Tilles Center is known for booking refined acts like Michael Feinstein, the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Mozart Orchestra of New York. However, Friday night at LIU Post in Brookville, the amplifiers are about to be “turned up to 11” when world-renowned instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani, who grew up in Westbury, takes the stage for a massive homecoming.
Calling from a tour stop in Birmingham, Alabama, Satch discusses his love for teaching, his bond with his fans and how he’s bringing his G4 Experience guitar camp to Glen Cove this summer.
You have fans that musically analyze every note you play. Does that put pressure on you?
It’s actually heartwarming, to tell the truth. People are recognizing your continued quest, and they are rooting for you, which I love. It makes me feel close to my fans and makes live performances so rewarding and invigorating. I appreciate all of it greatly because I’m always trying to get better.
Your songs have strong melodic structure, not just fancy shredding. Are they purposely designed that way?
I always just try to focus on the melody first. I think if you have a great melody to inspire you that will drive everything else, which maybe people relate to in terms of guitar fireworks. Whenever you hear somebody trying really hard to impress on the guitar, generally they are doing it at the expense of good song structure and strong melody. That’s one of those things I’m not into. I never worry about trying to impress.
What’s your writing process like? How do you know what direction to head in?
When I’m on tour, I just keep writing with no particular direction in mind, which is fun and exciting. It’s not work because I’m just letting my creativity flow. I don’t get around to something until I realize a date is arriving where I’m expected to get very professional all of a sudden. Then I’ll look at everything — a napkin, piece of paper or phone recording — holding ideas and I ask myself, “Where am I going these days? What’s interesting to me?” Usually, within a couple of days something begins to crystallize and I formulate how I’m going to bring everything together.
You are bringing your G4 Experience to the East Coast for the first time this summer. What can people expect?
It’s so unique to be able to teach over a period of days uninterrupted and giving the students a total immersive experience in what it’s like to be a professional musician. We get down to the most minute details about guitar playing as well as the most general. We are happy to move it to the East Coast. It’s freaky that we ended up at the Glen Cove mansion so close to where I grew up. Plus my LI homeboy Steve Vai is going to come in for a day and spread his magic around.
You began your career as a guitar teacher. Is it important to you to pass on your knowledge?
I think it’s important to share whatever you’ve got when it comes to music. Very early on I realized these incredible talents are born and just waiting to be taught. It would be a sin not to give them everything and see how high they could fly.
How did you initially meet Steve Vai?
Steve came to my door looking for lessons in 1971. We became joined at the hip because to try and become a guitar player was a freaky thing to do. I remember one day I wanted to broaden his horizons so I played him some Jimi Hendrix and some Frank Zappa. When I played him the Zappa record, I could see his life had changed. He met the music that was going to influence his work. It was very interesting.
Have you thought of doing an album together?
We came up with the idea that one of us would sketch something out and send it to the other without any time frame attached to it and we’d sort of bounce it back and forth. We haven’t started that yet, but I think it’s something we’d like to try.
How do you feel about Deep Purple getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a band you once were a temporary member of?
I’m so excited that they are finally being recognized for being such an important band in rock and roll. I wish they had been in there earlier. It really hurts that the late Jon Lord is missing this. I don’t understand why they don’t have everybody in the band show up. I don’t get that part, but I’ll leave that to them. It’s not my gig.
You were hand-picked to go on tour with Mick Jagger in 1988. What did you learn from him?
Mick is such a hard worker, but he also knows how to keep the spirit of fun within the band and the audience. He loves putting on a show and is conscious of every single minute on stage. He tries harder than anybody I’ve ever seen, and he has the goods. Mick really helped me out in the beginning of my career by making everybody know who I was and that my album, “Surfing With the Alien,” was worth listening to. He was a great champion of my career and always generous with his time.
Where do you see the guitar going next?
I’m not sure. Every once in a while I’ll go on YouTube and watch young kids play, and I always see some 10- and 11-year-olds that are astounding. They are the ones who hold the future of guitar playing in their hands. We’ll have to wait and see what they do with it.