“I don’t want to generalise and say that he made everything sound good, but he did”: Joe Satriani reveals his strategy for replicating Eddie Van Halen’s tone on upcoming Sammy Hagar tour

Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Mario Skraban/Getty Images; Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Even for Joe Satriani, signing up to join Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Jason Bonham for The Best Of All Worlds Summer Tour 2024 is a big deal. It might not be an Eddie Van Halen tribute tour, but it’s the next best thing, and it will require Satch not only to learn the material but to replicate arguably the most sought-after tones in electric guitar.

Having appeared on Howard Stern with zero rehearsals and a bunch of tunes to play live in the studio, on TV, Satriani has already proved he has got the stomach for this gig. But when it comes time to load in for 2024’s most-anticipated tour, how is he going to nail Eddie’s tone?

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Satriani acknowledged that was a tall task, not least because Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tone evolved over the years as he pushed the envelope, moving from Marshalls to Soldano and Peavey amps and developing the 5150, which for many hard rock players is the ultimate tube amp. What works for Van Halen II doesn’t necessarily work on material from Van Halen III.

“For a guitar player, this is a remarkable set of changes that affords you different ways of pulling things off,” he said. “And one doesn’t work for the other. Using one of the brand new amps to represent something from the first album, it’s very difficult. And it’s difficult playing later songs with the earlier setup.”

Satriani doesn’t say whether he will be looking in the garage for some vintage Roland SDE-3000 rack-mounted digital delay units, a Lexicon PCM70, and perhaps a couple of Eventide H949s – he could always add a couple of recently released Boss’s SDE-3000EVHs to his rig, with the digital delay pedals shipping with Eddie’s actual live settings on them.

He does, however, have a plan. Satch’s current thinking is centring on Eddie’s 1986 Live Without A Net live rig, a setup with Marshall amps at the heart of it, and the most important thing for him is that it gets him in the zone for performing classic Van Halen songs.

“I’m going to try to get close to the sound of each of those eras,” Satriani said. “Primarily, it’ll be for me. It’ll help me get in the mood to play the parts the way he did.”

Besides, trying to replicate one of the world’s greatest ever players is a fool’s errand. “If you’ve been tasked with the job of imitating him, it’s like, ‘Well, which moment?’” said Satriani.

But what we all know to be true, and what Satriani acknowledges here is that, in the face of the myths, legends and documented fact about 100-watt Marshall heads modded by José Arredondo, Variacs and wet/dry/wet setups vs wet/wet, etc, is that, ultimately, it’s not the horse. It’s the rider. That tone was Eddie Van Halen’s feel more than anything.

“He just had a beautiful touch on the guitar,” Satriani said. “He played with such intensity. I don’t want to generalise and say that he made everything sound good, but he did. [Laughs] You notice that when you have one of his guitars and his setup or his model, he just can’t be replaced.”

Few guitar players will have a busier schedule in 2024 than Satriani. He has The Best Of All Worlds Summer Tour, and the intense rehearsals that the set will demand. He also has the original G3 Tour, in which he reunites with Steve Vai and Eric Johnson

And to top it all off there is the Satch/Vai Tour, in which he and his former pupil Vai will embark on a co-headlining tour and for the first time ever collaborate on new music together.

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.