From “Borg Sex,” to “Surfing with the Alien,” to “Not of this Earth,” guitar great Joe Satriani is well known for his space and tech themed instrumental music. Many guitarists claim to be convinced Satriani himself is an alien from another world; no other explanation for his technical virtuosity on the instrument makes sense.
Creating musical titles like “Redshift Riders,” “Crystal Planet,” “Is There Love In Space?” and many more, “Satch”as he’s known frequently flies the fanciful cosmos of science fiction. His deep interest in music recording and instrument technology has led to signature model electric guitars (Ibanez JS series) and amplifiers (Peavey JSX line) often sought by discerning musicians.
In his book “Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir ,” Satriani recounts his musical journey from a 1970’s Long Island, N.Y. kid, through his multi-platinum record selling surge, to where he is today. The book recounts how Joe’s former students, guitar greats Steve Vai and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett – and current Chickenfoot bandmates Sammy Hagar, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony (plus many more) – contributed to his inspiring and surprising rise to rock stardom. The book is also now available for pre-order in paperback with a new chapter dedicated to his 2016 album “Shockwave Supernova.”
Satriani’s cosmic influences in song title and structure are highlighted in these excerpts that he provided to Space.com:
Inspiration behind “Surfing With the Alien”
“When I wrote Surfing with the Alien’s title track, I was inspired by the thought of being visited by an alien, but with a twist: The alien would want to do something fun while visiting Earth, and so we all go surfing. That was really it, just a little daydream that popped in my head.”
“Lords of Karma was the original title of the album before its release, but after a journalist expressed his displeasure about it I started to have second thoughts. I scanned the record’s songs for a new title and thought how could anyone object to Surfing with the Alien? It’s so obviously a title with a sense of humor.” So I called the Relativity office in New York and told production manager Jim Kozlowski my new title. He responded with, “Let’s put the Silver Surfer on the cover, it’s my nickname!” I replied, “What’s a Silver Surfer?” Jim sent me a few issues of the comic straight away and I was blown away. The Silver Surfer was the perfect image for the cover. It was bold, iconic, and positive. I could identify with the Surfer, even though I had never been on a surfboard!
“We needed a cover concept that was as exciting and original as the music and the record’s new title. we approached Marvel comics and got the license for using the Silver Surfer art for the cover.”
“Redshift Riders” from the album Super Colossal
“Redshift Riders” was another song that I had so much fun recording. The idea of it came from my thinking about the property of redshift. As I understand it, around large, celestial bodies, there’s a warping of space-time because of their gravitational force. From that I came up with my own theory that perhaps people traveling through space, with technology we don’t yet have, would be able to use this warping of space-time as a kind of slingshot to travel faster and farther. I envisioned that maybe as part of my sci-fi daydream there would be a select few space travelers who had figured this out. My questions were, “What their adventures would be?” and “How do I represent vast distances and warping of time and space musically?”
When it came time to compose the melody, I knew that I needed to use large spaces between the notes, big intervals to create that feel- ing of open space and that slingshot effect I imagined.
Mike Fraser (Producer): Joe’s game for all styles and he’s quite eager to try new things. even though he’s in a genre and you can tell it’s Joe Satriani right away, he works pretty hard at trying to switch up melodies, do different tones and different effect-y things on his guitars to make each song more interesting, and “redshift riders” was a great example of that off of SC. usually when we’re in the studio, we have three or four guitar setups, and once we’re finished with drums and everything, you gain a lot of your board back and can use those chan- nels. among our guitar setups, we had one really loud, rocky setup, one that was sort of a melody-type setup, and a solo sound, and then we’ll have cleaner, smaller amp guitar set- ups. it’s probably about a day’s process for each song to lay some of the overdub guitars down, and maybe even at the end of that day you may or may not have a solo yet.
Note: Article updated on September 9, 2017 with new information about the paperback release.