That Metal Show might be over for the season but we’ve still got a couple more That Metal Gear’s coming your way. We’ve been talking to some of the show’s most talented guests about how they got started on their instruments and what gear they use to get their sounds. This week read an interview with one of the wizard’s of shredding, instrumental rock, Joe Satriani. Joe’s been in the top tier of guitar players since he came on the scene in the ‘80s and is also famous as the former guitar teacher of such well-known players as Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Larry LaLonde of Primus among others. As you’d expect from someone who puts so much thought and skill into his playing, Joe was a great interview and had insightful and even inspiring things to say about playing music and how to always push yourself forward as a musician.
VH1: What was your first electric guitar?
Joe Satriani: The first electric guitar was a Hagstrom III. It looked somewhere between a Strat (Fender Stratocaster) and an (Gibson) SG with 3 single-coil pick-ups. White guitar, black pickguard, lots of little switches and stuff. I was naïve about Fender, Gibson, whatever, and that was the closest thing that looked like Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. I’d been a drummer since age 9 but kind of drifted away from it after three years but the day Hendrix died, I quit the football team and I go home and I announce to my family of seven at the dinner table that I’m going to be a guitar player because Hendrix died. I became a Hendrix fanatic. So, you know, confusion and mayhem and arguments ensue and then my sister Carol says, “Look, I’ll buy him a guitar.” She donated her first paycheck as an art teacher at a local high school to buy it for me.
That leads into the second question, which you’ve already started answering I think; who was the first guitarist that made you want to play guitar?
That was Hendrix. He’s a guiding light. I was the youngest of five kids so my oldest siblings were nine years older so I lived through the rock n’ roll of the late ‘50s and everything that happened in the ‘60s through them. I was always in the room when they were having parties, whether they were listening to early rock n’ roll, blues, the British Invasion, Mo-Town, I wound up with all the records because they all eventually left for school and then left the house and didn’t take their records with them. I wound up with this incredibly eclectic group of very cool records from a really great time period.
What was the first good piece of musical equipment you owned?
Probably the second electric guitar I got: a ’68 Fender Telecaster, maple-neck. Someone had refinished it in black—a home job, you know. I had started playing with an older guitar player in school. I got asked to join this band with guys who were a few grades ahead of me. The lead guitar player in that band had found that guitar for me in the classified papers from somebody in Queens, the next borough over. It was cheap, like $150, and had a Bigsby vibrato bar. I eventually brought it into Manhattan and had Larry DiMarzio (of DiMarzio pickups fame) put a humbucker in the neck position. This is before I knew who Larry was. I just happened to get steered to 48th St. Charles LoBue had a shop there and this guy Larry was working in the back putting specially wound humbucking pickups in guitars. This is like 1971. I remember meeting him because I had an issue with the installation and Charles brought out this guy covered in sawdust, curly hair, big red beard, and everything. And Charles is like, “Larry, explain it to this kid.” And of course years later Larry and I become good friends. And he helps me design pickups along with Steve Blucher. It’s just funny how fate works that way. You know?