[% META title = 'Joe Satriani, Interviews' %]
Somebody from their office came up with the idea and called my manager. They said, "The band has a tour of Europe coming up, Ritchie Blackmore is out of the band, and we need to know real quick if Joe can do it--like, today." So my manager, Arnie Pustilnick, called me and he says, "Dont say anything right away, just listen to this," and he gives me the pitch. Now, you have to understand, I'm home on vacation from the Time Machine tour over Christmas, and I swear I must have screamed at him.
"This must be the worst gig I would ever want!" Steve Vai was always telling me that I didn't need that stuff, because he had gone through that stuff it with Dave Lee Roth and Alcatrazz and even with Zappa's band. Its hard enough when you get a gig, but its even worse when everybody's giving you this replacement vibe. So I told Arnie, "No, it's a dumb idea. I'm on vacation, so why bother?"
Then I hung up and thought, "It's a bad idea, but what an exciting bad idea. What a great bad idea. It couldn't be any badder than that." And then about 45 minutes went ny, and I called Arnie and said, "By the way, did you turn that offer down already?" [laughs] I realized I was definitely the wrong person, but maybe it was an insight to the band that they actually thought of me. I'm sure they called alot of outher guitarists, but the fact that they did call me must mean they are really cool guys if they thought they could just go out and get someone completely different to come on and have some fun in the middle of a world tour.
So I got the tapes of about half of the live shows they'd been doing. It was very bizarre, because sometimes Ritchie would be brilliant, and then there would be like three minutes with no guitar. Eventually Roger Glover called me up, and we had a really good conversation. Finally I said, "You know, Roger, I've got to ask you a question. The arrangements are kind of unusual. There are quite a few times the guitar playing stops for a song and a half and then starts up again. You dont want me to do that do you?" And he said, "Well, no. You have to understand. Sometimes Ritchie would leave the stage. He just goes off to stand behing his amps or something."
We had one rehersal before going to Japan. At the top of the set list we played "Highway Star," and all of a sudden I was riding the biggest musical wave ever. I could not believe how good it sounded. It was unbelievable. It was like being inside the Machine Head album. They were right next to me playing "Smoke On The Water" and it sounded just like the album. They were great guys, and they accepted me and my weirdness and just said, "It sounds great, we dont even need another rehersal, lets just do the gig."
They were so relaxed on stage and loved to improvise. They were great to the audience, and did a great show with a great set list. They're a great blues band, and their roots go so deep they fit together so well, so organically. Onstage, it was together--frightening and beautiful--because they just have this sound that us them, and it's amazing: Ian Gillan's voice, Ian Paice's drums, Jon Lord's Organ, and Roger Glover's bass. The hardest thing for me was listening to me being in the band, because I sounded so different. We did "Satch Boogie," and the audience was very accepting of the fact that I wasn't Ritchie. I had a great time nailing some of Ritchie's classic parts, and loved them, and it was just a joy to play something like "Smoke On The Water" and see how it rocks completely in every part. Some tunes I blew out of the water as far as arrangements go, but others I wouldn't dare change one of Ritchie's notes because they're almost sacred.
In Japan they didn't have much time to refund tickets for a new lineup. I think out of 80,000 tickets they had to refund 2,000 to die-hard Ritchie fans. In Europe, though, my record company put out a compilation album [of Satch songs], so the tour and promo coincided, and the shows were packed to capacity. We did eight shows in Japan and a full two-and-a-half-month tour in Europe. I would have liked to continue with them, but their tour plans conflicted wiht the time I had set up for myself for starting the solo record. In retrospect, I think my experience with Deep Purple made me more open to Glyn's suggestion to play with a band.
GUITAR November 1995
Transcript by Leon Patsiatzis