ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MAY 13, 2009
By Steve Newton
Any self-respecting rock-guitar freak has at least a couple of Joe Satriani CDs in his or her collection. The Bay Area musician has been steadily churning out adventurous, technically boggling instrumental albums since blasting onto the six-string scene in 1986 with Not of This Earth. But as Satriani explains on the line from his home in San Francisco, it should come as no surprise to anyone that he was ready to forgo the instrumentals that made him famous in order to join rock supergroup Chickenfoot.
“Just growing up a child of rock ’n’ roll, I think it’s a natural thing that you’d want to take part in the kinda music that you listen to,” he points out. “Until I was about 30, when I started the instrumental stuff, I was always in rock ’n’ roll bands with singers.
“And there’s also that thing of not being the focus of the attention that’s really liberating,” he continues. “I can take three steps back and I can hang with the band while the lead singer delivers the message.”
That singer is none other than Sammy Hagar, the shaggy-haired howler and tequila pusher who music fans either love or hate, depending on their impressions of David Lee Roth, the singer he replaced in Van Halen back in 1985. Rounding out the Chickenfoot lineup is another ex-VHer, bassist Michael Anthony, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. Together, they create a party-hearty hard-rock noise that is both mainstream in an OU812 kind of way and—thanks to the guitar histrionics of Satriani—a little out there.
Satriani was only 17 when Hagar’s voice first caught people’s ears on the self-titled Montrose debut of 1973, but he wasn’t one of those teenagers who was transfixed by the unbridled rockingness of tracks like “Rock the Nation” and “Bad Motor Scooter”. In fact, he wasn’t even aware of Montrose until after the band broke up.
“Maybe it was just a regional thing,” he ponders. “I mean, I was into bands that they had played with. Growing up in New York, I used to go to the Fillmore in Manhattan and I got to see Humble Pie with Steve Marriott and guys like that that I know Sammy and Ronnie [Montrose] were really into.”
Now that Satriani has hooked up with Hagar and they’re making their own noise in the standard rock-quartet format, he’s totally happy. He figures there’s still plenty of ways that he can challenge himself on his instrument.
“Every day I put on a CD I have that’s got all the guitars missing, so I can play along with it and figure out the best way to represent all the different parts [on-stage].”