By ANDREW FOERCH
World-renowned guitar master Joe Satriani is back on the road, headlining his massive G3 tour for the thirteenth time since its inception in 1996. He’ll be accompanied once again by Dream Theatre guitarist and G3 regular John Petrucci, and, for the first time ever, Def Leppard lead guitarist Phil Collen. Together, they’ll bring a unique and unpredictable blend of rock, blues, soul, and electric shredding to sold-out shows all over America.
Next week, the musketeers of melody will set sail for sunny Florida, playing five shows in five nights at concert halls around the state before moving on to Raleigh, North Carolina. Dates and locations for the G3 Florida leg are as follows:
January 30 Hard Rock Live Orlando, FL
January 31 Florida Theatre Jacksonville, FL
February 1 Pompano Beach Amphitheatre Pompano Beach, FL
February 2 Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall Fort Myers, FL
February 3 Mahaffey Theater St. Petersburg, FL
I was lucky enough to chat with six-string legend Phil Collen about his first G3 experience, his extreme blues project Delta Deep, and what we can expect this year from the illustrious Def Leppard collective.
Q: I know you did the G4 event last summer but this is the first time you’ve done the G3 tour—tell me about how you ended up on the roster this year.
Phil: I think because of the G4 thing. That was such a blast, with Joe [Satriani], Paul Gilbert, Warren Demartini, and Tommy Emmanuel, who is one of my favorite acoustic guitar players. It was just a wonderful connection. Then Joe asked if I wanted to do the tour. It just gelled together and now we’re bringing a sound the tour has never heard before. We’re having an absolute blast.
Q: I imagine it’s been tons of fun. You’ve been on the road almost two weeks now, what’s it like playing with Satriani and Petrucci?
Phil: First off, they’re the sweetest guys in the universe, they’re lovely guys. And they’re just monster players. I’m really getting a lot out of it. Their playing is really humble, it’s really creative, and it’s totally inspired. Especially when we do our jam at the end, there’s never any competition, we just kind of weave in and out of each other’s things and try to set a mood. The first night John Petrucci played this jazz chord. We were in this jam and it just went somewhere else, the notes went different. They’re really wonderful. Usually when you get three guitar players it can be a bit of a nightmare. You can’t hear anything or everyone’s being too loud but this isn’t like that, it’s all actually creating music, which is beautiful. It’s almost like a jazz band.
Q: You’re playing a show this evening in Tuscon, Arizona. What type of experience should fans in Tuscon expect at G3 tonight?
Phil: Well I’ve come down with a really nasty flu. I’m achy, I’m all shivery and weak, but last night went great and I felt like this yesterday too, so… when you get on stage it all disappears. You kick in and turn into something else, the alter ego. But we’ll do a set each. I do 30 minutes, John does 45, and Joe does like 55, then we all get on together and do our thing as G3.
Q: What do you think it is about Satriani and the G3 brand that has made this concert so durable and beloved over 20 years later?
Phil: Apart from his playing? I mean, he constructs beautiful melodies, he’s playing very different from other string players. When Joe crossed over in the ‘80s, all of a sudden you had rock guitar instrumentals on the radio, which was unheard of. You had Jeff Beck before that and George Benson I think had the first No. 1 instrumental song, but this was different because it was rock-based. Also his personality comes out when he plays. It’s melodic and infectious and he’s outright crazy to watch as a technician. I have friends who would never go to a concert like this but came and loved every second of it. It’s so diverse, it’s so different.
Q: All three of you guys have been playing music on the road professionally for over 30 years now. What’s the key to staying that healthy and living that intense of a lifestyle for so long?
Phil: For me personally, I stopped drinking 30 years ago just as [Def Leppard] released the Hysteria album. That really helped. I’m always working out and keeping active. Today and yesterday don’t count because I feel like shit but normally I go to the gym.
Q: You do a solo set to open the show. Are you going to play primarily recent music from Delta Deep, or more of the hard rock songs from older Def Leppard albums, or a mix of both?
Phil: I’m doing some Delta Deep stuff but I kick off with Quadrant Four, which is an instrumental off a Billy Cobham album from the early ‘70s. I do Yo To Joe, the song I did at G4 that Joe played on with me. Then we bring Debbie Blackwell-Cooke out and do some Delta Deep stuff. It’s a different flavor. Then John Petrucci comes out and it’s a different flavor again. Then Joe gets up and it’s a completely different flavor.
The other night Vivian Campbell came up. Def Leppard recently released all of our music [online], we went digital. We were one of the last bands to do that. So Viv came up and that was awesome. We did part of Love Bites and Hysteria. Then we’d go back to the jam. It was a lot of fun.
Q: I listened through East Coast Live the other night and you hear it a lot on tracks like Whiskey and Black Coffee and obviously Bless These Blues: how did blues music inspire the band’s sound and the making of the East Coast Live record?
Phil: Debbie Blackwell-Cooke was raised in the gospel church since she could talk really. Drummer Forrest Robinson is from Memphis, he was in the church and he was a session player in Atlanta with all the hip-hop stuff. He played with India Arie, TLC, and bunch of other things. Englebert Humperdink, I mean really crazy stuff. And Joe Sample and the Crusaders, which is a huge deal. He actually replaced Steve Gadd for a tour with Joe Sample and the Crusaders. But really what we wanted to play was rock. So the combination was amazing. And then Robert DeLeo who plays with Stone Temple Pilots is a huge motown fan. I got into rock music via blues guitar-inspired rock players—Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck—they’re all into blues. That’s why my playing is the way it is, it’s like having a British accent or American accent. You get it early on and it sticks.
Q: Are you working on any official projects with Def Leppard at the moment?
Phil: We’ve got a huge tour coming up. We’re releasing the catalog and a bunch of people have never heard this stuff. We’re touring the whole catalog basically. We’re playing Hysteria in England and Japan, we’re going out with Journey in May in the U.S. There’s a lot happening. I just finished producing the Tesla album—that’s mixed and mastered, that should be out in May. That’s phenomenal and really intense. It sounds like you’ve got Queen, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Beatles, and AC/DC all mixed up. It’s pretty amazing.
We’ll definitely keep an eye out for that, especially the Deff Leppard Tour stop at Amalie Arena right here in Tampa, Florida. Thanks so much Phil.
Andrew Foerch can be reached email@example.com