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Q&A with Morse and Satriani

Steve Morse just finished a stint lending support to Joe Satriani on his US tour. Music Radar caught up with them on the last day of the joint tour in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, where they sat down for a chat.

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5 Comments to “Q&A with Morse and Satriani”:

  1. 1
    T says:

    Both of these players are on par with each other as far as skill is concerned. Their similarity lies in the immense speed they possess, particularly in scale runs and picking technique. The main difference is stylistic. Morse is an extremely fluid player–very warm. I would like to hear him on a hollow-bodied Gibson playing undistorted jazz at low volume.

    Satriani, on the other hand, is more rowdy with greater dynamics and heavier on the ‘tremolo’ arm–more of a dive-bomber with greater use of effects such as the pedal whammy. Since his music rarely involves a singer, he has to remain interesting and inventive throughout the songs to keep the audience from becoming bored.

    On the surface, it would appear that Satriani would be the better choice for Purple. As the harder player, one would think his playing style is more in line with the Purple legacy. According to the bootlegs, however, Joe was afraid to monkey with the Blackmore standards, and played them very much like the studio versions most of the time–and with great restraint. This was not total a disadvantage as listening to Satriani play Deep Purple classics was akin to listening to these songs live soon after recording them in the early 1970s. In short, the bootlegs sound retro. The same case could be made for the then-“new” songs, with “A Twist in the Tale” and “Ramshackle Man” in particular sounding very close to Blackmore’s studio versions.

    Afraid to tinker with the established Blackmore lines–and thus showing great respect for his predecessor–Satriani may have taken this approach in the studio, afraid to deviate from a Blackmorian philosophy whereas Morse made both old and new songs his “own”. WWBD–What Would Blackmore Do?–could have been the mantra. I prefer Satriani’s approach to the old songs when playing live; however, what he would have done in the studio is speculation. We know as a fact that Morse would be successful. If Satriani were capable of bringing his blitzkrieg approach into the studio, he may have been a better choice–contractual obligations and personal reservations aside.

    One intersting comment that Satriani made was regarding his going bald and that not being “a part of the plan”. I noticed a change in the playing after the hair loss, and I much prefer the “hairless” playing over the long-haired years! Whether shaving one’s head has an effect on one’s guitar playing or not is up to debate!

    Another comment that strikes a chord–so to speak!–is the one about the difficulty of playing guitar. The guitar is a very physical instrument and one that actually can be painful to play. Any number of things can go wrong in hitting a note, and the nuances produced by the fingers is a variable that can make or break the sound. Hitting a key on the electric organ, and you will get that note–every time. Hit a note on the guitar, and you might get something too loud, too soft, clunky, scrapy, muted, noisy–or nothing at all–not to mention unintentional feedback, hiss, and crackles. You never heard “finger squeak” from playing a keyboard.

    These two guys tend to think too much and over-analyze the art of guitar. Trying to figure out “the spots” on the stage to get a particular nuance is a bit perfectionist. Blackmore was the opposite. He didn’t care if this note sounded better “over there” or “over here”; he “played the stage” like an instrument, and if the feedback came at the wrong moment, he went with it–as it did on “Highway Star” from Nobody’s Perfect, for example.

    Satriani and Morse have more in common with each other than they do with Blackmore. One can’t help but admire the precision that is brought to the stage by these two guys. However, it is that precision that detracts from the spontenaeity of the kind of playing for which Blackmore is famous. Ritchie often did not know his own solos since they were ad-libbed in the studio–“Highway Star” being the exception–and the versions varied from night to night. This is what made his performances legendary, particularly in the early days. What Blackmore accomplished with a stock Stratocaster (or ES-335) plugged into relatively stock amp setup is something not duplicated since.

  2. 2
    MacGregor says:

    T @ 1 – interesting comments indeed. Personally for me, Steve Morse is a far more melodic player than Joe Satriani. Morse has much more to say with his guitar playing in my book & with his Dregs & Trio band, he knows how to overcome the no vocalist thing no problem at all. Satriani is as you say, a more ‘rowdy’ dive bomber type of player & to me most of the time, very boring in it’s extremity!
    Still, as you stated they are both very fine guitar players! As I have said before in regards to the ‘old school’ guitarist’s, they just know how to get the job done, on all levels. The 1980’s brought upon us many gifted guitarist’s, some way too over the top & some caught in between the early style & the 80’s sweep picking, scale runs & of course the speed playing & showing off ‘look at me I am a rock guitarist” thing! Cheers!

  3. 3
    nupsi50 says:

    @T: very good analysis!

    I saw the band with Joe Satriani in the 90s in Hamburg. Excellent powerplay from Joe, reminds me a little bit to the great MiJ-days. One or two years later they played in Hannover with the then new Steve Morse: totally different sound, not as powerful as they were in Hamburg. But finally I made my peace with the “Morsish” playing, he brought his inspirations and influences into the band.

    Have a nice Day!

  4. 4
    purplepriest1965 says:

    The Great Elaine is probably a sister of Mad Elaine?

  5. 5
    cyclone says:

    I give credit to SM for the continuation of yet another Mark Purple. Having said that….no player as exciting as RB. You get goosebumps when you see him on stage. I last saw him in Pa. at a BN show. Yes he strummed away…but when he grabbed the strat….just pure magic.

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