Joe Satriani Interview: Chickenfoot Really Excites the Part of Us That Needs to be Creative.

By: Rob Cavuoto

Chickenfoot – the supergroup featuring guitarist Joe Satriani, drummer Chad Smith and former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and frontman Sammy Hagar will be releasing their long awaited new CD on September 27th simply entitled – Chickenfoot III.

Checkenfoot III features 10 tracks with so many moments of epiphany that one can barely take them all in on first listen. Colossal, stadium-shaking riffs abound on earth-movers such as “Alright, Alright,” “Last Temptation,” “Bigfoot,” and “Lighten Up.” Tradition meets innovation on the Nashville pop-tinged “Different Devil,” the Delta-blues flavored “Something Going Wrong” and the aching rock ballad “Come Closer.” Chickenfoot tackles issues such as mortality in “Up Next” and the world’s economy in “Three and a Half Letters” on hard-as-nails cuts that rock the body while filling one’s senses.

Chickenfoot III follows up the band’s 2009 debut album, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 100 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The band was also named “Best New Band” at Classic Rock Magazine.

I had the pleasure and honor of sitting down with Joe Satriani to get an inside look into the making of this great new CD.

Chickenfoot Live

Checkenfoot Live Photo: Rob Cavuoto

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Rob Cavuoto: How did you approach writing Chickenfoot III as compared to the first one?

Joe Satriani: Not that much that differently. Usually the ball gets rolling with me sending a number of demos around to the guys. About a year ago, I had the month of August off. I was right between finishing the Black Swans, Wormholes and Wizards CD and the rehearsal for the tour. I spent about three weeks making demos and sent about 16 tracks out to the guys. Then I was on tour from September to January. I added a few demos here and there, but our main session was scheduled for February after my tour.

By then, we had these full on demo with four acoustic demos, one was a song that Sam had given me just lyrics and I wrote on piano which turned into “Come Closer.” We also had a song called “Alright, Alright” which had slowly been written by all of us while we were on tour. We would jam to it backstage before every show. It was one of those songs that had a long history.

Sometimes they would learn the demo or come in and say that song sucks and we’re not doing it. That’s why I always supply more songs than you need. Sam then comes up the melody and the lyrics. That’s how about 95% of the songs get written.

Every once in a while someone would come in with something brilliant, like with “Different Devil.” My demo was just on acoustic guitar and it wasn’t complete. I was aiming for a weird kind of song, but Chad heard it and thought it had a lot more potential. He ended up writing a new chorus for it, injected that new progression into the song and we re-recorded it again. It took about three months of a couple of different sessions to get the song to have all the parts and edited right. When Sam came up with that story it just really clicked.

Rob: When you were putting together these demos, how did you determine what’s right for Chickenfoot and what best for you as a solo artist? How do you make that determination?

Joe Satriani: Well I don’t really know. A good example is with the song “Different Devil.” The first day we were recording it, I was really down on the session; it doesn’t make any sense since I was the one who brought in the song and sensed it going in more of a commercial direction. I stiffened up because I’m always writing for my solo career and I’m under the radar and don’t write commercial material.

That the one thing in Chickenfoot is that nobody bothers you if you wanna go kicking and screaming, because everyone else in the band has pretty strong egos. You have three guys in the band going, “Joe were doing the song and you’re gonna play guitar on it.” [Laughing]

After a few hours I go, “You’re right, I’m dead wrong. This is turning out to be really great.” So those things happen. When I write, I normally don’t discriminate against myself. If I start to write a Reggae song, I don’t stop myself because I think there is no room for it in my catalog. I’ll just finish it and move on. I find that’s better because you go back to it a few months later and look over 50 compositions and maybe that one works for Chickenfoot.

Another example of that is on the song “Dubai Blues” that had more of an old school hip hop meets rock and roll vibe to it. The band really liked it. we just changed it into more of a rock and roll song. Then Sam came up with that old blues story. It really made the song better when they challenged my original idea. I don’t discriminate between a Joe solo song and a Chickenfoot song.

 

Read Guitar International’s Chickenfoot Interview with Sammy Hagar

 

Rob: With two members of Van Halen, how do you manage not to sound like Van Halen and have your own identity?

Joe Satriani: [Laughing] That’s very hard! I’m a big Eddie Van Halen fan and the last thing I would ever want to do is treed on his toes. You can’t do the easy thing, which would be to imitate Ed’s style. Only Eddie can really do Eddie! He is brilliant and it comes natural to him where the rest of just learn how to imitate him. It’s one of those things. I won’t play in that style, and I made a point of it being more like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page.

When I was looking for direction I went back to my original roots. I would say “Jimmy Page would sync in the band more here, and wouldn’t show boat while he was playing rhythm guitar.” When Hendrix would do a solo, it would be a bridge solo that was perfectly timed in 8th notes, 16th and 32nds. He would use it as an expression of freedom. Where you here that coming from me is on “Last Temptation,” you’re hearing a very tight rhythm section and guitar parts but when the solo comes in its very bluesy and free-form. I think those influence are pretty apparent.

With vocals, when Sam and Mike get together they invented that sound and should be able to do it where ever they want. As you said, Chad and I are aware of that and vigilant we don’t slip into that easy thing and start imitating the Van Halen brothers.

Click to Buy Chickenfoot III From Amazon

Click to Buy Chickenfoot III From Amazon

Rob: When you went in to put this album together, were you thinking about potential singles, or was the goal simply to write balls-out rock CD?

Joe Satriani: Personally I was thinking album. Even though the current trend is singles and no one listens to the full LP – I don’t think it would hold water. Both the reviewer and the record company listen to the album. Those first three weeks of press, those people are listening to the album. Once the album is in the hands of the fans, they actually listen to the album. When you go on tour, you play the album not just the one or two singles. You’re up there for two hours.

I understand that the music business is single oriented right now, but that’s got nothing to do with me. Why they pick one song over another for a single has to do with the relative state of the charts. That is, who else has or doesn’t have a song like this out at the moment. Over and over we see big bands release the wrong song as their single only to see decades later the B-side is triumphing as the song that represents that album.

Rob: Will Chickenfoot be back for a third CD as well as Chad?

Joe Satriani: The third CD will have a different number, maybe we’ll call it “Two.” [Laughing] Chad is Chickenfoot and Chickenfoot is Chad, Mike, Sammy, and me. That will ever change, the live thing we had to deal with it because of the Chili Peppers and we are super fortunate that Chad came up with Kenny Arnoff as his replacement. Kenny is amazing as we have just started rehearsing this week.

I don’t know how long they’ve known each other but they act and play the same way. I know for certain there are more records in us; it’s just if get around to recording them is any body’s guess if we get around to recording them. It would be a shame if we didn’t put out a couple more records.

Rob: I’ve seen you live and watched all your videos and webisodes. It’s apparent that you are all friends and like each other. There seem to be a tremendous camaraderie within the band. How important is that in performing and developing the music?

Joe Satriani: It’s extremely important. I don’t think at think at this stage in our careers that anyone would come back for a second day of Chickenfoot if we weren’t having fun. The thing about Chickenfoot is that it’s a do- it-yourself type of project. With friendships we stayed together with labels and we record on our own dime. It’s very much like a bunch of friends in a club house doing whatever we want.

When we are ready to come out, we link arms with our friends in the industry to help spread the word. Just look at Sam. He’s got a million things going on between his charity work and businesses, the last thing he needs is a second rock and roll band [Laughing. We do it because it’s fun and it really excites that part of us which needs to be creative.

Rob: Who is funnier to be around Sammy or Chad?

Joe Satriani: Oh wow…Chad is far more unpredictable and borders on crazy. He’s the one where you say at least once a day, “Oh my god, he’s really gone too far this time” [laughing]. That’s when you start to look around the room for someone like a handler to come over to handle it. Sam goes right to the edge but always a half a step back from “Oh my god, what is he doing now.”

Rob: You and Sammy have known each other for a long time, what’s the one thing you know about him that most people don’t?

Joe Satriani: Well, I think that people don’t know how deeply emotional he is on a minute to minute basis. How sensitive he is. This guy is really tough, he is funny, he is personable. He loves to lift people’s spirits, which comes at a price. He has a huge heart with a lot of hot blood running through his veins.

You see that when you’re hanging around him as a friend and how deeply touched he is by things, tragedy as well as celebrating good times. He’s well known for being the good time rock and roller and people think he is less dimensional. Once you get to know him, you go “oh wow.” He is a very impressive human being.

Rob: What are your touring plans?

Joe Satriani: We put together a one week road test tour and that has to do with the fact that we have a few live radio show and TV shows, so we are going to book some theaters or clubs in four or five cities and do a short tour. It’s a good way to say were back, then the main tour will come at the beginning of next year.

Joe Satriani Photo: Rob Cavuoto

Joe Satriani Photo: Rob Cavuoto

One Comment

  1. The Viper Room (6 years ago)

    Hey Chickenfoot fans – Chad Smith performing with Outernational at The Viper Room October 4th! Tickets are 10$ in advance and $12 at the door – get yours here: http://tktwb.tw/ociOm2

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