Joe Satriani Doesn’t Think He Belongs on Van Halen Tribute Tour
It may put Joe Satriani out of a gig, but he's with Wolfgang Van Halen when it comes to the prospect of any sort of tribute concert or tour for Van Halen and his late father, Eddie Van Halen.
Wolfgang recently told Britain's Classic Rock that a reunion of Van Halen alumni — his uncle and drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Michael Anthony and singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar — would be difficult because "their camp is very dysfunctional – everyone! – hell, it was difficult to make plans even when the band was active."
The Mammoth WVH leader said he also felt "a lot of closure" after covering Van Halen songs with Foo Fighters at last month's Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts. "My part of the show was a tribute to my father," he added. "I feel that I’ve said my piece, and if the Taylor concerts are all that happens then I’m happy with that."
Now, Satriani — who had been invited by Roth and Alex Van Halen to be the guitarist for a tribute tour — tells UCR he concurs.
"When I saw Wolfgang playing at the Taylor Hawkins benefit, I thought it was the most natural, beautiful thing I'd seen in a long time," says Satriani, who's currently on tour promoting his latest album, April's The Elephants of Mars. "It was such a wonderful thing to see him play his dad's music like that, and he's such an incredible musician. I thought, 'Well, if the thing is ever gonna happen, he should do it.' It just seemed more natural than reaching out to somebody like me.
"So, the world should just wait for him to make up his mind how he wants to do it, and we should leave him alone, let him figure out the best time and place for it," the guitarist continues. "Whatever he comes up with will be the best way to do it, I think."
Satriani, who played with Hagar and Anthony in the band Chickenfoot, admits he was cautiously intrigued when Alex Van Halen and Roth called him with the tribute tour offer.
"I jokingly told them on that first phone call that if I had half a brain I'd hang up right away and not accept such a crazy offer, 'cause nobody can replace Eddie, and whoever tries to do it is gonna get a whole lot of negativity from the world of social media," he says. "But I heard myself saying 'yes' before my better judgment kicked in, because I am such a fan of Eddie and his work, and I thought, 'Wow, it would be such a great labor of love to dive into that and try to understand the essence what he was doing for each song.'"
As for the challenge of learning Van Halen's robust catalog, Satriani says: "I can kind of figure out the fingers, but there's some things that are too quirky that he does that I can't figure out how to do. Getting inside the music is really what you need to do when you go to play it, to capture the spirit of it and learn what not to play when you're playing each song. I would really enjoy that."
Satriani — who's never met Wolfgang and has only met Alex and Roth on one occasion each — says he's spoken to Hagar and Anthony "quite a bit" about potential Van Halen reunion scenarios, but he relishes the fact that "I have nothing to do with that kind of decision-making" for the project. "It's complicated, put it that way," he says with a laugh. "There's relationships that go way back with Michael and Van Halen and Sam. Everyone's got their own idea about how to do it best, and I'm staying out of that."
The guitarist does, however, think the prospect of Roth and Hagar sharing the stage is a non-starter.
"I can't imagine that ever happening. Ever," he says. "That happened once [on the disastrous 2002 Sam and Dave tour] and it fell apart. I don't really see that happening. I mean, once you really sit down and you start talking about it, there are just so many roadblocks; you can't imagine just how it's going to happen. I think they need to make some important decisions. I think it's really up to Wolfgang and his Uncle Alex to figure out what to do."
Satriani is not holding his breath or biding his time until then. His current North American tour runs through Nov. 19, and European dates are slated to begin on April 1 in Oslo, Norway.
"I can't believe I'm out on tour, I'm out of the house and I'm actually playing music in front of an audience," he says. "I'm still pinching myself 'cause it seems like it's been ages since the last time [2019's Experience Hendrix tour]. Getting shut down was pretty traumatic, so it's like every night's an explosion of this positive emotion that's been sort of pent-up. I'm kind of punchy, walking around like a zombie, like usual when you're on tour 'cause you never get enough sleep, but I'm enjoying it."