Joe Satriani was recently asked on Rock Talk about being a member of Deep Purple in 1993 and ’94, admitting that it was a bit of an intimidating gig (transcribed by UG):
“I did feel a bit like a rookie. I was just a couple of years into the sort of accidental career as an instrumentalist, and then all of the sudden I get this call to replace a legend
“And I knew you couldn’t do it. I mean, you can’t replace somebody like Ritchie Blackmore. So I kind of knew it was gonna be a thankless job from the fans’ point of view. [Laughs] Who have already bought tickets to the shows.
“There was a level of uncomfortableness, but I think it was all in my head. I think anybody who walks out on stage knowing that they’re not the guy that the audience knows and loves – that they’re the replacement – they’ve got a little mental game they’ve got to play every night they’re on stage. They have to kinda try not to think like the audience.
“But I couldn’t help it. I was such a big fan of Deep Purple and such a great fan of Ritchie Blackmore. There was a lot of sort of internal battles going on where every time I go to play ‘Smoke on the Water,’ I would just hear every single note in detail that Richie played and I kept thinking, ‘Why play it any different? That’s perfect.’
“But, of course, the guys in the band really wanted me to be Joe. They just kept saying, ‘Do whatever you want Joe. We’d love to hear your style over this. Forget about Ritchie.’ And it was impossible for me because I grew up listening and trying to imitate Ritchie Blackmore – as any young kid my age would, growing up when I did.
“So the experience was exhilarating. It was super fun because I was so excited to play with a legendary band, still mildly starstruck, even though I got to know these guys very well.
“There were those nights where I’d be trading solos with Jon Lord and I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I always kind of felt like I’m up here on stage celebrating, playing with Deep Purple as I was picked out of the audience. So that’s how I was able to sort of mentally get over the fact that I wasn’t Ritchie Blackmore. [Laughs]
“That I was this Italian-American kid from Long Island that somehow wound up on stage with this iconic British band. I thought I’ll just walk on stage every night and think, ‘I’m gonna celebrate with the audience, like I’m one of them.’
“And it did, I think, turn around after the Japanese tour and when we did two months in Europe. It really blossomed into something that felt more natural. And by then the audience knew and was ready for me.”