I pull up a CNN
and I see a report about something I wasn't thinking
about and it shocks me. I'll dive deep. I'll keep
researching that story. And you know, most people will go, oh,
you know, I don't want to read about that tragedy
or that horrible thing. You know, I will. I'll go

all the way deep into it. I want to know
about that and and and it's different, it's separate from
that part of me that just would do that to
write a song. Although that's how I write songs. I
can't write songs for order, you know, Like if you
ask me, you know, Joe, I need a song for

my podcast, you know, I'd be like, oh God, this
is work, you know, But I will write it. I
will write a few songs by the end of the
week about what I've seen, experienced and felt, what I dreamt,
something real, something imagined, because that's the way I write.
I just write about real experience, which means I have
to go deep and like find out what the real

truth is about this feeling that I have. And that's
the only method I have to edit myself. And you know,
when you're writing music, you have to edit. You got
to take out all the notes that mean nothing to
get down to the notes that mean everything, so that
the song is specific about this story you're trying to
reach people with, you know. So that's when the mood thing,

my moodiness is beneficial, so I can really turn it
on and I don't mind wallowing in it or brooding.
That said Michael Tilson. Thomas said to me once he
was listening to my catalog and he wrote me an
email and he said, brooding, brooding is good.

Speaker 1 (02:14:03):
Okay, As someone who has worked as a musician for decades,
did you ever sew your wild out? So you're basically
the guy from Westbury, Long Island, not drinking and drug
and going back to the room or back to your
bunk after the show.

Speaker 2 (02:14:18):
I was famous for delaying going to the party during
high school because they'd say, come on, we're leaving. It'd
be like eight, you know, we're going out to so
and so place is going to be insane, and I'd go,
I'll meet you there at eleven thirty, you know. And
because if I hadn't done every scale at every metronome

level whatever, I just couldn't live with myself. So I
would practice and practice and practice, and then i'd meet
them later and I'd arrive at the party and everyone
would be totally wasted and so and I'd go like, oh,
this doesn't look very cool. So I mean, I did
my share of partying but it never took over my life.
It never confused me. It never took the place of

connecting with my friends or the people I fell in
love with, and certainly never got in front of the music.

Speaker 1 (02:15:09):
You know, how'd you meet your wife?

Speaker 2 (02:15:15):
Okay, let's see if I can do this sinkly as possible.
My older sister's current boyfriend at the time had a daughter,
and the daughter had a roommate, two roommates. One of
the roommates was my future wife. And I had moved
to Berkeley and I'd been practicing like twelve hours a

day for like two months, and I was living with
my sisters at the time. And one night, my sister
Jones said, you have to get out of the house,
like you cannot just you know, be a hermit with
the guitar. And I was like, okay, okay. She said,
you know, my boyfriend's daughter is having a birthday party.

You're a wich want don't you just come? And I
just said, okay, I just gave up. You know, I
was tired from practicing. So I went there and there
she was. That's how we met.

Speaker 1 (02:16:10):
And was it an instant romance for me?

Speaker 2 (02:16:13):
It was. It took a lot of work to convince
my wife because I was unemployed. I kind of looked
like Cat Stevens when it was Maybe I shouldn't have
looked like Cat Stevens at the time, you know, long hair, beard,
wearing clothes that were maybe a couple of years too old.
But that was nineteen seventy seven, so we've been together

ever since.

Speaker 1 (02:16:39):
And when you're off the road, are you the type
of person who's deep into your mood or you're burning
up the airways on the phone, whether it be text, email,
actual phone calls.

Speaker 2 (02:16:53):
Uh? Well, you, I mean, there's so much business that
is on the artists today. You know that there there
there's no more staff at the label to handle things.
You know, it's just the artist has to be online
every day keep things going. So I'm not obsessive about it.

I don't. I never post about private things. I don't
show people what I'm meeting for lunch or dinner or
any of that kind of stuff. I keep that part private.
And I focus on the music and you know, the
the albums and the and the tours. But I I
always find that I have to structure practice for the

next project. I have to carve out time to be
left alone to write. I like writing alone. I love
having two months to brainstorm and to collect all the
materials that I write. I write a lot, you know,
and only use a third maybe or a quarter for
an album. But I think in the last twenty years

it seemed like there's been more randomness. I mean, the
album cycles have changed. Social media has completely upended the
old model of how to deal with press and going
away and coming back, you know, that that whole routine
of trying to maintain an audience, you know, presence through absence,
that kind of thing, and so you were always kind

of like doing something, you know, but then having the collaboration,
especially with Sam and Chickenfoot, was quite unique, and then
the cycle of the G three's, and it's just it's been,
I want to say, more different. It sounds kind of weak,
but it just seems like it's been a little bit

more random the last fifteen or twenty years than the
previous fifteen or twenty which were a little bit more streamlined.

Speaker 1 (02:18:57):
Well, hanging on that same point, if one talks to
someone who's a professional sideman, professional studio musician, to the
degree they still have those they're really big networkers Okay,
I'm not saying this is the way, it is, just talking.
You know. Well I was doing this and this person
called me here and I was driven, you know, who

are you?

Speaker 2 (02:19:21):
Yeah, I don't network. I don't. Yeah, I don't. As
people call me, I guess they reach out or they
reach out to my manager, and you know, eventually, if
they know that it's okay to call me in a
particular week or something, they'll say, hey, you interested in this?
I just got this from so and so. You know,

but I, yeah, I don't do that. I you know,
back in eighty eight, I signed to oh this company,
gour Vain and Schwartz down in La to do soundtracks.
Everyone was, oh, you're going to be doing soundtracks. Everyone
loves the Sincerenrato music. I had this deep u suspicion

because right away they thought, oh, they don't want to
listen to my music as it is. They have to
see something in order to accept music. But you know,
it's just like work. You know, you spend enough decades
not working as a musician. You never snicker at the
offer of employment, you know. So I thought, okay, I'll
try it, and then then I you know, they were

sending scripts that were horrible, and then there were all
these you know, invitations, Oh, you should go lunch with
this guy, you should go, you know, And I kept saying,
you realize I live in San Francisco. I'm not in Hollywood,
you know, and you should move to Hollywood, you know.
And because you got to hang out with this these
people know those people, and I just said no, and
I that was the end of that contract, and I said,

I don't want to be bothered by any of this.
It's like I can't write music while I'm I'm prefer
people not to be their friends, but to get work.
I just didn't seem sincere at all. And so I
mean there are I mean, you know, I gave up

doing drugs because I realized that people who were making
money making and selling drugs were people that I wouldn't like,
So why would I help them? You know? And I
thought the same thing, like why would I be insincere
in friendships when I don't believe in being insincere. So

that was easy for me just to tell management, like, no,
I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to
keep doing what I'm doing. And if people like the music, great,
if they invite me to go on tour. Great. If
they don't, I'll take my lumps when they come. But
I'm not going to be fake. I'm not going to
you know, move where I don't want to live and

go to lunch with people I don't like.

Speaker 1 (02:22:00):
Well, you know that brings up so many questions, but
I think we've come to the end of the feeling
we've known for today. Joe, You've been so sincere, so upfront.
I can literally continue for hours. There's so much more
stuff I wanted to ask, but I wanted it the highlights.
So thank you so much for taking the time to

talk to me and my audience.

Speaker 2 (02:22:22):
Oh this has been wonderful. I love your newsletters. They're
really great. Don't stop.

Speaker 1 (02:22:28):
I won't and I know you won't either.

Speaker 2 (02:22:32):
Fantastic And the podcast are just that's really great that
you do this a voice of reason and insight that
people need and I enjoy.

Speaker 1 (02:22:43):
Well. Thank you, Joe. In any event, till next time,
This is Bob left Sense
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