Joe Satriani was born on July 15, 1956, in Westbury, New York. At the age of 14, Satriani learned of the death of Jimi Hendrix, and was inspired to pick up the guitar. Within three years Joe was teaching guitar. Steve Vai was one of Satriani’s students during his early days of teaching. Satriani furthered his own musical studies in 1974 under the tutelage of two jazz greats, guitarist Billy Bauer, and pianist Lenni Tristano. Four years later Satriani moved to Berkeley, California to start a music career. His soon to be famous student, Vai, went on to further his own studies at Berkley School of Music.
Satriani began a highly successful teaching career in California and had many big name students, including Kirk Hammett from Metallica, David Bryson of Counting Crows, Kevin Cadogan from Third Eye Blind, Larry LaLonde of Primus, and Alex Skolnick of Testament, among others.
In 1984, Satriani released his first recording, an EP entitled simply, The Joe Satriani EP. The EP featured 5 tracks with a very unique twist; each track was recorded using only an electric guitar. Satriani tapped on the pickups to create the percussion sounds, and detuned the instrument to record the parts typically associated with a bass guitar. Satriani self released the album on vinyl in limited numbers, but it gained him enough exposure to be signed by Relativity Records.
Satriani’s first full length solo album, “Not of This Earth”, came out in 1986. The album, like the EP that came before it, featured some unique components. The first track, “Not of This Earth” debuts a compositional technique which Satriani calls “Pitch Axis Theory”. The technique involved shifting modes underneath a pedal tone. The last track on the album, “The Headless Horseman” is played exclusively with the use of finger tapping. The follow up album, “Surfing with the Alien” contained several hit songs and was one of the highest ranking instrumental albums in years.
The third album by Satriani, “Flying in a Blue Dream”, also contains an interestingly unique element, although this time it was less intentional. As the recording of the first track began, Satriani’s amp was picking up a radio signal. Although it wasn’t a planned intro to the track, not only did Joe and producer John Cuniberti decide to keep the audio, but the same clip is used as the intro to Joe’s live performance of the track.
Joe Satriani’s most critically acclaimed album to date, “The Extremist”, came out in 1992. The album produced the hit tracks, “Summer Song”, “Cryin’”, and “Friends.” A year after the release of the album, Satriani filled in for Ritchie Blackmore when the latter suddenly parted ways with Deep Purple. The concerts were highly successful and the band asked Satriani to join them full time. Having just signed a multi-album contract with Sony, Satriani declined.
In 1996, Satriani founded the G3 tour. The tour was designed to feature a trio of instrumental guitarists, of which Satriani is always one. That year’s G3 featured Joe Satriani with his former student, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson. The tour continued every year until 2007, with the exception of 1999. Other guitarist’s to take the stage with Satriani include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robert Fripp, Adrian Legg, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, John Petrucci, Yngwie Malmsteen, amd Paul Gilbert.
Satriani’s next studio release, “Crystal Planet” took Satriani back to his 80s style of playing. In stark contrast to its predecessor, the next album, “Engines of Creation”, saw Satriani experimenting with a more electronica type of sound. The album was an attempt at fusing traditional electric guitar music with techno, drum ‘n bass, and industrial. The one track that was an exception to that goal was “Until We Say Goodbye”, which was nominated for a Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy in 2001.
Satriani’s ninth studio album, “Strange Beautiful Music”, released in 2002, featured the musician playing a wide variety of instruments. Not only was the album Satriani’s second recorded use of a seven string guitar, but also featured him on banjo, bass, keyboards, sitar, and autoharp. The follow up album, “Is There Love in Space?”, released in 2004, eventually resulted in a lawsuit by Joe Satriani against the band Coldplay. Satriani filed a complaint in court that Coldplay’s song “Vida La Vida” violated the copyrights of his own track “If I could fly”.
On May 29, 2008, Joe Satriani joined a new hard rock supergroup named Chickenfoot. The band features Sammy Hagar on vocals, Michael Anthony on bass, Chad Smith on drums, and Satriani on guitar. Satriani has a writing credit on each of the tracks on the band’s debut album.