Your favorite guitar player wishes he could play like Joe Satriani.
Those righteous riffs you hear when Metallica is on the radio? Satriani taught that band’s Kirk Hammett and many other metal greats, including Steve Vai and Larry LaLonde, to play.
I sat down with 57-year-old Satriani the night before he played his Unstoppable Momentum show to discuss the perils of snowboarding for a guitar player.
Were you one of those fit kids, or did activity come later?
I grew up on Long Island, so it was baseball and football. I was also on the school fitness team, which was like military calisthenics, and we won the competition five years in a row. I won “most physically fit” in eighth grade but later quit because they were going to make me and my singer cut our hair. We were growing it pretty long, and they saw it as subversive and antisocial.
Since you valued your hair more than fitness class, what did you do for exercise?
Afterward, running took over, because I realized that once you’re out of school you don’t have a gym to go to and I didn’t have the money to join one. Also, being on the road you can do it anywhere.
I ran about four miles a day for 30 years, but by the time I was in my late 40s my knees started to give out. I was running on pavement in San Francisco, and the hills were too intense. I tried some other things, like mountain biking, but realized I couldn’t do because it would fatigue my wrists for guitar playing. And lifting heavy weights was out because it was going to make me sore and slow.
So what filled the gap after running?
I got into skiing and snowboarding, and luckily I never broke anything. I had every bit of safety equipment imaginable: helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, spine protector, hip pads and kneepads. And thank God I had all that because I’m a goofball, and I was just following my son around, and you know how kids are. By the time they’re 6 they’re doing black diamond runs.
I gave up snowboarding when I was 51 on a beautiful day in Squaw Valley. I was sitting there with my son, and I realized I had snowboarded for 15 years and never broken anything. I’d seen a lot of wreckage and decided I had to hang it up right then.
What’s your regimen like now?
I got into using elastic Thera-Bands for on the road: Hook it to a doorknob and off you go. I got introduced to them when I tore my shoulder playing baseball with the kids. And Dr. Lenny Stein, who works with the San Francisco ballet, got me into joint mobility exercises to get the blood flowing, and I find it to be very effective because I needed something that was gentle enough to do on a grueling tour but makes sure everything has moved every day.
You’ve always been lean. I guess you’re careful about what you eat.
In the past 20 years, I’ve tried vegan, vegetarian, no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, no wheat … I’ve tried just about everything. Now my diet is “just whatever.” Any kind of food that will keep me alive, I eat it. I do consciously watch my weight; I’m careful about calories. I remember when I went off sugar for about four years, but when I got back into it, man did I enjoy it! I stay away from artificial stuff and just try not to eat too much.