Joe Satriani has traveled the world as an internationally known musician. He’s been a lead guitarist for Mick Jagger and Deep Purple, released 15 studio albums and is bandmates in Chickenfoot with Sammy Hagar, Van Halen founding member Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. He’s even appeared with Chickenfoot as a guest on the Adult Swim cult cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But for Satriani, teaching has always been a major part of who he is, so much so that he’s bringing his G4 Experience guitar clinic back home to Long Island. From Aug. 8 through 12, he will be hosting this event at the Glen Cove Mansion, where he’s recruited fellow guitar whiz Eric Johnson, ex-student Alex Skolnick (of Testament) and longtime sideman Mike Keneally to help out as instructors.
Growing up in Westbury and going to Carle Place High School, Satriani was a self-described “…super long-haired, motorcycle boot-wearing, Black Sabbath-playing sort of guitar-head.” It was in high school, where he and Vai came under the tutelage of the late Bill Westcott, who encouraged this budding love of music.
“[Bill] somehow got through to me and gave me a university education in music. School let me take double classes and graduate a half year early. I think they just wanted me out of the school basically,” he said with a laugh. “ But me and about six other kids were allowed to graduate early. One of the classes that helped me gather credits was an advanced theory class. So I took two theory classes from Bill and I got such a great education from him. He really was a very important part of my musical education.”
And while Westcott planted the musical theory seeds in young Satriani’s mind, the transition to helping others go down this particular creative path came from the guitarist’s own mother, who was a longtime teacher.
“My mother was a grammar school teacher, so I always grew up with these teachers coming over to the house every Friday afternoon after surviving a week teaching kids. These grownups would come and commiserate over the week’s trials and tribulations and I would hear these stories,” Satriani recalled. “My mother had a little office in the basement of all her teaching materials. So the idea of teaching just seemed very natural to me. So when some kid started to ask me for lessons after seeing me play at high school dances and battle of the bands, I figured I could do it. It turned into a really great way to pay for my own strings, which as a beginner you tend to break all the time because you don’t know how to play. The whole thing got started because I was inspired by my mother.”
As someone whose experience giving guitar lessons goes back at least four decades, the G4 Experience is something that gets Satriani pretty revved up.
Throughout the week, Satriani will have a number of guest instructors dropping in to help out, among them former student and lifelong friend Steve Vai. His fellow Carle Place High School alum is looking forward to it, despite how unexpected the invitation to participate was.
“It was so odd because we both started doing these camps at the same time. Joe and I are joined at the hip throughout our whole career and lives, ever since I was 12 years old,” Vai said. “What a beautiful lesson to have in life. It’s so funny because I was thinking that I’d love to just pop into Joe’s camp for a little while one of these years and just kind of be there for the fans and for Joe. But it was just a little scene in the back of my mind. And the oddest thing—the universe provides—a week later I get a call asking how I’d like to join the camp. They must have been reading my mind.”
Getting to bring this event that had previously only been held on the West Coast back home to Long Island is something Satriani is excited about, particularly given how unique the G4 Experience is for aspiring guitarists.
“The G4 thing is really a play on the old clinic style. I love doing the clinics, but they get kind of old. [I wanted to] do something that brings in a bit more performance so that the people that come to these clinics don’t get to see a dry dissertation on how to play guitar but they’ll get the nuts, bolts and theory while getting to see us really play and they’ll get to play with us, just like we do when we’re on the G3 [Tour],” he said. “Having Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick and Mike Keneally out there with me—all great, all incredibly different with different kind of skills—I think it’ll be a fabulous thing.”
Joe Satriani and his G4 Experience will be appearing from Aug. 8 through 12 at the Glen Cove Mansion, 200 Dosoris Lane, Glen Cove. Visit www.g4experience.com for more information. Visit www.longislandweekly.com to read a feature about Joe Satriani’s favorite animated shows.