Solo artist and guitarist for Chickenfoot, Joe Satriani is famed for his stellar six-string playing, which has lead to millions of albums sales, 15 Grammy nominations and legions of devout followers worldwide. He’s also known for album and song titles — Not Of This Earth, Time Machine, “Speed Of Light” — that reflect his fascination with science fiction. The cover for Surfing With The Alien even featured an image of the legendary Marvel Comics character the Silver Surfer, the galaxy-spanning herald of Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.
I recently interviewed Satch for a story for Grammy.com (and a more extensive Q&A for my blog that will be forthcoming). As a good teaser, I thought I’d extract our discussion of his recent literary fixations. Considering Satriani’s otherworldly guitar abilities, we could subtitle this “Reading With The Alien”.
I know you’re a big sci-fi fan. What have you been reading lately?
China Miéville is capturing my imagination quite a bit. I think he is the only science fiction author that I’ve read in the last six months. I’ve recommended Perdido Street Station to so many people. It’s such a fascinating book.
What’s it about?
Oh well, how do you explain that? It’s a mixture of the most outrageous sci-fi, a whodunit and political intrigue all rolled into one big ball. It’s so intense, and he’s such an amazing writer, that the first time you start reading him you wind up reading pages over and over and over again because you go, “Wow, that was too much. I’ve got to go over that one more time.” His command of the English language is really impressive, and the depth of character development in every chapter is so intense, that you wind up becoming a fan of this guy pretty quickly because no one else writes quite like him. The last thing I just finished reading was a book on Sly and the Family Stone, which was outrageous, absolutely outrageous.
I did an interview with Joshua Jackson recently, and he was commenting on the fact that despite this huge boom in science fiction television and film, a lot of amazing science fiction literature is inexplicably out-of-print. As it is, Hollywood’s version of sci-fi often varies quite a bit from its literary cousin.
It is slightly different. Have you read any of Dan Simmons‘ stuff? Dan Simmons is fantastic. Great, great stuff. He writes all manner of fiction and fantasy and science fiction — Song of Kali is a great book to get into; the best vampire story ever is Carrion Comfort; and the Hyperion series is just an intense, fantastic science-fiction story. It’s absolutely unparalleled as far as pulling that altogether. He’s a completely different writer than China Miéville.
Getting back to film, it seems that a lot of the really interesting sci-fi films that come out are not always the big-budget Hollywood epics.
One movie I liked was Sunshine. It’s the story about a ship heading towards the Sun, and they have to set off a huge nuclear device to save Earth. That was fantastic, and to make a movie out of it is pretty good. And a really good sleeper movie was Moon, with a guy who is stationed on the moon by himself.