You can easily make the case that the idea of shapeshifting is a consistent element that has been present throughout Joe Satriani’s incredible career which now stretches across 18 studio albums and nearly 35 years. Never one to make the same type of record twice, the symbiotic relationship that he has with his existing body of work and how it feeds into the next chapter that he’ll add to is a fascinating one.
While some artists are often reluctant about looking back, Satriani sees it as an important part of the process. “Each album is to a large degree, informed by what just happened the last two years,” he says. “The previous record, the cathartic experience of dreaming it up, writing it, recording it and then taking it on tour -- that is quite an experience.”
Returning home at the end of that cycle, the prolific guitarist finds himself right back at the beginning, considering what his next move will be. “There are two things that always seem to pop up. One is that you want to do it again somehow and the other is that you’re kind of running as fast as you can in the other direction,” he explains. “It’s some sort of bizarre artistic response to something that you’ve just finished. Whether it’s successful or not, you just can’t help but say, ‘Now, I’ve got to do something entirely different.’”
Shapeshifting, his 18th studio album, grew out of a plan to focus on the idea of changing as the central theme. Listening to the initial demos that he had recorded, he thought the “shapeshifting” phrase is one that would fit well with the songs that he had come up with. “I started to think that that sounds like 15 different guitar players,” Satriani says. “I know it’s the same guy, because it’s me, but it sounds like I’m really moving into an area where each melody requires me to almost be somebody else.”
He enlisted a wide range of collaborators, both old and new, to help him bring the songs to life. Legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty), bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction) and keyboardist Eric Caudieux were the core musicians on the new album with additional contributions coming from Lisa Coleman (The Revolution) and Christopher Guest.
Jim Scott (Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) co-produced the album sessions with Satriani. Longtime associate John Cuniberti was on board as well, handling the mastering duties.