Joe Satriani on the Neil Young solo he considers “shred”: “It’s the attitude that he puts into it”

“It’s not the quantity that defines the shred,” the guitarist explains.

Neil Young and Joe Satriani

Image: Harmony Gerber / Daniel Knighton / Getty Images

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Joe Satriani has spoken about the Neil Young guitar solo he deems as “shred”, and why the term for him goes beyond technical skills and playing fast.

Asked to define “shred” in a recent episode of the Talking Shred podcast, Satriani – who’s often considered a pioneer of shred guitar himself – offered a somewhat surprising answer.

“Part of the performance has to challenge the norm,” he says [via Killer Guitar Rigs]. “That’s what I think is important. That’s why I remember when hearing Neil Young play the solo for Cinnamon Girl. It’s just one note, and then he just keeps playing it. But it’s a shred because of the attitude that he puts into it.”

As Satch explains, “the fact that [Young] probably thought, ‘Oh, you’re probably expecting Carl Perkins, or something that sounds like Jimmy Page or something?’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m just gonna play this one note on two strings, and you’re gonna love it.’ And I think that embodies the attitude of shred.”

“Certainly not what Charles Caswell was doing or Jason Richardson, but I think that if they don’t put that into their shredding, then it’s just a demonstration.”

According to Satriani, that is “a sin of performance” because “the audience knows if you’re just demonstrating what you’ve rehearsed, or are you connecting with them saying, ‘Check this out, I’m going to do something that is going to blow your mind. And yeah, it’s a bit edgy, and maybe I should have done something else, but I’m going to do this instead.’”

“I think that’s really important, and you’ve got to do it well,” says the guitarist, who stands by his point that Young’s Cinnamon Girl solo also falls into the ‘shred’ category.

“So Neil Young did that one-note solo really well, so players who just fill it up with a lot more notes, it still has to be done well. It’s not the quantity that defines the shred.”

He continues: “I was talking to the audience this afternoon about the context where a lot of times players who play alone, they’re in their bedroom, and they’re shredding, and they think they’re really great. They’re just one person, and they’re not really understanding the context of the solo.”

“So that means that it’s a solo, but what are the chords behind the solo? What are the base notes? What’s the groove behind the solo? How is that all fitting in and then being this foundation for the solo? And if you don’t take that into account, then you’re just demonstrating. That’s the difference.”

“So, Tom Morello, in that context of Rage Against the Machine, that’s total shredding. And again, he could have played Neil Young or he could have played Jimmy Page or Slash, but he went, ‘No, I’m gonna play this and you’re gonna like it.’ [Laughs]”

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