“They’re gonna see someone who’s hell-bent on being the most respectful guitar player to the legacy of Eddie”: Joe Satriani issues update on his mission impossible – nailing Eddie Van Halen’s guitar parts

Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen: this summer, Satch is currently learning Van Halen tracks for this summer's Best of All Worlds Tour with Sammy Hagar
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Joe Satriani will undertake the toughest job in electric guitar this summer when he joins Sammy Hagar for the The Best Of All Worlds Tour and is presented with the task of performing Eddie Van Halen’s guitar parts – not to mention nailing Eddie’s tone.  

Speaking to Classic Rock, Satch offered an update on where he’s at with the mission and right now he is “trying to unravel the mystery” of EVH’s playing. While we might consider Satch to be at an advantage here – after all, he is one of guitar’s GOATs – he reminds us that he is a late bloomer when it comes to the Van Halen catalogue, because the last thing he wanted when developing his playing style was to be A N Other Eddie Van Halen copycat.

“Now all of a sudden I’m doing a crash course on the idiosyncrasies and the genius of his guitar work,” he said. “I know these songs but I've never actually played them. It’s a task.”

Satriani had a baptism of fire when it comes to this forthcoming set when he joined Hagar and co live on Howard Stern with next to zero rehearsal time, to then be put under the spotlight, and ultimately being asked to play the unplayable – namely, Mean Street.

We’ll say he did a great job. Satch begged to differ, and in an interview with Guitar World, he apologised. “I royally screwed up, which hurt like a thorn in my side,” he said. “But I'll get over it.”

Tone is going to be one of the key battlegrounds for Satriani, and it’s one he is taking deadly seriously. In January, he revealed that he was getting a custom 3rd Power amp built for the tour that will be voiced to give him Eddie Van Halen’s tone circa ’86, which in Satch’s opinion (and Hagar’s), was the acme of EVH live tone – and crucially would give him the harmonic juiciness required for successfully landing tracks such as the aforementioned Mean Street.

This is the sort of "Friday night tone" that in part inspired the track Nineteen Eighty from Satriani's 2021 studio album, Shapeshifting. Speaking to MusicRadar, Satriani said that was a golden year for guitar. “It was still Eddie Van Halen and Mark Knopfler. It was still Brian May and AC/DC and it was fun,” he said.

I can’t tell you how happy I was that Eddie came on the scene and just lifted up guitar playing again... He had that Friday night tone, that Friday night attitude

When it came time to write a song about that time, he looked down in his studio and saw one of the essential pedals for Van Halen tone, there was no question he was going to press it into service.

“I was literally in my home studio and there on the floor was an Eddie Van Halen MXR Phase 90, with the special Eddie paint job on it, and I said, ‘I have to use this!’” said Satriani. “I can’t tell you how happy I was that Eddie came on the scene and just lifted up guitar playing again, and he had what you just said, he had that Friday night tone, that Friday night attitude. It was devastatingly perfect; his timing was just so perfect, and he wrote such good songs.”

In Satriani’s favour, however, he has a deep affection for the material. He told Classic Rock that if he misses a note it won’t be for the lack of preparation – and if he does, well that’ll just be a little secret between him and the audience.

“What I can guarantee is they're gonna see someone who’s hell-bent on being the most respectful guitar player to the legacy of Eddie and his playing,” he said. “I’m busy creating workarounds. I have every intention of nailing everything, and when I can’t I'll wink to the audience and they’re gonna know that one’s just gonna slip by.”

The Best Of All Worlds Tour will be an all-star event. Hagar’s band sees Satriani joined onstage by Jason Bonham on drums, and Van Halen alumnus Michael Anthony on bass guitar. It kicks off on 13 July at the iTHINK Amphitheatre, Florida. If this was any time other than 2024, this would be the guitar event of the year; Satch plays Eddie, two Van Halen alumni and a Bonham on the drum stool. That’s magic. 

But this is 2024 and it has already bore witness to the original G3 Tour, with Satriani reunited with Steve Vai and Eric Johnson, and there’s the small matter of the ongoing Satch/Vai Tour, which swings through North Charleston Performing Arts Centre, South Carolina, tonight (29 March). 

You can find dates and ticket details at Steve Vai’s website. Later today, the two guitar masters debut their first collaborative single, The Sea Of Emotion Pt. 1, which is taken from their forthcoming album. Earlier this week, Satriani revealed that the The Sea Of Emotion was a trilogy, and Vai’s instalment will feature restored audio of the pair playing together when they were teenagers.

For dates and ticket details for this summer's Best Of All Worlds Tour, head over to Sammy Hagar's site, the Red Rocker. You can hear more from Satriani on his Best Of All Worlds Tour preparations over at Louder.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.