INTERVIEW: Joe Satriani talks about The Elephants Of Mars album and backstory to iconic Marvel cover

Interview by Andrew Massie

Joe Satriani
Photo credit: Eduardo Peña Dolhun

Joe Satriani has released a brand new studio album titled “The Elephants of Mars” which marks the legendary guitarist’s 19th studio album in his 35+year career in music. This album also marks the debut of his new label partnership with earMUSIC, the international rock label of entertainment group Edel.

Joe Satriani had an admirably productive workingman’s holiday with pandemic forced time away from the road that ultimately gave him and his touring band all recording remotely in separate areas of the world during lockdown the ability to deliver an album length journey that never dulls. The Elephants of Mars crackles with an exciting new energy briskly traveling through stylistic roads that feel freshly updated viewed through new eyes.

The guitarist challenged himself to create a “new standard” for instrumental guitar albums to be measured against, one which would work from “a new platform of his own design,” as he terms it. “I want to show people that an instrumental guitar album can contain far more creative and entertaining elements than I think people are using right now.”

In our interview with the guitar legend himself, we discuss the new songs, the evolution of his sound and style over the years, how New York City inspired him as a teenager and his history with Marvel and the iconic album Surfing With The Alien.


On the evolution of his sound over the years and how the latest album continues that journey:

You always want to be evolving and trying out new things and figuring out new ways to express yourself and of course you hope that you get better at your craft. So yeah what a great opportunity to do another record so big, over and hour, 14 songs and to work with this great tam was really fantastic.

On the goal of the new album The Elephants Of Mars:

I wanted to make sure I wrote the best songs that I could and come up with arranges that were super creative and I wanted to play better, take care of some nagging little issues that I’ve been trying to overcome and I wanted some interesting sounds. Sometimes it meant just bringing my personality really closer to the fans rather than trying to sound like every other guitar player or joining a style like your jumping on a trend or something. It as really about how do I me to come out more and what it is I’m trying to say song to song and that meant I had to really concentrate on the meaning behind every song.

On the change of the cover on the 30th anniversary reissue of Surfing With The Alien:

We originally licenced the image of the Silver Surfer from Marvel comics for $5000 for a 20 year licence and it was a typical licence for a comic book character that was almost killed off, I mean it had no business left in it. But as Marvel’s fortunes grew they became more demanding every time we had to up our licence and they finally made an offer that was so outrageous that we couldn’t accept it, it was just punitive but I think they just wanted us to leave town [laughs]. They had enough of being associated with this instrumental guitarist and so we just said forget it, go ahead, keep your Silver Surfer, we don’t really need it. It’s been like 30 years. But what we did find out was what they didn’t trademark or copyright so we basically didn’t want to upset the fans so we came as close as we could without getting into any legal trouble copying the Silver Surfer. So we did change the cover but celebrated the original artists work at the same time, we wanted to pay homage to the original artist that created that so they are fine with that as far as I know!

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Joe Satriani - The Elephants of Mars