Joe Satriani talks about band chemistry on his upcoming album, Unstoppable Momentum

Satriani is over the moon about working with Vinnie Colaiuta, Chris Cheney and Mike Keneally on his new album
Satriani is over the moon about working with Vinnie Colaiuta, Chris Cheney and Mike Keneally on his new album (Image credit: Fadeichev Sergei/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis)

"It cast some sort of spell over me," Joe Satriani says about his forthcoming album, Unstoppable Momentum, due out 7 May. "It took me on a journey. I'm trying to push the boundaries of what I can get away with, but it's always about trying to evoke feelings in the listener. And it starts with myself: How is this music making me feel? If it can elicit some sort of powerful reaction within myself, chances are other people will feel the same way."

To record the new album, Satriani assembled an ace band that featured one longtime comrade, keyboadist Mike Keneally, and two new players in his world, Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney and drum superstar Vinnie Colaiuta.

Satriani admits that every time he works with a new group of musicians, it's a creative roll of the dice. "When you write down 'Mike Keneally, Chris Chaney and Vinnie Colaiuta,' you don't really know if this is going to work," he says. "But you just have to trust a feeling that everybody is going to play off of one another, and it's going to click."

And by all accounts, he couldn't be happier with the results. "There were huge things that took place all the time," Sariani says, "but sometimes it was the beautiful little embellishments they added that really made everything work."

Satch has high praise for Colaiuta, who has played with everyone from Frank Zappa to Sting to Jeff Beck, among others. "We had a phrase that my Pro Tools editor, Mike Boden, came up with: Lead Drummer," he says. "What happened was, we would go through all these takes, and it was so hard to pick the best one - each time, Vinnie provided a performance that was unique from beginning to end. The personality was a little bit different from take to take."

Keyboard whiz Keneally played on Satriani's Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards and was a member of the guitar star's touring band in support of that album (a role he'll reprise this year). Satch marvels at the shorthand the two share in the studio. "You don't really have to tell him anything other than, 'OK, Mike, just play,'" he says. "He always manages to find the heart and soul of a piece and will add that one thing, be it big or small, that makes you go, 'Ohhh, he found it!'"

When it came time to decide on a bass player to round out the studio band, Satriani found that his criteria was slightly daunting: "I looked at the tracks I created and thought, 'Who can fit with these?' he says, chuckling. "Beyond being somebody who's technically brilliant and can play both outrageously and simply, I needed somebody with an understanding that sound is the message. As it so happened, Mike Boden mentioned Chris to me, and I said, 'Of course! Here's a guy who's on a million movies, but he's in Jane's Addiction, too. He's the guy.' And he was definitely the guy in so many ways. Whatever he played, it was always the right thing."

Unstoppable Momentum can be pre-ordered at this link. Starting 8 April, Satriani begins an Australian Master Class Clinic tour, and on 18 May he begins a European tour in support of Unstoppable Momentum.

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.