Exclusive: Joe Satriani On Teaching Primus’ Larry LaLonde & Metallica’s Kirk Hammett


While Joe Satriani is the most successful instrumental rock guitarist of all-time (he has sold over 10 million albums and earned 15 Grammy Award nominations), it turns out he may have been an even more successful guitar teacher.

All you have to do is look at the impressive list of guitarists he instructed over the years, that have become extremely renowned – Steve Vai, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, Counting Crow’s David Bryson, etc. And Satch’s teaching also affected alternative rock, as one of his students was none other than Primus’ Larry LaLonde.

Satch (who is currently touring in support of his latest album, Shockwave Supernova, of which a complete listing of dates can be viewed here), spoke with Alternative Nation about teaching Larry, as well as if he had any idea at the time how successful his students would eventually become.

What are some memories of teaching Larry LaLonde guitar?

Larry was a very motivated student. Really physically talented on the guitar. I think when I first met him, he was like Kirk Hammett and Alex Skolnick, his whole generation was really inventing thrash metal, at the time. This was an important thing to recognize, I think, because a lot of people forget, even though those players were into guys like Michael Schenker, Jimi Hendrix, and everybody else, they were part of something that was at the forefront of rock music.

And at the time, Larry was playing with a band called Possessed. And then during that period, he started playing with Blind Illusion, and then eventually, with Primus. And Larry was a great player – very well-versed in all forms of rock music, and played blues. Just amazing. People who know him through Primus probably would be really surprised at how what a well-rounded guitar player he is. But Larry had a very unique way of looking at music. I think once he joined Primus, it was “home.” It was a great place for him to express himself.

Did you have any idea at the time that so many of your students would go on to become famous.

No. One never knows that. One hopes. I think all of the students all hoped that one of us would succeed. And then in our wildest dreams, all of us would succeed to some degree. We had a pretty good track record, I think. Because when you’re a guitar teacher, you teach people for a few years, and you become comrades after a while. Because everybody eventually catches up to everybody else, and you want to help each other out – to see if you can make the dream a reality. We’ve all been really fortunate, all of us – myself and my students – that we’ve been able to create a life for ourselves that revolves around playing guitar. That’s pretty crazy.