There's a couple of music writers in the Georgia Straight's editorial department who have a serious aversion to Joe Satriani. I'm not gonna name names, because in my opinion, they know not what they do. But whenever the word "Satch" comes up around the office, it's shortly followed by disgusted looks and derisive cries of "wanker!".
That description is ridiculous, of course. In my books Satriani is the exact opposite--a musical genius, no less. So why do these seemingly intelligent rock critics have it out for him? Maybe it's because, when he wants to, he can play so fast that it just scares them. The dude can definitely "shred", in the parlance of the times.
To try and shed some light on the diehard "Satch haters" I have to work with I looked to wise Louisiana slide-guitar wizard Sonny Landreth. His new all-instrumental album, Elemental Journey, features Satriani on the opening track "Gaia Tribe".
"Well, here's the thing," explained Landreth, who plays the Electric Owl on January 30. "Technique can go in any direction. It's not really about that, it's about the music, and where the music comes from. And when it comes from your heart and your soul, that's the important thing.
"And what a lot of people don't realize with Satch is, when he's playing really fast, if you listen very closely, there's beautiful melodic work within that. In a cosmic sense there are things that move much faster than we can see, and if you take that and you slow that down, then you discover what the components and the elements are. And his playing can be like that.
"Eric Johnson does that too," added Landreth, referring to the Texas tonemaster who also appears on Elemental Journey. "He's so soulful, and he's a shredder too. If that were all either one of them did, that would be a worthy criciticm perhaps, but that's just one aspect of their playing."
I thought that's what he'd say.
For more from Landreth about Satch and Johnson--and his idol Eric Clapton--see the story in the week's issue of the Georgia Straight. Read it on paper for that non-wanking, beautifully melodic vibe.