It took Joe Satriani and Steve Vai only five decades to hit the studio together, but the guitar virtuosos are making up for lost time.

They recently released "The Sea of Emotion, Pt. 1" and are prepping a full collaborative album. Although fans may have to wait a bit before that record materializes, there's been plenty happening in the meantime. The pair first reunited earlier this year with fellow six-string wizard Eric Johnson to revisit the initial G3 outing that saw the trio team up in 1996. The ongoing Satch / Vai tour quickly followed.

During a recent conversation with Ultimate Classic Rock Nights host Matt Wardlaw, Satriani and Vai discussed their new music and forthcoming album. They also shared thoughts on Satriani's Van Halen-centric summer tour with Sammy Hagar and Vai's dream gig, this fall's King Crimson-centric BEAT tour.

You guys are going deep on this current tour. I love that you're closing with a couple of covers, including "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. How did you land on the idea to do that one?
Joe Satriani: I was bouncing ideas off of my keyboardist, Ray Thistlethwaite, who has an amazing voice. You know, we just finished a G3 tour where he was singing some really old ‘60s stuff. We were thinking, “Well, let’s move on from there and play a better mixture of songs.” We knew we were going to be doing “The Sea of Emotion, Pt. 1.” We were texting the craziest ideas for songs back and forth. At one point, I just threw out “Enter Sandman.” I didn’t really think he’d want to do it, but right away, he’s like, “We’re doing that one. I want to sing that one.” I was pretty shocked, because he doesn’t sing like James [Hetfield]. But wow, he hits it out of the park every night. It’s really a lot of fun doing that.

Steve Vai: It’s a great riff to play.

Satriani: You know what? I get a special thrill out of playing Kirk [Hammett]’s solo.

Vai: [Laughs] Yeah, it sounds great too.

READ MORE: Watch Joe Satriani and Steve Vai Cover Metallica

It's surprising that as long as you two have known each other, you're just now getting around to recording together officially. How did "The Sea of Emotion, Pt. 1" come together?
Vai: That kind of kicked off organically. You know, Joe and I always tour on a solo record that we have. Our touring schedules were kind of matching, so we felt, “Hey, it feels like a good time, let’s go out together.” It’s sort of like a G2 format, where I play for an hour and then Joe plays for an hour. If it’s G3, another artist plays, but then we all get together and jam at the end. It was an exciting idea to go out and tour as Satch / Vai. Then, we just started thinking, “Well, it would be nice to have some new music for this.” No sooner did the thought and words start to come, I got an email from Joe and it’s got these two beautiful tracks in it. They’re just ripe for me to add some parts. That became “The Sea of Emotion,” part one and two. It inspired me to put something together and send it to Joe. That turned into part three. So it’s a really great process. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before with another musician. It’s very rewarding.

Watch Joe Satriani and Steve Vai's Video For 'The Sea of Emotion, Pt. 1'

There's a full album in the works. It seems like there's often a concept or at least connecting threads with you both when it comes to music.
Satriani: Yeah, the threads — you know, our lives intertwined the way they are — is the theme. We’ve got maybe three songs that are pretty much finished. We’ve got four or five that we’re floating back and forth between each other that are in quarter-stages or half-stages of being finished on the composing side. Then we’ve got some other crazy ideas that are going back and forth that we’ll get to, let’s say, in a couple of months. We both have some insane tours coming up that we have to tend to as well. But I think we’ll get it finished by the end of the year or a little bit after that.

How did you find that you pushed each other in the studio?
Satrani: We had the benefit, in this case, of working remotely. Sometimes you get into a situation in the studio where there's a clock on the wall. It actually kind of works against you in a way. You kind of rein it in a little bit. You're thinking, "I've got 45 minutes to deliver and then it's Steve's turn." And so, we don't want to waste people's time. The flip side of that is that you're at home and you've got weeks to be yourself. You could strip naked and do the track in your own studio.

Vai: And I did!

Satriani: First of all, let me just say, I didn't do that, just in case people were having this horrible image. [Laughs] But I have found — and I know that Steve pioneered this, because he built a home studio decades ago — finally, when everyone leaves the room and there's no time clock, you can really be creative in a much deeper way. Because you're not self-conscious. You're not being reminded of the real world. You can really be creative in your own manufactured, creative, artistic world.

Vai: The real boost for me — and this is coming from a guy that's always been working within his own little bubble — I received these solos from Joe and they were just premier. I mean, they were spectacular. I know Joe's playing pretty well. They were just crafted so beautifully and so "Joe." They had his voice so prominent. That has to inspire you. I mean, I heard that and I said, "OK, Vai. Game on. You've got to be as you as you can be." That's how we push each other — just by being the best that we can be at being ourselves.

Joe, you've got the tour coming up with Sammy Hagar later this year. What's the latest as far as the woodshedding you've been doing to get ready for that?
Satriani: It's been so much fun to work so hard at learning this other, immense catalog that is really Sammy's legacy. It just happens that all of the guitar playing on all of the songs is really intense, especially the Van Halen stuff. That tour is going to be focusing a lot on the genius of Edward Van Halen, for sure. Just this morning, I was going over "The Seventh Seal," a beautiful song, the way Van Halen constructed it. It's really great and it just falls on my guitar's neck just beautifully. It's really been a pleasure. There's some anxiety there. It's nerve-racking, but at the same time, there's so much more excitement about playing with those guys and getting it right and celebrating with the fans. That supersedes anything that I'm worried about.

Listen to Van Halen's 'The Seventh Seal'

Steve, on your side, you've got the BEAT tour, which will celebrate Adrian Belew's '80s legacy with King Crimson. Adrian, Tony Levin, Danny Carey and yourself — that's quite exciting for us as fans. What are you excited about?
Their sheer musicianship. The creativity, the openness, the complexity, the beauty in the complexity. You know, Robert [Fripp] was like a scientist. He developed this picking style. He has this fierce sense of discipline. He honed the style for decades. That in and of itself is enough. [Laughs] But his musical mind — and listening to this music — and Adrian, I mean, I'm going back and just absorbing all of these three Crimson records from the '80s. It's just so well-created. You know, it's just these four guys!

What Adrian does with the guitar, it's truly remarkable. You might hear it and say, "Oh, he's got these noises and he's got these funny effects," but when you listen to what he's doing, it's just gorgeous. The way him and Fripp compliment each other with all of these poly-metric lines and stuff — and having Tony Levin, I'm listening through this music, I'm hearing things that I thought was guitar, and it's Tony doing these orchestrated stick pieces that are pretty remarkable. Then, we've got Danny Carey, who cut his teeth on King Crimson music. I recently saw him with Tool and I'm just ... very much like Joe [with the Hagar tour], learning the music and really excited about putting our own spin on it. I'm also quasi-terrified. [Laughs] It's a big boy game, I've got to tell you.

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Gallery Credit: UCR Staff