Bay Picker Gets A Lift From Mick

When he comes “home” to play the Fillmore with his trio, Berkeley’s guitar-hero-in-residence Joe Satriani will have learned something by tagging along on Mick Jagger’s solo tour through Japan, from The Pouty One and his assembled thoroughbreds, Jimmy Ripp, Doug Wimbish, Bernard Fowler and Simor Phillips.

“I have to really push to get my musical sounds and feeling out to thousands and thousands of people,” says Satriani, 31 during a phone call from Tokyo, where the venue is called The Egg and seats about 53,000. “That’s an enerty that you get. You store it up and it becomes standard operating procedure to push that much energy out there. So when we go back to the clubs, I’ll have that extra power just waiting to be used. And I plan to use it.”

This month, after appearing Saturday at the Fillmore, Satriani will start a club tour in support of his second solo album, “Surfing With the Alien,” which quite unexpectedly has risen into the Top 40 of Billboard’s pop charts — without a single, indeed, without any vocals. No one, including the guitarist, can explain the success. It’s almost unheard of in America to get on the charts with instrumental music — unless your name is Herb Alpert.

Satriani doesn’t claim to be any special judge of public taste. “It never entered my mind that it would go this far,” he says. “I really just wanted to make the most interesting record I could at the time.”

Satriani has brought some excitement back into the heavy-metal guitar scene, giving fans something they can really bang their heads about. Percussionist/programmer Bombo Bob, who appears on “Surfing With the Alien,” says of Satriani, “His guitar playing is like Kimmy Jam knocking at the doof of Jimmy {Page. It’s funky in a lot of ways, and it’s like hearing that first Led Zeppelin record. It makes me feel young.”

Drummer Danny Gottlieb was present at The Bottom Line in New York in January when Satriani’s band was playing, and Mick Jagger was in the club. When the singer jumped onstage for the encore, the place went absolutely crazy, Gottlieb says. “You could tell how tyey were trying to see how it would happen onstage, and there was instant rapport between Joe and Mick,” he says. “It was electrifying.”

Says Satriani, “I’m so lucky to see the real human side of Mick Jagger.” He was hired for Jagger’s tour shortly after their Boston Line jam. “Hot only is he always musical, always live like that, but he’s relaxed and creates a really good feeling with everyone.” And then there are those moments onstage. “You realize he’s putting out an enormous amount. That’s when you begin to think in terms of legend and the other words they use to describe him. You see how hard he works to get everybody in the stadium to experience the performance.”

While Jagger is working with a large band in Japan, Satriani is part of a trio on his tour, with Jonathon Mover on drums and Stuart Hamm on bass. “They’re well-trained, they’re absolutely crazy people, and they’re fearless musicians,” Satriani says. “They’ll play anywhere, anytime and anything. And they’re perfectly comfortable working on very little direction, which is the way I like to handle it. There are pieces where things have to happen at certain times, but on a higher musicians’ level you can completely organize it or you can leave it up to a wink and a nod. I’m leaving it like that. Generally, we’re afraid to discuss too much before we go on.”

Satriani has received notoriety in recent years for being the guitar teacher of wizard Steve Vai, of Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth fame. “Steve was a teacher’s dream, always excited about practicing and playing and learning,” says Satriani, who attended Carle Place High School on Long Island along with Vai, “He was very uninhibited.”

There are two categories of problems that face young guitarists today, says Satriani whose nickname is Satch. “There’s the physical side, where everybody has to come to grips with how coordinated they’re going to be, how fast, how sensitive, right down from ear training to the mundane like do your fingernails break a lot and does your shoulder hurt when you play. And then there’s the creative side. How a person feels about playing. Are they comfortable making things up? Playing with other people?

“It’s a huge workd, and you have to sort of forget about the comptetition and not be overwhelmed by the wealth of human potential out there. Try tyo plug ino it, try to enjoy it, try to appreciate it, and that way you feel like you’re a part of it.”

Satriani’s road cassette library features Prince, Peter Gabriel, some Erik Satie, U2, Metallica, Jimi Hendrix, “and I still can’t get the first few Stones and Beatles records out of my collection,” he says. Hendrix remains his principle influence on guitar. “His sounds were different from song to song. His records were different from album to album, and he seemed to always push it to the limit. And he made sure that the guitar served the song, and not the other way around.”

Bay Area music fans might remember Satriani’s work in The Squares, a band that many thought might break out of the local scene. “We struggled to be as creative as we could, and we had a great time playing live,” says the guitarist, who decided to step out of the band when he thought it was getting stale. “We’d had four or five really good, vital years, and I didn’t want to spoil it.”

During his solo tour, Satriani will work with a sampler and sequencer to allow the group to pull off some of the more adventurous material from “Alien” and “Not of This Planet.”

“We’ve got guitar chords sampled, jet sounds, claps, some different percussion sounds, so we can create the sound of the record live,” says the bandleader. “It’s just that we make it sound more powerful, and we take each song a little bit further out there at some point.”

Even an adventurous guitar blow-out like “Ice 9” is quite playable for Satriani.

“He’s the metal rock king,” says Gottlieb, who used SAtriani’s lovely “Monterey” on his “Aquamarine’ album last year. “Although people are aware of his guitar pyrotechnics, he’s a beautiful melodic player. Melodic rock guitar is not easy to find these days.”

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