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Joe from Long Island that didn’t belong

 George Laoutaris Joe Satriani in Athens 2007-07-11, Photo:  George Laoutaris CC BY-ND 2.0

Joe Satriani gave an extended interview to Vintage Rock, where he explained how Deep Purple influenced his latest album called The Elephants Of Mars:

You do have these cinematic qualities in your music where certain visuals and shapes must be popping into your head when you’re writing and playing.

Yeah, it is important. As I mentioned many times in the social media interviews about that song, the title track, I’m listening to something that I played and it got me thinking: How am I going to be motivated to finish this song? And I realized I needed a backstory. And so I concocted this story about the scientists terraforming Mars, and by accident, they create a whole race of gigantic sentient elephants. And they can communicate telepathically to the colonists that are working on the newly terraform Mars. They can play crazy rock sounding music with their trunks and they get together with the guitar playing head of the revolutionary group to take back control of the planet from evil corporations — you know, a typical comic book kind of story.

That got me really excited because I thought that’s funny, it’s crazy science fiction, but it’s also kind of funny. So when I told the story to everybody else, everybody got in the right mood. Kenny’s drums are just really a celebration of fun, the way he plays, right from the beginning. I think it gave Brian the artistic license to just be really rude, to lay down a really rude bass part. All the way to the end where I think Rai was the last person to add the keyboards. He added a kind of a Jon Lord, a Deep Purple kind of distorted organ part. We had been talking years ago about how we love the vintage Deep Purple and how we love Jon Lord. When you tell that story to everybody, everyone gets in the mood and they go, “Now I’ve got this artistic license to really be crazy, to be a irreverent, to try some different things.”

The question of his stint in Purple also came up, and the answer was an interesting one. For a long time the canonical story have been that he could not become a permanent member of the band and record with them due to contractual obligations. He now reveals that there were also other motives.

You’ve had opportunities to join bands. You could have joined Deep Purple. But based on the fact that your solo career is your primary focus and you switch out players from one album to the next, would it be fair to say you enjoy the freedom of playing with a variety of other musicians as opposed to being in a set band?

I took my cue from those players that were laying the groundwork for the kind of stuff I do, like Jeff back. I saw the freedom that he had to play with interesting players that would inspire him, to do different things. I thought that’s really great. I love watching him live and I love his albums and he keeps you guessing and he’s always progressing as a guitarist. He just keeps going forward. I love that attitude of just moving forward all the time.

He’s not really hampered like a legacy band where they’re going to have to play their hits. Like when Aerosmith goes out, they’re just going to have to play those songs that are their hits. They got to play “Janie’s Got a Gun,” they got to “Dream On.” They can’t do a concert without it. But Jeff Beck really doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do (laughs). He can say, “No, this is where I’m at right now, check this out. No one else can do it. I can do it.” (Laughs) I love that attitude. It’s a dangerous move. You miss all that input from a band and you miss the chance that you can go mainstream. It’s very difficult for Jeff Beck to go mainstream like Aerosmith or any other pop band where you’re talking billions of streams and TV appearances and all the awards, that kind of stuff. However, everybody knows and respects Jeff Beck as a player, as a musician, as a composer, and they wouldn’t dream of him changing his attitude. We like him being the iconoclast that he is.

I had that choice to make when Roger Glover asked me to join Deep Purple. I just thought, I’m Joe from Long Island. I don’t belong in this British royalty metal band. I knew I just didn’t belong. I was a big fan of Ritchie Blackmore and I thought I’ll never be able to rectify it. I’ll always feel guilty that I have to copy Ritchie and I didn’t want to do that. I’ve had friends who’ve had successful turns replacing famous people in bands. But I remember what they would always say at the end of it. I remember Steve Vai telling me once, “Joe, if you can avoid it, don’t ever replace anybody famous in a band because the fans — they never let you forget it. You’re always compared to the first guy, the original guy.” So I thought I’m going to take the chance. I’ve got a good relationship with my fans, and we’ll stick together and try to just make better and better albums.

There’s a lot more in the interview, we just touched on the Purple related bits. You can check out the rest at Vintage Rock.

Photo credit: George Laoutaris CC BY-ND 2.0.

18 Comments to “Joe from Long Island that didn’t belong”:

  1. 1
    Uwe Hornung says:

    The crushing weight of the legacy of the old songs is a good point – it’s an issue for many bands, not just DP. I admired Iron Maiden (not a band I really dig) when they went out to tour a new double album, playing just that front to back, with an extended encore bit only at the very end containing some of their classics.

    Bob Dylan, who could play three hours hit after hit after hit, is another artist that goes out of his way not to be formulaic. I’ve seen him four or five times in concert, each gig was incomparable to the others. He’s unafraid to disappoint his audience’s expectations.

    Purple nowadays get cold feet (and don’t want to challenge their audience anymore). The last tour where they really presented a new album playing more than just a handful of songs from it was the Bananas one (and I loved how many new songs they played). Ian Gillan is on record for saying that he regarded that as a mistake in hindsight seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd as special guest do perhaps a little too well with their greatest hits set night after night.

  2. 2
    mike whiteley says:

    There is a ton of video on YT of Satch’s brief stay in Purple. His sweep-picking on KAYBD certainly gives a different vibe to that song. Ramshackle Man harkens Joe’s Big Bad Moon.
    I sure would enjoy an official Live release from this era.

  3. 3
    MacGregor says:

    It is a difficult choice for some artists to not include the hits or well known songs from the past. Some don’t have a problem playing new material only or perhaps more improvised material. Jeff Beck seems to keep challenging the forward path as Satriani says. Neil Young has ‘disappointed’ fans plenty of times over the decades not pandering to the nostalgic only theory.
    King Crimson post 1970’s didn’t travel the ‘classic’ road at all, until 2013 when Fripp setup a lineup to pay homage to the forgotten 1969 to 1974 material. With Adrian Belew fronting the group in a new lineup in 1981, that attitude is fair enough in many ways. However Fripp also was determined to not travel the nostalgia path, well hardly at all as they did play an instrumental or two from the early 70’s. With some performers it would be a toss up between financial gain & ticket sales no doubt. The expectation of the audience determines the outcome it seems, in most instances. Travelling back to 1984 with Deep Purple reforming & I certainly wanted to hear classic era material. However I would have gladly swapped Smoke & Black Night for a few other forgotten gems from the early 70’s. We all have our wants & desires. How many of us leave a concert at times & feel there were other songs we would have loved to have witnessed being performed?. Personally I have always wondered how artists who keep playing the same old songs for years on end, can be motivated by that. It sounds a little boring to me. Diversity is the key, to so many things in life. Cheers.

  4. 4
    Dr. Bob says:

    Not every musician can thrive in a band where everyone has an equal say. Steve Morse seems like he has no regrets in his decision to follow Ritchie.

    For what it’s worth I like Chickenfoot better than Satriani’s solo work.

    Iron Maiden is remarkable in that they were able to bring back an orignal guitarist to play alongside his replacement.

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Dr Bob, Janick Gers was/is to Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden what Ariel Bender aka Luther Grosvenor was to Mick Ralphs in Mott the Hoople: the more flamboyant live performer, but less of a reliable resource in the studio, as an arranger and as a co-songwriter. Ian Hunter once said that Ariel was great on stage, but that he missed Mick (AWOL to Bad Company) endlessly in the studio and how that also led to Mott the Hoople’s final demise (when Mick Ronson – both flashy and musicianly – took over from Ariel, the band was already in its death throes and Hunter wanted out).

    It’s the same with Iron Maiden, you cannot help but be entertained by Janick’s flashy showmanship live (if legs spread apart and chucking guitars over your shoulder is your thing), but Adrian was always the consummate musician within Iron Maiden (I also like his guitar playing in Maiden’s Holy Metal Trinity best). Having both side by side (together with stalwart Dave Murray) makes sense, they complement each other. Steve Harris must have realized that. Smart move, keeping everyone happy. He learns from mistakes.

    Re Steve (Morse), joining Purple was/is his secure pension. For all his musical gifts, things weren’t always easy for him economically —-> like when he had to become an airline pilot in the 80ies to keep the boat afloat. Since he is a nice guy and great guitarist (and also kept Purple functioning as an entity), I’m happy for him to have reached a comfortable financial position. Among other things, it enables him to pay the medical bills for his wife now who will hopefully get better soon.

  6. 6
    Mark says:

    It pains me to be critical of live DP but over the years they haven’t strayed too far from the “hits”. When they do (and it’s rare) I have enjoyed hearing songs like Mary Long, Fools, Bloodsucker etc,. And they have such a vast catalogue they could mine.
    It annoys me that Gillan won’t touch Mk III stuff yet continues to churn out Hush which is not really a DP song and indeed nothing to do with any Mk Gillan has been involved with.
    I last saw them in Newcastle (Oz) in 2010 and their setlist was very “tired”.
    I know I’m in the minority but if they didn’t play SOTW or Black Night or Highway Star the next time I see them (assuming there’s a next time) I could still go to bed happy that night. I might not sleep well but at my age that’s another story.
    Great posting by everybody – always enjoyable reading others opinions.

  7. 7
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    Ironically, Long Island is where Ritchie has lived the past 25 years or so. Satriani and Blackmore ought to have a dinner there. But seriously, it’s a bit like karaoke when a famous band loses some of its iconic originals but continues to play the music of yore. You’re always going to hear the originals in your head when the current group is playing an old tune. But it’s good to try to listen for the good parts of the present-day music. Deep Purple is still progressive, still a solid band. Not the elite outfit of yore, but still one of the best in the world.

  8. 8
    John M says:

    @#7 Not sure I agree with your comment ‘but still one of the best in the world.’ Given the YouTube videos of the early 2022 dates, it seemed like a further diminished version of the band from earlier tours retreading the same tired path they were already travelling on.

    With the news that Steve has understandably decided to be with his Wife (I hope she gets well soon), the fact that there is another guitarist standing in may be another step downwards too far for me. I am seriously considering asking for a refund for my Glasgow show tickets.

    As a fan of over 40 years, I hate to write negatively like this, but it really does need to be said. I think they should have knocked it on the head a while before this. Sorry!

  9. 9
    MacGregor says:

    Regarding Janick Gers in Iron Maiden, yes his presence is, well not really needed is it?
    I suppose they didn’t want to tell him his services were no longer required when Adrian Smith returned. Smith adds much more stability, melodies & ‘old school’ guitar playing to the band of which he was once a contributing important member.
    I first witnessed Gers in action in 1982 with Gillan as Bernie Torme’s replacement. I could hear on the Magic album a drop off in quality regarding the guitar playing. He didn’t impress me at all live, the rest of the band were great. Seeing Maiden in concert in 2009 in Brisbane was awesome to say the least. I am not a big fan of their music overall, however I do own the double live album from the mid 80’s. After hearing it repeatedly throughout the 80’s & 90’s from other peoples collections, I ended up getting into many of those songs & purchased that album. They played so many from that era in 2009. Gers however was embarrassing to say the least. Why was he there? Showmanship I guess, twisting, twirling & running around on stage, chewing on the guitar ala Hendrix. I don’t know, call me old fashioned. I honestly didn’t hear anything he played that was really relevant to their music that night. Other Maiden fans there also commented on his antics & were not impressed at all. A wonderful concert overall though, that stage setup & Eddie making his appearance, classic Maiden indeed! Cheers.

  10. 10
    MacGregor says:

    When it was announced in 1994 that Steve Morse would replace Blackmore in DP, I was so pleased for him. He needed a break in regards to something bigger, some support from another level. When his trio played in a pub in Brisbane in 1993, I remember his comments regarding playing down under. He said that not one promoter was interested in him & his band at all & therefore they had come out to Australia on their own, so to speak. The PA & amps & drum kit were hired in Australia apparently. He joked that the drummer Van Romaine had brought his own sticks, bass guitarist Dave LaRue his guitar & effect pedals & the same with his own setup. So yes indeed, he has done it the hard way financially during the 80’s & early 90’s it seems. Kudos to him & if ever there was someone who deserved a break, it was Steve Morse in 1994. The guys in DP who were aware of his talent, Roger Glover wasn’t it, maybe Ian Paice also from what I have read, knew that they were recommending a superb versatile guitarist & most likely a very modest down to earth individual. I also think Morse joining Purple was a good thing for Gillan & his ego, no Blackmore to compete with. A much more level headed band in that essence. Cheers.

  11. 11
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    @John I was referring to the studio albums they’ve been putting out, compared to the rest of the schlock we hear (or try not to hear) on the radio/TV nowadays. I don’t think it’s fair to play shows without the members in the band that were billboarded when tickets went on sale. Purple actually had Glover sing in Chicago decades ago when Gillan was ill. To me, that is a rip-off. Glover is normally a standup guy, but that was a low moment.

  12. 12
    Leslie S Hedger says:

    I pretty much agree with John M. They’ve been my favorite band since 1973 but, with Steve unable to go on tour to take care of his wife (May she get well soon), I think it’s time to call it a day. No substitute guitar player, no matter how good he is.

  13. 13
    Uwe Hornung says:

    MacGregor the Knife @#9: To be fair, Janick isn’t a bad guitarist. When he replaced Tormé in Gillan, I actually welcomed his overt Blackmorisms (in comparison Bernie had sounded like a mix between Hendrix and Rory Gallagher – with lots of punk attitude thrown in) and the studio album of Double Trouble is my favorite Gillan album (followed by Glory Road), the songs are top-notch on it. Gers’ riff on ‘Sunbeam’ (co-penned by him) is pure Blackmore/Uli Jon Roth school. And his solo “ritchies” along nicely as well.


    Ironically in his Gillan days, Gers wasn’t quite the showman on stage yet he now functions as for Iron Maiden. Compared to the ultra-flamboyant Bernie T in his Adam Ant outfit, he was downright dull. Still, I liked his Strat tone even then; Tormé was sometimes a bit too abrasive and unrefined for me, absolute character he was. Horses for courses.

    But I’m with you that Iron Maiden under-employ the full potential of their three lead guitars line-up live. Let’s just say that they’re not exactly Southern Rock (Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd), Boston or Wishbone Ash quality in the refinement of harmony guitar leads.

    Adrian’s more introverted stage presence was, however, a bone of contention first time around he was with the Maidens. I guess Steve Harris wanted not just himself and Bruce Dickinson doing marathons on stage. The jumping-about is now on three shoulders (knee joints and hips?) rather than two. An athletic presentation has always been a part of Iron Maiden’s live charm. On stage, they sometimes remind me of a marooned soccer team without a ball to kick, but the Maiden Army loves them for it.

    “Run on the staaaaaaage, run for your li-hife!” : – )

  14. 14
    Peter J says:

    Hum, it seems that some of us haven’t watched the same videos from last February…the band was rockin and Gillan’s voice (especially the first gig) was suprizingly good, I remember that everybody here was stunned by that. But eh, that’s why it’s nice to chat together.

    I don’t think I know anyone buying a DP ticket for Steve (even though is my fav guitar player) so to me there’s no problem with a temporary replacement…

    I’m VERY happy they don’t listen to some of us here, otherwise they would make thousands of us very sad not to be able to see them (one last time) in 2022… That would be an awful news for A LOT of us so that’s a good thing…and I guess that the few people who don’t want to see this (very) old DP on stage will stay home so everyone’s happy. Cheers

  15. 15
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Hey, I buy tickets for Steve! I was even at one of his solo gigs in the early 80ies when

    (i) a reunion of DP,

    (ii) the core of the band then staying together for almost four decades and eventually getting Steve in to replace the man AWOL with his missus,

    were still unfathomable. He was always a brilliant guitarist with an immediately recognizable, very percussive style. Go find someone who can replicate the sound and groove of the Ted the Mechanic riff, most guitarists can’t (Blackmore among them). He might not be your cup of tea, but Steve is just as idiosyncratic in his playing as Blackmore was/is. And his songwriting contributions have shaped Mk VII and VIII. Give the man some credit, he has long deserved it.

    Without him, we’d all be writing at a sub-forum of the Blackmore’s Night home page under the supervision of Ms Carole Stevens – shudder the thought …

  16. 16
    Matt D says:

    I don’t see what a guitarist can’t be in a band and then do his experimental stuff as a solo artist. Do solo stuff one year do the band the next year.

  17. 17
    MacGregor says:

    @ 13 – Uwe , yes I am being too critical I realise that. Gers isn’t a bad player at all, he is a quality guitarist & I don’t mind some of the Gillan material he is on. I did have all those albums back then & played them frequently. I guess I just preferred Torme & his style etc. It has been along time since I heard that Sunbeam song, thanks for that trip down memory lane. It was probably also that the Gillan band thing was slowing at that time & starting to sound tired in a way, new albums I mean. However they were not losing any steam on the night I witnessed them in concert, a powerful hyped performance it was. Regarding Gers in Maiden, the first thing I thought when they said they were going with 3 guitarists was, why? Two guitarist is fine in the bands that work well with it, as you said Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wishbone Ash etc. I also enjoy the Adrian Belew era King Crimson, who actually were a three ‘guitar’ outfit in many ways with Tony Levin & his Chapman stick playing at certain times & later on Trey Gunn & his Warr guitar. But in a conventional rock & heavy rock format, I see Maiden not needing 3 guitars. I like some of their earlier material, I just think Gers or anyone else for that matter in that position is surplus to requirements. At least Gers is in a regular playing & recording band of high quality A good position to be in in many ways, good luck to him. Cheers

  18. 18
    Uwe Hornung says:

    True, the Maidens are less than creative with their three guitarists. Live they employ them to slavishly recreate their studio sound which for the most part means doubled leads AND a rhythm guitar chugging away. Is that really necessary when you have Steve Harris with his prominent bass work? Me thinks not.

    I’ve caught myself musing at Maiden gigs, why doesn’t one of those three guitar blokes up on stage play an acoustic guitar once in a while to add another color (and if you think that acoustic guitars have no place in hard rock, then you’d be surprised how many hard rock songs have acoustic rhythm guitar mixed into them, a strummed acoustic guitar can sound really forceful and percussive)


    (Yeah, I’ll admit it, I think The Darkness are a Brit national treasure, now stone me!)

    or perhaps a 12-string electric? But of course that would be anathema to the concept of Maiden’s “guitar army”.

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