Joe Satriani Initially Rejected Deep Purple: ‘I Was Offended’
When Joe Satriani got a phone call from his manager in 1993 offering a chance to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, the response was swift.
“I was offended that he would ask me that, because I was such a fan of Richie Blackmore,” Satriani explains to UCR. "Nobody can replace Ritchie Blackmore.” The guitarist remembers saying “don’t call me again,” before aggressively hanging up the phone. “Back in the pre-cellphone days. You know, just click, slam the phone down.”
Still, the thought marinated in his mind, and it didn’t take Satriani long to change his decision: “Of course, 30 minutes later I called [his manager] back and said, ‘Hey, did you tell those guys no yet?’ And he said, ‘No, I knew you’d change your mind.’”
As most fans know, Blackmore was Deep Purple’s founding guitarist, his prolific riffs proving integral to the band’s pioneering hard-rock sound. But by 1993, turmoil within the group had hit a high, culminating in Blackmore’s onstage meltdown and subsequent departure from the band.
Satriani knew that replacing a legend would be difficult and ripe for scrutiny. “You kinda stiffen up a bit and you go, ‘Well, I’m not gonna do that,” the guitarist admits of his initial reaction to the offer. “That’s not what I do.’” Still, the guitarist describes the chance to step into an iconic band as “one of those ideas where you have to think about it for a bit. And you go, 'Yeah, this is totally outside the box, but maybe it’s a way to keep celebrating the legacy, and maybe I’ll learn something.'”
He further explains that the “challenging” situation was exacerbated by his own internal obstacles.
“It was a metal thing,” Satriani notes. “It’s like, How can I get over that hurdle? I know my fingers can do the work, that’s not the problem. But it’s just like mentally, how can I walk on that stage if I’m not the guy?” The guitarist managed to get past these reservations, joining Deep Purple for the remainder of its 1993-94 tour. “Eventually you just go, 'Yeah, let’s just be courageous. Let’s just go out there and see what happens.'”
Following his stint with the group, Satriani returned to his solo career. Steve Morse would become Deep Purple’s permanent guitarist, joining the band in 1994. Meanwhile, Blackmore briefly revived his previous group, Rainbow, in 1994 before later debuting his folk project Blackmore’s Night in 1997.