Interview: Joe Satriani talks about his new Satchurated 3D concert film

Joe Satriani on stage at the Metropolis Theatre in Montreal, Canada, 12 December 2010.

"Not being nominated, it's a travesty!" says Joe Satriani. No, it's not the lack of Grammy love that is ruffling the guitar legend's feathers. Rather, he's still smarting over the the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ignored his dramatic, five-second-long portrayal of Joe Satriani in the film Moneyball. The picture that was nominated in six categories including Best Picture and Best Actor (for Brad Pitt), but as for Satch...nothing.

"I'm going to have to look into this," Satriani chuckles, making it quite clear that his indignation is mock serious. "No Oscar nod, no Golden Globe nod… I just broke into Hollywood and already I've been blackballed." He thinks for a second, then brightens, "Hey! Maybe I have a chance at winning a Rotten Tomato award or something. OK...there's still hope!"

Yes, there is, and for fans seeking more than five seconds' worth of Joe Satriani, that hope is made into reality on 1 March when the concert film Satchurated unspools in the US in both 3D and 2D formats. Shot on 12 December 2010 at the Metropolis Theatre in Montreal, Canada by award-winning filmmakers Pierre and Francois Lamoureux, Satchurated is a riveting document of Satch's Wormhole Tour which supported his solo album Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards.

"I'm stunned at how the whole thing turned out," says Satriani. "A lot of the time, you do films and videos and they meet your expectations. This one blew everything I was thinking right out the window."

MusicRadar sat down with Joe Satriani recently to talk about Satchurated. In addition, we discussed his March G3 tour with Steve Vai and Steve Lukather, along with his 2012 plans for Chickenfoot.

You've seen yourself on film and video before, but what's it like to see yourself in 3D?

"Bizarre, surreal - all things wrapped up into one. I don't like looking at myself period, and 3D really brought it home. Still, I have to say, 3D is better than 2D. This particular version of 3D is very life-like. It's not gimmicky in that it looks like 2D until somebody leans nto the camera and then it's 3D. The technology here is a real leap forward. It makes it look like you're truly there, right on stage with all of us. And together with the 7.1 sound, it's very compelling.

"The night we filmed the show was pretty emotional for me. It was a year to the day that my mother had passed away, and I realized that I was still dealing with a lot of issues in my head. I remember thinking to myself before the show, All right, you've still got to put out, but how are you going to do this?

"When I look at the film, I see a wounded, vulnerable Joe trying to do his best. Other people don't see that. People have told me that it's a very strong, intense and definitive performance, one that the fans will really love."

Even though you might have been trying to put your mother's death out of your mind, do you think you might have used it to fuel your playing?

"That's interesting… Honestly, I felt that I was not in control. I walked off stage thinking, What was that? What did I just do? [laughs] I was kind of shaking my head. It was [keyboardist] Mike Keneally who said to me right afterwards, 'You may not have accomplished what you set out to, but what you did accomplish is special.'

"At the time he told me that, I wasn't ready to understand it, but when I saw the film, I finally got what he meant. Something else happened on that stage; I was somewhere else. So the film is me being…somewhere else. [laughs] That's the best way I can describe it."

For the Wormhole Tour, you used a four-piece band. How did that change your playing?

"Having that group around me was a blast. I really felt like I was in the middle, which worked out great in the film sound-wise. We didn't have to stereo chorus my guitar or the rhythm guitar - there were no games being played there.

"Also, on stage, it really brought [rhythm guitarist] Galen [Henson] and Mike out, that whole dynamic. It elevated the sound of the band, the integration of our parts and the ways that we improvised together. The material from Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards was perfect for this kind of interplay.

"The band was terrific - each guy came from different musical walks of life, but we created something unique together. This might be a stretch, but it reminded me of Neil Young with Crazy Horse. It's a very charismatic band, and what comes out of Neil when he plays with them is very different and unique."

You, Steve Vai and Steve Lukather are bringing G3 to Australia and New Zealand. How did Luke get in the mix?

"It all started last July, when I was in Europe doing some shows. I shared the bill with Steve on a French guitar festival. Now, Steve and I run into each other all the time on the global circuit, but this was a unique opportunity to watch him play with his solo band. I thought he was great. His playing and singing blew me away. I said to my wife, Rubina, and my manager, Mick, 'Hey, we should see if he's into doing G3.'

"I asked him about it, and he said yes, so then I called up Steve Vai - I always go to him first - and as it turned out, he had a window in his recording schedule where it could work, too. So everybody was up for it, and now I've got Steve and Steve! [laughs]

"By the way, I saw Steve - Vai, I mean - at NAMM the other day, and he's got a new hairstyle - very short. I almost didn't recognize him. It's a whole new Steve Vai."

Do you think he'd ever copy your hairstyle?

"What hairstyle? And why would anybody want to do that by choice?" [laughs]

Have you and the two Steves plotted out what you're going to play on G3?

"No, not really. Everybody's been too busy. I've got four weeks off right now, so I'm going to start thinking about it. But everybody sort of knows the plan. Each guy has his own band and is given pretty much carte blanche to do whatever he wants. We'll be picking songs that celebrate the guitar in general. Within the next two weeks we'll probably start e-mailing one another and coming up with songs to do in the jam."

With something like G3, it's a friendly kind of musical exchange between the three of you. Nobody is out to blow the other guy off the stage.

"Actually, I'm hoping we will!" [laughs]

The Wormhole Tour band: (from left) Mike Keneally, Galen Henson, Satriani, Jeff Campitelli and Allen Whitman.

Oh, really?

"Sure. For me, G3 is the best kind of competition, where nobody holds back and each guy brings his best. It heightens the experience on stage, and the fans pick up on it. We push each other - and you can only do that with friends; you can't do it with adversaries.

"The G3 ethic is competition, but it's sharing, too, and that's what makes the show really exciting. We want to give the fans something incredible. To do that, you have to be willing to walk out on the ledge. And face it, on any given night, somebody is going to play better. That's just the way it is."

Let's talk Chickenfoot. You guys just did a brief tour of the UK...

"That's right. And it was really, really a lot of fun. I think that throwing in a few changes can really energize the scene. Here we were, returning to Europe with a new album and a new drummer - the whole thing came together to make for a handful of unbelievably great shows."

Kenny Aronoff is locking in then?

"We're totally locked in with Kenny. Every musician has some different stuff about him and how he brings that to a situation. Kenny's got some cool, different aspects when it comes to laying down a groove and the way he can expand on an improv. He can flip things around, but he's always solid.

"It's all very different from what Chad [Smith] did, which makes it a lot of fun for Mike [Anthony] and I to jump on. Playing with a new guy is always cool. It really adds to the excitement level of going out and doing shows."

Now that you've done the road tests, you'll be doing a full tour?

"That's right. We're looking at doing a full month of domestic touring starting in May. After that, we'll return to Europe to do festivals. I know that they're working on that right this second."

Now, what happens if Chickenfoot winds up on the same bill as the Chili Peppers?

"Oh! I thought you were going to say Van Halen." [laughs]

No...wasn't going to go there.

"See, I think that would be great. I do! And the Chili Peppers would be great, too. I just saw their new video, and I thought it was really cool. I like how the guys were shot in all of these different rooms. It's good stuff. The festivals are very interesting. You get a lot of amazing bands, a lot of fun things can happen. I'm excited to see what goes on myself."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.