Being part of a band is what Joe Satriani envisioned for himself when he learned to play the guitar at 14. The Jimi Hendrix acolyte never envisioned his name on the marquee because he's a guitar guy, not a singer.
“When you look at things, it really is unbelievable how things turned out,” Satriani said while calling from Los Angeles. “I thought I would play guitar in a four-piece, like Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin. I thought that would be as good as it would get.”
Fortunately, Satriani, 57, was wrong.
Fellow musicians gushed over the virtuoso’s early work. He was encouraged to record as an instrumental artist and that led to an enviable career. His second album, 1987’s “Surfing With The Alien,” which went gold, won raves from critics and helped cultivate a devoted fan base.
Satriani’s unique shredding skills and his mainstream appeal have also set him apart from most of his peers.
“I’m just fortunate,” he said. “Some way that I play touches people. But you know, everything changed for me after ‘Surfing With The Alien’ was embraced. All of a sudden, the phone started ringing. Life became very different.”
In fact, Mick Jagger called Satriani and asked if he would handle guitar for the legend’s initial solo tour in 1988.
“Working with Mick was an eye-opener,” Satriani said. “I had the time of my life with Mick. Not only was it a great opportunity, it was fascinating getting to know him. He is a tremendous musician. I had no idea that he came up with the riff to ‘Brown Sugar.’ To play with a Rolling Stone is just an amazing thing.”
Satriani, who gave lessons to such guitar monsters as Steve Vai, Larry Lalonde of Primus and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, doesn’t just tell stories with his six-string; Satriani is also working on a book that is slated for a March release.
“I have a lot of experiences, a lot to write about,” Satriani said. “It’s been a tremendous life. I’ve been very fortunate. It’s been fun putting the book together.”
Satriani will perform Tuesday at the Carolina Theatre, touring behind his latest album, “Unstoppable Momentum.” He adds some spice to his new songs with some surprising swing, which gives the dramatic guitar runs some added flavor.
“It’s good to bring some new wrinkles to what you do,” Satriani said. “I never want to repeat myself over and over. The last thing I want to be is complacent. I like doing new things.”
Satriani does like to mix things up. The supergroup G3, which he formed in 1995, has Steve Vai, Robert Fripp, Eric Johnson and Steve Morse as part of the on-again-off-again project. He also works with Chickenfoot, which features Van Halen alums Sammy Hagar on vocals and guitar and bassist Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
“It’s my mission to get Chickenfoot going again,” Satriani said. “I just sent the guys an email about getting together. Sammy replied with an ‘oh yeah.’ It’s all about our schedules aligning. We’ll be back. I’m fortunate. I’ve experienced so much and I have so many projects.”