Joe Satriani Got A Music Career

A funny thing happened to Joe Satriani on the way to a music career. He got a music career.Apparently, the guitar virtuoso with the shaved head, massive following, and 15 Grammy nominations didn't expect success to follow him. Not from the day he took up the instrument at 14 as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix until today.
"I'm always surprised," Satriani said Thursday. "I wasn't expecting or aiming for or prepared for a career."
Having taught some of rock's biggest names -- Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Steve Vai, David Bryson of Counting Crows, and Kevin Cadogan of Third Eye Blind for starters -- it was Satriani's "Surfing with the Alien" release in 1987 that launched his popularity. The record was the first all-instrumental to reach No. 29 on the Billboard Charts, anchored there for six weeks. It remained in the Top 200 for more than a year.
"To be in the Top 40 was pretty amazing," Satriani said.
With the album's success, Satriani was nudged into his first national tour. He was a baby learning to walk.
"I didn't know what to do," said the 54-year-old musician.
It all started ominously. The first show into a three-week tour, the band's plane caught fire and made an emergency landing.
At that time, Satriani had no roadies so he hoisted his own equipment on stage.
"The audience was looking at me like, 'You have no roadies?' and I'm thinking, 'What do I do next?'" said Satriani. "What does an instrumental artist do on stage?"

It wasn't long after when Satriani got the call from Mick Jagger, starting his own solo tour and needing a lead guitarist. The experience made an indelible mark."I was back playing guitar for a real singer," said Satriani, who has little confidence in his own singing.
"Working with Mick was an incredible experience," he said. "He's an incredible performer. We hung out in New York City for a month just rehearsing and a month in Japan. I was just so knocked out by his dedication and musicianship. When I got back to my own tour, I was inspired and ready to put myself forward. I don't know how to explain it."
The Jagger tour was also a cram course in media attention for "Satch."
"I was on the cover of a lot of magazines with people asking me how to pronounce my last time, where I came from, and so on," he said.
It was 1979 when Satriani met drummer and now Benicia resident, Jeff Campitelli. Both remain friends and bandmates.
"He's a very humorous person," Satriani said. "And he's an incredible dancer. When he plays drums, he's just as crazy. Very unpredictable. Holding him down to a pattern has been a lot of work. That's his charm, how he makes the groove and sound so interesting."
The Uptown gig is a tune-up for a national tour to promote "Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards," with a copy of the new CD handed to all paid customers in Napa.
"The first show (of a tour) is always kind of crazy," Satriani said. "You find out if your gear is truly appropriate for the job. There's a lot of sorting out that goes on. People that show up are usually the hard-core fans who know we're scrambling to pull it all together. It makes for a great evening."
Unveiling songs from a new CD live is always a thrill, Satriani said.
"It's a very long process. Some of the songs have been with me for years," he said. "And I finally get to play them in front of people. It's one of the main things I live for. And by the end of the tour, you've felt like you've accomplished what you set out to do. It's very cathartic for me. When the tour is done and this is out of my system, I get to walk upright as a normal man."
There remains a handful of tunes Satriani knows he has to play for the devoted fans since 1988.
"They just have to see you play that song, though you've done it every tour," he said. "You try and mix in as much new material with material from the catalogue."
Sometimes, Satriani gets a taste of Hollywood, be it in a Christopher Guest movie, "For Your Consideration," or re-enacting his solo National Anthem in a 1992 Oakland A's game for the Brad Pitt/Philip Seymour Hoffman upcoming film, "Moneyball."
"Movie sets are fun for me," said Satriani, who retrieved the same gear, jacket and hat he wore in that 1992 Oakland Coliseum appearance to make the baseball movie authentic.
Though Satriani "didn't exactly sit around and have lunch" with the stars, he recognized their talents.
"Brad Pitt has that star quality about him," Satriani said. "He's tall, good-looking and an imposing figure with an amazing voice."
That's where Pitt and Satriani can bond: Neither is known for carrying a tune.
"There are quite a few recordings where I'm singing," Satriani said. "But real singers have this power and width in their voices. It's really unbelievable when you're standing next to that. I can vocalize, but I can't really sing. They are two completely different talents. I can hit the notes, remember the lyrics. But I'm a guitar player who can vocalize. I think my audience knows that."