Joe Satriani: Prince ‘Broke Every Rule’ With ‘Sign O’ the Times’
As he explains to Ultimate Prince, Satriani -- whose lengthy career includes stints touring with Mick Jagger and Deep Purple, and the Sammy Hagar-fronted supergroup Chickenfoot -- got hooked on 1987's Sign O' the Times while touring behind his 1987 debut, Surfing With the Alien, and drew inspiration from the way Prince was able to stand out from the rest of the pack.
"I was really into Sign O' the Times," he says. "I’m one of those terrible fans that gets stuck on one record. I was ready for that record when it came out, I was right in the middle of doing recordings where I wanted to break down the status quo of making a professional record. Because they all start to sound the same, formulaic. Then along comes Prince, and he just did everything any way he wanted to. He just kinda broke every rule with every song. That record, of course, is eclectic like crazy. It’s just all over the map stylistically. It really was a representation of his uncontainable talent. You just could not keep that guy in one place, he was too amazing at too many things, you know?"
"I listened to that a lot," Satriani continues, "I remember being on that first tour, the Surfing With the Alien tour with Jonathan [Mover, drummer] and [bassist] Stu Hamm. I don't think Stu was much of a fan of the sound of the album, but Jonathan and I definitely just thought it was so cool - the mixture of the drum machine and the live people and just his groove and attitude. So even though we didn’t sound like that, we didn’t play like that, it was just always the soundtrack on our bus. We would put on Prince, AC/DC and Peter Gabriel at the time. We liked it all."
Satriani added that he never got to meet Prince, but Coleman lent her piano-playing talents to a pair of tracks on Shapeshifting, "Waiting" and "Yesterday's Yesterday." She came to the session via a mutual friend, Eric Caudieux, who played keyboards on the rest of the album.
"We started talking about keyboard players," Satriani remembers."I had my little keyboard part on it, it just didn’t have any finesse on it. He said, 'You know I do a lot of work with Lisa Coleman. She would be the person to understand how to play this particular song.' This was for the song ‘Waiting,’ which really needed her beautiful touch."