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Music News

Q&A: Guitarist Satriani finds Chickenfoot "liberating"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani hasn’t commented much on his legal tangle with Coldplay, but he has plenty to say about his new band, Chickenfoot. The latest in a line of supergroups to pop up recently, the act features former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.

While Satriani’s plagiarism suit is pending -- he claims Coldplay’s song “Viva La Vida” incorporates “substantial original portions” of his 2004 instrumental “If I Could Fly” -- he and Chickenfoot are making an impression. Radio programmers quickly embraced the band’s first single, “Oh Yeah,” from its self-titled debut (released June 5 on Best Buy’s Redline Entertainment), and a nine-date Road Test tour of theaters sold out in minutes. To further whet fans’ appetites, the album was available at Amazon for $3.99 June 5-8. Chickenfoot is returning to North America in August for more tour dates.

Billboard: Why did you sign with Best Buy’s label, Redline?

Joe Satriani: It was (Redline senior entertainment officer) Gary Arnold that made the deal feel right. Gary and Best Buy showed true commitment to getting the music to as many people as possible, leaving no retail or Net opportunity untapped. They have been very supportive of our efforts to use the Web to show people what the band is all about, previewing the new tracks and creating a community of Chickenheads. While this is a one-album deal, I see no reason to look elsewhere when we come back with record No. 2.

Billboard: Is the band looking at this as a long-term project?

Satriani: I think so. From the creative side of it, we’re feeling like we’ve got a few records in us. We have to figure out how we’re going to work it out schedule-wise, since everybody has something else to do, and nobody’s interested in disrupting anyone else’s schedule. But we just figured it’ll work itself out, so we’re just doing it one record and tour at a time.

Billboard: What size venues will Chickenfoot play in August?

Satriani: If we have a choice of arenas or (multiple shows) in the theater, we’ll take the theater. It seems like an important thing to do, otherwise we look like your typical supergroup, where famous people get together and play the biggest venues and then get out of town, and we don’t like that approach. So since no one’s really in it for the money, we don’t have to sort of do that smash-and-grab mentality.

Billboard: To avoid scalping, tickets weren’t made available to secondary ticketing agents. How has that worked out for fans?

Satriani: We tried to get the tickets that were available to the fans as quickly as possible. But the response was overwhelming; all these shows sold out within minutes. I think that the most motivated people bought the tickets, and I haven’t heard of any negative stories about that.

Billboard: What is it like to write and record with a band after working as a solo artist for so long?

Satriani: It certainly is liberating to have so much talent to take advantage of. On a purely musical level, I can write a vague sketch and the bass player and the drummer will fill it up with amazing stuff. And I can count on Mike and Chad to just go way over the top or think really deep into a groove ... Knowing Sam and how deep his musicianship is, I would say, “Well, I’m just going to write it and see what happens, because I know he’s going to react to this,” and sure enough, he would respond immediately.

Billboard: Hagar has said that you’re tired of being a solo artist. Is that true?

Satriani: We had to show up to something, and I said, “You know what? I just want everyone to know I’m really embracing the idea of being the sort of mystery guitar player, the guy who shows up late, doesn’t do the interviews.” Because I realized, “Wow, I don’t carry all that responsibility anymore, and I’m going to take advantage of it.” So I guess it’s not that I’m tired of being a solo artist. I guess it’s just that it’s so much fun to have three other crazy individuals to pick up all the slack. And so like today, I can hang out in my hotel room or bum around the city because I’m not the primary focus of the band.

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