Joe Satriani's Nightmare Gig: "We Ran Out There and Just Got Pelted with Coins"

by Randy Harward
Posted Aug 24, 2013 at 8:26am

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Guitar World gets the scoop on Joe Satriani's beginnings.

What inspired you to pick up a guitar?

My two main influences: my sister Marion, who was a folk guitarist, and Jimi Hendrix. I’m one of probably thousands of kids that decided to play guitar the day that Jimi died.

What was your first guitar?

It was a Hagstrom III—Swedish, low-priced. My other sister, Carol, purchased it for me the night that I announced to the family that I was going to be a guitar player. She had just started teaching, so she gave me her first paycheck.

What was the first song you learned?

The first thing that I did was write a song. As far as I can tell, it was called “Bluebird.” I still have the piece of paper, and it’s a little difficult to decipher. It looks like the scribblings of a mad schizophrenic. I remember playing that for hours and trying to impress my family that I already started writing songs.

Do you recall your first gig?

It was a dance at my high school in Carle Place, New York, the same school Steve Vai went to. I guess I was about a month or so away from turning 15. I was wearing a black T-shirt, tight black jeans, some motorcycle boots and a hat that looked like the one Jimi Hendrix was wearing on the cover of Electric Ladyland, with the scarf around it. I brought along my “Hendrix candle,” which was one of those multicolored dripping candles you got at headshops. It was my thing, getting in touch with the spirit of Jimi Hendrix.

Ever had a nightmare gig?

I think the most demoralizing one was when I was in a band called the Squares with my current drummer, Jeff Campitelli, and we were opening for Eddie Money at an amusement park. The audience thought they were gonna go straight from eating corndogs and going on rides all day to seeing the star. The DJ got up and said, “You ready to see Eddie Money? This is gonna be great, but first we have a local band…” The entire audience booed. We ran out there and just got pelted with coins. I still have the guitar, which I wound up using on all my records, and it still has the marks from all the coins.

What’s your favorite piece of gear?

That’s a tough one. I’m very fortunate to have my own straps, picks, guitars, amps and pedals, so it’s hard to choose. But the Ibanez JS guitars have slowly morphed into such a personal statement of what my hand and my body want to feel, so I guess it’s the guitar.

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