Joe Satriani, who was a guitar teacher before he found fame with his 1987 album “Surfing With The Alien”, spoke to Albany, New York’s Q103 radio station about what it was like giving lessons to two of his more famous students, Steve Vai and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. “Those two guys were great,” Joe said (hear audio below). “I mean, [it was] very different how I met them. Steve Vai was 12 years old and could not play guitar at all when I met him. He showed up on my front door with a guitar with no strings in one hand and a pack of strings in the other, and said, ‘Hey, you’re teaching my friend. Can you teach me how to play too?’ So that was my introduction to Steve. Kirk was already a really good guitar player; he was already the lead guitarist in EXODUS when I met him. And I already moved to Berkeley, California by then. So he walked into the store where I was teaching looking for lessons, ’cause he knew that I was teaching a bunch of other thrash metal kids in the neighborhood there. So working with Kirk was a lot easier, because he was already a pretty accomplished player, he was already an advanced player. And he was still in Exodus at the time, but then, very quickly, he got the gig with Metallica, so the lessons became extremely important, because he was working and making albums. [Those were] exciting times, very exciting times. They were both fantastically dedicated musicians, as they are today.”
Several other Satriani students went on to achieve fame of their own, including Alex Skolnick, Andy Timmons, Larry LaLonde, Rick Hunolt, Charlie Hunter, Jeff Tyson and Kevin Cadogan.
Hammett recalled his first lesson with Satriani during a 2017 interview with the Vancouver radio station CFOX. He said: “It was actually very poignant. His first lesson to me was, ‘Learn your lesson. Don’t waste your time, don’t waste my time. I expect you to know everything that I gave you in a week’s time.’ I was, like, ‘This guy is serious.’ But you know what? I did it, and he kicked my ass. But after a while, I was taking two lessons a week from him. I became so thirsty for what he had to offer me, I was just, like, ‘Bring it on! It’s all making sense. I wanna learn more.'”
Hammett went on to praise his former teacher, saying: “I have to say, Joe Satriani has always played that way. Ever since I first met him, he’s always played incredibly — with all the sounds and all the bar stuff and tapping and crazy licks that no one’s ever played, and still probably never plays. I mean, he’s just such a unique individual as a musician.”
Satriani’s 16th solo album, “What Happens Next”, will be released on January 12 via Sony/Legacy Recordings.