“We were just kids playing together and then he built the song around that”: Joe Satriani says Steve Vai wrote a track for the Satch/Vai album featuring restored audio of the pair jamming as teenagers

Joe Satriani and Steve Vai
(Image credit: Steve Jennings/Getty Images)

Joe Satriani says his forthcoming album with former student, longtime friend and fellow G3 guitar genius Steve Vai will feature a song based upon restored audio of the pair jamming together when they were teenagers.

Speaking to Derek Thomas for Masters of Shred’s Talking Shred YouTube segment, Satriani offered a tantalising album update, sharing the story behind forthcoming track, The Sea Of Emotion Pt 1, which debuts on Friday, 29 March, and revealing that the song will be a trilogy, with the first two parts written by him, the third written by Vai, who based his composition around on an old tape recording that Satch had long forgotten about.

“Steve used to come to my house for lessons, and I used to have an old reel-to-reel tape recorder, and every once in a while I would record us jamming together so he could hear what he sounded like, and I would critique it, like a teacher,” says Satriani. “Anyway, one song that we started to work on we recorded maybe 20 minutes of it. It was brutal, just doing this thing over and over and over again. I gave him the tape and never thought about it again.”

Fast forward what, 50 years? That’s how much time has past since Satriani gave Vai lessons. The tape has resurfaced, restored, and has been used on a track that completes 'The Sea Of Emotion trilogy' by taking the Satch/Vai story right back to the beginning.

Joe Satriani and Steve Vai

(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

“Steve kept the tape,” says Satriani. “He transferred it, got it cleaned up, all digitised, and he still has it, so the beginning of part three is actually that recording when we were just kids playing together and then he built the song around that, so it has been a crazy couple of weeks of this beginning collaboration, and that is what we are going to be unleashing on the world.”

Satch joined Masters Of Shred from the Monsters Of Rock Cruise 2024, and was typically forthcoming about his career, his experiences working with Mick Jagger and the challenge of nailing Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tone for the forthcoming tour with Sammy Hagar – one of the first problems being that he is learning this Van Halen material for the first time, because back in the day he didn’t want to copy EVH’s licks.

He explained where he and Vai were coming from with The Sea Of Emotion; it is a track about a place in Long Island where all the high-school kids would hang out and share their troubles.

“If you sat on the top of the parking lot, right outside the gym at the Rushmore Middle School, and you looked down, it was a really beautiful thing for kids to go to late at night,” says Satriani. “Y’know, three in the morning after partying or something, you’d sit there and you would look out onto this field, and eventually we started hanging out there, and everyone would just sort of express themselves, and maybe it was because there was nobody else around, teenagers would finally let our guard down. 

“And so we called it The Sea of Emotion, because that was the place you’d go to just sort of unload whatever it was you were thinking about, things that you were troubled about, and I brought Steve there and introduced him to that.”

Check out the full interview with Masters Of Shred above. The Sea Of Emotion Pt.1 debuts on Friday, 4pm UK time, with a video shot by Satriani’s son, ZZ. Expect six minutes of virtuosity, and a little nostalgia that will set the scene nicely for what will be one of the electric guitar albums of the year. 

Meanwhile, the Satch/Vai Tour rolls on, with the pair playing Jacksonville, Florida, tonight. See Steve Vai for full dates.

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.