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Joe Satriani on Playing with Mick Jagger: "He Was Really That Good"

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A staggering number of your former pupils have gone on to become successful musicians. Could you offer any insight as to why your methods have helped push so many players so far, and if you had a favorite student over the years.

Well, I gotta say, I was one of the luckiest guitar teachers around because I had a handful of people come in who were just very dedicated and unique and they were talented, and they were very different from each other.

Steve Vai, you know, I taught when we were both kids. And I moved to California, and in one given week, I would give lessons to Kirk Hammett and Larry LaLonde and Charlie Hunter and Alex Skolnick. These guys I mentioned, very little about them is the same, they're so unique in their personalities. But they were driven. They would come in and they would really practice and they would really be interested in everything I could tell them. I had learned from my early high school music theory teacher that you just give all you got! So, that's what I did!

I tried not to influence them stylistically, I just tried to show them every choice they could possibly have in any given musical situation as a guitar player. They did it, so the credit goes to them, they had the drive along with the talent to succeed.

What is grabbing you these days musically?

As usual, I have an eclectic listening pattern. I will flip between Queens of the Stone Age and Animals as Leaders in the space of two hours easily. I've been listening to the recent Black Sabbath record because I'm a big fan of Tony Iommi, I just love him and his tone, so I can always listen to him play. I'm always kind of bouncing around listening to different styles. I like when people put guitar in a really weird space and use it like a tool being misused. Sometimes I really like that, but that covers a lot of ground.

Josh Homme mentioned in an interview that when he plays a guitar solo, he wants it to sound like a very articulate parody of a rock guitar solo. As someone such as yourself that is a technically proficient player in the extreme sense of the term, I would love to hear your thoughts on people that use anti-techniques to make their statements.

Well, I've been there myself, and I certainly am guilty of doing the same thing on some of my records -- purposefully making noise or sometimes a song requires playing it extremely cool as opposed to stepping up to the plate and hitting it out of the park. The thing about all comments that we make as musicians is that you have to take it with a grain of sand because it's not really our job to decide how people like what we do. As a matter of fact, it's entirely out of our control. So, when someone says "I did this and it was serious" or "this was something I did as a parody," the only thing that matters is how I receive it.

A lot of people might not know that you spent a bit of time in Mick Jagger's solo group, and I was curious if you had any good stories from that time in your career, or could possibly tell me how that partnership arose.

That was a great turn of events for me, the most unlikely! January of '88, I'm on my very first tour as an instrumental solo artist, never done it before in my life, scratching my head every night trying to figure out how to pull off the gig and losing several thousand dollars a week on this three week tour. Two weeks into the tour, I get a call when I'm in Boston from my friends at Bill Graham Presents who were running the Jagger tour in New York City, and they asked if I'd come down for an audition. And I thought, "That's the silliest thing I've ever heard in my life. I'm definitely going to do it, but I know I'm not going to get the gig." Because I never thought of myself as ready for prime-time.

But, I did get the gig, and Jagger turned out to be one of the coolest guys I've ever met in my life. Great performer, very funny and interesting to hang around with in the band room, backstage, after the gigs. And of course on stage, he was the most aggressive and most tireless performer I've ever encountered. He just loved his audience, he loved performing, and he'd do anything to help everybody have a great show. I was just blown away by that. It gave me kind of a renewed sense of how you can be a good band leader and an inspiration to the whole crew with how you behave and how you run a show -- he was really that good.

The funny thing about that is that at the end of that audition, we had just played "Red House" and I kind of maybe was feeling a little light-headed because I had just realized I just got this gig and I'm jamming Hendrix with Mick Jagger, and I said, "Hey, we're playing the Bottom Line tomorrow night, why don't you come down and jam with us?" And I said it as a joke, and he just said, "OK, yeah, I'll be there."

Sure enough he shows up and jumped on stage at the end of the show and totally blew the audience away. I'll never forget that. He's just an awesome guy and just really genuine.

Joe Satriani. With the Steve Morse Band. 8 p.m., Thursday, September 12, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8 St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost from $52.50 to $97.50. VIP tickets also available. Call 954-462-0222, or visit parkerplayhouse.com.



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David Von Bader

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