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The Man With The Platinum Touch.

His resume is one of the most impressive in rock. He brought the world Green Day and gave the word “Dookie” new meaning. His records have sold nearly 200 million copies and Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, My Chemical Romance, Kid Rock, Avril Lavigne, Fleetwood Mac, The Goo Goo Dolls, David Cook, Paramore, Hot Hot Heat, [...]

The Master of Space and Time

Thomas Lang has electrified and inspired musicians around the world with his progressive hand/foot techniques and ability to play independent linear patterns across the kit. Arguably one of the most active touring and recording artist of his generation, Lang has performed on over 250 Albums, working with notable artists such as Robbie Williams, The Clash, [...]

The Axesmith: Acoustic Guitar String Change

I’ve been changing guitar strings for decades. Smugly, I had always placed the degree of difficulty somewhere between tying my shoes and pumping gas. That all changed when I met Joey Brasler, now one of our top guitar merchants. He took a sad look at a Baby Taylor I brought into work, rolled his eyes, [...]

“Holy Wars” with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth

Dave Mustaine joined us for Guitar Center Sessions recently in Los Angeles along with 2,000 screaming Megadeth fans and musicians. Only 300 lucky souls made it in to share an intimate evening of insight and dialogue with this metal master. Below Dave takes us through Megadeth’s “Holy Wars”, stopping along the way to share [...]

July 2009: There’s a lot of debate going on about where the music business is headed. Are download sites like Limewire helping or hurting bands? Are albums a thing of the past? How should musicians navigate the increasingly complex landscape of art, technology and commerce? For legendary rocker Sammy Hagar, it all goes back to one thing. “Live shows, it’s heading back to live shows,” Sammy says with confidence. “We made a recording so that we could go out and play live, and however the people decide they want to get that recording is fine with me. They can buy it, steal it, trade it… I don’t care. I’m here for the live shows.”

An ordinary band might quake at the thought of that much emphasis being placed on their live shows. But then Sammy isn’t talking about any ordinary band. The group in question is Chickenfoot, and despite the funny name, these guys are no joke. Joining the Red Rocker in this illustrious lineup are his longtime brother-in-arms bassist Michael Anthony (ex-Van Halen), guitar master Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. The word ‘Supergroup’ gets thrown around a lot, but in this case it seems like an understatement. Chickenfoot is a musical force to be reckoned with, a four-headed monster born to play live.

It’s impossible to spend any time in a room with these guys and not be blown away by just how much they love being around each other. The vibe is all smiles and the jokes fly fast and furious – more like a giddy group of kids in their first band than a seasoned crew of world-class players. But it’s exactly this atmosphere of mutual admiration and good humor that makes Chickenfoot click.

“You know, the main thing about the musicianship of this band,” says Sammy Hagar, “everyone's great on their instrument, but the magic here is that we all play really well together and we get along musically so well. It's like if you see us hanging out together, you think, well these guys can't be serious. You know you can put the best players in the world in a room – I've been in some of those rooms with some people and man, it just does not work. But when we make music it seems to be good, so it's kind of a special gift between us.”

If chemistry is what Chickenfoot is all about, then Joe Satriani is the band’s mad scientist. For over 25 years, Joe has been expanding the horizons of the electric guitar with his masterful instrumental recordings, blending powerful melodies with sheer exhilaration and world-class chops. But in this band collaboration is the name of the game, and that means a different approach to songwriting

“Oh, it's essential to take advantage of the chemistry,” says Joe. “I'm really trying to inspire and I'm leaving a huge chunk up to the moment when everybody hears it first so that Mike, Chad and Sam are going to say, ‘I've got an idea. Let's go in 180 degrees this way.’ Sam will say something like, ‘I got the story in my head. I know exactly what the song’s going to be about.’ And that's very exciting. That's different from having to sort of mastermind the whole thing and never having lyrics to work with.”

It’s clear that Joe’s bandmates share his enthusiasm. Sammy Hagar, who has played with his share of great guitarists, calls Joe the best musician he’s ever played with. “A lot of people either get stuck in a style or an era or something and they never can break out of it,” Sammy reflects, “or they just start losing their talent and their abilities and their chops. But the amazing thing that I see about Joe is that he just keeps getting better. I've known Joe for a long time. I've been a fan. I listen to his early stuff. And when Joe picks up a guitar, he can play anything. He's a master of the instrument.”

Despite a new band and a significantly different role, the instrument of the master remains remarkably consistent. Joe’s trusty Ibanez JS Signature model has evolved over the years to be an extension of his playing, a refined tool that responds perfectly to his every whim. Even so, playing in Chickenfoot presents new challenges that have led to some important tweaks. “We're tuning down to E flat,” Joe says, “so I moved up from a set of 9s to the D’Addario 10-46. And that's great 'cause it's a bigger sound and I'm playing rhythm most of the time, so it's nice to have more string under my fingertips. And the JS guitar sounds so much better with 10s.”

Amp-wise, Joe is sticking with his signature Peavey JSX heads. But much like the setup of his guitars, he’s also setting the amp a little differently. “At a Joe Satriani show, I'm playing melodies and solos non-stop, so instead of making the guitar really aggressive, I would kind of soften it up because I'm playing all those screaming notes all night long for people. But now I'm playing rhythm 90 percent of the time with these guys, interacting with them, so I wanted a more dynamic, more aggressive sound. So now the resonance and the presence controls are on 10, which is really a great way to run the JSX 120 'cause it really comes alive that way. It's a subtle difference, but it really changes the nature of the amp quite a bit.”

To get some different sounds on Chickenfoot’s debut album, Joe also used a prototype of his newest Peavey amp, the JSX 50. “When we got into Skywalker Studios to do the final recordings, we were looking for some new guitar sound. And then through the door walks my tech, Mike Manning, carrying with him the very first JSX 50 prototype. We took the thing out of the box, plugged it in, and that was the sound. And we used up right up until we had to ship it back for it to be scoped again. The JSX 120, of course, is a real modern amp. And so it's trying to address all the gain you could ever possibly want, with all the modern features of switching and effects loops and all that kind of stuff. But with the 50-watt, what we're looking for is a more in-your-face sound. The gain is dialed down a bit so that the sound has got a lot more tack, a lot more dynamic interaction with how you play. And it's a simplified amp. It's going to be a two-channel amp, not a three-channel amp.”

Rounding out Joe’s rig are the three signature pedals he developed with VOX, the Satchurator distortion, Big Bad Wah, and Time Machine delay. Why those three effects? “The keyword is essential,” Joe says. “When I started with VOX, I wanted to really focus on those essential things that are part of my tool box that I have to have. I definitely need a wah-wah pedal, definitely need distortion, and I love using delays to create a rock and roll dreamlike atmosphere. And those delays are real important to me.”

“The Time Machine not only has a vintage mode, which adds a slight warble and a beautiful tape saturation, but it also has an EQ cut,” Joe expounds, clearly excited about the pedal he helped design. “You can bring the volume of the effect up, but because of the EQ cut and the saturation, the repeats have a way of always staying out of the way of all the busy stuff that you're doing. The Time Machine just keeps creating that beautiful ambiance. That's what I love about it. And we're working on new pedals all the time, but I can't talk about it, because, you know, national security.”

. On the four-string side of ‘The Foot’, bassist Michael Anthony has decades of experience backing up great guitarists. He held down the low end for arena giants Van Halen from their formation in the mid ’70s until his departure in 2006, so when it comes to a rock solid foundation, Mike’s the master. His Chickenfoot partner in rhythm, drummer Chad Smith, sums it up; “If someone came on stage tonight – and I'm not saying that they should – and hit Mike on the side of the head with a giant brick, the groove would not falter one iota. Solid as the day is long.”

All kidding aside, Mike has a deep understanding of what makes a rhythm section work. “You play whatever works best within the framework of the music and the other players,” he says. “I don't want songs to sound like three different solos going on. You can step outside and do a little bit, but you gotta know when to be kind of restrained and just hold the fort down. Look at someone like Billy Sheehan, and on the other end of the range, Cliff Williams, who plays with AC/DC. I get into his bass playing just as much and he's just 8th-noting it – just holding that thing down like there's no tomorrow.”

For the sound that holds it down, Mike relies on Yamaha basses. In fact, he’s been helping to design a new model. “It's a new Yamaha BB model bass. I’m one of a few bassists that are working on the same model that we're all going to play. That's the bass I'm going to be using 'cause I've been helping ‘R and D’ it while we've been recording this record. It's strung through the back of the body. A lot of times with singers you tune down a little bit. So we’re trying to keep good tension on the strings, even the low E with the de-tuner on there, so it doesn't get too floppy.”

Like his bandmate Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony will be hitting the stage with a backline of Peavey amps. “I’m trying out these new VB3 Peavy amps and 8x10 enclosures that are sounding very snappy, very crunchy. Big with a lot of bang to them.”

Beyond the mind-blowing resumes and incredible musical abilities of all concerned, Chickenfoot is about playing music and having a great time with good friends. It’s about the respect and even awe these four players have for each other. As Chad Smith put it, “These guys are legendary – they're amazing musicians and when we play together we're all peers, but sometimes I look over and Mike's singing those high parts that are just so signature, and I just can't believe I'm in a band with this guy. Joe Satriani's this guitar hero, amazing musician, funny, great guy. And Sammy sounds better than ever. He's like the Energizer Bunny of rock. So I'm just lucky they let me near them, let alone hit stuff.”

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