As content as Joe Satriani is to play his own music, there are some opportunities to work with others that he simply can't pass up. So you can imagine his surprise when he received a call last year from Alex Van Halen, whom he had never met, asking if he wanted to participate in a Van Halen tribute.
"[Alex] poses the unimaginable to me, which is to go out with the Van Halen tour playing guitar," Satriani tells Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke. "As I've told other people, 'I heard my voice saying, 'Yeah, I'll do that,' before my brain really thought, 'Don't say yes, that's like an impossible thing to do! You can't replace Eddie Van Halen!' Nobody can."
Satch says he got to know Alex better over the course of a few subsequent phone calls, and eventually was connected with David Lee Roth. He says the three came close to committing to the 'We Love NYC' free concert in Central Park in 2021. The plan never came to fruition, and Satch was honestly relieved.
"That would have been frightening because it was only three weeks away, and I was still listening to the Van Halen stuff but still working on an album, so it wasn't like we were prepared," he continued.
While original Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony confirmed early in 2022 that he also discussed a reunion with Alex and Roth, Satch says it was unclear at the time whether Anthony was back in the Van Halen loop.
"There was no bass player; they hadn't told me who was going to play bass and then there was a whole controversy about who should actually be in the band," he said. "I was on the outside. I'm just some new guy, so I kept wondering. I was the one saying, 'Who's playing bass, by the way? Is Sammy [Hagar] going to come by?'"
While Wolfgang Van Halen said this summer that he is convinced the tribute will never happen, Satch is more optimistic. He adds, however, that there are lots of moving parts and conversations that need to take place, none of which involves him.
"I think there's some internal stuff that needs to get worked out with the family and then the Van Halen band family, which is kind of big. ...Many times I've told Alex, 'Are you sure? Me?' Because I don't perform like Eddie. I'm just like a super fan. I can certainly play the stuff, but Eddie was such an original."
Satriani adds that the choice of who should play guitar at such a concert seems pretty obvious. If it was up to him, he would pick Eddie's son Wolfgang, who paid tribute to his father this past summer at a pair of tributes to late-Foo Fighters drummer and VH super fan Taylor Hawkins.
"After all the weight must be on Wolf's shoulders about this whole thing, and he's has to deal with Dave and everybody else commenting about this kind of stuff, and he just went and settled it right then and there," Satriani said. "Yeah, I thought to myself, 'Well, he should do it, and maybe just he and his Uncle Al should just work this out."