Why? Because it's about more than playing guitar.
It's about the magic in music.
More precisely, it's
about finding that sweet spot where sweeping gestures and a craftsman's
attention to detail enrich each other.
You hear it in the title
track's thundering, foot-stomp beat and intricately textured lead line, in
the spiritual intensity of "A Love Eternal" and the raucous, party-down
exhilaration of "Crowd Chant, and in the cinematic menace of "One Robot's
And especially, you feel it because Satriani is digging down, finding the
right note and letting it fly, and focusing more on touching hearts than
Super Colossal, then, completes his transformation, long in progress, from
stunning instrumentalist to fully-realized artist.
"People who picked up on my records early on knew that I couldn't be easily
pigeonholed," Satriani says. "I was never a metal player or a fusion player
or a straight-ahead rock player, though these are all elements of my
personality. I think I just go further into each of those places now,
especially on Super Colossal. To me, there's more variety here than on any
other album I've done."
The title reflects the ambition that Satriani brought to this project from
its first conceptual glimmer. In the spring of 2005 he was winding down the
tour behind his previous album, Is There Love in Space?, a marathon that had
him playing 115 shows in 25 countries over 14 months. His plan was to head
home to San Francisco, after the last show in India, wrap up a few projects
– the G3 Live in Tokyo DVD, music for a NASCAR video game – and then start
cutting a live CD.
Maybe that was his road adrenaline talking, for once he allowed himself a
short vacation a different picture took shape. "It dawned on me that I
didn't want to do that live album right now," he explains. "In fact, I was
totally against it. Instead, I wanted to stay in my little cave – my home
studio – and build a beautiful but powerful record, one that sounds big on
the surface but also has details hidden inside that you hear after listening
for maybe the tenth time."
With that, Satriani combed through more than 30 of his latest songs. As he
whittled this list down, he backed away even further from the live concept,
to the point that he decided to do the record, aside from the drum tracks,
on his own. "I couldn't let any of them go," he admits.
And so the hard work began. In early morning and late evening sessions,
recording digitally in the cozy facility he'd built next to his son's
playroom, shaping each sound carefully through familiar and new equipment,
Satriani addressed his songs, beginning with a guide track that he'd lay
down on electronic drums. The keyboard and guitar followed, with the bass
coming in at the end. The further he got, the better he felt about working
on his own.
"When you're a multi-instrumentalist, layering each part, you have lots of
time to reflect," he says. "After a few months you're dying to take the
music out in front of an audience and slam it out. But the opportunity to
get really subtle and delicate exists only when you're recording these songs
for the first time. Also, you learn from it. You're fully engaged, so that
you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. You worry and
agonize over every detail, but six months later all that fades and you're in
love with what you've done."
This attention to detail shines throughout Super Colossal. Encouraged by the
sounds he was discovering through the interplay of instrument, amp, speaker
simulators, and processors, Satriani found ways to express himself through
long notes, perfectly selected and caressed, as well as the occasional
blinding run. "It was a journey for me to play a song like 'Ten Words,' he
points out, "to learn how to be restrained. You're not just wailing. It's
hard to make an instrumental that really says something, that's not just
background music or some superficial 'get up and dance' thing. There's
nothing wrong with either of those forms; it's just that I'm not doing that.
I'm going deeper.
"Besides, after making records for – now that you've pointed it out – 20
years," he adds, just a bit wryly, "I'd feel bad if somebody said, 'Man,
you're just playing indiscriminately.' You're supposed to get better and to
learn how to make the music work, and sometimes that does mean laying back
and really speaking through your guitar instead of treating it as a vehicle
that lets you play really fast, which increasingly means less and less to
After finishing his tracks, he sent them out for live drum overdubs: Four –
"A Cool New Way," "One Robot's Dream," "The Meaning of Love," and "Made of
Tears" – went to session giant Simon Phillips in L.A.; the rest were cut by
Satriani's longtime associate Jeff Campitelli in Vancouver, at The Armoury,
a studio that co-Producer Mike Fraser (AC/DC) had recommended. The acoustics
of its main room yielded exactly what Satriani wanted for the rhythm track:
a big, brawny resonance that complemented the power of his most aggressive
lines, and a rich whisper for softer moments.
"I wanted a sound that was complex and emotional but never revealed the
technology behind it," the guitarist explains. "As a result I managed to
find the best guitar tones I've ever put on record. The sound of this album,
the incredible variety that somehow fits under this umbrella of Super
Colossal, makes it special in my book.
"And," he reminds us, "I didn't even know I was celebrating 20 years."
©2006 Sony/Epic Records
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