Legendary guitarist Joe Satriani was recently interviewed by Bucketlist Music Reviews. You can now listen to the chat below.
Asked if he thinks guitar and instruments in general are in danger of going extinct due to the way people consume and create music nowadays, Satriani said: “There’s two things that are happening that seem to be opposed to each other, but not really — they’re just sort of side by side. One is, of course, that popular music will always change channels — always has. If you go back a hundred years, it’s just as crazy — people like piano players, then they don’t; they want trumpet players, then they don’t; then they want singers, and then they don’t. And so rock music is here mainly because it replaced something else. So it’s always been traumatic.
“I think one of the things that came along that seemed to be like a dark cloud but turned out to have this huge silver lining was the Internet,” he continued. “We still haven’t worked out the dark part of it, which is how to get musicians compensated; we’re still getting less than a penny for our music that gets streamed — it’s just killing the economy of the musicians. But, on the other hand, it has given every musician a democratic chance of having a worldwide audience instantly. I mean, like, instantly! If I release ‘What Happens Next’ at midnight on a Monday, by 12:01 all around the world, it’s available to be listened to by any age group that has access to a computer or a cellphone. That is so amazing for a musician, to think that they can spread their art around so completely and so fast. So that’s really helped my touring life and it increased my real audience.
“Think of this way: we know of plenty of bands that have had hit singles, and then it killed their career,” he added. “It’s a weird thing that can happen with the world of pop radio and television. The Internet, however, can creating lasting — like, lifelong — fans, who don’t care about hit singles; they really do care about your music on a more realistic level. And they know where you are, and they know that eventually you’ll come around to where they are. And, to me, it’s a more natural, dependable outlook for a musician — to think that for the next two years, I can make my way around the world. I’ll get to Montreal, I’ll get to Mumbai, I’ll get to Paris, and I’ll get to Dallas, Texas. And then I’ll work on another [album], and then when I release it, everybody in every one of those cities will have the same chance of getting it. That, to me, is so groundbreaking for a musician.”
Satriani also talked about the importance of making full-length albums, especially for younger artists who are still finding their audience.
“No matter how many times you read about bands, or artists, just releasing singles instead of albums, that’s only for a few people that we see, like, on TV all the time, or they’re trending on Twitter or something like that. But for real careers, albums are still where it’s at — you still need to create a body of work, be respected by your fans and maintain that connection to have a long career.
“Here’s the problem: let’s say you and I have a band, right?” he continued. “And we record two songs that we think are really great. And we release the songs and then everybody wants us to come and play. What the fuck are we gonna play if we only have two songs? And how bad are we gonna look, how stupid are we gonna look in front of these people? They’ll come to see us once and go, ‘These guys are a joke. They’ve got two songs.’ So it doesn’t really work when you really go deep into imagining the future. It’s just that it’s something that people are talking about now ’cause it’s fun to talk about.
“Look at a band like GRETA VAN FLEET, a young new rock band,” he added. “They’ve got a tidal wave of trends working against them, because there are not two hundred rock stations anymore; there’s, like, four or something. It’s a hip-hop world, you know. And so the only chance they have of surviving is if they write ten good songs and they put out a record every year or every two years and they go and they play those songs over and over again and meet their fans around the world. And it’ll be clubs and then it’ll be small theaters, maybe, but if they don’t do it, they’ll be here and they’ll be gone. The pop world will use them, chew them, spit ’em out. [Laughs] And it’s very expensive — the pop production. I mean, a label can’t survive unless it has catalogue artists. If there weren’t bands like THE EAGLES or METALLICA in any genre — country artists, jazz artists — that really continually sell and bring in revenue after the initial investment, just business-wise, it’s a losing proposition for them. And I can say from experience, because I’m still touring around the world and releasing records on Sony, that you need to release albums.”
Satriani‘s 16th solo album, “What Happens Next”, was released in January on Sony/Legacy Recordings.
Joe‘s touring band consists of Mike Keneally (guitar and keyboards), Bryan Beller (bass) and Joe Travers (drums).