“Fingers are crossed that once I start playing Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love, it'll be like, ‘I'm here, I'm in the zone’”: Joe Satriani is working with 3rd Power on the ultimate '86 era Van Halen amp

 Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen .
Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen .
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Joe Satriani has revealed that he’s working on a new guitar amp designed specifically to capture Eddie Van Halen’s 1986 guitar tone.

The guitarist, fresh from releasing his first original song with Steve Vai, is preparing to perform hits from across Van Halen’s back catalog with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and Jason Bonham this summer.

Speaking to Talking Shred onboard the Monsters of Rock Cruise, Satriani spoke about his love for the tone on Van Halen's 1986 live album, Live Without A Net – and added that Sammy Hagar loves it, too.

David Lee Roth had left to embark on a solo career a year earlier, and as the band began to transition to life with Sammy Hagar at the helm, Eddie Van Halen had started to move away from Marshall amps.

It was a journey that would ultimately see him create his fruitful partnership with Peavey, but along the way, he drove a tone that superfan Satriani can’t get enough of.

“Once I'd taken this deep dive into the technicalities of trying to play these songs, and spoken to Sammy about his favorite tone, we focused on that [album],” he says.

“He was still playing the Roth era rig, but was leaning towards what was to become the Hagar era rig – the transition from Marshall amps to Soldano, to Peavey, and ultimately the 5150IIIs.

“So I've been working with 3rd Power Amps out of Nashville to make the ultimate '86 era Van Halen amp. We'll be able to do both eras with that setup. Getting that started has been the important thing for me.”

When pressed as to whether the amp will be tube-powered or solid-state, Satriani admitted that he doesn’t know yet, but did shed some light on the thoughts behind the amp's creation.

“The Dragon amp, which 3rd Power does, you could plug into two cabinets and turn up really loud, and it'll sound great,” he believes. “But Eddie would plug into a Marshall, it would go into a Palmer speaker emulator, and that would go into stereo power amps and there'd be Eventides and delays. It was just insane. [His rig] looked like the ENIAC, the computer from the '40s.

“I'm not gonna emulate that,” Satriani adds, “I want it to be simple. But there's something about the transient response of having all that wattage behind you, the speed of the tone is really important. Fingers are crossed that once I start playing Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love that'll be like ‘I'm here, I'm in the zone.’”

Satriani also revealed that, until it came to writing and touring with Chickenfoot in 2008, he hadn’t learned to play any of Van Halen’s music “so that I wouldn’t steal anything.”

Talking about receiving a phone call from Hagar, where he pitched the Best of All Worlds tour to Satriani, he said: “I knew I was going to say yes because he's had a fantastic career, and with Chickenfoot, I'm part of that legacy, which is fantastic.

“The scary part was the Van Halen part – I've tried my best to avoid playing like Eddie forever. I'm a big fan and I've never learned the songs on purpose so I didn't steal anything. Then I had to learn the songs and I was like ‘This is gonna be torture.’

It's an experience he's likened to his brief stint in Deep Purple.

“When I was playing in Deep Purple,” he says, “all I heard was Ritchie Blackmore's parts in one ear, and in the other ear was me. It didn't sound like Ritchie.

“So, once I get off the ship, my practice will be about playing all those things that Eddie used to do that don't come naturally to me, and make them feel natural.”

For now, Satriani will return to practicing Van Halen’s crazy acrobatic licks ahead of the much-anticipated Best of All Worlds tour in July and August.