When Joe Satriani initially picked up a guitar at 14, he thought of himself as a potential cog in the wheel. Satriani, who was inspired to play after being blown away by Jimi Hendrix, never envisioned his name under a marquee since he just wielded an ax and didn’t sing.
“When you look at things, it really is unbelievable how things turned out,” Satriani said during a phone call from Los Angeles. “I thought I would play guitar in a four-piece, like Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin. I thought that would be as good as it would get.”
Fortunately, Satriani, 57, was wrong. He was encouraged to record as an instrumental artist and it led to an enviable career. Musicians gushed over the virtuosos early work. It led to a long solo run. His second album, 1987’s ‘Surfing With The Alien,’ which went gold, won raves from critics, and he cultivated a burgeoning fan base.
Thanks to his unique shredding skills, Satriani became a guitar hero during the late ’80s. What set him apart from most of his peers, who also delivered acrobatic runs on the fretboard, is that Satriani appeals to the mainstream.
“I’m just fortunate,” Satriani said. “Some way that I play touches people. But you know, everything changed for me after ‘Surfing With The Alien’ was embraced. “All of a sudden, the phone started ringing,” Satriani said. “Life became very different.”
Mick Jagger called Satriani and asked if he would handle guitar for the legend’s initial solo tour in 1988.
“Working with Mick was an eye-opener,” Satriani said. “I had the time of my life with Mick. Not only was it a great opportunity, it was fascinating getting to know him. He is a tremendous musician. I had no idea that he came up with the riff to ‘Brown Sugar.’ To play with a Rolling Stone is just an amazing thing.”
Satriani, who gave lessons to such guitar monsters as Steve Vai, Larry Lalonde of Primus and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, doesn’t just tell stories with his six-string. Satriani is working on a book that is slated for a March release.
“I have a lot of experiences, a lot to write about,” Satriani said. “It’s been a tremendous life. I’ve been very fortunate. It’s been fun putting the book together.”
Satriani, who will perform Wednesday at the Ruth Eckerd Hall, is touring behind his latest album, “Unstoppable Momentum.” Satriani adds some spice to his new songs with some surprising swing, which gives the dramatic guitar runs some added flavor.
“It’s good to bring some new wrinkles to what you do,” Satriani said. “I never want to repeat myself over and over. The last thing I want to be is complacent. I like doing new things.”
That’s not surprising since Satriani has always liked to mix things up. Satriani has toured with guitar supergroup G3, which he formed in 1995. The aforementioned Vai, Robert Fripp, Eric Johnson and Steve Morse are some of the guitarists, who have been part of the act ,which is an on-again, off-again project.
Satriani also works with Chickenfoot, which formed in 2008. The supergroup features Van Halen alums Sammy Hagar on vocals and guitar and bassist Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
“It’s my mission to get Chickenfoot going again,” Satriani said. “I just sent the guys an email about getting together. Sammy replied with an ‘Oh, yeah.’ It’s all about our schedules aligning. We’ll be back. I’m fortunate. I’ve experienced so much, and I have so many projects. It’s been great, and the cool thing is that it’s still continuing.”